Why My Dog Won't Eat

This post is written by our holistic veterinarian at "I and love and you", Dr. Angie Krause, DVM, CVA, CCRT.

Food is love! How and what we feed our pets is a huge part of how we show our love. When our dogs won’t eat, it can be really distressing. In this article, I am going to outline why your dog might not be eating and what you can do it to help them finish their dinner.

The most common reasons for dogs to stop eating include:

  1. Medical problem
  2. Food preference
  3. Stomach upset
  4. They are practicing intermittent fasting
  5. Not hungry

Medical problem

It’s important to first rule out a medical problem that needs immediate attention. Serious health conditions that cause dogs not to eat, will only become worse if not treated. It can be tricky to know when to rush your pup to the vet. Here are a few guidelines:

It’s time to visit the vet when:

  • Your dog has NEVER missed a meal. This a giant red flag and a vet visit with blood work is in order. Make sure your vet knows that your dog has never missed a meal and request blood work to rule out kidney or liver disease.
  • Your dog has not had anything to eat in 36 hours. No matter if you have a picky dog or not, this is as long as your dog should go without eating.
  • Your dog has not had water in 24 hours. At this point, your pup is dehydrated and could benefit from fluids.
  • Your dog is vomiting or having diarrhea. When combined with not eating, vomiting and diarrhea can cause dehydration quickly.
  • Your dog is lethargic in addition to not eating. If your pup is not acting like themselves or they don’t want to take their usual walk for more than a day, head to the vet.

Food preference (i.e. they don’t like their food)

Just like people, some dogs are total foodies. Many dogs have palettes that are more discerning that others. I find that picky dogs tend to like dehydrated raw diets like In the Raw or a combination of canned and kibble. Other pups really need variety to keep their attention. Trying sample packs to keep things interesting.

The pickiest of eaters, prefer a home cooked diet. If you want to indulge your pup, you can find out how to create a balanced homemade diet here.

Stomach upset

Once you have eaten something that upsets your stomach, it’s hard to want to eat it again. That happens to dogs too. Usually you will see your dog approach their food bowl with vigor and then turn away when they get a whiff of their food.

If this is the case, switch flavors of food or try a different form. If you are feeding your dog a kibble try a canned or raw formulation.

They are practicing intermittent fasting

This is a current diet trend for people that dogs have been practicing for centuries. Many dogs do this by skipping breakfast or just going off of food for a day. These dogs usually feel perfectly fine and fast regularly. This is common for German Shepherds or other working breeds. It’s almost never Labrador Retrievers!

They just might not be hungry

Sometimes dogs are just not hungry. This could be because you are overfeeding your dog either with too much dog food or human food. Investigate other sources of food for your pup too. The cat’s food or litter box (gross), the garden, or the pantry are common sources of extra calories.

Tricks to get your pup eating

No matter why your dog isn’t eating, here are a few tricks to get them eating again.

  • Add human food on top of their meal. Here a few of my favorites:
    • Low sodium chicken broth with no onion
    • Cooked skinless, boneless chicken breast
    • Cooked lean ground beef
    • Bananas
    • Cooked green beans
    • Scrambled or hard boiled egg
  • Soak kibble in water
  • Add canned food
  • Add food toppers like Top That Tummy

Remember to avoid grapes, raisin, onions, chocolate, xylitol and macadamia nuts. These are all toxic for dogs and should be avoided.

How do you pamper your pup when they won’t eat? I would love to hear your tips in the comments below!

With love,

Dr. Angie

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