As a veterinarian, I’ve seen my fair share of sick dogs that aren’t eating.
It breaks my heart to see them struggling, and I know it’s not easy for pet owners, either. That’s why I want to share some useful home remedies to help a sick dog regain their appetite and get back to their happy, healthy selves.
In this article, we’ll explore the common reasons why dogs stop eating and present some practical home remedies that can encourage them to eat again. Not only are these remedies effective, but they’re also gentle on your dog’s system, making them suitable for use in a sick dog.
Reasons Why Your Dog Might Not Be Eating
There are many possible reasons why a dog may not eat, and some of them may indicate a serious health problem. As a veterinarian, I have encountered numerous cases of dogs facing loss of appetite, and these are the common causes:
It’s essential to identify the underlying cause to provide the appropriate care and treatment. Regular check-ups with a vet can help ensure that your dog remains healthy and happy.
Home Remedies for a Sick Dog That’s Not Eating
I’ve seen many cases of sick dogs that refuse to eat. It can be worrisome to witness your furry friend losing their appetite, but there are some home remedies that can help stimulate their appetite and help them feel better.
These home remedies can help your dog feel more comfortable and might coax them into eating while dealing with minor issues. However, it’s essential to remember that these remedies are not a substitute for veterinary care. If your dog’s loss of appetite persists or their condition worsens, consult with your veterinarian for professional advice and treatment. As a veterinarian, I’ve seen how important it is to address the underlying cause of your pet’s symptoms to ensure they can enjoy a healthy and happy life.
But if your dog has been diagnosed and is being treated or if you are waiting to get your dog to the veterinarian, then these can be used as a temporary solution. So now that’s out of the way, here are some home remedies for a sick dog that’s not eating:
As a veterinarian, I often recommend the simplest home remedy for a sick dog that’s not eating: wait and see if they resume eating on their own after a short period of time, usually 24 hours. It’s not uncommon for some dogs to skip meals occasionally due to minor issues such as indigestion, boredom, or pickiness. This is not a cause for concern as long as they are otherwise healthy and active.
During this time, make sure to monitor your dog’s condition and behavior. Offer them fresh water and a comfortable place to rest. Keep an eye on their energy levels and overall demeanor. From my experience, many dogs will usually bounce back and regain their appetite within a day or so.
However, it’s important to know when waiting is no longer the best course of action. If your dog shows any signs of serious illness or distress, don’t wait longer than 24 hours before contacting your vet.
Symptoms such as lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, or difficulty breathing warrant immediate medical attention. So, use your judgment and stay vigilant. Remember, you know your dog best, so trust your instincts and reach out to a professional if you have concerns.
2. Give them a treat
Another home remedy for a sick dog that’s not eating is to give them a treat that they love and can’t resist. Giving a treat can sometimes be the spark they need to give them their appetite back. For example, a piece of cheese, a slice of ham, or a spoonful of peanut butter can entice a dog to eat by stimulating their sense of smell and taste. It also has the additional benefit of rewarding them for eating.
When you give your furry friend a treat, make sure it’s safe for them to eat. Avoid any treats that may be harmful or toxic to them, such as chocolate, grapes, onions, or garlic. See our list of human foods dogs can eat and toxic foods that dogs shouldn’t eat for some more information.
3. Try wet dog food
One home remedy that can often help in cases of a sick dog not eating is to switch from dry to wet dog food or vice versa. In my experience, some dogs may prefer one type of food over another, and changing the texture or consistency of their food can make it more appealing and easier to eat.
When considering wet dog food for a sick dog, it’s important to choose a high-quality diet that is suitable for your dog’s age, size, and health condition. Wet food can also help with dehydration, as it contains more moisture than dry food.
However, it’s worth noting that switching your dog’s food abruptly can cause digestive problems. While getting them to eat something may be more important in the short term, to avoid such issues, try transitioning gradually over several days, slowly mixing in the new food with the old one in increasing amounts. This will give your dog’s digestive system time to adjust and help prevent any upset stomach.
4. Heat up dog food
One home remedy I recommend for sick dogs that are not eating is to heat up their food slightly. Warming up their food in the microwave or on the stove can enhance the aroma and flavor, making it more palatable and digestible. Heating up their food is often a simple yet effective solution for sick patients I see in my practice.
Remember to heat up only a small amount of food at a time, and always check the temperature before feeding it to your dog. You can try heating up both wet and dry food; however, be extra cautious with dry food, as it tends to get hot quickly. For dogs with diarrhea, warming their food can sometimes help soothe their stomachs and make eating more comfortable.
A tip I often share is to mix some warm water or broth into dry food, creating a tastier and more enticing meal for your furry friend.
5. Try baby food
Another option is to try baby food made for human infants. The soft, smooth texture of baby food makes it easy to swallow, and it contains simple ingredients that are gentle on a dog’s stomach.
When choosing a baby food for your furry friend, be sure to select a meat-based option without any spices, salt, sugar, onion, garlic, or other additives that may be harmful or inappropriate for dogs.
It’s important to note that baby food should not be used as the sole source of nutrition for your dog. While it can provide temporary relief for a nauseous or upset pooch, baby food alone does not supply all the necessary nutrients required for a balanced canine diet. Think of it as a supplement or temporary measure to help your dog recover and regain its appetite.
6. Bone broth
One home remedy that can help those sick dogs is homemade bone broth. Bone broth is a liquid that results from simmering animal bones in water for several hours. Rich in protein, minerals, collagen, and gelatin, bone broth can nourish and hydrate a dog that is not eating well, helping to alleviate dehydration and improve their overall well-being.
To make bone broth at home, use bones from chicken, beef, lamb, or turkey. When making the broth, avoid adding any seasonings or vegetables that may be harmful or unsuitable for dogs. I usually fill my crockpot with bones and water, and then I add a small amount of apple cider vinegar to help extract nutrients from the bones. It’s essential to simmer the mixture for several hours, allowing all the beneficial components to be released from the bones.
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to avoid using store-bought bone broth or stock cubes for your dog. Unfortunately, these products often contain high amounts of sodium or other ingredients that can be harmful or unsuitable for dogs. By preparing bone broth at home, you can ensure that your dog receives the benefits without any potential risks.
7. Canned tuna
An appetite-stimulating home remedy I often recommend for a sick dog is canned tuna packed in water. Canned tuna is high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, making it a great option to entice your dog’s appetite due to its strong smell and taste.
When using canned tuna as a home remedy, make sure to choose plain canned tuna without any added flavors or spices. Drain off any excess water before feeding it to your dog. The strong aroma can help stimulate their senses and make them more receptive to eating.
Just a word of caution – while it has nutritional benefits, canned tuna can contain high levels of mercury or other contaminants, so feeding your dog too much of this can be harmful in large doses. It’s perfectly safe to give a little bit to stimulate their appetite, but use it sparingly.
8. Chicken broth
Similar to bone broth, chicken broth can be a great option for getting a sick dog to eat again. Apart from stimulating your dog’s appetite, chicken broth provides hydration and essential nutrients to help your furry friend feel better.
Making homemade chicken broth is quite simple. Start by bringing skinless, boneless chicken meat to a boil in plain water with no seasoning. Lower the heat and let it simmer uncovered for three to four hours, skimming off any foam as necessary. After that, strain the liquid to remove all chicken meat. If you opt for store-bought broth, make sure to choose one that’s low in sodium and free from onion or garlic, as these ingredients can be harmful to dogs.
Offering chicken broth to your dog can be done in several ways. You can mix it with water or add it directly to their dry food. Another creative method is freezing the broth into ice cubes, as the unusual texture can get a dog to eat out of curiosity.
9. Chicken and rice
One of the simplest home remedies, and perhaps most frequently recommended by vets, is plain old chicken and rice. This easy-to-digest meal helps settle your dog’s stomach while providing the essential protein and carbohydrates needed during their recovery.
To prepare chicken and rice for your dog, use skinless, boneless chicken breast and plain, unseasoned white rice. First, place the chicken in a large pot and pour in enough water to cover it. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook for 12-15 minutes. Make sure the chicken is thoroughly cooked through. While the chicken is cooking, prepare the rice according to package instructions. Once both are cooked, dice or shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces and mix it with the cooked rice.
When introducing chicken and rice to your dog, it’s important to do so gradually, especially after a fasting period of 12-24 hours. Start with a small portion and slowly increase the amount over several meals. Doing so helps your dog transition from fasting to a bland diet and prevents overfeeding, which may further upset their stomach.
Ginger can be an excellent home remedy for dogs that are not eating because of nausea or an upset stomach. Thanks to its anti-nausea and anti-inflammatory properties, ginger can help soothe a dog’s stomach and stimulate their appetite.
There are several ways to administer ginger to your dog. You could give them raw or powdered ginger in small doses, make ginger tea, or even incorporate ginger into their food or treats. When using raw or powdered ginger, please be mindful of the dosage; a small piece or a pinch of ginger powder will work fine.
If your dog isn’t fond of ginger’s taste, it’s a good idea to mix it with something more palatable, like honey, peanut butter, or yogurt. This can make it more appealing and easier for them to consume.
11. Chamomile tea
One home remedy that can be helpful to dogs with stomach upset and nausea is chamomile tea. Chamomile tea has calming and anti-spasmodic effects that can help relax your dog’s digestive system, reduce gas, and alleviate bloating.
To make chamomile tea for your dog, I recommend using organic chamomile flowers or tea bags. Steep the chamomile in boiling water for 5 minutes and allow it to cool before serving it to your dog. Remember, it’s essential to use fresh, high-quality ingredients to ensure the tea’s effectiveness.
There are several ways you can offer chamomile tea to your dog. You can add it to their water bowl or pour it over their food. You can even freeze it into ice cubes! This versatility allows you to find the most effective method to entice your canine companion to feel better.
Similar to chamomile, peppermint can be a helpful remedy for dogs struggling with nausea and upset stomachs. Peppermint has cooling and soothing effects that can help ease your dog’s nausea and vomiting, making them feel more comfortable.
To use peppermint for your dog, you can offer them fresh or dried peppermint leaves. You can also make peppermint tea by steeping the leaves in hot water, letting it cool, and then offering it to your dog. Another option is adding a few drops of peppermint oil to their food or treats. Just make sure to use a high-quality, dog-safe product.
Another option is to mix peppermint with something appealing like honey, peanut butter, or yogurt. This may encourage them to consume the peppermint, which can help with their upset stomach.
Remember to start with small amounts and monitor your dog’s reaction, as each dog may respond differently. However, it is important to never use peppermint oil as this can be toxic, especially to dogs with liver or kidney disease.
Try Changing Feeding Technique
While the above home remedies can be useful, the type of food you give a sick dog may not always help the situation. However, all hope is not lost – sometimes, changing the way you feed your dog can help entice them to eat more when they are sick.
Here are a few different ways that you can feed a sick dog:
One approach to help sick dogs regain their appetite is through hand feeding – it not only nourishes our furry friends but also helps create a special bond with them and makes them feel more secure and comfortable.
To hand-feed your dog, try offering small pieces of food in your palm or fingers. Hold the morsel gently and patiently for your dog to take a sniff at. It’s important not to rush them, as they might feel pressurized and further resist eating. Be sure to praise them when they start eating, as it positively reinforces their behavior.
Remember, patience is crucial when it comes to hand feeding. It might take some time for your dog to become comfortable with the idea. Keep the feeding sessions short and gradually increase the duration as your dog adjusts. Also, try offering them different food options to see which ones capture their interest and appetite. Just be sure to stick to easily digestible and gentle foods appropriate for their condition.
In cases where dogs refuse to eat or even drink water, syringe feeding can be a useful technique to help your furry friend get the necessary nutrients and fluids.
Syringe feeding allows you to deliver liquid food or water directly into your dog’s mouth, ensuring they receive essential nourishment even when they’re not eating or drinking by themselves. This method can help keep them hydrated and provide them with vital nutrients to support recovery.
If your dog seems distressed or uncomfortable, take a break and try again later, as forcing them may worsen their reluctance to eat.
When to See a Vet
While the home remedies above can be helpful in some cases, it’s important to recognize when your furry friend needs professional care. If your dog hasn’t eaten for 24-48 hours, it’s time to schedule a visit to the vet.
Similarly, if your dog shows any of the following symptoms, then it’s time to see your vet:
- Persistent or severe vomiting
- Blood in the stool, vomit, or urine
- Lethargy or weakness
- Pale gums
- Severe dehydration
- Weight loss
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
In my experience, it’s never worth waiting too long if your dog is sick and not eating. Many illnesses, such as cancer, kidney disease, and liver failure, can lead to a loss of appetite in dogs. In some cases, hormonal conditions or anxiety may also play a role.
If you are ever unsure about your dog’s condition, don’t hesitate to reach out to your vet.
What should I feed my dog who has lost their appetite?
If your dog is not eating, offer them easily digestible, nutrient-dense foods that are gentle on their stomach. Try chicken and rice, canned tuna, or baby food.
How can I encourage my dog to eat when they’re feeling unwell?
There are several methods you can try to entice your dog to eat. Gently warming their food can make it more aromatic and appealing, or you could try adding a small amount of low-sodium broth or wet food to their regular meal.
How long should I wait before consulting a veterinarian if my dog isn’t eating?
If your dog’s appetite hasn’t improved within 24 hours, it’s time to consult your vet. Prolonged refusal to eat could be a sign of a more serious issue, and early intervention is crucial for your dog’s health.
What are some warning signs of severe illness in dogs who aren’t eating?
Look for additional symptoms alongside a loss of appetite, such as lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, or difficulty breathing. If any of these signs are present, it’s important to contact your veterinarian immediately.
Can dehydration be a problem for dogs who are drinking water but not eating?
Yes, even if a dog is drinking water, they can still become dehydrated – dogs get a lot of water through the food they eat. Signs of dehydration to watch out for include lethargy, panting, sunken eyes, and dry gums.