7 Reasons Why Dogs Won’t Eat + Tips To Get Them Eating


Whether your dog has been around for years or you have a brand new puppy, noticing your dog’s unwillingness to eat is pretty obvious.

Before we dive into the reasons your dog may not be eating it’s important to have the proper frame of reference. If your dog is just not eating as much as they normally do make sure you know exactly how much they should be eating.

Important note: most healthy dogs only eat 60-70% of the amount stated on food packaging. 

However, If your dog is clearly eating far less or not at all it can indicate illness and be cause for concern.

In this article we will discuss:

  • The 7 reasons why your dog won’t eat their dog food
  • What to do when your dog won’t eat
  • How to get your dog eating when they won’t

And more…

Why Won’t Your Dog Eat Their Food?

There are many different reasons and factors that can contribute to your dog not wanting to eat their food. These reasons can be related to illness, environmental conditions, their teeth, unique food preferences, behavior, vaccination, and more.

To fully break down exactly why your dog won’t eat we need to look into each of the reasons that may be at fault.

The 7 Reasons Why Your Dog Won’t Eat Their Dog Food 

1.) Illness

A sudden decrease in your dog’s appetite could be a sign of illness. This is especially true if your dog is showing other symptoms at the same time.

Medical conditions that can cause your dog not to eat their food include:

  • Upset stomach
  • Infection
  • Depression
  • Allergies
  • Parasite
  • Tumours
  • Poisoning
  • Kidney failure
  • Liver problems
  • Cancer
  • Pain
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Issue with Internal organs

The list goes on. However, even with the extensive list of illnesses that could cause your dog not to eat there are still many other reasons for your dog not eating. It’s always best if your dog is not eating to see a vet immediately to get to the bottom of the issue as soon as possible.

2.) Recent Vaccination

If your dog was recently vaccinated your pup may be experiencing some adverse effects. Vaccinations help dogs stay protected from various diseases and have saved countless doggy lives, however, studies have shown minor adverse effects in dogs. One being a temporary loss of appetite.

3.) New Environment / Travel

It’s no secret that some dogs hate travelling. They can develop anxiety, motion sickness, and become uncomfortable being away from home. This can cause dogs to lack an appetite.

In addition, things like moving to a new house, getting another pet, having a baby etc… can all have effects on your dog. Big changes to their routine and comfort zone can cause bodily reactions that make them not want to eat.

So if you have recently travelled or made a major change to your dog’s environment, they may be experiencing a temporary loss of appetite.

4.) Picky Eater / Doesn’t Like Their Food

In some cases, your dog just might not like their food. Dogs can be picky with food and thus, refuse to eat all together. Furthermore, it could be that there is actually an issue with their food.

Check to make sure it’s not expired, old, stale, or spoiled. If your dog has always eaten the same food and all of the sudden something has changed it might just be the batch. It is best to always keep your dog’s food in an airtight container or atleast make sure their food bag is sealed.

If it crossed your mind that “maybe my dog is bored of his current food”, that would not be the case. A hungry, healthy dog should not stop eating food just because they have had it for a while. However, if it seems like this is the case for you, it might actually be because your dog is getting too many tasty treats or pieces of human food.

Dogs are smart and quickly learn that if they don’t eat their kibble, mom or dad will give them better tasting food instead.

If your dog refuses all kinds of food, this is likely not the reason your pup is not eating.

5.) Dental Issues

If you have ever gotten a cavity or  massive cancer in your mouth and then tried to eat something you know how uncomfortable that is. Some people will switch to only eating soup because it’s so painful.

With dogs this is a similar situation for them if they are experiencing pain in their gums or teeth. Interestingly, over 90% of dogs will develop periodontal disease by the time they have reached the age of 2. This can make eating food very uncomfortable for them, especially hard kibble.

Check their teeth and gums to look for broken or loose teeth, swollen gums, or even oral tumours. When feeling around in their mouth look to see how they react. 

6.) Separation Anxiety or Stress

Another reason your dog may lose interest in their food could be from separation anxiety. If your dog is not eating when they are by themselves, this could be why.

In addition, stress is a major player when it comes to appetite. If your dog is experiencing some form of stress they may not have any desire to eat. The best thing you can do in this situation is keep them on a regular routine, exercise schedule, make sure they are drinking plenty of water, and if you want to entice them to eat, try giving them highly valued treats.

7.) Dirty Dishes

If you look at your dog’s food bowl, it’s probably been a while since you cleaned it. Yes, dogs love disgusting things, like eating poop, and drinking water out of toilets. However, keeping their food bowl clean and germ free can help protect them from foodborne illness as well as making feeding time more appealing.

What To Do When Your Dog Won’t Eat 

Observe Your Dog’s Behavior

If you are noticing your dog is not eating, you need to watch them closely. That means watching their behavior when you place the food in front of them, what their poop & urine looks like, how their energy levels are, are they drinking water, are they vomiting etc…

If the lack of appetite is accompanied by other issues like not drinking water, vomiting or diarrhea this could be a sign of infection, stomach ulcer, parasite, and other serious medical issues. 

Check Your Dog’s Teeth and Body

As stated in the reasons for dogs not eating, one of them is dental issues. If you are giving your dog hard kibble and they have sore teeth, it’s likely they won’t want to eat. Check for swollen gums and loose and broken teeth.

In addition, you also want to check them for parasites, infections, lumps, or injuries.

Check The Environment

Another thing you should do if your dog is not eating is check your house and any environment your dog spends lots of time in. Make sure they have not eaten anything that could possibly harm them or cause intestinal blockages.

If you find something is missing or your dog could have possibly eaten something they should not have, consult your vet right away.

Try New Food

Sometimes dogs just don’t like certain foods.Your dog may hate chicken but as soon as you change them to lamb & rice, beef, fish, etc… all of the sudden they start eating again. Some dogs are picky eaters, you can usually tell because they will eat food off your plate, eat treats, but as soon as you give them their kibble or main dish they refuse it.

Dogs are smart and some will start to learn that if they just don’t eat their other food, you will end up giving them something better tasting. This leads me into the next thing you can do if your dogs refuse to eat.

Stop Feeding Them Treats

Sometimes you just have to call your dogs bluff and stop giving them any treats. If they are not eating because they are being picky then refusing to give them any treats or additional food outside of their main dish can force them into actually eating their food.

Bonus tip: you can try adding warm water to your dog’s kibble to make it more appealing.

Be Consistent With A Regular Schedule

This next tip is always incredibly helpful when keeping dogs healthy. A regular routine is extremely valuable for dogs to build habits. This includes when feeding your dog, stick to the same times every day.

Change The Feeding Set Up

If you usually feed your dog with a specific bowl or with other pets around. Try changing it up and feeding them without other pets around. You can also change out the bowl or feed tray you are using. In some cases, dogs prefer certain bowls over others. 

Make sure you “test screams not whispers”, meaning if you are using a plastic bowl dont give them another plastic bowl. Try something completely different, try a plate, or a metallic bowl etc…

Try Taking Them For A Walk Before Feeding Them

The next tip for getting your dog to eat is taking them for walks! Exercise is a greater way to build up an appetite. If you are already taking your dog on walks before feeding them try extending the distance. The most important thing here is getting them tired!

The more energy you can get them to burn the more food they will need to refuel. This will force even the most picky dogs into eating their food.

Go To Vet

If all else fails it’s always best to just go to your vet to make sure your pup is okay. They will give you the best plan of action to get your dog back to eating their food.

Bonus Tip: check to see if you can get your dog excited. If you can get your dog excited and happy that’s a good sign. If they are not eating, drinking, and you can’t get them excited or they seem lethargic, take them to the vet as soon as you can.

How Do You Feed A Dog That Won’t Eat?

If you have determined your dog may be a picky eater and there is no other symptoms or cause for concern aside from them not eating, here are some tips to make your dog more interested in their food:

– Add water to their food or chicken broth. Let it sit and soak up for a few minutes before giving it to your dog.

– Try mixing some extra flavours into their food. For example, you can boil plain rice and boneless, skinless chicken, and add small pieces into their kibble

– Sprinkle some additives on top of their food. Vets will sometimes give dogs with gut problems Purina Fortiflora or Advita. These are probiotics that you can sprinkle over top of your dog’s food, they taste great and help your pups digestion.

– Try giving your dog some heated canned food to see if they will eat it. Make sure to test the temperature before giving it to them to avoid burning them by accident

– Throw some food into a toy to try and get your dog excited. This can work great for picky eaters and dogs that are obsessed with toys.

– Try new food that your dog has never tried. Sometimes it’s this easy.

– Remove treats and other foods aside from their main food. Wait a day or two and see how they respond. Some dogs are not eating because they would just rather eat other foods. If they get hungry enough, they will start eating.

Why Is My Dog Not Eating His Food But Will Eat Treats?

If your dog is not eating his food but he will gladly eat treats then it’s likely your dog is playing you. Dogs are smart, and if your dog knows that not eating his main food means getting tastier treats instead, they’ll choose the tasty treats every time.

Now that is not the only reason your dog is only eating his treats. It could also be that his main food is spoiled, stale, or expired. Make sure to check his primary food to be sure there is nothing wrong with it.

Lastly, there is a possibility your dog is only eating treats because they have an allergy to their main food or it does not make them feel well.

Citations:

Why Is My Dog Not Eating?
Dog Not Eating? Possible Causes and Appetite Solutions
World Small Animal Veterinary Association Global Dental Guidelines
My dog won’t eat, what should I do? Dog not eating causes

Alec Littlejohn

Founder and Reviewer at Pawscessories. He is a lifelong canine enthusiast and adores dogs of all shapes and sizes! He grew up in a family of vets and to this day he helps out around the family clinic and shares his learnings on Pawscessories. Learn more about Alec's story here

Recent Posts