Q & A: Lack of appetite in dogs

Q: Why won’t my dog eat his food?

A: Your dog may go off his food for a number of different reasons. It may be a physical reason – he may be sick, in pain, have an infection, have parasites, a gastric upset – or it may be an emotional one. Stress is a big factor for dogs going off their food. Intact male dogs may become stressed and stop eating if there is a bitch in heat close by. Dogs who have lost their human or animal companions may pine and not eat for several days. Even a new addition (human or animal) can cause a dog to go off his food.

Fussy eaters may simply refuse to eat if you change your dog food brand. Vary your dog’s diet and offer some treats, but remember the opposite is also true. If you give too many titbits and different foods, your dog may become so fussy that he won’t want to eat a balanced meal.

Sometimes dogs do skip a meal. It is common in nature, where they ‘starve’ themselves for 24 hours as a cleansing process. Most will eat with gusto the following day. The key is to watch your dog. See your veterinarian as soon as possible if: your dog refuses to eat anything at all for more than a day; his tongue, gums and eye membranes are pale; he drinks a lot of water but won’t eat; he is vomiting, in pain, or has a fever or a wound.

Dr Anuska Viljoen, veterinarian

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