What to do when your dog won’t eat

Your dog’s suddenly picky and you’re not sure why. Or maybe you’ve tried to introduce something new – and your dog responded with a resounding ‘no’. Like humans, dogs’ appetites can go up and down. It can be worrying to see your dog missing a meal, but most cases of loss of appetite in dogs will be short-lived. Let’s look at why your dog’s appetite might be off, and what you can do to help get dinnertime back to normal.

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Why is my dog not eating?

If your dog’s appetite has generally been fine until now, the first step is to work out what changed. Things that can cause reduced appetite in dogs include:

1) Different food

Have you introduced something new to your dog’s diet? Unfamiliar flavours may well be the reason your dog won’t eat.

2) They haven’t worked up an appetite

A few extra treats? A shorter walk? Both can leave your dog with a smaller appetite than usual.

3) They’re in an unfamiliar environment

Being away from home can make a dog feel less secure – and less inclined to eat. Even reorganising your dog’s favourite area in your home can be enough to unsettle their appetite.

4) There’s a new addition in the household

Whether a new baby or a new pet, a new arrival in your dog’s space can make them anxious. One obvious sign they’re affected: a reduced appetite.

5) The weather

If it’s too warm outside, your dog can get hot and bothered. We all know that can’t-cool-down feeling – and how it can switch off hunger pangs.

6) They’re spoilt for choice

Dogs like familiar foods, so chopping and changing their diet too often can leave them unsettled – and less fussed about eating than usual.

How do I get my dog to eat?

Some dogs just have a small appetite, and that’s perfectly OK  – as long as they’re not underweight. If you’re worried your dog isn’t eating enough to stay healthy, here are some things you can do to reignite their interest in food.

1) Give off the right signals

Our dogs take cues from us. If you’re nervous about them eating, chances are, they will be too. Serve up their dinner with excitement, and shower them with praise when they try it – even if they only eat a tiny bit – and you’ll set the tone for a successful mealtime.

2) Skip the treats

Don’t forget most dogs’ stomachs are much smaller than ours  – so while treats can look small to us, they’re a substantial serving for your dog. Try cutting back how many you give for a few days, and see if that stimulates your dog’s appetite.

3) Serve smaller portions

Your dog’s reluctance to eat could be a sign you’re serving too much at each meal. Double-check you’re not dishing out more than the recommended portion size, and consider cutting back a little to see if that helps.

Tails.com customers  – make sure you’re using your adjustable portion scoop. This makes it easy to get your dog’s serving size exactly right, every time.

4) Up their exercise

Daily walks give your dog chance to work up an appetite, but that’s not the only reason you should head to the park. Regular exercise is mentally stimulating and great for overall health – so it tackles multiple factors that can lead to your dog not eating. The timing of exercise is important though, as running around within 30 minutes of eating can affect your dog’s digestion. Skip any issues by taking them for walkies before, not after, dinner.

dog walking

5) Keep human food separate

If your dog’s allowed scraps, put these in their bowl to create a clear separation between human and dog food. This discourages begging from the table, or scavenging when out and about – habits that can play havoc with your dog’s regular eating routine.

6) Warm food up

If your dog’s ignoring their food, try warming it up. This releases tempting food smells that encourage appetite – and can help get their mouth watering.

7) Add some moisture

If your dog’s new to kibble, or in any kind of dental discomfort, texture could be what’s making them hesitant. Soften crunchy foods with low-salt gravy or water. Or serve wet food as well.Wet food add moisture

8) Stick to your guns

If you shower a healthy adult dog with attention each time they turn away from their bowl, you risk training them to be even pickier. Stand firm, and resist the urge to serve something else. And take away any uneaten food after ten minutes so they don’t graze away what appetite they have. Your dog’s reluctance to tuck in shouldn’t last more than a day or so.

Don’t try this with puppies or seniors though, as for these dogs, missing a meal can have more serious consequences. Instead, make food as appealing as possible – by warming it up or adding water. Try to keep your dog’s food as fresh and tasty as possible too, by only opening what you need, and storing it in a resealable bag or container. For tails.com customers, this is easy – we deliver exactly the right amount each month, in conveniently-sized, resealable packs.

What’s the best way to introduce new food?

Some dogs will eat whatever you put in front of them. Others need a bit of gentle persuasion. Here’s what you can do to help your dog adapt to new food:

1) Choose familiar flavours

Don’t change everything at once  – if you’re serving a new food, the texture is likely to be different to what your dog is used to. Ease the transition by sticking with flavours you know your dog loves.

Favourite flavours are a key part of every dog’s tails.com diet. Tell us your dog’s preference  – beef, chicken, fish or lamb – and we’ll make sure that’s the main protein source in their tailor-made food. The result? A brand new recipe that tastes reassuringly familiar.

2) Make gradual changes

Switching to a new food? Dogs often react if something’s unfamiliar – whether they like the taste of the food or not. Introduce anything new gradually, so your dog’s less likely to detect a change, and you’ve got a good chance of making a seamless transition.

Video: Our head vet Sean shows you the best way to introduce tails.com food to your dog

My dog still won’t eat – what should I do?

Sudden, prolonged changes in appetite can be a sign your dog’s under the weather. If their hunger level doesn’t go back to normal within a mealtime or two, it’s a good idea to ask your vet to help you work out what’s going on – especially if your dog also starts losing weight.  

Sudden changes in appetite can be concerning, but for most dogs the problem will be short-lived. If you’d like more information on supporting your dog’s hunger levels, get in touch at hello@tails.com. Our vet and nutritionist team are on hand to help.

12 comments

  1. I just wanted to say my poppy has been suffering from terrible dry skin and tablets off the vet for years . After putting her on your food her skin is much much better and her skin is a normal pink again . Am so happy am so glad this food is the one for her . Thankyou so much and thanks for the speedy delivery after just ordering yesterday it came today . Keep up the good work i thank you so much

  2. Hi jack still has a itch he has not got flees , he has hay fever and is on 1/2 Puritan . I give him sardines in oil. Twice a week -and the special blend of food from you , he does not have any other food unless it’s boiled chicken snd plsin rice , den tail sticks , any think else I can do to make him stop scratching

    1. Hi Maxine,

      Poor Jack! We can definitely take a look at what we can do to ease his itching. Can you send us an email to hello@tails.com so we can help out?

      Look forward to hearing from you.
      Jack from tails.com

    1. Hi Dan,

      We’d always recommend that your pup’s food is kept sealed to keep it as fresh as possible. You may choose to decant the food into a storage container, just be sure to keep the lid on in between meals to keep the food as fresh and tasty as when it first arrived.

      Thanks, Karri

  3. Coco my 8 yrs chocolate lab has suddenly decided she doesn’t want her dinner. She will happily eat other food, treats and bonios for example and doesn’t seem unwell, but when I put her food down she just looks at it like I’m trying to poison her. If I add dog gravy or a little cheese she might be tempted, and when it’s sardines added on Sunday she wolfs it down no problem. I tried her with just the wet food and she ate that too. I’m worried she’s just bored of the kibble; what do you suggest? Are there any other flavours?
    Bella Page

  4. Hi I have a 8 year old staffy only had her 4 months ago was OK eating her food but passed few days has lost her appetite I tried rice and chicken dry food but nothing she is drinking and still going to toilet both ways it’s driving me mad.

  5. Hi my staffie is 12 years old wont eat got the poohs been to the vets as he wasnt breathing propperly she gave him an injection hes breath smells really bad he will only eat of our hands now last week he was so full of beans now nothing but looking sad

  6. The cases I read involved a mix of mutts as well as several hunting or working dogs. Overall, most of the dogs were medium to large, with a beagle being the smallest breed to engage in scavenging in these reports. However, larger, more powerful dogs can do more damage, so those cases might be more likely to rise to the level of note.

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