Guide to Dog Food for Picky Eaters

how to feed picky eater dogs

Is Your Dog A Picky Eater? What You Can Do To Make Mealtime Better

You’ve got dogs like Labrador retrievers, bassets, and beagles, that inhale food and plenty of other things with zero care about “what” they’re ingesting. Then you have dogs that pick at their food as if they were a petulant two-year-old child, knowing there are hidden veggies somewhere in the mix. Does the latter sound like your furry friend? Don’t worry: Your dog isn’t the only picky eater in canine land. In fact, several dog breeds are well-known for their mealtime shenanigans. So, what do you do when Fido won’t eat his food? Is it dangerous if your dog decides not to nibble on his kibble? Before you give up and throw away the dog dish, here’s what you need to know to make mealtime better.

What Dog Breeds Tend to be Fussy Eaters?

Not every dog welcomes a bowl of dog food, no matter if it’s dry or wet, cheap or expensive. While the list is short, it’s loaded with  popular dog breeds that tend to be very picky about licking their chops:

Why is My Dog a Picky Eater?

Your dog skipping his meals can be worrisome. However, like other behaviors, there could be several reasons behind your pet’s pickiness, such as:

  • Not hungry: If you load up your dog with table scraps and treats throughout the day, you may find your pet’s lack of appetite is merely the result of being full. You may also find that your pet has learned that if he holds out long enough, you’ll shower him with treats and table scraps, so there’s no reason to eat his dog food.
  • Anxiety: Humans have problems with their eating habits when anxious. Dogs are no different in that if they are afraid of something in their environment like loud noises (thunder or fireworks) or suffer from separation anxiety, they may be too worked up to eat anything.
  • Not food-driven: It’s true: NOT all dogs are motivated by food. Some prefer praise, love, and attention over sustenance.
  • Associating food with a bad experience: Dogs that have had an upset stomach or worse after eating their food might associate it with not feeling well and steer clear.
  • Age: Older dogs tend to eat less than younger dogs, as they don’t burn near the calories as they did in their youth.
  • Dislikes the taste or texture: If your pet is turning its nose up at the food you’re serving, it might be that your dog doesn’t care for the flavor or mouthfeel.
  • Uncomfortable dining area: Your dog may not feel safe eating in his current eating space. A sense of uneasiness can be especially true if there are other dogs or animals in the home.
  • Health-related issues: While loss of appetite doesn’t always indicate a severe disease, it can be a sign that your pet is suffering from a health-related issue like a food intolerance or allergy, systemic infection, pain, dental disease, liver problems, and kidney failure.

How Do You Handle Finicky Dogs?

So, how do you deal with a picky eater dog? First, don’t panic. Just because your dog doesn’t eat every time you fill his bowl doesn’t necessarily mean trouble. If you find there’s a reason behind your pet being picky, you can put together a game plan that might include one or more of the following:

  • The best picky eater dog remedy is to stop sharing your food. Yes, it’s difficult to ignore those eyes staring you down as you feed your face, but you have to do it. Offering treats by the handful is also not a good thing for your dog’s diet. In addition to filling up your pet’s belly, these two habits can fail to meet your dog’s nutritional needs and lead to obesity.
  • Whenever your pet experiences stress and anxiety, ruining its appetite, it’s up to you to take action and calm your pet. Offer plenty of cuddles and attention to dogs that suffer from general stress. For specific fears, try removing or cloaking your pet’s triggers like loud noises, other animals, or strangers. Ensuring your pet gets plenty of daily exercise and mental stimulation is one way to address separation anxiety and chill him down while you’re away.
  • Don’t force food on your dog if you know they aren’t food-motivated (providing they are healthy, they’ll eat when hungry). For these breeds, human attention (aka praise, play, and positive reinforcement) rules.
  • Switching your dog’s food gradually over several days can get your dog eating again if his lack of appetite is due to bad experiences. The American Kennel Club (AKC) recommends starting the first day with a 25% new diet mixed with 75% old diet and so on replacing 25% of your dog’s old diet with the new diet every other day until the seventh day, which should be 100% new food. Longer transitions may be necessary for dogs that suffer from food allergies or gastrointestinal issues. As always, consult your vet before changing out your pet’s diet.
  • Make sure your pet has a quiet, comfortable, safe space to enjoy their meals. Also, use appropriate-sized bowls and clean both water and food bowls regularly to prevent bacterial growth.
  • Adding a healthy topper or supplement to your pet’s food can add flavor and nutrition while encouraging picky eaters with new aromas.
  • Keeping an eye on how much your senior dog eats can help you recognize any health issues they might be experiencing. Many health conditions such as dental decay, dementia, arthritis can affect your pet’s eating habits. What about a dog that’s suddenly a fussy eater? Like senior dogs, canines that abruptly become fussy eaters or have vomiting or diarrhea after eating can indicate an underlying health problem, which warrants a trip to the vet for treatment options.

There’s little doubt dealing with a picky eater can be challenging. However, observing your pet’s habits and taking appropriate steps if necessary can make mealtime better and you stress less.

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