A dog not eating its food and staying away from its bowl.

Why Your Dog Won’t Eat & What To Do About It

Most of the time, as soon as we place food in front of our pup, it’s gone within minutes. Due to this, it’s easy to notice when our dog refuses to eat his food.

As pet owners, it is worrisome when our dog won’t eat his food at mealtime. Whether he’s a picky eater or not, doesn’t matter. There have to be causes for a loss of appetite in our pet, right?

Luckily, there are. Dogs don’t refuse to eat for no reason. However, the seriousness of why could be major or minor. 

For example, if you’ve changed dog food recently, he may just not be used to the new food. This is a minor concern. On a more major scale, his refusal to eat could be caused by medical issues you’re not aware of.

We’re going to discuss many reasons why our dog may lose his appetite. Though it may be frightening, it is most often minor, and a trip to the vet isn’t even necessary.

That’s what we hope for, anyway. No one wants to see their pup sick. As pet owners, we would sometimes rather be the ones sick. 

When a dog refuses to eat it’s called inappetence or anorexia. Anorexia is different for dogs than it is for humans. When a dog experiences anorexia, it comes in two stages: Partial and complete.

Inappetence & Anorexia in Dogs

Partial anorexia means a “decrease in appetite.” Complete anorexia means “no appetite.” Both involve a lack of appetite in your pet that you clearly don’t want.

Partial anorexia is the least severe of the two. This means that your dog is eating, but not eating enough to stay healthy.

With complete anorexia, you have a serious problem on your hands. This means your dog isn’t eating at all. Oftentimes, with complete anorexia, a call to the vet is soon to follow. 

Either way, when your dog is refusing to eat, he’s trying to tell you something. This is our dog’s way of communicating with us. It’s our job to listen closely so we can then decide what to do next.

Reasons Your Dog is Refusing to Eat

There are many different reasons why your dog is refusing to eat. We hope he’s just not hungry or in the mood to eat, however, our dog refusing to eat is not something we want to take lightly. If the cause is something more serious, we want to know sooner rather than later. 

Before we jump into all of the different reasons, we should first discuss how long is too long for your dog not to eat. 

How Long Can My Dog Go Without Eating?

How long your dog can go without eating is important to know. Essentially, you don’t want him to go without eating at all. However, if he does, you’ll want to know when it’s time to call a DVM. 

If your dog is healthy, then he could potentially go up to five days without eating. Some healthy dogs can even go up to seven.

If he’s not exactly healthy, then the most he could probably go without eating is three days. If he goes that long his condition will probably be worse afterward. 

We don’t want our furry friend to go even one day without eating. This is why we want to catch it early so we can do what we can when we can.

Minor Reasons My Dog is Refusing to Eat

If our dog is not eating, we want it to be one of these reasons. There are more minor reasons for a loss of appetite in our dog than major ones. Here are a few minor reasons your dog may not be eating: 

  • Overfeeding
  • Bad Food
  • Bored
  • Separation Anxiety
  • Change in Scheduling
  • Too Many Table Scraps
  • Got Into Something They Shouldn’t Have
  • Unfamiliar Surroundings
  • Recent Vaccination
A dog sitting next to a bowl with too much food in it.

It’s important not to overfeed your dog as it can lead to serious health problems.

 

Overfeeding

Overfeeding your dog is easy to do. We don’t want to think we’re starving our pup or that he’s not getting the nutrients he needs. If your dog has overeaten, he may just not be hungry.

Overfeeding can occur in a few ways. 

Most dogs, for example, are eager eaters. If we leave his food bowl out all night, it shouldn’t shock us to wake up to it being all gone. 

Another common example of overfeeding our dog is giving him too many treats. This is because there is added sugar in many dog treats. Sugar can also cause your dog to not feel well in general.

Luckily, overfeeding may be the easiest problem to fix. 

If you feel that your dog has overeaten, simply just put him on an eating schedule. This can ensure that he doesn’t treat his food like a buffet. Also, try to avoid giving him too many treats throughout the day. We want our dog to be hungry when it’s mealtime.

Has the Food Gone Bad?

Our dogs have very sensitive noses. They will know if their food is spoiled long before we ever will. 

If you think this might be the case, check his bag of kibble for the expiration date. If it’s not a bag, canned dog food is only good for about three days after it’s opened.

Maybe Your Dog is Just Bored

Yes, it can happen. We all know that a dog’s diet can be rather monotonous. Maybe they are just tired of their food.

If your dog is bored with his regular kibble, there are a few things you can try. 

First, you can try mixing it up. If he normally eats dry food, switch to wet food. The opposite is true as well. 

You could also try warming it up in the microwave. This may make it more appealing to your dog. 

Another way you can fix this problem is by covering your dog’s food with bone broth or chicken broth. You could also throw a few pieces of boiled chicken into the mix.

A dog waiting for its owner to get home.

Dogs suffering from separation anxiety will have behavior problems when left alone.

 

Maybe Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety

Dogs have feelings too. If you’re not there, there’s a chance he doesn’t know what to do with himself. This can cause your dog to have separation anxiety.

Signs of separation anxiety include things like barking and howling. Signs can also be ignoring food and running like crazy when you come back home.

If your dog isn’t eating due to separation anxiety, there are a few things you can try. First, when you come home, have your pup eat out of hand. After that, show him a lot of affection.

Obviously, you’re going to be leaving the house again. Next time, leave some items lying around the house that will remind your pup of you. This will give your dog a sense of security.

Did You Change Your Dog’s Eating Schedule?

If your dog is accustomed to being fed at the same time every day, changing that could throw him off. If he normally eats at noon, he may not be hungry if he suddenly eats two hours before now.

This is also an easy problem to fix: Go back to his old feeding schedule. If your dog is still not eating, it’s probably something else.

Too Many Table Scraps

It’s safe to assume that Thanksgiving and Christmas are also a dog’s favorite times of the year. This is probably the time of year when he gets the most table scraps. This may also be a reason your dog is bored with his food.

Your dog could be refusing to eat his own food because he has been accustomed to human food. This isn’t just for Thanksgiving and Christmas. If you regularly let your dog dine on the same food you do, he may reject his own.

This is also an easy fix: Cut back on the scraps or stop completely.

Got Into Something They Shouldn’t Have

Dogs in general, especially puppies, are notorious for getting into we tell them not to. If your dog eats something he shouldn’t, it’s called a foreign body. 

Dogs normally react to a foreign body by having an upset stomach. They generally experience symptoms of diarrhea and vomiting. 

Another thing to notice is if they eat grass. Sometimes when dogs have an upset stomach, they tend to eat grass. This is their way of informing us that something is wrong.

However, this isn’t always the case. They could also respond by not eating. If you think this is the case, look around to see if there is something missing or out of place your dog could’ve gotten into.

It Could Be an Unfamiliar Surrounding

Have you recently moved homes? Have you recently visited a friend’s house and taken your dog with you? Have you traveled? This could be a reason your dog isn’t eating.

Dogs enjoy eating in the comfort of their own home. If they’re in an unfamiliar place, it could make them nervous. 

If this is the case, it’s a good idea to interact with them as often as possible. This is to ensure them that everything is okay and it will help ease their anxiety.

A dog getting vaccinated.

Getting vaccinations for your dog can help them fight off certain illnesses in the future.

 

Has Your Dog had a Recent Vaccination?

This is a rare occurrence but it still happens. Vaccinations do, indeed, save the lives of millions. 

However, they could sometimes make our pup feel a little under the weather. It’s like that person you know who got a flu shot but still got the flu. The same is true for our pups.

Now that we know some of the minor issues that are the reason your dog isn’t eating, it’s time to look at a few major reasons. These are the ones where you don’t want to wait a few days to see if your dog regains his appetite. 

It Could Be a Dental Problem

If your fur baby is refusing to eat, it could be a sign that their mouth hurts. When we humans have a toothache or sore gums, we don’t feel like eating. The same is true for our dog. 

When this happens with our pet, it could be due to a cracked or decaying tooth. Aside from this, it could be swollen gums. 

So how do you check this? If your dog will let you check inside of his mouth to see if you can see any signs of an infected tooth. An infected tooth is sometimes accompanied by an abscess under your dog’s eye.

If you notice an infected tooth, a trip to the vet should follow. They will clean your dog’s teeth and might prescribe him some medication. If that was the problem, your dog’s appetite should return to normal.

What If It’s a Medical Condition?

I know this sounds scary, and it is. No one wants to think of their pup having any underlying health issues. A serious medical condition, however, could be the reason your dog isn’t eating.

When I say serious medical conditions, I mean things like infections, poisoning, pain, allergies, and cancer. All of these things can make our dog lose his appetite.

Although a loss of appetite isn’t a definite indicator that your dog has an underlying health condition, it’s better safe than sorry.

A veterinarian examining a dog's ear.

Taking your dog to the vet regularly is essential at every stage of its life.

 

When Do I Call a Vet?

Knowing when to call a vet is vitally important. The last thing you want to do is wait until it’s too late. If you’re concerned about your dog not eating, the most important thing you can do is watch his behavior and take note.

If your dog goes three to five days without eating, you should call a vet. If he goes one day without eating but resumes the next, it’s nothing to worry about. In this case, he probably just had a minor issue. However, it can never hurt to be on the safe side.

You should also call your veterinarian if your dog has diarrhea or vomits for longer than a day. Don’t even wait a day if the diarrhea and vomiting are accompanied by non-stop drooling or blood in his poop. 

This could be a sign that your dog either has a serious ailment or has consumed something poisonous.

Other than watching your dog’s behavior and eating habits, you should also notice how often he is drinking water. How much water your dog consumes can also be a sign of the problem.

For example, if your dog refuses to both eat and drink, it’s an emergency. You should take your pup to the vet immediately.  

If your dog will drink water but won’t eat, he could just have an upset stomach. This is nothing to worry about as it’s not rare for a dog to have an upset stomach.

Lastly, if your dog eats but won’t drink water, go ahead and call the vet. This type of behavior is linked to diseases and infections such as a urinary tract infection, bladder infection, kidney disease, and diabetes.

Is It a Puppy You’re Worried About?

Unless it’s due to a medical condition, a puppy refusing to eat isn’t much of a problem. As with taking your dog to a new home or new environment, your puppy is in a new home as well. 

He may be uncomfortable at first. He may pee everywhere. It’s just going to take him some time to warm up to you. 

However, if he doesn’t start to eat, you could try changing up the food. Your current food may not be what he is accustomed to.

The Bottom Line

As we’ve discussed, there could be many reasons your dog just simply won’t eat. As a dog owner, this can be terrifying. More often than not, it probably isn’t something you should lose sleep over. 

If your dog is refusing to eat, the most important thing you can do is monitor his behavior. Watch for the signs and symptoms. Once you’ve done that, see if they relate to anything we’ve discussed here.

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Sarah Brady

Sarah Brady is an animal lover and the proud dog-mom of a Golden Retriever named Brody and an Italian Greyhound named Jessup. Unfortunately, Jessup developed serious allergies to many different types of dog foods and ingredients when she was just a puppy. Meanwhile, Brody could eat seemingly anything and carry on as healthy as could be. Sarah spent hours of time researching and testing different foods and brands before finding something that worked for little Jessup. She wants Dog Food Care to simplify this experience for future dog-parents who face food allergy or tolerance issues of their own.