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What To Do When Your Dog Is Refusing Dry Food

Picture this: you're setting down a bowl of your pupper's usual kibble, expecting the usual flurry of excitement followed by a clean bowl in no time. However something different plays out instead - your pupper is just messing around with the food, spilling it all over, and playing with kibble pieces like they were tiny inedible playthings! Basically, you find that he or she is toying with the dry bits of food instead of actually gobbling it all up, happily! And you realize with growing disappointment that your beloved doggo, who could previously chow down on dry food like there's no tomorrow, is suddenly giving it a cold shoulder instead. Now that's something to be concerned about and try and fix, sooner rather than later, isn't it? 

Well, the thing is, getting to the bottom of why your dog is giving the dry food a sudden frosty shoulder, is key if you want to get a headstart on nipping the issue in the bud. And getting to the bottom of this mystery isn't just about getting them to eat again—it can also give you some pretty handy clues about your canine friend's overall health.

So let's dive into this doggy dilemma right away and fetch some answers!

Common Reasons Dogs Refuse Dry Food

The reasons for your dog not eating dry food may be many. But let's get some of the rather common ones out of the way first!  

Change in Dietary Preferences (Often in Response to Discovering Something More Appealing)

Did you know that some dogs can develop quite the acquired taste seemingly overnight? And almost always the culprit is exposure to some other food type or specific foods that have got their taste buds dancing and your dog in turn seeking more (of the same recently sampled food)! This is especially true if they've recently had a nibble of something more tantalizing—like juicy wet food or a bit of your dinner maybe. And this could be THE reason why dry kibble might suddenly seem less appetizing to your doggo! Or it could be plain boredom and routine that is taking the joy out of the meal for your dog, especially if he/she has been on the same ole' diet for as far back as you can remember! After all, just like we get bored eating the same meal every day, so can your dog!

Dental Problems or Discomfort

Imagine trying to chew on something when your tooth is aching—sounds dreadful, right? Dental issues like a sore tooth, gum disease, or a mouth injury can turn mealtime into a painful ordeal for your dog. So, if you notice any wincing, pawing at the mouth, or hesitation while eating, it's time to schedule a vet visit.

Aging-Related Changes in Taste or Digestion

Let's face it—none of us are getting any younger, and our dogs are no exception. As they get older, their taste buds might not be as sharp as they once were, and they might find it harder to digest certain foods. That "crunch-tastic" dry food might not cut it anymore for your senior dog, and they could start leaning towards the softer, wetter stuff.

Illness or Underlying Health Conditions

There may be a medical reason causing this behavior. Especially if your dog was once eating dry food and has suddenly come to avoiding it altogether. Dehydration (resulting in considerable emotional distress among other more physical problems), hypersensitivity to certain foods, or even an upset stomach, among other health issues, could be behind your dog’s refusal of dry food. So it would always be prudent to rule out any health concerns first by discussing it with your vet. 

However, if it is found that an underlying health issue is not a reason, then the quickest way around all of the other reasons stated above, is to soften your dog’s food. Remember softening the dry dog food more than just does the obvious - as some of these softening techniques we're about to delve into can also make the dry food more appetizing and palatable for your pooch, in case his/her preferences seem like the issue behind the refusal. 

How to Soften Dog Food and the Benefits of Softening Your Dog’s Food

The following are some effective techniques for softening your dog’s dry, hard food and improving its nutritional value, in the bargain.

Adding Small Amounts of Warm Water

Warm water soaks into food a lot easier. You could add a little at first, mix it in and then if needed add a little more to get to a desired consistency.

You could also use a spoon to mash the food once it has absorbed enough of the water. Repeat this process of adding water and manually mashing and mixing the food, as needed, until you have managed to do away with the dryness and increase the overall moisture content.

The addition of water not only increases the overall water consumption, which is especially beneficial for the dog’s hydration levels, but also helps prevent additional health problems such as urinary tract infections and aids digestion by breaking down the food.

Warm water can also help release the aroma of the food, and in turn stimulate your dog’s appetite.

Adding Meat/Vegetable Stock or Meat Broth (usually chicken or beef broth) to the Dry Food

As in the case of water, begin by adding just enough to moisten the food. Increase the amount until your dog is satisfied with the consistency.

Besides helping with the softening, the stock/broth adds flavor making the food more palatable for your dog. An important benefit of adding stock derived from cooking meat is that it provides highly beneficial additions to your dog’s diet in the form of chondroitin glucosamine, collagen, hyaluronic and amino acids. This could be especially helpful if your dog is suffering from leaky gut syndrome or joint inflammation.

Addition of Yogurt or Warmed Milk (on occasion as these can often be high in fat and sugars) to the Dry Food

As long as your dog isn’t lactose intolerant, yogurt is an excellent addition to difficult-to-eat foods. It not only enhances the overall flavor of the food, but also serves as an excellent source of probiotic gut bacteria, minerals, antioxidants, vitamins, and proteins.
If you’re unsure about your dog being lactose intolerant, you could add very little milk/yogurt at first and then look for any signs of diarrhea, flatulence, or abdominal pain/discomfort. In the event of any of these symptoms occur, immediately discontinue the use of yogurt and use one of the other softeners mentioned here instead.

The best option may be to use plain, unflavored Greek yogurt, as it contains less lactose and contains no natural or artificial sweeteners that are harmful to your dog’s health.

Adding Fish Oil or Canned Tuna Juice (provided it's not preserved in a brine solution to avoid an excess of salt)

Fish oil or canned tuna juice may be combined with water and added to your dog’s dry food.
As to how much fish oil you'd need to add, would depend on your dog’s dietary needs and on whether your doggo is a small/medium or large-sized dog. But in general, it is always good to check with your vet on how much fish oil is advisable to add to your dog’s diet.

The benefits of adding fish oil to your dog’s food, however, are great. It serves as an effective anti-inflammatory additive. Fish oil is also known to contain a high concentration of Omega-3 fatty acids, which is great for your dog’s heart health, and any joint ailments. It could even help address any cognitive issues and fur or skin conditions that your dog may be suffering from.

Combining Canned and Dry Food

Combining the two types of food, canned and dry dog food is one of the simplest ways to soften your dog’s food.
Canned foods have a higher water content and a lower nutritional value, which is important to consider when selecting this option.
While your dog may enjoy the aroma, taste, and consistency of the food, you must ensure that the portion of canned and dry food is appropriate for your dog’s height, weight, and age.

And as a note for abundant caution: You could consider scheduling a consultation with your vet. Because each dog’s nutritional requirements could vary. And it is best to consult a veterinarian before making any dietary changes on your own.

However, once you’ve decided on a method of softening, look out for your dog’s behavior in terms of how receptive he/she is to the altered food. This way, should it be necessitated, you can further modify the consistency of the food as needed or even switch to another softening technique above, to make sure your dog remains receptive to the new diet consistency and texture.

What Is the Purpose of Softening Dog Food

You may be wondering why we spent considerable time explaining how to soften your dog's dry food. And here's why -

Apart from the obvious reasons for softening dry dog food which is getting your dog to eat more readily by remediating his/her picky behavior or to workaround existing dental problems, there are a few additional benefits worth noting.

  • Soft food in general, is a lot easier to chew as well as to digest.
  • As soft food tends to have more moisture content, especially where water is added in softening it, it would mean an increase in the fluid intake, ensuring your dog stays well-hydrated.
  • Another plus for your dog is that it can assist in preventing dehydration-related emotional distress.

And for you as a dog parent, this might be your quickest, safest and surest bet in fixing the issue of dry dog food refusal at hand!

Okay, now that we have gotten the most accessible, and simplest solution out of the way, let's explore a few more handy solutions.

Some More Ways To Try and Get Your Dog to Give the Dry Food a Go!

Use Food Toppers - Commercial / Home-sourced

In the dog world, condiments are called food toppers, and they're a fantastic way to boost the appeal of dry food. From delectable gravy-style toppers to sprinkle-on enhancements rich in flavors like cheese or bacon, these extras can be a real game-changer. And don't forget—healthy human foods, like a sprinkle of shredded chicken, fish flakes or even herbs like parsley can also work wonders. But remember, moderation is key!

Make Mealtime Fun and Engaging

Who said meals need to be served in a bowl? Turn feeding time into playtime with food-dispensing toys or puzzles. These nifty gadgets make your dog work a little for their food, stimulating their mind and making mealtime an adventure. For the super-smart cookies, rotate the toys to keep them guessing. Mealtime is about to get a whole lot more interesting for your pupper!

Try Warming the Food Slightly

Sometimes, a little bit of warmth can do the trick! Dry dog food tends to be room temperature, and let’s be honest, that’s not always the most enticing. By warming up your dog's kibble slightly, you can release the aroma, making it more appealing. Just sprinkle the kibble with a little warm water or put the bowl in the microwave for a few seconds (make sure it's not too hot!).

It’s like when you smell a freshly baked pie from the oven - suddenly, you’re much more interested in having a slice! Similarly, the enticing smell of slightly warmed kibble might just be what gets your dog's tail wagging at mealtime again.

And now that we've tried all we could to "fix" the problem of getting your doggo to give dry dog food another earnest shot, let's look at some solutions that consider alternatives to dry dog food. We didn't want to jump to this right at the beginning. But if you've tried all we've suggested but see no difference with your doggo still refusing his/her dry dog food, then we suggest you look at the alternatives suggested below!

Alternative Solutions if Your Dog Continues to Refuse Dry Food

Like we said above, despite your best efforts, your dog might still be giving a 'nope' to their dry food. And that's really okay; you did your best and so did your pupper on his/her part as well. Moreover, it doesn't mean you're out of options, yet. In fact, there are plenty of other ways to make sure your dog is getting the nutrition they need. Let's take a peek at some of these alternatives.

Transitioning Completely to Wet food or Homemade Meals:

Wet food is often a hit with the canine crew. It's moist, smells great, and has a texture that many dogs love. If dry food is no longer doing the trick, consider trying a wet food diet. Remember, though, to introduce it slowly, just like you would with a new type of dry food.

Or how about making your own dog food at home? It's like the gourmet version of doggy dining! Before you start, though, chat with your vet or a pet nutrition expert to ensure your homemade meals are meeting all your pup's nutritional needs. Trust us, they'll be drooling over their dinners in no time!

Exploring Therapeutic or Prescription Diets:

Sometimes, your vet might recommend a special diet to help manage a health condition or to address dietary sensitivities. These therapeutic or prescription diets are specially formulated to support your dog's health and can only be obtained with a vet's approval. They might include hypoallergenic diets for food-sensitive dogs, low-fat diets for pups with pancreatitis, or kidney-friendly diets for older dogs with kidney issues.

And now, for some parting words - Psst! Don't worry, we're not disappearing on you! We'll be back with more useful articles for you and your pupper, in no time!

Okay, so here we are! We've covered a lot of ground today, haven't we? From understanding why our dog might snub their dry food, to trying new ways to encourage them to eat, and even considering some alternative diet solutions. But if there's one thing to remember, it's this: patience and understanding are your two best friends in this journey.

Dogs are just like us in many ways—they have their likes and dislikes, their good days, and bad. So when your dog starts turning their nose up at their once-beloved kibble, don't panic. Take a moment, a deep breath, and try to see the world from your dog's point of view. Are they bored of the same-old, same-old? Is their mouth feeling sore? Or is it something more complex? By understanding their needs and behavior, you're already halfway to solving the puzzle.

For those of you in the thick of this challenge, we just want to say: hang in there, you're doing great! And remember, every dog is unique, just like every person. What works for one might not work for another. It might take some time and a few tries to find the solution that makes your dog's tail wag with joy at mealtime again.

But don't worry. You know your dog better than anyone else, and with that knowledge, your love, and a little bit of guidance (from vets, articles like this, or fellow dog parents), you'll find the way. After all, at the heart of being a pet parent is the desire to see our furry little ones healthy, happy, and savoring their meals one delightful bite at a time.

Here's more power to you, and your incredible journey with your canine family member. 🐾

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