Most dogs love mealtime and when given the opportunity to chow down on a meal or favorite treat they will do so with gusto! It can be unsettling if your dog suddenly loses interest in eating or refuses food or a favorite treat.
The reasons why can vary, so we’ve gathered a list of the most common causes and what you can do about them.
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 mealtime, 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. Offer some favorite foods and hopefully, your dog will be back to looking forward to mealtime in no time!
- 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. 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.
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. You can consult your vet or vet tech at the appointment to proactively plan to support your pet through these very temporary side effects.
- 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.
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
Could it be that your dog is not hungry? Do you feed him table scraps, treats or bits of food throughout the day? If you are overfeeding your pet this may be a reason he stops eating. If you allow your dog to ‘free-feed’ or leave food out for him 24/7 it can be hard to monitor his food intake. As refusing food can be a sign of illness, you may want to consider using regular mealtimes and creating a schedule for your dog so you can better monitor food consumption and will notice any irregularities quickly.
If one of the previous reasons isn’t more likely, your dog’s loss of appetite could indicate that your pet is sick or has an underlying medical issue. Look for other signs like weight loss, loose stools and other physical behaviors that might indicate a problem. If it has been more then 48 hours and your dog is still refusing to eat, make sure to get them to the vet for an exam and treatment.
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.