Dog not Eating or Drinking: Causes and Solutions

Dog Not Eating & Drinking Feature Image

Most dogs will eat anything from dog dry food, dog canned food to human food. Many healthy canines are also known to eat an average of 60%-70% of the amount stated on the food packaging that you purchase.

So if anytime a pooch suddenly loses interest in drinking and eating, particularly when he was normally a good eater, it’s natural for pet owners to worry about their dogs’ health and well-being. Just like humans, the loss of appetite in dogs is also referred to as anorexia.

According to Vets Now, there are two types of anorexia. True anorexia can indicate serious illnesses like kidney disease and is a genuine refusal to eat, while a canine with ‘pseudo-anorexia’ wants to eat (is hungry) but is unable to because of difficulty chewing, swallowing, or picking up food.

Learn about some common reasons why your dog isn’t eating and what to do about them.

Why Won’t My Dog Eat?

There are many reasons why your dog is not eating or drinking. If you find your dog not eating, it could be about the new food you are feeding or a sickness that cannot be ignored. When your dog won’t eat his food, it is not always a sign of a deadly health condition especially if he seems fine.

If your new puppy or new dog won’t eat, perhaps it’s due to a new environment especially when you have just moved recently. Your dog may have a hard time adjusting to a new home and he may be wary of eating for the first couple of days.

If your dog is taking medications, you should know that some medications may cause nausea which results in a reduced appetite.

Factors such as stomach upsets , stress, or separation anxiety are the common causes for a dog’s appetite loss while a food change could be one possible cause for decreased water intake. You should only worry when your dog is refusing to eat his dry food for more than two days and you see significant weight loss.

Be attentive to any changes in his diet. If your dog won’t eat his food, here are some of the most common reasons for his sudden change in diet and some important things to note to help him get the proper nutrition needed from his food to maintain good health.

Dog dental disease and Serious Illness

My dog isn’t eating: Causes of Dog’s Loss of Appetite


A medical condition, whether big or small, any form of illness can be enough reason as to why your dog won’t eat. Some of the most common health problems include:

Physical Causes

  • Pain
  • Dental issues
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Neurological disease
  • Gastrointestinal disease
  • Endocrine disorder
  • Respiratory disease
  • Kidney problems
  • Liver disease

Most illnesses have telling signs. Symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea, for instance, require close examination while other symptoms are not as apparent. Depending on the severity of the condition, your vet may recommend x-rays, fecal or urine testing, an ultrasound, or blood work. Until the underlying cause is treated, the issue of your dog not eating may persist.

Behavioral Reasons

There may be instances where your dog’s behavior may change. Your dog may refuse to have a certain type of food if he is accustomed to a large variety of food. He will hold out to see if you can offer him different types of food. 

Feeding your dog table scraps and tastier treats than the food he is used to can make him develop a picky attitude and become a picky eater. If a dog ate spoiled food, it may also lose its appetite. That’s why it’s always vital to check the expiration date on your pet’s food and store them properly.

Make healthy changes to his diet and quit reinforcing bad food behavior. Not only will lousy food behavior issues cause your dog to stop eating his usual food but also contribute to poor nutrition and obesity which can then lead to major health issues. Some of the common behavioral issues include:

  • Boredom
  • Too many treats
  • Pickiness

Stick to a routine and feed your pet healthy doggie food. If your dog stopped eating and doesn’t want his regular food, take it away and try feeding him again the following day, and maybe with new foods this time. 

Also, pay attention to your dog’s urine and stool. If all is normal and his health seems okay, let him go on a hunger strike for a day or two until he learns it’s the only food he can get.

Dog Eating through a feeding tube

Dog Aging

The appetite in dogs decreases as they get older. It can be because older dogs are less active, and work towards maintaining a healthy weight by eating less food. If you have an old dog that is healthy, but his pattern of eating has suddenly changed, it is normal and should not worry you.

However, since old dogs are prone to sickness, a sudden change in their diet, like temporary loss of appetite or your dog to stop eating entirely, should prompt you to call your vet immediately. Some of the concerns should include strange behaviors, your dog stops eating, poor sleeping or eating habits, losing weight, not acting normal, or she seems distant.

Existing Injuries

If your dog isn’t eating and you do not know what triggered the dog’s loss of appetite, the injury could be the cause especially if it is in the dog’s mouth or dog’s nose. If he is already taking pain medications or he is in some form of pain, he could refuse to take his food. Dogs also face depression when in agony and during this time, they might lose their interest in food.

What Can I Do to Get My Dog to Eat?

Try Alternative Dog Foods

If your dog refuses to eat, you can try to give your dog different flavors of the food as well as mixing dry and wet food together. Try a sample pack from the pet store to check if your dog likes a different brand better than the one you’ve been purchasing. Just be sure your dog has no medical issue and that any change you make to your dog’s diet will not result in your dog getting an upset stomach.

Try Adding Something Tasty to Their Food

For dogs refusing food, you can add some regular food to your dog’s dish which will make them want to eat. Chicken meat, fish, or low-sodium chicken broth are good options for this. You can also try some canned food, sweet potatoes or pumpkin, and other non-harmful ingredients for dogs and see if they start eating.

dog not eating food anymore and losing weight

Cut Down on Treats and Feeding Off the Table

As a loving pet parent, it can be tempting to give your dog treats and snacks like ice cream and table scraps. However, it might actually make them not eat when their actual mealtime comes. 

You should avoid having your pup eating treats too much since it can also affect the weight of your furry friend. It may also be tempting to give your dog home-cooked meals but it may actually cause more harm than good to your pet’s body.

Have Your Dog Play or Exercise Before Eating

One way to get picky dogs to eat is to build up their appetite before mealtime. Dog owners can try playing with their dog or taking them out to exercise before their mealtime. Sometimes dogs, like humans, will be hungry after doing physical activities so you may need to stimulate their appetite first.

Feed Your Dog at Fixed Times in the Day

Building eating habits by having a fixed feeding schedule can be good since it forces your dog to know it has to eat. If your dog doesn’t eat the food you give, take it away and avoid feeding it outside its mealtime. Many dogs will develop a sense that if they do not eat during that time, they won’t have any food, and will help them eat regularly.

Feed Your Dog Some Baby Food

If you are concerned about the food intake of your sick dog, then you can try giving it baby food. Certain flavors such as meat-based and bone broth are a good option for a dog refusing to eat. 

Most vets recommend the bland chicken with white rice. Just put some in their food bowl or try hand-feeding him and see if they will eat it. Just make sure there are no harmful ingredients used to make the baby food.

Dog eats through force feed

Frequently Asked Questions:

What causes loss of appetite in dogs?

The most common cause for loss of appetite in dogs (anorexia) is pickiness, sickness or bacterial and viral infections. Most viral infections, including parvovirus and distemper, present with loss of appetite and lethargy. The loss of appetite may trigger lethargy. If your dog is not eating, he is not getting enough energy.

Why is my dog not eating?

Loss of appetite in dogs can be triggered by an illness like liver disease, recent vaccination, pain, infected tooth, nausea, dental issues, travel or unfamiliar surroundings.

Some dogs are picky with food, other dogs use negative behaviors to get what they want, while an old dog is more prone to sickness so it may not eat as well.

If your dog has not eaten for 24 hours, is displaying symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, or lethargy, and not acting normal, contact your veterinary for early medical diagnosis and treatment.

To get your dog to eat his food again, resolving the underlying cause should resolve anorexia in your pet. It is important to have anorexia treated as letting it be for several days can be harmful to your pet.

If your dog is well in itself but is suffering from loose stools, then there are various home remedies you could try.

How long can a dog go without eating?

If your dog won’t eat for 2 days and cannot be prompted to eat, they could be struggling with something more than just pickiness. This should be treated as a medical emergency. Thus, it is highly recommended to give your dog immediate veterinary care. Depending on the health of your dog and his psychological functioning, he can survive a few days without food.

What to feed a dog that won’t Eat

If you notice your pooch having difficulties eating, there are many ways you can apply to get your dog eating.

First, change the diet and try feeding him a new food. There could be something in the foods you are feeding that is turning him off or causing an upset stomach. Or try going back to the old diet if you have recently changed it and introduced new food. Giving your dog home-cooked food can also be a solution to this.

You might want to put him on a bland diet with good options such as white rice and boiled chicken and top it with some vegetable broth. Try to also soften your dog’s food with warm water.

Before taking your doggy to the vet for a medical check-up, assess whether there may have been any new changes such as environmental stress involved like moving locations, a new home, new daycare, or loud noises.

If the issue of your pooch eating is still persisting after 24 hours, and you observe a lack of bowel movement, visit your vet.

The bigger issue is the lack of water intake. Your dog can last for a few days or up to 5 days without food but not water. Be sure your dog has access to cool, fresh water. Should you notice your pet has not been drinking water all day or is showing signs of dehydration, check with your vet asap. He should not go for a whole day without drinking water.

The refusal to intake water could signal UTI, diabetes, liver problems, or bladder infection. Tips for dog owners: if you are feeding your dog food with too much soup, it could be enough reason to stop drinking water.

Getting your dog to drink at least an ounce will be enough to prevent dehydration. Monitor your dog’s behavior over the next few hour or days. When your dog still won’t eat or drink water, bring him to the vet. Serious medical issues like this require immediate attention.

My Dog is Not Eating or Drinking: The Diagnosis

A physical exam will then be done to investigate discomfort or signs of masses. Diagnostic tests will be used to aid in detecting any medical problem for your dog’s decreased appetite. Blood tests may also be carried out to investigate internal organs abnormalities and another test to detect infectious diseases.

If you want to help improve your dog’s appetite, try to hand-feed him. This process may take a while to achieve completely but it could help get your dog to start eating out of his bowl again after you’ve hand-fed him a few pieces of his food.

Your vet may advise adding strong flavors such as meat drippings or animal fat that may help your dog get a good appetite.

If your dog is still refusing to eat his food, feeding tubes may be used to help him get enough nutrients. Tubes are used when dogs are critically ill. Your vet may also advise syringe feeding, acupuncture, and IV fluids if several days have gone without water or food.

If your dog won’t eat, be patient and watch for any signs of sickness. It could help to stay away from his eating area and giving him some silence. Keeping your dog away from competition such as other pets or any form of distraction could be helpful.