If you feel sick, you probably don't have the biggest appetite. In this regard, dogs are just like humans. Nausea, pain and just a general feeling of unwellness can push sick dogs away from the food they typically scarf down in 60 seconds flat. Don't worry: a dog that won't eat isn't necessarily a concern if it's just for a day or two, but if you find that your pup is refusing food for more than two days, it's time to call the vet because they could have a serious, life-threatening illness.
According to the Veterinary Centers of America, the technical term for dogs who won't eat is anorexia. There are two kinds: true anorexia, where your dog has completely lost her appetite, and pseudo-anorexia, where your dog is hungry but has difficulty chewing, swallowing or picking up food. The latter can be caused by any kind of illness or disorder that causes chronic pain, including advanced periodontal disease and gingivitis. True anorexia is a bigger cause for concern because it indicates a systemic disease, exposure to poisons and even cancer.
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Unfortunately, eating is important for recovery. If you have a sick dog who won't eat — whether they're battling cancer, getting over an injury or stomach bug or simply experiencing nasty side effects from their medication — there are some things you can do to entice them as you await a visit to your vet.
Tempt your dog with treats
Sometimes the easiest way to get your pet to eat is to offer him something so delicious he cannot refuse it. Try mixing a little peanut butter in your dog's food. If your dog still won't eat, see if he'll lick some peanut butter off your finger. No? Place a small amount of peanut butter on his nose, which will essentially force him to consume some as he licks his nose clean.
Other dog favorites include blocks of cheese, boiled chicken (which is particularly easy on a pup's stomach), small amounts of cat food, lunch meats and meat-flavored baby foods. Feed your dog several small meals throughout the day rather than one large meal.
Warm up dinner with chicken broth
One of the easiest home remedies for a sick dog not eating is to warm up your pup's food. This causes the food to release more odoriferous compounds, which makes it a lot more appetizing. There are two ways to do this: with a microwave or by using broth.
If you feed your dog canned food, you can place some on a microwave-safe plate and heat it for about one minute. Be careful that you do not offer him food that is too hot. Dogs often slurp up their food quickly, which could lead to serious burns, so stir any microwaved food to make sure there are no hot pockets. You should be able to put your finger in the dog's warmed food comfortably.
If you feed your dog dry kibble, you can warm it up by pouring warm chicken broth or bone broth over it. According to the American Kennel Club, bone broth is a great food for sick dogs. It's nutritious but mild on a pup's stomach and increases the flavor and moisture of dry food, making it more appealing.
If your dog won't eat, you may be worried, but it's important to make sure they don't experience your anxiety. Encourage your dog to eat with plenty of love and support. Never try to force your dog to eat, which may cause him to withdraw, ultimately exacerbating the problem.
If your dog is shy, provide his food along with a few tasty treats, in a quiet, secluded location and leave him to eat alone. However, you must know your pet and tailor your strategy to him, as some dogs may eat only when at their person's side. In this case, petting your sick dog while he eats may help.
Dealing with dehydration
Your pet gets some of his daily water intake from his food, so it is important to monitor anorexic dogs for signs of dehydration. Plus, dehydration causes nausea which can stop your dog from eating his dinner.
Look at your pet's gums, which should appear wet and pink in well-hydrated animals. Pull up the scruff of his neck gently, release it and observe how it slides back into place. The skin of well-hydrated dogs will slide back quickly and smoothly; skin that slides back slowly indicates a dehydrated dog.
Feed a dehydrated dog canned food, and encourage the dog to drink water. If the dog will not drink voluntarily, try to offer broth or broth-soaked foods and let the dog chew on ice cubes.
Try foods for sick dogs
A dog won't eat if it's nauseated. You'll have to get rid of the nausea before you can solve the actual problem. One of the best home remedies for a sick dog not eating is to feed them food that's gentle on their stomach. According to the American Kennel Club, chicken and rice or pumpkin are great options. In particular, pumpkin helps regulate the canine digestive system, which can ease diarrhea and nausea. Just make sure it's cooked, peeled, unsalted and unseasoned.
Visit the vet for medication
Sometimes, home remedies for a sick dog not eating are unsuccessful. If your dog won't eat, you'll need to take a trip to the vet anyway. They may opt to prescribe your pup short-term appetite-stimulating medication.
According to the Veterinary Associations of America, medications could include cyproheptadine or mirtazapine. The vet may also give your dog a potassium supplement, which can stimulate appetite if your pet has a potassium deficiency. Either way, a veterinarian will be able to get to the bottom of your dog's lack of appetite.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.