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How Long Can a Dog Go Without Eating? When to Step in & What to Do

When your four-legged friend hasn’t touched their food all day, you may wonder, “how long can a dog go without eating?” We know that all animals need to eat for survival, so is it bad when your pooch skips meals? When should you be concerned? Don’t worry — you’re in the right place! This article will answer all these questions and give you helpful tips for restoring your dog’s appetite.

Why Do Dogs Avoid Eating?

Before we look at how long a dog can survive without food, let’s first examine why they occasionally refuse to eat. If you try to feed your dog and it turns up its nose, the issue could be physical, mental, or both. A loss of appetite could be due to one of these problems:

  • They’re in pain: If your dog refuses to eat, it may be because their mind is distracted by physical discomfort. A hurt paw, sore joints, or an upset stomach could be taking your pet’s mind off of its kibble.
  • Allergies: Food and environmental allergies are one of the most common health issues in dogs. Your pooch may be allergic to an ingredient in its food. Some reactions aren’t obvious to dog owners but could cause your pet to stop eating. If you keep your pet’s food bowl in a room with airborne allergens, the dog might avoid the room altogether.
  • Dental issues: Tooth problems can range from mild annoyances to serious health concerns. Dental problems cause painful chewing, which could stop your dog from chowing down at mealtimes. Issues like gum disease can develop slowly, so make sure you stay on top of your dog’s dental hygiene. If you have a small dog, their kibble may be too hard or large for their teeth.
  • Depression or anxiety: Research has shown that dogs can experience emotions similar to our own. This includes depression, stress, and anxiety. If your dog won’t eat and you can’t spot any physical ailments, they may be depressed or anxious.

Is It Ok If My Dog Isn’t Eating?

A loss of appetite isn’t always a sign that your dog is suffering from an illness. For example, if your furry friend has stopped eating because it had a stomach ache, the issue may resolve itself by the next day. On the other hand, problems like tooth decay will only worsen with time.

Your safest bet is to double-check that you’re caring for all aspects of your dog’s well-being. Some dog owners think their pooch is suffering from organ failure after one skipped meal, but a loss of appetite may only be temporary! Still, it’s best to take your dog to the vet at least once a year so you can catch any diseases early.

How Long Can a Dog Go Without Eating?

Most dogs can refuse food for three days before they give in, while others can go up to five days without eating. Your dog can survive without food for three to five days, but it must be drinking water during this time. Some healthy dogs can even go seven days without food, but you should see a vet before this point.

Let us reiterate that even if your dog doesn’t want to eat anything for multiple days, it has to drink water. An animal can reduce its food intake temporarily, but if your dog goes without water for three days, it could become fatally sick.

a golden retreiver laying next to their dog bowl

What Can I Do to Help My Dog Eat?

If your dog isn’t eating or drinking, you may be able to restore its appetite before resorting to a trip to the vet. Since they can go without eating for at least a full day, you have some time to experiment before taking your dog to the vet. Though, if you spot a health issue, get your pet medical assistance as soon as possible.

Since your dog may have more of an issue with the environment surrounding its food bowl rather than the kibble itself, your first step should be to move the bowl. This is a quick and simple way to test whether your dog is refusing food because of its surroundings or something else.



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If you’ve moved the dog food around and your furry friend still isn’t eating, try these possible solutions:

Exercise

Few activities build up an appetite like a good workout! Take your dog for a walk, run, trip to the dog park, or outside for some playtime to get their heart pumping. Physical activity burns calories, so your dog may get hungry after some cardio. They need to replace that lost energy, after all.

Some breeds require more exercise than others, so be sure to research your pet to determine how much running around they need. For example, a Dutch Shepherd has much more energy it needs to exercise than a Pug. Both need a chance to stretch their legs, but a Pug will get tired much sooner than the Dutch Shepherd.

Exercise can also help dogs mentally. Physical stimulation releases endorphins in dogs the same way it does in humans. Endorphins are the “feel-good hormone,” and they’re part of the reason dogs usually have a big smile on their face after working out!

Choose the Right Food

A dog might go without food for a few days for an incredibly simple reason: they’re picky. You may need to choose a different food if your dog turns its nose up at a particular ingredient. Pickiness can be the result of preference, though it may also be due to food allergies or chewing difficulty.

Another cause for selective eating could be that your dog knows unhealthy food when they taste it. Poor-quality dog food may not contain the nutritious ingredients that your pup needs, such as proteins and vitamins. Consider buying healthier dog food (or wet food) the next time you head to the store.

CBD

You’ve probably heard of CBD for humans, but did you know pets can also benefit from its effects? CBD is a natural compound that comes from hemp. It is bursting with wellness-boosting properties that can promote a healthy appetite, reduce nervous tendencies, and help your pet cope with stress.

CBD provides these benefits by interacting with your dog’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is like an organic machine inside all mammals, and it regulates vital body functions like mood, digestion, sleep, and more. Think of CBD like the oil that keeps the ECS machine running smoothly!

How’s It Smell?

If our eyes were as powerful as a dog’s nose, there could be an open Where’s Waldo book in New York, and you could spot his striped-shirt from Los Angeles! Dogs have been used for their astounding sense of smell for centuries, but having such a sensitive nose means they can easily sniff the yucky stuff.

If your dog’s food smells mildly bad to you, it might be unbearable for your furry friend. We often judge a meal’s flavor by how it smells, and your dog likely does the same. Try switching up their kibble or mixing in some CBD oil to get your dog to eat.

a dog sniffing food

What to Feed a Sick Dog That Will Not Eat

Some foods can help soothe a dog’s upset stomach, though be sure to consult a vet before you feed them to your pet. These are some tasty snacks that pet-friendly and nutritious:

  • Unseasoned, boiled chicken
  • Stage 2, meat-based baby food
  • Bone broth
  • Cooked, peeled, unsalted pumpkin

When Should I Go to the Vet?

Dogs can go without eating for multiple days, but this doesn’t mean they should ever have to. If your dog won’t eat food that it usually loves, the problem likely isn’t the kibble. Monitor their behavior for signs of allergies (sneezing), physical pain (limping, lethargy), or mental anguish (hiding).

Keep in mind that a dog needs water more than it needs food. While you can send a dog to bed without dinner and see if the issue resolves itself by morning, dehydration isn’t a “wait and see” sort of problem. If your pet goes a full day with no water, take them to the vet immediately.

Even though dogs may go without food due to mental issues, your first stop should be a veterinarian. Some think that vets only deal with physical problems, but they can also advise you on how to care for a depressed or anxious dog.

Final Thoughts – How Long Can a Dog Go Without Eating?

Now that we’ve seen how long a dog can go without eating, we can try to ensure our furry friends never have to go more than a few hours without some tasty kibble. If your dog won’t eat, have patience but keep an eye on their other behavior. Dogs that go long periods without water may be suffering from kidney problems or diabetes, so check their bowl regularly to see if it’s drinking.

Hopefully, we’ve answered all of your questions about how long dogs can go without eating. If you have any other thoughts, questions, or concerns, drop us a line, and we’ll be happy to chat!



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