For most dogs, mealtime is their favorite part of the day. Therefore, it can be concerning for pet owners when their dog’s not eating, or his appetite seems to have decreased. Luckily, the most common reasons are easily fixable—especially if your dog is not eating but seems fine otherwise. Here’s why your pup may have lost his appetite and how to get your dog to start eating again.
Just like you and me, dogs can experience stress, which can affect appetite. (Hello, Breakup Diet?) There are a variety of reasons that your dog may be experiencing stress. A new addition to the family--animal or human--or a new job for you, or even a few days of having service persons around is enough to stress some dogs out. Keep as familiar a schedule as possible during times of change and ride it out. Dogs are able to go a few days without food before it’s problematic as long as they are drinking water, so just hang in there and offer some extra love and reassurance. (And, of course, consult your vet if you’re feeling uneasy.) In the meantime, ensure that your dog is drinking enough water and at least eating treats. You can offer high value foods like boiled chicken, lean beef or plain fish if you think that might entice them to eat. If your pet seems overly stressed, we offer our ultimate guide to de-stressing dogs for some other tips and tricks.
2. Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety can prevent your dog from eating. Many dogs need their “pack” home and accounted for at mealtimes. If you or someone in the household is gone during normal mealtime, your dog might prefer to wait until everyone is back home. Really. As if dogs could get any sweeter. If someone is gone for good, well, it’s just going to take some time to adjust. Offer some favorite foods and hopefully, your dog will be back to looking forward to mealtime in no time!
If the separation anxiety occurs when the dog is home alone, consider addressing the dog’s loneliness by leaving the television on or playing some calming music. This will help your dog relax and reduce their anxiety, increasing the likelihood they will eat their food.
It’s easy to feed your dog something “bad” for them without much thought. A piece of cheese here, a few too many treats there, a nugget off the kids plate, you know how it goes. If you consistently give out treats and snacks, and your dog is not hungry at mealtime, you may be overindulging your dog, resulting in a loss of appetite.
Alternatively, you may be accidentally training your dog to hold out for treats instead of eating their regular meals. If you notice your dog is gaining weight, then this is usually an indicator that they are being overfed.
Consider reading our guide on how much you should really be feeding your dog or our guide on how often do you feed a puppy for some general guidelines. You can also chat with your vet to make a better meal plan for your pup - one that includes the good stuff AND the tasty treats!
4. Bad food
If you think this may be the case, consider providing a fresh bowl or pouch of food to see if it makes a difference. Make sure you check expiration dates and throw away any food that’s expired; this will potentially save you from having to clean up doggy diarrhea or vomit, too!
If giving your dog fresh food doesn’t help, wait a day or so, then take a visit to the local vet to get your pet checked. Make a note of any other symptoms that will help your vet get to the root of the problem.
The worst-case scenario: Your dog may not be eating due to an illness. Be on the lookout for diarrhea, throwing up, or lethargy. If your dog is showing signs of distress aside from not eating, give your vet a call.
There may be an underlying issue that needs to be addressed. Your dog could be avoiding his food due to liver disease, infections, a blockage, tumor or kidney failure. If your dog isn’t eating but seems otherwise fine, that’s likely not the issue. However, if he doesn’t start chowing down within 24 hours, it’s time to seek medical help.
6. Dental Issues
A toothache or mouth sore can ruin any meal. If your dog starts to eat but quickly loses interest, it could indicate discomfort in his mouth. Be careful trying to inspect this yourself, since pain could cause your otherwise docile dog to react with a nip or bite.
If you suspect this is the case, make an appointment with the vet right away. In addition to treating the issue, your vet might recommend some modifications to your dog’s diet to help them get the nutrition they need while they heal. This might include using softer foods like boiled chicken and veggies or a puree.
Keep up with brushing and good oral hygiene to prevent dental issues in the first place.
7. A recent vaccine
The side effects of some vaccinations can cause a temporary loss of appetite. Make sure your dog is still drinking plenty of water and be patient. The side effects rarely last more than a day or two. It is not a reason to skip a vaccine. You can consult your vet or vet tech at the appointment to proactively plan to support your pet through these very temporary side effects.
8. Dirty Dishes
When is the last time you washed the dog bowl? Just because your dog enjoys licking the base of the toilet doesn’t mean he doesn’t want his own bowl germ-free at mealtime. Thoroughly wash and dry feeding bowls daily to prevent bacteria and overall ickiness to form. This is critically important to protect your dog from foodborne illnesses as well.
If your dog is joining you for travel, his appetite is likely to be impacted. His entire world is on stimulation overload from countless new sights, smells, sounds and people. This can be stressful and cause your pup to have less interest in food. On the other hand, it might also be really exciting to your pup. They may only have time to eat a quick treat from your hand because they has to sniff everything. Twice. Maybe even three times. Be patient. Your pup will be ready to chow down soon enough. You may even be able to share a new food or treat with them on the road.
Moving to a new home can be stressful for everyone. Packing, moving and settling in to a strage place can be confusing for your dog. It might take a few days before they feel comfortable. This can impact meal schedules as well as your dog's appetite. Be patient, offer food regularly and ensure your pup has access to cool, fresh water. Your dog will settle in to a new routine.
Even if you know exactly why your pup isn't eating, it can be stressful as a pet parent. Check in with your vet and make sure you have a plan to support your pet - or know the next step if they don't get back on track within a few days.
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.