What Does it Mean if My Dog Won’t Eat and What Should I Do?

by | Dec 13, 2019 | Health and Nutrition

Depending on where you live, the average cost of a trip to the vet can range from $700 to over $1,500. That’s enough money to give you pause before rushing off to the vet over every little thing.

When your dog won’t eat, it can be pretty unsettling. How do you know what’s causing it and whether or not it’s a sign that you should make a vet appointment ASAP?

Dogs refuse their food for reasons ranging from boredom to mild stomach upset to intestinal blockages. 

Read on to find out more about what it may mean if your dog won’t eat and what you should do to narrow down the possibilities.

Boredom or Pickiness

Believe it or not, your dog may be refusing to eat because she’s bored with the food you feed her or she’s picky and doesn’t like the new food you’ve selected. The best way to rule this out is to try feeding them something different or adding a new flavor to their bowl.

If you don’t have another type of dog food on hand, go through your fridge for a bit of “people” food that is safe for her to eat. Shredded cheese, fresh carrots or tomatoes, or a bit of unseasoned white meat should do the trick. If you don’t want to give her “people food,” add a bit of warm water to her bowl to create a “gravy.”

If she’s willing to eat her food with a little something extra added to it (or even if she’s eating the “people food” and casting aside her own kibble), she’s probably not that interested in her own food.


Do a bit of research on your dog’s size and breed to find out how much she should be eating a day. It’s possible that you’ve been giving her too many scoops of food or supplementing more than 10% of her diet with treats and it’s finally catching up with her. 

If you discover that you have, in fact, been overfeeding your dog, cut out some of that excess and see if her appetite comes back in the next day or two.


If stress is the root of the problem, your dog is probably exhibiting other signs, as well. Look for behavioral changes like decreased energy, increased self-isolation, and increased sleeping. If your dog checks some or all of these boxes, take a moment to think about what could be causing stress.

If you have recently moved or added a new member to your household, your dog may be struggling to adapt. This could also be the case if your schedule has changed and you’ve been out of the house longer and more frequently.

Try creating a space in the house that fosters feelings of security! Make sure it’s quiet and cozy and leave her some of your belongings that smell like you. If she takes to it, try feeding her in this new comfort space and consider sticking around with her while she eats.

Upset Stomach

Dogs eat things they shouldn’t all the time. “People foods” like garlic and chocolate, cleaning chemicals like bleach, and plants like tulips and azaleas are all things we may have in our house or yard that could cause our dogs trouble if ingested. 

When dogs have upset stomachs, they often drool, pant, or lick their lips more than usual. They may also try to eat grass as a way to encourage vomiting so that they can expel whatever it is that’s making them feel icky. If these other symptoms of an upset stomach accompany your dog’s unwillingness to eat, take her to the vet, as she may have eaten something toxic. 

Joint Pain and Other Ailments

Dogs have a tendency to hide their pain, but owners notice it in the subtle changes in their behavior. Dogs who don’t want to eat, walk, or play as much as normal may be experiencing pain

If you’ve got a breed that is predisposed to poor joint health, check out the joint supplement we recommend using. Consult your vet before introducing new supplements into your dog’s regimen, especially if they’re already on other medications.

If your vet is concerned about the physical pain your dog seems to be in, they may suggest performing some tests and taking Xrays to see what’s going on. This may lead to a hefty bill but think of the money you’d be spending on surgery down the road if you didn’t treat perfectly treatable ailments now.

Intestinal Blockages

Intestinal blockages occur when your dog has consumed something that they can’t digest or too much of something that digests very slowly. These blockages make it difficult or impossible for your dog to, well, poop, which causes discomfort and loss of appetite.

Like some of the other serious issues we’ve discussed, not eating is not the only sign of an intestinal blockage. This change will be accompanied by unusual or disrupted bowel movements, for starters. You may also notice vomiting, drooling, gagging, and irritation.

If these symptoms are severe or continue for more than a day or two, it’s probably best to go to the vet. Depending on what is causing the blockage, it may need to be surgically removed. Hopefully, whatever it is will make it way through the intestines over the course of a few hours and pass naturally.

Don’t Panic When Your Dog Won’t Eat

Our dogs are our babies and it’s hard not to panic when they seem to be in pain or discomfort! If your dog won’t eat, it can be stressful, but try to rule out the easily mendable possibilities, like boredom and overfeeding, before you rush to the vet’s office.

Are you getting a little bored with your own food? Check out our recipes to spice up your meal plans and, while you’re at it, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!