Do you have a picky dog and have trouble finding a food he or she will eat? Have you ever opened a bag or can of food and your dog walks away from it? This is a common problem for many dog owners. Some dogs are food motivated and will eat absolutely anything and other dogs are not. The same thing happens in people. Some people will eat and enjoy almost anything and others are very picky and have a very long list of foods they don’t like. This article will help you choose the best dog food for picky dogs.
Why are Dogs Picky Eaters?
Some dogs can be picky eaters because they are just finicky and others may not feel well. The most important thing you can do is to make sure your dog is healthy and not having other symptoms. Lack of appetite, decreased appetite or even the situation where a dog will not eat his food and only eat treats is a common situation when dogs don’t feel well. Learn more What to Do When Your Dog Won’t Eat His Food — But He Will Eat Treats.
Before making the assumption that your dog is just picky – consider if your dog is showing any other signs that may be abnormal. For example, observe your dog for the following:
- Is this pickiness new or has your dog always been this way? If it is new, I’d especially worry about an underlying health problem
- Does your dog have bad breath? If so, there is a possibility your dog has dental disease, gum disease, oral ulceration or other problems of the mouth, teeth or gums
- Have you noticed any vomiting? How about diarrhea? Any mucous or blood?
- Is your dog losing or gaining weight? Weigh your dog and find out
- Is there any change in the amount your dog drinks and urinates? Some dogs with underlying health issues such as diabetes or kidney disease can change their patterns
- Have you noticed any coughing? Trouble breathing? Exercise intolerance? Heart and lung disease can cause a diminished appetite
- Is your dog itching or have any abnormal skin rashes, bumps, or hairloss?
- Have you noticed any trouble limping? Trouble getting up or down the stairs? Trouble getting up after laying down?
- Does your dog seem to be in pain?
The safest thing to do is if your dog is showing any problem is to see your veterinarian. Your vet may want to do a physical examination to ensure they don’t see abnormalities may make your dog “picky”. This is really the best thing to do. Over the years I have evaluated dogs that were labeled as “picky” and found bladder stones, gastrointestinal tumors, lung cancer, anemia, liver problems, fractured teeth, severe arthritis and much more.
Here are some great tips for Home care for the dog that is not eating. This article has suggestions that may help you get your dog to start eating. Also, for puppies – Here’s How to Help a Puppy Who Will Not Eat.
The Behaviors of Picky Eaters
Here is a consideration before we review the best ways to feed picky dogs. Is any of your dog’s pickiness related to the desire for attention? For example, what is the typical feeding situation? When your dog refuses to eat whatever you sit down, do you pet him? Talk to him? Carry him around? Hand feed? Give other extra attention? Or do you walk away and let him eat if he is hungry?
On recommendation for feeding picky dogs is don’t let their mealtime become a time for them to get attention. Give them attention other times such as playtime. Some behaviorists recommend that the best way to feed a picky dog is to offer the food and walk away. If your dog is hungry, he or she will eat.
What is the Best Dog Food for Picky Dogs
What is the best food to feed a dog that is picky? If your dog is otherwise healthy and just seems picky, then consider the following questions as you consider a new food:
- How old is your dog? How active is your dog? It is important to feed your dog for his/her life stage.
- Is your dog overweight, underweight or just right?
- Does your dog have an underlying health issue that requires a special diet such as a history of bladder stones or allergies that you need to consider?
- Does your dog seem to prefer canned or dry food?
- Does your dog seem to have a flavor preference? Chicken? Fish? Beef? Other?
- Do you believe in raw meat diets? Does Your Veterinarian?
14 Tips for Feeding a Picky Dog
- When you are looking for a food to feed a picky dog, you want a food that your dog will eat but also a quality food that is formulated to meet your dog’s needs. It is also important to consider behavior – both yours and your dogs. Sometimes it isn’t about the food but how you feed your dog. It is also important to consider how these decisions impact your entire family.
- Make sure you pick a dog for your dog’s life stage. Ensure if you have a puppy that you are feeding a high-quality puppy food. If you have a senior, feed a food formulated for seniors.
- Ensure your dog’s food is AAFCO approved. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is an organization that publishes regulations for nutritional adequacy of “complete and balanced” dog and cat foods. Diets that fulfill the AAFCO regulations will state on the label: “formulated to meet the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profile for…(a given life stage).
- Offer a routine. Some dogs desire a routine. If possible, feed your dog at the same time each day. For some dogs, unpredictable feeding schedules can be stressful. If you work shifts and your schedule is unpredictable, automated feeders can help you maintain a routine. These feeders can be set to a particular time of day or multiple times per day, at which it will open at those times for your dog to eat.
- Don’t create problems by changing food too often or feeding low-quality foods. Some foods or food changes can cause vomiting and/or diarrhea. It is not recommended to choose your dog’s food based on “what’s on sale at the supermarket”. Choose a quality food and stick with it.
- Avoid any foods that can impact your dog’s medical condition e.g. those that caused allergies or can cause bladder stones.
- If you have a dog over 30 pounds, dry food is preferred as the base diet for its greater caloric density (more calories per volume of food). For dogs under 30 pounds, you can choose to feed either canned or dry or a combination. Many picky dogs will eat dry food if it is topped with a little something special.
- Pick a quality pet food company. Pick a pet food company that is based in the United States and has a long history of quality control measures and minimal recalls.
- Offer the food and walk away. As mentioned above, don’t let meal time be a time to get extra attention.
- Avoid feeding from the table. It is common for pet owners to create finicky dogs by feeding table foods and encouraging dogs to hold out for something better.
- Feed to avoid obesity. There are a lot of health issues associated with obesity in dogs. Feed what your dog needs, not more and not less. Learn more about Obesity in Dogs.
- Check expiration dates. Both dry and canned dog foods can expire and go rancid. Picky dogs prefer fresh food.
- Buy smaller bags of food. Don’t let the food get old. Sometimes it is tempting to save money and buy a 40-pound bag for a 10-pound dog but it gets old, stale and becomes less appealing.
- When you change your dog’s food – do so slowly. Mix the old food in with small amounts of the new food, then slowly increase the new food and decrease the old. This will prevent gastrointestinal upset. Make the change over 3-4 days.
- Make sure your entire home is onboard with your plan. If you make a change to what or how you are feeding your dog such as no longer feeding treats or stopping table food snacks, make sure your entire household is onboard. One person can ruin the entire plan such as feeding from the table when others don’t. Decide the feeding rules as a household.
- Always provide plenty of fresh clean water at all times.
For more information about the best recommendations for feeding your dog – go to Nutrition in Dogs.