There is a simple rule: if the dog eats, mistress and master are happy. Food has emotional value for us humans. This idea is projected onto the dog subconsciously. While obesity is rarely recognized as a problem, a dog that does not eat is a concern for many owners.
Since loss of appetite accompanies many clinical disorders, this concern is understandable. However, it does not always have to be an illness behind the feed strike. We explain the possible causes and give tips on how you can make eating palatable for your dog again.
A lack of appetite and sudden refusal to feed are common side effects of many diseases. Loss of appetite can occur in conjunction with other symptoms or as the sole sign of an illness.
Your dog doesn’t eat even though he was hungry yesterday when he emptied the bowl? Then you should first clarify the physical causes and accompanying symptoms:
Physical changes can also indicate pain or illness. Shiny coat stands for health, for example, while dull coat or unusually heavy hair loss can indicate a disease. Unusual discharge from the eyes or nose can also be a warning sign.
If one or more of the above points apply to your dog, you should consult a veterinarian with him as soon as possible. Organ diseases, a foreign body in the gastrointestinal tract, potential poisoning and many other medical causes for your dog’s inappetence can only be diagnosed and treated there.
Your dog does not eat even though he has no physical complaints? Then maybe the psyche is behind it. Unlike some people, dogs are not frustration eaters. You do not compensate for stress by eating, on the contrary.
Sensitive dogs in particular react with a lack of appetite in stressful situations. Unfamiliar situations, sudden changes or hormonal fluctuations can upset the emotional balance quite a bit. The following stress factors often spoil a dog’s appetite:
If there is a stressor behind your dog’s unwillingness to eat, you should first identify the source of the disturbance and avoid or reduce it in the future. If in doubt, seek the support of a dog trainer or behavioral therapist in order to be able to take individual measures to reduce stress in your dog.
Dog refusal to feed can be related to physical and emotional problems. © Shutterstock.com/Stacey Welu
In terms of unwillingness to eat, the cause can also be at the other end of the leash – i.e. with the dog owner. Often bad eating habits are unconsciously reinforced or the dog’s unwillingness to eat is misinterpreted. The most common mistakes include:
A dog’s apparent loss of appetite only arises in the dog owner’s head. The cause is false expectations. Many owners overestimate their dog’s actual food needs and are concerned if they eat less than the manufacturer’s recommended amount of food. Treats are also often not added to the daily feed ration. It’s so simple: the dog is full, period!
This problem behavior is particularly evident in dogs that have had no appetite for a long time due to an illness and should be fed again. While the concerned owner does everything in his power to encourage the dog to eat, the dog misunderstands his human’s efforts. He combines his own “not eating” with the attention of his owner: the more hesitantly he eats and the more often he turns to the bowl, the more attention he receives. A vicious circle that puts pressure on dogs and humans alike.
Showing affection for your dog while they are eating is extremely counterproductive. © Shutterstock.com/AVAVA
Anyone who constantly offers their dog new types of food – in the belief that they are doing him good – attracts a picky eater. The contents of the bowl are often ignored – after all, a new taste experience is already on hold. Frequent feed changes can also lead to digestive problems, as the intestinal flora has to constantly adapt to new conditions. Variety, yes, but only to a certain extent!
Especially during puberty, a dog will try everything to move up the pack hierarchy. This works particularly well with a feed refusal, because nothing secures him the attention of his mistress or master more than an untouched bowl. Therefore, establish fixed rules with regard to feeding early on: Let your dog wait until you have filled his bowl and put it down and only then give permission to eat. Establish fixed feeding times and clear the bowl away after 15 minutes at the latest. Of course, delicacies from the table should be taboo.
Shy dogs in particular sometimes have the feeling that their owner is claiming the food for themselves. They feel insecure and do not know exactly whether they are allowed to eat or not. In such a case, it is advisable to leave the room for a short time. In general, a dog should be left alone while eating.
Apart from clinical, psychological and educational causes, the following factors can also prevent your dog from eating or eating very little:
If the senses decline with age, this can also affect the dog’s appetite. © Shutterstock.com/Alex Mladek
There can be both harmless and dangerous causes behind dog refusal to feed. The general rule is: Better to go to the vet once too much than too little. If your dog consistently refuses all food and shows other symptoms of the disease at the same time, you should not waste time and consult a veterinarian.