One of the many joys of owning a pet is learning the unique moods and behaviors of your beloved animal. That’s why sudden changes in how your pet is acting can be a cause for concern, particularly regarding your dog’s appetite. 

At Penny Paws, we know how stressful it can be to see your pet in distress. We’ve compiled a list of common reasons your dog isn’t eating so you can get them back on track to their happy, hungry selves!

1. Pain

When a dog is experiencing pain anywhere in their body, changes in their eating habits are often the first sign of an underlying issue. Common sources of pain for dogs are:

  • Dental issues: Especially as dogs get older, tooth decay and gum disease can impact their oral health. There is also the possibility of an infection or broken tooth. If your dog has stopped eating dry food but will still eat softer canned food, dental pain could be the culprit.
  • Injury: Dogs are very good at hiding their pain and often act like nothing is wrong until the pain reaches a certain point. If your dog isn’t eating, watch for any signs of limping, favouring a particular paw, or obsessive licking of specific areas of their body.
  • Joint pain: Just like humans, a dog’s joints can become stiff and achy as they age. Arthritis is a common condition in older dogs, so discomfort may be affecting your dog’s appetite.

2. Anxiety

If your dog has stopped eating, they could be experiencing increased stress or anxiety. Dogs are sensitive creatures, so changes in their environment or routine could stress them out! Common stressors for dogs include:

  • Moving houses
  • New baby
  • Fireworks
  • Divorce or breakup
  • Thunderstorms
  • New pets

When you’re concerned about your pet not eating, it’s natural to immediately start worrying about the worst-case scenario, so always go through any recent environmental changes and behavioral reasons first. Dogs that are experiencing stress or anxiety due to these changes often go back to eating normally within a couple of days. 

3. Old or Out-of-date Food

Another reason your dog could be refusing to eat is that their food has spoiled. Open cans or pouches in your refrigerator need to be used within 24 hours, and you should use dry food within a month or two. You should only be purchasing as much food as your dog can eat within a reasonable amount of time. 

4. Organ Issues

On the more serious side of things, dogs experiencing heart, liver, pancreas, kidney, or lung issues may start refusing their food. Decreased appetite can be the first noticeable symptom of these illnesses, so speak to your veterinarian right away if your dog continues to have a poor appetite or you have noticed other odd behavior.

5. Intimidation From Other Pets

Dogs are naturally territorial animals. It is common for dogs to dislike eating next to their housemates, so you should separate dogs at mealtimes to avoid intimidation or resource-guarding.

6. Upset Stomach

Does your dog’s stomach sound like it’s rumbling, but they are still refusing to eat? They may have an upset stomach. Whether they’ve eaten something strange from outside or something rotten from who-knows-where, there are many possibilities as to what your dog got into.

Keep a close eye on your pet if you suspect they’ve ingested something that’s making them sick. If they become lethargic or start vomiting, call your vet. Something as simple as changing your dog’s food can turn their world (and their stomach) upside down.

7. Overfeeding

Feeding your dogs occasional treats or table scraps is perfectly fine; how are you supposed to say no to that face? Unfortunately, some dogs are so clever that they might start holding off on eating their everyday food and hold out for “junk food”.

At least in this scenario, you know that your dog isn’t distressed or sick; they just have particular tastes. Work on giving them fewer treats during the day so they are hungry for mealtimes. 

8. Medication Side Effects

Dogs may need medication at any age, but particularly as they age, the medicines can start piling up. If your dog just had surgery, it’s normal for the anaesthesia to wear off to cause some nausea. Using certain medications can cause a stomachache, including antibiotics.

Especially when your dog is starting a new medication, it’s good to keep a close eye on their eating. Their appetite should return to normal once they adjust to the medicine. If it doesn’t stabilize after a few days, contact your vet.

What Should I Do If My Dog Isn’t Eating?

Once you’ve determined your dog isn’t eating like their normal self, it’s time to decide how to deal with it. If you and your vet believe the problem doesn’t require immediate medical attention, you can try any of the following ideas:

  • Offering small amounts of food at a time: A dog that has an upset stomach might find a large pile of food unappetizing, so feeding smaller amounts more frequently could help.
  • Warming their food:  Gently heating your dog’s food will release delicious aromas, making it more appetizing to your dog!
  • Handfeeding: Some dogs will be tempted by hand-feeding, so it’s worth a try if all else fails. 
  • Adding a tasty probiotic powder: Gut-balancing probiotics like Pro Plan Fortiflora tastes great and could get your dog to eat their normal food. Just sprinkle some on top of their regular food! 
  • Mixing lukewarm water into kibble: This helps to soften the food, making it easier to eat, and will release some aromas to make it more appetizing. 

Call Penny Paws for Veterinary Services in Texas

If your dog isn’t eating or drinking at all, you should call your vet right away. Animals can become dangerously dehydrated if they go without any water for more than a day or two.

Call us at Penny Paws at (817) 993-1234 for help getting your dog’s appetite back! You can also contact us online or stop by any of our locations throughout Texas for food options, probiotic powder supplements, or advice from our veterinarians.