Whether it’s old age, stress, illness, distraction or just plain pickiness, when our beloved pets decide not to eat at meal time it can be worrisome. There are some dogs who are food motivated and will eat any and everything without hesitation. My late MinPin Jiminey once ate lettuce zealously because I was eating it too. The morning of the last day of his life he ate like a champ (talk about food-motivated) even though he was experiencing periodic zaps of pain in his spine from a bulging disc/pinched nerve. He loved food, like I do.
I’d like to help you with my knowledge about your dogs and eating. Here are 7 ways to encourage your dog to eat when she, or he, won’t. I am not an expert and this is not advice that should replace advice from a vet, this is simply my observations from my many years of experience working with animals.
#1 – Wait It Out
Yes, it can be alarming when your pet is suddenly fickle about treats or meal time but just wait it out. There is no need to rush to the vet unless your pet is in visible discomfort or acting strangely. Pet’s systems can get funky just like our systems do and sometimes they may feel uncomfortable, full or gassy, nauseous or have temporary digestive issues like a stomach bug or illness. Give it some time to pass. There are times when I pet sit that pets boycott a few meals at first to protest the absence of their owners, they eventually give up and finally eat as usual. This is not uncommon when your pet is experiencing change. If your pet skips 3 full meals, then I think it might be time for a vet visit.
#2 – Visit Your Veterinarian
If you pet has ongoing finicky issues or has skipped 3+ meals, it may be time to visit your Veterinarian. You vet will probably run several tests and bloodwork to ensure there isn’t some underlying cause for your pet’s lack of appetite. There are also special diets and types of foods and supplements that your vet can recommend or prescribe that will encourage hunger and normal eating habits to return. Some dogs even need antacids or are allergic to some foods. So a vet visit could be very beneficial.
#3 – Make Meals Less Mundane
No one wants to eat the same meal every day and your pets are no exception. We are really doing our pets a disservice if we feed them straight dry kibble each meal. Can you say BORING? I can. It is easy to switch up their meal time and supplement with additions that will be both healthy and tasty! I have, or have known clients to give their pets the following, whether mixed in with kibble or as a treat or a standalone: canned dog food, diluted low-sodium chicken broth or bone broth, fish oil, sardines, spam, goats milk and keifr, yogurt, coconut oil, liver, nut butters (peanut, etc), pumpkin, raw meat and raw veggies like carrots and French beans (fresh green beans) and the list goes on. Pet won’t eat? Get creative with food!
#4 – Talk To Your Pet or Hand Feed
This sounds odd but it has worked for several clients pets over the years. Some pets like to hear your voice and encouragement while they are eating. Yes it seems strange but it actually works. Many of my clients have instructed this practice to me as their pet sitter and it is successful - sometimes pets, whether young or old, just like to hear your voice and/or be hand fed when eating. Maybe it is a comfort, or motivation, but for whatever reason it does help them to focus on eating when you are near them talking to them and giving them undivided special attention. Try it.
Stay tuned next month for part two of our list…