How Long Can a Dog Go Without Eating?

Dog at table. WagWell Box: How long can a dog go without eating.

 

Dog at table. WagWell Box: How long can a dog go without eating.

Has your dog stopped eating? If you’re wondering how long a dog can go without eating, read more to see how many days dogs can go without food based on their health.

If your dog has not eaten for a few days, you’ll need to take him to the veterinarian for a check-up. Chances are there’s something wrong, and it’s always best to get an accurate diagnosis early on.

Proper nutrition is important throughout your dog’s life! Without good nutrition, your furry best friend can suffer from numerous health problems. The same can be said when dogs stop eating because of an upset stomach, dental issues, serious health disorders or even a big change in their lives like moving home or losing a best buddy!

How Long Can a Dog Go Without Eating?

Sometimes your furry best friend may stop eating because you’ve just switched dog food. He may even stop eating because he has dental pain, or an ear infection. That said, you’ll need to keep your dog well-hydrated during this time.

If he’s also not drinking water, then take him to the vet immediately. Usually dogs can go for two or three days without eating, but by this stage you should already have scheduled your veterinary appointment in case it’s something really serious!

Why Won't My Dog Eat?

There are plenty of reasons why dogs may suddenly stop eating. Dogs will chronic health conditions like cancer and pain may become finicky eaters with some dogs losing their appetite entirely.

With dogs not usually being picky eaters, there’s usually always a reason for loss of appetite in dogs. Vets call this anorexia. You’ll need to find out if your dog has true anorexia or pseudo anorexia. Is your pooch super hungry, but can’t eat or is he simply not interested in his food?

If your dog stops eating for two days or more, you’ll need to visit your veterinarian for a complete physical examination to help determine the cause.

Common problems like constipation, vomiting, esophageal diverticula, tumors, trauma, and even endodontic issues and periodontitis can trigger anorexia.

Health Issues

Like their pet parents, dogs are affected by numerous health issues throughout their lifetime. It’s important that you always pay attention, and notice right away if something seems off like your dog not eating properly for a few days. There’s an array of health issues that can contribute to loss of appetite in dogs, but the most common ones include the following:

  • Systemic diseases that may involve an infection or organ dysfunction like diabetes and kidney disease.
  • Dental issues
  • Poison or toxin exposure
  • Dogs have lost their sense of smell
  • All cancers
  • Immune system imbalance or immune system disease
  • Gastrointestinal obstruction
  • Stress and depression
  • Bad food
  • Stomach or intestinal ulcers
  • Heat
  • Nausea from any illness
  • Side effects from medication
  • Constipation


If your dog has not had recent blood work done, now’s the time to do it just in case he has a more serious condition like cancer. That said, let’s check out the top 4 most common health issues.

1) Dental

Dogs need dental care throughout their lives. As a pet parent it’s up to you to keep your dog’s teeth and gums healthy, and in good condition by feeding a high-quality diet, and providing the correct dental toys.

You’ll also need to brush your dog’s teeth regularly, and visit your vet for dental cleanings a few times a year. If your dog is having difficulties chewing, he may have a dental issue. Get your dog treated as soon as possible to prevent gingivitis, periodontal disease, and extractions.

2) Constipation

This is where your pooch may be having problems with passing a bowel movement; incomplete or infrequent passing of hard stools. Consult with your veterinarian as soon as you can. This is a problem that can be easily corrected, but can become severe if not treated.

3) Cancer

Many dogs will not show signs until late in the disease, most especially with pancreatic cancer. Your dog will display signs related to the spread of cancer like bone pain, lameness, difficulty breathing, and lack of appetite. Always consult with your vet if you feel that your furry best friend is behaving unusually. Keep in mind that cancer does affect all dog breeds, regardless of age.

4) Gastrointestinal Obstruction

For dogs to properly absorb the nutrients in his food, food needs to move from the stomach to the intestines. If the movement from the stomach is restricted or stopped due to ulcers, tumors, foreign objects, polyps, or an overgrowth of the stomach linen, or bloat, your dog will stop eating.

Your dog will develop a fever, abdominal pain, diarrhea, dehydration and shock. As usual, consult with your vet immediately because lethargy, dehydration, weight loss, and loss of appetite will lead to eventual starvation.

Picky Eating

With dogs not usually being picky eaters, there’s usually always a reason for loss of appetite in dogs. You’ll need to find out if your dog has true anorexia or pseudo anorexia. Is he super hungry, but can’t eat or is he simply not interested in his food?

Try grilling salmon, chicken, or steak and hand-feeding together with steamed veggies. Don’t forget to add those supplements, most especially if your pooch is not feeling that great!

Lifestyle Changes

We’ve all had lifestyle changes, and sometimes these can be exhausting, and possibly even depressing. The same may apply to Fido! The loss of another furry best friend in the home, someone leaving for college, or even a move to a new home or divorce.

That said, it’s up to you to work together with your veterinarian to determine the specific cause, and get the best treatment. Here are some common reasons why a dog may stop eating:

Lifestyle Changes

  • Change of environment
  • Depression
  • Lack of mental stimulation
  • Lack of exercise
  • Illness
  • Recent vaccinations
  • New arrival of a furry best friend
  • Travelling
  • Divorce
  • Kids going off to college
  • Pain
  • Stress
  • Food aversions
  • Averse food reactions

1) Travelling

We enjoy those pet vacays with Fido! Yet, sometimes if we travel without our furry best friends they may become depressed and stop eating. If your pooch is depressed, try increasing exercise schedules or taking him out for adventure hikes. There are numerous pet sitting groups that will organize hiking trips with your pooch if you’re out of town.

2) New Home

If you’ve recently moved to a new home, your pooch may be depressed, and stop eating. Stick to the same routine with dog walks, trips to the dog park and beach, and try to increase your one-on-one time with Fido. You can also organize doggie playdates with your dog’s favorite buddy from the dog park or old neighborhood.

3) New Pets Around Your Dog

Yes, your pooch may not be that delighted to have a new “visitor “around the home. He may express his dismay by not eating, and walking around solemnly for a few days. That said, if you’ve done your research and made sure that his “new best friend” is a good match, it should all work out. Dogs and cats take a while to get used to each other, but you’ll need to give your furry best friend plenty of one-on-one attention to show him that he still is your most special pooch!

4) Depression

Dogs get depressed just like people, and may stop eating. If your dog is depressed, you’ll need to consult with your veterinarian. Your pooch could be depressed from an illness, pain, loss of a furry best friend, and even the departure of a family member.

Recent Vaccinations

Recent vaccinations may cause your dog to stop eating for a day or two at the most. If your dog stops eating for longer than this, consult with your vet. Your vet can advise you about the best vaccination program for your dog.

Behavioral Issues

Pet parents need to seek help for their dog’s behavioral issues. Because many behavioral problems in dogs are influenced by medical conditions, your veterinarian will do a health exam to make sure that your dog is not ill. That’s why it’s so important to first visit your vet to rule out any underlying medical issues.

Mental Health Struggles

Work together with your vet and positive dog trainer and use positive reinforcement for good behavior and not punishment for bad behavior. If your dog has been subjected to abusive treatment in a past home, and you’ve recently adopted him, speak to your vet and dog trainer.

Avoid harsh trainers and consider the use of medications or natural pet supplements like CBD to treat behavior problems. In some cases, your vet will prescribe pet meds to treat a behavior problem.

How Long Can a Dog with Poor Health Go Without Eating?

As a pet parent you should always watch carefully for subtle signs of illness that most times will include a lack of appetite together with decreased activity. Sometimes this will be combined with the following specific signs:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Coughing
  • Excessive or decreased urination
  • Sneezing
  • Eye discharge
  • Nose discharge
  • Stiffness or lameness
  • Abdomen distension
  • Shortness of breath
  • Jaundice
  • Fever

How Long Can a Dog Go Without Food if Sick?

Your vet will need to do an examination and run some tests if your dog is sick. Usually a dog can go for a few days without eating if they’re sick, but will need to keep hydrated. Your vet has to find out why your dog won’t eat.

There may be many reasons why your dog won’t eat. This is called anorexia. According to Merck’s Veterinary Manual “Partial anorexia is seen when the animal is eating some food but not enough to provide at least 30 kcal/kg body wt. in dogs and 40 kcal/kg body wt. in cats. Complete anorexia occurs when the animal does not consume any food for ~3 days.”

Anorexia whether partial or complete will usually accompany several underlying disorders in dogs. These may include environmental changes, pain, and even drug reactions. Pain is a huge contributor to anorexia, and when the pain ceases, in most cases, dogs will start eating again.

There is also something called learned food aversions which sometimes occurs when a dog is on a special therapeutic diet during illness, for example, to manage renal failure while the dog is in uremic crisis. Food aversions also occur due to force feeding. If you suspect this, talk to your veterinarian!

Veterinarians add that eating some of the therapeutic diet “is better than not eating at all, but state that believing that a sick dog will eventually consume a therapeutic diet when hungry enough is inappropriate, and one should never allow an animal to starve in an attempt to stimulate appetite,” via Merck’s Veterinary Manual.

“If a particular diet is refused, an alternative(s) should be tried until one that the animal will eat is identified. Anorextic dogs and cats can sometimes be persuaded to eat by adding highly flavored substances to the diet (e.g., animal fat, meat drippings, fish [fish juices or oils for cats]) or by hand-feeding. If these are not successful, nutritional support intervention may be necessary.”

“Nutrition is an important part of disease management, even though few disorders can be cured solely with diet. The interaction between illness, health, and nutritional status is multifactorial and complex. The nutritional requirements of many sick dogs and cats are qualitatively the same as those of healthy ones; however, they differ in the amounts required—certain nutrients may be needed in greater amounts or may need to be restricted.”

If your dog is sick, then your vet will do the following tests:

Diagnostic testing will help in making an accurate diagnosis to find out why your dog is not eating? The veterinary testing for canine anorexia may include the following:

  • Lab test such as blood work with a complete blood count (CBC)
  • Electrolyte testing to examine the mineral balance
  • X-rays of the chest and abdomen
  • Serum chemistry profile
  • Ultrasound
  • Invasive diagnostic testing which may include an endoscopy and biopsies.


A study from the University of California explains that “Caution should be used when increasing or adding nutrients that may be harmful to patients with specific diseases. Concurrent drug therapy that may reduce appetite should be minimized, and physical barriers to eating should be removed. Patients that consume less than resting energy requirement of longer than 3 to 5 days with no trend toward improving should receive parenteral or enteral nutrition.”

The study adds that dogs may also suffer from hypo-or anorexia at different stages of their lives. Dogs that do not eat for a prolonged amount of time may suffer from impaired metabolic function, immunosuppression, decreased tissue synthesis and repair, altered drug metabolism, increased complication rates, longer hospital stays with higher costs.

Prolonged anorexia may also lead to a higher rate of morbidity and mortality. That said, it’s key to stimulate appetite and palatability when managing anorexic dogs.

 

Making homemade food with dog. WagWell Box: Homemade dog diets
Homemade diets are a great way add variety to your dogs meals.

Ways to Get Your Dog to Eat

There are a wide variety of drugs and supplements used to treat appetite disorders, with most of them targeting a lack of appetite which affects very sick dogs. Appetite stimulating drugs are used when you cannot coax a dog to eat, even after preparing his favorite food.

Your vet will decide which drugs to use as well as the dosage based on how that specific drug will stimulate your dog’s appetite. Your veterinarian will first make a prognosis after all testing is done. As usual, treatment is based on managing and treating the symptoms. Your furry best friend may need to have intravenous fluids if he’s dehydrated.

If he’s nauseous as well, then your veterinarian will have to treat for nausea as well. Short-term appetite stimulants may be prescribed like cyproheptadine (brand name Periactin®) or mirtazapine (brand names Remeron®, Mirataz®) Each drug works in a different way, and your vet will choose the best drug for your pet. This will be based on how the drug will work on your dog to stimulate appetite.

In the U.S today, a most popular medication called capromorelin (brand name Entyce®) If your pooch is suffering from a mineral imbalance which also affects appetite, your veterinarian will prescribe low potassium. Here are some other drugs used to stimulate appetite:

  • Boldenone undecyclenate
  • Prednisone
  • Stanozolol


Anti-Vomiting Drugs

Emetic Drugs

You’ve probably often visited your vet, and left not really knowing much about the pet meds prescribed for your furry best friend. Emetic drugs are used in emergency situations like when your dog has consumed poison, chocolate, nicotine, or even a cleaning product. They are used to make a dog vomit up to 80% of its stomach contents. Syrup of ipecac is a well-known over- the- counter pet med that is used to induce vomiting in dogs.

As with nausea, there are a huge array of drugs that are used to treat nausea in dogs. Nausea can decrease appetite, and can result in your dog losing his appetite altogether. If your furry best friend is throwing up, you’ll need to visit your veterinarian to make sure that he’s not ingested a poison.

Dogs vomit due to conditions that stimulate the emetic center of the brain. Vomiting is beneficial at times when your dog has eaten something harmful like a poison or toxin. Vomiting can also be dangerous in a dog that is dehydrated or weak due to illness.

Antiemetic Drugs

This works the other way, and stops your dog from vomiting. If your dog is continuously vomiting, he’ll also not be eating, and will be physically exhausted. Vomiting also result in the following:

  • Acid-base and electrolyte imbalance
  • Dehydration
  • Aspiration pneumonia

Antiemetic drugs are used when dogs vomit excessively. Vets will use these drugs to control the vomiting. It’s also used to prevent motion sickness for car and air travel, for dogs that are stressed out and suffer from psychologically –caused vomiting, and for the side effects of chemo and radiation during cancer treatments.

Sometimes dogs that are anorexic will need to have feeding tubes in the nostril, stomach, or small intestine. Your veterinarian will make this decision, and it could be a lifesaving one! Your furry best friend will receive both pet meds and food via the feeding tubes with a minimal amount of stress.

Veterinarians will need to see whether your dog’s GI is working, if it is, then feeding tubes are used. If not, then intravenous nutrition is provided. This is continued until the dog can eat on his own.

Feed Your Dog On a Regular Schedule

Thanks to so many high-quality pet products on the market today, there’s tons of ways to show your furry best friend that you love him, most especially when he’s not feeling that great! But first things first!

Feed your dog on a regular schedule, and don’t change the schedule when he’s ill. That said, you should always try to hand feed his favorite foods, and leave food out for him throughout the day, mots especially if you have to leave home.

We all understand the importance of recovery and rest during illness, so there’s nothing better than making sure that your dog has a comfortable dog bed, and some high-quality interactive dog toys, and organic dog treats to mentally stimulate him while he’s recovering from an illness.

As much as you love your furry best friend, if your dog is not eating, and not feeling that great, you’ll want to treat and spoil your pooch!

Walk Your Dog Before a Meal

Exercise is great for dogs, as are those long dog walks. Keep in mind that your dog should never eat right after or right before a long vigorous walk to prevent bloat. Dogs with bloat have commonly eaten a large meal followed by exercise or have exercised and then eaten a large meal afterwards. If your dog has a tendency to develop bloat, your vet will recommend that it be fed smaller meals more often. Avoid excessive exercise do decrease the likelihood of bloat.

Change Your Dog's Food

You may be interested in working together with your veterinarian, and getting advice on the best simplified homemade diets for your dog. These diets would include the use of the same protein sources that you would use in a hydrolyzed protein diet. Homemade diets for sick dogs should include and allow for many ingredients, but may sometimes eliminate ingredients like beef, wheat, and dairy products.

That said, it’s most important to keep in mind that dogs suffering from anorexia will need to be fed in a low-stress environment and manner, and need to consume palatable foods that may be enhanced by increasing dietary moisture, fat, or protein, or by adding salt or sugar, or using aromatic and pleasant combinations of uncommon foods. You’ll have to first visit your vet for a diagnosis before switching diets or preparing a homemade diet.

As a pet parent you would have to make sure that all the ingredients used in a homemade diet are high-quality, fresh, and human grade. “The owner is responsible for quality control and consistency and must be willing to make such a diet for ≥2 wk. for GI conditions and ≥10–12 wk. for dermatologic conditions. On average, there is no price advantage in making a homemade diet over using commercially prepared foods. Formulating a homemade diet containing hydrolyzed protein is both very difficult and expensive,” via Merck’s Veterinary Manual. Here are some other recommendations:

  • Add a high-quality canned food to your dog’s kibble
  • Include boiled low-sodium chicken, beef, or veggie broth to your dog’s diet. The broth needs to be warm (body temperature). Do not warm up in the microwave.
  • Include your dog’s favorite grilled salmon, chicken or steak bits in his food with veggies. Opt for brain food ingredients to optimize well-being.
  • Try out Rooibos tea to help with digestive issues. (warm temp)


As usual, always consult with your veterinarian for the best advice when it comes down to high-quality dog food formulas. These ingredients should make up a basic recipe that is “complete and balanced” and would include single sources of protein that can be tested and replaced.

Conclusion

Eating disorders like anorexia need to be taken seriously because they may indicate a serious health condition. If your dog has stopped eating or is eating much less, visit your veterinarian.

As with most veterinary conditions, successful outcomes will depend on a fast and accurate diagnosis and treatment from your veterinarian.

Dogs can’t talk and tell you how much pain they’re in. Healthy nutrition and digestion is important in providing nutrients for good health and longevity in dogs, as well as for maintaining the proper balance of electrolytes in the body.

Hopefully, your pooch will never be diagnosed with a serious health condition. But if your furry best friend refuses to eat for a day or two, there’s no harm in consulting with your veterinarian right away to rule out any serious health conditions, and even painful dental issues. Adding food packed with nutrients like wild ocean salmon, tuna, cod, broccoli, blueberries, and even eggs, will also help your dog and protect against illnesses in the long run!

Pet wellness means ensuring maximum nutritional benefits each and every day, combined with daily exercise, optimal veterinary care, socialization, and positive dog training!

WagWell Box

 

Resources:


https://animalwellnessmagazine.com/rooibos-tea-dogs/
https://sitstay.com/blogs/good-dog-blog/cbd-oil-for-a-dog-s-appetite-claudia
https://sitstay.com/blogs/good-dog-blog/cbd-for-your-dog-s-upset-stomach
http://rallydogs.com/article.cfm?newsID=800149
https://www.fidofriendly.com/article/more-pet-friendly-resorts-ensuring-optimal-covid-19-safety-measures
https://animalwellnessmagazine.com/brain-food-for-your-dog/