What should I feed my poorly dog who has no appetite?

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Written by Dr Andrew Miller MRCVSDr Andrew Miller MRCVS is an expert veterinary working in the field for over 10 years after graduating from Bristol University. Andy fact checks and writes for Pure Pet Food while also working as a full time veterinarian. Pure Pet FoodPure Pet Food are the experts in healthy dog food and healthy dogs featured in media outlets such as BBC, Good Housekeeping and The Telegraph. Working with high profile veterinary professionals and nutritionists, Pure Pet Food are changing dog food for the better. - Our editorial process

Nobody wants their pup feeling poorly, and it can be even more worrying when they’re refusing their dinners. Even more so if you’ve got a greedy dog that typically wolfs down food as soon as it’s in their bowl. If your dog is feeling under the weather, it’s not uncommon for them to totally lose their appetite, it’s just like when we don’t want to eat when we’re poorly.

However, your dog needs some food to get their nutrients and energy back up, so it’s important for you to try and stimulate their appetite with some delicious, nutritious dinners. Read on to find out what the best food is to feed your sick dog who is sticking their nose up to all their meals.

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What should you do when your dog has no appetite?

When your dog isn’t feeling themselves, it’s essential that you try to figure out what is causing the problem in the first place. Loss of appetite can be a symptom of various serious illnesses, but it can also just indicate that your dog is feeling a little off it, which should clear up in a few days. Either way, get it checked out by the vet.

Don’t try and force your dog to eat their food, give them some time, space and be patient. It’s worrying for a pet parent when their beloved furry friend just won’t eat their meals, but try to stay calm. Dogs can actually go for a fair few days without eating anything at all, as long as they’ve got plenty of water to keep them hydrated.

Make sure that your dog is comfy with a soft bed to snooze on, alongside taking them for a few short walks if they feel up to it for a bit of fresh air.

You might notice that your dog is munching on the garden outside, which is totally normal behaviour if your dog is feeling under the weather. Don’t pull your dog away from eating grass, even though it might make them throw up, as this might be just what they need to feel better.

What should I feed my poorly dog?

Feeding your dog if they’re unwell can feel slightly nerve-wracking, as you want to ensure they’re getting the best food as to not make their illness any worse. So, whatever you feed your poorly dog will all depend on why they’re feeling unwell.

For example, if your pup has an upset tummy, diarrhoea  or they’ve just come out of an operation, your pooch is going to need really bland food that’ll help to get their energy back up and not cause any further upset.

On the other hand, if your pup has a serious medical issue/ailment, they might need tailored dog food that specifically suits their condition through a different set of ingredients and nutrients.

Plain food

So, for dogs that are feeling a bit under the weather, typically suffering with an upset tummy, it’s recommended to go with something really plain, most commonly boiled white rice and plain boiled/poached chicken. Chicken and rice are common ingredients in many dog foods anyway, so luckily it’ll unlikely be a dramatic change for your dog.

This meal is really easy for your dog to digest and is packed full of vitamins, fats, amino acids, proteins, fibre and carbohydrates, all helping to repair damage and bring back your dog’s pep in their step by providing loads of energy and nutrients.

Hopefully, it’ll be just the thing to get your pup back to good health. Also, if your pooch is suffering from diarrhoea, the fibre  in the rice will help to bind your dog’s stools together to get their bowel movements regular and healthy once again.

Not only that, but most pups will go barking mad if they’ve got chicken for dinner so it’s likely to entice them into eating even if they don’t have much of an appetite.

If you’ve not got any chicken, or if chicken doesn’t agree with your dog (because of an allergy for example), boiled or poached white fish will also do the trick. Fish is super smelly so it should tempt your dog into having a little nibble even if they were refusing their food before.

Once your dog is starting to feel better, veggies like pumpkin and sweet potato can be a great addition to their chicken and rice meals for a bit of vibrancy. They’re packed with various vitamins for a boost of nutrition, alongside being filled with fibre to help support the doggy digestive system and get it back to normal.

Natural, nutritious dinners

After a few days of a plain, restricted diet, you want your dog to be eating a natural, nutritious food that’s going to get them feeling happy and healthy. For example, Pure is wholesome, healthy and gentle on the stomach, made up of ingredients that you recognise and would buy for yourself to support your dog’s health long into the future. It’s super tasty too, sure to lure your pooch in for a taste if they were refusing food beforehand.

If your dog is suffering from a very specific ailment, such as diabetes, pancreatitis or super sensitive skin, they will probably need a tailored dog food which includes ingredients that support their condition and prevent any dangerous flare-ups.

Here at Pure, we create tailored dog food recipes that support your dog throughout their condition, just tell us all about your pooch before checking out, their breed, age, allergies and ailments and we’ll create a recipe perfect for your pooch.

When shouldn’t I feed my sick dog?

If your dog is throwing up or suffering with diarrhoea, try and wait around 12 hours after their last episode before you offer them any food. After the 12 hours have passed, that’s when you can try dishing up the plain chicken and boiled rice we mentioned earlier.

Also, if your dog is gearing up for an operation, the vet will probably instruct you to put your pet through a fasting period which is essential before going under anaesthetic. After the operation, your vet will again likely advise feeding chicken and rice.

How can I stimulate my sick dog’s appetite?

There are a few ways that you might be able to entice your dog into eating their dinner, for example:

  • Feeding smaller portions on the regular, your dog might not be able to tolerate a normal portion

  • Heat the food up as this’ll release a tasty aroma and increase palatability

  • Hand feed your dog to help them take in at least a little bit of food, they’ll also probably find this really comforting when they’re feeling under the weather

  • Make sure your dog’s surroundings aren’t anxiety-inducing as well, as this will only worsen their relationship with their food.


When your dog is poorly, the most common advice is feeding them a bland diet until they’re back to their normal self. Afterwards, it’s time to make sure their dinners provide them all the goodness they need to sustain their needs and keep them in good health.