What to do When Your Dog Won’t Eat?

Dog is not eating

If your dog won’t eat, it’s a stressful situation for you and your pet. For most dogs, eating is an important and enjoyable part of life. A dog that doesn’t eat may be feeling sick or stressed, so it’s important to rule out any medical and environmental issues in order to find the root cause. This article will help you understand why your dog is not eating and what actions you can take to get your pup back to his usual happy self.

Firstly, to be very clear: loss of appetite can be a symptom of a serious problem, that could require urgent veterinary attention. If you are at all worried, the safest option is always to speak to a vet as soon as possible!

Medical Reasons Why Your Dog won’t Eat

If your dog won’t eat, there could be a medical reason for the loss of appetite. Pain can cause a dog to lose interest in eating and make them irritable. Other common medical reasons that cause dogs not to eat include:

  • Dental problems, mouth pain, or gingivitis (gum disease)
  • Sinus problems, especially if the nose is blocked up with mucous
  • Injury to the mouth/teeth/gums
  • Almost any illness, such as cancer, pancreatic disease, systemic infection, liver problems, or kidney failure

Remember: many of these reasons are serious, life-threatening conditions. If you are at all worried, then seek veterinary attention immediately.

Behavioral Reasons Why Your Dog Won’t Eat

If your dog won’t eat, he may be anxious due to things like loud noises, new family members or pets, or visitors to the house. Acting out by not eating is one way that dogs may deal with the stress of the situation.

If your pup has a history of boredom-related behavior problems, it’s important that you make sure he has enough stimulation during the day. Snuffle mats, lick mats, puzzle toys, and playtime with their humans are all great ways to get dogs engaged. 

By keeping your dog cognitively stimulated, you can help prevent him from getting bored and developing destructive habits such as chewing up your furniture or digging holes in your yard. It will also help him work an appetite for mealtime!

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Did You Switch Food or Change Environments?

Sudden changes in routine can also cause your dog not to eat. Ask yourself: Did you switch your dog’s food? Did you move to a new house? Was there a big change in the environment? Dogs can get stressed by change, and they can react in a variety of ways.

If your dog isn’t eating as much or is picky about what he or she eats, it could be because of the change in environment. If you recently moved, it may take some time for them to get used to their new surroundings before they feel comfortable enough to eat again.

Dogs who have been sick may not feel like eating for several days after the illness has passed. This does not mean that they are permanently sick or will continue this way forever; rather, it typically means that their appetites will return once they recover from whatever was making them sick.

Remember however: if you are at all worried about your dog – and whether they might be sick or not – by far the safest option is to speak with a vet!

Are They a Senior Dog?

If your dog is over 8 years old and under human circumstances would qualify for a senior discount, their appetite could have decreased due to the aging process. This can be common for senior dogs.

If your senior dog‘s appetite has decreased or they are not eating as much as usual, there are several reasons why this might happen:

  • They may have a smaller appetite because of their age
  • They may be having difficulty chewing or swallowing food because of dental issues or pain from arthritis or other issues
  • Their overall health might be declining and affecting their ability to eat

It’s important to note that any “normal” reducing in appetite with age would be quite small. If your senior dog is eating less than normal and you’re otherwise worried – speak with a vet!

Are They a Puppy?

If your dog is a puppy, they may stop eating when they are teething. Teething can be painful and cause them to lose their appetite temporarily. However, with puppies (especially small ones) we get worried faster if they stop eating, as they need to eat more – and more often. Should your puppy stop eating and you are at all worried, the safest option is always to speak to a vet.

It’s also possible that your puppy is sick or stressed out by something in their environment. If this happens at home, try giving them a break from the situation for a few days so that they can relax and gain their appetite back. You can also look at ways to change the environment to eliminate the stressor for your puppy. 

If you notice any other symptoms along with this loss of appetite, consult with your vet as soon as possible.

What to Do When They Won’t Eat

There are several things you can try if your dog can’t eat or simply refuses to chow down at mealtime. Work with your vet to decide on the best course of action and to rule out any medical reasons for your dog’s change in eating habits. Here are some suggestions:

  • If your vet recommends a prescription diet, try it.
  • Feed your dog on a regular schedule, even if that means waking him up for breakfast.
  • Make mealtime fun by using food for rewards. This not only helps with training your dog but also encourages slow eating, which helps your dog avoid stomach bloat and other issues.
  • Feed your dog away from other animals, even in his crate. Feeding alone will help your dog feel safe and comfortable at mealtime.
  • Add a little warm water to dry kibble or add a meal topper such as a bit of wet food. This can help make the meal more appetizing for your pup.

When to Contact the Vet

If you notice that your dog is not eating, it’s always safest to contact the vet! Here are some symptoms to look out for:

  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Not drinking water


For more help understanding why your dog isn’t eating, reach out to our experts at Cooper Pet Care.

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