As a fur parent, it is your responsibility to keep your dog healthy by giving them food that will nourish their body. In particular, your dog needs a species-appropriate diet to help them get their daily caloric requirements, consume essential vitamins and minerals, and manage their weight. Giving them dog food is the best way to accomplish that. However, your pup’s healthy diet can be hard to maintain if they’re not eating what's in their bowls.
Most dogs enjoy eating anything because instincts compel them to eat what’s in front of them, but there are still some dogs who are fussy eaters. Some dogs are picky because they don’t like the taste of their food. Meanwhile, some dogs refuse their meals because they’re already full from being given too much human food or treats.
If this is your first time taking care of a fussy dog, you may be at a loss at what to do. The lack of appetite may just be temporary or simply due to your dog being picky.
If they look healthy, here are tips to encourage your dog to eat
Limit Food Availability
One reason why your dog is a fussy eater may be because you’ve been giving them too many table scraps or dog treats. These foods can fill them up or become better tasting options compared to the dry kibble you give in their customizable stainless steel dog bowls. If this is the problem, you should stop giving them table scraps and lessen their treat intake, as these types of food cannot give your dog proper nourishment. You may also consider only feeding them once a day, and if they haven’t touched their food in 15 to 30 minutes, take their bowl away.
This strategy makes your dog hungry, and more likely to eat what’s in front of them. It also limits their options, as they only eat the food you give them and trains them to look forward to mealtimes. If you’re worried about your dog going hungry, they will be fine if it’s just for a couple of days. However, you should bring your dog to the veterinarian if they continue to show a lack of appetite as well as a lack of energy.
Try a Different Flavor or Texture of Dog Food
Perhaps your fur baby simply does not like the dog food you’re giving them. If this is the reason, consider trying out a different flavor, specifically, a new main protein ingredient, to see if they like that better. For example, if you’re feeding your dog chicken-flavored kibble, don’t try a different brand’s chicken-flavored dry food, as they will have similar tastes. Choose a protein like beef or fish to give your dog something new to stimulate their appetite. Remember to introduce new foods slowly as a complete change could lead to stomach upset.
You can even try changing the texture of their food. If your dog refuses to eat dry food, give them canned or wet food to see if they might prefer that texture. Once you’ve found a flavor or texture that your dog likes, you can stick with that kind of food for their mealtimes.
Combine Different Textures of Dog Food
A wet food-only diet is usually more expensive to maintain than a dry food diet, so you might be worried about the cost. There are also possible health concerns as wet food is high in fat content and isn’t recommended for dogs who are prone to pancreatitis. Unlike dry food, wet food also can’t aid in cleaning your dog’s teeth, which can cause a buildup in tartar.
If these are your concerns, you can mix wet and dry food together. Doing so will help you save on costs and allow your dog to enjoy the taste of wet food while also getting the health benefits of dry food. Check with your vet about their recommended portions to ensure that your servings have the right amount of calories that your dog needs.
Give Them Some Variety for Their Meals
If your dog eats their food on the first day and rejects it the next day, maybe they just don’t like eating the same food every day. While most dogs will be happy to eat the same thing daily, and some dogs can be trained to do so, your picky eater might be the exception to the rule. If this is the case, rotating their meals to a variety of flavors, brands, or textures might help them eat more regularly.
Depending on what your dog likes to eat, you can have them on three assorted meals, which you rotate per day. For example, you can feed your dog beef-flavored kibble on day one, canned food on the second day and then mix both canned and dry food on day three before going back to dry food on the fourth day. You can also try mixing up the flavors per day or changing the brand of food they eat.
The example above will still give your dog some semblance of a routine, as you go back to the dry food after three days, but will also provide some variety as you change the flavors and textures of their food.
Have a Fixed Routine for Mealtimes
Dogs love routine and thrive on it. So if you’re not giving your dog their food at a fixed time or you change the location of their food bowl placemat, these irregularities can cause them some stress or anxiety, which decreases their appetite. Have a fixed schedule for your dog’s mealtime and strictly follow it to help them feel at ease. You should also be careful about changing anything in their routine, such as switching up their food, amount of food, eating location or even the bowl that they use because the familiarity helps them to feel secure.
Your picky pup refusing to eat doesn’t have to be a frustrating problem for you. Try the solutions above to curb their eating problem and possibly determine why they’re refusing to eat. If they still haven’t eaten in two to three days and show signs of weakness, you should consult with a vet immediately.