If your dog is suddenly not eating, it could be because they're not well, or it could be because they're a fussy eater...
Dogs can stop eating for a variety of reasons. They may be feeling unwell or they may be holding out for more tasty food. Provided they are otherwise bright and well, and if they are drinking and not vomiting, then it is fine to monitor your dog and offer them some food a few hours later. If they are sick and especially if they are not drinking, it is best to see a vet.
What causes sudden loss of appetite in dogs?
If your dog usually eats well and suddenly stops eating, it is almost certainly because they feel unwell. This could be due to a wide variety of reasons, from nausea due to an upset stomach, to infections and diseases affecting their organs. There may also be blockages in their stomach or gut.
When should I worry about my dog not eating?
If your dog is not eating for a few hours, but is otherwise well, this is not usually a cause for concern. Remove their food and try them again in a little while. However, if your dog is vomiting, has diarrhoea, seems in pain (especially in the tummy), or is dull or listless, it is best to have them checked by a vet.
How long can a dog go without eating?
Dogs can actually survive without food for seven days, provided they are in good body condition and drinking normally. However, after a few days of not eating, the gut begins to slow down and it requires careful and slow management to begin feeding again. If your dog has not eaten for two to three days, it is best to have them checked by a vet to reduce the risk of re-feeding complications.
Why is my dog drinking a lot of water but not eating?
Excessive drinking can be due to a number of factors. If a dog feels nauseous, they may ‘overdrink’ – deliberately filling their stomach with water to try to make themselves sick. This is a natural instinct to clear the stomach in case there is something irritating it. Increased drinking can also be due to diseases such as liver and kidney disease, some cancers, or infections such as pyometra (infected uterus), which can also cause inappetence.
Should I force feed a dog?
Never force feed an animal. You can cause them to choke or, if they are not eating due to an obstruction in their gut, you could make the problem worse. You can encourage them to eat by warming food, offering little bits of tasty food on a spoon or rubbing some on their lips or tongue, but you must always allow them to lick it off and swallow voluntarily.
Why doesn't my dog eat dog food?
If your dog is eating food intended for cats or humans, but is not eating dog food, it suggests they are picky eaters holding out for something more tasty to be offered. Neither cat or human food is balanced for dogs, so it is best to avoid giving them this in any real quantity. Instead, try a variety of tasty dog foods, or mix in some tasty treats with balanced dog food to encourage eating. Warming dog food and adding the cooking water from boiled chicken or fish can also make it more palatable for fussy dogs.
Why does my dog not eat or drink and just lies around?
If your dog is not eating, drinking and seems dull and lethargic, it suggests they are feeling very unwell. These symptoms are not specific and could indicate your dog is in pain, has a temperature or has a stomach upset. It could also be due to systemic problems including metabolic, organ, toxic or cancerous diseases. If these symptoms persist for more than a few hours, it is best to have your dog checked by a vet.
When should I book an appointment with a vet?
If your dog is not eating and is unwell – especially if they are either unable to keep water down or, conversely, if they are drinking excessively – it is important to have them checked for more serious underlying conditions. Some of these conditions may need emergency treatment.
Dogs who are not eating dog food, but will eat tastier food and are otherwise well, do not need to see a vet unless you have tried many different options and they are still refusing to eat dog food. If you do see a vet, they can make sure your dog is in good condition and discuss alternative options.
For dogs who are not eating any food, but are drinking and otherwise well, you can monitor them for one to two days and offer them food little and often to encourage them to start eating again.
Some links in this article will redirect you to My Family Vets website.
Dog symptomsHow to tell if your dog is going blind
Dog symptomsWhy is my dog's poo white?
Dog symptomsShould I take my dog to the vet if they are limping?