There’s no denying that dogs love treats. Our furry friends want a tasty snack every time they sit, go on a walk, or even bark. And why not? Treats are delicious! But sometimes, it can lead your dog to prefer treats over a proper diet. So what can you do if your dog won’t eat his food but will eat his treats?
When a dog doesn’t eat their food, it’s very concerning and can signify something serious. The first thing to do is determine the cause of your dog’s appetite loss. There are many things you can do to encourage your dog to eat once you know the source of the issue. Here are some of the things you can do to get your dog to eat!
What Does It Mean If My Dog Won’t Eat His Food?
It’s never a good thing if your dog isn’t eating its food. A dog that’s not eating may have an underlying medical condition. It can also cause further complications and health concerns if left untreated.
A dog may also lose their appetite due to behavioral or situational reasons, including changes to its routine or environment. Some dogs will also refuse to eat certain dog food. The food may be expired and stale. They may also prefer other foods after a while, including treats and human food.
Is It Common For Dogs Not to Eat Their Food?
It is not common for dogs to avoid eating. Dogs are very food motivated, and you’ve probably noticed that your dog will do almost anything for a treat. And whenever you go into the kitchen, your dog thinks they’re going to get either a bite of the food you’re preparing or a bit more kibble in their bowl. If your dog is not eating, it’s most likely the sign of other issues you should be aware of. Here are some common reasons your dog is refusing to eat their dog food:
- Dental disease or pain in their mouth: If your dog has loose or rotting teeth, eating kibble can hurt them.
- Upset stomach: If your dog is vomiting or has diarrhea, they may have an ongoing upset stomach that’s causing them too much discomfort.
- Serious health condition: Your dog may be too sluggish, sick, or uncomfortable to eat if they are a serious illness like liver disease, kidney disease, lung disease, or congenital heart failure.
- Stress: A change to your dog’s environment might make them too anxious to eat. A new family member or the loss of a family member can also cause stress.
- Fear: Fireworks, a stranger visiting, a storm, and other sudden events may scare your dog. This can make your furry friend lose its appetite.
- Issues with food: The food itself may be the problem if it’s stale, expired, or spoiled. While some dogs may eat just about anything, others are more particular.
- Your dog notices a pattern: Some dogs will realize that if they hold off eating their own food, there’s a chance you will give them “human” food or other food that they consider more desirable than their kibble.
Will Dogs Starve Themselves If They Don’t Like Their Food?
No, dogs will not suddenly stop eating and decide to starve themselves if they do not like their food. However, dogs can be picky eaters and rather finicky when it comes to certain foods. They might refuse to eat, but they will never purposely starve themselves. To do so would go against their innate survival instincts.
Your dog might go as long as 24-48 hours without eating. But hunger will eventually set in, and they will start eating food again. But what if your dog still doesn’t eat food after this time? When this happens, it’s not a picky dog going on a hunger strike. It’s most likely a sign of an underlying medical condition, and you should take your dog to the vet immediately.
How Long Will A Picky Dog Go Without Eating?
Your dog can go anywhere from one to five days without food, sometimes seven days in very rare cases. However, it’s not normal for a dog to stop eating food for several days. If your dog doesn’t eat its normal food or new food, then it’s time to take them to the vet.
Don’t wait too long to seek veterinary advice. A healthy dog will never starve itself. You should take your dog to the veterinarian if they don’t eat for more than two days.
Is It Bad If My Dog Won’t Eat His Food But Will Eat His Treats?
Yes, it is unhealthy for a dog to ignore its main course and head straight for snacks. Sometimes your pup will hold off eating dog food because they notice you respond by giving them treats or human food if they don’t eat. While you may be doing this in a panic, it’s encouraging the dog’s behavior.
Dog treats do not contain the important nutrients and ingredients dogs need to be healthy and active. They often don’t have as much protein and contain more carbohydrates and other ingredients that are not supposed to be overeaten by your dog. Too many treats will make your dog overweight and unhealthy. High-quality dog food is formulated to provide your dog with a balanced, healthy diet. They need to eat the required amount of dog food each day to thrive properly.
Why Your Dog is Eating Treats Only
If your dog will only eat treats, this is most likely a learned behavior. Just like you’d rather eat a cupcake than a salad, dogs prefer junk food over their nutritious dinner. And if you are willing to give your dog a treat when they don’t eat their food, this can give them an incentive to keep avoiding their meal to get the reward.
A dog who will only eat treats may also be suffering from a medical condition. It’s sometimes considered a form of anorexia. Call a veterinarian immediately and schedule a visit if your dog doesn’t eat their food for 24 hours (even if they are willing to eat treats).
Is My Dog A Picky Eater?
Several characteristics unique to your dog can determine if they are a picky eater or not. Thanks to their genetics, certain breeds are predisposed to eating more than other breeds.
Breeds with very hearty appetites include:
- Bull Terrier
- Golden Retriever
- Great Pyrenees
- Labrador Retriever
- Norwegian Elkhound
- Pembroke Welsh Corgi
If your dog isn’t one of the breeds listed above, then chances are they might be a picky eater.
Another determining factor and a strong indicator of whether or not your dog is a picky eater is how long it takes for your dog to finish their meal. Consider your dog a picky eater if they don’t empty their food bowl within 20 minutes.
A final sign that your dog may be a picky eater is if they refuse to eat regular dog food but eat other types of food, such as human food or table food. Regardless of your dog’s pickiness, it’s important to provide your dog with nutritious food and maintain a regular feeding schedule. Providing a routine for your dog will make them accustomed to eating at certain times and prevent them from going hungry.
What Dog Breeds Are Picky Eaters?
Several dog breeds are genetically predisposed to be picky eaters. If you have a dog that won’t eat their own food but will eat other food, chances are they are a picky eater and belong to a breed naturally inclined to this trait.
Dog breeds that are typically picky eaters include:
- Bichon Frise
- Boston Terrier
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
- English Cocker Spaniel
- French Bulldog
- West Highland White Terrier
What Can You Do If Your Dog Won’t Eat His Food?
There are natural ways you can encourage your dog to eat at home. You may need to experiment with different dog foods or avoid spoiling them with table scraps. Try some of these tips to see if you can get your canine companion to eat their dog food.
Check the Expiration Date
The bag of dog food may simply be expired. If it’s too old or the bag is left open, the food could be stale. This can bother pickier pups with more sensitive palates.
Use a Container
If you suspect that your dog’s food is stale, try using a stainless steel container. This will provide an airtight place to safely secure the food, keeping it fresh for much longer. Avoid plastic containers.
Try New Food
In rare cases, your dog may be bored of the same food. This isn’t too common, but not impossible. Try purchasing a new flavor or brand of dog food and mix it with your dog’s current food to slowly introduce them to the new kibble. The new smell and flavor may entice them. Pet owners can also switch up the type of dog food they give their furry friends. Is your canine used to dry kibble? Try wet dog food or canned food.
Change the Food Bowl
While dogs aren’t usually too picky, there are some things you can do to improve their eating situation, such as moving the dog’s food and water bowls away from other pets if they feel anxious. Or it could be giving them a food bowl that’s a different height to see if it’s more comfortable for your pup.
Add Chicken Broth
If your dog has grown accustomed to human food, try adding some to their food to encourage them to return to the kibble. A healthy chicken broth can spice up some dog food, and you can steadily ween your dog off the broth until they’re back to just kibble.
Create a Fixed Schedule
A change of location or routine can throw a dog off, causing it to lose its appetite. Make sure you give your dog the same amount of food at the same time every day to create a fixed schedule that comforts your dog. Feed them at the same time in the morning and evening. You can also buy dog feeding calendars that help get into a routine.
Try CBD Treats
If you’re going to give your dog the occasional treat, you want to be sure it’s got plenty of wellness benefits. That’s why we recommend CBD dog treats. CBD is a non-psychoactive phytocannabinoid found in the hemp plant that provides many advantages to pets and people. When it interacts with your dog’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), it can reduce physical discomfort, upset stomachs, and it also helps to stimulate the appetite.
It also can calm your dog, helping them feel relaxed after a stressful situation (including a move or storm). If you believe your dog is eating too many treats, try giving them CBD for dogs. You can drop it directly into your dog’s mouth, and once your dog is willing to eat, mix some oil into their meal.
Make Mealtime Fun
Try exciting your dog with some playtime before meals. This will make dinner fun and also give them a bit of an appetite. Give your dog a walk in the morning before breakfast. You can also give your pup some dog food as a reward if they solve a puzzle or perform a trick. This will make eating a positive, social experience.
Warm Up Wet Food
You can warm up your dog’s wet food to make it more appetizing for them. Using a microwave to heat wet dog food is perfectly safe and a fast way to prepare your dog’s meal.
Microwaving wet dog food enhances its smell. As a result, your dog will find the savory aroma enticing and become tempted to eat it. Don’t worry if you don’t have a microwave. You can easily warm up wet dog food in a pan. Make sure this is a pan separate from the one you normally use to cook your food. This will help prevent cross-contamination and allergic reactions in your dog.
Your dog may be full of treats and human food. If they’re full, they may not be as likely to bother eating their dog food. They may also know that treats are just around the corner, giving them a reason to hold back and wait for the tastier option.
Create A Suitable Eating Environment
Where you feed your dog can affect whether they want to eat or not. Your dog’s eating environment is dependent on the type of dog you have.
If you have a gregarious dog, they might prefer to eat in a place with plenty of people and pets around. These dogs will dislike eating in quiet, isolated places. However, these calm places may be the ideal eating environment for nervous dogs. These dogs will want their privacy and prefer to eat alone or with minimal people and pets around.
Play to your dog’s personality and switch up where they normally eat. A change in environment might go a long way to solving your dog’s appetite issues. You might want to try the following feeding environments based on your dog’s personality:
- Nervous/Lazy Dogs: Feed them in a quiet room or space of your house. See if they remain calm and start eating their meal. Be in the feeding room with your dog to help them feel calm and relaxed.
- Sociable/Active Dogs: Feed them when other people and pets are around. Try to incorporate activities during feeding to make them play for their meal.
Take Your Dog to the Vet
If your dog refuses to eat their food for 24 hours or more, you need to take your pup to the vet. A vet can run some tests on your dog to determine the possible cause of their appetite loss. They can also provide advice, including new foods and treatment plans.
Should I Take My Dog’s Food Away If He Doesn’t Eat It?
If your dog doesn’t eat within 20 minutes, you should take their food away. A little bit of reverse psychology might be the trick to getting your dog to eat more food. Your dog will go without food for a few hours, maybe even a day or two, until they start to get hungry enough to eat.
You might have to employ this technique a few times for your dog to get hungry. Remember that dogs normally don’t starve themselves of food and eventually start to eat. If your dog goes more than 48 hours without eating, you should take them to the veterinarian to get checked out for any issues they may have.
Final Thoughts – Dog Won’t Eat His Food But Will Eat His Treats
If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s your dog wanting food anywhere, anytime. So it can be quite concerning when your dog stops eating food. When a dog refuses to eat, it is most likely dealing with something serious. It may be a medical concern or a behavioral issue. If your dog doesn’t eat for 24 hours or more, take your dog to the vet to determine what’s going on.
Sometimes dogs may still want human food and treats. This could be from conditioning or due to a medical issue. Either way, treats don’t provide the same nutrients as a healthy, balanced diet. Luckily, there are ways to encourage your dog to eat their meals, including a feeding schedule, CBD, making mealtime fun, and limiting treats. With the right help, including a vet visit and natural home remedies, your dog will be eating again in no time!