What’s the Right Canine Epilepsy Diet?

Epilepsy is a seizure disorder that has no known underlying cause. Epilepsy can be treated with various seizure medications with the goal is to decrease the frequency of the seizures, the severity of the seizures, and how long it takes your pet to recover from a seizure. Seizure medications are used to control seizures but generally do not totally eliminate seizures. Clients commonly ask their veterinarian if there is a canine epilepsy diet that can help control this disease. Below we will review what are seizures and epilepsy, treatment options, and discuss the potential benefits of a canine epilepsy diet.

What are Seizures?

Seizures, also known as convulsions or fits, are classified as a symptom and are not a disease. What this means is that seizures can be caused many different underlying problems such as trauma to the head such as that occurs when hit by a car or hit with a ball bat, ingestion of various toxins, brain tumors, infections, organ failure and many more possible causes. Learn more about Causes of Seizures. Epilepsy is a seizure disorder when no underlying cause has been identified.

A seizure occurs when excessive electrical activity occurs in the brain that results in a series of involuntary contractions of the muscles, abnormal sensations or behaviors, or some combination of these events. Most often seizures occur at night or early in the morning while a dog is at rest.

Many believe there may be a genetic basis for epilepsy but the cause of epilepsy is largely unknown. It is believed that the incidence rate of epilepsy in dogs is 0.5% to over 2% of all dogs. Epilepsy generally begins in dogs that are fairly young ranging from 6 months to 5 years. Epilepsy can occur in females and males equally.

Tests for Epilepsy in Dogs

  • Diagnostic tests are recommended to look for an underlying cause for the seizures. Testing recommendations may depend on your dog’s symptoms and may include:
  • Bloodwork that includes a complete blood count (CBC) and biochemistry profile to evaluate for signs of infection, anemia, kidney or liver abnormalities
  • Urinalysis to evaluate kidney function
  • Bile acid blood test to evaluate for liver disease
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look for structures changes in the brain or tumors
  • Cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) tap to look for signs of inflammation or infection
  • Fecal examination to check for parasites

These tests can help determine if there is an underlying cause for the seizures. If there is not an underlying cause found, epilepsy is often diagnosed.

Treatment for Canine Epilepsy

Treatment of epilepsy will depend on the frequency of the seizures. If the seizures occur more than once every 4 to 6 weeks or a dog has more than one seizure in any 24 hour period, the medical therapy is often recommended.

Treatment generally includes medications designed to manage the seizures by decreasing the frequency and severity of the seizures.  Common medications used for canine epilepsy are Phenobarbital, Potassium bromide, Diazepam (Valium), Zonisamide, Levetiracetam, Felbamate, Gabapentin, Clorazepate, and/or Topiramate.

It is important to carefully follow your veterinary instructions regarding these medications. These drugs should not be started, stopped, increased or decreased without the approval of your veterinarian.  Some drugs, such as phenobarbital, require regular blood testing to determine if the amount of the drug in the blood is therapeutic.

What You Should Feed Your Dog if He Has Epilepsy

Nutrition is important for overall health of all dogs. Specific diet recommendations for dogs with epilepsy include:

  • There appears to be benefits in feeding dogs with epilepsy a medium chain triglyceride (MCT)-based diet. Diets that were developed for the treatment of canine cognitive dysfunction were was studied to determine if there were any benefits in dogs with epilepsy. The results suggested that the frequency of seizures were lower in dogs fed this diet compared to a placebo food. You can supplement MCT’s in your dog diet by offering your dog natural coconut oil with his food. Coconut oil is a very good source of all four MCT’s. The coconut oil dose most commonly used is ¼ of a teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight twice daily. For example, a 40-pound dog would require 1 teaspoon every 12 hours. A MCT-based dog food is Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind formula.
  • There have been studies to evaluate high-fat and low carbohydrate diets and their impact on epilepsy. These studies have shown no improvement in seizure control in dogs with epilepsy.
  • If your dog is overweight, a diet plan for a weight-reducing plan is recommended to optimize your dog health.  Many dogs on seizure medications can gain weight while on therapy.
  • Dogs receiving potassium bromide medications require study levels of dietary salt. Too much salt can increase the excretion of bromide which decreases the bromide blood level. Too little salt can lead to increased bromide levels.

Can You Feed Dogs with Epilepsy Human Food?

You can feed your dog some human foods but he doesn’t actually need human foods. What he needs is a good quality balanced dog food. It is important to know that some human foods can be dangerous and even toxic. Read more about Dangerous Foods – Learn What is harmful to Your Dog.

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

Dogs have different tastes, just like people. What flavor or texture that appeals to one dog may not appeal to another dog.  Some dogs prefer dry kibble, some semi-moist kibble, and others canned food. Some prefer foods that have certain aromas and other dogs don’t seem to care either way and will eat just about anything. Dog owners commonly ask about what is the best tasting dry dog food.

Recommendations for Dry Dog Food

Good quality dry dog food can be good for dogs of all sizes and life stages. Recommendations include:

  1. Trust. Find a company you trust that provides consistent high-quality foods made in the USA. It is ideal for the company to source quality ingredients from the USA with quality control measures and no recalls. Find a company that makes you feel good about what you are feeding your dog. You may want to do your own research or review our recommendations below.
  2. Quality. Whatever dog you feed needs to conform to AAFCO standards. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is an organization that publishes regulations for nutritional adequacy of “complete and balanced” dog 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). This indicates the manufacturer is following the national consensus recommendations for dog foods.
  3. Life Stage. Pick the food for your dog’s life stage. This includes puppies, adults, breeding, working dogs, and senior pets.
  4. Feed to Optimize Health. It is important to feed to maintain your dog at an ideal weight and avoid obesity. If your dog is overweight, a weight-reducing diet plan is recommended to optimize your dog health.  Don’t over or under feed. You can use the guidelines on the bag as a baseline to determine how much to feed your dog but monitor your dog weight and adjust accordingly to maintain and ideal weight. Some dogs need more calories and others less.
  5. Water. As part of a healthy diet, provide plenty of fresh clean water at all times. Carefully clean and wash out the water dishes every other day.

For more information about the best recommendations for feeding your dog – go to Nutrition in Dogs.

How to Choose the Right Food for Your Dog’s Diet

After researching various dog food companies, we have found the following food brands to be both good quality and highly palpable:

  • Stella and Chewy’s
  • Zignature
  • Fromm
  • Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Foods
  • Acana
  • Orijen
  • Natures Recipe
  • Wellness Core
  • Taste of the Wild
  • Best Breed
  • Halo
  • Grandma Lucy’s
  • Orijen
  • Wellness Core
  • Merrick
  • Primal Pet Foods

How to Tell if Your Dog Likes It

Pet owners want to feed a food their dogs’ food that they really like. One way that you can test if your dog likes a food is by the blind brown bag taste test.

How to Do a Blind Dry Dog Food Taste Test On Your Dog

This test goes like this:

  1. Obtain food samples you want to test.  Some pet stores will sell or provide free samples for you to try.
  2. Remove your dog from the room where you are going to test the food.
  3. Place paper on the floor in the form of a long rectangle.
  4. Place small samples of each food (1 to 2 tablespoons) spaced out on the paper 6 to 8 inches apart. Label the paper with the name of the food above the samples.
  5. Open the door for your dog to come in the room. Do not speak, pet or stimulate your dog. Allow your dog to find the food.
  6. Note your dog’s preferences. Some dogs will smell all samples then go back and eat their favorite first.
  7. This test works best for “Picky” dogs. Some dogs love to eat and will eat anything and everything. If that is the case, choose a company you believe produces high-quality food and stick with it.

How to Change Your Dog’s Food If you decide to change your dog’s food – make sure you do it right which is gradual. 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 help you choose the best tasting dry dog food.

Additional Articles of Interest Relating to Food for Picky Dogs:

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

Having a puppy that will not eat can be an emergency. Puppies less than three months, especially the small and toy breed dogs, are predisposed to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) when they don’t eat.  Examples of toy breed dogs include Yorkshire terrier, Maltese, Shih tzu, Pomeranian, Chihuahua, Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Havanese, Italian greyhound, Miniature pinscher, Toy poodle, and Pug.  The inability to regular blood sugar in young dogs is referred to as juvenile hypoglycemia. In fact, there are special care needs for toy breeds. Learn more about Caring for Toy Breed Dogs.

What Do You Do When Your Puppy Will Not Eat?

What do you do when your puppy won’t eat?  Look at our 5 steps below to help your puppy.

Step 1. Look for Why.

The first thing to do is to try to figure out why.  Some reasons a puppy will not eat can be minor and others can be serious and even life-threatening.

Causes for a puppy will not eat include:

  • Gastrointestinal parasites (worms) such as roundworms, hookworms, whipworms
  • Viral infections such as parvovirus or coronavirus
  • Intestinal protozoan infections such as Coccidia or Giardia
  • Bacterial infections
  • Ingestion of toxins
  • Stomach upset from a sudden diet change or table foods
  • Getting into the trash and eating spoiled food
  • Ingestion of a foreign body (which is an indigestible object such as sock, toy, panties)
  • Other –congenital problems such as a liver shunt, heart defects, as well as many other problems that can affect organ function

Step 2. Evaluate your puppy.

Carefully look at your puppy for additional symptoms besides the not eating. Look for any underlying causes as well as evaluate your puppy for additional abnormal symptoms. Look for:

  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Worms in the stool
  • Fleas or ticks
  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Trembling, muscle twitching, and seizures
  • Limping
  • Signs of pain or discomfort
  • Coughing or trouble breathing
  • Pale gums


Step 3.  Get Help.

Puppies can get sick and go downhill quickly. Don’t wait too long to seek medical help for a puppy that will not eat. If you see any of the signs above, please see or talk to your veterinarian.

Your veterinarian may ask you about exposure to trash or toxins, history of deworming, vaccine history, and additional symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea. They may check your puppies body temperature, check a blood glucose level, perform a fecal examination, as well as other tests depending on your puppies examination and clinical signs.

Step 4. How To Help a Puppy That Will Not Eat

  • Below are tips that can encourage puppies to eat.
  • Begin by offering your puppy his regular food once again. If he refuses, continue on to the next step.
  • Moisten the regular food with water of chicken broth for moisture and flavoring. Sometimes make the food more appealing.
  • Offer different canned puppy foods to help stimulate your puppy’s appetite. 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. Canned food can be more palatable and has the additional benefit of having a higher water content which helps with hydration.
  • Feed a bland diet such as a combination of boiled hamburger with rice. You can purchase a commercial version of this diet e.g. Hill’s Science Diet i/d or make your own. Get the recipe here – How to Make a Bland Diet for Your Puppy.
  • Heat a small amount of canned food in the microwave for a few seconds to release the aromas (but ensure it is not too hot to the touch) to stimulate interest in the food.
  • Offered baby food such as a chicken flavored food.
  • Syringe feed. When mixed with water, baby food or canned dog food mixed with water can be easy to pull up in a syringe to gently syringe feed. Sometimes getting a small amount of food into a dog or puppy can encourage them to want to eat. Please make sure your puppy is alert and has a normal swallowing reflex to minimize the risk for aspiration.
  • Only feed a small amount at a time to ensure your puppy tolerates it and doesn’t start vomiting.
  • Besides food, encourage your puppy to also drink. Ideas include:
    • Give your pet an ice cube to lick
    • Adding an ice cube to the water bowl can encourage some pets to drink
    • Allow your puppy to lick water from your hand or your finger
    • Offer small amounts of Pedialyte®
    • Offer low sodium chicken broth

If you try these tips and your puppy still won’t eat, the best and safest thing is to take your puppy to the veterinarian.  If your pet seems weak, becomes unable to stand, and/or you notice any additional muscle twitching – this is an emergency. This can be a sign of a low blood sugar. This is an emergency situation. Immediately call your veterinarian or closest emergency clinic. To help a low blood sugar, you can rub Karo® syrup on his gums.

Step 5. Avoid It

If you figured out why your puppy wasn’t eating – avoid the same situation in the future.  For example, if your puppy got into the trash, avoid exposure to the trash. If your puppy has worms, make sure you follow the prescribed a treatment and ensure you follow all instructions from your veterinarian.

Additional Articles of Interest Relating to Food for Picky Dogs:

Here Are the Best Dog Foods for Picky Dogs

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?

What’s Next?

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Avoid any foods that can impact your dog’s medical condition e.g. those that caused allergies or can cause bladder stones.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Offer the food and walk away. As mentioned above, don’t let meal time be a time to get extra attention.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Check expiration dates. Both dry and canned dog foods can expire and go rancid. Picky dogs prefer fresh food.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.

What to do When Your Dog Won’t Eat His Food — But He Will Eat Treats

It is not uncommon for dogs to not to want to eat his food but will eat treats. Why does this happen?

The most common reason a dog will not eat his dog food but will eat treats or food augmented with special table scraps is that he doesn’t feel well. When a dog will not eat his regular food but will eat treats or something special is referred to as partial anorexia.

Partial anorexia means a dog will eat…but only if something special such as treats or table scraps such as chicken or beef are added to the food. Sometimes dogs will refuse everything but will eat 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 complete anorexia is even a bigger concern. Learn more about Home Care of Anorexia in Dogs.

Reasons for anorexia in dogs can vary from minor problems such as a stomach upset 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 his food or have partial anorexia. According to Dr. Etienne Cote, “the reasons for which a dog may refuse to eat can be grouped into two major categories. The first is psychological reasons and the second are medical reasons”.

Psychological causes of not eating can include things in the dog’s environment that has caused him to not to want to eat.  There is no underlying medical problem or disease. Common examples of psychological anorexia include anything that changes a dogs schedule or causes stress:

  • A new pets in the home
  • New baby in the home
  • Company from out of town
  • Moving to a new home
  • A loud thunderstorm
  • Remodeling or home construction
  • Switching dog foods
  • Changes in schedules such as someone starts a job and is gone from the home or someone is unemployed and suddenly home
  • A child or someone leaves the house such as a child goes off to college

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

Gastrointestinal Diseases – The gastrointestinal tract includes the system that takes food in, processes it, and eliminates it. This includes everything from the mouth, esophagus (the tube that takes food from the mouth to the stomach), the stomach, the small intestine, and finally the large intestine. A disease of any of these areas can cause a dog to not want to eat. Diseases of the gastrointestinal tract are commonly associated with vomiting and diarrhea as well as not wanting to eat.

  • Diseases of the gastrointestinal tract (GI) include infections (bacterial, viral, parasites). Examples of infections are hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, viruses such as coronavirus or parvovirus, bacterial, and fungal. Additional diseases of the GI tract include tumors such as cancer, ulcerations, inflammatory diseases, food allergies, ingestion of undigestable objects that cause a “foreign body”, ingestion of spoiled food or trash, or even changes in food. Diseases of the mouth such as bad teeth or ulcerations can cause pain and lack of appetite.
  • Liver Diseases – The liver is an organ in the abdomen (belly) whose main job is to filter body wastes and toxins from the bloodstream. When the liver isn’t working properly, toxins can build up causing nausea and inappetence. Many dogs will be lethargic and/or have additional symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Diseases of the liver include hepatitis, cirrhosis, liver cancer, toxic reactions from drug therapies and congenital problems such as a Portosystemic Shunt.
  • Pancreatic Diseases – The pancreas is a small organ that sits near the stomach that has several jobs including the production of digestive enzymes that help break down food in the stomach and the production of insulin.
  • Diseases of the pancreas include inflammation of the pancreas, also known as pancreatitis, and tumors of the pancreas (pancreatic cancer). When the pancreas becomes inflamed, the pancreas can release some of the digestive enzymes in to itself, causing further inflammation, pain, nausea and lack of appetite. Pancreatic cancer also causes lack of appetite, lethargic, weakness, and generally vomiting.
  • Kidney Diseases – Diseases of the kidney, most commonly acute kidney failure or chronic kidney failure, cause a loss of appetite. Many pets will also drink more, urinate more or less, have ulcers in their mouth, foul-smelling breath, and be lethargic.
  • Airway and Lung Diseases – Diseases of the airway include problems associated with the nose, trachea, and lungs. Pets that have nasal diseases such as infections or cancer can’t smell their food and often won’t eat or will only eat treats. Pets with lung diseases may have a compromised ability to breathe. This often leads pets to not want to eat as it can be difficult to eat and breathe at the same time.
  • Blood Diseases – There are many functions of the blood. Loss of blood or anemia from a variety of causes can cause pets to be lethargic, weak, and loose their appetite. Anemia can result from loss of blood from trauma, ulcerations, immune-mediated problems where the body starts destroying its own red blood cells, or cancer. Often we also see lethargy and weakness with diseases of the blood.
  • Neurologic Diseases – The neurologic system is focused on the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. Diseases that cause seizures lack of coordination, inability to walk, or pain can all cause lack of appetite. There are hundreds of neurological diseases that include intervertebral disc disease, brain tumors, epilepsy, vestibular disease just to name a few.
  • Other Diseases – Any diseases that cause pain such as a fracture, arthritis, or even something such as eye pain can cause lack of appetite. Some dog won’t eat their food but will eat treats in this circumstance.

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

How to Get Your Dog to Start Eating

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

  • Begin by offering some of their same food – a fresh batch.  If it is canned food, you can try heating it up which can release the food aromas. If it is dry food, you can try adding a small amount of water or chicken broth to make it more appealing.
  • If that doesn’t work, you can try their treats. If your dog likes the treats, sometimes you can crumble the treats and put on the food.
  • You may try a bland diet such as a boiled hamburger or chicken mixed with rice as a 50/50 mix.  You can buy this food commercially or make it at home. See the bland diet recipe here.
  • You can try different varieties of canned food that may be appealing to your dog.

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

How to Avoid This Happening Again

Many pet owners ask, how can I avoid having a dog that won’t eat or will only eat his treats? The answer is to avoid any underlying cause that you find. For example, if your dog is not eating because he got into the trash, ate some spoiled food and has a stomach upset, the recommendation would be to ensure your pet doesn’t’ have access to the trash can. Another example is if a dog is not eating due to pain from arthritis. The recommendation would be to treat and prevent the pain.

My Dog Is Not Eating, What Do I Do?

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.