Most dogs are enthusiastic eaters, indulging excitedly at mealtime or enjoying lots of treats. As such, it can be very concerning for pet parents when a dog’s appetite suddenly changes, especially since dogs cannot communicate their feelings to us. Like humans, certain internal and external stressors can affect your pup’s eating habits and lead to a loss of appetite. Knowing how to monitor your dog’s food intake plays an important role in your dog’s overall health and can help identify any issues.
Discovering the reason why your dog may not be eating will help you determine what steps, if any, should be taken. Some causes of reduced appetite are not a major source of concern; others should be given medical attention. Making slight changes in your pup’s mealtime rituals may fix the problem, but if the problem continues, it may be an underlying issue that should be addressed by a veterinarian.
Common Causes for Reduced Appetite
There are several common causes of reduced appetite in dogs. Perhaps your pup is experiencing a loss of appetite for one of these reasons:
As dogs grow older, their bodies change. Their sense of smell and taste decreases, which may change their food preferences or decrease the excitement that they experience at mealtime. Additionally, older dogs may not expend as much energy since they exercise and move around less, which may explain why they aren’t as hungry as they used to be.
Stress/Change in Routine
Any change in routine, big or small, can affect your dog’s appetite. Big changes such as travelling or moving homes can induce stress in your pup, which can lead to changes in their appetite because they feel uncomfortable in the transition. Additionally, smaller changes like a new bowl, a different feeding time or new dog food may require time for them to adjust.
If your dog is sick or injured, they may not have an appetite or may experience pain when they try to eat. Medical conditions such as infections or cardiovascular and gastrointestinal diseases can cause a reduction in or lack of appetite. If your dog has a tooth or gum injury, it may be painful for them to eat their food, causing them to refuse food.
How to Monitor Your Dog’s Appetite
There are a number of steps that you can take as a pet parent to monitor your pup’s eating and overall behavior:
Look for any signs that your dog might be experiencing stress, such as unusual sleeping patterns (if you sense that your dog may be stressed, read our blog post about signs of stress in dogs here). Try to feed your pup in a quiet and calm space; they may be more willing to eat in an environment where they feel safe and comfortable.
Check Their Body and Mouth
Conduct a thorough check of your dog’s body for anything unusual that may signal a health problem. Very carefully check inside their mouth for any wounds or swelling that may make them reluctant to eat.
Check the Food
Check your dog’s food to ensure that it is not expired or spoiled, which would make it unappealing to your dog. You can try adding some warm water or broth to your pup’s food or heat it up slightly, which may make it more appetizing to them. Also, try feeding your dog something extremely plain (boiled chicken, for example) to see if they will eat that instead and are just refusing their regular food.
Check External Factors
Reflect on any major or minor routine changes you may have made to your pup’s schedule recently. Have you changed your dog’s food or feeding time? Did you recently return from a trip or move houses? Any of these factors could be what is affecting your dog’s appetite.
It is always safest to consult a veterinarian as soon as you have concerns about your pup. Two days is the most that your dog should go without eating or without improvement in their appetite before you seek medical attention. Without adequate nutrition, your pup could get sick. While a routine change or stress issue may or may not resolve itself within this time frame, your pup should visit the vet to check for other underlying issues. If you detect any physical symptoms or find a wound or swelling in your dog’s mouth, visit your veterinarian immediately.
Lastly, show your pup some TLC throughout this process, rather than punishing them for not eating. Unfortunately, we cannot understand exactly what our furry friends are thinking, but it’s important to be supportive and ensure they don’t associate not eating with getting into trouble.