For animals that are usually eager to eat, it is very concerning when they suddenly stopped eating. Below are ways you can do to help them eat and 5 ways to force feed your dog…safely, of course.
Why won’t a dog eat?
Dogs are usually happy eaters— they can and will happily eat anything you put in front of them. So when they suddenly find food uninteresting, it is only natural to feel concerned. Chances are they are picky eaters and will only eat a specific food or brand name (such cute divas, I know!) However, it could also be something health-related like having Hyporexia, an upset stomach, or gastrointestinal issues.
What to do if the dog won’t eat
If you start to notice that your pup is not eating like usual, there are some signs you can check for yourself. A call to the vet is also highly recommended, but here are some things you can do in the meantime.
Observe the dog’s behavior
Can you recall if any sudden changes in your daily routine are affecting your dog? If so, then this could be the reason why they are not eating like usual. Some certain behaviors to look for are separation anxieties, sudden misbehavior, and food anxiety (if they do not like eating alone). If this is the case, you can train your dog and try to correct their behavior so they can feel better about themselves and their surroundings.
Check their mouth, tongue, and teeth
Health issues do not stop with an upset stomach, your pupper may be having some dental problems too! If you think this is the case, you can check their mouth, tongue, and teeth. Look for swollen gums, chipped teeth, or abnormal-sized tongue. If you see any bumps or pus coming out of their mouth, call your veterinary care immediately. Any signs of abnormalities in the mouth are a sound reason why they won’t eat and it’s also most definitely a sign of an underlying health issue that needs immediate attention. They will feel uncomfortable chewing and gobbling food— I mean, who wouldn’t when your teeth hurt!
Check their food
If you suspect that your dog is a picky eater, this is a good time to check what they eat. Pay attention to the kind of food they like— what flavor treats do they enjoy the most? Is there a specific brand they like the most? Perhaps they have an aversion to certain foods? This type of information is important so you can give them the right food next time.
If they are not picky eaters, however, you can still check to see if certain foods upset their stomach, hence the loss of appetite. They can also be allergic to something so it is never a bad idea to get this checked with your veterinarian.
Observe their environment
Did you recently move to a new place? Maybe you suddenly changed your routine at home? Is there any drastic change to your dog’s surroundings? If yes, then this could be the reason why your dog is not eating. They might be feeling distressed about the sudden change in the environment and as their owner, ensure that they will feel comfortable and at ease so they can be back to their normal happy selves.
You can help your dog get comfortable by staying by their side during the transition period, playing with them regularly, conducting training sessions that will help them get familiar with the new environment, and even providing calming treats to ease their anxieties.
Get them to exercise and get tired
Physical stimulation can stimulate your dog’s appetite. So if you notice that they are not eating well and yet they look fairly normal, try to bring them outside more. Play with them, get them tired, then try feeding them afterward. Besides, a tired dog is a happy dog, and adding food to that equation will only make them ecstatic.
How to feed a dog who won’t eat
If you have tried everything we mentioned above and your dog is still not showing signs of normalcy, then you can try the steps below.
Give them a treat
Giving them a treat is a good test to see where the food aversion lies if there is any. You can tell if your dog is just being picky with their food if they refuse to eat it but will instead eat treats. You can opt for different flavored treats too to fully determine which one they like most, and use that information to buy your next bag of treats and kibble.
So, if your dog is not eating their kibble but will happily gobble up a treat in your hand, you can feed them treats in the meantime until you figure out the next steps. This way, they can still eat and get proper nutrition.
Add gravy topper to their food
Food boosters or in this case, gravy toppers will add excitement to your dog’s food. Some dogs just have sophisticated taste in food and will get easily bored of what they are eating. To avoid this, add food toppers to their diet to enhance the flavors and make them feel excited again. The good news is that gravy toppers are helpful not only because they taste delicious but also because of the nutritional benefits it provides.
Dogsnob’s gravy topper is a 5-in-1 Liquid Multivitamin packed with healthy ingredients that completes any nutritional gaps missing from a regular kibble. The easy-to-add liquid topper supports hip & joint well-being, improves skin and coat, promotes heart health, improves immune function, and helps with dog digestion. There are two flavors to choose from (Steak & Salmon and Smoked Turkey) that even picky eaters cannot refuse!
Add broth to their food
If your dog happens to have some dental issues, either due to an injury or old age, adding broth to their food will help them eat better. This will make their dry food softer and easier to consume. Use a non-sodium chicken or beef broth and soak their food for 5 minutes or until you achieve the desired texture. This will add flavor to their food but will also help them enjoy food again.
Warm up their food
Warming up your dog’s food may sound a little dramatic, but trust us when we say it’s for a good reason. If your dog is ill and their sense of smell is weaker than normal, they may find food less appetizing. But heating their food will release a stronger scent that will make them want to eat it.
Syringe feed the dog
Alright, this is a last resort kind of thing. If your poor pup hasn’t eaten anything in the last 48 hours, it’s time that you help feed them yourself. Obviously, force-feeding seems harsh but you can assist them by using a syringe. Please note that you can only do this after you’ve spoken to your vet and you are given permission from professionals.
To do this, you can mush the food in a blender, making sure it’s smooth and pureed, then put it in a syringe. Slowly drip the food into your dog’s throat or back of the mouth and hope that they will swallow. This process is incredibly helpful for dogs who cannot chew due to dental injuries.
When to consult a vet
So you’ve done everything you could, you’ve observed your pet for some time now and tried everything you can to make them eat again but to no avail, nothing worked. If you are at this point, then it is time to call the vet. Although, ideally, you should call your vet within the first 24 to 48 hours' notice. A sudden loss of appetite in dogs is uncommon and rather alarming, so unless there are obvious reasons as to why your dog is not eating—like a new medication, post-surgery blues, or injuries—then it is best to give a professional a call and have your pet looked at for any possible health issues. Fingers crossed it’s nothing too serious!