Stereotypically, people think of dogs as avid eaters. Therefore, it's natural for pet owners to feel concerned when their pooch eats less or refuses food altogether. In this article, our Mankato vets outline some common reasons why dogs may stop eating and offer guidance on how to help.
Discovering that your dog isn't eating can be a cause for concern! Many canine companions typically enjoy their meals. So, when you observe them picking at their food without enthusiasm or outright refusing to eat, it can throw most dog parents for a loop.
There are numerous potential reasons why your dog isn't eating. In this article, our veterinary teams across Mankato outline a few of these reasons and advise when you should consider bringing your canine companion in for a visit.
Common Causes of Dogs Refusing To Eat
One of the most common reasons dogs may temporarily stop eating is feeling unwell. Just as people tend to lay around and nap when they catch a cold or develop a fever, dogs often experience a bit of nausea, leading them to prioritize sleep and recovery from overeating.
It's not necessarily a serious illness that causes your dog to stop eating. More commonly, your dog may feel a bit under the weather, avoid eating for a day or two, and then return to their regular routine once they overcome their ailment and start feeling better.
Medications or Vaccines
Various medications may be prescribed for your dog to prevent disease, manage ongoing conditions, or combat illness. Depending on their strength, some medications might temporarily affect your dog's well-being. If your dog has recently started a new medication and you notice a decline in their eating habits, this is a likely cause. Keep a close watch, and once your dog adjusts to the new meds, they should return to their regular eating routine.
Similarly, many vaccinations may have mild side effects, including a sense of nausea. If your dog stops eating shortly after receiving a vaccination or booster shot, they are likely feeling a bit under the weather as their immune system responds. Their appetite should bounce back within a day or two.
Admittedly, this umbrella covers a broad spectrum. However, a few distinct types of food changes could prompt your dog to undergo temporary fasting.
A Change in Food Recipe
If your pet hasn't changed its diet recently, examine the packaging of the latest bag of food you purchased for them. If you spot a "new and improved recipe" stamp, the manufacturer's switch in ingredients might be why your dog no longer enjoys the taste of their trusted food.
A Break From Routine
Have you recently given your dog any unusual food? If your dog has consumed an excess of treats or indulged in something outside their regular diet, such as a raw bone, their stomach may react to the richer-than-usual food in a manner similar to how our human bodies respond. Just like eating overly rich food and even the idea of eating makes us feel queasy, the same holds true for our dogs!
A Change in Diet
If you've recently switched your dog's food, they may resist and express it by refusing to eat. Your pup will likely start eating again soon, and you can always take steps to make their first meal more appetizing as well.
Significant Life Changes
Establishing a consistent routine is crucial for a dog's well-being. Disruptions to their routine can lead to feelings of nervousness, anxiety, or even depression. These emotions may result in a temporary loss of appetite until they begin to recover. Changes in your daily schedule, taking your dog to unfamiliar locations, or losing another pet in your household can trigger these reactions in dogs.
What To Do To Help Your Dog Eat
When your dog isn't eating, there are a few things that pet owners can do to help make their pet's meals more appetizing or to stimulate their desire to eat. These can include:
- Adding warm water to the kibble makes it easier to eat.
- Switching from dry food to wet food or vice-versa.
- Adding engagement to your dog's meal with food puzzles or asking for tricks before they have their food.
- Adding appetizing smelling and tasting liquids to your dog's food, like chicken broth, clam juice, or tuna water.
- Warm up your dog's food in the microwave.
If the source of your dog's fasting is pickiness or preference, these may help them dig into their meal with gusto!
When To Bring Your Dog To The Vet
This is all well and good, but when your dog isn't eating, when should you start worrying about their health?
If your pup refuses to eat or loses its appetite without any other abnormal behavior or symptoms, you can safely wait up to 48 hours after it stops eating before bringing it to the vet. This allows milder causes of their behavior to resolve on their own. If your dog refuses food after 48 hours, it's time to bring them in for a checkup and diagnosis.
Keep a close eye on your dog if they are vomiting, experiencing diarrhea, coughing, or showing signs of distress while refusing to eat. Contact a veterinarian immediately if these symptoms persist for 8 to 12 hours. Your dog may be dealing with a health issue that requires prompt medical diagnosis and attention.