Loss of appetite in dogs

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

Dogs aren’t exactly known for turning their noses up at food, in fact, most of them devour anything they can get their paws on. So it can come as a surprise if your dog suddenly goes off his food, especially if he normally eats well.

What is a loss of appetite in dogs?

There are some pooches that are naturally a little more discerning when it comes to their diet but if your dog won’t eat or is picky about the food he usually enjoys it can be a stressful time and leave you scratching your head and wondering ‘why is my dog not eating?’

Well, there’s no one size fits all answer to that, sometimes it’s simply your pooches way of saying he would like a change of diet, but if you notice that your dog has anorexia, the medical term for loss of appetite in dogs there has to be a reason for it.

Perhaps he is just hot and tired and doesn’t feel hungry, maybe your female dog is in heat and not eating because of temporary hormonal changes or it could be that you are unwittingly just feeding your dog too much and he’s just full.

However, it can be an indication of illness, which could have been passed on from you, so if your pet skips more than a couple of meals it’s best to get him checked out by the vet.

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What causes a loss of appetite in dogs?

Scavenging or to use it’s formal name dietary indiscretion, is an all too common cause of your dog’s unwillingness to eat, this is usually but not always accompanied by vomiting or diarrhoea. I bet there are not too many pet parents around who haven’t had to take their pet to the vet due to this – I know I have!

Perhaps your dog has just eaten something slightly rancid that will pass through his system by the following day but he could have got his paws on food that’s toxic to dogs such as chocolateraisins, garlic or onions, a poisonous plant or some chemicals. Whatever it was if your dog refuses to eat for more than 24 hours it’s probably safest to take him to the vet and if you suspect that he has ingested something toxic call your surgery immediately for advice.

There’s a lot of illnesses that a dog not eating can be a symptom of, because just like us if your furry friend doesn’t feel well he tends not to have much of an appetite.

It could be a bacterial or viral infection, a urinary tract infection, kidney disease, cancer, dental problems or a whole host of other illnesses and diseases that might be to blame for your dog not eating his food anymore or just picking at it.

We all know that our canine companions are super smart so there are occasions when a dog won’t eat his food or just grazes at it but will happily consume treats or a plate of chicken and rice.

Sometimes this is down to a behavioural issue, they’ve just learnt that if they reject their own dinner something tastier will come along. For example, many dogs will go on a hunger strike if they know their owner will begin to worry and feed them a tasty treat or a juicy piece of chicken instead. It can be worrying when our pets won't eat anything, so it's easy to feed them a tempting tidbit to make sure they've got something down them. If this sounds like your pup, we've got a full guide on what to do when your dog is refusing their meals but will take a treat.

but sometimes it’s because they have a condition such as colitis, pancreatitis or IBS and that the food they are being given makes them even more uncomfortable as it doesn’t agree with their sensitive stomachs.

Dog’s can be allergic to ingredients in dog foods too, especially over-processed, low-quality kibble that is grain-based and contains additives. So if your pooch routinely just grazes at his food, don’t just label him as a fussy dog but have him checked out at the vet.

If your dog has had a recent injury his loss of appetite might be down to the pain medication he’s on or maybe the discomfort he’s in is putting him off eating.

Senior dogs tend to need fewer calories as they age and become less active so it might be that your older dog is not being fussy about his food but just has less of an appetite. Sometimes our precious oldies do get more choosy about what they eat though and some senior pooches find it difficult to manage dry dog food because of dental problems and stop enjoying their food.

Just like us, dogs can suffer from stress and anxiety and it has exactly the same effect on them too, they can’t face eating much. Fireworks or other loud noises, moving home or a new pet being introduced to the family are all possible reasons that can trigger stress in your furry friend. Dogs do like to feel safe when they are dining so try to make sure you feed your pooch somewhere he can relax.

Signs and symptoms of a loss of appetite in dogs

Clearly, your dog not eating at all or just picking at his food is the most obvious sign that he has lost his appetite. However there are a variety of other symptoms that your pooch might present as well depending on the cause such as lethargyvomiting, seeming weak and listless and if he’s not been eating enough for a while, weight loss.

Because a lack of appetite in dogs can be a sign of an underlying illness symptoms will vary from pooch to pooch but as a rule of thumb, it is a cause for concern if your dog misses two consecutive meals, especially if your dog’s not eating or drinking and is showing other symptoms of being unwell.

How to treat a loss of appetite in dogs

If your dog is just not eating but drinking water and doesn’t have any other symptoms you could try offering him some chicken or boiled fish and rice to see if he finds that more appetising. Sometimes with pets suffering from anxiety, it can help to hand feed them to try to stimulate their appetite.

However, if your pooch doesn’t start to consume food again for whatever reason within 24 hours he really needs to visit the vet to find out what’s wrong.

Obviously, the treatment your dog receives at the vet will very much depend on what’s causing his lack of appetite.

That said there are quite a few conditions that your pooch can be diagnosed with that other dog owners have seen great results by transitioning your dog to Pure Pet Food once you get him home, such as food intolerances, IBS, colitis and pancreatitis. Pure is a healthy dog food that isn't highly processed, that contains only natural human quality ingredients and contains no fillers or additives and is low in fat too. Pure is also suitable for dogs that need a little more encouragement to eat as it’s far more appetising than a bowl of brown biscuits.

What should I feed my dog with no appetite?

It’s easy to worry when your dog stops eating, and it can be tempting to offer homecooked food that increases dog appetite. However, homecooked food usually lacks adequate nutrition and can’t be sustained long-term. Plus, feeding your pup homemade food and treats to encourage them to eat can actually enforce the fasting behaviour. (Find out more about how owner behaviour affects your dog’s eating habits.)

Rather than turning to tidbits, it might be worth considering a fresh diet if your pooch regularly refuses food. Food made from fresh, natural ingredients and avoids harsh processing is sure to increase your dog’s appetite while providing them with all the nutrition they need to stay healthy.

Loss of appetite can often be caused by illness or infection. If your dog has a sore stomach, it’s bound to put them off their dinner. Digestible food helps their gut to recover and prevents overworking. It’s more nourishing too, so it will keep your dog healthy and help maintain a strong immune system to fight off any future illness or infection that could make them lose their appetite.

If your dog has been diagnosed with a condition that can upset their digestion, like pancreatitis, we can create a personalised diet that will help to alleviate their symptoms and prevent future flare-ups which would otherwise put them off their dinner.

Pure also happens to be far more appetising than a bowl of boring brown biscuits, and is proving to be fresh, tasty food that increases dog appetite. Our delicious recipes have won over plenty of fussy pups, including discerning dogs like Daisy, Dylan, and Dash who were all picky eaters, but haven’t once turned their noses up to Pure.