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Dog not eating? Here's what to do

Joanna Dyer
Article written by Joanna Dyer

Date published 11 October 2021

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One missed meal is probably nothing to worry about, but any major changes to your dog's appetite or eating habits may require a visit to the vet. Here's our advice.

Why is my dog not eating?

There can be a number of reasons why your dog is not eating, from emotional factors (like stress or grief), to infections, illnesses or dental problems. Alternatively, they could just be being fussy – but always visit your vet to rule out medical reasons before assuming that this is the case.

How long can a dog go without food?

Although it's far from recommended, most dogs will be okay for anywhere between three and five days without food – but if they haven't eaten anything in 48 hours, it is essential that you speak to your vet.

Water is even more important, as dehydration in dogs can show its effects far quicker and with serious consequences. In fact, if your dog is not drinking water, you will start to see the effects within 24 hours, so keep an eye on their water bowl.

Black and tan dachshund lying on blanket

As well as a loss of appetite, look out for other changes in your dog's behaviour. Always contact your vet if your dog displays a loss of appetite along with any of the following symptoms:

  • Vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Lethargy or lifelessness
  • Weight loss
  • Gagging, wheezing or coughing

How to encourage your dog to eat

If your vet has given your pet the once-over and has ruled out a medical cause, try tempting your dog to eat by:

  • Heating up their food to increase its smell and palatability (alternatively, you can try some strong-smelling foods that you know they enjoy, or add broth to their normal food).
  • Offering food in smaller portions, but more frequently.
  • Hand-feeding a few pieces of chicken (or something else they like but don't have on a daily basis). If they take some food from you, try adding some of it to their normal food in their bowl.
  • Giving them another brand of pet food. Sometimes brands change their recipes or ingredients, and it might be that your pet no longer likes it (although you should always run any new diet past your vet).

Other top tips

Consider whether your pet would benefit from a dog multivitamin, to ensure their nutritional needs are being met. If your dog is in their later years, there are now specially formulated multivitamins for senior dogs, too.

Cognitive decline, mobility issues and vision loss are all common issues for senior dogs, so make sure you keep their feeding routine consistent and that their food bowl remains in the same place, so they can find it easily.

Finally, if your dog will only eat while you are in the room, they may have separation anxiety. Contact a trusted canine behaviourist for help.

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Joanna Dyer

About Joanna Dyer

Joanna Dyer is a content writer and editor at Healthspan.