August 2019

Audience: Executive Leadership, Foster Caregivers, Public, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers, Veterinary Team

Reasons for a poor or no appetite in dogs include stress, illness, and even just a preference for a tastier food. Changes in how your dog is fed, such as location or type of food or food bowl, can affect how much your dog will eat. Changes in environment or people/pets in the environment can also cause a dog to eat less or stop eating. Appetite issues can also be caused by a medical condition.

Signs That Your Dog Needs to See a Veterinarian

  • Decreased or no appetite for more than two days
  • Inability to eat (i.e., difficulty chewing/swallowing)
  • Pain
  • Distention of the abdomen
  • Poor appetite accompanied by other signs of illness (e.g., lethargy, sneezing/nasal discharge, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and sudden weight loss)

Encouraging Your Dog to Eat

  • Place food and water bowls in a quiet, private and accessible location away from the path of people and other animals. Use clean food and water bowls. Don't just add food on top of previous food remnants.
  • Provide dry food throughout the day. Offer canned/wet food at least four times per day. Leave the food out for 15-20 minutes, and then throw out the uneaten portion. Fresh food is more enticing than stale food.
  • Feed canned food and warm it slightly. Good smells stimulate the appetite.
  • Adding chicken broth or boiled chicken to canned or dry food may entice your dog to eat more.
  • Stay near your dog; some dogs are worried about you leaving them.
  • If your dog is new to the household, here are some good tips on how to make your dog's transition to a new home as stress free as possible: North Shore Animal League America: Bringing Your New Dog Home.

Common Causes of Appetite Issues

  • Stress
  • Changes in environment or diet
  • Undesirable/unpalatable food
  • Health problems (e.g., "Kennel Cough", cancer, gastrointestinal obstructions)
  • Dental disease
  • Pain

Treatment of Appetite Issues

  • Treatment of any underlying medical issues.
  • If dehydration is present, then subcutaneous or intravenous fluids may be needed.
  • Medication may be used to treat any nausea or pain.
  • Short-term appetite stimulants may be prescribed.

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