Is your pup suddenly turning up their nose at mealtime? Or, perhaps they’ve always had a discerning palate. Either way, when your dog is a picky eater, you naturally feel a little frustrated or baffled and concerned about whether they’re getting the nutrition they need.
Quite a few reasons can cause your dog to turn up their nose to the food bowl. For example, some small breeds are commonly fickle about their food. To gain some expert insight, we consulted Dr. Susan G. Wynn, veterinary nutritionist with BluePearl Veterinary Specialists in Atlanta. She answers the question, “Why is my dog a picky eater?” In addition, she provides some helpful tips on how you can encourage your picky pup to eat with gusto.
If your pet is a picky eater, Dr. Wynn recommends that you first ensure your four-legged friend has a complete veterinary examination to determine whether they are ill. Allergies, digestive upset, and other potentially serious medical conditions can cause your dog to refuse food. If your normally ravenous pup suddenly loses their appetite or you have other reasons to believe your dog is sick (e.g., lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea), take them to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
Dogs are smart. If you tend to respond to your pup’s poor appetite by feeding them treats or table scraps, they’ll game the system and eat less and less of their regular meal. “The owner’s perception of the food and the dog’s reaction to it actually dictate how the owner presents the food, which in turn changes the dog’s reaction,” explains Dr. Wynn.
It’s no surprise that feeding your pup too many snacks between meals will reduce their appetite at mealtime. However, you may also be overfeeding your dog by feeding them excessively large portions. “Some overfed dogs will naturally limit their food intake at the level that maintains a normal body weight, while others limit it after they have already become obese,” says Dr. Wynn. If you are unaware that your dog is overweight, you may mistakenly presume that they’re being picky when they eat much less than before.
“In general, dogs prefer protein and fat, so they prefer foods that are high in both,” explains Dr. Wynn, who says that “meaty aromas” are more appealing to dogs. To prevent your pooch from becoming too accustomed to one kind of food, Dr. Wynn recommends alternating or rotating food types and flavors, as long as your dog’s digestive system tolerates the variety. When your pup is acclimated to variety, you’ll have “more to tempt them with later in life when their appetite declines,” she points out.
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Follow your dog’s biological rhythms to optimize their appetite. For example, try feeding your dog at different times during the day to see when they eat more and when they eat less. If doing so doesn’t provide you with any additional insight into your four-legged friend’s appetite, consider feeding them on a more strict schedule, which can train your dog to eat at a certain time. If your furry pal doesn’t eat within 20 or 30 minutes, remove the food bowl and try again later. Although giving your pup constant access to food may seem kind, doing so encourages grazing behavior and reinforces their finicky habits.
Your dog’s appetite provides clues about their physical and emotional wellbeing. Although you may inadvertently encourage picky eating by feeding your pooch too many table scraps or leaving food out all day, your dog’s poor eating behavior may be attributable to internal discomfort. Your four-legged friend’s picky eating may be caused by the following:
To help determine why your dog friend is a picky eater, consider how you may be contributing to the issue. You may be inadvertently encouraging your dog’s unhealthy habits and may even completely turn them off their food. If your pooch’s eating habits are less than ideal, determine whether you are practicing these negative feeding strategies:
The best way to prevent picky eating is to feed your pup at a scheduled time every day, remove the uneaten portion after 20 to 30 minutes, and restrict your dog’s treats to no more than 10% of their daily calorie intake. Finally, keep your dog in tip-top health by staying up-to-date on their veterinary care and consulting your veterinarian about any unusual appetite changes.
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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.
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