It can be aggravating – and scary – when your dog won’t eat. It’s important to determine why they have lost their appetite in order to figure out the best treatment plan. Keep in mind that the guidelines printed on the can or bag of food are just an average, and many dogs will only eat 60-70% of the amount stated on the label. A loss of appetite can indicate an illness, especially if you notice changes in your dog’s eating habits. Refusing to eat may require a trip to your veterinarian to rule out any health issues, as most dogs eat well.
It is best to address the issue of your pet not eating right away, even though dogs can go a couple of days without food and still be fine. Below are a few reasons why your dog may refuse to eat. They include:
SICKNESS – A loss of appetite does not necessarily mean your dog has a serious disease; however it does warrant a trip to your veterinarian if your dog does not eat for a day or two. A decreased appetite could be a sign of cancer, dental disease, sore gums, liver problems, pain, kidney failure or various systematic infections.
CHANGE IN ROUTINE – If you have moved to a new location or are traveling to unfamiliar surroundings, your dog may get motion sickness or be too nervous to eat.
VACCINATIONS – Vaccines have saved the lives of millions of pets in the past one hundred years; however they sometimes cause adverse reactions. Though brief, they can cause your dog to lose his appetite for a short period of time.
PICKY – Some dogs are picky about eating with another dog or from an unfamiliar bowl, or your dog may believe that the height of the bowl makes eating uncomfortable. Choosing an appropriate stand based on your dog’s height can help alleviate this problem. Do not assume that your dog is picky without investigating other possibilities first.
Your veterinarian can recommend a specific diet to meet the nutritional needs of your dog, or while the underlying health issue is being addressed. Keep in mind that your veterinarian may not recommend any people food or feeding your dog from the table. Your dog may not find their new eating plan tasty, especially if they are used to eating regular treats or your food. However, they will eat when they are hungry. Never starve your pet in an effort to force her to eat the prescribed diet. Talk with your veterinarian about other alternatives to try.
If you find that your dog’s appetite has decreased due to pickiness or a discomfort with mealtime, there are some things you can do to encourage your pet to eat their food. They include:
• Feeding your pet at regular feeding times, twice a day
• Cutting back on treats or extra food, so their regular food becomes more appetizing to him
• Rewarding your dog with food for doing a trick
• Making mealtime fun by using a toy that dispenses food
• Walk with your dog before mealtime, to up her appetite
• Use different bowls and heights to see what your dog prefers
• If you normally feed your dog with other dogs, try feeding him alone
• Try canned food mixed with a little dry food for fiber
Reviewed and Approved by Dr. David L. Roberts, DVM
Photo: Courtesy of Photo Bean