My dog won’t eat, what should I do? This is a question my mom has had to figure out the answer to many times in the past fifteen or so years. My mom is also super picky, so she understands us somewhat. Since dogs not eating seems to be a common issue for pet parents I thought I would share some of my Dr. Emma’s tips based on what we have done and learned in our experiences.
Dr. Emma plays a veterinarian on the blog My GBGV Life from time to time, but is not a real veterinarian. Any advice received on this blog is from personal experience. If your dog has any health issues, please consult your own veterinarian.
Know Your Own Dog
My mom has had five dogs, and three of us are not big on eating. If a dog who isn’t a big eater misses a meal or two, it might be nothing, but if a food obsessed dog misses a meal, it could be a problem.
- What are your dog’s habits? Does your dog eat foreign objects? Perhaps you have a chewer who actually ingests bone or stick fragments?
- Have you checked the output? Is your dog vomiting? Does your dog have normal stools? Have you seen blood?
- Is the activity level of your dog the same, or is your dog lethargic, or lacking in overall interest in everything?
The Story Of Trine
Trine was mom’s first dog who she adopted from the Humane Society as a 100 lb, black, roughly year old dog. She was a good eater, and once she adjusted to home life, rarely had any health issues. One October evening, Mom put Trine’s food down and she just walked away from it. The same thing happened at breakfast. Mom tried all kinds of things to get Trine to eat, but she would not have more than a bite or two.
Not knowing what was wrong, they headed off to the vet, where Trine was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer. As with people, it sneaks up quickly and there is no cure. Trine, who was around ten, was gone within a week. It would not have made any difference had Mom brought her to the vet a couple days sooner but it was important to bring her to the vet in a timely manner. A dog who always eats and then stops for more than a day or two most likely has something going on.
Older Dogs Often Eat Differently
My dear sister Katie ate puppy food until she was three years old because she didn’t like to eat and needed the calories to keep her weight constant. Once she hit three, she became a food maniac and ate all the time, with no more issues until she was around twelve. Old age slowed down her appetite and Mom often had to add things like wet food or toppers to entice Katie to eat. She did maintain her weight until the last six months or so of her life. We found out about Katie’s heart tumor because of a check up, not her eating habits, but it was pretty obvious in the end, the tumor was stealing her appetite. Mom didn’t take her to the vet because she knew not much could be done.
Some Dogs Are Just Picky
I’m a dog who was and still is a picky eater. Like Madison I used to take a good twenty minutes to eat my meals. Over the years I’ve trimmed that down to about five minutes. As a young pup, Mom did check with our veterinarian about my slow, picky eating and was told as long as I was eating and gaining/maintaining weight as I should, Mom shouldn’t worry. I am still really picky about treats, and will only eat certain kinds. As long as your vet checks out your dog, there is nothing to worry about. I’ve lived being a picky, slow eater for over eleven years now!
When A Big Eater Stops Eating
Bailie is the biggest eater my mom has ever had. It probably comes from being from a litter of fourteen pups, but it is a whole different world! Not only does Bailie eat almost everything, she is fast too. Since the day she moved her furry behind into our house, she has only missed one meal.
One day in September 2016, Bailie was acting a bit “off”. Dinnertime came, and Bailie had no interest in even coming to the kitchen to look at food, let alone eat anything. This was the first and only time Bailie has ever turned down a meal. Mom’s intuition kicked in, and she took Bailie to the emergency vet about an hour later. It turns out Bailie was very ill and could have died had she not been treated. We never could find the cause, but after consulting with several vets, it was most likely an obscure tick disease. Her platelets were so low that night, they were afraid she would start to bleed internally at any time. Mom was a wreck! Bailie made it through the night, and went to a specialist in the morning. Following your intuition is usually a good idea, and it probably saved Bailie’s life in this case.
Picky Eaters Are Tough
Everyone knows my food snob sister, Madison. She has never been interested in food. Thankfully, when she went into heat this fall, it seems to have kicked her taste buds into gear. The past three months she has eaten her meals on her own, although slowly, and also eats treats a bit more than she used to. About two weeks ago, the old Madison started coming back. By last weekend, Madison didn’t have any interest in her meals, but she would eat treats. She was not vomiting, what little stool she had was normal, and she had her usual energy and happiness levels. Mom wondered how she could tell if Madison was ill, or just being picky. Madison went three meals in a row eating about one bite of food total which triggered Mom’s instinct to take Madison to the vet.
Tuesday, the food snob arrived at the vet. Mom was getting pretty worried as the little one had lost three pounds which is about ten percent of her normal weight. She is so skinny! The two of them spent some time with the vet discussing everything. They ran a full blood panel, and took x-rays. Perhaps Madison, the perfect puppy, had eaten something that was stuck in her belly? Her blood work came back great, and there was nothing to see in the x-rays. Now what? Since she is so young, most of the terrible things are statistically unlikely, but she could have ingested something that makes her tummy sore and caused an ulcer, like a tiny stick piece or something. When she puts food in her tummy it might not feel good. They headed home with some medicine to coat Madison’s stomach before meals, and she gets a new, super tasty food to spur her on to eat. So far, she has eaten her last three meals in full. Her medicine is for a week, so we will see what happens then.
What is the point to all of this? When you say,”My dog won’t eat”, there is not just one answer. You need to know your dog’s behaviors, how they usually are with food, if they are behaving differently, or not. If you have any doubts, it is always best to go to your own veterinarian to make sure nothing serious is going on!