One of the most stressful and frustrating things a dog owner can go through is figuring out why their pooch isn’t eating. It’s a nightmare scenario: you see your dog, sad and lethargic, lying on the floor or sitting next to their bowl of kibble, looking up at you with sad eyes. Your first thought is probably “is my dog going to be okay?” And hopefully it will be!
First, take a look at the situation around you and see if you can figure out what is causing the problem – that could very well be a big part of the solution.
If you can’t figure out what’s wrong with your dog, start by looking at the situation around you and see if you can figure out what is causing the problem—that could very well be a big part of the solution.
If your dog is refusing to eat his meal, there may be an external factor preventing him from doing so. This could include:
- The smell of food on your hands or clothes after handling raw meat or fish (dogs are sensitive to this!)
- Being in another room while someone else prepares his food (he might feel abandoned)
Don’t assume your dog is sick just because he’s not eating.
If your dog isn’t eating, you may be tempted to jump to the conclusion that he’s ill. However, there are many different reasons why a dog might not want to eat his food—and it doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to rush him into the vet’s office.
Your dog could be sick or have an underlying health condition that is causing him pain or discomfort when he eats his regular food. Other reasons why a dog might not eat include:
- Stress from changes in environment (moving) or routine (new pup in house)
- Changes in daily schedule (going on vacation)
- Inability to access food because of age-related changes (elderly dogs)
Check with your vet to make sure there’s no obvious cause for the loss of appetite.
If you think your dog isn’t eating because he’s sick, don’t assume so. Some dogs will go off their food if they have a stomach bug or are experiencing diarrhea, but only a vet can diagnose this. If your dog isn’t eating for another reason, there are steps you can take to get him back on track.
Ensure that your dog hasn’t stopped eating due to changes in his environment.
If your dog has recently moved to a new environment, or is adjusting to a new schedule, it may take a few days for him to become accustomed to his surroundings. If your dog hasn’t eaten in two days, however, it’s time to investigate other possible causes of stress.
If your dog has recently been through a stressful situation—such as being away from home for an extended period of time or going through an event that made him feel threatened—it will take some time for him to recover. In this case, try giving him smaller amounts more frequently until he has fully recovered from the incident.
Make sure your dog’s food is fresh and hasn’t expired.
Make sure your dog’s food is fresh and hasn’t expired. If the bag of dog food has a printed expiration date on it, check to see if it is still valid. If the expiration date has passed, throw that bag of food out and buy a new one. It may seem wasteful or expensive, but if you feed your dog expired food they could get sick from eating it.
If there isn’t an expiration date on the package, don’t worry—that’s OK! You can use up this kind of kibble by feeding it right away or storing it in an airtight container in your pantry for up to a year after purchase (the longer you store dry pet food without opening the bag, however, the more likely bugs will start breeding inside).
Withhold water if, after 10 minutes, your dog hasn’t eaten.
If your dog hasn’t eaten in more than 10 minutes, withhold water for 24 hours. If he still doesn’t eat after that time period, continue to withhold water for another day (48 hours). After this point, begin to provide water very slowly and cautiously—only a few sips at first. If he seems to be tolerating it well, offer him more and see how things go from there.
If your dog is vomiting or having diarrhea and dehydrated from lack of fluids, you should also consider giving him ice cubes or salt water on occasion (not often) to help rehydrate his system. Just make sure that you don’t give too much at once—the goal is just to get some fluid into his body without making him vomit!
Use canned food or table scraps to encourage your dog to eat, but only in moderation.
If you’re worried about your dog’s appetite, it’s important to be conscious of how much food you’re giving your dog. Don’t give them table scraps or too much canned food, and don’t overfeed them treats or water. Your veterinarian can help guide you in the right direction for feeding a healthy diet for your pet.
With this information, you can get your dog eating again in no time. If the tips above don’t work or if your dog is still not eating after two days, then it’s important to seek professional help from a veterinarian immediately.