It can be concerning if your canine family member is not eating. While some dogs are naturally picky, many have a voracious appetite, and therefore if your dog is not eating it can be a big red flag that something is wrong.

Unfortunately, this is a common and nonspecific clinical sign, meaning it can be caused by many different things, ranging from mild and easily treatable to severe. Any dog who is not eating should be evaluated by a vet sooner rather than later.

This is the approach of how one small animal veterinarian addresses this complex issue. 

1. Medical Issues

Many illnesses can cause decreased or lack of appetite. Common examples include dental disease (in rare cases), systemic disease (such as kidney, liver, heart, endocrine disease, etc.), gastrointestinal disease, cancer, infection, and many more.

2. Behavioral Issues

Stress, anxiety, and changes in routine or environment can also affect appetite.

3. Issues With the Food Itself

If your dog food has spoiled or is stale it may be less appealing to your pup.  

When to Seek Veterinary Care

If your dog skips a meal or two and is otherwise doing well, you can monitor them at home. If they continue to turn their nose up at mealtime, if the change in their appetite becomes a pattern, or if your pet is losing weight, it is time to consult with a vet.

As changes in appetite are a nonspecific clinical sign, your vet will work with you to come up with a plan to figure out the underlying issue and get them eating again. This will likely involve a thorough history, physical exam, diagnostic testing, and treatment. Depending on how sick your dog is, this can be done all at once or step by step.

There are significant risks of hypoglycemia and malnourishment if your dog stops eating. Small-breed puppies are especially prone to low blood sugar if they do not eat frequently. 

Hassle-free In-Home Pet Sick Visits

When your pet isn't feeling well, the last thing you want is a stressful trip to the vet. Our in-home sick pet visits offer a calm, stress-free alternative.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does the vet gather a history of a dog not eating

As dogs can't communicate their symptoms, pet parents play a crucial role in providing information. Vets will ask questions about the dog's age, breed, clinical signs, diet, changes in routine, and other relevant details.

What tests are performed to determine why a dog is not eating?

Diagnostic tests such as blood work, X-rays, ultrasound, and sometimes advanced imaging may be necessary. These tests help identify underlying health conditions and guide treatment decisions.

What are the treatments for decreased appetite in dogs?

Treatment options vary depending on the underlying cause. They may include oral medications, diet changes, behavioral training, appetite stimulants, or assisted feeding via a feeding tube if necessary.

How can I encourage my dog to eat?

Offering canned food, a bland diet like boiled chicken and rice, mixing in treats or low-sodium chicken broth, warming canned food, using feeding toys or puzzles, and hand feeding are some ways to stimulate your dog's appetite.

How much should dogs eat? 

Feeding guidelines on dog food packaging serve as a starting point, but each dog is unique. Monitoring their health, and body condition score, and adjusting food quantity accordingly is important. Consult a vet for nutritional guidance.

How long can a dog go without eating? 

Healthy dogs can typically go without food for three to five days, provided they have access to water. However, it's essential to seek veterinary attention sooner to address any underlying issues and ensure the dog's well-being.