Most dogs are total chowhounds – so it’s concerning when your dog won’t eat. Though some dogs are habitual picky eaters, unusual anorexia in dogs is a cause for concern.
Your first stop if your dog won’t eat should be the vet. It’s far better to be safe than sorry! Even though your dog won’t starve if she skips a few meals, her lack of appetite could be a sign of a much more serious illness.
It’s important not to assume that your dog is just being picky or trying to “wait you out for better food.” Pickiness or reluctance to eat can be a sign of many, serious issues!
Appetite Stimulants for Dogs
Just like humans, dogs can experience a drop in appetite or lose interest in their diet. While a single instance of this kind of behavior may not be dangerous, problems with eating or hunger may have negative health effects. Fortunately, you can get your furry buddy back on the path to good eating by using some of the methods to whet their appetite.
There are a number of factors that affect a dog’s eating pattern and appetite. Some of the factors include bad oral health, abdominal conditions, mental issues, infectious diseases, and stress. To begin with, exercising is a perfect way to improve the appetite of your dogs.
Another natural stimulant that can be effective as an appetite stimulant for dogs is a herb. The herbs that typically work the best are chamomile, ginger, celery seed, and peppermint. You may know that dogs like garlic and garlic are great for the immunity system. You can mix garlic in your dog’s food which will be an effective way of stimulating your dog’s appetite. Also, mirtazapine can be administered to treat loss of appetite in dogs.
There are lots of potential reasons why your dog won’t eat. Let’s explore some potential causes here.
1. Stress (Good or Bad)
Just like people, many dogs are a bit less hungry when they’re stressed. Whether they’re too excited about an upcoming hunting trip or stressed about visiting relatives, temporary anorexia in dogs isn’t uncommon in stressful situations. This is also common in dogs that are recently adopted from the shelter.
2. Upset stomach
Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation are all other symptoms that can indicate an upset stomach – or something more serious. If your dog’s stomach hurts, it’s not surprising if she doesn’t want to eat. The next question is: why does your dog’s stomach hurt? Your dog might not be eating because she’s nauseous, but the nausea could actually be due to another, more serious, underlying issue!
If your dog has recently eaten something unusual or just switched to new food, this is probably your culprit!
3. Dental Disease
Painful gums, oral ulcers, and loose teeth can all make your dog less excited about eating. Some dogs with dental disease will eat better if you soften their food first, but your real priority should be dealing with your dog’s dental disease.
Hip dysplasia, back pain, muscle soreness, arthritis, and more can all give your dog chronic pain. If your dog is distracted with pain, it’s not a surprise if she’s less hungry. Treating the source of the pain should help.
If your dog’s food upsets her stomach, she might be less interested in eating! Steer clear of cheap allergy tests if you suspect your dog has allergies – they just don’t work.
6. Ill-Advised Food Aggression Training
Archaic training techniques meant to deal with food aggression in dogs often actually make that aggression worse. In other cases, your dog might be too scared to eat! Attempting to show your dog that you’re the boss by messing with her food or punishing her for growling can actually cause your dog to be scared of eating. Read how to properly deal with food aggression here.
7. Drug Reactions
Many drugs and treatments can cause nausea or lack of appetite. Check with your vet if your dog’s lack of appetite cropped up after you started a new treatment.
8. Serious Illness, Such as Cancer
Myriad of serious diseases can cause a lack of appetite in your dog. It’s impossible to diagnose this without the help of a vet, which is why it’s so important to take your dog in for help! Your vet might want to check for pancreatitis, Addison’s disease, irritable bowel disease, kidney failure, urinary tract infections, pregnancy, leukemia, poisoning, and more.
Some parasites really hurt your dog’s stomach, making your dog less interested in food. Luckily, most parasites are easily treated at your vet’s to get your dog back to health!
10. Old Age
Some old dogs lose their appetite as they age. Generally, this is a symptom of other, underlying problems – but it can also be a simple reflection of reduced activity levels and increased rest time.
11. A Simple Cold
Taste is primarily driven by smell in humans, and likely the same is true with dogs. If your dog has a cold (or kennel cough), she might be less interested due to a clogged nose or just generally not feeling great. Colds are pretty contagious, so it’s important to talk to your vet even with a basic cold!
All of these are potential causes of loss of appetite in dogs. Unfortunately, in most cases, you really need to go see a vet to get to the bottom of the problem! Even if you figure out that your dog’s loss of appetite is due to a given problem, it’s important to treat the root of the problem with the guidance of a vet.
Is Your Dog Not Eating Food But Still Drinks Water?
Just like humans, dogs can also suffer from bouts of appetite loss. In most cases, it’s perfectly normal, and it should subside in some time. However, if you find that your furry pal is not eating but only drinking: this might be a sign of some impending or underlying physical ailment.
This condition is also known as Polydipsia, when a dog drinks a lot of water but refuses to eat. There are a variety of physical conditions, like liver illness, infection, and diabetes. In this case, it is highly recommended to contact your veterinarian, who will be better able to help you and your dog.
Is Your Dog Throwing Up and Not Eating?
Dogs throw up for a lot of reasons. In general, the reasons can be that your dog ate too fast or it ate more than it should have. Otherwise, your dog consumes a lot of grass. Most of the time, these conditions are non-fatal.
Please note that if your dog is throwing up but continues to eat regularly with normal bowel movements, it might just be a normal incident. But if you find that your dog is puking but not eating anything, it is better to take your dog to a veterinarian. Your vet can better diagnose if it is suffering from some serious conditions.
Besides, if the vomiting remains constant, it might be an indication that your dog is suffering from gastrointestinal bacterial infection or kidney and liver failure. It can also mean that your dog has intestinal obstruction and inflammation, and food intolerance. Other possible answers are intestinal parasites, pancreatitis, cancer, bloating, and viral infections.
If there’s an obvious reason that your dog is less interested in food, you might be able to get your dog’s appetite back without help.
For example, my own dog won’t eat if we’re on our way to the ranch to go sheepherding – he’s just too excited! I solve this by feeding him before he knows we’re going herding.
When he ate a whole bunch of bananas last year and then skipped two meals, I wasn’t too worried. He started eating again after having diarrhea for a day. If his appetite hadn’t come back within another day or so, I would have taken him to the vet.
If you aren’t sure why your dog isn’t eating, it’s better to go to the vet sooner rather than later. Some causes of loss of appetite, like poisoning, are very time-sensitive.
While you’re waiting for the vet’s office to reopen or get you in for the appointment, here are a few other things to try:
- Give your dog something more tempting. Softening food, adding some shredded chicken or ground beef, or even warming food up a bit can help convince your dog to eat.
- Give your dog some time and space. Some dogs get a bit camera-shy, especially if they’re stressed out. Leave your dog’s food out and leave her alone with it.
- Offer food in a different area. If your dog is stressed or a bit nauseous, simply switching up how you offer the food can help. Some dogs will eat when their food is provided in a different bowl or a different room.
- Try hand-feeding. When I had a super-stressed-out foster dog who didn’t eat full meals for almost a week, she would still eat when I hand-fed her. Every day, twice a day, I put her kibble into my hands and praised her while she ate. If I put her food into a bowl, she wouldn’t eat. Some dogs need space to eat – other dogs need encouragement.
- Offer simple food. When my dog is nauseous, he generally will still eat a mixture of boiled chicken breast, brown rice, and canned dog food. I make this mixture and feed it for a few days whenever Barley’s stomach isn’t quite right.
Of course, none of these solutions is a long-term fix if your dog has parasites, allergies, kidney failure, a cold, or any of the other primary reasons that your dog won’t eat.
Once you get your dog to the vet, your vet will need to run a variety of tests to determine why your dog won’t eat. Treatment may range from basic antibiotics to inducing vomiting to full-on chemotherapy treatments.
While you’re waiting for your appointment at the vet, you might wonder how long your dog can go without eating. Luckily, your dog isn’t going to waste away if she misses a meal or two. Most dogs can go without food for three, four, or five days without too much long-term damage to their bodies.
Smaller dogs, dogs with less body fat, or dogs with other preexisting conditions will not be able to survive without eating for as long as a healthy, large dog.
That said, just because your dog can survive without food doesn’t mean you should wait that long before you go to the vet! You should get your dog to the vet long before organ failure and starvation sets in.
There can be a lot of reasons why your dog is not eating its food. The popular reasons include upset stomach, allergy, infections, and dental problems. Besides, internal organs-related problems, parasites, tumors, and recent vaccination can also lead to this situation.
You can try some simple remedies that are easy to follow. For instance, you can make the food more appetizing by pouring a variety of broths like chicken broth and beef broth. You can also add tuna water or clam juice over it.
Besides, try to soften your dog’s dry food by covering it with warm water. Moreover, if your dog generally consumes only wet food, try to switch to dry food or vice versa. Last, try to feed your dog by hand-feeding as it improves the bond between you and your dog.
If these tricks fail, and you find your dog is not eating properly for quite some time and losing its appetite, you should immediately take it to your vet.
Although dogs can live for up to 5 to 7 days without any food intake, this situation should be avoided. Besides, do remember that even if your dog is not eating, it should be taking plenty of fluids, or it may succumb even sooner.
So, if your dog has not eaten anything for two days, it is an indication of some serious problem, and by this time, it is probably quite weaker. So, without wasting any further time, seek immediate medical attention for your furry friend. Take it to a veterinarian, who will probably be in a better position to help it out.
We agree that as a pet parent, saying goodbye to your dog is one of the hardest things that you may have to do. But well, there are certain signs that you can notice in your dog, which is an indication that your furry friend’s time is almost over.
The signs that you should be looking for are breathing problems, rapid weight loss, seizures, and persistent loss of appetite.
Besides, body odor, rapid change in body temperature, lethargy, dull eyes, and depression are other signs to look out for. Also, see if your dog shows increased clinginess, diarrhea, vomiting, irritability, disinterest, anxiety, and movement problems.
Persistence in loss of appetite in your dog is not a good sign at all. Most of the time, an average healthy dog can survive without food for five days, that too if it is drinking plenty of fluids to keep itself well-hydrated. Some dogs can even go without food for a week before it dies. But to avoid this situation, we recommend you take your dog to a veterinarian as quickly as you can.
We agree that forcibly feeding your dog is not the best possible solution to dealing with its loss of appetite. Yet, at times, there are no other ways, and you may have to retort to it. Some of the simple ways of force-feeding your dog include tiring it up with rigorous exercise and providing it with soft and easy-to-eat and digest food.
You can also try feeding your dog with a syringe or warming its food, as it enhances the flavor of the food. Also, try to mush your dog’s food and put it directly in its mouth, or drip your dog’s food in liquids or semi-liquids (as it makes it easier for them to swallow). These methods can also prove to be effective.
Besides, you can always take your dog to a vet, and if required, they will administer an IV drip under its skin. Also, remember that as a dog parent, you should not allow it to eat a lot of munchies or other junk foods. Otherwise, this may ultimately have a negative impact on your dog’s health and further deteriorate it.
Under normal circumstances, if your dog is simply lying around, it doesn’t indicate anything serious. They might just be bored, and a simple increase in their play time or walks can deal with this condition.
But if you find that your dog is not eating as well, it might be a sign of some serious problem, as persistent loss of appetite is not a great sign. Loss of appetite can be an indication of a range of serious ailments, such as regular infections, heart problems, and liver diseases.
In most cases, a dog’s lack of appetite isn’t a sign of any dangerous physical condition. Yet, if you find that the condition persists for quite some time, you should consider taking your dog to your vet. It can be an indication that your dog is suffering from some serious ailments. These health problems include cancer, systemic infections, cancer, liver issues, and renal failure. Please remember that a dog may lose its appetite due to some dental illness as well. Hence it is always recommended that you should maintain good oral hygiene for your dog.
Dr. Lillian is a D.V.M. passionate about promoting awareness of dogs. She shares her expertise through her blogs on canineweekly.com and provides animal care services, including internal medicine, dermatology, and emergency care. Dr. Lillian is committed to contributing to animal welfare.