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Dog Not Eating? Possible Causes and Appetite Solutions

Whether you’ve had pet dogs for years or you’ve just adopted your first puppy, it can be very distressing when your dog won’t eat. There are a variety of reasons for loss of appetite in dogs. It's important to determine the cause in order to design the best treatment plan.

The first thing to keep in mind is how you’re judging your dog’s appetite. If you’re concerned because your dog isn’t eating as much as the guidelines state on the food you purchase, remember that these are only averages. Many perfectly healthy dogs eat only 60% to 70% of the amount stated on the packaging.

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When a dog won’t eat, it is referred to as anorexia. This is different from anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder found in humans. Instead anorexia describes a complete loss of appetite in dogs.

Because loss of appetite in dogs can indicate illness, it is important to seek veterinary care if you notice changes in your dog’s eating habits. It is especially important to respond promptly to a refusal to eat in dogs that usually eat well.

Even though most dogs can go a couple of days without food having without significant bad effects, it is best to address the problem as early as possible.

Reasons your dog won’t eat

Just like in people, there are a variety of reasons dogs might refuse to eat. These include:

  • Illness. A decreased appetite in dogs is often a sign of sickness, especially if your dog is exhibiting other symptoms at the same time. Although a loss of appetite in dogs doesn’t necessarily indicate serious disease, prompt veterinary attention is important because it could be a sign of significant illness, including cancer, various systemic infections, dental disease, pain, liver problems, and kidney failure.
  • Recent vaccination. Fortunately, vaccinations are available for many serious and contagious dog diseases. Although these injections have saved the lives of millions of pets in the past 100 years, they do sometimes have adverse effects. The majority of these are minor and brief, including a temporary loss of appetite in dogs.  
  • Travel and unfamiliar surroundings. If your dog’s appetite was fine until you went on a trip with him or moved to a new location, it may be that your dog won’t eat because of traveling or the unfamiliar surroundings. Some animals may get motion sickness, and others become nervous or uncomfortable in new places.
  • Pickiness or behavior issues. Some dogs are just picky, or their refusal to eat may be caused by feeding them in situations where they aren’t comfortable, such as around an aggressive dog or from a bowl at an uncomfortable height. Because a decreased appetite in dogs may be caused by illness, never assume that your dog is picky without investigating other possibilities first.

 

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