A dog not eating can be the sign of a serious problem.

Most pups live for their food, so when they are not eating or not eating well, it can be pretty worrisome. There are many different reasons that your dog is not eating normally, and the pet experts at Naperville Animal Hospital are happy to help you figure out why. 

Just Not Hungry…

For a healthy, normal adult dog, missing a meal here or there is not a big deal. The body typically has enough reserves to provide energy for a little while without eating. 

There are several reasons your pup may be passing up their dinner bowl that are easy to fix. If you dog has skipped a meal, consider the following:

  • Have they filled up on something else? (extra treats, the cat’s food, a squirrel out in the backyard)
  • Are you feeding too much? (while the back of the dog food bag provides a great guesstimate of how much to feed, not all dogs need quite as much as suggested)
  • Are they waiting for you to add something tasty to their dinner? (adding things to entice your pet to eat may create an expectation of something more than kibble in their bowl)
  • Is your pet anxious or nervous about something?
  • Does the kibble taste okay? (Have you used any cleaning supplies in the area that might have left a residue? Is the bag of dog food expired?)
  • Does your pet have any reason to feel less than secure while eating?
  • Are there other animals in the picture that may be disrupting your dog’s meal in some way?
  • Is it possible that your pet doesn’t like the brand or flavor of food offered?
  • Is your pet too hot to eat?

If your dog seems to be okay otherwise, it is fine to wait 12 hours before giving us a call for an appointment. For very young puppies or pets that have other health conditions, please reach out right away if your pet skips a meal. 

Consider making adjustments in the food being offered, feeding location or circumstances, and avoiding treats and table food to encourage your pet to eat. A good walk before your dog’s next meal can also help to get the appetite going!

Medical Reasons Your Dog is Not Eating

Sometimes, though, when your dog is not eating, it is a sign that something more serious is going on. If your pet goes more than 12 hours without eating or if there are other signs of illness such as lethargy, vomiting/diarrhea, or pain, your pet should be evaluated right away.

Many times physical examination and diagnostic testing is necessary to get more information about why a pet might not want to eat. After all, they can’t just talk and tell us. 

The list of possibilities goes on and on, but some common diagnoses in a dog that is not eating include:

  • Digestive upset/dietary indiscretion
  • Pancreatitis
  • Foreign body ingestion
  • Fever
  • Orthopedic or abdominal pain
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Dental disease (this typically must be pretty severe to cause a pet to not eat)
  • Oral pain or ulcerations 
  • Toxin ingestion
  • Systemic infection
  • Systemic disease such as kidney or liver disease
  • Cancer

It is important to let us know right away if your pet isn’t eating normally so that we can get started diagnosing the issue. While there are many reasons a pet might skip their dinner, many of them are treatable or manageable when found early.

Pay attention and be familiar with what is normal for your dog. It is also helpful to meal-feed your pet in its own bowl versus leaving food out all day so that you can be sure when and how much your dog is eating. This way you are more aware when a problem does occur. 

If your pet skips a meal here or there, it is likely not a big deal. Don’t be scared, though, to let us know if you have a concern. You know your pet best, and we are here to help you.