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Dog Not Eating? Our Vet Explains Possible Causes & Dog Appetite Solutions

Dec 10, 2020
AUTHOR Dr. Addie Reinhard, DVM

Reviewed by Dr. Addie Reinhard, DVM

Dr. Addie Reinhard is an experienced companion animal veterinarian with a passion for providing reliable veterinary insight & expert advice to help pet parents better care for their pups.

  • A dog not eating could be a sign of an underlying medical condition, stress, pain, or medication side effect.
  • For a dog not eating or drinking, you should contact your veterinarian immediately because your pet could become quickly dehydrated if not treated promptly.
  • If your dog misses more than one meal, you should contact your veterinarian.
  • Adding warm water to the food or feeding the canned version of your pet’s regular food may encourage them to eat.

Why is my dog not eating his food anymore?

The technical term for a dog not eating is anorexia. There are a lot of different reasons why your pup could be turning their nose up to food. These can range from minor issues to major underlying health issues. If your dog is experiencing any other symptoms with the decreased appetite including vomiting, diarrhea, or lethargy, these are all signs that there is some underlying illness affecting your dog. If your dog seems otherwise well, the decreased appetite could be caused by stress, or they might just not like the food they are eating anymore. Only your veterinarian will be able to determine if the lack of appetite is a cause for concern.

What causes loss of appetite in dogs?

If your dog won’t eat, there are several underlying reasons this could occur. The following are the most common causes of a dog not eating food that I diagnose as a veterinarian.

1. Sickness

Dogs that are sick will often refuse to eat. If your dog has a fever, they will feel bad and refuse to eat. In addition, a variety of chronic or serious medical conditions can cause decreased appetite. Some of the most common illnesses that can cause lack of appetite include:

  • Kidney Failure
  • Cancer
  • Pancreatitis
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Diabetes
  • Infections

2. Stress

If your veterinarian has ruled out medical conditions as the cause of the loss of appetite, one other cause to consider is stress. A dog not eating food may be under a lot of stress. Have you recently moved, traveled, or had any changes in the household? Often, these events may cause a dog to not want to eat. My dog won’t eat for the first day or two when we travel to different places. Dogs that are stressed can go on a hunger strike, though usually, this will only last a day or two.

3. Pain

A dog not eating food may be painful. Back and neck injuries are a very common cause for a dog not wanting to eat. Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) is a common condition in dogs that can cause back and neck pain. In addition, mouth pain or tooth pain can cause a dog to refuse food. If your dog is painful and having a hard time getting on and off the couch, check out Alpha Paw’s Paw Ramp which may decrease the risk of your pet hurting themselves as they are getting on and off the furniture.

Other signs that your dog may be in pain include:

  • Crying out in pain
  • Hiding or being anti-social
  • Whining, growling, or yelping
  • Breathing faster than normal or panting
  • Limping
  • Hunched posture
  • Shaking and trembling

4. Medication Side-Effects

Have you started your pet on a new medication? According to the AKC, many medications can cause your pet to not want to eat. Certain antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs, and pain medications can cause a dog to refuse food. If you think your dog won’t eat because of a side-effect to a new medication, I recommend contacting your veterinarian.

5. Food Preference

Some dogs who are picky eaters may refuse to eat simply because they do not like the taste of the food. Slowly transitioning to a new diet or new flavor of food can be helpful if you think your dog doesn’t like the food you are giving them anymore.

When should I worry about my dog not eating?

Anytime your pet has an unusual symptom, I recommend consulting with your veterinarian. If your pet is usually a very good eater and never skips a meal, the decreased appetite is a very concerning symptom. If your pet is normally a picky eater and regularly skips meals, decreased appetite may be less of a concern. If your pet misses more than one meal or is exhibiting any other symptoms, you should contact a veterinarian as soon as possible.

What do you do if your new dog won’t eat?

If your dog won’t eat one meal and is otherwise feeling normal, try offering food later in the day. If your pet continues to refuse food especially with no obvious explanation, this could be a sign of an underlying medical condition that needs to be treated. You should contact your vet so they can help you figure out why your dog is not eating.

What can I give my dog with no appetite?

If your dog won’t eat, you should first contact your veterinarian. There may be an underlying cause for your dog not eating food that needs to be treated by your veterinarian. There are medications that veterinarians can prescribe that can help boost your pet’s appetite. Entyce Oral Solution for Dogs is a prescription medication that your veterinarian may consider prescribing to boost your dog’s appetite. 

Your veterinarian may recommend trying a few tricks to encourage your dog to eat including:

  • Add some warm water to the food to soften up the kibble
  • Feed plain chicken breast pieces that have been boiled
  • Offer cooked plain white rice
  • Trying the canned version of your dog’s food
  • Feeding your dog by hand

What do I do if my dog won’t eat or drink?

If you have a dog not eating or drinking, this is very concerning. Your pet is at risk of becoming quickly dehydrated. If your dog won’t eat or drink, then I recommend contacting a veterinarian immediately so they can assess your pet to determine the underlying cause of your pet’s symptoms. Early treatment for conditions that cause decreased appetite may improve your pet’s chances of healing faster.

Dr. Addie Reinhard, DVM

Member of Alpha Paw’s Board of Pet Experts

Dr. Addie Reinhard is an experienced companion animal veterinarian who lives in Lexington, KY with her husband, greyhound, and four cats. She graduated from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, and currently practices in the central Kentucky region. Dr. Addie has special interests in preventative care, dermatology, and diseases, and she enjoys creating helpful educational resources related to these topics to help pet parents keep their four-legged family members happy and healthy. We love Dr. Addie’s passion for providing reliable veterinary insight and medical advice to help pet parents like us give their pups the happy & healthy lives they deserve!

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