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Why Are Some Dogs Fussy Eaters?

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Aging can cause dogs to become picky eaters, leading to skipped meals and potential health issues.
  • Anxiety, bloating, breed tendencies, frequent changes in food, health issues, irregular feeding schedules, lack of space, table scraps, and excessive treats can all contribute to a dog's picky eating habits.
  • To encourage picky dogs to eat, limit their food options, use the 30-minute rule (removing uneaten food after 30 minutes), establish a consistent meal schedule, offer treats as rewards after meals, provide flavorful and healthy meals, and ensure they have a peaceful eating environment.
  • When changing a dog's diet, start gradually to avoid upsetting their stomachs.
  • Concerns arise when a dog consistently refuses to eat for 12-24 hours or exhibits symptoms of health issues, such as diabetes or gastrointestinal disorders. In such cases, consulting a veterinarian is recommended.
A pet lover passionate about educating readers about animal health and care. Love reading studies and recent research.
Zoo and wildlife doctor in veterinary medicine passionate about animal welfare and preventive medicine.
Published on
Wednesday 27 July 2022
Last updated on
Thursday 27 July 2023
Why Are Some Dogs Fussy Eaters?
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Some dogs won’t eat no matter what you give them. You might serve them their favorite food, but they will still be picky and make a fuss before eating it. It can mean that your dog is a picky eater. 

But why are some dogs fussy eaters? Keep reading to know the answer and ensure that your dog gets the right nutrition! 

Why Is My Dog a Picky Eater? 

You might think your dog is just being stubborn, but there could be other reasons why your dog is being picky about food. Sometimes, older dogs may not have a big appetite and may try to skip meals, which can affect their health. If your older dog is a picky eater, it’s a good idea to consult a veterinarian. Changing their diet may help.

Age 

A dog’s appetite changes with age. Elderly dogs tend not to eat much and often try to skip meals. This can affect the dog’s health. So, if you find your aged dog is a picky eater, you may need to consult the vet. A change in diet may help. 

Anxiety 

Separation anxiety affects one in four to six dogs. Dogs might become anxious due to storms, loud fireworks, or simply loneliness. Anxiety can lead to a lack of appetite. If you find that your dog is a picky eater suddenly, it is best to spend time with them and comfort them.

Bloated 

Bloating happens when your dog’s stomach expands because it is filled with gas or food. If your dog is bloated, it won’t eat and will be picky. You should consult a vet immediately, as depending on the severity, your dog may need medication or treatment. 

Breed 

Some breeds of dogs such as labs and pugs love to gorge on food, but others metabolize food faster and therefore are picky eaters. Some of the fussiest eaters include Dachshunds, Poodles, Boston terriers, and French bulldogs. 

Frequent Changes in Food

There needs to be consistency in the type of food you are feeding your dog. While it is good to provide some variation, do not offer too many choices as that will confuse your dog. If you change your dog’s diet too many times, it is likely to become a fussy eater. 

Health 

If your dog is feeling sick or is in the estrus cycle, they are likely not to want to eat. At this time, your dog will not even eat their favorite meal. So it is best to consult a vet as your dog may need medication or at least a different diet. 

Schedule 

You need to have a proper schedule when feeding your dog. Feeding your dog at odd hours can affect its health. It is best to figure out a schedule and stick to it. Your dog needs meals at proper hours. It will keep them healthy and happy. 

Space 

Some dogs may not be picky about food but about where they are eating. You need to provide them with some space to have a nice meal. Choose a comfortable spot where they can eat in peace. If they are not distracted while eating, they are likely to eat a full meal. 

Table Scraps 

Some dog parents tend to feed their pets scraps while having dinner. This is a bad habit because your dog’s stomach gets full through scraps, and then they fuss over eating healthy food. It is best to avoid giving scraps to solve the problem. 

Too Many Treats 

If you give dogs too many treats, you are likely to spoil them. They will not only lose their appetites but also feel that it is alright to not have proper meals and wait for treats. This will affect their health as treats cannot provide adequate nutrition and make them gain weight.  

Type of Food 

The reason why a dog is a fussy eater may be as simple as the fact that they don’t like the food. Your dog might think that their dinner is not tasteful. You can make some gradual changes to the diet. It is also important to check if the food is completely fresh. 

Upset Stomach 

If your dog has an upset stomach, they are not going to eat. They will also appear fatigued and drink less water. When this happens, it is best to allow your dog to skip a meal. If the stomach upset seems severe, you can call the vet. 

How to Make Your Picky Dog Eat 

Even if your dog is a picky eater, there are ways to encourage them to eat. You can train them to become accustomed to regular mealtimes. However, if your dog’s pickiness is due to an illness, it’s best not to force them. Consult a veterinarian to explore alternative food options. Here’s how you can help your picky dog enjoy their meals:

Do Not Give Many Options 

Some variety in diet is always a good thing, but too many options can spoil your dog. If your dog is already picky about food, try to limit the options you are giving. If you continue providing different foods every day, they might think that is the norm and expect the same. 

This is not a good thing, and it will become quite challenging for you to feed your dog. If your dog understands that they are not getting options, they are likely to eat more. 

Use the 30-Minute Rule 

According to the 30-minute rule, you should give food to your dog and leave it out on the dish for half an hour. If by 30 minutes your dog does not start eating, take the dish away. This will remind your dog that food will always be unavailable and that they need to eat when it is given. 

This can cure pickiness quite quickly. Your dog will realize that they cannot waste time and avoid eating as that food will not be available at another time. This will prompt them to eat whenever you serve the meal. 

Create a Meal Schedule 

A meal schedule is extremely important. Like humans, dogs need to eat at proper intervals. Otherwise, they can have various gastrointestinal problems. You need to create a feeding schedule and stick to it. Provide the same quantity of food during each meal so that there is consistency in the schedule.

Even slight changes can make your dog picky and stubborn at times. If there is a consistent routine, your dog will expect food at those particular hours. Hunger will motivate them to eat all the food that you provide, and they won’t be fussy. 

Give Treats After Meal 

Motivation may be necessary to get the fussiest of dogs to eat a bowl full of food. So, you can give them a treat once they finish the meal. If you make this a habit, then your dog will expect a treat once the meal is finished. 

This way, you can train them to finish their meals properly. Now you may think that treats will spoil them. However, one treat at the end of the meal will not do that. It will be an addition to the meal that your dog will look forward to, and that is not a bad thing. 

Provide a Flavorful and Healthy Meal 

If you have a picky eater dog, you may need to change the meal. Some dog owners often only provide dry or wet foods without any supplements. You also need to check if the nutritious meal that you are providing is flavorful.

You can do this by combining some broth, fresh vegetables, and occasionally even some eggs. A combination of new and old foods will make the meal interesting for your dog. They will want to eat the food because they like the taste of it, and it will also be healthy. 

You may also add food supplements to add nutrition and stimulate their appetite.

Make Sure They Can Eat Peacefully 

Meals are supposed to be enjoyed, and if your dog cannot eat in peace, they are likely to not eat at all. So be careful while choosing where to put down the dog dish. 

Select a place that is not in the direct path of the family members. If there are too many people around, your dog is going to get distracted. So, select a space away from the living room, and let your dog eat in peace without any interference. 

How to Change Your Dog’s Diet

If you are wondering what to feed a picky dog, you can include some changes in your dog’s diet. However, you need to start slow to prevent upsetting your dog’s stomach. Start with a small amount of new food and slowly increase that amount.  

You can also opt to change your dog’s diet from wet food to dry food. When you do this, incorporate a small amount of dry food into the wet food. Slowly transition into an only dry food diet

While changing your dog’s diet can help provide more nutrition, you should not do it suddenly. Sudden changes will affect your dog’s appetite, and it may not eat at all. If you find the new food is making your dog sick, consult a vet immediately.  

When Should I Be Concerned? 

At times it is alright to let your dog skip a meal if they are being fussy. But, it can also be a cause for concern. If you find that your dog is not eating for about 12 to 24 hours, it can be a sign of some health issues. 

If you have a puppy who is a picky eater who is not yet six months old, you should not even wait that long before consulting the vet. 

Some other times when you should be concerned about your dog being a fussy eater are: 

  • If your dog has been diagnosed with diabetes
  • If your dog is old and is eating only soft foods
  • If your dog is having symptoms of any gastrointestinal disorder 

So, what can I do if my dog is a picky eater? You need to observe what has changed or what has caused this behavior. Once you understand that, you can easily help your dog to get back its appetite through the methods we explained earlier. If you are unable to identify the reason, it is best to consult a vet.

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