There are two types of dogs. The first kind of canine lives to eat. His tail starts wagging a mile a minute the second he sees you prepare his meal, and he’ll quickly gobble up everything in his bowl (along with any crumbs you may have dropped nearby). Then, there’s the dog who eats to live. You’ll find him turn his nose up at many meals and may not finish his food.
Caring for a picky pup can be frustrating. When you see your furkid less than excited at mealtime, your mind goes in a million different directions. Is he sick? Does he just not like his food? If not, why doesn’t he like his food? How long can a dog go without eating? Isn’t he starving by now? Will his little appetite lead to weight loss and health problems?
Read on for some things to consider.
Sudden Diet Change? See Your Vet!
First things first: If your pup normally loves chowing down on a big bowl of food yet suddenly refuses to eat, go see your veterinarian ASAP. Significant appetite changes that last longer than 12 to 24 hours may be a sign of illness. The list of potential medical causes is pretty long and ranges from mild to serious. Gastrointestinal disorders, parasites, viruses, bacterial infections, kidney or liver issues, and even cancer can affect your dog’s appetite.
For sudden appetite, digestive, or weight changes, the best thing you can do is see your vet, run some tests, and immediately determine the underlying cause. The sooner you uncover a medical issue, the greater the chance for recovery.
Other Potential Medical Possibilities
Food Allergy or Intolerance – Digestive upset, itchy skin, and chronic ear infections are all common signs of food allergy or intolerance. If your dog’s food is causing him any discomfort then he may be more hesitant to eat it. Pay close attention to your dog’s other behaviors. If you suspect he’s sensitive to a particular ingredient then it’s time to change diets.
Poor Dental Health – Plaque and tartar buildup lead to stinky breath along with red, inflamed, and bleeding gums. This all causes a lot of pain for your pup. If your dog suffers from poor dental health, he may avoid his food simply because his mouth hurts. One of the best things you can do for your dog’s teeth is to brush them regularly. You can also offer your dog fresh, meaty bones to gnaw. If your dog’s teeth are covered in tartar and abscessed, he will greatly benefit from a professional dental cleaning and possibly some extractions. Talk to your vet!
Alright, so dogs don’t deal with demanding jobs or worry about paying bills. But, that doesn’t mean they don’t feel stressed at times. If you’ve recently moved, you’ve started feeding Fido from a new location, new people are coming into your home, someone in the family moved out, or there’s another big change in your dog’s life then his nerves may impact his appetite.
Kibble Feeder? Check Your Storage Habits!
Here’s an interesting fact you may not know: Once you open a bag of kibble, the expiration date is no longer accurate. And, as soon as air and oxygen hit the kibble, the oxidation process begins. Oxidation is where a chain of chemical reactions oxidizes the fats and turns them rancid. Rancid fats decrease the nutritional quality of the kibble, as well as make the food potentially toxic.
In general, rancid fats have a distinct smell. Many describe it as a plastic odor. If your pooch always eats his kibble and all-of-a-sudden doesn’t want to (and you’ve ruled out any possible health issues) then he may be smelling that something isn’t right. Fido’s sense of smell is much keener than yours, and he may detect that the food has spoiled. Don’t just leave it there for days on end figuring, “Oh well, he has food.” Instead, it may be time to get a new bag of food.
Other Tips to Encourage Healthier Eating Habits
Make Sure Your Dog Actually Likes His Food
Some people may scoff at this since there are a lot of dogs that are happy eating garbage scraps and even their own poop. But, just like we have our own taste preferences, so do our furkids. If your canine companion isn’t a fan of his food, it’s time to try something new.
I’m personally a fan of getting off processed kibble and switching to a more species-appropriate diet, filled with fresh meats. If your dog is turning his snout up at those little brown pellets, consider trying a whole food option.
I’ve been feeding my dogs The Farmer’s Dog – a fresh food subscription service that cooks up meals with your dogs in mind – for more than a year. My little guys still go nuts at mealtime. Plus, I love knowing their bowls are filled with lightly cooked meats, vegetables, healthy oils, vitamins, and minerals. Click HERE to get 50% off a trial order!
There are other similar fresh food subscription services, like Ollie and NumNumNow. Then there’s the world of raw foods.
If you plan to cook yourself, my biggest piece of advice is to have a veterinary nutritionist review the ingredients to ensure it’s properly balanced.
Many kibble feeders simply fill their pup’s bowl in the morning and then let it sit out all day to let their dog graze. Does that sound familiar? If so, it’s time to get your dog on a stricter feeding schedule.
Typically, puppies need to eat three times a day and adult dogs eat either twice-daily or once-daily. Whatever your schedule, get your dog used to eating within a set timeframe. So, prepare his meal, set it down on the ground in his designated eating spot, give him 20 to 30 minutes to finish his food, and then take the food away. He’ll quickly catch on that food is offered at certain times and he needs to eat before the food goes away.
If your pup is just a picky eater – and it’s not the result of a medical condition or spoiled food in his bowl – it’s important to remember: He’s not going to starve himself.
Watch Treats and Table Scraps
If you were to ask your two-legged children if they prefer kale or cake, what would they choose? Yeah, I think the answer is pretty obvious. Well, if your dog’s belly is filled with tasty treats and table scraps then he’s probably not hungry for his main meal.
Plus, if you load up on table scraps because you’re worried he didn’t eat enough at mealtime then you’re simply conditioning your dog to ignore the food in his bowl and wait for a more exciting option. Often, it’s us humans that cause our canine companions to be picky with their food by offering them too many treats and table scraps.
Are Certain Breeds More Prone To Pickiness?
Yes! While any dog breed can be finicky with food, in general, smaller dogs tend to be pickier eaters than larger dogs.
What Health Issues Can Result From Picky Eating?
If your dog is skipping whole meals and not getting enough nutrients on a regular basis, over time he may experience malnutrition, weight loss, and gastrointestinal upset.