Why Your Dog May Be Refusing to Eat

If your dog is a picky eater, you could be causing the problem without realizing it.

Often a dog’s refusal to eat stems from the prevalent misconception that he needs variety in his diet. You may require an assortment of foods to be satisfied, but your dog is different. His nutritionally balanced pet food has the proper mix of all the nutrients he needs, together with a high level of palatability. In fact, serving him a variety of pet foods only encourages him to “hold out” for the next offering.

Table scraps can also cause this problem. By giving your dog human treats like food from the table, his hunger gets satisfied by lots of “yummy stuff” – not the nutritionally complete food he should be eating. Watch how, at mealtime, he either refuses to eat or nibbles just a few bites, indicating he’s already satiated or is again “holding out.” The moral here? When you find a balanced, nutritious food that your pet enjoys, stick with it!

In other instances, you might see a sudden shift in your dog’s appetite—eager to eat one week, refusing his food the next. This refusal can be the dog’s own attempt to control his caloric intake. For instance, when a dog learns that eating pleases his owner, he may “eat to please.” This type of eating can lead to overeating, followed by discomfort, just as it would one of us. In such instances, refusing his food or eating very little signals your dog’s attempt to relieve this unpleasant result.

It’s also common for dogs to eat less during hot weather spells. Studies show that, when temperatures rise to over 30°Celcius, a dog’s nutritional requirements will change. Some pets also indulge in what the veterinary community describes as “dietary indiscretion;” raiding garbage cans, no matter how well they’re fed. If the raids are successful, the dogs lose interest in their regular diet. This is a dangerous habit, though, as eating garbage may result in vomiting, diarrhea, or the consumption of contaminated food or toxic chemicals. To prevent this indiscretion, you must prevent your pet from having easy access to garbage, whether in the house, basement, or garage. Survey the garbage cans in your yard to be certain they have tight-fitting lids and, for their own protection (and in the name of being a good pet neighbour), pets should not be allowed to roam in neighbours’ yards.

Finally, be aware that refusal to eat is occasionally a sign of illness. If your dog is not normally a problem eater and his pickiness persists, a trip to your veterinarian may be in order.