As pet owners, we all worry about the health and well-being of our furry companions. One of the most common questions dog owners ask is how long their pets can go without food. While dogs may seem like they can eat anything and everything, the truth is that they have their limits.
Whether it’s due to illness or simply a lack of appetite, there are times when a dog may go without eating for a day or more. As a responsible pet owner, it’s important to know what signs to look out for and how to properly care for your dog when they’re not feeling well.
In this article, we’ll explore the factors that can affect a dog’s eating habits and answer how long a dog can go without eating. So, if you’re a concerned pet owner or just curious about dog health, read on to learn more!
How Long Can a Dog Go Without Eating?
Generally, an adult dog can skip meals for three days while still active. Some healthy ones can handle for five days if they still drink water. Young puppies and seniors may not go as long without eating as an adult dog. Puppies need frequent feedings and should not go for 12 hours without food or water.
Going without food for an extended period of time can be dangerous for dogs. Without food, the dog’s body can start breaking down muscle tissue for energy, leading to muscle weakness, organ damage, and even death. If your dog hasn’t eaten in more than 24 hours, it’s important to take them to the vet immediately.
Why Is Your Dog Not Eating for Days?
Here are some common situations causing your dog not to eat.
1. Dental problems
Dogs do not feel like eating when they have toothaches – like us. Unfortunately, dental diseases are among dogs’ most common medical problems.
Be alert of the following symptoms:
- Bad breath
- Plaque and tartar
- Inflamed, red, and bleeding gums
- Missing, broken, or wobbly teeth
- Swelling on their face where there is a tooth root abscess
- Frequently rubbing the mount
- Difficulties in eating, i.e., eating slowly, chewing on one side, or even not eating anything.
At that time, you had better contact a vet and have your dog treated. They will eat well as usual when the pain and discomfort go away.
2. Pregnant of in-heat period
If your dog is female and at birth age, you should check her pregnancy when the dog refuses to eat.
It is a common symptom early in pregnancy and the late session of her gestation. This temporary loss of appetite should go away soon, and the dog will start to increase their food intake by eating small amounts but more frequently.
Your pregnant dog might also suffer from the fertile period and ignore her meals. Signs of heat are swollen vulva and private parts, changes in behaviors, or bleeding.
If you suspect her pregnancy, you must take the dog to the vet soon for a checkup and diagnosis.
3. Other medical problems
Besides dental conditions, your dog might suffer other medical issues and feel sick such as allergies, upset stomach, organ failure, viral infection, wound pains, arthritis pains, parasites, diabetes, hypothyroidism, etc.
The symptoms of those problems vary. If your dog displays other signs of illness, such as vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or labored breathing, it’s important to take them to the vet.
These symptoms could be caused by anything from an infection or an allergy to an underlying condition such as cancer or kidney disease.
4. Environmental changes and depression
Have you ever noticed changes in your dog’s living environment or routine – for instance, food changes, an adoption, house moving, traveling, climate changes, or loud noises?
Changes can upset your pet, particularly when the dog is a puppy. As a result, the dog feels stressed and puts off the bowls. As such, your dog can overcome the depression after one or two days and return to his normal eating habits.
5. Too many treats before the meals
You can reward your dogs with treats after training or when they are extremely cute. Nonetheless, please do not overdo it.
Spoiling the dogs causes them to refuse the main dog food for days as they already have enough (or even excessive) calories. It is a rule of thumb, confirmed by many vets, that treats only take up 10% or less of your dog’s diet.
Otherwise, recall if you overfeed your dog earlier. Doing so can result in obesity or loss of appetite. We recommend consulting your vet about the proper diet and volume and following the advice carefully.
6. Bad dog food
When the above reasons might not be the case, we doubt the food has problems; say, it can be expired, stale, old, or spoiled.
While some dogs eat anything in sight, your dog is picky instead. Thus, take some minutes to check the expiration date or the smell of the dog-food bags.
Another situation is when the dog has eaten the same food for a while. He gets bored of it. You might give them new food brands or types to test!
7. Owner absence
If you go away for several days, the sweetie might miss you and skip meals – even when you have others take care of your dog.
Dogs are naturally social aminals and love sharing time with their owners. They miss you and feel depressed when you are not around for a while. As long as you walk back in your household door, dogs can be active again and eat the food you give them.
If your dog is otherwise healthy and has no visible signs of illness, then it’s likely that they are stressed. Stress can be caused by several things, such as changes in the home environment, changes in routine, or the introduction of a new pet. If you think this is the case, try to identify the source of their stress and address it as soon as possible.
When should you worry about your dog not eating?
In general, you should be concerned if your dog goes for more than 24 hours without eating. Make sure to watch for any other changes in behavior or appetite. For example, if your pup suddenly stops eating their regular meals but is still interested in treats or snacks, this could indicate a medical issue.
If you’ve recently moved to a new home or there are changes in the household (such as a new pet or baby), your dog may feel overwhelmed and not have an appetite. If this is the case, provide plenty of love and comfort to your pup and talk to your vet.
In any case, it’s best to take your pup to the vet if they aren’t eating for more than 24 hours. Your vet will be able to assess your dog’s health and figure out the best course of action.
What to Do If a Dog Does Not Eat?
1. Be calm and observe your dog’s behaviors
When your dog skips the first meal, you can ignore it because the problem happens sometimes. If the dog does not eat twice or three meals, pay close attention to them.
It is fine if your dog stays active and happy around you. Nonetheless, go to the vet if they show signs of pain or tiredness like shaking, aggression, flattened ears, low posture, grumpy temperament, or panting.
2. Find the root cause and treat it
Please read the above symptoms of dogs not eating and find possible problems with your pets.
- If they have dental or medical problems, you had better visit the nearest pet clinic and have vets check the dogs’ health conditions. If you follow the vets’ advice, your dogs will recover soon and return to their appetite.
- Supposing they are pregnant or in heat, take good care of them and wait for the temporary symptoms to disappear.
- When the pets are anxious about sudden changes surrounding them, you should spend extra time to calm the dogs and gradually encourage them to eat again.
- Also, it is recommended to cut down on treats and junk food to maintain a healthy diet and normal eating habits. In case of overfeeding, try walking your dogs or encouraging them to act more to burn excessive energy.
- When you doubt the food quality, you can change the dog food bags and containers and give your pets new types of food after a while. Nonetheless, we do not recommend changing the food frequently, or your pets will become picky.
- In another case, when you are away from home, try to wrap up your work and come back home soon.
3. Give your dog more water or feed soft
You might be surprised that dogs can extend non-eating time if they take in water instead. Dogs feel like drinking more than eating. You can temporarily give dogs some water when you feel like they do not eat unusually.
4. Encourage soft food gradually
Water cannot replace food. Thus, it would be best to encourage your dogs to get their appetite back gradually.
- First, add warm water (or no-sodium broth) to dog food and soak the mixture for several minutes.
- Then, you can add skinless and boneless boiled chicken and rice to the dog’s favorite kibble.
- As mentioned above, if the reason is food quality, you can change a new food to encourage your pets to eat.
- Include a probiotic on the top of dog food so the food is more palatable and useful to treat irritated intestines.
5. Visit your vet
If the situation is not improved, you must finally have a professional treat your dog. After your dog gets their good eating habits back, you should still bring them to the pet clinic frequently to ensure its health conditions.
It would be best not to use unprescribed medicals like Pepto or Imodium during vet time. Those medicals can interact with the medications of your vet and result in bad side effects.
What foods should dogs not eat?
Certain foods can be toxic and potentially even deadly for your dogs. Here are some of the most common human foods that dogs should avoid:
- Chocolate: Chocolate contains theobromine, which is toxic to dogs. It can cause vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and even death in severe cases.
- Grapes and Raisins: Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in dogs and be fatal if ingested.
- Onions and Garlic: Onions and garlic contain compounds that can be toxic to dogs, causing anemia and other issues.
- Xylitol: Xylitol is an artificial sweetener found in many sugar-free foods that can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar levels, leading to seizures and even death.
- Avocado: Avocado contains a toxin called persin, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs.
- Macadamia Nuts: Macadamia nuts can cause weakness, tremors, and vomiting in dogs and should be avoided.
- Alcohol: Alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and even death in dogs, so it should never be given to them.
- Caffeine: Caffeine can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and even death in dogs, so it should never be given to them.
- Raw Eggs: Raw eggs can contain bacteria that can cause food poisoning in dogs, so they should always be cooked before being given to dogs.
- Raw Fish: Raw fish can contain parasites that can make dogs ill, so they should always be cooked before being given to them.
Is it possible for a dog to have food allergies that impact its appetite?
Yes, it is possible for a dog to have food allergies that can impact its appetite. Food allergies in dogs are caused by an adverse reaction to certain proteins or carbohydrates found in food.
Symptoms of food allergies can vary from mild to severe, including skin irritation, gastrointestinal upset, and respiratory issues. Additionally, food allergies can cause a decrease in appetite and weight loss due to the dog’s decreased interest in food.
The most common cause of food allergies in dogs is a sensitivity to proteins such as beef, chicken, pork, and fish. Dogs can also be allergic to carbohydrates, such as wheat and corn, preservatives, dyes, and other food additives.
In some cases, the allergy can be so severe that the dog must switch to a hypoallergenic diet. If you suspect your dog has a food allergy, it is important to take it to the veterinarian for a proper diagnosis.
How can I tell if my dog is having trouble digesting food?
If you think your dog may be having trouble digesting food, there are some tell-tale signs you can look out for. One of the most common signs is vomiting. If your dog is vomiting frequently, it could be a sign of difficulty digesting its food. Other signs to look out for include diarrhea, lack of appetite, bloating, abdominal pain, and gas.
It’s also important to pay attention to your dog’s stool. If it is unusually hard, runny, or has an unpleasant odor, it could be a sign that they are having difficulty digesting food. Excessive thirst, weight loss, and lethargy are also potential signs that something is amiss.
If you suspect your dog is having trouble digesting food, you should seek medical attention from your veterinarian.
Why is your dog not eating but drinking water?
One possible cause could be a dental issue. If your pup is in pain from an infection or a broken tooth, it may not want to eat. Check your pup’s mouth to see if they exhibit signs of distress like excessive drooling or difficulty chewing.
Another potential cause could be an upset stomach. If your pup has been vomiting recently or has been excessively gassy, this could explain why they’re not eating. It could also indicate an intestinal parasite, such as roundworms or tapeworms.
It’s also possible that your pup is simply bored with its food. If you’ve been feeding them the same thing for weeks or months, they may have lost interest in it. Try switching up their diet with some fresh ingredients or adding some new flavors to see if that helps.
Finally, it’s possible that your dog is just stressed out. Stress can lead to changes in appetite, so if there have been any big changes in your pup’s routine or environment recently, this could be the culprit. Spend extra time with your pup and ensure they get plenty of exercises and mental stimulation each day.
It’s hard to say how long a dog can go without eating, as it depends on a few factors. Generally speaking, though, an average healthy adult dog can go up to three days without food and still be okay. However, if your dog hasn’t eaten in more than 24 hours, it is important to contact your vet to ensure there isn’t a medical issue causing the lack of appetite.