It can be worrying if your dog isn’t eating. Dogs aren’t usually known for turning their nose up at food so it’s understandable for this to be concerning for pet parents.
What are the main reasons for a dog refusing to eat? We’ll talk you through some considerations and common explanations and, of course, when to seek help from your veterinarian.
First thing to do is to observe your dog and their environment. Here is a checklist:
Watch your dog's behaviour – are they acting like their normal selves? Or are they lethargic or acting out of character?
Check their teeth to see if there are any obvious issues, broken teeth, sore or bleeding gums, for example. Check to see if their tummy area is sensitive, which may be an indication that they are in pain.
Check their food, are there any issues with the look or smell? Is the food still in date or have they made changes to the recipe? Has the food been sitting out for a while making it less appealing to your dog? What’s the state of their bowl or mat?
Have they recently had a vaccination or are they taking any medication that may explain their loss of appetite? Sometimes, just like us humans, side effects from some medications can make us feel a bit yuck and we don’t feel like eating.
Check the environment for any toxins. Dogs are sensitive to many household products and plants, this could be causing them to be uncomfortable. You can find a list to help you do a check of your home here.
Other reasons why your dog may not be eating
Fussy or bored
Dogs can get bored of their food sometimes. Try offering them a different flavour to see if that increases their appetite. You may even like to make meal time fun and fill a toy with food as this will provide them with mental stimulation while they’re receiving nutrition.
Some dogs have food preferences, and they will hold out for food they favour. Some dogs will skip their meals if they know they will often get some table scraps later.
If they’re trying a new food, our advice is to go slow. When it comes to our food, we always recommend a slow introduction over 2 weeks. This is to minimise any potential for stomach upsets which can happen if a change in diet is sudden. A slow introduction can also help with dogs that aren’t particularly fond of change or if the change in diet is a big difference. Imagine going from eating processed fast foods all your life then being presented a meal with fresh, unprocessed, uncooked ingredients… it may take a bit of getting used to in the beginning.
If your dog’s mouth and teeth are sore, then they’re not likely to want to eat because of the pain.
This article will help you detect oral pain in your pet, as well as some visual signs to look for.
If your dog has started a new medication, even some preventative medicines like flea or worm treatments, it may disagree with them or have side effects that may contribute to their lack of interest in food. Have a quick check on the product’s website or check in with your vet if it’s a prescribed medication.
Just like us humans, our appetites can be affected by stress and mood. Gosh, they’re complicated little darlings, aren’t they?
If your dog experiences separation anxiety it can put them off their food, especially if you feed them as you leave the house. Dogs are pack animals and they may be stressed eating alone without someone watching over them.
If you’ve moved house recently or you’ve brought home a puppy or rescue dog, a change in environment can be stressful for them and they may not feel comfortable to eat.
If you think stress is an issue for your dog, we recommend chatting with a dog behaviourist about your concerns.
When to seek help
If you have a puppy, particularly a young puppy, we recommend you observe your puppy and their environment and give your vet a call. Most clinics will be happy to have a quick chat over the phone and chat through signs and timeframes with you to determine if you should bring your puppy in for an examination.
Your dog not eating and drinking water is a serious issue and can be a sign of a medical problem that will require veterinary attention. If your dog is showing signs of dehydration, along with vomiting and diarrhoea then consider it an emergency.
The most common symptoms of dehydration are:
- Sunken eyes and loss of skin elasticity
- Dry gums and nose
- Lethargy and weakness
- Collapsing in extreme cases
Searching the internet can be scary when you’re looking up your dog’s symptoms. You will require Veterinary assistance for serious issues like: Internal obstructions, poisoning, infection, issues with internal organs. You won’t be able to diagnose these yourself.
Trust your gut – nobody knows your dog like you do. If you think they are acting out of character and that something may be wrong, call your vet and ask for them to check them over.
This article is just a few considerations for you and this article does not replace veterinary advice. It is general in nature. Please be sure to contact your vet for further guidance.
If you enjoyed this article, we think you’ll also like our ‘poo guide’. It provides a fascinating insight into your pet’s health.
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