Is your dog not eating their food? You may think your dog is just being picky but it can be very frustrating when your dog is not eating, but don’t panic. There are many possible reasons why your dog may have lost their appetite. This article explores the top causes and proven solutions to help get your dog to eat again. Below are 10 of the most common reasons your dog might not be eating. Alternatively if you want to save some time you can ask a dog vet directly.
Common Reasons Your Dog Is Not Eating
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1. Dental Disease and Oral Pain
Dental disease like gum disease, tooth abscesses, and fractured teeth is very common in dogs and can cause severe oral pain that prevents them from wanting to chew their food. Signs that your dog has dental issues include bad breath, bleeding gums, pawing at the mouth, and dropping food. Dogs may start eating only soft food or refuse to eat their meals.
See your vet right away if you notice these signs of dental disease, as untreated infections can spread bacteria to the bloodstream. Your vet will likely recommend a full dental cleaning and extraction of diseased teeth under anesthesia to relieve your dog’s oral pain. They may also prescribe antibiotics and pain medication. With treatment, your dog’s appetite should bounce back within a few days once the mouth pain subsides.
2. Nausea from Gastrointestinal Upset
When dogs experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or other GI issues, eating is the last thing they want to do. Possible GI problems range from dog food allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis, parasitic infections, and viral enteritis. Diagnostic tests like bloodwork, fecal exams, and abdominal imaging can help identify the underlying condition causing loss of appetite.
Treatment with medications like anti-nausea drugs, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and special diets often brings back the appetite quickly once nausea subsides. Make sure to follow your vet’s treatment plan closely and only give your dog the recommended dosages.
3. Anxiety and Stress
Dogs are sensitive to changes in routine, travel, new environments, loud noises, and meeting unfamiliar dogs or people. These stressful or anxiety-provoking situations commonly cause a decreased appetite or outright refusal to eat. Try to minimize your dog’s stress levels by maintaining normal routines when possible and using anti-anxiety medications/supplements if recommended by your vet.
Also, stimulate their appetite by hand feeding delicious foods like cooked chicken, canned puppy food, or dry food such as kibble soaked in broth. As your dog starts to relax and become more comfortable with the change causing their stress, their appetite should improve.
4. Decreased Sense of Smell
A dulled sense of smell is a common issue for senior dogs and those with chronic nasal/respiratory diseases. If dog food seems bland or unappetizing, dogs simply aren’t motivated to eat it or have no want to eat. Try warming up canned food or wet foods to release a stronger aroma. You can also sprinkle potent smelling mix-ins like chicken broth, shredded cheese, bacon bits, or canned fish over their regular kibble.
This makes the food more enticing. If an upper respiratory infection is causing the smell loss, antibiotics and nasal decongestants from your vet can help restore their appetite.
5. Picky Eating Habits
Some dogs are just naturally picky, whether due to boredom with their food or preference for human foods. Finicky eaters may start refusing meals or eating very selectively. To satisfy a picky pup’s preferences, try regularly rotating between 3-4 different high-value foods like air-dried, raw, or wet foods.
You can also add irresistible mix-ins like diced ham, scrambled eggs, plain yogurt, or cottage cheese to their normal kibble. Avoid catering to picky behavior by never feeding human table scraps. With patience and creativity, you can find foods your picky dog loves.
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6. Underlying Medical Issue
Various internal health problems beyond just dental and GI issues can lead to inappetence in dogs. These include kidney disease, cancer, hypothyroidism, urinary tract infections, and organ failure. Make an appointment with your vet right away if your adult dog goes 24+ hours without eating or seems lethargic.
Diagnostic testing like bloodwork, urinalysis, and imaging will uncover if your dog has an underlying medical problem sabotaging their appetite. Treatment of the condition often brings back normal hunger very quickly once your dog starts feeling better. But leaving health issues untreated can be dangerous.
7. A Change in Eating Routine
Dogs are creatures of habit and can react to disruptions in their normal routine with picky eating. Scenarios where this occurs include switching food brands, feeding at different times, travel, boarding, guests in the home, moving houses, or a new family member like a baby or puppy.
Help your dog adjust to routine changes gradually over 2-3 weeks. For example, when changing foods, transition over 7-10 days by slowly increasing the new food while decreasing the old. Consistency and predictability will help bring back their regular appetite.
8. Feeling Overheated
On hot summer days, panting and trying to stay cool actually suppresses appetite signals in a dog’s brain. Make sure your dog has constant access to shade, cool floors, and fresh water in warmer months.
Consider feeding larger meals in the cooler morning/evening hours. You can also try freezing their food or water bowls to keep the area around their food as cool as possible. This helps encourage eating on those hot days.
9. Competition with Other Pets
Some dogs feel anxious eating around other pets and may refuse to eat as a result. The presence of other dogs or cats can create tension over resources like food, toys, and human attention.
Feed them separately in another room and use baby gates to reduce this mealtime stress. Also, provide multiple food bowls spread widely apart to minimize competition. With these changes, anxious eaters usually become comfortable eating again.
10. A New Adoption or Move
Bringing home a rescue dog or moving with your dog to a new house are very disruptive life events. It’s completely normal for newly adopted dogs or dogs adjusting to a new home environment to experience temporary appetite loss and stress.
Have patience, keep food available at all times, stick to your dog’s normal routine as much as possible, and use calming supplements if needed. Their eating habits and comfort levels should improve within 1-2 weeks as they get used to all the new changes.
Solutions To Get Your Dog To Eat
When to See the Vet About Appetite Loss
Contact your vet promptly if your adult dog goes 24-48 hours without eating anything substantial. Waiting too long can lead to dangerous complications like liver damage from a buildup of toxins in the bloodstream.
Puppies that refuse to eat their food or have appetite issues should see the vet within 12 hours, as they can deteriorate rapidly. Be ready to describe any symptoms you’ve observed in your dog, like vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or signs of pain.
Your vet will perform diagnostic testing to uncover whether an underlying medical issue is causing your dog’s appetite loss. Treatment of the condition often gets them feeling hungry again quickly and can encourage your dog to eat once more.
Before visiting the vet you might want to use our Ask A Vet service to get answers quickly instead of spending a lot of money on a vet visit. Using an online ask a vet service can get you answers right away instead of having a costly vet visit.
How to Get Your Dog to Eat Home Remedies
For mild, temporary appetite suppression in an otherwise healthy dog, home remedies can sometimes do the trick:
- Switch foods: Transition to a new brand, flavor, or texture of food. The novelty may entice picky pups to eat.
- Add mix-ins: Top kibble with something super smelly and tasty like canned fish, chicken broth, or wet food.
- Hand feed: Some dogs eat better when hand fed piece by piece. The extra attention can be encouraging.
- Warm the food: Microwaving kibble for 10 seconds releases aroma and makes food more appealing.
- Exercise first: A long walk before meals triggers hunger hormones in the body and brain can help get your pet to eat.
Preventing Appetite Issues in Dogs
While finicky appetites will always crop up occasionally, here’s how to minimize risks of long-term food refusal:
- Have your vet perform twice yearly wellness checks to catch health issues early.
- Feed your dog a high quality, balanced diet that meets their nutritional needs.
- Stimulate their mind daily with toys, training, and enrichment activities.
- Stick to a consistent feeding routine in terms of timing and location.
So the next time your “dog won’t eat” or suddenly stops eating, you can always ask a dog vet and get answers to all your questions. There are many possible reasons why a dog may not want to eat, including medical problems, stress, picky eating habits, and environmental factors. By understanding the cause, you can find the right solution to get your pooch excited about mealtime again. Be proactive by having your vet examine any significant appetite changes promptly.
FAQs About a Dog Not Eating
What do you do when your dog won’t eat?
If your dog suddenly stops eating, there are several things you can try at home first before going to the vet:
- Switch to a different type of food – try wet food instead of dry kibble to stimulate their appetite
- Add mix-ins like chicken broth, canned fish, shredded cheese to make the food more enticing
- Hand feed them piece by piece and give lots of praise
- Exercise before meals to increase hunger
- Eliminate competition with other pets by feeding anxious eaters separately
Persistence and creativity with getting your dog to eat is key. If they still refuse to eat after 24 hours, take them to the vet to identify any underlying medical issue causing loss of appetite.
When should I worry about my dog not eating?
Contact your vet promptly if an adult dog goes 24-48 hours without eating anything substantial. Waiting too long can lead to dangerous complications like liver damage from toxins in the bloodstream. Puppies with appetite issues should see the vet within 12 hours, as they can deteriorate rapidly from not eating enough. Be ready to describe any symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or pain you’ve observed alongside their loss of appetite.
How long can a dog go without eating?
Healthy adult dogs can go 1-2 days without eating before it becomes a serious issue. Puppies under 6 months old should never go more than 12-24 hours without food as they are still growing. Lack of nutrition can quickly lead to hypoglycemia, dehydration, and liver dysfunction in dogs not eating. Always contact your vet if appetite loss persists beyond 24 hours to avoid complications.
Why does my dog keep not eating?
If intermittent loss of appetite keeps occurring, potential causes include:
- Oral health problems like gum disease or fractured teeth
- Chronic GI issues like IBD or food allergies
- Kidney disease or cancer affecting organ function
- Stress and anxiety disrupting their routine
- Picky eating habits
- An underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism)
Diagnostic testing like dental exams, bloodwork, and imaging can help identify any underlying disease process causing your dog’s on-and-off appetite changes. Treatment is needed to resolve it.
Why won’t my dog eat but acts normal?
If your dog refuses to eat but otherwise acts like their happy, normal self, it may be due to:
- Stress or anxiety about a change in routine
- Disliking the taste or texture of a new food
- Heat suppressing their appetite in hot weather
- Picky eating habits
- A mild gastrointestinal upset
Trying tempting food toppings, keeping mealtime consistent, and exercising before eating can often get picky yet energetic dogs to eat. But if appetite loss lasts over 24 hours, see your vet to be safe.