Most dogs love mealtime like marathon runners love talking about their rigorous training, which is why it can be unsettling if your dog suddenly loses interest in eating altogether. The reasons why can vary, so we’ve gathered a list of the most common causes and what you can do about them.
- Stress. Just like you and me, dogs can experience stress, which can affect appetite. (Hello, Breakup Diet?) 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.)
- Separation anxiety. Many dogs need their “pack” home and accounted for before eating. If you or someone in the household is gone during normal meal time, your dog might prefer to wait until everyone is back home. (Really. As if dogs could get any sweeter.) And if someone is gone for good, well, it’s just going to take some time to adjust. We recommend buying your dog the entire Adele library and listening together.
- Tooth or oral problems. 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 dog to get bitey. If you suspect this is the case, make an appointment with the vet right away.
- Vaccinations. The side effects of some vaccinations can cause a temporary loss of appetite. Make sure he’s still drinking plenty of water and be patient. No reason to skip vaccinations for this reason. The side effects rarely last more than a day or two.
- 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 meal time. Thoroughly wash and dry feeding bowls daily to prevent bacteria and overall ickiness to form.
- Travel. If your dog is joining you for travel, his appetite is likely to be affected. His entire world is on stimulation overload from countless new sights, smells, sounds and people. He may only have time to eat a quick treat from your hand because he has to sniff everything. Twice. Maybe even three times. Be patient. The appetite will return.
- Expired or bad food. Does his loss of appetite happen to correspond with a new package of food? Your dog’s sense of smell could be warning him about something inside. After all, your dog’s ability to analyze smell is about 40 times stronger than yours. Check expiration dates and when in doubt, toss it out and try a fresh package. Then thank your dog for sparing you from Exorcist-level projectile vomiting and/or diarrhea.
- Bad feeding habits. Hmmm, could it be that the dog is not hungry? Because you keep feeding him table scraps and bits of food throughout the day? Because you are an enabler and feel like overindulging your dog will make up for the voids from your own childhood? With or without the psychoanalysis, it’s time to stop feeding the dog table food. It’s bad for your dog, his routine, his health and longevity.
- Taste fatigue. It’s not really rocket science, but your dog might be tired of eating the same exact thing every day for the last seven years. Try introducing a new flavor, or perhaps mixing in some wet food options with dry food to offer some healthy variety. Go slow. No smorgasbording necessary here; even one new flavor can spark interest.
- Illness. If one of the previous reasons isn’t more likely, your dog’s loss of appetite could indicate some illness. Look for other signs like weight loss, loose stools and other physical behaviors that might indicate a problem, or if it’s been more than a few days since your dog has eaten. Call your vet and get some help.
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.