Why is my dog not eating?

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. - Our editorial process

We all want our pets to be healthy and happy, so if your dog won’t eat it’s a real worry – after all for most pooch’s dinner time is one of the highlights of their day!

Sadly, dogs don’t talk so your pup can’t tell you why they aren’t scoffing down their grub, but there’s a variety of reasons it could be ranging from boredom of their current diet to medical conditions such as pancreatitis or colitis or in the case of a female dog being in season and not eating.

One thing’s for sure though, if your dog’s not eating, he’s trying to tell you something so let’s explore some of the causes of why a dog loses their appetite and of course some possible solutions.

Some dogs are picky eaters

Of course, it’s perfectly possible that your dog is a fussy eater and just doesn’t like the food that he’s being served. If you feed your dog a dry kibble diet, think about it, would you like to sit down to a bowl of brown biscuits every day? It doesn’t sound very appetising does it!

So sometimes the solution is as simple as changing your dog on to a wet food or raw diet as many dogs find the texture and aroma more enticing. Being as dogs experience the world around them mostly through their nose (Their sense of smell is 40 times stronger than ours!) it makes sense that dog food that smells good to them is going to be eagerly consumed.

Some dogs are more motivated by play than food so feeding them their meals from enrichment toys such as kongs or lick mats can work a treat and make eating an experience to look forward to again.


Dog not hungry

Another thing to consider is whether your dog is getting too many treats or table scraps. Our best friends are so intelligent that it doesn’t take them long to work out that if they leave their boring dry food something better will come along, such as human food for instance. If this scenario resonates with you, try removing your dog’s food if he hasn’t eaten it within 30 minutes and then wait until the next mealtime before replacing it with fresh food. You can also try taking your dog for a walk before meals to stimulate his appetite. Dogs activity monitors can be a useful aid, of course they are not an exact science, but give you a fair idea of whether your pooch is burning up the number of calories he’s consuming and can help you to establish if the reason your dog isn’t eating all his food is because his portion is too big.


Sometimes a dog can be just too stimulated by their environment to settle down to eat, for instance, house moves, a new or dominant pet in the family or a room full of strangers can all be factors as to why a dog might refuse its food. Some dogs like to dine alone, some like human company while they eat, and most dogs thrive on routine so sticking to regular meal times in a place where your pooch feels safe might make all the difference.

Dental problems

Dental problems can also be the culprit as to why your dog isn’t eating anymore. Just like humans, senior dogs can start to find chewing a chore, unlike us though they can’t get a set of dentures, so a soft and easily digestible food is often the answer to encouraging your dog to start looking forward to dinner time again. Obviously, dogs of any age can be affected by missing or damaged teeth and if you suspect that this is the case a visit to the vet is in order.

Senior dogs also tend to slow down and use less energy with age so naturally, their appetite decreases. Quite a few become more choosy about what they’d like to eat too, and I think us humans have a tendency to “spoil” our older dogs more and slip them the odd extra snack which means they just don’t feel hungry. Maybe you just need to reassess the amount of food they’re eating or be a bit more disciplined about how many treats you feed, but if you think they need a little more temptation, changing their diet could motivate your dog to become interested in eating again.

Food intolerance

Like humans some dogs are intolerant to grain and gluten, this can cause them to associate feeling stomach discomfort or having itchy skin with eating, resulting in the dog refusing food.

Most commercially made dry dog food also contains a host of other unnecessary, and sometimes not so healthy ingredients that some dogs can’t tolerate. Dogs can also be allergic to other common but healthy ingredients found in dog food such as chicken or beef. If you establish this is the case, try changing your dog to a food containing a protein that they have never eaten before. I’m sure that there’s been many a dog who has been labelled as picky that simply “knew” that their diet was the problem.

Pure Pet Food comes in a range of single protein varieties so if your dog is sensitive to chicken, for example, you could choose to feed him the Duck, Fish or Beef variety. Just look at the success stories tab on the site to see for yourself how many dogs have suddenly become ravenous when presented with a bowl of Pure. Proof that in many cases pets have become happier and re-energised by a simple change of diet to a food that is completely natural, made of human-grade ingredients and is grain and gluten-free.

Other symptoms

It’s essential to get to the root cause of why your dog has lost interest in their food. Has your dog suddenly stopped eating completely, are they presenting with any other symptoms such as diarrhoea, or have you noticed a change in personality? Is your dog lethargic and not eating? Has your dog stopped drinking as well?


When to visit the vet

Personally, I would take my dogs to the vet if they presented with these symptoms for more than 24 hours, sooner if they were severe. Remember, if in doubt visit your vet before trying to sort out the problem by a change of diet alone as sometimes a dog refusing to eat can be an indication of much more serious problems.

However, lots of owners whose dogs have been diagnosed with medical conditions such as IBScolitis and pancreatitis have seen huge improvements both to their pooches appetite and their general wellbeing after being switched to a food that doesn’t aggravate their condition.

Hopefully, this post has provided you with a sense of direction of where to go and what to do, to find a solution and paws crossed that soon you won’t have to ask yourself that worrisome question “Why won’t my dog eat anymore?”