Find Out How Long Can a Dog Go Without Eating, What To Do When That Happens And More!

Is your dog ignoring his/her food?

Are you finding that your canine friend seems disinterested in the treats you're leaving him/her?

Read on to find out what might be happening with your pupper. We've put together some information that we think may help answers some of the questions that you may have.

Is Ignoring Food Common or Even Normal for a Dog?

Food is undoubtedly essential when it comes to survival for any living being - and ultimately it's instinctive for a dog too to want to eat for survival. So your dog staying away from food can more often than not, be a sign of either a psychological issue or an underlying physical health problem. However, it all depends on how long such a behavior has been going on for, as well. 

When unwell, it's quite common for dogs to lose their appetite and forgo some of their meals. Dogs that are otherwise physically well too can sometimes skip meals by ignoring it completely (reasons for which we'll discuss further on in this article). That said, this is definitely something to pay attention to and act on promptly.

How Long Can a Healthy Dog Go Without Food?

Although it is possible for an otherwise healthy, young dog to survive on plenty of water intake and with no solid food for about 3 days, you definitely should not let your dog skip eating for that long without consulting a veterinarian. For there could be something really wrong with your dog that requires prompt medical attention. Moreover, extended periods without food can lead to serious health issues and should be avoided.

How Long Can a Dog Go Without Food When Unwell?

When a dog is unwell, it's harder to say definitively how long they can go without eating.

Illness can cause a decrease in appetite, and the exact duration a sick dog can go without food will depend on the nature of the illness, the dog's overall health, and the care they're receiving.

Even a day or two without food can have significant impacts on a sick dog's health, and any loss of appetite in an ill dog should be addressed with a veterinarian immediately.

Also important to note here is that although a dog may have lost appetite and may be refusing food when ill, water intake is an absolute must, as sustenance without water is for a far shorter period. And while this would vary based on several factors, it is advisable not to leave an unwell dog without food or water for more than 24 hours. Seek help from your vet immediately to address the issue, and we couldn't stress enough on this! 

Why is my dog refusing to eat?

This question may be your most pressing concern. And rightly so!

The answer, however, is not a straightforward one. As there could be a number of possible explanations for your dog's lack of appetite.

Given below are some possible explanations for your dog's not being able to/ wanting to eat. While some of these reasons require only brief visits to the veterinarian, others may need extensive medical assessment.

Physical Health Problems

Numerous medical conditions can result in dogs losing their appetite. However, the following are some of the most frequent instances: Distressed stomach, an infection, allergies, arthritis, dental health issues, parasitic infestation, and immune-mediated diseases

If you suspect that your canine friend is suffering from one of these diseases, you should be aware that he/she may experience loss of appetite as a result.

Mental Health Issues

Certain mental health issues that can develop in a dog, can contribute to appetite loss. The most common among these are depression and anxiety.

How Can You Help Your Dog When He/She is Anxious/ Depressed?

  1. Spend more time with your dog. The most frequent cause of anxiety in dogs is prolonged separation from their human family. This occurs more frequently if you work or travel frequently.
  2. Shield your dog from loud noises. Dogs with their keen sense of hearing perceive sounds a lot louder than humans and this can many a time be a major reason for a dog to become anxious or stressed. A room in your house for your dog to retreat to when he/she feels threatened by his surroundings would be a good idea. Dim the lights slightly, and provide a large box for him/her to lie in.
  3. Additional socialization. Your dog's anxiety may also be the result of a fear of never being introduced to the world properly. Without early socialization, your dog will have a harder time interacting with other people and animals in the future.
  4. Consult your veterinarian if you notice a significant change in the usual behavioral pattern of your dog along with a loss of appetite. Examples of such behavior could be changes in sleep habits, loss of interest in play/other activities they once engaged in, newly acquired aggression or excessive barking, and so on. 

How to Determine Why Your Dog Is Not Eating

If your dog hasn't eaten in about 2 days or so, take it seriously and determine why your dog is refusing to eat.

  1. Keep an eye on your dog's behavior.
  2. Examine the teeth
  3. Ascertain whether there are any food-related issues.
  4. Environmental Investigations may also be needed.
  5. Review your own recent actions

Step 1: Observe Your Dog's Behavior - Determine whether the dog is refusing to eat in general or if the refusal is just for a particular type of food, by closely observing his/her behavior.

Check to see if your dog is behaving normally in response to other changes in your daily routine. Additionally, pay attention to the dog's feces and urine. Allow your pet to skip one or two meals if everything goes well. Consult your veterinarian if your dog throws up, has diarrhea, is seeming drowsy, or appears to be weak and listless.

Also if you have any concerns about your dog's behavioral changes, do not hesitate to contact the veterinarian. This way, you can quickly ascertain the underlying issue and receive the necessary help.

Step 2: Examine Your Dog's Teeth and Overall Health Condition - If your dog refuses to eat due to broken, sagging, or bad teeth or due to swollen gums, this may be the cause. Also examine your dog's body for parasites, fur and skin changes, as well as lumps or injuries. Do not wait to contact the veterinarian if you notice anything suspicious.

Step 3: Inspect Your Dog's Food - If your dog refuses to eat his/her food, try to determine if there is any problem with the food itself. Examine the label for the expiration date, as well as check the color and smell. And if you suspect that the food has gone bad, discard it and offer something else to your dog.

Step 4 - Check the Immediate Surroundings - If your dog has stopped eating, it could be because he/she ate something he should not have. So examine your houseplants, carpets, toys, and other items that may be accessible to your dog. Take additional steps to see if your dog could have easily accessed and accidentally consumed any prescription drugs or household chemicals. Consult a veterinarian immediately if your dog vomits or has diarrhea.

If your puppy or new dog is refusing to eat, it could be because of the new environment. The same holds true if you have recently relocated. And if your dog spends the day with other people, ensure that he/she is being fed.

Step 5: Review Your Own Recent Actions - Have you recently accidentally dropped food or table scraps near your dog? If you have, this is most likely the cause of your dog's appetite loss. Perhaps your dog is simply anticipating something more appetizing.

As you've seen so far, there are numerous possible explanations for a decrease in a dog's appetite. And we have so far discussed different reasons why you're dog may not be eating - so now let's look at potential ways to sort this problem out.

How You Can Help Your Dog Start Eating Again?

Besides visiting a vet, which is still the best solution for this, you could try one or more of the following in order to get your dog to start eating once again.  

Try Substitution With Different Dog Food Brands

If you're having difficulty convincing your dog to eat dry food, try a different brand. Consider purchasing sample packages at a pet store to determine whether your dog prefers a different brand than the one you purchased.

Alternatively, you can supplement dry food with some wet food to stimulate your dog's appetite.

Deal Diligently With the Fussy Eating Behavior

While cats have a reputation for being choosy about food, dogs can be equally fussy.

When this occurs, one way is that you can try experimenting with different foods, until your dog discovers one he/she enjoys and then holds onto. However, this could take a great deal of time and patience, to figure out a diet that works for him/her. 

However, the good news is that we have an entire article written on this just for you if you've got a fussy eater doggo at home! And you can find it here

Supplement the Regular Diet with a Healthy Treat

To begin, provide them with small amounts of healthy dog treats and observe their behavior. If it's received well, try increasing the amount slightly. You must combine the treat with their current meal, in order to persuade them to continue eating their regular diet in addition to treats. Also take care not to overfeed your dog these treats, as this can have a negative effect on their health.

In addition to the above ways to try and get your dog to eat, we have a few further tips and suggestions for you to try as well :  

  1. Make the Food More Palatable by warming the food. This would help release the aroma and make the food more palatable, especially for sick dogs that may have their sense of smell and taste impaired. 
  2. Ad Warm Broth Into Your Dog's Food to improve the flavor and in turn the taste. For more tips on making your dog's food more appealing, you could also read this
  3. Hand-feed Your Dog, in order to soothe and calm your dog when sick, and in turn, encourage them to eat. 
  4. Allow Your Dog to Consume Grass (graze outside in your yard/garden if you have one), as consuming grass can induce vomiting in dogs, which can be beneficial. If the dog's discomfort can be alleviated through vomiting, the dog's instinct may do the rest and get him/her back to eating normally once again. 
  5. Visit the Vet, as mentioned several times earlier as well, the best thing to do if your dog becomes ill and refuses to eat, is to promptly consult a veterinarian. Your veterinarian can assist you in determining what is wrong with your dog and the best course of action to take. Additionally, your veterinarian can ensure that your dog has all necessary medications, whether they are for disease treatment or appetite stimulation. 
  6. Review Medicines and Medical Instructions Carefully as certain medications (e.g. antibiotics) can cause a dog's appetite to decrease. The instructions on the medication pack can further guide you on what to do. 
  7. Try Homemade Food in the Event of an Appetite Loss, as for dogs who have lost their appetite, homemade food is ideal. There are some great homemade dog food recipes available on this website, and you could read them and try creating one yourself. You can check out our article on recipes for your dog here  

In Conclusion,

We're hoping that one or more of the above tips help get your dog get back to eating like he/she used to and we wish him/her plenty of good health and cheer in the days and years to come!

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