Although our dogs provide us boundless love and comfort, they can also come with a healthy dollop of worry. From perhaps deciding to forget what recall is, to chewing things they really shouldn’t be chewing, we can all get ourselves into a bit of a tizzy when they also decide not to eat. For some of us, this is a fairly common occurrence. Perhaps you have a dog that is more interested in other things in life, or will send their humans on a goose chase around pet shops trying to find the perfect balance of flavours that delights their palate just-so. For others, whose dog’s internal clock is wired to their food bowl, it can signal that something really truly is wrong. 

But how do I know if I should worry or not? 

There are many causes of a dog refusing food, or as we medically term it ‘anorexia’. From simply having an upset stomach, to it being a sign of more serious illness, it can be difficult as an owner to know when worrying is warranted.

It is important to ascertain whether they are showing interest in food at all. Are they going to their food bowl, attempting to eat, then turning away, or are they completely disinterested? Will they still eat any treats or any proffered food other than their ordinary kibble? Have they recently had a change in diet or started medication that can cause a reduction in appetite? 

If your dog is demonstrating other clinical signs, such as lethargy and fatigue, bloating, hunching of the abdomen, vomiting, changes to their stools, drinking too much or too little and weight loss, then it is important to speak with your veterinarian. Similarly if your dog is either very young or very old, or has any underlying medical issues, then it is important to seek advice to ensure everything is okay. 

If your dog is otherwise bright, happy and charging around just like they normally do, and they have no underlying health conditions, then it can be prudent to monitor for another day. And see if their interest in food peaks again at their next meal time. Perhaps switching them over to bland food, such as rice and chicken, for a meal to see if that tempts them to eat is enough to have their appetite return. However, if they go more than 24 hours without eating, even if they are not demonstrating other symptoms of illness, it is best to seek the advice of a vet. 

What are some causes of my dog not eating? 

Gastrointestinal upset 

Undoubtedly the most common reason for poor appetite due to the scavenging nature of our canine friends, inappetence can be the first sign of an upset stomach. Monitoring for any vomiting, diarrhoea and lethargy, and switching them to a bland diet is advisable in this instance. 

Change in environment or routine 

Dogs are very routine creatures. The alteration of their ordinary routine; such as a change in food or feeding time, change in location of feeding, new family members or pets, moving home et cetera; can cause them to stop eating. Consider any changes to your day, no matter how small, and evaluate whether this could have affected your dog. 

Stress or anxiety 

Also synonymous with the change in environment, anxiety can result in a poor appetite. Whether there is maintenance work in your street, or it’s firework or thunderstorm season, or they don’t get along with another pet in your household; it is important to consider any signs of anxiety in your pet contributing to inappetence. 

Picky eaters 

Quite often, dogs become picky eaters if they are offered a wide variety of food. If they understand that there is a better option out there, such as human food off the table, they may start refusing to eat their ordinary food. If they have started to become fussy, set up a strict routine and limit treats. And don’t get into the trap of offering a wide variety of different foods. 

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Pain

Whether it be dental pain, neck pain, back pain, abdominal pain or generalised arthritis, inappetence can be a clear indicator that your dog is uncomfortable. Signs of pain can be subtle in dogs. So it is important to get them checked out even if it isn’t obvious to you. 

Underlying illness 

There are a variety of underlying illnesses that result in inappetence. Including diseases like cancer, infection, toxin exposure, endocrine disorders like diabetes, or autoimmune diseases. If you have any concerns, and particularly if you notice any other abnormalities, then it is important to get your dog checked over by a veterinarian; where a physical exam and laboratory tests will be able to investigate any underlying issues. 

When should I go to the vet? 

Because there are such a wide variety of causes of anorexia, if you have any concerns about the health of your pet, then it is important to seek veterinary attention to rule out more serious illness. Although inappetence in an otherwise healthy dog without any other clinical signs is not often a medical emergency, it is important not to ignore it. Seek advice within 24 hours if their appetite is not improving. 

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