How to Get Your Picky Dog to Eat

There are a lot of things that can go wrong when you’re caring for a dog, and nothing is more concerning than when your fur baby suddenly won’t eat. In most cases, dogs have strong appetites, and wouldn’t shy away from food, whether it was offered to them, or if they just so happened to come across that treat when nobody was looking.

That’s why Anorexia, or the sudden loss of appetite, is one of the most noticeable indicators that there’s something wrong with someone’s dogs. This is no accident, of course, since the sudden loss of appetite is a common symptom for a lot of illnesses amongst dogs. This doesn’t mean, however, that having a dog lose its appetite is its owner’s failure. In fact, there are other, less serious reasons for this as well.

To help you out, we’ve listed the reasons why a dog might not eat and what you can do for them to improve their appetites.

Why do Dogs Stop Eating?

There’s a myriad of reasons why a dog would stop eating, and the problem isn’t always life-threatening. It could be as simple as your dog reaching a new stage in their lives, or they might just be getting tired of the food you’re giving them. Whatever it may be, in order to correct the issue, it’s important to know why your dog is acting the way it does.

how to get a picky dog to eat

Here are a few reasons why your dog might stop eating.

Changes in the Environment

Dogs are creatures of habit, and changing their routines can be so stressful for them that they lose their appetites. This problem is not exclusive to dogs, either. Have you ever been so stressed out that you couldn’t bring yourself to eat? It’s basically like that. Some dogs get stressed when you leave them at home with someone new, or if you bring them with you on a vacation. This could also happen when you’ve recently moved to a new place, or even be as simple as buying a new toy for them.

Reaction to Vaccines

In order to keep your dog healthy, it’s important to keep them vaccinated. Vaccines, however, despite being healthy for dogs in general, do have side effects. One of the most common side effects for vaccines, or medication in general, is the loss of appetite. If your dog has had a vaccination or has been placed under new medication within the last 24 hours, then the loss of appetite is pretty much expected.

Dental Problems

Having tooth problems is never easy, whether you have fur or not. Toothaches are not a uniquely human thing, and if you’ve suffered a toothache at least once before, then you should know how uncomfortable it can get when you try to eat. If you notice your dog pawing at their mouth, have thick saliva coming out of their mouth where there was none before, or if they are simply lying down a lot next to their food bowl, then it’s probably their mouths that’s giving them problems.


Appetite loss is a very common sign of illness or severe physical pain. Simply being sick is more than enough to suppress a dog’s appetite, even when they’re usually not the type to turn down food. If you think your dog is struggling or you’ve noticed them acting strange recently, then you should probably visit the vet.

They’re Simply Being Picky

Although many of what causes the loss of appetite can be serious, there are cases where your dog is just being a finicky eater. Trying out new dog food can be enough to cause them to turn their heads away. If you haven’t changed their food recently though, make sure you just don’t have an old or bad batch of dog food. Some dog foods for picky eaters are available in the market, so this problem is one of the easiest ones to solve.

What To Do If Your Dog Stops Eating

Once you’ve determined the cause of anorexia, or if you’ve noticed your dog’s loss of appetite is accompanied by odd behavior, you’ll need to start on fixing the problem. Naturally, there are a few steps you need to take before you go straight to the fix. The whole process can be stressful for both you and your fur baby, so to help you out, here’s a list of things you’ll need to do if you notice your dog not eating.

Observe and Take Note

The moment you notice that your dog hasn’t been touching their food, you should start monitoring their behavior thoroughly. Take note of their activities from thereon. If there are any major changes from their usual habits, then it’s safe to assume that there’s a problem. Sometimes, however, it’ll take a few hours between putting food in their bowls and your dog to actually getting hungry, so try not to jump the gun if you notice that their food bowl seems untouched.

Check the Environment

Unless you’ve recently moved to a new place, or you’re out on vacation with your pet, then minute changes in your house or yard could be the culprit for your dog’s lack of appetite. Think back if you’ve done some changes in your house, such as new appliances, new furniture, or even new toys for your dog. If that’s not the case, then they’ve probably been eating something they shouldn’t have. Check the yard, inside the trash cans or anywhere else your dog has been hanging out if you can find any clues as to what they’ve been eating without your knowledge, if there are any.

Do a Physical Examination

Another thing you should be doing once you’ve established that your dog hasn’t been eating is to check their entire body. Comb through their fur and check if they have signs of parasite infestation, like fleas or ticks. Rashes or flea dust are a good indicator for this. Severe cases of flea or tick infestation can hamper your dog’s appetite.

You should also check their belly if it’s firm or not. A healthy dog should have a soft belly, with no hard bumps. If that’s not the case, or if your dog is showing signs of discomfort while you press, then they probably have diarrhea. Aside from this, you should also check their mouths if there are any broken teeth, swollen gums, or signs of bleeding.

Go to the Vet

If all else fails, the safest thing to do is to have your pet examined by a professional, preferably a veterinarian. If you’ve done all that you can, or if you’ve checked every nook and cranny and still couldn’t find a thing, then it’s a safe bet that a veterinarian will know what the problem is and how to fix it.

Best Dog Foods for Picky Eaters

Of course, as we’ve mentioned before, your dog might just feel picky, or they’re not really into the food you’re giving them. If you’ve had your dog checked and the vet says there’s no problem with them physically, then you can try enticing them to eat by changing up their diet. To help you find some good dog foods out there, here is a list of the best dog foods for picky eaters.

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Grain Free Dog Food

Although dogs are generally omnivorous, they are a lot more partial to meat, just like their wilder cousins. That’s what makes Blue Buffalo’s Wilderness dog food so good for finicky eaters, since very few dogs can resist the taste of all-natural meat. Blue Buffalo Wilderness is specifically designed to copy what wolves eat in the wild, mixing in actual meat as protein sources, and basically has the same idea behind the paleo diet, but for dogs.

It’s a high-protein diet, but also contains a healthy amount of natural ingredients, such as fruits and vegetables, giving your dog an excellent source of fiber, Omega 3 fatty acids and other vitamins and minerals that can bolster their immune system and their overall health.

Another great thing about this particular dog food is that it’s grain-free, so it can be one of the best dog foods for picky eaters. Especially if the reason your dog hasn’t been eating is that their stomach is sensitive to wheat, corn, and other grains. It’s also free from any artificial preservatives, which is sometimes more than enough to trigger appetite loss to some sensitive breeds.

Blue Buffalo offers its dog food in a variety of flavors, such as chicken, turkey, salmon, and even red meat. If your dog isn’t partial to one flavor, then there’s still plenty to choose from.

Merrick Texas Beef & Sweet Potato Recipe

Similar to the idea behind Blue Wilderness, Merrick’s Texas Beef Recipe prioritizes natural sources of protein rather than alternatives, such as soy, protein byproducts, and grains. Merrick makes use of deboned Texas beef here, which is a great treat for your pets, since honestly, who can resist the taste of beef?

Also, if your dog has a sensitivity to poultry, eating chicken or other poultry-based foods may cause them distress in their digestion, causing the loss of appetite. This makes Merrick’s dog food a good alternative to dog food that uses chicken, turkey or duck as their main sources of protein. This dog food also uses natural sources for vitamins, fats, fiber and trace minerals, such as sweet potatoes, blueberries, salmon oil, and organic alfalfa.

Purina Pro Plan Focus

What makes a good dog food for picky eaters comes down to how well they can be digested even when your dog is at their worst shape, that is when they have a sensitive stomach. Sometimes, what makes a dog guarded with what they eat is determined by the effects of food on them, and if certain foods cause them any level of discomfort, they will naturally avoid them. It’s particularly true for certain dogs who have gluten allergies, and foods that contain grains.

That’s where Purina Pro Plan Focus comes into play. It’s made from natural ingredients that are specifically designed to be as good for your dog’s digestion as possible. It’s made from nutrient-rich salmon that a lot of dogs will really love, plus it has high fiber content, which makes the formula highly digestible for your pets. It also contains omega 3 and plenty of vitamins and minerals that support a healthy coat of fur.

Instead of using wheat, corn or soy, Purina Pro makes use of oats, which are generally healthier, and a good source of carbohydrates that are highly digestible for very sensitive stomachs.

Rachael Ray Nutrish Dry Dog Food

If you’re looking for a high-quality diet for your dog, then Rachael Ray Nutrish could be what you’re looking for. The thought behind this particular formula is that it doesn’t use ingredients that people wouldn’t use in their own kitchens to cook food for themselves. This means that whatever ingredients used in this formula make it one of the best dog foods for picky eaters, thanks to the higher-than-average sources of nutrition.

It uses no artificial preservatives, it has high meat content and uses dried fruit and vegetables for fiber, carbohydrates and other vitamins and minerals. If you believe that your dog deserves good quality food that is also good for their overall health, then Rachael Ray’s is definitely the one to choose.

On top of being a good source of nutrition, a percentage of the profits from every bag you buy is actually donated to organizations that rescue animals in the United States. So not only are you ensuring your dog getting the right care that they deserve, but you are also doing this for rescued animals as well.

Royal Canin Veterinary Diet

For dogs who are not eating because of intestinal problems, then a more medical approach may be appropriate. That’s where Royal Canin comes in. This particular diet is formulated for dogs that are having difficulties digesting fat, and is specifically designed to ease a dog’s digestive movements. It’s formulated to help dogs that are vomiting, suffering from diarrhea, and is practically made to help with anorexia in dogs.

Aside from a good selection of nutrients, Royal Canin dog food is also full of probiotics, which is essential to maintaining healthy microfauna in the dog’s gut as well as for maintaining a healthy weight. This item does require veterinary authorization to get, so it should be a nice meal to pick up after you visit the vet for a check-up.

How to Improve Your Dog’s Appetite

Now that you have an idea of what caused the problem and have made the necessary steps to address them, you can start helping improve your dogs appetite. It’s not all that difficult once you’ve taken care of the issue. Sometimes it’s as easy as offering them chicken.

Give them Rotisserie Chicken

One of the cheapest and quickest ways to stimulate a dog’s appetite is by offering them some rotisserie chicken you get from the grocery. This should be more than enough to jump-start your dog’s appetite, and few dogs can resist its delicious smell. Naturally, this wouldn’t work well if your pet is allergic to chicken, so maybe find alternatives, like beef or pork instead.


Dogs need to be active, and it’s no surprise that a good walk could be enough to tire your pet out and stimulate their appetites. This is best done before you give the dog their meal, so you maximize the effects the actual exercise will have for your pet. They’ll eventually start associating exercise with meals and would eventually gain a positive association between both activities.

Feed Fewer Table Scraps

One of the possible reasons why your dog isn’t eating is that they’ve been getting morsels from the table and are more inclined to eat that rather than their dog food. Making sure that they eat fewer scraps would mean their appetites aren’t ruined. While you’re at it, you should also feed them less treats between mealtimes.

Maintain a Strict Feeding Schedule

Depending on their needs, or if the vet says otherwise, dogs will need to eat twice a day. Dogs are creatures of habit, they will benefit greatly from maintaining a tight schedule on their feeding habits. If your dog gets distracted too much before they finish their meal, then it’s best to take away any food they leave behind about half an hour after you leave it. This will teach your dog that they’re on a schedule, and they should finish eating when they still have a chance.

Do Dogs Get Bored of Eating the Same Food?

The short answer is yes, dogs will get bored. While humans have more taste receptors than dogs do, which allows us to taste a wider spectrum of flavors, dogs do have taste receptors that are unique to them. As a matter of fact, while water seems bland to us, dogs could actually appreciate its flavor. So dogs will get bored with food, just not the way humans do.

Of course, you don’t actually need to change up the dog’s diet in order to prevent them from getting bored with eating the same meal. One of the best ways to feed your dog and keep them preoccupied at the same time is by putting the food inside a toy. This will give your dog a bit of enrichment and still give them the proper amount of nutrition.


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