Dog Not Eating Food: A Guide To Fussy Eaters

Updated 22 April 2024
Read time: 7 mins
article author
Written by Corinne Homer

Dogs are known for a lot of things; jumping up to greet you, tearing manically after a thrown toy, wagging their tongue out of an open car window… and in most cases, eating anything they can get their snouts on. 

What if your dog has lost their appetite, though, or just won’t eat their regular food - is that a cause for concern? The short answer is ‘maybe’, as there are lots of reasons your pooch might be turning their nose up at dinner. 

Read our full guide to fussy eaters to assess why your dog might not be eating, and get them back to cleaning the bowl as usual. 


Why is my dog not eating his dog food?

If your dog could usually pass for a canine vacuum cleaner, it can be worrying to see they’ve left food behind at meal times. However, the cause of this could be very simple.



The first thing to consider is whether your dog is suffering from a health issue, and if it could warrant a visit to the vet. The cause for snubbing food could be as simple as a stomach upset, or it could be a sign of something more serious. 

  • Stomach upset - If your dog also has runny poop and/or is vomiting, they could be suffering from food poisoning.
  • Dental issues - Sore gums, an ulcer, cavities or a mouth injury could be making it hard for your pooch to eat.
  • Vaccinations - If your dog has just been vaccinated, they may be feeling under the weather.
  • Infection or intestinal obstruction - An internal issue could be causing your dog pain and suppressing their appetite. 
  • Pancreatitis, liver or kidney disease - Poor appetite could be a sign of more serious conditions such as these. 
  • Cancer - If your pooch refuses food for more than a couple of days, it could be an early sign of cancer or a tumour.



Dogs are anxious creatures, and even the calmest, most placid dog can suffer from a stressed stomach if their surroundings have changed. Your dog may be off his food as a behavioural reaction to scenarios such as: 

  • A house move - If you’ve just moved, your dog may be showing his discomfort by not eating at first.
  • Travel - Taking your dog to an unfamiliar location is another stress-trigger that might cause fussy eating.
  • Visitors or other dogs in the house - A distracting crowd or new people could disrupt your dog’s eating routine.
  • A stressful environment (arguing, loud children etc) - Dogs can pick up on human emotions. If there’s been a lot going on, this could suppress their hunger for a while.
  • Fireworks or storms - Infamously stressful for pets, loud events such as fireworks can really put your pooch off their food.
  • Owner not present - If you’ve had to leave your dog in the presence of strangers, they might not feel safe to eat as usual.


When to be concerned about your dog not eating

If you can’t seem to pinpoint a reason for your dog not eating; they’re not eating anything, including treats or home-cooked food, and they leave their food for more than one day, this is the time to pay attention in case something more serious is going on. Take your dog to the vet for a checkover. The vet will ask questions about your dog’s recent activities and be able to examine them for certain symptoms.


Dog won’t eat his food but will eat treats

Perhaps less concerning, but still a problem to be rectified, is when your dog is happy to eat treats or specific snacks but won’t eat regular meals. Believe it or not, this has a term - Partial Anorexia - and it doesn’t have entirely the same meaning as in humans. 

Partial Anorexia in dogs is when a dog is only happy to eat certain foods, and therefore isn’t getting the nutrition they usually would from a regular, balanced diet. It can often stem from the dog eating too many treats (perhaps because all household members are sneaking the dog a treat throughout the day), and in time, they become savvy enough to refuse all food to the alternative.


Am I overfeeding my dog/puppy?

If the above sounds familiar, it could be worth analysing whether you are overfeeding your dog or puppy with too many scraps, snacks and treats. Ask yourself the following:

  • Do I often succumb to my dog begging for human food?
  • How many family members feed the dog?
  • Are treats too readily available (i.e. do you use a treat to pacify all your dog’s behaviours?)
  • Does my pooch have a lax or irregular feeding routine? 

If you realise that your dog is a fussy eater due to disorganised feeding habits, it could be worth getting back to basics around feeding routines for your dog. If they’re a puppy, be sure to consult a puppy feeding guide.


How to encourage your dog to eat dog food again

All is not lost if your dog has become a fussy pooch! Follow the below steps and keep at them - until your dog is in a regular routine and looks forward to their meals again.

  • Cut back on treats! - The biggest, most effective step is to strip back all the extra food the dog is snacking on in between meals. So call a household meeting to stop those multiple treat streams at the source, and agree to quit sneaking table scraps too. When your pooch isn’t receiving food elsewhere, they’ll look forward to main meals, big time. 
  • Make mealtimes more fun - Just eating from a bowl can be boring, so maybe use a mealtime toy for dogs that dispenses dog biscuits as they move it around. 
  • Make dry food tastier - Either switch out your regular dry food for something tastier, or add a bit of warm water to the biscuits to increase moisture and improve texture. 
  • Switch out your regular dog food - Maybe your dog is bored of their food, and a more nutritious, tasty dry food for dogs is the answer. Otherwise, you could try slowly switching their food from dry food to wet. 
  • Change the feeding environment - Simply placing the dog’s bowl elsewhere might do the trick. Also, some dogs don’t like the reflective surface of a steel bowl, so a (non-toxic) plastic food bowl could be a preferable option.
  • Stick to a regular feeding routine - Dogs love routine, and they really don’t get bored of eating the same food every day. It means they know what to expect, and their tummies will thank them for it, too. 
  • Praise their efforts - Ignore your dog when they beg, but pile on the praise when they eat their regular food. Positive reinforcement, rather than doggy treats, should be the aim when getting your dog eating healthily again.


Food for fussy dogs and picky eaters

For dogs that are fussy or picky eaters, it’s a good idea to choose foods that are more palatable and nutritious for them than commercial dog foods.  A high-protein food for dogs, for example, should encourage your pooch to eat while still providing essential nutrients to keep them healthy and functioning from the inside out. 



If you’d like to chat more about feeding a fussy dog, get in touch with us. Or try Pooch & Mutt’s range of hypoallergenic, grain-free dog foods and healthy dog treats - packed with tasty whole proteins, vitamins, minerals and nutritional supplements. 



Comments (2)

I’m in need of help I have a shihtzu called chewy who is 8 years old. He a happy sole playful and very loving but he is a nightmare with food. He currently on lilys kitchen wet food He won’t eat dry food He very fussy. But over lady couple of weeks he won’t it has become bored of it or just gone off it. I’m at my wits end as he won’t eat unless he hand fed. I’ve been reading on your products and I’m wondering should I give it a try. He will happily eat treats all day but I want him to enjoy feeding time as it can be such a chore getting him to eat. He has a funny tummy I would say every couple of weeks. Any advise would be great

Jackie - Jan 16 2024
Pooch Admin

Hi Jackie,
Both our wet & dry food are complete meals and you could start them off with our wet food to see if they enjoy it. We would advise trying to give them less treats initially, as some dogs can become savvy to us giving them treats when they refuse to eat and you may find they will eat their food once they become hungry. :)

Team Pooch - Jan 16 2024

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