Why Is My Dog Not Eating?

Rhiannon Koehler, DVM
By Rhiannon Koehler, DVM on Dec. 22, 2023
black fluffy dog lying on counter with uneaten food bowl

In This Article

Why Won’t Dogs Eat?

A dog not eating or eating less than usual isn’t always a sign that something is wrong, but you definitely want to rule out underlying conditions before shrugging it off.

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Why Won’t Dogs Eat?

Your dog’s appetite is regulated by a complex mechanism that involves their brain, the fullness and distention of their stomach and intestines, and specific hormones. Appetite can be altered by medical conditions, behavioral conditions, environmental changes, or issues with the food itself.

When a dog has no appetite and isn’t eating food, this is called anorexia. Anorexia in dogs is not the same as anorexia nervosa in humans. When the dog has a decreased appetite but still eats some food, we call this hyporexia. If your dog has a normal appetite but physically can’t eat, this is called pseudoanorexia.

When your dog isn’t eating, your veterinarian must differentiate between conditions causing a lack of appetite and conditions causing an inability to eat.

How Long Can a Dog Go Without Food?

Most adult dogs can go three to five days without eating as long as they’re still drinking water. This doesn’t mean you should sit idle while your dog isn’t eating for several days! If your adult dog hasn’t eaten for two days but is otherwise acting normal, contact your veterinarian.

An exception to this rule is a dog diagnosed with diabetes. If your diabetic dog is skipping any meals, contact your veterinarian, because this lack of food may adversely affect their response to insulin.

Young puppies need to eat more often. Puppies skipping meals run the risk of developing low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Nursing puppies need to eat every two to four hours depending on their age. Puppies closer to two months generally need to eat at least three times per day.

 If your puppy skips a normal meal and still seems uninterested in eating a few hours later, contact your veterinarian immediately, especially if they’re acting unlike themselves, vomiting, or having diarrhea.

Can You Stimulate Appetite in Dogs?

Yes, you can try to stimulate your dog’s appetite at home by offering their favorite treats, making boiled chicken and rice, or warming up their food.

Your veterinarian may prescribe medications, if needed, to stimulate their appetite, including mirtazapine and capromorelin (Entyce®). In some cases, they may prescribe antinausea medications such as maropitant (Cerenia®). Use only medications prescribed by your veterinarian.

Reasons Why a Dog Is Not Eating Their Food


The list of medical conditions that could decrease your dog’s food consumption is extensive. Below is a list of general categories of medical conditions that could cause anorexia or hyporexia in dogs, and examples of each.

If you’re noticing a decreased appetite but your dog seems otherwise healthy, contact your veterinarian for an appointment. In the meantime, you can try the following to encourage your pup to eat:

  • Ensure access to clean water at all times

  • Try heating their food in the microwave

  • Offer warmed canned food

  • Add warmed water to dry food

  • Put dog-safe broth on their food (no garlic or onions, low-sodium)

  • Offer boiled chicken and rice

If your dog is also vomiting or having diarrhea, acting lethargic, has a tense or distended abdomen, or yelps when their abdomen is touched, contact an emergency vet for guidance.

When your dog isn’t eating, your veterinarian must differentiate between conditions causing a lack of appetite and conditions causing an inability to eat.


Dogs experience similar emotions and mental health conditions as humans. Examples of behavioral causes for decreased appetite may include:

If your dog is having severe enough behavioral concerns that it’s affecting their eating, contact your vet. For some dogs, medications like fluoxetine or trazodone may be necessary to help manage their condition.

 In the meantime, you can support your pet by:

  • Avoiding any obvious triggers for their anxiety

  • Providing them with a safe space, such as giving them a room of their own when visitors are present

  • Using calming pheromones

  • Ensuring they’re getting plenty of exercise

  • Supplying toys that provide mental stimulation


Healthy senior dogs have a lower calorie requirement than younger pups, so you may notice a slight decrease in appetite as your dog gets older. However, age is not a reason for a dog to become anorexic. A significant change in your senior dog’s appetite is a reason to contact your veterinarian.

When supporting your senior dog’s appetite at home, consider:

  • Using a raised food bowl if they’re having trouble reaching their food

  • Offer them food by hand

  • Place a nonslip mat around their bowls to avoid falls

  • Offer softer foods so they can easily chew

  • Feeding at scheduled times of day to help with cognitive decline

Environmental Changes

Environmental changes play into your pet’s emotional well-being. Significant changes to the home environment can cause stress and anxiety, which in turn affect appetite. This includes:

  • Moving to a new home

  • Adding a new pet or new child

  • Having houseguests

  • Construction in the home

  • Rearranging the furniture

  • Moving food and water bowls

To reduce your pet’s stress and anxiety, try to:

  • Make introductions to new pets and children slowly

  • Provide a safe space for your dog when they want time alone

  • Reduce the movement of their food and water bowls so there is routine and consistency

  • Use dog pheromones to reduce anxiety

Problems With Your Dog’s Food

If your dog has routinely eaten the same food and now shows no interest in it, make sure to check for the following:

  • Is the food moldy or expired?

  • Is the food wet?

  • Did you get the right flavor?

Some dogs are picky and prefer a specific type of food, refusing to eat any other kind. If you’ve switched from wet food to kibble or vice versa and your pet stops eating, it could be as simple as switching back to the original food.

If your dog remains uninterested in food, especially into a second day, contact your veterinarian for an evaluation.

Other dogs know how to play their pet parents, so they’ll refuse their meal if they know you’ll give them something better. Make sure your dog isn’t overeating treats. Treats should make up no more than 10% of your dog’s calories.

What To Do When Your Dog Is Not Eating

If your dog isn’t eating but is still drinking and otherwise acting normal, refer to the above potential reasons for why your dog may have a sudden lack of interest in eating. You can try warming their food, offering a different food, boiling rice and chicken, or offering treats to see if you can encourage them to eat. Make sure to consider whether your dog is experiencing any stressors.

When To Call Your Vet

If your dog remains uninterested in food, especially into a second day, contact your veterinarian for an evaluation. If your dog has diabetes or is a puppy, contact your veterinarian immediately.

If your dog has no appetite but is drinking excessive amounts of water, this may be a reason to seek emergency attention. For example, they could be experiencing diabetic ketoacidosis. At a minimum, call your veterinarian for advice.

Your Puppy Is Not Eating

Puppies cannot go as long as adult dogs without food. If your puppy is skipping meals, contact your veterinarian. If this is accompanied by vomiting and/or diarrhea, the number one issue to rule out in a puppy would be parvovirus. With severe signs, this could require emergency care.


Do dogs go through phases of not eating?

No. Dogs do not typically go through phases of not eating, but they may experience a decreased appetite due to a medical condition, stress, fear, or anxiety. Changes to their home environment may also cause a temporary reduction in appetite.

Why won’t my dog eat his food but will eat treats?

In some cases, your dog won’t eat their food but eats treats because they’ve learned that refusing to eat dinner means they get the good stuff. However, if your dog is always refusing food and only occasionally taking some treats, make sure to contact your veterinarian to rule out medical conditions. Sometimes, even a sick dog can’t say no to treats.

Are there home remedies for a sick dog who isn’t eating?

If your dog is acting sick and not eating, your veterinarian may recommend that you try boiled chicken and rice at home while you await an appointment. Talk with your veterinarian before relying on home remedies for your pet who has no appetite.

Featured Image: ChristopherBernard/iStock/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Rhiannon Koehler, DVM


Rhiannon Koehler, DVM


Dr. Rhiannon Koehler is a veterinarian and freelance medical writer. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Master of Public...

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