We all know how important proper nutrition is. A well-balanced diet is not only important to keep your pup energized but it's also critical in disease prevention and healing. Due to the fact that dogs typically aren't timid eaters, when a dog starts avoiding their food, it's often a cause for concern. In this article, we hope to shed light on why your pup may be not eating and provide possible solutions to get your pup back on the food train.
What Causes a Loss of Appetite
There are several reasons behind why Fido may be refusing to eat. In order to solve the issue at hand, it's important to get to the bottom of the underlying issue as each reason behind the anorexia has a different treatment method.
Perhaps the simplest reason why Fido is not eating is that they simply aren't hungry. Pet owners should take into consideration whether their dog may be getting too many treats or if they are overfeeding them when it comes to daily food. If this is the case, simply cut back. A lack of appetite for this reason is the best case scenario when it comes to your dog not eating.
It's also entirely possible that you have a picky eater on your hands. You may want to try mixing their standard kibble or dry food with something new and exciting on top such as canned food. Some dogs are similar to people in that they need some variety from time to time.
Another common reason for a loss of appetite is an upset stomach. Generally, the disinterest in food is paired with vomiting or diarrhea. Typically, some boiled chicken with plain, white rice can help do the trick and ease an upset stomach. However, if you don't see improvements within two days it is recommended to take your pup to the vet so that they don't lose too much fluid.
We don't have to tell you how awful a toothache is. Unfortunately, Fido isn't exactly able to tell us that they are in pain. Therefore, if your pup has seemed to have lost their appetite, dental issues may very well be the culprit.
Vaccinations, as well as new medications, may also affect your dog's desire to eat. The love for all things edible should return within a day or two, but if it doesn't, seek veterinary intervention. Fido might be having a reaction to the medication or to the vaccines.
As you can imagine, generalized pain can also cause your beloved four-legged friend to pass up on food opportunities. Unfortunately, when Fido is healing they need all the nutrients they can get. We'll get into ways to get your dog to eat momentarily.
Certain environmental differences such as moving or a change in routine may also be at the root of your dog's lack of appetite due to the associated stress that comes along with the new changes.
Additionally, another pet (new or not) in the house may be an underlying cause for your dog not eating. A dominant dog can cause a submissive dog to fear going near the dog food bowl. If you think this may be the case, simply separate the pets during feeding time.
Comparable to many humans, as dogs get older their appetite decreases. Additionally, senior dogs tend to have trouble chewing their food and once they begin to lose their sense of smell the desire for food also starts fading. It's best to consult with your vet in order to ensure that your pup is getting the necessary nutrients they need to sustain a healthy life in their senior years. With that being said, the fix may be as simple as adding canned food or switching to a raw food diet.
Other Possibilities To Consider
As you may have gathered, the aforementioned conditions all have relatively simple fixes. However, the troubling part about a dog not eating is that it may be a sign of a much more serious underlying condition.
The following ailments all have 'lack of appetite' as a symptom. You'll quickly see why it is so important to receive an accurate veterinary diagnosis if the anorexia continues for more than 24 hours.
- Infection (bacterial, viral, parasitic)
- Cardiovascular disease
- Gastrointestinal disease or blockage
- Endocrine disorder
- Autoimmune disease
- Respiratory illness
- Neurological disease
- Addison’s Disease
Additionally, if you for any reason suspect that your dog's anorexia is due to poisoning, it is imperative that you contact an emergency veterinarian straight away.
How You Can Help A Dog Not Eating
First and foremost, the number one way to help a dog who isn't eating is to get to the bottom of exactly why they aren't currently interested in their food. The last thing that you want to do is discover an "easy fix" that will simply mask the problem.
Once you determine the root of the issue, you then can work to help Fido regain their love for food.
Remedies for an Upset Stomach
Most dogs seem to love eating just about everything, even things that aren't considered food. If your dog is suffering from an upset stomach due to eating something they shouldn't have or due to stress, there a few things that tend to ease any stomach discomfort and help dogs get their appetite back.
We know that this may sound counterintuitive considering the end goal is to get Fido eating more. However, fasting is sometimes the easiest, most effective answer. Stomach sensitivity causes discomfort in the gastrointestinal system. This inflammation makes it difficult to digest food. Giving the GI tract a break to recover will likely help the dog feel comfortable eating again.
Withholding food should be for a period of 12-24 hours and pet owners must ensure that Fido is staying hydrating during the fasting.
Canned pumpkin is great at relieving upset stomachs. Pumpkin has a low glycemic index which allows it to slowly absorb in the body making it a great remedy for both constipation and diarrhea.
(P.S. Canned pumpkin is NOT pumpkin pie mix! Be sure you are purchasing the right product.)
Ginger is very powerful in supporting digestive health. Additionally, ginger has anti-inflammatory properties that can help fight nausea, bloat, and arthritis. By decreasing pain and inflammation, your dog will likely feel more comfortable eating.
As with all new supplements, it's important to consult with your vet before self-administering. Ginger can be a blood thinner so it should not be given with aspirin or given to dogs that are about to have surgery.
Bone broth is a wonderful option for easing an upset stomach while simultaneously hydrating the dog. It's very common for a loss of appetite to be accompanied by an unwillingness to drink water. Dehydration will only exacerbate the present issue and should be avoided at all cost.
Pet owners can purchase or make the bone broth ahead of time and freeze it for in case of emergency situations. Bone broth can be made surprisingly easily. Simply simmer a whole chicken in a mixture of water and apple cider vinegar in a crockpot until the meat falls off the bone. If you are purchasing bone broth, we recommend purchasing a brand that is specifically formulated for dogs. This way you'll be able to ensure that there are no additives and nothing included that could cause further irritation.
There are many herbs that make for wonderful natural ways for treating an upset stomach. Herbs such as chamomile, aloe vera, and nettle provide relief and promote healthy gut health. Additionally, herbs such as goldenseal, dandelion, and cornsilk act as powerful anti-inflammatories and can reduce painful inflammation while simultaneously supporting the immune system.
We want to make sure that our readers understand that just because something is natural doesn't mean it's always safe for long-term use. In some cases, specific herbs are safe enough to give on a daily basis. However, other herbs should only be given for short periods of time on a treatment basis. Always consult with your holistic vet in terms of what is appropriate and the best way to ensure that your dog is benefitting from alternative, natural medicine.
Additionally, knowing the food product and how it affects your dog is also very important. Some meats such as beef, buffalo, and fish are less likely to cause inflammation whereas meat like lamb, chicken, and venison are known to cause sensitivities. An easy experiment is to simply switch out your dog's chicken based food for a beef option and see if their stomach reacts differently.
Also, avoid foods that contain grains like corn, rice, wheat, and soy. We recommend looking for low glycemic foods such as millet. These foods can be beneficial as they take more time to digest.
Illness-Induced Anorexia Solutions
If your dog hasn't eaten in over 24 hours, we highly recommend contacting your veterinarian. While many dogs can easily go without eating for longer than a day and not have any adverse reactions, it's always better to be safe than sorry, particularly when it comes to Fido. Furthermore, if your dog is a puppy or has preexisting health conditions a timely diagnosis from your vet is even more important.
If your dog hasn't eaten in more than three dogs, the veterinarian will likely have to administer IV fluids and even may even resort to syringe-feeding in severe cases. It is important for the dog to stay as hydrated as possible while the vet diagnoses the underlying cause of the anorexia.
Once the cause of the anorexia is determined, the vet will likely recommend a specialized diet for your dog's specific needs. A refeeding program will likely be recommended to ease the dog back into their regular diet. The refeeding program typically consists of bland foods like boiled chicken and white rice. The food should be fed in small portions, two to three times a day. Again, every dog is different. It is important to follow your vet's specific guidelines.
If your dog still doesn't regain their appetite 24-48 hours following treatment, contact your vet straight away.
Environmental-Induced Anorexia Solutions
We likely don't have to tell you that dogs are highly sensitive animals. It is entirely possible for an anxious or unknown situation to cause your dog to lose their appetite. If you feel this is the case there are a few things to try. Dog owners should ensure that they develop a specific routine for their pets. Feeding at regular times will help take out the uncertainties of the eating process. Also, do whatever you can to create a safe, quiet space that is free of stress and distractions. This involves knowing your pet well enough to be aware of what causes stress in order to be able to reduce it.
Whenever possible, if you know change is coming, gradually introduce your anxious pup into it, whatever it may be. After all, you don't want something that could be wonderful and exciting to turn into a stressful situation that ultimately leads to a trip to the vet.
Furthermore, feeding your pup in the same area as other dogs or pets can quickly encourage aggressive behavior as well as anxiety around the food. If your dog refuses to eat, it may very likely be because they feel threatened and scared. Again, this is a relatively easy fix. Feeding your pets separately will allow them to feel safe while eating. It will also reduce the need for aggressive eating which can cause other gastrointestinal issues.
Behavioral-Related Anorexia Solutions
If Fido is used to being fed human foods from the dinner table, it's possible that they have decided they prefer your chicken feast over their own.
The vast majority of the time, feeding Fido table scraps only leads to more issues. Moreso than creating a fussy eater, feeding table scraps also leads to obesity and weight gain. Furthermore, chances are, the foods that you enjoy are not giving your dog the proper nutrition that they need. Our bodies need very different things and your dog's system needs a meal that was specifically formulated for them.
In order to get your dog back on track, plan to have 2 measured meals a day. Giving your dog an allotted time to finish the food and then removing it (even if unfinished) will also help to develop a routine. When there is always food available dogs will likely graze throughout the day which is typically fine. However, when you notice your dog isn't eating properly, it is necessary to keep a close eye on their actual intake until they get back on a solid routine.
Table scraps should be eliminated entirely and treats should be spaced out appropriately. We understand that your pup is the love of your life, but if you give them non-stop treats, they may refuse to eat the well-balanced meal that their bodies need.
Another great tip is giving your dog a long walk before meal time. The exercise will stimulate your dog's stomach. This will also help develop a routine and have your dog begin to associate a walk with food (both of which they tend to enjoy) and get their eating habits back on track.
Speaking of fussy eaters, there are a few things that pet owners should be aware of when changing up their dog's food. Switching up brands and types of meat is totally fine, but be sure to slowly integrate the new food by mixing the old food with the new. Canned food, and most wet food in general, can upset your dog's stomach if it isn't slowly transitioned.
Additionally, always ensure that you're feeding Fido a well-balanced diet that is full of nutrients. We always recommend a species appropriate, raw food diet whenever possible. Raw food diets provide your dog with plenty of protein and all the essential vitamins and minerals that they need.
Furthermore, another reason that your dog may turn their nose up at their food is that it has gone bad. Always check the expiration date to make sure that it isn’t spoiled or past the due date. In particular, wet food tends to go bad much faster than dry food and should be consumed right away. Any canned food that is left in the dog's bowl for over four hours should be thrown away in order to eliminate the chance of stomach upset. Opened cans of wet food can be stored in the refrigerator for 5-7 days.
If you feel that your dog may be bored with the idea of eating, you can try switching it up by putting their dry food in a food-dispensing toy. These toys are also great for mental and physical stimulation. *Note: These toys should be used with dry dog food. As you can imagine, wet food will cause quite a mess.
If none of these tips work, you'll likely have to meet with a board-certified veterinary behaviorist in order to develop a plan of attack for your fussy eater.
If you enjoy staying up on the latest trends in holistic wellness, you've likely heard of CBD. CBD has been making incredible progress when it comes to all natural ways to supplement your health. Thankfully, studies now show that CBD can also benefit our dogs.
Once your dog's appetite returns, dog owners can integrate CBD treats. The treats are wonderful because they provide a tasty way to not only manage current ailments but also prevent new ones from developing.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, we understand how scary it can be when your dog seems to suddenly lose all interest in their food. The main thing that we want to once again stress is the importance of getting to the bottom of what is causing the disinterest.
Yes, at times the lack of interest is something as simple as overfeeding or boredom with the food. However, anorexia can also be a symptom of a much more serious condition such as cancer or an autoimmune disease (among many others).
The first step is recognizing the issue and then immediately after, a proper diagnosis is imperative for a full recovery.
We sincerely hope your dog feels better soon.
Fabiana is a caring pet owner who also works as the Lead Editor of CertaPet. She enjoys helping other pet parents get all the furry-friend-related-info they need, as well as spending time with her precious pooch.