My Dog Is Not Eating
All pets lose their appetite once in a while but if your puppy won’t eat for more than a day or two, she could die. Some pets are just picky by nature, but healthy pups tend to make up for a missed meal from a lost appetite with the next serving. As long as the pet acts like she otherwise feels good, loss of appetite for one or two days isn’t causing concern.
Any sudden loss of appetite that lasts more than two days needs medical attention—sooner, if the pet acts sick. Young puppies have fewer fat and fluid reserves and can’t go without food longer than about 12 hours before needing medical help. Toy breed puppies are particularly prone to potentially deadly drops in blood sugar (hypoglycemia) if they skip a meal.
What can be the causes?
- Stress linked to new owners and new environment – re-homed dogs or getting a stray from the SPCA or shelter.
- A new addition to the family (human or canine).
- Change of environment when moving house or taking your dog with you on holiday.
- Stress when a dog is put into a boarding kennel.
- Stress when a dog is left home with another caregiver when owners go on holiday.
- Dislike of a new food or bored with food.
Generally, the anorexia lasts for about a day and the animal appears otherwise healthy. If the animal does not appear healthy and the loss of appetite persists for longer than this, there may be an additional medical reason too.
- Digestive problems like diarrhea and vomiting.
- Diseases of the liver – for example – chronic hepatitis (not the same as human hepatitis A, B, or C, and NOT contagious) and cirrhosis.
- Diseases of the blood – for example – severe anemia of different causes (immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, leukemia-related anemia, blood loss due to ulcers of the stomach or rat bait poisoning).
- Bacterial or viral infections.
- Respiratory diseases – some dogs may lose their appetites when they suffer from an upper respiratory disease (for example, asthma and kennel cough). It could be due to the fact that the disease temporarily reduces their ability to smell their food, or because it’s too difficult to breathe while eating.
- Dental or periodontal disease.
- Kidney failure.
- Inflammatory bowel syndrome.
- Urinary tract infection.
- Severe worm infestation.
- Addison’s disease
- Pain due to injury.
What to do when your dog won’t eat?
What you can do to help when your dog won’t eat will depend on what you and your veterinarian determine to be the cause of the problem.
If your dog’s loss of appetite is caused by illness, the vet may recommend a prescription diet to meet your pet’s nutritional needs while the underlying disease is being addressed. Sometimes these diets are not particularly tasty, especially if your dog is used to regular treats or people food. If your dog is already ill, never starve your pet in an attempt to force it to eat the prescribed diet. Instead, talk with your veterinarian about alternatives. In more severe cases, your vet may prescribe appetite-stimulating medications, recommend syringe-feeding a liquid diet, or insert a feeding tube. If your dog’s decreased appetite is a behavior problem caused by pickiness or a discomfort with mealtime, rather than the result of a medical condition, there are a number of things you can do to encourage your pet to eat.
Cutting back on treats.
Feeding your pet on a regular schedule, usually at least twice a day.
Making mealtime a fun time for your pet, such as by playing with a toy that dispenses food or rewarding your dog with food for doing a trick.
Taking your dog for a walk before mealtime.
Changing your dog’s feeding situation. If you normally feed your pet with other animals, try feeding him alone. Or try using different bowls or plates at different heights to see what your dog prefers. (You might even put a few pieces of food on the floor next to the feeding dish.)
Trying a different kind of food, such as canned food if you normally feed your dog dry food.