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 the appetite in dogs changes, and 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 dog parents. Understand that anorexia in dogs 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 new food you are giving or an illness that cannot be ignored. When your pooch 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 commonly blamed for a dog’s appetite loss. You should only worry when your dog refuses to eat food for more than 2 days and you see signficant weight loss. 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 reasons 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

Physical Causes

  • Pain
  • Dental issues
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Neurological disease
  • Gastrointestinal; disease
  • Endocrine disorder
  • Respiratory disease
  • Liver Disease
  • Kidney 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 dog food 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 your dog to stop eating the regular meals 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 dog food. 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 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, like loss of appetite, 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 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, loss of appetite could be experienced.

Cute dog drinking water from bowl

Frequently Asked Questions:

What causes loss of appetite in dogs?

The most common cause for loss of appetite (anorexia) in dogs is pickiness, disease 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, recent vaccination, pain, nausea, dental disease, travel and unfamiliar surroundings, or pickiness. If your dog has not eaten for 24 hours, contact your veterinary for early diagnosis and treatment. Resolving the underlying problem should resolve anorexia in your pet.

How long can my dog go without eating?

If your dog refuses to 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 psychologic functioning, he can survive 3-5 days without food.

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 your dog to eat. First, change the diet. There could be something in the food you are offering that is turning him off or causing an upset stomach. 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 issue 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 discomfort 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.