Dogs love food so when they stop eating it becomes worrisome for their owners. When your dog isn’t eating for more than 24 hours, it does not classify as finicky eating.
Dogs too have anorexia, but it does not exhibit the same characteristics as among humans. Unlike humans, dogs aren’t dictated by social and cultural norms. They never force themselves to stop eating because they want to reduce weight or look better. For them, it’s more about how they feel. Do they feel hungry, or, does it pain to eat?
There are two kinds of canine anorexia – pseudo anorexia and true anorexia. Pseudo anorexia is a condition where the dog wants to eat but can’t, but when a dog has no appetite for food, it’s called true anorexia.
It is very common for dogs to lose their appetite occasionally for a period of 24 hours. However, if your dog isn’t eating for longer, or if they are often turning their heads from food, you should take your dog to a vet.
Here are some reasons why your dog isn’t eating:
1. Change In Food
Food is important and as dog parents, you may want to switch your dog to a premium quality dog food. But since our dogs don’t like change in their environment, a new food, may throw them off. Instead of showing interest in the healthy food, they will turn their noses.
Canine anorexia towards a new food is quite common. It happens when you directly change their food without a hint or a warning. If you are introducing a dog food for the first time make sure the change is gradual. Start by mixing 25% of the new food and 75% of the old food for the first few days. Then mix equal quantities of both for the next few days and so on.
The image below illustrates how you should introduce your dog to a new food.
If you gradually switch them to a new dog food, you will cure their canine anorexia perhaps by the time they have their next meal.
2. Changes In The Environment
As we said earlier, dogs like familiarity and any change in their routine can throw them off. This may be a major change, like shifting with their owners, a case of re-homing/sheltering, being introduced to a new dog in the family or a minute change like a new food bowl or changes with their meal times – any of these changes can trigger canine anorexia.
Try to make gradual changes when needed and allow them to get accustomed to change. Changes are stressful for dogs and their level of stress differs from dog to dog. We understand you cannot help certain changes. Like, if you have just sheltered an abandoned dog, it’s a huge change in their life. The only way to help them regain their appetite is to make them feel safe and loved.
3. Changes In The Temperature
You may have noticed your dog loose interest in food during the extreme summers and winters. It is more common for dogs to loose their appetite during the summers.
Though it is alright to occasionally skip a meal, make sure it does not persist. Encourage your dog to eat their meals by mixing cold vegetable (or chicken) broth in their meals. Adding a bit of curd in meals also helps them keep cool during the summers.
Dogs love frozen food during the summer and there is no harm in treating them with it occasionally. Just make sure that they do not have any intolerance towards cold food before giving it to them.
4. Too Much Food!
Many dog owners refill the dog food bowl whenever it’s empty. This is a big mistake! Dogs are accustomed to finding food, struggling for food, and when they suddenly get food in abundance, they become picky with their food.
Studies show that free feeding encourages picky eating. It is in our primal instincts to eat food when we see it. So, then why do dogs loose the interest? It is because they have too much of it.
Anything in abundance loses its shine. If the food bowl is always replenished, they tend to forget the fuzz for food! It is very important to establish meal times, as we do with humans.
Ideally, your dog should finish a meal in ten minutes. If they don’t finish it quickly, put their bowl away and don’t offer them any treats or food until their next meal time. After repeating this for a few days, your dog will start appreciating ‘meal times’ and will have an appetite.
5. Dental Hygiene
This may be the most common cause of pseudo anorexia. You may see your dog come to sniff their food, they even take a few bites of it and walk away.
Sometimes cavities or plaque in their teeth may cause them pain while eating. So, they feel it is better to stop eating altogether than to go through the pain of the process. We often neglect their oral hygiene without realising that it can pose many problems as they grow older. This is very common in older dogs and can be easily fixed by a quick visit to the vet.
If your dog is not eating, be sure to check for other signs like diarrhoea or vomiting. Sometimes dogs tend to pick up things from the garden or sneak away human food that may cause them an upset stomach.
This is one of the most common kind of true diarrhoea where they temporarily loose in food because of other discomforts. Keep your dog hydrated and let them expel their bowels whenever they want. Do take them to the vet if it persists for more than 24 hours.
Other Reasons Why Your Dog Isn’t Eating
If you have many dogs, ensure that they eat separately, preferably their own kennels. Sometimes dominant dogs growl at the submissive ones when they eat causing fear within the submissive dog.
With more than one dog in the house, one of then can eat faster than the other and turn to attack the slow eater . This is another common reason for pseudo anorexia where the meeker, fearful dog associates food with fear and therefore either stay away from their bowl or they easily surrender their lunch.
Human intervention is very important in these cases. Feed the submissive dog separately and make them feel safe around food. This will help them overcome their fear.
Dogs, just like humans, have their own methods of dealing with anorexia. It is a momentary phase for our canines. Skipping a meal or two usually does the trick and they are famished by the time the third meal is ready.
If the behaviour persists, make sure you visit the vet. Keep a note of when and what they last ate and follow up with their check-ups. You’ll see them wolfing down their meals in no time