Pet Eating Problems: Why Won't My Dog Eat?

In this post, the vets at Northwest Veterinary Clinic of Stanwood discuss some common reasons that may cause your dog to skip a meal, what to do if your dog isn't eating and when it's time to visit the emergency vet. 

Why Isn't My Dog Eating?

It can be stressful to watch your pup refuse food. Do they just have an upset stomach or is there something more serious going on? If your dog skips one meal but otherwise seems healthy, it probably doesn't warrant a trip to the vet. However, it's always a good idea to check with your veterinarian if have any concerns. 

If it's been over 12 hours since your dog has eaten and there's no obvious cause, or if they are exhibiting any other symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, or lethargy this may be an emergency and you should call or bring your dog in for urgent care as soon as possible. 

Reasons Your Dog May Not Be Eating:


A persistent decrease in appetite in dogs is often a sign of sickness, especially if your dog is exhibiting other symptoms at the same time. Some common pet illnesses that can cause a loss of appetite are cancer, infection, liver problems, and kidney failure. If you notice your dog regularly lacking an appetite, it's time to visit the vet.  

Dental disease

If oral health issues are causing your pup pain when they chew they might not feel up to eating. If you notice broken or loose teeth, swelling, bleeding, or excessively bad breath, it may be that poor oral health is the cause of your dog's refusal to eat. Make an appointment with your vet for your pup to have a full dental examination and cleaning. 

Recent vaccinations

While vaccinations are an important part of your dog's overall health, they can cause your pup to temporarily feel a little under the weather. It is normal for a dog to have a decreased appetite for a day or two after being vaccinated. If their loss of appetite persists for more than two days or you notice any other symptoms, it's best to give your vet a call. 

A change in routine or location 

Dogs enjoy routine. If you are traveling, have recently moved, or have gotten a new pet, it is normal for your dog's appetite to be thrown off as they adjust to its new settings. Be patient with your dog and try some of the tips below to help your pet eat!

Their food has changed

If you notice the words "new and improved" on their regular food, or are trying a new brand of food, your dog's refusal to eat be because they are unsure of the new food. Typically this will only cause a dog to skip a meal or two as eventually their hunger will win out and they will try the new food (and will usually adjust to it just fine). In some cases, you may need to try a different brand or flavor of food. Monitor the situation to be sure it resolves and contact your vet if the problem persists.

What To Do If Your Dog Won't Eat

If there's an obvious cause for your dog not eating (such as the first night in a new home) and you don't notice any other symptoms, there are a few things you can do to try and make your pup's food more appealing to them: 

  • Warm up your dog’s food in the microwave
  • Pour chicken broth, beef broth, or tuna water over the food to make it more appealing
  • Pour warm water over dry food to make it softer.
  • Feeding your dog dry food if they usually only eat wet food or vice versa
  • Try hand-feeding, as social eaters sometimes just want attention

When Should I Worry About My Dog Not Eating?

If you notice a persistent change in your dog's appetite or any other concerning symptoms, from vomiting to swelling in the mouth, your dog needs emergency medical attention. 

You should also seek medical attention if your dog skips two or more meals, regardless of whether or not there are any other symptoms present. When it comes to the health of your companion, it is always best to err on the side of caution and consult a veterinary professional. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet for an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition.

Have you noticed a change in your dog's appetite? Contact our Stanwood vets today to book an examination for your pet.