Reasons your dog might not be eating their food

There may be a variety of reasons for a sudden loss of appetite in dogs, so it’s important to determine the cause in order to best resolve the issue.

Firstly, do bear in mind how you are judging your dog’s loss of appetite: have they started eating less than they usually do or stopped eating altogether? If your pet is not eating their usual amount the first course of action is to refer back to the feeding guidelines on their food and make sure you’re following them. Find out how much you should feed your dog.

If there’s a sudden change in your dog’s eating habits and their refusal to eat is noticeable, it’s important to seek advice from your vet. A sudden loss of appetite in dogs can indicate illness. Most dogs can go a couple of days without food with no significant ill effects, however, it is best to address the problem as early as possible.

There are a number of steps that you need to consider to determine your dog’s loss of appetite and reasons your dog might not be eating their food.

Checking the food you are feeding for issues


Examine the food packaging label, expiry date, look and smell of the food. Does anything seem unusual, is the food in date? If the food seems off, then discard it and switch to a fresh unopened bag. Make sure that you are storing food as per the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Have you recently changed your dog’s food, or have you been feeding the same recipe for some time? Occasionally dogs become bored with their regular food especially if you use treats regularly or human food to supplement their diet.

Examine the ingredients of what you are feeding. Is your dry food high in cereals and fillers and therefore not as tasty as a higher meat diet? Try adding some fresh vegetables to their kibble to make mealtimes more interesting. Find out what vegetables dogs can eat.

Your vet may have recommended a prescription diet while treating an illness. Never starve your pet in an attempt to force it to eat the prescribed diet. Instead, talk with your vet about alternatives.

Your dog’s behaviour


Observe your dog’s behaviour. Are there any changes in their daily routine that could cause unusual behaviour? Monitor your dog’s stool and urine. If there are noticeable changes to the norm or your dog has diarrhoea or is vomiting talk to your vet.

If your pet seems lethargic this could be a consequence of dehydration. If your dog is sleeping more than usual, hiding or losing interest in daily activities this could be a sign of depression.

Their environment


Have there been any changes in your pet’s environment? Unfamiliar surroundings can lead to a loss of appetite. Has your dog been spending time in a different environment or with other people during the day? Find out if someone has already fed or is feeding your dog without your knowledge.

It is always possible that your dog has eaten something that it shouldn’t have. Check your houseplants, carpets, pet’s toys, and any items your good friend has access to that they could have accidently ingested. Ensure that there is no medication or chemicals within your dog’s reach. If your dog is vomiting or has diarrhoea, then consult a vet right away.

Your dog’s teeth and body


On a regular basis you should examine your dog’s mouth and body and take action if there are any abnormalities. When checking your dog’s body, look for unseasonal changes in their skin and coat, and for any lumps or injuries. Are they losing weight?

If you notice broken or loose teeth or their breath is particularly bad, this could be the reason your dog is not eating, especially if they are in pain. Also pay attention to inflamed or sore gums. If you are at all concerned, then do not hesitate to call your vet.

Medical conditions


The final reason that your dog may not be eating may unfortunately be medical. Although a loss of appetite in dogs does not necessarily indicate serious illness, a prompt veterinary diagnosis is essential.

Some medical conditions that can cause appetite loss are:

  • Upset stomach
  • Poisoning
  • Allergies
  • Depression
  • Infection
  • Pain
  • Problems with teeth, gums, or tongue
  • Tumours
  • Parasites
  • Autoimmune diseases and neurological diseases
  • Problems with internal organs (heart, liver, kidneys, lungs)
  • Recent vaccination


For further information contact your vet for further advice.

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