What Causes a Dog Not to Eat?

Loss of appetite, leftover food in the bowl, not thirsty, and not even in the mood for treats etc: If our beloved four-legged friend suddenly eats or drinks less, we dog owners know immediately that something is missing from our darling. If the changed eating behavior persists for more than 1-2 days, there could be cause for concern and one should get to the bottom of the matter and act accordingly.

Reasons for Dog Not Eating

Possible reasons for loss of appetite in dogs include:

  • Psychological reasons;
  • Pains;
  • Foreign objects in the throat or dental problems;
  • Bacteria or parasites;
  • Upset stomach;
  • Food intolerance/allergies;
  • Poisoning;
  • Foreign body swallowed;
  • Advanced age;
  • Gastric torsion;
  • Cancer;
  • Boredom.

In the following, we will go into detail on all points.

Upset Stomach

Certainly, the most common cause if the dog suddenly stops eating: The dog has picked up a leftover pizza, kebab, or something else unsuitable on the street and is now suffering from a bad stomach. In addition to a lack of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, a hard or gurgling stomach, bad breath, fatigue, and increased tiredness can occur. Compulsive eating of grass can also indicate that your dog is trying to “get rid” of something by vomiting or defecating. Give your dog a few days to recover and feed him light food. Various home remedies can also help here. If he refuses to eat for more than 2-3 days, a visit to the vet is advisable. Make sure that the animal always drinks enough!

Bacterial & Parasitic Infection

Your dog doesn’t want to eat, vomits, looks limp and exhausted, and just wants to sleep? As among humans, gastrointestinal infections are also circulating in the “dog world” and can be transmitted from animal to animal. Infection with bacteria is also possible, transmitted through drinking from the water, eating snow, or eating scavengers. If you do not deworm your animal regularly, worm infestation should also be clarified as a possible cause. This is especially true when there is diarrhea, “sledding”, itching of the anus region, or severe weight loss.

In the event of an infection by bacteria, worms, or other parasites, the use of antibiotics may be required. The vet usually does a stool or blood test and then prescribes the appropriate medication for the animal patient.

Food Intolerances & Feeding Errors

Does he get sick with chicken? Unfortunately, it actually also exists in dogs! Long-term feeding of simple quality ready-made feed can, unfortunately, promote the development of intolerances and allergies. Loss of appetite and gastrointestinal problems can result, but also itching skin rashes or loss of fur. Sensitivities in fat digestion are also quite common: the dog reacts to high-fat food with nausea, vomiting (often from pure bile), diarrhea, and colic.

But feeding behavior itself also plays a role if the dog eats poorly: What, when, and how often does your pet eat? Does he get a lot of treats in between that could whack his appetite? Or has the delicious dog snacks made it simply “uncomfortable”? If there is no other acute cause of the dog’s lack of hunger, these nutritional questions are worth checking out. Contact an animal healer or make an appointment for nutritional advice for dogs, as is often offered in veterinary clinics.

Foreign Bodies in the Throat & Dental Problems

Does your dog like to play with sticks? If your animal suddenly no longer eats, it is advisable to carefully check whether a splinter is stuck in its throat or gums. Other small injuries in the pharynx or simply dental problems such as tartar can be to blame if the dog refuses to feed. When in doubt, it is better to use balls, ropes, or other toys that cannot splinter.

If, in addition to the lack of hunger, an unusual bad breath, increased salivation, and smacking, this could indicate advanced tooth inflammation. Introduce your dog to the vet and, if necessary, have them explain the appropriate dental care for prophylaxis.

Cancer & Other Pathological Diseases

Unfortunately, loss of appetite and fatigue can also have very serious causes: Many cancers, for example, bring these symptoms with them. This does not necessarily have to be a disease of the gastrointestinal tract, because refusal to feed can also be a fundamental sign of pain. If you get stuck, ask your veterinarian for a blood count, as this may also reveal helpful cross-references.

General Pain Symptoms

A stomachache, toothache, joint pain, or infection – these can all be reasons why your dog does not want to eat! You should therefore also pay attention to behaviors that initially do not seem to be related to the lack of appetite – because maybe they do.


The horror of every dog ​​owner: poisoning by poison bait, pesticides, or household toxins. Typically, the poisoning begins with sudden, violent reactions such as tremors and panting, visible pain, cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea. But a gradual course with the loss of appetite, fever, nausea, and increasing apathy is also conceivable. Make sure you keep this possible cause in mind and if in doubt, contact your veterinarian, the local animal rescue service, a veterinary clinic, or the poison control center immediately.

Twisting of the Stomach

Nervousness, visible abdominal pain, panting, excessive salivation, and refusal to eat can all be symptoms of a stomach twist. Larger breeds of dogs in particular are unfortunately susceptible to these very serious symptoms. A hard, bloated stomach and increasing apathy are also typical. If you suspect this, you should immediately contact a veterinary clinic or the animal rescue service, because here only an immediate operation is life-saving!

Swallowed Object

Whether a puppy or an older dog: it can happen that the ball, bone, sock, or stone that was just left is suddenly gone! In many cases, the missing toy comes out undamaged at the end, or it is taken care of by the very effective digestive juices of the dog “on the go”. In some cases, however, the foreign body gets stuck in the digestive tract and can be life-threatening thereby causing internal injuries or intestinal obstruction. Unfortunately, the symptoms can often be confused with one another at first: stomach ache, refusal to feed, and reluctance to move are not necessarily associated with the disappeared rubber ball. Therefore, please always keep this possible cause in mind if your dog tends to “chew” extensively.

Psychological Reasons

What to do if there are no physical causes for your dog’s lack of appetite? Then you should consider whether something completely different “hits the stomach” for your animal roommate. Depending on their breed, character, personal life story, and experiences, some animals react very sensitively to stress, fear, temperature extremes or changed living conditions. The absence of a caregiver or a familiar conspecific can also trigger changes in eating behavior and gastrointestinal symptoms. If your dog also breaks bile, this could be a typical sign of nervousness and stress. If your vet doesn’t know what to do next, animal healers, dog trainers, and animal psychologists can provide advice and support, depending on the individual focus.


The same routine day in, day out: Perhaps your dog has simply stopped eating? Not only the same food can be a cause of spurned meals, a lack of activity, exercise, and variety can also cause hunger to dry up. Show your animal companion a new “sniffing around” and make sure that he can really let off steam. A little fresh wind around the nose can work wonders in this case!


As dogs get older, their appetite slowly decreases. Just like in humans, this is due to the reduced activity and the changed metabolism and is therefore quite normal. Make sure that your dog does not get more to eat than he needs now. Obesity puts a strain on the circulation and joints and can lead to serious health problems. In pet shops, there are low-calorie treats and chews, especially for senior dogs. Your loyal companion does not have to do without nibbling fun even in old age. Some older animals also suffer from orthopedic signs of wear and tear and pain, which makes it increasingly difficult for them to eat from a bowl on the floor. Also, take this possible cause into account and, if necessary, place the bowl slightly elevated.

Dog Does Not Eat: What to Do?

What to do if the dog stops eating?

Animal Rescue & Veterinary Clinics

A case for emergency use: If your dog shows strong and sudden symptoms such as panting, tremors, saliva, whimpering, severe restlessness, or, on the contrary, indifference to apathy, in addition to the loss of appetite, this could be an indication of poisoning, a twisted stomach or an object swallowed. In such emergencies, you should notify the animal rescue team immediately or go straight to a veterinary clinic (to be on the safe side with regard to capacities and opening times, call beforehand).

Veterinarian & specialists

In the case of latent gastrointestinal symptoms and persistent loss of appetite, the first step is usually to the veterinarian, who examines the animal and, if necessary, sends in a stool or blood sample. If the symptoms persist, a suitable specialist may be necessary, depending on the assumption and suspicion. In the case of long-term unexplained symptoms, not only should possible tumor diseases, orthopedic causes, or other possible pain conditions be clarified by the respective specialists, nutritional advice could also be useful.

Naturopathic Approaches

Herbal medicines, homeopathy, acupuncture, etc: In veterinary medicine, too, there are increasingly alternative treatment methods that can be very effective. In contrast to conventional drugs and methods, they usually have no side effects, which is why they are also enjoying increasing popularity among pet owners. Animal healers, nature veterinarians, animal nutritionists, and animal homeopaths are just a few of the professionals who can help to depend on the case.

Well-tried home remedies

A simple stomach upset can be treated well with tried and tested home remedies. Warning: not everything that helps people is suitable for your animal! Be sure to look specifically for home remedies for dogs. If the symptoms do not completely subside even after 1 – 2 weeks, a visit to the vet for clarification is recommended.

Behavioral training

If the cause cannot be found in the physical area, a dog trainer, animal psychologist, or animal behavior therapist may be able to provide guidance. These specially trained people often have a wealth of experience and may find a psychological reason for your dog’s lack of appetite. Together with you, they will work out individual possible solutions and thus ensure that your darling will taste really good again soon.

Alice White

Written by Alice White

Alice White, a devoted pet lover and writer, has turned her boundless affection for animals into a fulfilling career. Originally dreaming of wildlife, her limited scientific background led her to specialize in animal literature. Now she happily spends her days researching and writing about various creatures, living her dream.

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