dog look very sad

Dog not Eating or Drinking: Causes and Solutions

Dogs are eager eaters. Most of them eat anything from human food, wet food, dog treats, to dry kibble without a moment of hesitation. When they won’t eat, there is usually a reason. Dog anorexia is different from that of humans. Why won’t my dog eat? This is a question often asked by concerned owners. Understand that anorexia can be partial or complete. Partial is whereby your dog is not eating but drinking for example, and complete is when he doesn’t consume anything.

Why won’t my Dog Eat?

There are many eventualities that can lead to your pooch not eating or drinking. It could be about the food you are giving or a severe health problem. When your pooch won’t take his food, it is not always a signal of a deadly health condition especially if he seems fine.

Factors such as stomach upsets or stress are commonly blamed for a dog’s lack of appetite. You should only worry when your pooch refuses food for more than 2 days. Be attentive to any changes in diet. If your pooch is not eating, here are some of the possible reasons and what you can do to help him get the nutrition needed to maintain good health. 

unhappy puppy on carpet

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


Whether major or minor, any form of illness can be enough reason why your pooch won’t eat. Some of the most common health problems include:

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

Physical Causes

  • Pain
  • Dental issues
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Neurological disease
  • Gastrointestinal; disease
  • Endocrine disorder
  • Respiratory 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, your dog may not go back to eating as per normal.

Behavioral Reasons

Your dog may refuse to have a certain type of food if he is accustomed him to a large variety of foods. He will hold out to see if you can offer him something different. Giving him table scraps and tastier treats than the dry foods he is used to can make him develop a picky attitude. Make healthy changes to his diet and quit reinforcing bad food behavior. Not only will lousy food behavior cause him not to eat his regular meal 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 him healthy foods. If your pooch still isn’t ready and doesn’t want his regular meals, take it away and try the following day. As long as his health is okay, let him go hungry for a day or two until he learns it’s the only dog food he can get. 


The dog’s appetite decreases as they get older. It can be because older dogs are less active, and work towards maintaining a healthy weight by eating less. If your pooch is healthy, but his pattern of eating has changed, it should not worry you. Because old dogs are prone to illnesses, a sudden change in his eating habit should be inspected by a vet. Some of the concerns should include strange behaviors, dog not eating, poor sleep habits, or she seems distant.


If your dog stopped eating and you do not know what triggered his 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 under immense pain and during this time, loss of appetite could be experienced.

Cute dog drinking water from bowl

What to Feed a Dog that won’t Eat

If you notice your pooch having difficulties eating, there are several tricks you can apply to get his appetite back. First, change the diet. There could be something in the food you are offering that is turning him off or causing a stomach upset. Try going back to the old diet if you have recently changed it. You might want to feed 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, assess whether there may have been any environmental stressors involved such as moving homes, new location, or loud noises. 

If eating is still a problem after 24 hours, and you notice a lack of bowel movement, visit your vet. The bigger problem is the lack of water intake. Your dog can survive 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. Refusing to drink water could signal urinary tract infection, diabetes, or bladder infection. Note; if you are giving 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, treat it as an emergency. This is a serious medical issue that requires immediate attention.

My Dog is not Eating or Drinking: The Diagnosis

A physical exam will then be done to investigate pain or signs of masses. Blood tests may also be carried out to investigate internal organs abnormalities. Your vet may recommend 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, 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 illness. 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.