Dogs may go off their food for a variety of reasons. Francesca Ford, Canine Nutritionist, who also teaches the Bone Idol Academy canine nutrition courses, explains…
Skipping the odd meal is okay!
Firstly, I would like to point out it isn’t necessarily a problem if your dog doesn’t eat every time you put their food down. Just like us, sometimes they just don’t fancy it right there and then. So don’t get frustrated with them or try to force them to eat. Leave it down, and let them come to it when they want, or take it away and try again a little later.
You should be keeping an eye on their weight and monitor any changes but if your dog doesn’t eat every now and then, that’s perfectly fine. This being said, if you are worried about your dog’s weight or health, it is always advised to get them checked over by your vet to rule out anything nasty.
Your dog remembers!
If your dog has previously eaten a type of food or meal that has made them feel unwell, put them through digestive discomfort or resulted in sensitivities, then it’s very possible that they remember that, even if we don’t, and by association they may refuse it in the future.
Age and health
The age and health of your dog can hugely alter their appetite. As dogs get older, they slow down, and might need different food, or different amounts. Medication can also have a part to play with your dog’s hormones and hunger levels. Always seek medical advice if your older dog is no longer eating, and look into senior foods that are available.
Too many treats?
Treats can be a great training tool, and also, sometimes it’s just nice to be able to give your dog a little biscuit when you’re sharing affection. But too many treats can spoil their appetite at mealtime. So think about their daily food guide, and balance out the treats as best you can.
If you are offering treats to try to get your dog to eat, that can send the wrong message. You’re showing your dog if they don’t eat their dinner, something better might be coming. After all, we didn’t get pudding before a meal!
Placement can be key
What can appear to be fussiness could be attributed to anxiety. This anxiety might be caused by the placement of where you’ve put their bowl. If it’s out of the way, or in the corner of a room against a wall, then they can’t see around them, or what’s approaching them, and this can leave them feeling vulnerable. Placing their face into a deep bowl and losing their peripheral vision might be another contributing factor to why they are not eating.
Try experimenting where you feed your pup. Some dogs prefer to eat in the middle of the room. It is also worth trying feeding your dog off a plate or a chopping board on the floor, or you could think about putting their food in a maze-ball, so they can move around whilst being rewarded with their dinner.
Is your dog feeling nervous?
Being nervous or anxious can drain your dog’s energy, along with their appetite. Just like with humans, dogs will not eat as much if they are stressed or anxious.
A few examples of what might be causing this are boredom, loneliness, separation anxiety, fireworks or storms. As mentioned, making sure your dog has its own safe place in your house to rest and sleep, as well as eat, is important for their overall health.
Temperature and types of food
All dogs are different. Some may happily eat their raw food straight from the fridge or even part frozen, while others would rather it was not served cold. Getting to know your dog and what works for them can take some time. Don’t be afraid to mix up their food and how you are serving it from time to time and see if your dog has a preference.
Likewise, some dogs prefer kibble to wet food, or raw to cold-pressed. Texture can play a large part in their enjoyment of dinner time, and also has different benefits on teeth and gum care.