Why Your Dog Isn’t Eating
There are many reasons why your dog may stop eating. Sometimes, dogs stop eating for a few hours or a day, while sometimes they won’t eat for much longer. If it reaches 48 hours and your dog hasn’t eaten, you should see your vet right away. However, a medical emergency isn’t the only reason for a dog to stop eating. Let’s look at all possible explanations.
Main Reasons Dogs Stop Eating
There are three main categories of reasons that your dog may stop eating:
- Behavioral Issues
- Dog Food Issues
- Medical Issues
1. Behavioral Issues
In some ways, dogs are a lot like humans. Just as a human who is depressed, anxious about an upcoming event, or dealing with a high-stress environment may not eat for a time, so might your dog. Because dogs don’t have the same common sense or logic as humans do, their refusal to eat may be more severe.
Some of the causes for anxiety or behavioral issues that commonly lead to dogs not eating include:
- Loud noises nearby (e.g. storms, fireworks shows, construction projects).
- Environmental changes such as a new house, new feeding spot, new baby, or new pet.
- Separation anxiety—as pack animals, many dogs prefer not to eat without their “pack” (you).
- Intimidation from another dog eating nearby.
Behavioral issues are generally not hard to handle. If your dog isn’t eating because of an emotional or social issue, it’s likely that they’ll get over it within a few days and start eating normally again.
If your dog is not eating because of separation from you or intimidation from another dog, simply be sure to feed them in their own space and stick nearby for a couple of days. Otherwise, your dog should start eating again without any trouble.
If your dog refuses to eat even after settling into a new environment, you may want to see a vet to rule out a more serious issue.
2. Dog Food Issues
Sometimes, dogs are simply picky about the kinds of food they’re eating. Usually, this isn’t because they have an inborn dislike for a certain food—while humans are picky eaters, dogs really are used to eating just about anything. However, there could be a few reasons for dog food issues to keep your dog from eating.
- Stale/spoiled dog food. Check the expiration date on your dog’s food bag to make sure it’s still high-quality. Always keep dog food tightly sealed and throw it out when it expires.
- Too many treats. If your dog refuses their dog food but will happily take treats or table scraps, they’re probably getting too many calories from those “bonus” foods and don’t feel the need to eat their more nutritious dog food. Try cutting back on treats/snacks until after they’ve eaten their dog food.
- Food preferences. Some dogs, especially dogs who have switched foods in the past, may simply have a preference for one food over another. You can try mixing canned and dry dog food or heating canned food to make it more palatable.
- Food changes. Whenever you switch to a new brand or type of food, it’s important to move slowly. Introduce a new food in conjunction with the old one over a period of one to two weeks to keep your dog from getting an upset stomach.
- Oral/dental pain. Oral or dental pain is a common reason that dogs don’t want to chew their food. If you suspect a dental issue, try switching to canned food until you can get the issue addressed.
- Wrong type/amount of food. Puppies don’t like larger kibble pieces as these can be hard for them to chew. And older dogs generally have a smaller appetite than puppies and young dogs. Make sure you’re feeding your dog the right kind and amount of food to meet their needs.
If your dog is not eating because of a food issue, they should start up again with a few small changes. If you’re not sure what type of dog food to feed them, don’t hesitate to consult with your vet about what will keep them healthiest and happiest.
3. Medical Issues
Probably the most common and concerning reason your dog won’t eat is because of a medical issue. There are many medical issues that a dog could run into at some point in their life and it can be hard to determine which they’re most likely dealing with. Some common medical issues include:
- Dental disease
- Upset stomach (from eating table treats, bad food, etc.)
- Liver disease
- Kidney disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Lung disease
- Congestive heart failure
- Internal blockage
- Diabetes complications (hypoglycemia or ketoacidosis)
There are other medical issues that could also cause a loss of appetite—this isn’t an exhaustive list. Some of the signs to watch for in addition to a loss of appetite include:
- Bloody stool
If you notice any of these symptoms, call your vet right away. It’s likely your dog is dealing with a serious medical issue and needs medical attention as soon as possible.
Other Reasons a Dog Won’t Eat
In addition to the main reasons above, there are a few other potential reasons a dog may not eat much for a time.
- Pregnancy or being in heat can reduce a dog’s appetite.
- Dogs who are on medications may be nauseous for a few days.
- Dogs who just had surgery may lose their appetite for a while.
- Newly adopted dogs may not eat while they get used to a new home.
How To Help Your Dog Eat
Obviously, you’ll want to see your vet if you notice any signs of illness in your dog besides loss of appetite. However, if you don’t notice other symptoms and don’t want to call your vet yet, there are a few things you can try to help your dog eat.
- Heat up canned dog food to make it more appealing and appetizing.
- Add water, canned food, or low-sodium chicken broth to dry dog food to soften it and make it more appealing.
- Mix dry, skinless chicken breast and white rice with their food to encourage them to try it.
- Add a probiotic to their food to encourage appetite, make the food more palatable, and potentially ease a pained or inflamed stomach.
- Keep their environment clean and secure. Old dogs may not like to stand on a cold hard floor. Most dogs prefer to eat separate from one another. Dogs also generally like to eat in a clean area separate from their poop, the trash, etc.
If you follow these simple steps, you should be able to get your dog eating again in no time! But never hesitate to reach out to your vet if you suspect a more serious health issue.