What To Do If Your Dog Won’t Eat (Feeding Advice For Dogs Who Are Fussy Eaters)

A guide for owners whose dogs won't eat. This guide provides tips & advice for dogs who are fussy eaters or dogs who just don't seem to enjoy their food any more.

The traditional image of a dog is of a ravenous food hound who simply can't get enough food down their neck in a single sitting. Yes, Labradors do exist. Owners of dogs who scoff their food down at 100mph and would eat their way through an open bag of dog food until their nose met the bottom of the sack, this guide is not for you. You're golden. Good to go.

This is the guide for owners of dogs who are fussy, picky eaters or for people whose dogs are maybe getting a little less enthusiastic about their daily meals.

The Four Possible Reasons Your Dog Won't Eat

There are four common reasons why a dog won't eat. They are:

  1. Illness. Your dog is not eating because they are suffering with illness even if refusal to eat is the only obvious, visible symptom.
  2. Food is no longer appealing to your dog. Yes, some dogs do get bored of the same food.
  3. Heat / exhaustion. Like us, some dogs get a much lower appetite if they are hot or exhausted.
  4. Over feeding. Dogs do not want to be fat. In the wild, they eat enough to survive and thrive. Many dogs are fully aware when they've had enough or too much.

My Dog Won't Eat, Are They Ill?

The first port of call, as if often the case whenever a sudden change happens with your dog, is your vet.

Not all illnesses manifest with obvious symptoms. A sudden refusal to eat is actually one of the biggest indicator that you should ask your vet to get involved.

Sometimes dogs won't eat but they appear absolutely fine and healthy. Just don't take the chance. If your dog isn't eating suddenly, off to the vet we go.

Rule out illness at the earliest possible opportunity. If your dog is not ill but is refusing food, we can work on other theories.

Change the Menu

There is, in the dog industry, a technical term for the type of dog who will eat as much food as they can physically consume. We call that type of dog a Labrador.

Even if your dog is an expert eater, sometimes you're not going to get the same results if you give them the same food every time. It can be quite disheartening to see a dog suddenly get bored with their food and start to enjoy mealtimes less than they normally would. This is the time when switching dog food and / or mixing and matching their diet comes in to play.

By changing your dog's diet in order to offer him a variety of food, and introducing new food into their diet each week, you can help make your dog eat more food when it's needed (and not want to steal scraps off your plate).

Note: If you are giving your dog lots of treats during the day or allowing them to ‘help’ you with your own meals, it’s not unheard of that dogs can develop a particular taste for certain types of food. Meaning, their own food becomes less appealing.

By giving your dog new foods, you can establish if your dog's lack of eating is simply down to boredom with the food they are currently being given.

Offer Smaller Portions

First of all, if your dog is less than 6 months old, we recommend offering small, frequent portions throughout the day. This guide isn't for puppies. If you have a puppy that's not eating, definitely involve your vet. An adult dog can go a little while before a lack of eating becomes a serious problem. Puppies can't.

By breaking up your dog's meals in to smaller sizes, their mealtimes can become less overwhelming for them. Which is particularly relevant if they are a fussy eater.

As they get older, you might need to offer smaller portions, split in to two or even three meals per day.

You might also want to consider a product from the range of interactive dog toys. Asking a dog to work for their calories is a great idea. You'd be amazed how much hungrier a dog can get when they believe there is a chance they might not get the food. Remember, dogs in the wild work for their food. Your dog might enjoy it too.

What To Do If Your Dog Won't Eat (Feeding Advice For Dogs Who Are Fussy Eaters)
Interactive, boredom busting dog food toys can help stimulate your dog's eating

Interactive, treat dispensing dog toys have grown wildly in popularity over the past few years. Canine enrichment (where owners set their dog's up to have to hunt / work for food, solve puzzles and use their brains and bodies to achieve rewards) is a topic that is now well established.

If your dog is bored with their meal times. If your dog has no natural competition in the home to compete with for food (namely, another dog); then consider buying an interactive, brain training toy that delivers food.

Best dog food toys & products for dogs who are fussy eaters

Stimulate Your Dog's Natural Foraging Instinct

Each morning my dogs, who are both large breeds, get their breakfast. I like to feed my dogs twice per day because, particularly for larger breeds, the less stress and strain placed on their stomach, the better. Larger breeds are more prone to bloat, so I break their meals up in to smaller portions. Kibble in the morning, raw food in the evening. That's what works for them.

Their breakfast is a slightly different event than their evening meal. In the mornings I make my dog's sit and stay and I then scatter food around a clean area of the kitchen and I have my dogs hunt for their treats.

Let me tell you. They LOVE it!

Not everybody has the option to be scattering dog food about their home, but never fear. There's a product you can buy that enables you to stimulate your dog's natural foraging instinct.

It's the aptly named Snuffle Mat.

What To Do If Your Dog Won't Eat (Feeding Advice For Dogs Who Are Fussy Eaters)

As you can see, the Snuffle Mat is a place where you hide dog food, treats etc and your dog has to work to get their food reward.

Dog owners have reported that the Snuffle mat has made a huge difference to how much enjoyment their dog gets from meal times.

Think your dog would love a snuffle?

Snuffle Mat For Dogs ⇢

Offer a Diverse Supply of Food

Start your day with a few treats like cheese and ham, and if your dog shows an interest in them then keep it up throughout the day. This will establish the habit of rewarding your dog when they eat, and from here you can start playing a few games.

Dogs enjoy variety. Stock your kitchen with lots of different foods and make a big play of showing how excited you are to be offering your dog an interesting treat.

Ask your dog to sit or perform another behaviour and then give them a treat.

By getting your dog used to food = reward, you are not only ensuring they get a healthy supply of calories through the day, you're making a powerful association in their mind that eating is fun.

Some dogs enjoy very different tastes.

A word of warning here: If you start encouraging your dog to eat by offering prime cuts of kobe beef, you could be setting yourself up for an expensive habit. Little tidbits here and there are fine, but if you get your dog hooked on a particular favourite food, it's better to make it an affordable one.

Related: How much food should I feed my dog?

Knowing how much food your dog should get, portion sizes and matching the right volume of food for your dog’s age, weight, breed and lifestyle is crucial.

Read more »

Our dogs love the treats in the Pet Munchies range. So they get regular snacks throughout the day to spice up their life and give their tastebuds a good mix of flavours.

Consider A Totally Different Type of Dog Food

Your dog could be a dog that needs a protein-rich, high-calorie food that their body craves for their particular energy requirements.

Believe it or not, some dogs do grow tired of a particular type of food.

If your dog has always been fed on red meat based foods, try chicken or fish.

Did you know: Fish is really good for dogs.

If your dog has always had wet food, try kibble or a cold pressed diet.

Conclusion: Feeding Advice For Dogs Who Won't Eat

  • If your dog suddenly stops eating, contact your vet. Don't delay on this.
  • If no medical problems are present, be prepared to experiment.
  • Use interactive dog food toys to stimulate their excitement.
  • Give them different types of foods during the day, see what they like.
  • Consider a total switch to a different type of dog food.
  • Consider trying your dog on a raw food diet.
  • Try totally different flavoured and textured foods, like fish.
  • Don't leave dog food sitting out for your dog to ignore. If you don't have another dog, you need to introduce some competition yourself. If they don't want to eat, whip the food away and try again later.

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