Why is my dog refusing food?
If your dog has been eating normally and there is a sudden decrease in appetite, a check-up with their vet is recommended. Nausea or pain, for example from dental problems, can cause poor appetite and some conditions such as kidney failure can result in dogs going off their food.
However, if your dog is healthy and fit then refusing food is more likely to be a behavioural issue. This is especially true if they are eating tasty things such as wet food or treats but refusing their complete dog food. In human terms, that’s like us not finishing our healthy dinner, but finding room for dessert!
It is common for overweight dogs to be fussy eaters, often they are not actually hungry enough to want food. Try not to encourage them to eat by adding tasty tit-bits or cooked food as this will encourage over-eating.
Have you been trained by your dog?
Your dog refuses the food you’ve offered because they know that if they wait, you’ll offer something more exciting (usually higher in fat and calories). If this sounds familiar, it may be time for a change.
5 Top tips to break the fussy behaviour
Stick to set mealtimes and put the food down for 15 minutes at a time. If they ignore what you’ve offered or eat a little and walk away, pick the food up and don’t offer anything else until the next meal time.
Try not to offer treats and snacks in between mealtimes, they may fill up on these and won’t be hungry at mealtimes.
Repeat step 1 at each mealtime for a couple of days, if you can hold your nerve (and ignore those puppy dog eyes) your dog will realise that nothing else is coming and should start to tuck in.
Offer slightly less food than is recommended to begin with so that your dog builds up an appetite. If your dog is overweight, feed the amount suggested for their target/ideal weight not the weight they currently are.
If you need to feed treats for training purposes, ensure that you cut down on the food you are offering at each mealtime to compensate.
Very elderly dogs
Senior dogs may genuinely go off their food because their sense of taste is declining or they start to suffer from cognitive dysfunction. In these cases offering tastier wet food, food that has been gently warmed in a microwave and small frequent meals may help. A vet check is essential for older dogs to check for any underlying conditions that could be causing issues.