Canine Health and Nutrition Information from Dr Ken Tudor.

My Dog Isn’t Eating: What’s Wrong?

Ken Tudor - Thursday, August 07, 2014

What is Wrong When My Dog Won't Eat?I have had clients bring dogs to the hospital because they were worried when it didn’t eat breakfast. I have had other owners bring in dogs that hadn’t eaten in weeks. And then there have been the countless dogs that were somewhere in between missing one meal to many meals. And always the two questions are the same no matter what the situation “What is wrong with my dog” and “How long can it go without eating?”

The assumption for the questions of course, is there must be a single cause for not eating or inappetence and a time period that is dangerous for survival. Unfortunately this symptom is the least informative, only surpassed by ADR or ain’t doing right. Fortunately, going without food is far less serious than going without water.

Causes of Canine Inappetence:


Symptoms are only signs that a problem exists, not the problem itself. Not eating can be caused by the following list and more:

~Primary oral disease ( gingivitis, periodontitis, infection)

~Secondary oral disease ( kidney disease, oral cancer, foreign body, infection, viral disease)

~Esophagus (irritation, inflammation, foreign bodies)

~Stomach problems (reflux, ulcers, outflow problems, tumors, obstruction, and inflammation)

~Intestinal problems (dietary indiscretion, foreign bodies, obstruction, tumors and inflammation)

~Pancreas and Liver problems

~Anemia, infection

~Behavior (weather conditions, fear, competition with house mates, anxiety, etc.)

~Other medical problems (cancer, hormonal conditions, neurological)


So how do we vets find out why your dog isn’t eating? We have to examine, run tests, perform x-rays, ultrasound and possibly even more advanced diagnostic tests and procedures. All of these procedures are to try and find a cause for not eating. The alternative is to give appetite stimulants and see if appetite returns spontaneously. This is clearly the less desirable choice but in some economic situations is the only feasible alternative.


How Long Can My Dog Go Without Eating?


Not drinking water is a problem after only 1 day. Not eating reduces body functions, especially the immune system, and can be harmful after a period of 4-7 days. Although dogs can survive much longer periods of time without food, the consequences can be significant. Muscle is lost and contributes to significant weight loss. This can also contribute to further inappetence. So what are rational guidelines?


Missing one meal or not eating for 1 day does not necessitate a veterinary visit. Two to three days of consistent inappetence requires veterinary intervention because something is wrong. It may not be serious or it may be very serious. The good news is that most causes of not eating are typically easy to resolve, eventually.


~Dr Ken Tudor



Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0) | Permalink
John Pickett commented on 09-Aug-2014 09:59 AM
I have a one year old male Maltese that will only eat under a chair and will not eat next to our other 17 year old female Maltese. He doesn't eat regularly and I believe he isa vegetarian as he loves all kinds of vegetables but most of all chicken. I feed both of them twice a day. The older dog sometimes tries to cover up her food with the towel that her food is placed on under her dish. I pat her on her sides and thane she will eat.both dogs are healthy and are eating well now.
Anonymous commented on 09-Aug-2014 10:37 AM
John, I am glad you solved the "not eating" problem for your dogs. From you description of their diet I fear that it may not be completely balanced and although they seem healthy now, may not be in the future. What are you using to supplement their essential fats, vitamins and minerals, especially calcium? I would hate to see your young one develop osteoporosis at a young age due to the lack of adequate calcium. No quantity of vegetables will provide these daily, necessary nutrients.

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