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Get Your Pooch to Eat Its Meals With These Tricks

At A Glance

Most dogs don’t need to be told twice before they gobble up whatever is served. But what do you do if your dog suddenly starts rejecting its meals? There are several reasons why a dog would stop eating, ranging from pickiness to certain medical conditions.

Depending on the cause, you could try:

  • Including variety in their meals or making the food more palatable by warming it up.
  • However, if your dog refuses food even after 30 hours, taking it to the vet could help.

Last Updated on: Sep 06, 2023

Dogs love food. They will eat anything and everything. Any pet parent, you know having a meal that’s not meant for dogs can be challenging, especially if your dog is persistent. However, there are times when your dog just won’t eat.

Sometimes, your pet may choose not to eat for several reasons, like being picky or having a medical condition. Either way, discovering the cause of loss of appetite is necessary. It’ll help you correct the behavior and get your dog’s nutritional intake back on track.

Fortunately, there are some ways to deal with loss of appetite
. So, if you’re wondering, “How to get my dog to eat its food?” You’ve come to the right place. But first, let’s understand what causes a dog to refuse food.

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Why Won’t Your Dog Eat?

There are many reasons why your isn’t eating, but not all of them are a cause for concern. Some of the most common reasons include:

An Illness or Medication

how to get my dog to eat dry food - an illness or medication

The first step is to identify the illness in question. Along with a loss in appetite, look out for any additional symptoms. A broad range of conditions could be attributed to a lack of appetite, including dental problems, issues with digestion, or food intolerances. If you notice any of these issues, don’t hesitate to visit a veterinarian.

In some cases, if your dog is already on medication or has recently been vaccinated, it may also lose its appetite for a short period.

Unfamiliar Surroundings

Sometimes, when a dog is taken out of a familiar environment, it may become nervous, resulting in a lack of appetite. Dogs tend to get stressed out in new settings or during long journeys. It’s best to give your pup time to adjust to their new surroundings before feeding your dog.

Behavior and Pickiness

Dogs used to eating many types of foods may become picky eaters. Puppies are also known to be quite selective about their food. This may result in them turning their nose up at dry kibble or dog food while relishing human food scraps.

Thankfully, this behavior can be corrected. Here are some tips on how to get your dog to eat food under various scenarios.

When It’s Sick

Once you’ve confirmed why your dog is being picky about its food, there are some steps you could take to encourage them to eat. If your dog hasn’t eaten due to a medical condition, you should consider the following:

Consulting a Doctor

If the issue is due to an underlying illness, consult a vet who can recommend a prescribed diet. If your dog rejects the alternatives, a doctor may recommend feeding them with a syringe or putting them on a liquid diet.

Making the Food More Palatable

A dog relies on its sense of smell when eating. If it suffers from a cold or any other respiratory condition, it may be unable to smell its food. Adding warm water to wet dog food or spoonfuls of fragrant food, like fish, could make the food more appetizing for your little one.

Giving Them a Little Taste

Sometimes, all your dog needs is some encouragement. If your puppy is suffering from a minor illness, consider smearing some of its food onto its snout or offering a small amount in your hand.

That said, never force-feed your dog, as it may cause more harm when done incorrectly.

When It’s A Picky Eater

how to get my dog to eat his food - when it’s a picky eater

Sometimes, your dog’s loss of appetite is linked to its behavior. In such cases, you can:

Introduce New Flavors

If your dog refuses to eat its regular meals, it’s because it is bored with the food. Don’t worry; this is fixable. You could look for a new dog food flavor and add a little of it to the old food to create a unique blend. Alternatively, mix the old dry and wet food to trick your dog into eating it.

The quality of the food also plays a big part. Some diet dog foods may seem similar, but your dog will notice the difference in smell. It’s crucial to strike a balance between healthy food and food that tastes and smells appetizing.

Add a Tasty Topper

Consider adding dog-safe human food to regular dog food to make the meal more appetizing for your pup. Some pet parents swear by bone broth as a topper, as it is healthy and adds flavor to the meal. Fruits, vegetables, and yogurt are also quite effective.

Cut Down on Treats and Human Food

Giving your dog little nibbles of your meals may be tempting, especially when they look with those puppy eyes. But the more treats you feed your dog, the more picky it is likely to get.

However, if you have to give it a treat, try sticking to healthy options, like apples and cucumbers.

Develop a Routine

Sometimes the issue with picky dogs is that they lack discipline. Don’t leave your dog’s food out for too long to establish clear meal times. Take it away after 15 minutes to signal that it missed its meal. Keep repeating this until your dog gets hungry enough to take a bite.

Another effective way to establish a routine is by increasing your puppy’s appetite before every meal. You can do this by taking it on a long walk or feeding it meals after a play session.

When Should You Be Worried?

owner laying with her sick dog

At the end of the day, a dog skipping its meals occasionally is not problematic, especially if your little furry one is known to be a picky eater. While behavioral issues can be tackled by instilling some discipline, the real problem arises if your dog isn’t eating due to an underlying illness.

A healthy dog can go for three days without eating (provided it’s getting enough water), but you should not wait that long. If your adult dog hasn’t eaten for more than 30 hours, it may be time to consult a vet. If you have a puppy, don’t wait more than 12 hours to take it to the vet.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Do You Do When Your Dog Won’t Eat?

The first step is to assess the cause. Is your dog generally a picky eater? Or is it unwell? Behavioral issues can be easily tackled with a few changes, like creating a routine and cutting down on treats.

However, health issues need a little more caution. Visit a vet if your dog refuses to eat even after 30 hours.

How Can I Encourage My Dog to Eat?

If you’re dealing with a picky eater, you could try warming up the dog food to enhance its smell and make it more tasty. Alternatively, add a topper, like some healthy broth or your dog’s favorite fruit or vegetable.

If all these methods fail, you could try hand-feeding your pup or switching up the flavor or brand of dog food.

How Long Will a Picky Dog Go Without Eating?

Usually, dogs can survive without food for up to three days, provided they drink sufficient water. But that doesn’t mean it should. A picky dog will resist meals until it is hungry.

Try taking its food away if it doesn’t eat and serve it again at the next meal time. It will most likely eat when it’s hungry. If your dog doesn’t eat even after 30 hours, promptly take it to the vet.



Meet Sheryl, a dedicated pet mom with over 20 years of hands-on experience as a pet mom to various dog breeds, from German Shepherds to Shih Tzus. Join her on her pet-centric journey as she aims to empower pet owners with practical tips and guidance. With her experience and passion for pets, she strives to make a positive impact in the lives of pets and their devoted owners.