7 Reasons Why Your Pet Won’t Eat and What You Can Do About It - PetFirst
Pet Care & Health

7 Reasons Why Your Pet Won’t Eat and What You Can Do About It

by MetLife Pet Insurance
2 months ago

When your pet just won’t eat, we as pet owners begin to worry.   Since a pet who stopped eating could be sick, it is important to talk to your veterinarian about any sudden change in your pet’s habits.  According to Liz Koskenmaki, DVM, Burbank, California, “Every illness I have encountered in veterinary medicine can result in a dog not eating: kidney disease, liver disease, hypothyroidism, Addison’s disease, cancer, pain from a spine injury or arthritis, severe allergies, dental disease, etc.”  She goes on to note that “other less pathological issues include anxiety, overfeeding, tummy upset from eating something inappropriate and so on.”  Let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons your pet may not be eating.

Common Reasons a Pet Won’t Eat 

According to Koskenmaki, “some dogs can go a week without eating and have no ill effects, but it’s not uncommon for [pet owners] to panic when their dog only eats half his dinner. They worry about the pet not eating, instead of what might be causing him not to eat.”  Heading Koskenmaki’s advice, it’s important that we look at the cause of the symptom.  If your pet’s loss of appetite is caused by illness, a diet that will be recommended that meets his/her nutritional needs while also addressing the underlying problem.  However, there are other things to consider as well: 

1) Intestinal Upset in Cats and Dogs: 

Dogs and cats sometimes consume items they shouldn’t, including toys, articles of clothing, plants, rocks, bugs, coins, etc.  These items could wreak havoc on their stomach, meaning your pet may not want to eat until whatever is in their gut has passed through the colon and out of the body.  Sometimes they may even vomit it up! Keep dangers out of paws’ reach, and if you suspect your pet has eaten anything sharp or poisonous, get them to veterinary care immediately! 

2) Your Pet’s Sense of Smell: 

Dogs were born to sniff, so if their sense of smell has diminished, or if they don’t like the smell of the food, they may refuse to eat.  According to Stanley Coren, researcher and writer specializing in the intelligence, mental abilities, and history of dogs, if a dog can’t smell the food or doesn’t like what they smell, they’re not interested. It’s possible your pet could be having a difficult time smelling the food; it’s also possible they just don’t like what they’re smelling all together.

3) Pet Exercise Routines: 

Pets who exercise daily, or who have naturally high energy levels, are often more eager to eat than their couch-potato counterparts. If you’re wondering how to get your pet to eat, try grabbing a leash, putting on your tennis shoes, and going for a walk together. 

4) Your Pet’s Genes: 

While some pets can eat uninterrupted until the bowl is empty, others will simply pick and paw at their food.  However, this might have more to do with your pet’s genetic makeup than exercise routine.  Some dogs were simply born with a more intense appetite than others. 

5) Changes to Daily Routine: 

Animals are creatures of habit, so stick to a daily routine and feed accordingly. Changes in schedule or feeding time can throw off a pet’s internal clock, and affect his/her appetite.  Additionally, too many treats throughout the day can have an impact on appetite as well, so try to limit how many treats you’re giving your pet. Dogs and cats will forego their meal for tastier tidbits! If you have more than one pet, try creating separate feeding areas for them to reduce stress and establish personal space.  

6) Pet Eating Habits: 

Some dogs just aren’t hungry when it’s hot.  That’s normal, as long as they’re well-hydrated!  Meanwhile, when the weather turns cold, pets may crave comfort food (like humans do.)  This can cause them to eat more than they normally would in the summer months. This is also normal, just keep an eye out for over-eating.  

7) Dental Issues in Cats and Dogs: 

Your pet may not want to eat because it hurts to do so!  It’s possible they may have a broken tooth, abscess or gum disease that is preventing them from taking in nutrition.  Check out your pet’s teeth, or watch to see if a certain area appears more tender than others.  If you think something might be wrong, give your vet a call!  

Did You Know? 

If your pet isn’t eating as much as the pet food label recommends, they may still be perfectly healthy.  Many dogs and cats thrive on just 60-70% of what packaging suggests, so ask your veterinarian if your furry family member falls in that category. Also remember… 

  •  Dry food stays fresh for about 30 days once opened and then loses its appeal or can even turn rancid. Are you buying too much at once? If so, the dry food could just be unappealing to your pet. 
  • Canned food is only good for 3 days after opening, even in the refrigerator.  Are you feeding beyond that window? 

When your pet will not eat, they may have a simple digestive upset- or it could be a health-related issue. If you haven’t changed your pet’s food, routine or daily lifestyle, you should contact your veterinarian promptly for an exam and testing.   

Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances.

 1PetFirst Healthcare, LLC (“PetFirst Pet Insurance” or “PetFirst”) is the program administrator authorized to offer and administer pet health insurance policies underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company, a Delaware insurance company, with its main office at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, or New Hampshire Insurance Company or The Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania, each with its main administrative office at 500 West Madison Street, Suite 3000 Chicago, IL 60661. For costs, complete details of coverage, and a listing of approved states, please contact PetFirst Healthcare, LLC. 

2Like most insurance policies, insurance policies offered by PetFirst Healthcare, LLC contain certain exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force.

3 Personal interview with Liz Koskenmaki, DVM, Burbank, California, March 2021. 

4 “Sniffing Superpower of Dogs,” by Kritika Manchanda, Dogs & Pups Magazine. 

5  “How Long Does Pet Food Stay Fresh?” by Samantha Story, April 9, 2019. 

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