Why your healthy dog isn’t eating and what you can do

Like humans, dogs can sometimes have days where they lose their appetite and don’t eat much. A day where they’re just off their food or being a bit picky. Once in a while, this is ok. But it can become a problem if it starts happening on a regular basis, because it means your dog won’t be getting the calories or nutrients it needs.

So, what might be the reasons that your healthy dog is turning their nose up at their food? Read on to find out, and to learn what you can do to address the problem.

  1. Your dog may have an underlying health condition you’re not aware of
    Healthy dogs eat well and do not need to be hand-fed or coaxed. If your dog suddenly loses their appetite, speak to your vet to make sure there isn’t an underlying health condition affecting your dog’s appetite. In most cases, your dog is probably just being picky. But it’s better to be safe than sorry and to rule out any medical issues with a vet visit.
  2. You dog has trained you well
    Dogs are pretty smart. They are masters at body language, and they know how to play you. Owners with picky eaters often make the mistake of offer something ‘new’ when the food in the bowl is not eaten. As a result, the dog learns that holding out will be reward with something more interesting. In this instance, a bit of ‘tough love’ may be necessary. Put the food bowl down on the floor and offer the meal for 15 minutes, then take any uneaten food away. When it comes to the next feeding time, you should repeat the same process. It is important that you don’t offer any other foods or treats during this process. Most dogs quickly learn within a few days to eat their meals when offered or they will have to go hungry and wait for the next meal.
  3. The food is off
    Dogs have a very keen sense of smell meaning that something which smells ok to you may in fact be gone stale and your dog can tell. Make sure to check the date on all of the food you’re feeding your dog before giving it to them and to store all of their food properly.
  4. Your dog doesn’t like the food
    Like humans, dogs can develop food preferences, and these preferences can change over time. So, if they suddenly begin rejecting food that they previously liked, it may purely be because they no longer like that food. Dogs have far less taste buds compared to us humans so in terms of palatability, texture plays a crucial role. If you are feeding a commercial food, try swapping the protein source or change their food from kibble to wet. If you are feeding a home-prepared diet, to provide variety try changing the texture of the food. E.g. if sweet potato mash is usually fed try something crunchy like squared roasted potato.
  5. Your dog might be stressed
    We’ve already discussed how dogs are smart. But they’re also emotionally intelligent and can be sensitive and in tune with what’s going on around them. Because of this emotional intelligence, it’s unsurprising that dogs can also become stressed and anxious. This stress and anxiety can be cause by a variety of things – loud noises like fireworks and a thunderstorm, a home move, loss, other dogs or humans coming into the house etc. When a dog becomes stressed, anxious, or nervous, their ‘fight or flight’ mechanism can kick in, suppressing their appetite and putting them off their food. In these circumstances, the best thing to do is to provide your dog with a safe, quiet, relaxing environment in which to eat their meals. This should help reduce their stress levels and hopefully bring back their appetite.
  6. You are feeding too many treats
    Being too generous and giving your dog too many treats or chews can kill their appetite, and when it comes to feeding time, they’ll turn their nose up at what’s offered. To ensure this doesn’t happen, limit the amounts of calories from treats you give your dog to max 10% of their daily calory intake. For example, if your dog needs 500 calories per day, they should have no more than 50 calories from treats.