When you're sick, the last thing you probably want to do is eat, but good nutrition is what helps your body feel better. The same is true for dogs whose appetite is usually reduced when they're under the weather or stressed out. Unfortunately, if they don't eat, they'll typically feel worse and won't recover, so it's important to entice them to eat even when they probably don't want to. Remember, though, if your dog is still refusing to eat for more than a day, you need to get her to a veterinarian right away for a proper diagnosis of what might be causing her lack of appetite.
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Try something new
Sometimes trying a new food can jump start your dog's appetite because it smells so different and yummy, recommends Pet Place. This is especially true if your pup usually eats dry kibble and you instead give him a can of a delicious new wet dog food. Wet food typically has a stronger odor than dry food does, which will help entice your dog to eat and it contains extra moisture to keep him hydrated.
Changing your dog's diet to a soft one is also easier for him to chew and digest. That's because wet food is softer than dry food, which could irritate your dog's throat and gums when he eats it. Another option is to try feeding your dog puppy food, which is richer than adult dog food and may taste better to him. It also has more calories, so even eating a little of this will give him a good nutritional boost.
Spice things up
Try giving your dog her regular food with some of her most favorite treats on top crumbled into smaller pieces. The treats smell delicious and will attract your dog over to the food, which may prompt her to eat. Plus, just eating the treats alone will give her some much-needed nutrition that could kick-start her appetite when she starts feeling better.
You can even try to cook your dog something homemade, like boiled chicken, turkey, or beef, which is bland and easier to digest for upset tummies. And, it may smell better to your dog than her usual food. Add in some boiled potatoes or brown rice for a basic meal that will help settle your pup's stomach, help her feel better, and tempt her taste buds.
Another option is to add a bit of low-sodium beef or chicken broth to your dog's regular food to make it more enticing. This is especially true if she's eating dry food because the broth not only smells appealing, but it also softens the food for a consistency that makes it easier for her to eat when she's sick. It also adds extra moisture for sick dogs who can easily get dehydrated, according to the Whole Dog Journal.
Heat it up
Warming your dog's food in the microwave for 10-to-30 seconds will enhance its odor, making it more palatable to your dog, recommends the Lake Mills Veterinary Clinic. Dogs have a better sense of smell than we do and it is an important part of stimulating their appetite. For an extra-delicious treat, mix a little beef or chicken human baby food into the heated food to get your dog excited to eat the food.
Make her comfortable
Part of improving your dog's appetite involves making him feel better overall so that he'll want to eat. Providing your dog with a comfortable bed, lots of love, and frequent attention might get him feeling well enough to try a little food. You can also try sitting with him cuddled in your arms while you offer a bit of wet dog food or beef-flavored human baby food from your finger, recommends Vetstreet. The gentle persuasion might be what he needs to start eating.
Consult with your veterinarian
If, after receiving treatment for her illness, your dog's appetite doesn't improve and she continually refuses to eat, you'll need to consult with your veterinarian. He can prescribe medication to stimulate your dog's appetite to get her eating again or administer a feeding tube if necessary. And your vet will monitor your dog to ensure the current treatment plan is working and adjust it accordingly.
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.
- Vetinfo: What to Do If Your Sick Dog Won't Eat
- Lake Mills Veterinary Clinic: Encouraging a Sick Pet to Eat
- Pet Place: Encouraging Your Sick Dog to Eat
- WebMD: Pet Symptoms: 6 Signs of Illness in Your Dog or Cat
- Vetstreet: Help Your Sick or Senior Pet Feel Better
- Pet Place: Tips on Getting Sick Dogs to Eat
- Whole Dog Journal: The Canine Sense of Smell