Most dogs can stay healthy for five days without food.
Especially if your dog hasn’t been eating as much lately, you may start feeling worried about its diet and health. In this article, we look at how long a dog can go without food, some reasons for the animal not wanting to eat, and the things you can do to change its eating habits.
How Long Can A Healthy Dog Go Without Eating?
According to experts, dogs can go up to five days without food. And depending on the current health and shelter conditions, some canines survive even longer without experiencing significant health problems.
But remember, a dog needs plenty of water even if it’s not eating. Even a healthy dog will get dehydrated within 24 hours of not drinking fluids.
Finally, the answer also depends on the breed and size. Smaller mutts and puppies need to eat at least once in 12 hours to avoid low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).
So Is It Fine When My Dog Refuses to Eat?
Well, surviving without food and not wanting to eat are two totally different concerns.
Some dogs just don’t like eating as much as others.
On the other hand, if your dog has suddenly started refusing food, it may be because of an underlying health issue.
Similarly, if your pet only doesn’t like certain dishes, you have nothing to worry about. You are just dealing with a picky eater.
Reasons Your Dog May Be Refusing Food
A dog may not be eating food because of various reasons, including:
While the loss of appetite isn’t a disease, it may be the symptom of more serious medical conditions like infections, pain, kidney diseases, and even cancer. Sometimes, a dog may just be fasting to get rid of a mild illness like a tummy ache.
Change in Environment
Dogs become anxious and curious when moving to a new house, which decreases their interest in food. If you’ve been traveling recently, you need to give your pet about two to three days, and the problem will resolve on its own.
Mental Health Conditions
Like humans, dogs are susceptible to various mental health problems. Especially depression and anxiety can mess up a dog’s appetite.
Signs of Depression in Dogs
Look out for these signs of depression in your dog if it hasn’t been able to enjoy food:
- Unwillingness to do things that it liked before
- Being overly needy and unable to spend a minute without the owner
- Changes in sleeping habits
- Generally becoming less playful
Signs of Anxiety Dogs
Similar to depression, anxiety can cause an aversion to food. Your dog is probably anxious if its showing behaviors like:
- Barking and growling more often than before
- Hiding from people, noise, and other pets
- Not wanting to be touched and trying to run away
- Tucking tail between legs
- Panicking and trembling in new situations
A range of dental problems, including gingivitis, oral tumor, tooth root abscess, etc., can make the dog feel pain when chewing, causing them to be scared of eating.
Here are some symptoms of dental problems in dogs:
- Excessive Drooling
- Bad Breath
- Bleeding from the gums
- Visible Tooth Decay
- Resisting being touched on the face or the mouth
- Dropping food while chewing
- Decreased interest in dry and hard treats
Decreased appetite is one of the common side effects of many types of vaccinations for pets. This can be slightly alarming since some dogs also experience a lack of energy. However, the effects are temporary and should subside within 24 to 36 hours.
Food allergies can also affect dogs, making them instinctively move away from a specific food. The signs of food allergy include itchy skin, ears, and digestive issues like vomiting and diarrhea. In some extreme cases, the dog can show hyperactivity and experience significant weight loss.
Picky Eating Habits
Dogs can get bored when eating the same thing for a long time. Some may even be spoiled if they are given a lot of delicious treats.
Canines aren’t also very excited about the food when they have to eat it around other animals they don’t like.
To be safe, assume that your dog is picky only after ruling out health problems.
When Should I Be Worried When My Dog Isn’t Eating?
It could be a problem if your dog hasn’t been drinking for 24 hours or eating for more than 48 hours. In addition, if the loss of appetite accompanies the symptoms given below, take your dog to a vet:
- Vomiting and Diarrhea
- Repeated gagging, sneezing, or coughing
- Excessive thirst
- Difficulties during peeing, or extreme urination
- Runny eyes and nose
- Swollen gums
- Hair loss/ itchy skin
- Changes in weight
- Lethargy and tiredness
It is also essential to notice your dog’s behaviors. You will have to take it to the hospital if it has been acting abnormally without any significant change in the surrounding.
What to Do When Dogs Refuse Food?
The idea is to find why your dog hasn’t been eating and fix it. Here are the things you can do:
Wait for a While
While it’s natural for a dog owner to be worried when their pet doesn’t eat, sometimes all they need to do is wait. Most healthy dogs like giving their digestive system a rest, just like when they eat grass. Thus, if everything is normal, you may not have to panic for a couple of days.
Fix the Mental Condition
Luckily, dogs are resilient and can quickly get out of depression or anxiety if they receive good care.
Finding the Issue
Before anything, you should find out why your dog isn’t feeling so happy. Here are some possible reasons:
- Environmental changes, like moving to a new home.
- Feeling ‘less’ important, for example, with the addition of a baby or another pet in the home.
- Not being able to spend much time with the owner.
- Chronic pain.
- Long-term trauma caused by injuries or a history of physical abuse.
- Grief and mourning due to the death of a family member or a friend.
Fixing the Problem
Based on the root cause of depression, here are the things that you can do to cheer up your dog:
- Help it stick to a routine for waking up, eating, and playing.
- Take it out for a walk often and allow it to socialize with other dogs.
- Put some effort into spending more time with your dog.
- Reward your dog’s positive behaviors with its favorite treats.
Prepare Food that is Easy to Chew
If your dog has dental problems, preparing soft food is the best way to keep it full. Furthermore, sick dogs also prefer food that doesn’t take much time to eat. Here are some things you can consider making:
- Chicken or Vegetable Soup
- Boiled Rice and Chicken
- Shredded Chicken
- Bone Broth
- Baby Food, etc.
Experiment With Another Brand of Dog Food
Often, getting a different type of canned food is the only thing you need to do for your dog to start eating again. Just make sure that the new food has all the essential nutrients your pet requires.
You can also sometimes prepare food for your dog yourself and alternate between dry kibble and wet food to keep its palates interested.
Cut Back on Treats
Treats make your dog less hungry during dinner and can even spoil it. Especially if your dog isn’t moving away from treats despite not eating a lot, it’s time to cut back on the snacks.
Warm the Food
It’s common knowledge that warm food smells better than a cold one. And since dogs have a very strong nose, the smell can significantly affect how they perceive their food. To warm dog food, you can microwave it or place it in a plastic bag and inside hot water.
Keep On Persisting
If you feel like you have spoiled your dog a lot with treats and scraps, it’s time to be sterner. If your dog doesn’t eat its food the first time, you can simply move the plate away and not give it anything until dinner.
You may have to repeat this a couple of times, and the mutt will eventually give in to hunger.
How Often Should I Feed My Dog?
Ideally, dogs should eat two meals daily, each 12 hours apart.
If your dog has been grazing or gagging, you could spread the food intake throughout the day. Adjust the portion and give it equal amounts of food every time.
Don’t forget to stick to a schedule when feeding your dog. Doing so will help the canine to regulate its metabolism and allow it to digest its food properly. It also helps to bring down stress levels.
FAQs Related to How Long Can a Dog Go Without Eating
Is it Okay to Feed My Dog Once a Day?
As long as your dog isn’t hungry and doesn’t show decreased energy levels, it is acceptable to feed it once a day. However, most dogs require meals two times a day to avoid hunger and gagging from overeating at once.
Can I Force Feed My Dog if it Isn’t Eating?
If your dog hasn’t eaten for days, you may need to use a syringe to force-feed it. However, this should only be done under the supervision of a vet.