Dog not Eating or Drinking: Causes and Solutions

Dog Not Eating & Drinking Feature Image

Dogs aren’t usually picky eaters. Most of them eat anything from human food, dry dog food, dog treats to dog canned food without a moment of hesitation. When the appetite in dogs changes and they refuse to eat, there is usually a reason. Dog anorexia [1] is different from that of humans. 

Why won’t my dog eat? This is a question often asked by concerned pet parents, especially first time pet owners who just gotten their puppy. Pet owners need to understand that anorexia in dogs can be partial or complete. Partial is whereby your dog is refusing to eat but is drinking for example, and complete is when he doesn’t consume anything.


Why Won’t My Dog Eat?

There are many reasons why a dog is not eating or drinking. If you find your dog not eating, it could be about the new dry food you are feeding or an 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.

Factors such as stomach upsets or stress are the common reasons for a dog’s appetite loss. You should only worry when your dog refuses to eat his dry food for more than 2 days and you see significant weight loss.

Be attentive to any changes in his diet. If your pooch won’t eat his food, here are some of the possible common reasons of his sudden change in diet and what you can do to help him get the proper nutrition needed from his food to maintain good health.

Bulldog with no appetite for food

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


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

  • Depression
  • Bacterial, parasitic, or viral infections
  • Kidney failure
  • Cancer
  • Urinary tract infection (UTI)


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. 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

Your dog may refuse to have a certain type of food if he is accustomed to a large variety of foods. He will hold out to see if you can offer him a different food. Feeding your dog table scraps and tastier treats than the dog food he is used to can make him develop a picky attitude and become a picky eater.

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 dog healthy dog food. If your pooch still isn’t 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. As long as his health is okay, let him go hungry for a day or two until he learns it’s the only food he can gets.


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 your senior dog is healthy, but his pattern of eating has changed, it is normal and should not worry you.

However, since old dogs are prone to sickness, a sudden change in his diet, like loss of appetite, should prompt you to call your vet. Some of the concerns should include strange behaviors, dog not eating, poor sleeping or eating habits, or she seems distant.


If your dog stopped eating and you do not know what triggered the dog’s loss of appetite, injury could be the cause. 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 appetite.

Dog Drinking Water From Bowl


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 a sickness, recent vaccination, pain, nausea, dental issues, travel and unfamiliar surroundings, or being picky with food.

If your dog has not eaten for 24 hours, contact your veterinary for early medical diagnosis and treatment. To get your dog to eat his food again, resolving the underlying problem should resolve anorexia in your pet.

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. Depending on the health of your dog and his psychological functioning, he can survive a couple of days without food.

What to feed a dog that won’t Eat

If you notice your pooch having difficulties eating, there are several easy tricks 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.

You might want to put him on a bland diet including white rice and boiled chicken and top it with some vegetable broth. Try also to soften his 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, new home, new day care, or loud noises.

If the issue of your dog 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 up to 5 days without food but not water. Should you notice your pet has not been drinking water all day, check with your vet immediately. He should not go for a whole day without water.

The refusal to intake water could signal UTI, diabetes, or bladder infection. Tips: 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. When your dog won’t eat or drink, bring him to the vet. Serious medical issues like this that requires 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. Blood tests may also be carried out to investigate internal organs abnormalities.

Your vet may advise adding strong flavors such as meat drippings or animal fat that may get your dog into a good appetite, and/or hand feeding. If your dog still refuses to eat his food, feeding tubes may be used to help him get enough nutrients. Tubes are used when dogs are critically ill.

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.