Dogs are generally not discriminating when it comes to food. When left unsupervised, they eat just about anything they come across, from dog food to human food to other weird things like rocks, toys, dirt, tennis balls, papers, grass, socks, other dogs’ faeces, and even tampons.
Because of this, finding a semi-eaten or untouched meal in your dog’s feeding bowl may worry you. The first thing that probably comes to your mind is that your pet isn’t feeling well. While this may be true, numerous other reasons can cause dogs to lose interest in their food. Let’s discuss these reasons and what you should do in each case below:
1. Underlying Medical Issues
If your dog’s lack of appetite is accompanied by other symptoms like vomiting, diarrhoea, extreme lethargy, bloody stool, drinking water excessively, or drooling too much, it’s often a sign of an underlying medical problem.
There’s a high chance that your furry friend has ingested something poisonous, or they’re suffering from a more serious health problem like bloat, parvovirus, pancreatitis, or even cancer.
Underlying medical issues require urgent professional intervention, so it’s important that you get your pet to your vet’s clinic as soon as possible. Your pooch will most likely be put on a prescription diet to help meet their nutritional needs while the illness is being treated.
Dogs that are used to eating human foods and treats may find prescription diets very tasteless. If this is the case with yours, don’t force them to eat. Instead, speak with the vet about alternative forms of feeding, for instance, using a feeding tube.
Once the underlying medical issue is treated properly, your four-legged best friend should be able to start eating normally again.
Dogs generally have a healthy appetite and will eat almost anything they come across. But, there are times when they refuse to eat completely. This loss of appetite can be due to several factors such as an underlying medical issue and stress.
2. Recent Vaccinations or Medications
Canine vaccinations and medications come in handy to protect dogs from potentially harmful diseases and tackle various health problems affecting them.
However, some vaccines and medicines cause unwanted side effects such as nausea, stomach-ache, soreness, lethargy, and loss of appetite. Often, these adverse reactions are mild and wear off within a day or so.
Therefore, if your pooch was vaccinated or put on medication recently, it could be the reason why they’re refusing to eat. But don’t worry, they should be able to enjoy their meal as they used to when the effects of their vaccine or medicine subside.
3. Dental Problems
Dental problems can also cause a lot of pain and discomfort to our canine companions, forcing them to stop eating. Loose or broken teeth, bleeding or swollen gums, gingivitis, and periodontal disease are just a few of the dental issues that can cause a dip in your pet’s appetite.
Most of these issues often go unnoticed because dogs are extremely good at masking their pain. But if you pay close attention to your pooch, you may see that they’re sniffing their food but not eating it. This should tell you that they’re interested, but there’s something preventing them from taking a bite.
The first thing to do to rule out dental issues is to check your pet’s teeth and mouth carefully for any unusual signs like swollen gums. However, if you feel you can’t do this on your own, take them to the vet for professional dental examination.
Once the underlying issue has been diagnosed and addressed properly, your dog’s normal appetite will return.
4. Pickiness and Behaviour Problems
Another common reason why pets refuse to eat is pickiness. Some dogs not only prefer certain food flavours over others but also prefer to eat at certain times of the day under certain conditions.
For instance, if your pooch prefers fresh, homemade dog food and you suddenly start giving them a canned or raw food variety, they may be reluctant to eat.
Similarly, if they’re used to eating their meal twice a day (morning and evening) in a separate room and suddenly, you start serving them at midday in the presence of other dogs, they may refuse to eat as well.
Here are a few things you can do to get your furry friend eating again:
– Try alternating between different types of foods (i.e. wet, dry, canned, raw, and homemade foods) until you find out what they enjoy most.
– Feed them at least twice a day at consistent times.
– Provide them with a safe and comfortable space to eat, preferably in a room of their own.
Your canine companion can also snub their food due to boredom. Eating the same type of food day in day out can be boring to some dogs.
So, if you’ve been serving yours the same brand of food for many years, it’s possible that they’ve become bored and tired of the same taste and flavour.
To restore their appetite:
– Mix some plain, boiled chicken or other safe human foods to their meal to add extra flavour.
– Make mealtimes enjoyable by rewarding them with a small portion of delicious human food or treat when they perform a trick successfully. Alternatively, you can use a puzzle feeder during meals to make them work for their food.
– Add a little bit of warm water to their kibble to make it more appealing.
– Take them for a walk before meals. By the time both of you return home, your pooch will be too tired and hungry to refuse to eat.
6. Eating Too Much People Food
Adding some delicious human food to your dog’s food is one of the easiest ways to get them interested in eating again. However, human foods should only be given to dogs sparingly.
If you make it a daily thing, your pet will get too used to it to the point that they lose appetite for their own food. Over time, they can also develop the bad habit of refusing to eat intentionally so you can serve them some tasty chicken.
To solve this:
– Keep your dog away from the dining room when your family members are eating.
– Serve them plain dog food in a different room, preferably before or after the whole family has eaten.
– Give them at least 20 minutes to enjoy their meal. If after those minutes they’ve not touched the food, take it away. Do the same for the next couple of days until they get the memo and
start eating again.
7. Old or Spoiled Food
Old or spoiled food can also affect your pet’s appetite. Dogs have a way of knowing when something is wrong with their food. And once they do, they’ll stay away from it.
It could be that their favourite kibble has expired and grown mould without you noticing, or you served them some homemade meal that has gone bad or wasn’t cooked properly.
Either way, the best thing to do is toss out the bad food and give them something fresh and delicious.
So, how do you know that your dog’s food is spoiled or old? By simply giving them their favourite treat and watching their reaction. If they eat the treat but snub the food, you’ll know that something is probably wrong with the food.
Always remember to store dry dog food in airtight containers and wet ones in the fridge to keep them fresh and long-lasting. It’s also a good idea to check out the expiry date of your pet’s food from time to time to avoid serving them something that has expired.
8. Being in Unfamiliar Surroundings or Car Rides
Another reason why dogs refuse to eat is being in places they’re not familiar with. It makes them nervous and uneasy, which can lead to a loss of appetite.
Similarly, car rides can cause a lot of excitement in some dogs and stress in others. The good news is that any loss of appetite caused by these two factors usually resolves as soon as the trip is over and your four-legged best friend is back home.
As you wait for that to happen, you may want to entice them with a tasty treat to get some food in their stomach.
9. Swallowing Something They Shouldn’t
As already mentioned above, dogs gobble up everything they come across, including things they shouldn’t. Those things end up in their stomachs and intestines, causing stomach upset.
When that happens, some dogs resort to eating grass to ease their pain, while others try to force out whatever they ate through vomiting.
If your pooch eventually passes out whatever they ate in their vomit or stool, they should be okay afterward. However, if they cannot throw up or poop, it’s a sign that a foreign object is stuck in their intestines.
You’ll know this by how uncomfortable, miserable, and tired they look, and of course, their refusal to eat. Intestinal obstruction can cause death in your pooch if they’re not attended to urgently, so get them to the vet’s office straight away.
An ultrasound will be done to see the object that’s stuck, and thereafter, the vet will decide whether to prescribe medications to help your pet pass out the foreign object or perform surgery to remove it.
10. A Sudden Change in a Dog’s Life
Sudden changes within the home can also trigger stress and anxiety in highly sensitive dogs, leading to either overeating or a hunger strike. Some of the changes that can dent your dog’s appetite include:
– Welcoming a new baby
– Bringing home another pet
– Moving to a new home
– Changing their exercise or feeding routine
– Leaving them home alone while at work or on vacation
– Moving their water and feeding bowls to a different room
– Being re-homed after the owner’s death
These changes may not seem like reasons enough to stop eating, but they’re a big deal to your dog. So, don’t go scolding them for misbehaving.
Instead, take them to the vet to rule out medical problems and give them the love and attention they’re craving for. Sit down on the floor with your dog and hand feed them if that’s what will make them eat again.
Also, try giving them a new toy to play with to lift their spirits, or play together in the backyard and reward them with a delicious snack afterward.
It may take a while before your furry friend gets used to the new normal, but once they do, their appetite will return. It’s equally important to ensure that any changes you make in the future are gradual to give your pet adequate time to get used to them.
11. Old Age
Your dog’s old age could also be the reason why they’re avoiding the food they’ve been enjoying for years. Old age comes with many disadvantages for dogs, for instance, their teeth become more sensitive, and they start feeling pain when they eat certain foods. Some senior dogs may also find their favourite tastes and scents less appealing because of changes in their senses.
To fix this problem, switch their diet to softer foods that they can eat easily without feeling pain. Make sure that the new food is tastier than the older one and contains all the nutrients that your aging pet needs for optimum health.
12. Overfeeding on Treats
Lastly, your dog may be refusing their meal simply because they’re not hungry. They’ve eaten too many treats that they have no space left for their regular food.
To solve this, make sure your dog’s treats contribute no more than 10% of their recommended daily calorie intake. Also, ensure that the treats are served in small quantities throughout the day to avoid ruining their appetite.
When to Seek Veterinarian Help
With so many possible reasons why dogs refuse to eat, how do you know when to seek professional help? Well, if your pet refuses to eat for a few hours but resumes later and they show no other symptoms, it’s probably nothing to worry about.
But, if their loss of appetite is persistent and is accompanied by symptoms like lethargy, vomiting, or diarrhoea, take them to the vet’s clinic within 8-12 hours for proper examination and treatment of the underlying problem. Their appetite will improve gradually once they get better