My Dog Is Not Eating, What Do I Do?

my dog is not eating
my dog is not eating

A common reason for dogs to visit the veterinarian is for the concern that “my dog is not eating”.  The medical term for not eating is anorexia.

Sometimes canine anorexia is complete which means a dog will not eat anything and other times the anorexia is partial where a dog will eat but only if the food is augmented with more palatable things such as cooked chicken or beef or other table food. Another common scenario when a dog has partial anorexia or a decreased appetite and won’t eat his food but will eat treats.

There are many reasons why a dog will not eat or has a decreased appetite. Below we will discuss some of these reasons and give you tips on what you can do at home and when you should see your veterinarian.

First, why will a dog not eat his food but eat treats?

Dog Won’t Eat His Food But Will Eat Treats

Many times when dogs get sick or feel ill, the first symptom that we observe is a decreased appetite. Some dogs will still eat if you “doctor-up” the food with canned food, cooked meats such as chicken or hamburger, or offer other table scraps or human foods. Other dogs will eat only treats but not their food.

There are many causes of anorexia in dogs. Anorexia is considered a symptom, which means it can be caused by many different diseases.  In some cases, a decreased appetite can be one of the first signs of illness. For example, diseases of the stomach, liver, intestine, and/or pancreas can cause a decreased appetite or anorexia. In addition, diseases of the kidneys, blood, and brain can cause a decreased appetite. In addition, dogs that are in pain or have infections are often unwilling to eat. Learn more about Anorexia in Dogs in this complete medical article written by a board-certified veterinary specialist.

Get some good tips on how to get your dog to eat at What to do When Your Dog Won’t Eat His Food — But He Will Eat Treats.

Look for Other Symptoms in Your Dog

When a dog is not eating, closely evaluate him for additional symptoms or problems. It is important to know if the anorexia is the only symptom or if they’re other symptoms. Take your dog out on a leash so you can observe all his or her habits.

Monitor your dog for:

  • Is there vomiting? If s0, how frequently? Is it undigested food or bile? Is there blood?
  • Are the bowel movements normal? Is there diarrhea? Have you seen abnormal blood or mucous? Is the stool black that can suggest digested blood?
  • Is your dog scooting?
  • Is your dog urinating normally? Have you noticed straining or more frequent requests to go out? Is there any change in the urine color? Have you noticed blood?
  • Is your dog coughing? Any trouble breathing? Exercise intolerance?
  • How is your dog’s attitude? Is he/she active, playful and happy? Are you noticing lethargy?
  • Is your dog drinking? Have you noticed decreased or increased thirst?
  • Has your dog lost or gained weight recently?
  • Have you noticed any lameness or trouble walking?
  • Is there any evidence that your dog is in pain?
  • Does your dog have an abnormal odor or foul odor on his breath?
  • Have you noticed any abnormal skin tumors or growths?

If your dog is showing any other abnormal symptoms such as not eating, vomiting, lethargy or anything else, please see or talk to your veterinarian. These observations may help identify the underlying cause of the inappetence.

How to Get Your Dog to Start Eating

If your dog is not eating, how do you get your dog to start eating?

  1. Consider the flavor your dog may like most. Just like humans, every dog is different as far as what he or she likes. Some prefer fish flavors, others beef and yet others may like poultry.
  2. Some dogs prefer dry food over canned and others prefer canned over dry.

The best approach is to try to get your dog to eat something….really anything. Start with healthy choices then work to other options. Begin by offering your dog his regular food but if he won’t eat that, then try something else.

  1. You may offer a bland diet such as a combination of boiled hamburger with rice as an option that works well in some dogs. You can purchase a commercial version of this diet e.g. Hill’s Science Diet i/d or make your own. Get our recipe on How to Make a Bland Diet for Your Dog.
  2. Offer your dog some different canned dog foods to help stimulate your dog’s appetite. Choose one that he has had and likes but if that doesn’t’ work, pick something new. The best approach is to add a small amount of canned food to his regular food and hope that he eats the combination of regular food with some of the canned.

If this doesn’t work, then you can start trying other options. Please see our article on Home Care of Dogs with Anorexia for some really good tips on how to get your dog to eat.

Learn more about this situation – when a dog will eat treats but not his food. Go to: What to do When Your Dog Won’t Eat His Food — But He Will Eat Treats

Here Are the Best Dog Foods for Picky Dogs

What are the best dog foods for picky dogs? The best food is both extremely palatable and nutritious. Having this combination can make choosing the best dog food for picky dogs a challenge.  Some foods that are highly palatable are not the best quality and definitely not the most nutritious. It’s probably like junk food or fast food for us. We may really like that fast food hamburger but it may not be our healthiest and most nutritious choice.

After researching various food companies, some food brands that we have found to be both good quality and highly palpable are:

  • Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Food
  • Zignature
  • Acana
  • Fromm
  • Orijen
  • Natures Recipe
  • Wellness Core
  • Taste of the Wild
  • Stella and Chewy’s

Consider if you want canned, dry or a combination and consider what flavor your dog may like. Offer not only food that your dog historically has liked best but also different flavors or textures to see if you can find something appealing to your dog. If your dog likes chicken based foods, you can try a new chicken-based food or offer something different such as salmon, turkey, venison, duck, or beef.

Here’s How to Help a Puppy Who Will Not Eat

What do you do about a puppy that will not eat? This can be serious, especially with puppies that are very young. Puppies less than three months, especially the small and toy breed dogs are predisposed to hypoglycemia which is a low blood sugar when they don’t eat.  This is referred to as juvenile hypoglycemia.

Hypoglycemia in puppies occurs commonly due to their inability to regulate their blood glucose concentrations, especially during times of “stress”. Symptoms of a low blood sugar may include lethargy, weakness, trembling, muscle twitching, and seizures.

For this reason, it is extremely important to get puppies to eat. All the tips above work for puppies but more commonly feeding canned foods work. To further encourage puppies to eat, you may heat a small amount of the canned food in the microwave for a few seconds to release the aromas (but please make sure it is not too hot to the touch) to help stimulate your puppies interest in the food. You may also try to feed baby food such as a chicken baby food. When mixed with water, baby food can be easy to pull up in a syringe to gently syringe fed. Sometimes getting a small amount of food into a dog or puppy can encourage them to want to eat.  If you decide to syringe feed your puppy, make sure your puppy is alert and able to properly swallow. Force-feeding can cause aspiration pneumonia.

Feed only a small amount at a time to ensure your puppy tolerates it and doesn’t start vomiting.

Why won’t a puppy eat?

The reasons that a puppy won’t eat can range from minor things to things that are very serious.  Common causes can include gastrointestinal parasites, viral diseases, and/or bacterial infections. There are many other causes that can include ingestion of toxins, ingestion of indigestible objects and many more possibilities. Often there are additional symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea with many of these potential illnesses.

What do you do next to help a puppy that will not eat?

If you try different foods, canned food, baby food, a bland diet, treats, heating up foods, gently syringe feeding some food…. and your puppy still will not eat, the best recommendation is to take your puppy to your veterinarian.

You may want to take a stool sample with you and be ready to answer the questions about if your puppy is vomiting, having diarrhea, has had a food change, gotten into the trash or is displaying other symptoms such as lethargy, weakness, and/or coughing.   Here is more information and tips on How to Help a Puppy Who Will Not Eat

What’s the Best Tasting Dry Dog Food for Your Pet?

Dog owners commonly ask about what is the best tasting dry dog food.  This is an excellent question with no simple answer. In some ways, it would be like asking a group of people dining at a restaurant what is the best item on the menu? Some may prefer a fish meal, others the steak, and yet others a good pasta dish.  Yet others may prefer a fast food burger.

Tastes may vary from person to person and the same is true in dogs. Some dogs prefer chicken and other dogs prefer duck, beef, venison, and the list goes on.

The best recommendation for dry dog food is one that is a high-quality product with a company you trust. For example, some pet owners research dog food companies looking for characteristics such as quality ingredients, consistency, made in the USA, quality control and for evidence of frequent recalls.

An example of a good company is Fromm. Fromm is a pet food company in Wisconsin that is family-owned and committed to quality, safety and consistency dating back to 1904. Fromm owns and operates two manufacturing facilities in Wisconsin and every bag of their food originates from one of these facilities. They carefully test their ingredients to ensure quality.

You may want to do your own research – starting with the companies listed above to find one that makes you feel good about what you are feeding your dog.

Learn about the bag test to help determine your dog’s food preferences. Go to: What’s the Best Tasting Dry Dog Food for Your Pet?

If you decide to change your dog’s food – make sure you do it right. Any food change can cause vomiting and diarrhea in some dogs. Get our tips on the best way to change foods to avoid problems. Go to: How To Switch Your Dog’s Food: Vet Recommendations.

We hope these tips give you more information about why your dog may not be eating or and provides you with ideas on how to get your dog to eat.

Additional Articles of Interest Relating to Food for Picky Dogs:

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