What to Do When Your Dog Won’t Eat Their Food — But Will Eat Treats

It is common for dogs to not eat their food, but eat treats or table scraps. This is referred to as partial anorexia and it typically occurs because your dog doesn’t feel well.

Partial anorexia means a dog will eat, but only if something special, such as treats or table scraps like chicken or beef, are added to the food. Sometimes, dogs will refuse everything but will eat something as peculiar as a fast-food hamburger.

Full anorexia is when a dog won’t eat anything, including normal dog food, special treats, food doctored up with cooked ground beef, chicken, baby food, or anything you offer. Both problems can be serious, but full anorexia is an even bigger issue. Learn more about Home Care of Anorexia in Dogs.

Reasons for anorexia in dogs can vary from minor issues, such as an upset stomach, to serious and even life-threatening problems. For more information – please see this article: My Dog is Not Eating, What Do I Do?

Reasons Dogs Won’t Eat

There are several causes for a dog to be off their food or have partial anorexia. According to Dr. Etienne Cote, the reasons dogs may refuse to eat can be grouped into two major categories — psychological reasons and medical reasons.

Psychological Causes for Anorexia in Dogs

Psychological causes of refusing to eat include things in a dog’s environment that caused them to not want to eat. There is no underlying medical issue or disease. Common examples of psychological anorexia include anything that changes a dog’s schedule or causes stress, including:

Medical Causes for Anorexia in Dogs

Medical causes of anorexia include any condition or illness that causes a dog to not want to eat. They can include hundreds, maybe even thousands, of potential issues. The medical disorders that can cause anorexia include diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, liver, pancreas, kidneys, airway, lung or blood, and anything that can cause pain. Information about some of the most common causes include:

As you can see, any disease that impacts the function of an organ can cause dogs to not feel like eating. If your dog is not eating, please see your veterinarian so that they can help identify the underlying cause and recommend the best treatment option to get your dog to start eating again.

Unfortunately, since potential causes of anorexia vary, so do the treatment methods and costs. If you're concerned about costs related to treating your pet's anorexia, pet insurance may be able to help. Click here to learn more.

How to Get Your Dog to Start Eating

To get your dog to start eating, you can try the following:

Here are some great tips for home care for dogs suffering from inappetence. This article has suggestions that may help you get your dog to start eating.

How to Stop This from Happening Again

Many pet owners ask, “How can I avoid having a dog that won’t eat or will only eat their treats?” The answer is to avoid underlying causes and monitor your pet’s diet. For example, if your dog is not eating because they got into the trash, ate some spoiled food, or have an upset stomach, the recommendation would be to ensure that your dog doesn’t have access to the trash can. Another example is, if your dog is not eating due to pain from arthritis, work with your veterinarian to treat and prevent pain.

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