Dog Not Eating Causes and Solutions (cont.)

What to do when your dog won't eat

What you can do to help when your dog won't eat will depend on what you and your veterinarian determine to be the cause of the problem.

If your dog's loss of appetite is caused by illness, your vet may recommend a prescription diet to meet your pet's nutritional needs while the underlying disease is being addressed. Sometimes these diets are not particularly tasty, especially if your dog is used to regular treats or people food. If your dog is already ill, never starve your pet in an attempt to force it to eat the prescribed diet. Instead, talk with your veterinarian about alternatives. In more severe cases, your vet may prescribe appetite-stimulating medications, recommend syringe-feeding a liquid diet, or insert a feeding tube.

If your dog's decreased appetite is a behavior problem caused by pickiness or a discomfort with mealtime, rather than the result of a medical condition, there are a number of things you can try to encourage your pet to eat.

These include:

  • cutting back on treats
  • feeding your pet on a regular schedule, usually at least twice a day
  • making mealtime a fun time for your pet, such as by playing with a toy that dispenses food or rewarding your dog with food for doing a trick
  • taking your dog for a walk before mealtime
  • changing your dog's feeding situation. If you normally feed your pet with other animals, try feeding him alone. Or try using different bowls or plates at different heights to see what your dog prefers. (You might even put a few pieces of food on the floor next to the feeding dish)
  • trying a different kind of food, such as canned food if you normally feed your dog dry food.


Veterinary Information Network, “ Anorexia” and “ Picky Eaters.”

American Veterinary Medical Association Web Site: “ General Illnesses and Diseases,” “ Canine Distemper,” “ Canine Parvovirus,” “ Heartworm,” " What you should know about vaccinations,” and “ Traveling with your pet.”

American Animal Hospital Association, “Eating problems” and "Why doesn’t my dog eat much?