Why Won’t My Dog Eat? How To Get Your Dog to Eat Again

Is your dog not eating, and you’re worried about your pet? There are several reasons behind a dog not eating food. According to American Kennel Club and Dr. Sarah Ochoa, BarxBuddy’s partner veterinarian, some of the most common reasons dogs won’t eat are related to medications, emotional or social issues, gastrointestinal issues, dental problems, time of day and food preferences. Determining the cause of your dog’s lack of appetite can help you choose the best steps to getting your dog to eat again.

Dr. Sarah Ochoa is a licensed veterinarian, based in Whitehouse, Texas. She specializes in treating small and exotic animals, and she’s a pet parent. She practices at Whitehouse Veterinary Hospital.

Why Your Dog Refuses to Eat

Your dog not eating food can indicate something simple like a change in routine or environment, your dog is a finicky eater, just doesn’t feel like eating, or won’t eat while people or other pets are present.

On the other hand, food avoidance could signal a much greater problem like an abscessed or loose tooth, gingivitis, gastroenteritis, pancreatitis, or a foreign body obstruction (your dog swallowed something they shouldn’t have).

Dr. Ochoa noted, “Dogs are very smart, and if there is something wrong with their kibble such as bug or mold are in there, they will not eat their food.”

What if your dog stopped eating but is still acting normal? Is it okay for a dog to go a day without eating?

“It’s completely normal for a dog to not want to eat their dog food one day,” Dr. Ochoa said. “Some dogs are very picky and will only eat at a certain time, or they want you sitting right by them. My dog likes to eat when no one is watching, so she usually eats her food in the middle of the night when we are asleep.”

When Should You Worry About Dog Not Eating

If it’s okay for a dog to skip a meal occasionally, how long do I wait before I call the vet about my dog not eating?

According to Dr. Ochoa, “It’s best to not wait more than two days before contacting your vet. If your dog is vomiting, having diarrhea and is very lethargic, it is best to not wait. See your vet right away.”

What if your dog is not eating but drinking water and/or vomiting? Your dog may attempt to drink water when they are sick, just to throw it right back up.

There are many possible reasons why your dog isn’t eating and unable to keep fluids down, including an infection, inflammation of the stomach and intestines (gastroenteritis), liver disease, cancer, or a digestive blockage. Although any one of these can prove life-threatening, don’t immediately assume the worst; instead make an appointment with your veterinarian. An exam and maybe some labs like X-rays or blood work can help figure out what’s wrong with your pet and the best treatment.

Why Your Puppy Won’t Eat

Similar to adult dogs, puppies can lose their appetite once in a while. However, Dr. Ochoa points out that puppies not eating is more of a concern than larger dogs.

“Puppies can have a drop in their blood sugar if they do not eat regularly, causing them to be extremely lethargic,” she said. “They are also more susceptible to parvo virus. Early signs of this disease are not eating. If your puppy hasn’t eaten after a day, make an appointment with your vet.”

Other reasons your puppy may refuse to eat include finickiness, stress, distemper, upper respiratory infections, intestinal parasites, and teething.

How to Get a Dog to Eat Again

Barring any symptoms that warrant a trip to the vet’s office, Dr. Ochoa recommends serving your dog some bland food like plain-boiled chicken, white rice, or scrambled egg mixed in with their kibble.

“These are very bland, easy to digest foods that you can feed to your dog,” she said. “You can also mix in some canned dog food, add warm water to the top of their food or even heat up their kibble to make it more enticing for them to want to eat.”

Other techniques you can try to get your dog to eat again include:

  • Serve your pet a slurry. Blend a bit of warm water or no-salt chicken broth to your dog’s dry kibble.
  • Hand feed your dog.
  • Warm your dog’s food up in the microwave for a few seconds.
  • Cut back on treats.
  • Replace your dog’s food bowl.
  • Change the location of your dog’s food dish to a place they find safe, inviting, and interesting.
  • Exercise your dog before meals to encourage an appetite.
  • Keep a regular feeding schedule.

Your veterinarian is your best resource when it comes to your dog’s health. Be sure to contact their office if you have any questions or concerns about your dog’s eating habits.