As a dog owner, there are many times when we look at our dogs and wish that they could open their mouths and explain to us in words what they need, how they feel, or want us to do. We hope to answer some of those questions in our new monthly feature called “Why is My Dog Doing This?”
As a dog owner, you know your dog. You pay attention to their habits, their likes and dislikes, and their moods and emotions each day. You know if your dog is a picky eater or if he dives into his food with a robust appetite. Some dogs love to eat and are extremely food motivated. Others just do not care as much and eat sporadically as needed.
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So how do you determine if their lack of appetite requires a change of food or a trip to the vet?
Unfortunately, there is no one answer to that question. However, we have listed some common things that your dog might be trying to tell you when he no longer has an interest in food.
Too Many Treats and Goodies?
Think about your dog’s non-meal times.
Are you feeding large treats every time he or she does something that justifies a reward?
Or are you feeding too many human foods each time you enjoy a meal or snack?
It is possible that your dog is just not hungry, or they know that they can get more interesting food from your plate than they can from their own bowl.
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Try breaking biscuits into smaller pieces or purchase small training treats as a reward. Stop offering bits of the dog-friendly foods that you eat and watch to see if your dog’s appetite increases. If not, it is time to visit your veterinarian to ensure that there is not a larger health issue.
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Bored with the same food?
If you feed the same dry kibble day after day after day, it is possible that your dog has become bored with their food. Try rotating through different protein options within the same brand of food, if available. If you always buy a lamb formula, try a fish or poultry option and see if your dog’s appetite returns.
You can also add wet, canned foods or purchase food toppers or supplements that can make your dog’s food more interesting and add additional vitamins and minerals. Just be careful to reduce the amount of kibble to ensure that your dog is not getting too many calories. Add Collagen to your dog’s diet. It does wonder for a dog’s immune system and digestion.
Did your food manufacturer change formulas?
Check with your dog food manufacturer to determine if they changed their formula. Some pet food companies are periodically tweaking the recipes of their foods in order to keep up with trends in pet food and as a result of new research into canine nutrition. Email the manufacturer to determine if the formula has changed. If it has and your dog no longer likes it, consider a different food until you find one that they enjoy.
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You free feed your dog instead of feeding on a schedule
Many dogs in single-dog homes are free-fed, meaning the owner leaves the food out all day. However, dogs thrive on routine, so try putting your dog on a twice a day schedule. If your dog does not eat within 20 or so minutes, remove the food until the next mealtime. This can encourage picky eaters to finish their food in one feeding by establishing a schedule.
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Something negative happened during mealtime
Did a bad storm come through during your dog’s dinner?
Or an argument between humans in the house?
Did one of the other dogs in the house try to take your dog’s food?
If your dog has had a negative experience during mealtime, they may develop a fear of eating because they now associate mealtime with that negative experience. To encourage your dog to eat without fear, try to create a positive experience for your dog when you feed them, like gently praising them as they eat from their bowl or offering up a treat afterward.
When to Head to the Vet?
If your dog misses more than one or two meals, it is time to schedule an appointment with the vet. If your dog is one with a voracious appetite, it is better to err on the side of caution and schedule an appointment right away. A sudden lack of appetite can indicate a variety of medical problems including dental issues, digestive problems, pain, or illness.
If you can, take urine and fecal sample with you, as your vet will likely want to run tests to find out what is happening inside of your dog’s body. A Complete Blood Count, or CBC, is also helpful in determining if your dog is fighting an illness. If your dog stops eating and their loss of appetite is accompanied by excessive panting and retching without food coming up, take them to the emergency vet immediately as these are signs of bloat. Bloat is a condition that usually affects large-chested breeds but can occur in any dog. The stomach fills with gas and then twists, which stops the flow of blood in your dog’s body. It is an urgent health emergency that must be treated immediately.