What to Feed a Sick Dog With No Appetite – Getting Your Dog to Eat

One of the most heartbreaking things of dog ownership is when your dog gets sick. They can’t communicate to you with words that they aren’t feeling well, but you can tell by their lethargy, upset stomach, and possible vomiting that they’re feeling under the weather.

When your dog isn’t feeling well, it’s important to remember that food is the best natural medicine. But you might be wondering what you should feed a sick dog, what you should do if they aren’t eating, and when to take them to the vet.

Here are the steps to take when it comes to feeding your sick dog.

  1. Start with a 12-24 hour fast
  2. Make sure you feed them small meals after the fast
  3. Get started with bone broth and cucumber to hydrate them
  4. Feed them chicken and rice for their first substantial meal
  5. Use Pumpkin and Portobello mushrooms are great for diarrhea

If you follow these five steps, your dog should be healed up in no time. If 72 hours go by, and they are showing no signs of progress, it’s time to take your pup to the vet.

Below we will expand on each of the steps mentioned.

Natural Instincts – Fasting and Eating Grass

Dogs are creatures of instincts. When it comes to illness, you’ll likely notice two primary instincts.

1) Your Dog Doesn’t Want To Eat

Can’t blame them for this one. You have the same instinct as well. When you get sick, the last thing you want to do is eat.

The reason for this is because digesting food requires a lot of energy. The body would rather use this energy to fight off the illness. Fasting will rest your dog’s digestive system and provide it with the energy needed to heal.

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The rule of thumb is if your dog has been sick for 24 hours or less, don’t force them to eat.

2) They Will Eat Grass

The second instinct might seem a bit odd, but a lot of dogs will consume large quantities of grass when feeling under the weather.

If you notice your dog eating grass, don’t stop them. Eating grass is beneficial for two reasons. First, it may cause them to vomit. Believe it or not, this is good if it’s within the first 24 hours. It will help rid their body of whatever bug they caught. However, even if your dog doesn’t vomit (only about 25% of dogs do from eating grass), eating grass is still beneficial. Grass improves digestion and fulfills nutritional needs they’ll be lacking during the time of fasting.

Let your dogs instincts take over during the first 24 hours. Don’t try to force feed them and don’t stop them from eating grass.

Keeping Your Dog Hydrated

The constant vomiting and diarrhea will cause your dog to become hydrated. It’s essential to make sure your dog continues to drink plenty of water.

But what if they refuse to drink water? This is common, and luckily, it’s usually a simple fix.

Bone Broth

Instead of having your dog drink water, see if they will drink bone broth. Not only will this hydrate them, but bone broth is full of vitamins that will strengthen the immune system and help your dog recover much quicker. It’s best if you can make your own bone broth, but if you want to purchase it at the grocery store, that’s ok.


If your dog refuses the bone broth (which is rare), the next step to keep them hydrated is to offer them cucumber. Cucumber is mostly water, so it will help with hydration. Just like bone broth, cucumber is full of minerals that will aid in boosting the immune system.

Keep The Meals Small

Now that you know to let your dog’s natural instincts take over and how to keep them hydrated, it’s time to talk about what nutritious foods to feed your sick dog.

However, before we get into that, it’s important to keep the meals small and frequent for the next 48 hours. Normally you would feed your dog two medium-sized meals per day. When they are sick, you want to feed them up to six small meals per day every 2-3 hours.

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Your dog is likely coming off a fast at this point, the last thing you want to do is overload their digestive system. Feed them small amounts of the following meals up to six times per day. Try to space it out every 2-3 hours.

The Classic – Chicken and White Rice

If you’ve already researched the best food for dogs that are under the weather, you’ll notice almost every article talks about chicken and white rice.

There’s a reason for this! Your dog needs easily digestible protein and carbs right now. It doesn’t get any easier than chicken and white rice.

Shred The Chicken and Combine it With Rice

The best way to feed your dog this meal is to boil the chicken and then shred it. Combine it in a bowl with some cooked white rice. There’s no need to season the food. Most seasonings contain large amounts of sodium, which is what we want to stay away from right now.

Plain chicken and white rice might sound boring to us, but your dog is going to love it!

Pumpkin Puree and Portobello Mushrooms (For Diarrhea and Constipation)

Both pumpkin and portobello mushrooms seem to be magical for digestive health. If your dog is suffering from diarrhea, both of them help harden the stool. If your dog is suffering from constipation, both of them help soften the stool.

Dr. Regis sums it up perfectly by stating, “Pumpkin and mushrooms do whatever you need them to do.”

Give your dog 1-3 tablespoons of pumpkin puree OR 1/4 portobello mushroom. There’s no need to do both. If your dog will eat the pumpkin puree, that is the optimal choice. If they refuse, then try the mushroom. Make sure it’s a mushroom you found at the grocery store, NEVER feed your dog a mushroom you found in the yard.

Gradually Reintroduce Regular Food

Within three days, your dog should be feeling much better. Now it’s time to gradually reintroduce them to their regular feeding schedule and their regular food.

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For the past three days, you were feeding them chicken and rice up to six times per day. Continue to feed them six times per day for the next day or two, but this time make half their meals chicken and rice and the other half regular dog food.

Each day take away one chicken and rice meal. Eventually, you want to get them back to eating two regular meals of dog food per day.

The Three Day Rule – Time To See The Vet

If your dog is showing signs of recovery after three days, continue down the path you’re on until they are better. However, if three days have gone by and they aren’t getting better, it’s time to take them to the vet.

Nobody likes having a sick dog, but it’s something every dog owner will experience. When your pup gets sick, just follow the steps outlined in this article and be sure to show them some extra love!

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