How Long Can a Dog Go Without Eating?

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While you might be aware of how important food is to humans, you might be wondering how long a dog can survive without food.

Food is just as, if not more important for dogs as it is for humans. A healthy dog under ideal circumstances should be able to survive anywhere from 5 days to a couple of weeks without eating [1]. If the dog is not eating for preexisting health conditions, the time they will be able to survive can be considerably less.

In this article, we will be going over some things to know about your dog, the importance of keeping your dog fed while sick, and some tips to keep your dog eating properly while sick.

How Much Does a Dog Need to Eat?

feeding a dog a snack

There are a variety of things that can contribute to a pets’ energy needs to maintain a healthy weight. Some of the most significant factors are the energy needed to perform various and essential bodily functions including but not limited to heart, brain, respiration, and digestion functions [2].

Along with this, it depends on the amount of exercise and activity of the breed in question. For instance, a much more active dog breed is going to require a lot more calories/energy to maintain a healthy body.

How Long Can a Healthy Dog Go Without Eating

A healthy dog is likely to be able to last anywhere from 5 days to a couple of weeks without eating [1]. That being said, this is only true if they are continuing to hydrate themselves with sufficient water intake.

The amount of time they are able to go without eating comes down to several factors including how active they are, how hot it is outside, how much water they are taking in, and more.

You never want to allow your dog to go without eating more multiple days as it is only going to present more troubles and lead to a worsening of their condition.

Why Did My Dog Stop Eating?

a pug sitting on her bed

If you are asking this question because your dog is refusing to eat, it is very likely he or she is not eating because he or she is sick [3]. Therefore, you will want to look out for signs if a dog isn’t eating for over 24 hours. There are plenty of reasons your dog might be refusing to eat.

1. Your Dog is Sick

It could be something as simple as having an upset stomach. However, it could be a viral infection, parasites, allergies, or even a serious condition like cancer.

Because avoidance of food is one of the most common symptoms of a sick dog, you want to take your dog to the vet as soon as you notice he or she is refusing to eat.

Dogs that are sick generally stop eating altogether. If they don’t completely stop eating, they will decrease the amount they eat.

Therefore, if your dog swallows something like a sock and you notice they are sluggish and avoiding food, you want to take your dog to the vet as soon as possible.

2. Your Dog is Picky

Believe it or not, but dogs can be just as picky as humans. If you notice that you have switched foods recently or that your dog is simply not eating enough, the solution might be as simple as switching up the food. You should attempt to give your dog one of his or her favorite treats to rule this out.

If your dog still refuses to eat his or her favorite treats you will be able to rule out your dog being picky as the reason.

3. Mental Health

Another big factor that can contribute to your dog’s willingness to turn his or her nose up to food would be mental health issues. Believe it or not, but dogs can suffer from a variety of mental health issues just like humans.

Whether they are suffering from depression or anxiety, these conditions can decrease a dog’s appetite. Because of this, you want to consider whether or not there have been any significant changes in their lifestyle that would lead to a change in their mental and emotional state.

These changes can include adding a new member to the family, adding a new pet to the family, making the move to a new home, or something else entirely.

4. Boredom

Another reason your dog might refuse to eat is due to boredom. While it might sound silly, your dog can grow tired of the food that he or she is eating.

Therefore, you might confuse your dog avoiding eating with something else when it’s really due to them being bored with eating the same food. That being said, your dog is not likely to get bored of the food he or she is eating unless another food is introduced or they experience some external factor that gets them tired of it.

As mentioned by having a picky dog, you can test out whether or not boredom is the cause by simply switching the formula of the food that you are feeding them.

This will allow you to see if your dog is simply tired of the same formula that you have been feeding them.

Is it Good for a Dog to Stop Eating When Sick?

While it might be good for a dog to avoid eating when they are sick for a short period of time, it is generally better for a dog to continue eating. This is especially true when they are dealing with a digestive system problem like pancreatitis.

How to Help Your Dog Who is Avoiding Food Due to Health Reasons

If your dog is suffering from a specific health condition, you want to follow the vet’s orders. They should be able to tell you exactly what to do to help your dog recover.

However, in general, you want to reduce the food they are taking in to avoid overfeeding [4]. You also want to stick to feeding a diet strictly of dog food. You should also look to switch up their diet to a low-fat diet to minimize the stress put on the pancreas.

You want to look to feed smaller amounts at a time to avoid placing too much stress on the pancreas during the digestion of food.

You can try a bunch of alterations to their feeding schedule to see if it makes a difference, you can add water to their dry food, switch to canned food, try a raw diet, or even adding something like cheese to the top of their food to get them more interested in it.

References

  1. Laura Day, How Long Can a Dog Go Without Eating? PupBox. Retrieved at https://pupbox.com/training/how-long-can-a-dog-go-without-eating/
  2. Basic Calorie Counter, The Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center. Retrieved at https://vet.osu.edu/vmc/companion/our-services/nutrition-support-service/basic-calorie-calculator
  3. Dog Not Eating? Possible Causes and Appetite Solutions, WebMD. Retrieved from https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/guide/dog-not-eating-possible-causes-and-appetite-solutions
  4. Jennifer Kvamme, DVM, Why Won’t My Dog Eat His Food? PetMD. Retrieved from https://www.petmd.com/dog/nutrition/evr_dg_why-wont-my-dog-eat-his-dog-food

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