It seems like dogs will eat just about anything placed in front of them no matter how unappetizing it appears or smells. Because of this, it can be frustrating, and even frightening, when your beloved companion refuses to show enthusiasm for a meal or refuses to eat it altogether.


In some situations, this can be considered normal behaviour, and you can train your dog to eat regularly afterward. However, when it continues for two or three days, it may be a sign of a deeper problem that may require the attention of a professional veterinarian.

Canine Anorexia

dog eating disordersWhen dogs refuse to eat, this condition is medically known as canine anorexia, but it is also referred to as inappetence. This occurrence can be particularly troublesome because it is completely opposite of a dog’s normal behavior. You may become overly worried from the very start, but before you see a vet, you can take steps to ensure that the problem is not a medical condition but the result of some specific situation. Following are a few questions you can answer to help determine the cause:

1. Does your dog normally eat everything you give him or her?
2. Has your dog been known to skip meals but continue to eat normally later?
3. Is your dog experiencing unusual symptoms other than inappetence, such as vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue or excessive barking?
4. Have you implemented any changes to your dog’s food or standard mealtime practices?
5. Is your dog overweight or underweight? Is he or she losing weight or gaining weight?

Common Causes for Inappetence

The following causes of inappetence can often be corrected without medical attention. However, it is a good idea to contact your veterinarian for a consultation and additional advice on how to train your dog.

• Overfeeding – Many people allow their dog to be fed treats and snacks between meals, but when this is done excessively, it will disrupt your dog’s appetite when it is time to be fed a regular meal. Be sure to monitor and control your dog’s food intake at all times.

• Tastier food available – This cause is related to overfeeding, but it concerns the quality of the snacks given rather than the quantity. If you feed your dog human food, he or she may be playing you to get more of it. Dogs are smart animals, and some of them will do everything they can to get the tastiest food available. Table scraps should consist of no more than 20 percent of your dog’s daily intake.

• Finicky eater – Just like many people, some dogs can be extremely picky about what they eat. If you have recently changed the flavor or type of food you give your dog, he or she simply may not care for it. If your dog doesn’t eat by the third day, you may have to go with a type of food you know your dog enjoys.

• Spoiled food – Even though it seems like dog food can last forever without spoiling, this is not the case, especially in a hot, humid climate. Check the date on the food, or throw out moist food if the can has been open for longer than a couple of days.

• Inclement weather – If your dog is extremely hot or cold, he or she may not have much of an appetite. Give your pet some time to get comfortable before declaring an emergency.

• Anxiety – Dogs may suffer from psychological conditions just like people do. If your dog has recently been subjected to a stressful situation, he or she may need a day of comfort before his or her appetite returns.

Serious Causes of Dog Anorexia

Some of the possible reasons why your dog is not eating may be extremely serious. If the common causes listed above do not fit your situation, one of the following may be the problem:

• Illness or infection – Illnesses such as pancreatitis, ulcers, diabetes, liver disease and cancer may cause a loss of appetite.

• Worms – If your dog has worms, they may be creating gastrointestinal problems that make eating difficult.

• Tooth decay – Decayed teeth and other dental problems may be the culprit.

• Trauma – When dogs are in pain, they have trouble eating.

If you cannot diagnose the reason why your dog will not eat or if you have concerns for his or her health, contact your veterinarian immediately.

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