Why Is My Dog Not Eating Or Drinking?

Ever noticed your dog turning up its nose at dinner time?

Or walking away from a fresh bowl of water without even a sip?

You may be asking, “Why is my dog not eating or drinking?”

It can feel strange and worrying, especially when we know that dogs usually love their food and need water.

What’s causing this change?

In this article, we’ll explore some possible reasons.

Dogs can’t tell us what’s wrong in words like people can.

So, we’ll learn how to understand what they might be ‘saying’ through their behavior.

And we’ll find out when it might be time to visit the vet.

Let’s become dog behavior detectives together!

Importance Of Eating And Drinking For Dogs

While it’s commonly known that food provides essential nutrients to dogs, many owners are not aware of the complexity of their pets’ dietary needs.

Each meal serves as fuel, supplying energy for everything from wagging tails to heartbeats.

It’s not just about filling their bellies but about nourishing their bodies at a cellular level, supporting growth and immune function, among others.

Equally crucial is the role of water.

A dog’s body, much like ours, comprises a significant amount of water, and maintaining this balance is critical for functions like digestion, absorption of nutrients, regulation of body temperature, and waste elimination.

So, when your furry friend loses interest in their food or water, it’s a signal you shouldn’t ignore.

Normal Eating And Drinking Behavior Vs. Concerning Signs

Every dog has its day, so to speak.

Sometimes, a brief episode of picky eating or reduced water intake can be attributed to factors like mood swings or a hot day.

But, it’s essential to understand the difference between an occasional hiccup and a potential health issue.

Missing a meal or two might not be cause for alarm, but if your dog regularly avoids meals, exhibits a reduced thirst, or displays signs like lethargy, vomiting, or sudden weight loss, it’s a red flag.

Common Reasons For Loss Of Appetite And Thirst In Dogs

Illness Or Disease

A dog suffering from a health condition, whether it’s as minor as an upset stomach or as serious as kidney disease or cancer, may lose interest in food and water.

Viral infections, gastrointestinal disorders, or even hidden conditions like heart disease can greatly impact your dog’s desire to eat or drink.

These signs can be a critical indicator of an underlying health issue that may otherwise go unnoticed.

Dental Problems

Our furry friends are not immune to dental problems.

Issues like tooth decay, periodontal disease, or oral injuries can make the simple act of eating or drinking a painful experience.

What many dog owners don’t realize is that bad breath in dogs can be more than just unpleasant; it could be a sign of dental disease.

A regular dental hygiene routine and check-ups can help prevent these issues.

Age-Related Changes

As dogs grow older, their dietary needs change, and so can their interest in food and water.

Some might eat less due to a slowing metabolism, while others might struggle with food and water intake due to age-related conditions like arthritis that make chewing or drinking difficult.

Interestingly, dogs, like humans, can also experience a decrease in their sense of smell and taste with age, which can affect their interest in food.

Side Effects From Medication

Medications, although designed to heal, often come with side effects, some of which can impact your dog’s appetite and thirst.

Some common medications like antibiotics or pain relievers can cause stomach upset, leading to a temporary aversion to food or water.

If this occurs, it’s important to discuss it with your vet, as it may be necessary to adjust the medication or dosage.

Changes In Environment

Dogs thrive on routine, and changes in their environment can significantly disrupt their eating and drinking habits.

A new home, a change in household members, or even switching their usual feeding spot can cause anxiety, leading to a temporary refusal of food and water.

Maintaining a consistent feeding routine and providing reassurance can help your dog adjust to the new circumstances.

Stress And Anxiety

Dogs are sensitive creatures and can experience stress or anxiety, much like humans.

A new pet, loud noises like fireworks, or a visit to the vet can result in temporary loss of appetite or thirst.

Comforting your dog and reducing exposure to stressors can alleviate this issue.

Behavioral Issues

Behavioral issues, such as preferential treatment or feeding habits, can lead to refusal to eat or drink.

If your dog is used to being hand-fed or frequently gets table scraps, they might refuse their regular dog food.

Retraining and promoting healthy eating behaviors can help in these cases.

Dislike Of New Food

Did you know dogs have preferences just like humans?

If you’ve recently switched your dog’s food, they might not like the taste, smell, or texture.

Mixing the new food with the old one in gradually increasing proportions can help your dog adjust to the change.


Yes, it’s possible to love your dog too much, at least in terms of feeding!

Overfeeding can lead to obesity, but it can also cause your dog to refuse food or water due to discomfort or lack of hunger.

It’s crucial to follow appropriate feeding guidelines, taking into account factors like breed, size, age, and activity level.

Spoiled Food

Last but not least, spoiled or poor-quality food can be a reason for your dog’s loss of appetite.

Dogs have a much stronger sense of smell than humans, and they can often detect when food is off, even if it looks fine to you.

Always ensure the food you provide is fresh and stored properly to prevent spoilage.

Signs And Symptoms To Watch Out For

Observing your dog’s behavior and physical health is crucial to identify any changes that may signify a problem.

It’s not just about lack of appetite or thirst; sometimes, the signs are subtler.

Symptoms Of Dehydration

Dehydration is serious and can be life-threatening.

Look out for dry or sticky gums, sunken eyes, or lethargy.

Another test is to gently lift the skin on your dog’s back.

If it doesn’t quickly snap back, your dog may be dehydrated.

Indications Of Malnutrition

If your dog is consistently not eating, they may show signs of malnutrition.

These can include dull, brittle fur, weight loss, lethargy, and even changes in stool consistency.

As owners, we may not realize the serious effects of skipping even a few meals.

Changes In Behavior Or Mood

Changes in behavior or mood can be subtle.

Maybe your playful pup has lost their usual enthusiasm for fetch, or your once sociable dog now prefers to be alone.

These could be signs that they’re not feeling well, and a decreased appetite could be the cause.

Physical Signs And Changes

Physical signs can include weight loss, dry or dull coat, lethargy, and changes in stool consistency.

Always be vigilant.

Regular grooming sessions can be a good opportunity to check for any physical changes in your pet.

What To Do When Your Dog Won’t Eat Or Drink

Sometimes, simple home remedies can help entice your dog to eat or drink.

However, if these don’t work, or if you’re concerned, always consult a veterinarian.

Change In Diet

A temporary change in diet could stimulate your dog’s appetite.

Some dogs may be enticed by wet food or homemade meals.

However, any diet change should be done gradually to prevent gastrointestinal upset.

Create A Quiet And Peaceful Environment

Stress can impact a dog’s desire to eat or drink.

Providing a quiet, peaceful environment during meal times may help.

Encouraging Hydration

If your dog isn’t drinking enough, try adding water to their food or providing flavored broths.

Some dogs may also prefer drinking from running water sources, such as a pet fountain.

When To Consult A Veterinarian

If your dog refuses to eat or drink for more than 24 hours, or if they show signs of illness or distress, it’s time to consult a vet.

It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Prevention: Keeping Your Dog Healthy

Prevention is key.

Regular vet visits, a balanced diet and exercise regimen, and maintaining your dog’s mental health can go a long way in keeping them healthy.

Regular Vet Visits

Regular vet visits can help identify potential issues early.

Remember, your dog can’t tell you they’re feeling unwell, so routine check-ups are important.

Balanced Diet And Exercise

Providing a balanced diet suitable for your dog’s breed, age, and size, coupled with regular exercise, can help maintain optimal health and prevent obesity.

Mental Health And Stimulation

Mental stimulation is as important as physical health.

Regular playtimes, training sessions, and socialization can help keep your dog mentally stimulated and happy.

Understanding Your Dog’s Normal Behavior

Understanding your dog’s normal behavior and routine can help you spot when something’s off.

Each dog is unique, so it’s important to know what’s normal for your dog.

It’s disconcerting when our canine companions refuse to eat or drink.

However, with keen observation, prompt action, and the right information, we can help them navigate these challenging periods.

Remember, your vet is your best resource.

Regular check-ups and open communication with your vet can help ensure your dog’s continued health and happiness.

After all, a healthy dog is a happy dog.

Before You Go…

Now you know why your dog is not eating or drinking.

If you want to learn more, read the following article too!

Or watch this video:

Mena Emad, DVM
Mena has a Bachelor’s degree in veterinary medicine. His expertise, passion for animal welfare, extensive knowledge, and experience in the field of veterinary medicine make him an excellent resource for our readers.