How to Force Feed a Dog Who Won’t Eat

Dogs occasionally lose their appetite. It’s important to monitor for a loss of appetite that continues for more than 24 hours or is accompanied by symptoms like diarrhea or lethargy.

Some pets require syringe feeding with diluted canned food, under the supervision of a veterinarian. This practice should only be undertaken with their permission and supervision.

Start With Small Amounts

If your pup has stopped eating and you are concerned, consult your veterinarian immediately to assess its cause. A lack of appetite could be indicative of serious illness such as intestinal or dental problems; your vet may suggest food changes or other treatments depending on what caused its lack of appetite.

Stress and anxiety are often responsible for an abrupt change in appetite in dogs. It could be anything from new dogs entering your home to travel, separation anxiety and switching over to dry kibble instead of canned food causing issues for them. Once identified as the source, this should help restore their appetite.

Your dog’s lack of appetite could be temporary and resolve on its own. If this has not happened after changing their food and eliminating table scraps and treats, as well as cutting out treats altogether, then speaking with your veterinarian about alternative solutions such as hand-feeding or feeding tubes may be necessary.

Your pup might just not like their food, or find their bowl too challenging or boring to eat from. Try arranging their food differently; adding water or broth, mixing in canned food for more appeal or warming up their food up and doling it out directly from your hand to stimulate hunger.

If your dog exhibits symptoms of anorexia, such as not drinking or walking normally, it’s imperative that they visit a veterinarian immediately. There may be various causes, including heart disease, cancer, gastrointestinal disease, diabetes and parasites; if none can be determined they may prescribe treatment tailored specifically for each pet’s case. It’s also a good idea to contact them if he/she seems dehydrated as this could be contributing to dehydration as well as other potential health concerns.

Offer Treats

If your dog has started turning down its daily meal of kibble but eating treats, table scraps, or other food instead, they may have outwitted you. They know if they delay their regular daily meals they can still find more options later – leading them to overeating on inappropriate foods which can have serious health implications. It would be best to stop giving treats altogether so they learn that what’s on their plate is all that will be provided them with. If this has already happened for them then create a regular schedule for feedings so they learn that what’s coming down is all that they will get from you.

Another factor which could cause your dog to refuse food could be anxiety or stress. Changes to routine, the arrival of new people or animals into the household, traveling, loud noises such as construction or thunder, as well as loud environments may all have the power to cause an upheaval and make your pup uneasy – which could result in them forgoing eating altogether. If this occurs try creating a quiet environment in which they can dine on their food – once calm they may resume eating it regularly again!

Failing appetite may also indicate illness in dogs. Vomiting or diarrhea should prompt immediate veterinary visit. They could be dehydrated or suffering from serious medical conditions like cancer, liver disease, pancreatitis, heart disease, intestinal parasites kidney disease or gastrointestinal obstruction that require immediate medical attention.

If a dog is vomiting or experiencing diarrhea and refuses to eat, they should see their veterinarian immediately. If they’re not dehydrated, something such as chicken broth or baby food that’s soft and easy for them to chew may help encourage eating again. Dogs shouldn’t go more than 24 hours without eating or drinking even if they are vomiting; though in these instances they usually can survive several days without food/water without becoming dehydrated; sooner treatment by a vet means greater chances of recovery.


One effective solution to helping a dog who won’t eat is hand-feeding. This technique is especially useful with fearful dogs because it teaches them to associate you with food and treats, increasing confidence. Furthermore, hand-feeding prevents too rapid of an eating spree which may present potential choking hazards.

Utilizing a closed fist when hand-feeding your dog can help them develop impulse control. Start off with small amounts of kibble to gain their focus before slowly opening your fist and allowing them to eat the meal – any attempts by them at taking the food away should result in closing it back up again! This will teach them not to try to mug you for it before being allowed access.

If your dog suddenly stops eating regularly and seems sickly, schedule an appointment with their veterinarian immediately so they can assess and devise a treatment plan.

Some dogs stop eating because of fearful environments like loud vacuum cleaners or washing machines. Other issues, like separation anxiety or the desire for human companionship can also inhibit appetites; in these instances, your vet may prescribe medication that encourages eating again.

Your dog may have acquired a taste for certain types of foods and is refusing to eat his/her regular meals anymore; in this instance, it would be worthwhile trying different brands of food to see if any are suitable.

Some dogs prefer eating from their bowl rather than your hands because this allows them to more accurately control how much food they eat. If that is the case for your pup, try placing their bowl in an eye-catching location or adding toppings such as Parmesan cheese or chopped fresh herbs for added appeal.

Syringe Feeding

Veterinarians may recommend syringe feeding in certain instances to maintain your pet’s health, which includes dogs, cats, birds and small animals such as rabbits and guinea pigs. Syringe feeding should only be done for short periods, since it can be challenging to deliver sufficient calories this way to sustain a healthy animal; your vet will advise which syringe feed product to use and how often.

Syringe feeding is often employed when newborn babies can no longer breastfeed for various reasons, including not producing sufficient milk due to conditions like mastitis or not latching properly with their infant. Other reasons could include premature delivery, poor primitive reflexes or birth defects such as cleft palate or lip.

As soon as a medical or dental issue has been addressed, dogs who don’t eat can usually recover. However, if your pet acts lethargic or exhibits diarrhea symptoms you should contact a veterinarian immediately as this could indicate serious illness.

Depending on their anxiety or stress levels, your pet may be losing appetite due to anxiety or stress. To help them relax in their new environment and encourage eating again. Try offering food in a quiet area without distraction. Providing it in this manner should help them adjust more easily while giving them time to get used to eating in an unfamiliar place.

Dogs that have been recently adopted or rehomed may take time to adjust to their new environment and find their appetite again. While it is natural for rehomed or adopted dogs to be wary about eating when separated from their pack or family, getting them to consume food again after being housed at a shelter might prove more difficult.

As you hand-feed, be sure to use a clean syringe each time and only give small portions at one time to reduce bacteria and fungus build-up. Although a finicky pet may need time before they start eating again independently again after being hand-fed by you, with patience and persistence they will likely find their own eating rhythm again eventually.

Lisa Thompson

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