21 Actionable Tips to Get Your Dog Eating Again - Canine Compilation
dog won't eat - natural appetite stimulants for dogs

21 Actionable Tips to Get Your Dog Eating Again

My Dog Won’t Eat! Effective Ways to Increase Your Dog’s Appetite and Natural Appetite Stimulants for Dogs

What to do when your dog won’t eat? There are many reasons why a dog may stop eating or go off her food. If she skips just one meal, it’s probably nothing to worry about.

However, if she continues to refuse to eat, you need to see your vet so you can understand the possible reasons why. If her lack of appetite is due to an illness, she will probably need medication or treatment.

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thumb image making a snuffle mat guide

Dogs can survive a few days without eating at all, so long as they are still drinking water. However, if as well as refusing food, you see other worrying symptoms, clearly you need to get your dog to the vets.

If your dog isn’t ill, but is a fussy or picky eater, there are lots of ways you can try to get her to eat more.

Here are some common reasons why a dog won’t eat:

  • ill
  • stressed
  • too hot
  • doesn’t like her food
  • she is spoiled
  • depressed, anxious or stressed
  • recovering from treatment
  • she’s getting old
  • she’s not hungry – she gets too much food!

Click here for more detailed information about why a dog doesn’t eat. In this article though, we’ll focus more on how to treat a loss of appetite in dogs and get fussy eaters to eat more.

Here are some actionable tips to get your dog eating.

CHANGE YOUR DOG’S FOOD

Did you perhaps change to a new brand of dog food? Or is your current dog food out of date? Maybe your dog just doesn’t like her food. This can especially be the case if your dog is on a prescription diet that she doesn’t enjoy eating.

If your dog simply doesn’t like her food, try mixing in a bit of something that you know she does like, to see if you can persuade her to eat. Alternatively, go back to the food she liked.

WHAT SHOULD I FEED MY DOG WITH NO APPETITE?

If your dog eats dry food like kibble, maybe try adding some liquid to it to make it more appealing. You could use bone broth, kefir, yogurt or some wet food such as scrambled eggs or cottage cheese. Even a bit of warm water might do the trick!

Lots of pet parents have luck with chicken. However, If your nose can bear it, I suggest you try tripe. Raw, green tripe stinks to high heaven but most dogs go nuts for it.

Tripe is incredibly nutritious and more easily digested than other food, so it’s a great appetite stimulant for sick dogs. It’s also an effective senior dog appetite stimulant – many dogs begin to lose their interest in food as they age.

Think about what your dog’s favourite foods are and start experimenting with adding these different flavours into her diet.

WARM THE FOOD

My dog gets a raw food diet. It comes in frozen packets and has to be defrosted. It’s kept in the fridge and served cold. Sometimes, especially in the winter, I add a little warm water to it first. I know other parents who also warm their dog’s food up, whether it’s raw or not.

By warming the food slightly, it brings out the smell more. Heating the food up a bit works for a lot of dogs – it might work for yours too.

PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD

Anything in life is easier if it’s fun. If your dog is off her food and you’re worried that she’s not eating enough, try turning dinner time into a game.

Hide her food in different places around the house. Sniffing, nose work or scent work are incredibly important activities for a dog. This might encourage her to be interested in food again. Try doing some Free Work with her to encourage eating.

Use kongs, lickimats, snuffle mats and puzzle toys. Make mealtime something she looks forward to.

GIVE FOOD THAT YOUR DOG CAN LICK

Try mixing up some wet dog food in a blender until it becomes smooth like baby food. You can then add this paste to a lickimat – licking has been shown to calm dogs so this could be doubly helpful for your sick pup.

You can get lickimats in a variety of shapes and sizes. My dog gets something on her lickimats every day. I often squish her dog food down onto a flat LickiMat Soother. I give her kefir in a LickiMat Wobble – it’s a bowl-shaped lickimat so it’s great for liquid. The LickiMat Splash has a suction cup on the back so you can stick it to different surfaces.

LICKIMAT SOOTHER

LICKIMAT SPLASH

LICKIMAT WOBBLE

CHANGE THE BOWL

I can almost hear you say “Really?’. Yep, yours would not be the first dog to suddenly start eating again when you change the dog bowl. However, if you already read the previous point about making mealtime fun, you might already have ditched the bowl completely.

Does your dog wear a collar? I’ve known of dogs that really dislike the sound of their dog tag clanging on their bowl. Try taking her colour off – perhaps she won’t be scared of her bowl anymore.

CHECK THE ENVIRONMENT

Is there something near where your dog eats her dinner that makes her feel uneasy? Watch her body language when you put her bowl down. Does she seem reticent to go near her food? Perhaps she doesn’t like something else in the same corner, or perhaps she’s worried another dog in the house will steal her food from her?

Try putting her bowl somewhere else in the house and see if this allows her to relax enough to eat. Make sure that wherever you give your dog her food is a calm environment. This will encourage her to eat far more than if there are kids racing past, other pets hovering or the vacuum cleaner blaring away right next to her.

Put the food down for her and then give her a little space. Don’t look at her or talk to her – your eye contact and voice might communicate your own concern and stress. Try sitting calmly at a little distance, maybe reading a book. Convey a sense of relaxation.

HAND-FEED YOUR DOG

Different techniques work for different dogs and their parents. If your dog is absolutely refusing to eat, it may be worth getting down on the floor and hand-feeding her. You could try combining this with some of the other tips in this article – for example by warming up a bowl of food or playing games at mealtimes.

For some dogs, this can be comforting. Look at your dog’s body language: does she pull away when you get down on the floor to feed her, or does she seem to come towards you? if she seems happy and comfortable and leans into you, try giving her a little bit of her favourite food in your hand.

A TECHNIQUE FOR FUSSY EATERS

Fussy eaters can often be persuaded to begin eating their dog food if you follow this technique:

  • Give your dog her dog food – make sure there are no distractions such as other dogs, kids playing etc.
  • Don’t stand over her, talk to her or watch her eat. Instead, sit at a distance, looking away from her – maybe watch TV or read a book. The calmer and more relaxed you and the environment are, the more likely it is that she will eat.
  • If she doesn’t eat it, or she leaves some, as soon as she walks away from the bowl, remove the bowl.
  • Don’t give treats between meals. Don’t offer her anymore food until her next mealtime.
  • Leave 8 hours between meals.
  • Don’t worry if she misses a meal. Dogs (and humans!) are perfectly fine not eating anything for a day. Indeed, intermitttent fasting is good for us!

TRY DOG TREATS

If your dog isn’t usually a fussy eater but is off her food, is there any food that your dog absolutely adores and just can’t get enough of? Maybe it’s something that she doesn’t get to eat very often, like a piece of roast beef or some cheese.

Pull out those super tasty treats for times like this when you need to try and encourage her to eat a bit more. Mix it in with her food to get her to eat more than just the treat.

STOP GIVING TREATS

Ironically, some dogs – the picky ones – refuse to eat their dinner because they get too many treats! They prefer the table scraps and the chunks of cheese you toss them when you’re preparing your own food. Those might be far tastier than the dog food in her bowl! So if your dog is refusing to eat her food maybe it’s because she gets too many tasty snacks. Cut back on the treats!

picture of dog that won't eat with tips how to get dog to eat

NATURAL APPETITE STIMULANTS FOR DOGS

BONE BROTH

I always have pots of bone broth ready prepared in my freezer. It’s so useful for many different occasions.

If your dog refuses to eat, try pouring a little warmed-up bone broth over her food. Dogs love the taste of bone broth. It’s super healthy, you can always keep some in stock in your freezer, and, it might just get her eating again.

If your dog is off her food but otherwise healthy with no other symptoms, try giving her a frozen bone broth ice cube. She might enjoy playing with it! My dogs love to play with bone broth ice cubes. Once she begins to lick it, you might find her appetite improves. Get the recipe here.

Dog treat ice cubes are a useful way to get your dog interested in food in the hotter summer months too – lots of dogs go off their food when the weather’s too hot.

LET YOUR DOG EAT GRASS

If you don’t have any long grass in your backyard take your dog for a walk somewhere where there is some. Avoid places that spray with pesticides or weedkillers. Choose a nice, quiet, countryside lane for example. Let her sniff and eat some grass. It might make her vomit but sometimes this is exactly what a dog needs in order to feel better and start eating again.

CBD OIL

CBD oil is a legal, natural supplement derived from cannabis. Many dog owners give their dogs CBD oil to help with pain relief, allergies, stress and anxiety – it’s totally safe for dogs and humans alike!

Pain and stress are 2 common reasons for a dog refusing to eat, making CBD oil an ideal natural appetite stimulant.

My beautiful old boy, who I sadly lost a few months ago, suffered from Wobblers, a neurological disease. It causes a lot of pain and affects mobility. I gave him CBD oil every day to help him with pain and other symptoms, and I really noticed an improvement.

You can get CBD as an oil or in dog treats. CBD oil is more potent than CBD treats for two reasons.

First, unlike treats, the oil hasn’t been cooked at high temperatures. Heat breaks down the CBD and degrades its bioavailability.

Second, the fastest and most efficient way to get CBD into the body is by putting the oil drops under the tongue or on the mucus membrane of the gums – that way it is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream.

Treats on the other hand are eaten, so the CBD has to pass through the liver and digestive system. Less CBD will be absorbed into the bloodstream, plus it will take longer to get there.

Many dog owners give their dogs CBD oil to help with pain relief, allergies, stress and anxiety.

Here are 10 reasons why Cannanine is the best CDB brand for dogs and why you can trust them:

  • It’s made from organic, non-GMO, human-grade hemp, grown in Colorado
  • It’s the safest, most tested CBD product on the pet market – Backed by 4 third-party tests before it even reaches your door (more than most human products). 
  • 100% THC-free (some CBD products are not). This means it will not get your dog ‘high’
  • It’s full-spectrum, not CBD isolate. That means it contains more than just CBD. It also contains other non-psychoactive cannabinoids that can work together to enhance the oil’s effectiveness. 
  • It’s been tested and found to be free of heavy metals, harmful bacteria, yeast, mold, and other toxins. The test results are publicly available.
  • The company freely provides its Certificate of Analysis Test Results
  • The CBD is emulsified with nano particle-sized emulsion, which leads to easier absorption
  • It is 100% risk-free. If you or your pup aren’t satisfied they’ll refund you 100% with no questions asked
  • Every bottle sold provides meals for shelter dogs
  • 100% legal in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and many other countries

ACUPUNCTURE

Acupuncture was another treatment my beautiful old boy was getting to treat his Wobblers. This was incredibly good at reducing his pain and improving his mobility, but acupuncture can improve many other health problems too.

Here in the UK, only qualified vets can practise acupuncture on animals. Find a qualified practitioner here for the UK and here for the USA.

HERBAL APPETITE STIMULANTS

Find a good holistic vet – even one who does online consultations – and get recommendations for a personalised herbal treatment to encourage your dog to eat.

CHECK ANY MEDICATION

Has your dog been put on some medication recently? Sometimes medication can affect a dogs appetite. Check the instructions on the medication: does it give a time period between feeding your dog and giving her the medicine, or, should it be with food? If you don’t follow the instructions properly it might affect her appetite.

Talk to your vet about changing her medication or adjusting the dose if you think this is stopping her eating.

HOW TO GET A SICK DOG TO EAT

It’s quite normal for your dog to refuse food if she doesn’t feel well, especially if she is nauseous. As long as she is still drinking water and hasn’t been off her food for too long, she may just need time for her appetite to come back.

LIQUID FOOD

In the meantime, you could try and tempt her with something that smells appetizing and that is easy for her body to digest. Liquid food is a great option, especially bone broth – here’s a recipe for how to make it yourself.

HOW TO FORCE FEED A DOG WHO WONT EAT

If your dog has been ill and is still refusing food AND your vet is on board, you can try feeding with a syringe. Your vet will provide you with a syringe and show you how best to feed use it. Syringes can be filled with bone broth or watered-down food that you blend in a food processor, for instance.

Be careful not to squirt the liquid forcefully into the back of your dog’s mouth or you might accidentally make her vomit. It certainly won’t be very nice for her, even if she doesn’t throw up! Instead, gently push the liquid food out of the syringe and give her time to swallow before giving her more.

HOW TO GET DOG TO EAT WHEN SICK

If your dog’s illness makes her vomit, she is unlikely to want to eat. This is exactly what happened to my girl when she had acute pancreatitis the weekend we moved to a new house. To this day I still don’t know what caused it, though I suspect it was something she found and ate in the new garden.

One of the symptoms of pancreatitis is repeated vomiting and it’s a vicious cycle – the sense of nausea stops the dog from wanting to eat. Get more information about pancreatitis in this article.

If your dog is nauseous, one of the most effective ways to stop that and encourage eating is to get your vet to prescribe an appetite stimulant. Once your dog starts taking the medication, you can try the tips covered in this article to get your dog to eat again.

Try different food items until you find something your dog likes. Tripe and liver are irresistible to most dogs. Start with small amounts of liver – too much will upset your dog’s stomach.

USE A MEDICINAL APPETITE STIMULANT

For dogs that are ill or urgently need to eat more, your vet can prescribe a medicinal appetite stimulant for dogs.

There are two types: one reduces nausea, enabling your dog to eat again without being sick.

The other one will stimulate her appetite by making her feel hungry.

Of course, first, you and your vet will need to understand why she isn’t eating so you know which appetite stimulant is suitable.

HOW TO GET DOG TO EAT AFTER SURGERY

At 6 years old Toxa, my dober-daughter, had pyometra and had to have an emergency operation to spay her. After the operation, she went off her food completely. She’s always been a picky eater and it took several weeks for her appetite to return to normal.

In that time, I tried every kind of food I could get my hands on. I made daily visits to the butcher in the first week after her operation, buying small amounts of different proteins to try her on. One day she’d eat a bit of something, rabbit for instance, but when I offered her more rabbit later she’d turn it down.

It was a worrying period of slow progress and lots of trial and error. I fed her little and often, varying what I offered her to try to keep it interesting.

You can read more about how to care for your dog after spaying in this article.

CONCLUSION: WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT MY DOG’S LOSS OF APPETITE?

If your dog won’t eat, first you have to check it’s not due to illness. If it’s a behavioural or climate response, there are lots of different ways you can try to increase your dog’s appetite. Here’s a quick summary of tips for how to how to entice a dog to eat:

  • Heat up your dog’s food a bit
  • Try making mealtimes fun by playing scent games, using lickimats, snuffle mats and kongs
  • Pour bone broth or kefir over the food to make it more appealing
  • Pour warm water or bone broth over dry food to make it softer
  • Change your brand of dog food – your dog might be bored or dislike the current brand
  • Put your dog’s food in a different bowl
  • Put the bowl in a different place
  • Try hand-feeding, as social eaters sometimes just want attention
  • Give CBD oil a go
  • In serious cases, your vet could prescribe a medication that could induce eating.
Lickimat recipe book

I am not a veterinarian: this information is not intended to replace medical advice, but rather, to help you make informed decisions to improve your dog’s health and wellbeing. Please, always seek your vet’s opinion, especially in the case of your dog being ill. 

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