Whether you are facing this issue with an adult pet or a puppy, loss of appetite in a dog can be distressing. There are many reasons why a dog won’t eat and it is important that you determine the cause in order to develop a plan of action to remedy the situation.
Before we go any further into the discussion about your dog’s lack of appetite, let’s consider what you perceive as a lack of appetite. If you are concerned because your dog is not eating the amount of food recommended on the packaging, you may be overreacting. Many dogs will eat less than a manufacturer’s recommended quantity and lead perfectly happy and healthy lives.
If you have just brought the dog into your home and they are displaying a lack of appetite there are many non-medical reasons that can cause these symptoms.
- They may not like the food being offered. Try giving them a tasty treat to see if they are truly refusing to eat or if it has something to do with the food being offered.
- There may be too many distractions. If there are other dogs in your home or a lot of distractions a new pet may feel uncomfortable accepting food. Try feeding them in a separate room with the door closed to see if a less distracting environment helps.
- It could be that they are just nervous. Being brought into a new environment can be very stressful for a dog. They may just need a little time to settle in before their appetite kicks in.
If, on the other hand, your dog is refusing to eat period, then there is cause for concern. This is especially true for dogs that generally have a healthy appetite and are suddenly not interested in food. Sudden loss of appetite, in this case, could indicate illness or pain and you should consult your veterinarian if the symptoms persist.
- Illness – A decreased appetite in a dog with normal eating habits is often a sign of illness. You should observe your dog’s behavior to determine if other symptoms are present. For instance, lethargy, panting, drooling, or aggressiveness can all be signs of illness and should prompt a visit to your vet.
- Dental disease – Your dog may be refusing to eat because they are experiencing dental pain from a loose or broken tooth, oral tumor, or severe gingivitis. Inspecting their mouth may offer some insights if this is the case and a trip to the vet is advised.
- Physical pain – Dogs are very good at masking or hiding pain and if the pain is causing a lack of appetite, it is likely severe. Watch for other symptoms of pain like altered gait, limping, reduced activity levels, or whining and moaning. If you suspect your dog is in pain take them to the vet immediately.
- Recent vaccinations – Although vaccinations have saved countless animals from serious and contagious diseases, they can have adverse effects. While these reactions are typically short-lived, a temporary loss of appetite should not be ruled out.
Other Possible Causes
If none of the above explanations seem to fit your particular situation there are other possible causes for your dog’s change in eating habits
- Travel and unfamiliar surroundings – Many dogs experience motion sickness when traveling and this can certainly result in a loss of appetite. If you have recently moved or are temporarily staying in an unfamiliar place, that may be the cause of your dog’s appetite loss.
- A change in preference – As pet owners, we are often advised to find healthy and nutritious food that our pet likes and stick with it. Some dogs simply get tired of eating the same thing day in and day out. Try introducing new food that meets your dog’s nutritional requirements and adds a little variety to their diet.
What to do if your dog still refuses to eat
If you have ruled out all of the above and your dog still refuses to eat it may be indicative of a behavioral problem or a less obvious medical condition. You should schedule a visit with your vet to determine the best course of action going forward.