Like humans, not all dogs have the same eating habits. We typically think dogs will eat anything and everything in their sight. Kind of like a walking garbage disposal. Although it’s true that some dogs will literally keep eating until you take their bowl away, other dogs don’t seem to have much of an appetite at all.
It doesn’t matter which category your dog falls under; if they stop eating altogether, it can be scary! When your dog goes from having a consistent eating schedule, whether that be once or twice per day, and then completely stops eating and loses their appetite, something might be wrong.
At this point, there are two questions on your mind.
- How Can I Stimulate My Dog’s Appetite?
- Why Did My Dog Stop Eating?
To stimulate a dog’s appetite, you need to figure out why they lost their appetite in the first place. They might be afraid of something near the food bowl, be in physical pain, have a parasite, not getting enough exercise, etc. Once you figure out the “Why,” then you can move onto the “How.”
You also have to consider the possibility that your dog didn’t lose their appetite, they’re just bored with the food you’ve been feeding them. Below, we are going to go over the appetite test. Then we will talk about the various reasons your dog won’t eat and how to stimulate their appetite.
So grab a cup of coffee, we’ve got a lot to talk about![toc]
The Ultimate Appetite Test – Do This First
Did you know that some dogs can be picky eaters? If you have a picky eater on your hands, It might not be that they lost their appetite, it could be that your dog is simply bored with their food.
But how are you supposed to know if they lost their appetite or if they’re bored with their food? You put them to the test!
If they aren’t eating their regular food, offer them something so appealing that they can’t resist, like a rotisserie chicken, for example. If they don’t eat it or they only take a few bites and walk away, that might mean they actually have lost their appetite.
However, if they eat it and seem excited to be doing so, they are probably just bored of their current food, which means you’re dealing with a picky eater.
If they didn’t eat the food, read the section below on how to stimulate your dog’s appetite to get them eating again.
If they did eat the food, skip to the section on how to make food exciting for your dog again.
8 Reasons Your Dog Lost Their Appetite
Unfortunately, when it comes to a dog losing its appetite, there is no “one size fits all” answer. There are several reasons a dog will refuse to eat. After dealing with numerous dogs that seem to have lost interest in food, we have noticed it usually comes down to one of the following eight things.
Take a quick look at all eight reasons below. Do any of them make sense for your dog?
Dogs are creatures of survival. Although eating is vital for survival, if they’re afraid of something else, they probably won’t eat until that fear is gone. This happened with our dog once. She refused to eat her food, and we couldn’t figure out why. It turns out she was afraid of something in the kitchen. When we moved her food bowl to a different room, she started eating again.
Some parasites will increase your dog’s appetite. Other parasites will cause your dog to have no appetite. Unfortunately, parasites are common in dogs since dogs don’t have any regard for what they roll in or eat.
This is more common in small dogs, but can still be a cause for larger dogs. If your dog has sore teeth or gums, dry kibble is going to be painful to chew. Try giving your dog wet food for a few days and see if that fixes the issue.
Do you remember the last time you were in extreme physical pain? Eating was probably the last thing on your mind. It can be hard to tell if a dog is in pain because they hide their pain so well (survival instinct). Watch your dog closely as they stand up. Does it look like they’re having difficulty? What about when they walk? Does it look like they’re favoring one side of their body?
As dogs get older, it’s natural for appetite to decrease. When dogs reach the point where they know their time on this earth is up, some of them will stop eating. If you have an older dog who has recently lost an appetite, take them into the vet as soon as possible.
Lack of Exercise
When a dog sits inside all day, they may lose the desire to eat. Calories are used for energy; when your dog isn’t using any energy, the body may not want any more calories.
Dogs love attention. Dogs also know what actions will get them attention. There may have been a time where your dog really did lose his appetite, and during that time, you gave him a lot of attention.
During that time, your dog learned that they get attention when they don’t eat. So any time he wants attention, he won’t eat. This is easy to fix. Start rewarding him for eating and ignoring him when he doesn’t eat.
They’re Bored of Their Food
As previously discussed, one of the primary reasons a dog loses their appetite is simply because they don’t like the taste of their food anymore.
8 Ways To Stimulate A Dog’s Appetite
When doing your research on this topic, one of the most frustrating things is that almost all articles only talk about how to make your dog’s food taste better. But what if your dog won’t eat no matter what is put in front of them? Sometimes it doesn’t have anything to do with the taste of the food. It has to do with the fact that your dog just doesn’t want to eat.
Here are eight things you can do to increase your dog’s appetite.
Visit the Vet
We get it, you’re probably tired of people telling you to visit the vet, but there’s a reason for it! There are plenty of medical conditions that can cause dog to lose their appetite. The vet will check for parasites, physical pain, and any diseases. If your vet does find something wrong, they’ll help you correct the problem. If they don’t notice anything wrong, at least you can rule out medical causes.
Increase Time Spent Exercising
Think about the last time you performed a hard workout. You had a massive appetite for the rest of the day, didn’t you? The same is true with your dog. Nothing will increase an appetite more than exercising.
Take your dog on a longer walk than usual, play fetch with them and let them run around. Do whatever you need to make sure your dog spends more time moving each day.
Turn To Medication
Talk to your vet about this, but there are medications such as Mirtazapine that can stimulate your dog’s appetite. Unfortunately, this won’t get to the root cause of the issue, but at least your dog will be eating again.
CBD is becoming popular in the dog community. It seems like it helps with just about any health problem, from pain to increasing appetite.
Use Herbal Remedies
There are a lot of herbs that are known to increase appetite. The one that is most commonly used on dogs is dandelion.
Have a Consistent Eating Schedule
Your dog might not be hungry when you feed them because the times you feed them are so inconsistent. Dogs have a great internal clock and know when it’s time to eat. By feeding them at different times every day, their internal clock will be thrown off.
Vitamin B is a natural appetite stimulant. The easiest way to increase vitamin B in your dog is to give them a multivitamin treat. Make sure the multivitamin you choose is high in vitamin B.
This might stink up the house for a bit, but tuna juice has been shown to increase appetite. Drain the liquid from the tuna can into a bowl. Then pour about a cup of water into the bowl and see if your dog will drink it. The taste of the tuna might be enough to stimulate their appetite.
What if They Have an Appetite But They’re Bored?
This happens all the time and is something you should have been able to confirm with the ultimate appetite test at the start of this article. It may seem like your dog has lost their appetite, but If your dog immediately went in to eat the enticing food and didn’t just take a few bites before walking away, that usually means they’re just bored of their food.
Here’s how you can make food exciting for dogs again.
Changing The Food
Let’s start with the most obvious, which is changing their food. Look at the food label…what type of meat and carb is it? Try a food that offers a different type of meat and carbs. For example, if they’ve been having chicken, try turkey or salmon. Keep in mind when switching dog food, it could cause digestive issues for the first few days.
Add Seasonings and Herbs
You wouldn’t want to eat chicken breast all day with no seasoning, would you? Although that might not be a fair comparison (dogs don’t care about taste as much as we do), you can still add some herbs to your dog’s food to change up the flavor. Oregano is our go-to!
Tuna Juice (Again)
You can even use the tuna juice method we talked about above. This time, instead of pouring it in their water, try pouring it over the food.
If your dog isn’t eating because their teeth hurt, wet food is the best solution. But even if your dog is perfectly healthy, some dogs just prefer the taste. To save money, you don’t have to use the whole can of wet food. Mixing half wet food with half dry kibble should be enough to increase the flavor.
Cooking food for your dog can be a pain, but if it gets your dog eating again, then it’s worth it. It’s also great for their health. Our go-to meal when cooking for our dog is boiled chicken boneless chicken thighs mixed with rice.
Dogs LOVE the taste of gravy. Just pour a bit over your dog’s food and they should devour it. You can make enough at the start of each week to last the entire week, so you don’t have to do it every day.
Some dogs would rather be with their owner than eat. If you feed your dog, then walk away, next time stay with them for a few minutes and pet them near their bowl. You can also try hand feeding them to see if they’ll eat out of your hand. That’s not a permanent solution, but it will reveal if your dog just wants you to be present when they eat.
There are several reasons your dog might not have much of an appetite; it could also be that they’re bored with their food. Try our “Ultimate Appetite Test” to see if they’ll eat enticing food. If not, it’s best to take your dog to the vet to figure out why your dog isn’t eating. Sometimes all you need to do to stimulate a dog’s appetite is to increase their exercise.
Bryan Harkins is an avid dog lover and the proud owner of dogdorable.com, a website dedicated to all things canine. With years of experience working with dogs, Bryan is passionate about providing valuable information, tips, and resources to help pet owners provide the best possible care for their furry companions.