Is your dog not eating? Here are possible causes for appetite loss.

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We all take a lot of enjoyment in feeding our dogs. Deciding the food brand, buying food bowls, and everything to make the dog feel pampered and loved. But many of us have to see our lovely dogs in distress and not eating. Whether you have had a pet dog for years or you are new to the pet parent world, watching your little guy stay hungry is probably the most painful thing. The loss of appetite in dogs can be due to a variety of reasons. To determine the cause is the first and foremost step in the process of deriving a suitable treatment plan.

The first thing while determining the cause is what metrics are you using to judge your dog’s appetite. If you are comparing your dog’s appetite to the guidelines mentioned on the food packet, then those limits are as per the average food consumption habits. Those digits can not be generalized since most perfectly healthy dogs eat only about 60% to 70% of the ideal meal size as stated on the packaging. Loss of appetite in dogs can be a sign of illness, therefore seeking veterinary care is important if you notice significant changes in your dog’s eating habits. As the parent, it is up to you to respond promptly when you notice a dog refusing to eat who usually eats well. Even though in the dog’s case, they can go for a couple of days without food and show no significant bad effects, but it is best to address the problem as early as possible.

Appetite in dogs

Possible reasons for loss of appetite

Just like in human cases, there can be several reasons behind a dog’s refusal to eat. These can be-

  • Illness. A decreased level of appetite in dogs can be a sign of sickness, especially if your dog is exhibiting other symptoms like lethargy or upset stomach at the same time. Although a loss of appetite in dogs does not vouch for a serious disease, immediate veterinary attention is important as it could possibly be a sign of significant illness, including cancer, various other infections, or pain, liver problems, and kidney failure.
  • Dental disease. Your dog may be avoiding food because possibly something in its mouth is causing pain. Have your doggo checked for a broken or loose tooth, or severe gingivitis, and even an oral tumor. All these can cause loss of appetite
  • Recent vaccination. Fortunately, now we have vaccinations available and accessible for many serious and contagious dog diseases. Although these vaccinations are life saviors for the past 100 years, they may also have adverse effects. Even though most of those are minor and brief, but a temporary loss of appetite in dogs is one of them.
  • Travel and unfamiliar surroundings. Dogs can have a hard time adjusting to new surroundings sometimes and it reflects on their appetite and bowel movements. If your dog’s appetite was normal until you went on a trip with them or moved to a new area, it may be the reason behind the problem. Your dog may not be eating because of traveling or unfamiliar surroundings. Some animals’ response to a new location and traveling is motion sickness, while others become nervous or uncomfortable in new places.
  • Pickiness or behavior issues. Some dogs are just not eating because they are picky. While others are uncomfortable in their feeding situations, therefore they refuse to eat. Feeding your dog around an aggressive dog or placing the bowl at an uncomfortable height are examples of the said situations. A decreased appetite in dogs may very well be caused by illness, so never assume that your dog is picky without considering other possibilities first and getting a professional’s opinion first.

What can you do when your dog refuses to eat

What you can do to encourage your dog to eat totally depends on what you and your veterinarian narrow down as the root cause of the problem.

If your dog’s loss of appetite is a result of illness, the vet may recommend a prescription diet for it that will fulfill the nutritional needs while the underlying problem is being treated with meds possibly. But these diets are not particularly tasty most of the time, so if your dog is used to regular treats or people food, here comes another challenge. If your dog is ill, do not use the senseless strategy of starving your pet in an attempt to force it to eat the prescribed diet or stay hungry. Instead, discuss the situation with your veterinarian and talk about alternatives. In more severe cases, your vet will ideally prescribe some appetite-stimulating medications, or recommend syringe-feeding a liquid diet, or even insert a feeding tube.

If your dog’s decreased appetite is the outcome of a behavior problem caused by pickiness or discomfort with mealtime, there are many things you can do and several techniques you can use to encourage your pet to eat.


Do this to encourage your doggo to eat.

  • Cutting back on treats and people food.
  • Feeding your dog on a strict schedule regularly, typically at least twice a day.
  • Make mealtime a fun time for your dog possibly by playing with a toy that dispenses food or using rewarding techniques where you reward your dog with food for doing a trick.
  • Take your dog for a walk right before it’s time to eat.
  • Change your dog’s feeding situation. If you used to feed your dog with other pets, start feeding them alone. Give them different bowls or plates and place them at different heights to see which one your dog prefers.
  • Try feeding them a different kind of food, such as if you normally feed your dog dry food, then try canned food now.
  • Add a bit of warm water to your dog’s kibble, which will entice your dog to eat it as the aroma makes it more appealing.
Wendy Hendriks

Wendy Hendriks

This is Wendy Hendriks From iClean Internationals Ltd. Life-long learner, committed to working hard at self directed learning environment.

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