What Should You Do if Your Dog Is Not Eating?

A dog, with white fur, is lying down on a desk with a blue blanket wrapped around him - Hampton Park Veterinary, Charleston, SC. Most of us are used to our dogs wanting as much food as possible, all of the time.

That’s what makes it so concerning when they refuse to eat. If your dog is getting sick or having stomach problems, trouble eating is usually one of the first signs.

Unfortunately, a lack of appetite points to about a dozen different health issues, ranging from a stomach bug to heartworm disease. Not only is it scary when the dog is not eating, but it’s so difficult to figure out exactly what to do to get them to eat.

In this post, we’re going to give you a few tips for taking care of a dog that isn’t eating. Use this guide anytime your pup is feeling off and you’ll have a better idea of what’s going on and what you should do about it.

Reasons Why the Dog Is Not Eating

There are 4 main reasons why your dog might not be eating:

  • They don’t like their food
  • They’re having side effects from medications
  • They’re anxious
  • They’re sick

If you’ve recently changed your dog’s food and they’re refusing to eat, go back to their old food to see if they’ll eat it. Dogs on prescribed medications can lose their appetite or experience nausea. Talk to your vet about switching medications or finding solutions to nausea.

When it comes to anxiety, there are plenty of reasons that your dog might be feeling off. A recent move, a new pet in the house, or basically any big change in the household could cause anxiety, which can lead to depression and a lack of appetite.

Is the dog experiencing vomiting or diarrhea along with trouble eating? If none of the above apply to your dog or there are other symptoms, they’re probably ill and need a vet appointment.

Pay Attention to Behavior

To figure out why your dog is not eating, you have to take action. The first thing to do is to start paying really close attention to their behavior. Try giving them treats and food scraps to see if they’re just avoiding their kibble or if it’s all food.

You could even set up a camera to watch them when you aren’t around. Don’t hesitate to examine their stool and urine as well. If it looks normal, it would point to an issue with your dog’s mood rather than an illness.

Give Them an Examination

You don’t have to be a veterinarian to give your dog a preliminary examination. The first thing to look at is their teeth and gums, so get in there and check for loose or chipped teeth and inflamed gums. This likely means that it’s physically painful for them to eat.

Feel their body when petting them, looking mainly for lumps, missing fur patches, and any changes to their weight. If you find anything concerning at all, call your vet immediately.

Look at the Food

Bad food will give your dog stomach problems in a heartbeat. Check the expiry date on the package, then look at the food for discoloration and smell it to see if it’s gone bad.

Throw out any spoiled food and see if your dog will try something different.

Have They Gotten Into Something They Shouldn’t Have?

Look around your home for signs of destruction. Often, when a dog is getting sick, it’s because they decided to eat something they shouldn’t have, like a houseplant, medications, or some garden fertilizer.

If anything like this is missing and your dog has been vomiting, you’ll need to seek emergency treatment.

Has Anything Else Changed?

Have you changed anything that you’re doing? An owner’s actions can have a drastic effect on a dog’s mood, whether it’s the way you’re talking to them or how you’re feeding them.

Have you moved recently or changed their feeding times? Have you been feeding them more kitchen scraps or been working late? Any of these things can alter the way your dog acts and cause them to lose its appetite, especially if it’s a dog that suffers from anxiety already.

Try to reinstate a routine that your dog is familiar with before you jump to conclusions about its health.

Things You Can Try Before Going to the Vet

Now that you’ve examined all of the above, you can try a few different things to get your dog to eat. If you suspect it has to do with its mood, make sure you’re paying enough attention to your dog and giving it the love it needs.

With food-related issues, it’s all about trial and error. Before you make your vet appointment, try to solve the problem yourself.

If they’re on a new food, simply switch back to the old food to see if they’ll eat it. Don’t cut costs on your dog’s food – replace low-quality food with good stuff. Make sure that your dog’s food gives them the proper nutrients.

You should also do what you can to entice your dog to eat. Make its kibble as appealing as possible by adding water or broth. You can also try mixing wet food in with dry food or giving them canned food for a few meals in an attempt to stimulate their appetite.

Get Your Dog Medical Attention

If your dog is not eating and you’ve tried everything we’ve discussed here, it’s time to book them in with your vet. Injuries and illnesses are going to require more complex treatment, which is why you need to find a trustworthy vet that’ll prioritize your sick dog.

At Hampton Park Veterinary, we’re Charleston’s premier pain-free veterinary service. We’ll perform all of the necessary tests to figure out why your dog is not eating, then give them the care that they need, whether it’s dental care, surgery, or emergency care.

Taking care of a dog can be tough when they won’t eat. Contact us today to book your pet in for testing.