Will a Dog Starve Itself to Death? Not Intentionally

A dog will not purposefully starve itself to death. Dogs have a strong survival instinct and will eat when they know they need to. Remember, dogs don’t get hungry as often as humans. In fact, some dogs will go 48 hours before they get hungry and decide to eat. 

There are two types of dogs: those solely motivated by food and those who regard food as a necessary evil. 

Some breeds are perfectly happy letting their food sit in the bowl all day and graze as they please. Other breeds will eat any bit of food they come across. 

No matter what their preference, the facts are the same: all dogs need to eat. If a dog stops eating, it is definitely a cause for concern. 

Will Your Dog Starve Itself to Death?

No. as with humans, dogs can survive longer without food than without water. 

A healthy dog can usually last two days before they get hungry enough to cave and eat, but they can ultimately survive up to seven days without a meal. 

Unhealthy dogs (dogs whose self-starvation is a result of medical problems) might take longer than two days to reach the point of hunger again. 

Regardless, if your dog stops eating for more than 24 hours, it is best to bring your concerns to the vet. 

Is Your Dog REALLY Not Eating?

If your dog refuses to eat but isn’t losing weight, they are getting their nutrition from another source. Either someone is sneaking them food, or they are going through the trash and eating things they shouldn’t. 

Not only is eating out of the trash an example of bad behavior, it can also be extremely dangerous for your dog. If someone is sneaking them food, that is also harmful because they learn they can get food from anywhere instead of from designated safe places. 

If your dog stops eating their food, pay attention to their weight. If it isn’t going down, they’ve likely found another source of nutrition.

The Top 5 Reasons Your Dog Won’t Eat

Since you’re wondering whether or not a dog will starve itself to death, there’s a good chance your dog isn’t eating right now. 

Related:  How to Cure a Dog's Upset Stomach [Digestive Relief]

Below are the five most common reasons a dog would stop eating. 

Picky Pups

Dogs are master manipulators. 

They are smart, cunning, and adorable. Some dogs have learned how to swindle their owners into getting whatever they want. 

Some dogs are picky eaters, and they stop eating to get their owner’s attention, for whatever reason that may be. 

Dogs might use starvation techniques to get something as simple as their food warmed up or to get a different type of food. 

Something Hurts

Your dog may want to eat, but something is causing them pain each time they take a bite. 

Check their mouth, teeth, and gums for any irritants. If they exhibit signs of pain at opening their jaw, biting down, or swallowing, call your vet immediately. 

Bad Food

You must keep your dog’s food stored in a clean, dry space. You don’t want their food getting moldy or infested with bugs. If you try to serve bad food to your dog, they will likely turn their nose up at it. 

Also, if you buy too much food for your dog, it might get stale before they eat all of it. Some dogs are more sensitive than others, and if the food is stale, they might want nothing to do with it. Can you blame them?

Medical Issues

If your dog is not a picky, leisurely eater, and their appetite suddenly decreases, there might be an underlying medical issue at play. 

Monitor them to see if they exhibit symptoms such as lethargy, weight loss, vomiting, and/or diarrhea. 

If your dog shows any of these signs, consult with your vet immediately. If your dog is not eating but not exhibiting any of these other symptoms, it is probably one of the aforementioned factors rather than a severe illness. 

Still, your vet should be kept in the loop because they are ultimately the ones who will know best, and they should be kept in the loop regarding all of your dog’s changes in health. 

If new medications or supplements has been introduced to your dog, this could also be a reason for their sudden lack of appetite. 


Have you recently undergone a significant life change? Have you moved or introduced someone new to your life? 

Dogs are highly emotional beings, and they are very sensitive to changes in their life. Any disruption to their regular routine has the potential to make them upset, and they might lose their appetite because of it. 

Related:  How to Syringe Feed a Dog [& Why You May Need To]

Some dogs only like to eat when their owners are around. We make our dogs feel safe, and it is natural for them to only want to eat in safe spaces. 

How To Get Your Dog To Eat Again

Stick to A Schedule

Start a daily feeding schedule for your dog. Consistency is vital for this to be successful. Set a time for each meal and stick to it every day. 

Repeat this process every day, even if your dog doesn’t eat. Do not allow them to get food anywhere else besides in their bowl at the designated time. 

You need to control the situation and teach them that this is the only opportunity for them to eat. 

Do Not Allow Free Feeding

If your dog thinks they have all day to eat, this will not be as effective. 

Only allow them a short amount of time—maybe thirty minutes, maximum—to eat their meal before you take it away. 

It’s important to be consistent. Do not keep changing their food to see what they like. If you suspect that something in your dog’s food is bothering them, consider switching to hypoallergenic food for the time being. 

If you are going to change your dog’s food, you must do it properly. It is important to transition your dog to a new food gradually. 

The process usually takes a week. For the first two days, use ¼ of their new food mixed in with ¾ of their old food.

On the third and fourth days, mix half and half. On the fifth and sixth day, give them ¾ new food and ¼ old food. 

On the seventh day, they should eat all of their new food with no issue. Dogs don’t eat as wide of a variety of food as we do, and their systems need time to adjust.

Create A Safe Space

Do not hover over your dog while they eat. Make a private, comfortable area for them. If you know your dog feels safer with you around, you can stay close but do not encroach on their space. 

For instance, if you decide to set up their spot in the kitchen, simply sit at the table and mind your business while they eat. Do not show them much attention until after they have eaten the meal.

Make Their Food More Appealing

If your dog seems less than enthused with their meals, consider spicing it up (not literally!) by heating it up, softening the kibble, or adding something to improve the taste and smell. 

Related:  How To Safely Fatten Up A Malnourished Dog

The most popular methods are to mix in some wet food with their dry food or drizzle some warm, low sodium chicken stock over the top of their food. 

If your dog loves attention, you can try hand-feeding them their food for a period of time. Some dogs just need a bit of extra love. 

Increase Their Appetite

There’s no better way to work up an appetite than some good, old-fashioned exercise. 

Try taking your dog for a run or a nice, long walk anywhere from an hour to half an hour before their mealtimes. 

Burning those extra calories might just be the kick they need to get them to eat again. If this doesn’t work, your vet might prescribe an appetite stimulant to get things moving. 

The most important part of this is rewarding your dog for good behavior. Once they start eating again, you need to show them praise immediately. This will help them associate eating with positive things and make them more inclined to eat if this type of problem happens again in the future. 

Recommended For You