Help, My Dog Won’t Eat!

 Do you wonder why your dog isn’t eating his food? Do you worry that he may not be getting enough of the right nutrients for growth, development and good health?

First make sure that you are not feeding too much human food and dog treats. A biscuit here and a piece of toast there and before you know it any sensible dog will be turning up his nose at dog food.

The good news is that all dogs can be trained to have healthy eating habits. Picky eaters are made, not born.


Health Issues

First make sure that your dog doesn’t  have a health problem. If your dog is usually a good eater and suddenly refuses his food completely, get him to the vet within 24 hours as your dog might have a serious  illness like Biliary (Tick fever).  He also might have a rotten or broken tooth which causes pain when eating.

If your new puppy refuses food completely, take him to the vet for a check up before you assume that he is just a picky eater. Also make sure that you continue the diet fed by the breeder, gradually changing over to what ever you have decided you will be feeding your puppy.  A puppy in a new environment, overwhelmed by new sights and smells may not eat well in the first few days. Offering familiar food will reduce the stress.

Why Won’t My Dog Eat?

Most dogs fit into one of the following two categories: Those who eat to live and those who live to eat.  The first kind are discerning about what they put into their mouths. They take a while to eat or will walk away, leaving food in their bowl. The second kind will eat anything put in front of them and spend  their spare time foraging for anything else edible.

Your dog’s breed can also be an influencing factor. Most Labradors and “Township Dogs” are food crazy while some small breeds like Maltese and Yorkies are more selective.

Your dog’s age will also influence his enthusiasm to eat. Tiny puppies are still experimenting with food. Older puppies and adolescents need more food to maintain their energy levels and older, more sedentary dogs  require smaller amounts of food.

Your new puppy’s eating habits will be influenced by his early experience while still at the breeder. For example a puppy from a large litter who were all allowed to compete for food, will  eat more quickly as he might feel he will miss out.

Make sure that you are not expecting your dog to eat more  than he requires. Many pet dogs are overfed which can lead to all the health risks associated with obesity. If your dogs ribs are covered by a thin layer of flesh, his coat shines and he is full of energy, chances are your dog is eating enough food for his needs. If you are worried about this, chat to your vet.  The package portion size on dried food is just a guideline – some dogs will need more and some less.

What is Picky Eating?

If your dog is not interested when you put down his food bowl, will only eat if coaxed or hand fed or will only eat when his food is suplemented or replaced by “human food”, you have a picky eater.

If your dog has always been a picky eater, you can address the behaviour and get him to eat normally. If your dogs has always eaten well and becomes a picky eater get him checked by the vet.

How to Get Your Dog to Improve his Eating Habits?

  • Start as you plan to continue.  Before you bring your new puppy or dog home, decide on  a feeding plan. Decide what food you are going to be feeding your dog and at what times.
  • Don’t feed from the table. Make sure the whole family agrees not to feed tidbits except during training and not to feed from the table. Besides causing begging, this will interfere with his feeding programme. A small amount of left overs of healthy food can be added to his next meal.
  • Do not share your food with your dog.  Do not feed your dog while you are preparing food or share your human food with your dog.
  • Stick to a feeding schedule. Feed your puppy three to four small meals a day. Adult dogs should be fed  twice daily.
  • Remove all uneaten food within five minutes.This mimics the competiton from the litter or pack which stimulates your dog’s instinct to eat whenever food becomes available.
  • Stick to the correct portion size. If feeding a complete dry food, use the package as a guide line for portion size. If feeding a mixed or raw diet, experiment with portion size until you find a quantity that your dog finishes quickly.

What if You Started Off all Wrong?

It’s never too late to start addressing the problem. You will need to get the whole family to commit to the new set of rules. Having one family member undermine all your good intentions will undo all your hard work. You can gradually decrease the amount of “human food” your dog is getting as you slowly increase the dog food quantity. Mix the food well so your dog can not pick out the bits he likes.

If your dog refuses to eat completely, do not give in or add anything to his food or replace it it with something he prefers. Dogs will not starve themselves completely, they will eat when they are hungry.  Remove the uneaten food after five minutes, put it in the fridge and do not feed anything else until the next scheduled meal time. At the next mealtime, put out the same food again and if he rejects it again, return it to the fridge. He will eventually eat when he is hungry.

What Should Your dog be Eating?

Pet food companies spend a fortune on research to ensure that they produce foods that have the correct balance of nutrients for your dog. You do get what you pay for when it comes to dog food so many of the more expensve foods are a better bet. If these are not within your league, there are plaenty other options for feeding your dog. You can purchase a cheaper dry food and supplement it with small amonts of “human food” or tinned food.

If you have tried three or more commercial foods, your vet has confirmed that your dog is healthy, most likely your dog is holding our for “human food”. You just have to be firm.

Every expert has their own strong ideas about feeding but the truth is commercial food is not the only way to feed a dog. You might choose to cook for your dog.  A diet of  cooked rice, vegetables with quality pets mince  like offal, tripe or chicken (from a butcher, not the supermarket) supplemented with an occasional egg and tinned fish is well balanced.

Raw feeding is the latest trend in feeding dogs. The diet can consist of raw chicken on the bone (necks, backs, carcasses), raw meaty bones (especially pork which is soft), raw mince (chicken, ostrich, dirty tripe, offal), fish (fresh, frozen or tinned) , crushed vegetables and fruit (use a food processer)  and natural yoghurt.

Which ever diet you choose, large raw bones should be offered between meals to keep your dog occupied and keep his teeth clean.

Any picky eater can be reformed. If you care about your dog and you want him to live to a ripe old age, you need to make sure that he is eating a balanced diet.


58 Responses to “Help, My Dog Won’t Eat!”

  • Loh Lay Leng says:

    My 9 month old maltese is very picky and will hold out eating unless we give her, her favourite treats or tasty meals. She has held out for a 3 meals (a day and half) until I gave up and gave her what she wanted. I am concern that if nothing is fed in between meals the picky puppy will end up with gastric issues, which was what happened to my puppy. I heard her stomach growling, but she still refuses to eat. She has thrown up bile previously. To ensure that her stomach is not loaded with just bile, I have given her biscuits in between.
    Further, she may eat her kibbles out of hunger but the picky issues recurs ever so often. What do I do?

    • julie says:

      What are you feeding your Maltese and how often? Does she chew bones between meals? Are her ribs well covered or can you feel them easily when you run your hand down the sides of her body?

  • Karen Ford says:

    My 6 year old Siberian Husky is only interested in food
    usually evey three days. Its never more than that. She has always been like this. She was the last of 3 pups and her two older brothers were twice her size. She is very highly stung and excitable. Shes very bold and tries to dominate every situation wether at the vet meeting someone one the street or basically any interaction she has. She is walked every day. She wont eat any ‘dog food ‘ever. And also has an older male companion to encourage her to eat. I feed her…poached eggs, tinned tuna, sardines, braised chicken and rice. Lamb shanks cooked and raw. Brisket bones and dry food. All these things she will eat once and not eat again for ova a week. She begs for our food and I end I end up giving it to her as she hardly eats. Please help me help my Miyuki

    • julie says:

      In the wild or without human intervention, dogs would eat when food becomes available – not necessarily every day. It is fine for your dog to go a day or two without eating as long as she is drinking water. It is totally fine to feed “human” food only to your dog but I would suggest that you make sure it is always raw – particularly bones which must never be cooked (they get too hard and can damage your dog’s teeth or damage her gut.)

      A good balanced diet can consist of raw meat, chicken, fish and eggs plus a small amount of minced raw vegetable. You can also add a splash of olive oil. Tinned pilchards, sardines or tuna are fine too – once or twice a week. Your dog should also have raw bones to chew.

      When she begs for your food, just ignore her. When you feed her, leave the food down for 5 minutes only. If she does not finish the food, put it in The fridge and offer the same food again at the next meal time. Remember to offer food twice a day only. When she is hungry, she will eat. You never see
      a fat canine in the wild, they know how much they need. As long as your dog is healthy and active, you don’t need to worry.

  • Karen Ford says:

    Thank you so much for your reply. I always give only brisket bones and take the lamb shanks away when meat is gone. 🙂 they get also raw chicken wings (with skin off). Maybe you can help me wirh my
    other husky who is totally opposite. Hes getting on to 13 years now and was desexed at 10 yrs. Hes was a very big boy before his desexing and
    now hes huge. Over 50 kg.Hes very vocal and very food motivated and bossesme around . If he wants a treat he wont quit. Weve battled out the test of wills and I couldnt take it after 20mins of him whinging sitting right in front of me. Rocking from side to side and barking in my face. If I leave the room to stop him…. And not give in, when I come back hes been waitng getting more adimant he ‘needs a treat or hes going to die!’ i think If it means so much to him have it. He will even go to the cupboard were treats are and put his face on the door and carry on like a ninny.
    Karen and ACE

  • julie says:

    Hi Karen
    If you find that you just can’t be firm when your older boy is demanding a treat, you could just change the treats that you offer your dog. Use only plain cooked chicken breast or dried liver cut into tiny cubes. Be sure to avoid any biscuits or store bought treats that could contain carbohydrates. If he is toy motivated, you can substitute the treat for a game with a squeaky or tug, (only some dogs will buy this) or you could offer a chest scratch. My GSD’S love bring brushed so they are more excited when the brush comes out then they are about treats. You know your dog best – you will have to experiment.

  • susie austin says:

    My dog is now 3years old when i first got her she ate puppy kibble when i tried to move her up to adult kibble she just would not eat it i tryed mixing wet food in with it and she just ate wet food and left the kibble she is a picky eater and often does not eat her morning meal but with in 2hours she is then being sick and bringing up orange yellow sick she then eats right now she is turning her nose up at what ever i feed her the only thing i can guarantee she will eat is chicken and rice which when i get panaicy feed her she will not eat any dog treats at all and will not chew on raw bones I was thinking about cooking her some mince and rice but having read threads it seem our food is just not good for them please advise me if you can

    thank you

    • julie says:

      Hi Susie
      It is very likely that something is physically wrong with your dog so before we just assume that she is a picky eater, I would take her to the vet for a check up.

      It is perfectly fine to feed “human” food to dogs as long as it is basic healthy food – meat, chicken, fish, eggs. Have you tried raw mince? How big is your dog? How often do you feed her?

  • Tessa says:

    Our 16 month old cocker had been I’ll recently so we have fed her chicken and rice, the vet says she is over the illness but is now having a phantom pregnancy. She will not eat any of her normal food just treats , I’m scared to give her nothing as she will bring up bile if stomach is empty, been nearly two days since she has eaten anything substantial just a couple of mouthfuls mainly hand fed then just walks away. Can you suggest anything please.

    • julie says:

      I would suggest that you go back for a second opinion just to make sure that there is no physical reason why your dog has lost her interest in food. Once you have confirmed that there is no health problem, you can assume that your dog is just being a fussy eater. Put her food down for 5 minutes and see if she eats, if not, remove until the next meal time. Do not hand feed or give too much attention around food. When your dog is hungry, she will eat.
      Best of luck

  • mark says:

    Hi I have a 7month old chut tzu puppy will not eat his food will not eat his dry food trued adding chicken and water to it eats it 2_3 times then turns his nose up and walks away please can you help me.

    • julie says:

      I would suggest you try a change of food. Like many small dogs, yours might be happier on a wet food. You can try tinned food, cooked food or even raw pet’s mince.

  • JASON says:

    I have a 2 year old maltese bitch and is 9 weeks pregnant , she has been eating ok until about 2 weeks ago and she doesn’t want to eat anything , no meat , dried food , even had to suringe her some foods as she wont eat it , she is a very picky eater but getting a bit worried.before the 2 weeks she was fine ,
    just don’t want the dog to be week when giving birth and having week puppies aswell,
    any advise would be appreciated,
    many thanks

    • julie says:

      Hi Jason

      You need to get your dog to the vet urgently. It is not normal for a pregnant bitch not to eat so there is a possibility that something is wrong. She should give birth on 63 days which is at 9 weeks.

  • Carel says:

    My 7 week old greyhound pup dont want to eat . Only eats a little bit. Ive tried several puppy dogmore but nothing. Any medicine I may give it to improve his eating habits. I dont give him anything to eat between his meals. Pup is dewormed and vaccination up to date. Thanks for your inputs.

    • julie says:

      Hi Carel
      If your pup is not eating and he is as young as 7 weeks, you need to get him to the vet ASAP. At his age, he can become really ill very quickly. Are you feeding the same food that the breeder was feeding? Is he drinking water?

  • Sasha says:

    I have a 9 month old husky and up a week ago he would eat all of his food and be excited to eat. Lately he’s been ignoring his food or only nibbling/eating half of it. He’s been drinking water and acting pretty normal aside from this but i’m becoming worried and unsure what’s wrong with him. He also will refuse to eat the dog treats we had been giving him and even cheese (he loved cheese). I haven’t tried changing his food yet because i’ve read huskies are stubborn and picky but i have been putting the food down for 10 minutes and then picking it back up if he doesn’t touch it or finish it. If there’s any advice you could give it would be greatly appreciated and helpful. Please and thank you!

    • julie says:

      I would be worried about Biliary. I think you need to get your dog to the vet. If a dog usually eats well and then suddenly
      gets picky, there must be something wrong.

  • sharron says:

    hi – i have a yorkie/chihuahua, 6 yrs old, she has been a picky eater for the past 6 ys, i have tried everything from the cheap grocery store food to the most expensive and everything in between. yesterday i thought i would put her on straight wet food, that i was fine until today, now she won’t have anything to do with it. hates dry food – have soaked the dry in warm water, have warmed it up in the microwave for a few secs., have added wet to the dry, all these things work for a day or 2 then she won’t eat it – have added veggies, doesn’t like that, she doesn’t get fed human food and she gets 1 treat a day and that’s at night. she hasn’t eat yet today, so now she’s bringing up bile because she is hungry but will she eat the food in her bowl? NO, of course not. i spent 30.00 yesterday on wet food – there is nothing medically wrong with her, she’s just one stubborn little dog. i don’t know what she is holding out for – so i have decided to free feed her – the dry is in her bowl and i guess when she gets really hungry then she will eat – this is just totally ridiculous

    • julie says:

      Often small breeds are picky eaters. Even if they seem to eat very little, it is often enough to keep them healthy.
      If your dog is full of energy, bright eyed and enthusiastic, it might be that she is getting enough food. I would not recommend
      free feeding as you will never know how much or when she eats. A better option is to to put her food down and if not eaten in 5 minutes,
      take it away and offer it 4 hours later. Bringing up bile is not as a result of not eating but could indicate a health issue. If this continues,
      please go and visit your vet. Good luck! Julie

  • Jeremy says:

    My 8 weeks pitbull don’t want to eat its bobtails dry food as it like it before,he choose raw meat than the dry food and my puppy has never be for a shot

    • julie says:

      Your pup needs to have his shots ASAP. Re the food – just mix the pellets with the meat and gradually increase the quantity of the pellets and decrease the quantity of the meat.

  • vida says:

    Hell here,I just got this site,I want to know why my Boerboel is not eating,she is 4 months some weeks.just this morning aside eating very well and eat playing around all day,he refuses to eat morning till this hour.she takes only my pet sick?what must I do?

    • julie says:

      Some pups just don’t feel like eating sometimes. They will quite happily eat a bit here and there.If your dog is full of energy and acting as normal and is drinking water, it is quite safe for him to miss a few meals. If your dog usually eats really well and suddenly just stops eating, best to visit the vet in case something is wrong.

  • Jeremy says:

    What is the 3 accurate times to feed a 3 months pitbull puppy a Day and which dry food is the Best between Bobtails and montego that are good for pitbull

    • julie says:

      I would feed a 12 week old pup 4 times a day – first thing in the morning, lunch time, when you come home from work or 6ish and then a small meal at about 10pm.

  • Rajit says:

    Hello, I am from Burma. 2 days ago I bought 2 months old Doberman mix with rott . She didn’t eat dog food like luvcare and also tin food. .but only meat she eat. Vet gave me navatrim to give dog. She is sleeping alot. Playing not too much. Help us what should i do for her to eat.

    • Julie Tobiansky says:

      I hope your dog has recovered. Often when a dog moves into a new home, they stop eating as they are stressed.
      Usually they will go back to eating normally once they have settled in.

  • Christine Burke says:

    Simba my maltese eats chicken wing tips not until about 6.30pm and have tried raw cooked food will eat dry food when you hand feed him he is 6 months old doesnt like eating in the morning

    • Julie Tobiansky says:

      Raw food or cooked food are both perfect options for your Maltese. If he doesn’t like dry food
      that does not need to be a problem. Wing tips are perfect for chewing.

  • Zubair says:

    Good day

    My Labrador wont eat his Montego Monty and me even though it was recommended by a pet specialist. what should I do???

    • Julie Tobiansky says:

      Try offering the same food for 3 or 4 mealtimes before trying another brand of food. If your dog rejects
      the alternative food after a few meal times, there is a possibility that he may be ill and should go to the vet.

    • Julie Tobiansky says:

      Best thing is to go to the vet. Pups of that age can get very sick very quickly. I suggest you
      get to the vet first thing in the morning

    • Julie Tobiansky says:

      If your pup stops eating, it is always advisable to get them to the vet ASAP. Pups can get very sick very quickly.

    • Julie Tobiansky says:

      Hi Caroline it is best to start by getting your dog checked by the vet before you assume that she is just being fussy. Once your vet has given her the all clear, you need to make a decision if you want to try a change of food or if you want to work with her to encourage her to eat the food you have selected. Make sure never to leave food down for grazing and remove all uneaten food after 5 minutes. Good Luck

  • jeremy says:

    my 14 months old dog body is very weak and keep on falling on the ground and is keeps on kicking like it get strokes please help me .vet open after 3days

    • Julie Tobiansky says:

      Hi Jeremy – you need to get your dog straight to the vet. This isn’t something you can treat at home.
      Good luck

  • Karen says:

    My golden retriever, aged 2 years, does not want to eat the past 3 weeks. The vet suggested that we have her spayed because she thinks she is pregnant. We had this done 7 days ago. At this stage she only eats mince meat and noodles if I hand feed her. She is sleeping a lot. She does not have fever. Please help. Before this she was a healthy eater that ate dog biscuits.

    • Julie Tobiansky says:

      Hi Karen. Your Golden is going through hormonal changes and this can result in a loss of appetite. Feed her twice a day and remove all food not eaten after 5 minutes. She will soon realise that food disappears if you don’t eat it. If she stops drinking water, take her to the vet straight away.

  • Siri says:

    My 9 month old golden retriever is not eating royal canin.
    He’s been doing this for the past 4 months and we started feeding him human food, chicken rice and yoghurt.. now he’s being so much pampered that we got to feed him with our own hands to eat.
    He’s not growing like all other 9 month dogs and I’m worried so much.
    Can you please help me?

    • Julie Tobiansky says:

      Hi Siri
      Dogs will not starve themselves. They will eat as much as they need. Put her food down, wait 5 minutes and then remove. Your dog will soon realise that food disappears if you don’t eat it. Dogs go through growth spurts so it might not be that your dog is not growing properly.
      Good luck

  • Thessa says:

    I had been feeding my mini pincher dogs chicken meat and liver for 6 years now..since birth because of chickens too much protein tgey diagnosed of kidney and liver problem and the vets said i need to diet them..just plain dog food or vegetables only..but they dont wanna eat..if they continue to do you think they will die of hunger?thank you so much

    • Julie Tobiansky says:

      That is very unusual Theresa. My dogs eat raw protein only without any dog food or vegetables. It is a very popular way to feed dogs these days.
      I suggest you get a second opinion to check if the food is the cause of the problem.

  • Andre says:

    Hi, I have the same problem. I have adopted 2 older dogs, the one is diabetic and now blind. They just refuse to eat the dried dog food. I have tried the option of not giving something else…but what do I do with the diabetic dog? I cannot give her insulin if she does not eat. How do I train her without impacting her insulin? Thanks

    • Julie Tobiansky says:

      Sometimes we have to make exceptions in the case of sick dogs. Maybe you should consider a change to raw feeding. Your dog
      might prefer the food and the low carbohydrates would be good for the diabetes.

  • Dash says:

    Hi there, I have a 8 week old puppy, labrador mix who is active, drinks water (seems healthy) but doesnt eat well at all. The puppy pulls her nose up to food but seems like she is healthy. One day we coated the pellets with chicken and she ate a bit more. She was given pellets from her breeder and we were told to continue to give this. What should I do? Thank you in advance

    • Julie Tobiansky says:

      If she is drinking and is full of energy, just persevere with the pellets. If she is lethargic, vomits or has a bad stomach, get to the vet quickly. In the litter, she would have had competition for food. Once you know she isn’t sick, you can act like competition and remove the food if she doesn’t eat and only offer again, a few hours later.

  • Jewel says:

    Hi I adopted a dog from Street and she doesn’t eat anything except bones specially lamb rack bones, I bought dog food she doesn’t eat at all, then I bought can food also not eating, please tell me something what can I do, it’s hard to make her eat like that.

    • Julie Tobiansky says:

      It is fine to feed your dog “people food” but I would recommend that you feed all meat raw. Cooked bones are hard and can splinter
      which means they can get stuck in your dog’s digestive tract. Healthy dogs will eventually eat what ever is offered. You just need to be patient and not give options.

  • Odele says:

    Hi there, I have a 1yr9month old Boerboel Female. We adopted her from a family member. She was always a good eater since she came to live with us, about 4months ago. It has been a few days now that she refuses to eat her chunks, I always feed her liver, or bonemeal with her chunks, but now she just refuses to eat the chunks. if I give her rice and liver or even bread with chicken she eats it, but as soon as she sees chunks she doesnt touch her food. What could be the problem here as she hasnt really lost weight but she hasnt had a full meal in 2weeks

    • Julie Tobiansky says:

      Hi Odele

      First step is to check that she isn’t ill. if your vet is sure she is healthy then it just may be that she has worked out that the extras you are giving her are more tasty than her own food. You have two choices, offer her only the dog food with nothing added – and she will eventually eat it or accept tat you will always need to give her a mix of food (which is also fine). Neither option will do any harm.

  • Ilze says:

    I have a pug, she is almost 3 years old.
    She doesnt eat any dog food because from puppy she was given, chicken necks, liver or human food.
    With that her anal glads is full and I must go to the vet so they can clean it. It was 2 weeks ago,and already I smell that weird (fish,blood,iron) smell. Can it be the food that she is eating? Earlier I saw some yellowish liquid on her butt.

    Please help.

    • Julie Tobiansky says:

      She may have an infection in her anal glads or they may be impacted. I would go back to the vet to check it out.
      To help empty the anal glands, give raw bones to chew on regularly.

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