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My Dog Isn't Eating - How to Get Their Appetite Back

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. March 27, 2019
My Dog Isn't Eating - How to Get Their Appetite Back

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There are many reasons why a dog may lose their appetite. Since food is essential for their basic care needs, it is a problem that needs resolved and resolved immediately. The reasons vary from severe illness to issues with the type of food you provide. Knowing the reason why your dog isn't eating is imperative, which means you need to take them to the veterinarian for an examination. Once they rule out the presence of a pathology, you can discuss the best ways to get your dog to eat again.

If you ask yourself why isn't my dog eating?, AnimalWised helps to understand the reasons behind this loss of appetite. We also discover the ways you might be able to help them get their hunger back.

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Why does my dog not want to eat?

Before we can look at the ways to stimulate our dog's appetite, it is imperative to determine the reason behind this behavior. A healthy dog will have a similarly healthy appetite, so it is important to realize that a lack of appetite in dogs is abnormal. When you discuss the reasons your dog isn't eating with your vet, they will point to the following:

Stress

Stress can be a trigger for your dog to stop eating. When a dog is stressed, it puts their mind in disorder and once normal activities can be disrupted. Not only can it lead to a lack of eating, but it can cause destructive behavior, self-mutilation and even lead to physiological disease. The causes of stress in dogs is varied. It could be due to changes in their routine (such as moving home, arrival of another pet, a new baby, etc.), anxiety from lack of mental stimulation or a lack of physical exercise.

Indigestion

Although dogs are thought of as having an iron stomach, indigestion can be a big problem for them. If they suffer from indigestion it can be because they feel such discomfort, eating more food will only exacerbate the situation. They might also be aware of their indigestion and choose not to eat to be prudent. However, this should only last one day at most and we need to be wary of any other symptoms. Stomach problems such as constipation, gas or diarrhea can reduce your dog's desire to eat, but we need to be very careful of gastric torsion as it can be deadly.

Respiratory diseases

From a simple flu to more serious respiratory diseases like bronchitis, respiratory illness can cause a dog to lose its appetite. If mucus gets into the dog's nose, it can also lead to problems with their olfactory response. This means they can't smell the food as well and it may contribute to their loss of appetite.

Parasites

A dog can be infested by intestinal parasites via various ways. Often it is from something they have eaten, one of the reasons we have to be vigilant when we take them out for walks. Internal parasites which affect the intestine can often present serious physiological and behavioral symptoms including vomiting, worms in feces, general malaise and others. The exact symptoms will depend on the type of parasite.

Medication Side Effects

If your dog is receiving treatment for an illness, it is possible that one of the side effects of their medication is a decrease in their appetite. If this is the case, you will need to speak to your vet about prescribing an alternative.

Trauma

When a dog is hit by a car, falls off something high or suffer some similar physical trauma, it can lead to serious injuries such as broken bones. However, there may be less obvious injuries sustained, especially if they are internal. Dogs are brave creatures and can withstand a lot of pain. The dog may seem relatively normal on the outside, but have injuries on the inside which lead to a loss of appetite.

Old age

Older dogs usually eat less. This happens because they expend less energy due to decreased physical activity. When they conserve energy, they do not need to eat as much to replenish it. However, it is unlikely they will stop eating altogether.

Oral problems

Various issues in the mouth such as tooth decay, tumors or even obstructions (a foreign object stuck in the gums or throat) won't stop them from being hungry. However, the pain which accompanies them might result in them being unable to chew properly.

Food quality

It is very common for dogs to stop accepting their food, especially when it is low quality. They usually don't have as discerning a palate as humans, but it doesn't mean they don't have preferences. There are usually some specific reasons for not wanting to eat certain food. They may be because they don't meet the dog's nutritional needs, they have a dislike for dry food or some reason we can't quite discern.

Other motives

Other possible causes that can lead your dog to lose their appetite may include:

  • Pancreatitis
  • Tumors
  • Renal insufficiency
  • Vaccines

When your dog has not eaten for 24 hours and you can't work out why, you need to take them to the vet to begin the appropriate treatment.

My Dog Isn't Eating - How to Get Their Appetite Back - Why does my dog not want to eat?

Home remedies to bring back your dog's appetite

While there is no magic way to make your dog's appetite return, there are some things you can do to encourage eating. As we state above, the first thing you will need to do is take the dog to vet. They will determine if there is a physiological problem with the dog. If so, they will engage in the correct treatment. Eating is very important for a dog's recovery as they need nutrition to stay strong in fighting disease and convalescing.

If you are wondering how to whet your dog's appetite, the veterinarian might make some suggestions of what you can do at home. There are several methods of encouragement, so you need not despair. However, it is important to bear in mind that none of these options are substitutes for veterinary advice. If your dog has not eaten for a long time, they may be malnourished and need some extra care. This might include fluid therapy, something only a veterinarian with the right equipment can provide. These ideas to get a dog to eat are also useful for healthy dogs which have lost their appetite for some other reason.

Appetizing food

Offer your dog a different type of meal which appeals to their tastes. If you know what their favorite food is, you can give them some of this food to stimulate eating again. You might want to add some of this to their normal food to give them the right nutrition, but just make it more palatable for them. Another option is to wet their dry food with appetizing chicken broth or even some lactose free natural yogurt.

Adding chunks of meat such as chicken or pork might also help to stimulate their appetite. You shouldn't give your dog too much fatty meat, but if they are undernourished, then it is OK in small doses. Adding some warm broth to their food also stimulates the appetite. It needs to be broth which doesn't contain anything which will harm your dog such as excess garlic, so homemade broth is ideal. When it is warm (not too hot) it will also help stimulate their olfactory senses and encourage eating. If they are congested with mucus, this can also benefit them in clearing their passageways.

Choose better food

A sick dog will need different foods than usual to help bolster their immunity. This will help aid and quicken their recovery. For example, dogs with constipation problems will need food with more fiber, dogs with diarrhea will need extra protein and dehydrated dogs will need wet food to increase their water intake. Dogs with respiratory problems may need foods rich in phosphorous, but we need to be careful. Dogs with kidney problems can't process phosphorous, so they shouldn't have them. This is another reason, you will need to take them to the vet as they can look at the entire clinical picture.

Add flavor

Generally, herbs and spices are not necessary for a dog's diet. However, smell is very important for dogs. Adding something to their food can help stimulate eating, although it will depend on the individual dog. Not all are beneficial for dogs, nor will they appreciate them, but generally mint, alfalfa, dill, fennel or ginger add aromas which dogs find pleasant.

Peppermint and ginger can also be added to water to encourage dehydration. These are things which can often be found in commercial dog treats. However, they don't necessarily provide essential nutrition and should not be given in large doses.

Home remedies for dogs not wanting to eat commercial dog food

If you have ruled out disease, trauma, dental problems or other physical ailments, you will need to take a good look at their feeding habits.

Buy better quality commercial food

The quality of the food you provide your dog is very important. Regulations for commercial dog food are not as strict as they often should be. There are restrictions on the ingredients they can use, but they often involve a level of processing which seriously affects the nutritional value of the food. Expensive food doesn't necessarily mean better. You will need to do a little research online and see what consumers are saying. Changing the food should be a gradual process and it may involve a certain amount of trial and error.

Try wet food

Wet food is not something you might be able to afford all the time. It can be quite expensive and comes in smaller amounts than dry food. However, it is often much more appetizing to dogs. This is because it better resembles the fresh meat they would have been eating in the wild. You shouldn't mix wet and dry food, however. Instead, you can give them a bit of the former and then follow with the latter to stimulate their appetite.

Vary the ingredients

A dog which only eats commercial dog food does not necessarily have a completely balanced diet. They should have a diet supplemented by other foods both for nutritional and quality of life reasons. To do this, we can add lean meats to their food or use them for snacks. This is especially good when training or educating them.

Follow a homemade diet

Another option relates to varying their diet. A natural diet made from ingredients you create at home allow you to guarantee the quality of the food as well as mixing it up a little for your canine. Likewise, homemade food with the correct levels of nutrition favors digestion, can help regulate intestinal transit, improve the condition of skin and hair, as well as boosting their health in general.

If you have tried all the other options to stimulate their diet, but none have worked, a homemade diet can help to stimulate their appetite. There are some other dietary options such as a BARF diet for your dog. However, you will need to ensure all of their nutritional needs are met and this isn't always easy. You will need to consult your vet before making such a big change and it will depend on the individual dog. Some dogs do well on this type of diet, but not all of them.

My Dog Isn't Eating - How to Get Their Appetite Back - Home remedies for dogs not wanting to eat commercial dog food

Home remedies for puppies that do not want to eat

There are several reasons why a puppy will refuse to eat and some are similar to those of an adult dog. They also have the added fact that their entire way of getting nutrients changes. When a newborn puppy arrives, they ingest sustenance from their mother's milk. After about 3 to 4 weeks, they will begin the weaning process onto solid food. This process should go smoothly, but there are often exceptions. Vaccinations can affect their appetite also.

One key difference between a puppy not eating and an adult not eating is their level of vulnerability. Puppies are dependent on their mother and have not yet built up a strong immunity. This means they need all the strength they can get and not eating can seriously deplete their resources. In turn, this increases the risk of infectious diseases[1]. Once they get a little older, they will still need to eat to develop body and mind.

Artificial weaning

Unfortunately, some puppies will not always be accepted by the mother. It is usually because they are believed to be too weak or ill to survive. They may even be kicked out of the nest and be left to fend for themselves. If this is the case, then you may need to take over their care on your own. This means keeping them warm, checking their symptoms for disease, monitoring their temperature and feeding them yourself. If this is the case for you, then you may want to read our article on the diet for a prematurely weaned puppy.

Exercise

Once the puppy is a little older and ready to eat solid food, there are other options we can try to get them to eat. A tired dog will have more appetite, so we recommend taking older puppies for walks and playing with hem to stimulate their appetite. They will need to be vaccinated and old enough to go outside. If they are you can try playing games with balls, toys or tracking games to educate them at the same time.

Different feed

If your puppy has started to reject their food, it could be that they are being picky. However, it is also possible they are moving on form their puppy food. if this is the case, maybe it is time to switch it up to an adult dog feed for them. You will have to check the packaging for suitable ages and ensure your dog is at the right age.

Wet food

For some puppies, the transition from milk to solids can be complicated. You may want to try wet food. The taste can be more appetising due to its smell and texture, so it could work for your puppy. You can also try to moisten the food with some garlic and onion free broth (almost impossible to get in the store, so you will likely want to make it yourself). It can really help their appetite.

Homemade food

It's not just homemade broth which might encourage your puppy to eat. As we state in the previous section, it allows you to ensure the ingredients are of the right quality. This is something particularly important for puppies as their nutrition is imperative.

How to help a dog gain weight

If your dog is undernourished, they can lose weight and become very thin. You will need to help them gain weight, but this is not the same as making them fat. Fattening up may help them gain weight, but it is possible to do this in an unhealthy way. This is why it is important to take the dog to the veterinarian if we think our dog is malnourished. It is possible their inability to retain weight is due to disease or parasites which cannot be changed by diet alone.

Once your dog has been given a clean bill of health, then there will be some other reason for your dog being unable to gain weight. Some dogs have a naturally high metabolism. This means they process food quickly and expend the energy readily. In these cases, your dog may need more calories. Providing larger servings and increasing the number of meals may be the solution. Dogs need the right amount of exercise suitable for their individual needs. You should not reduce their exercise just to help them put on weight.

Giving smaller portions more frequently throughout the day might be a good way to help your dog eat and put on weight. It will not only help to stimulate their appetite, but it can help them to better digest their food.

If you want to read similar articles to My Dog Isn't Eating - How to Get Their Appetite Back, we recommend you visit our Diet problems category.

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