Fussy Feeder or Poorly Pup? 6 Top Tips for A Happy and Healthy Pup

Fussy Eater or Poorly Pup

Have you ever had a moment, where you’ve prepared your dog their meal, placed it in front of them, only for them to take one look at it (usually followed by a look at you), and wander off with their nose in the air – completely and utterly determined not to eat what’s in their bowl. FuThis can be particularly frustrating if your dog is on a special diet, or you’ve selected healthy dog food that’s designed for specific needs.

Sometimes dogs do get bored of their food, it’s true – they can eat the same thing over and over, but every now and again they might want a change – this could be due to the flavour, the temperature and resulting consistency (texture) of the food, or whatever reason your dog has decided to go with.

Sometimes, however, it’s not a case of being a fussy or picky eater – and you’re not going to need to determine what to feed a fussy dog, rather it’s something more, and the question you might need to be asking is – is my dog sick?

If you’re not sure about the condition of your dog, or if they’re just being fussy – it’s recommended that you book an appointment with your veterinarian (better safe than sorry), who is qualified to tell you what’s up with the pup, and possibly give you some good advice if it does turn out that they’ve had enough of their food.

In this blog, we’re going to look at a few reasons why a dog may not be eating, that are related to health. Then we’re going to focus on those pups that are nice and healthy – but still want to snub their grub, and give you some useful tips and tricks on how to encourage a fussy dog to eat.

5 Symptoms of Illness that Might be the Reason Why Your Dog isn’t Eating:

  1. Reduced Appetite with Other Issues
    An unwillingness to eat, on its own, may not be an issue – but if your dog has shown signs of weakness, lethargy, vomiting, or has diarrhoea, this could be an indicator that they need veterinary attention.

    These symptoms are quite general, and it can be difficult to nail down the cause – it may be that they’ve eaten something that hasn’t agreed with them, it could be the result of physical pain (such as pulled muscles or swollen joints), or it might be more serious such as an infection (bacterial or viral), symptoms of cancer, or issues with the kidney or liver.

    It is recommended that if your dog hasn’t eaten anything in two days, then you should take them to the vet for a check-up, but if they’re showing other symptoms, then you should book them in as soon as possible.

  2. Dental Issues
    Just like with people, dogs need to have their teeth cleaned regularly, and if they don’t – they can suffer from cavities, loose teeth, gum disease, and other dental issues, that may prevent them from eating. Dog foods that are high in sugar (such as those prepared in gravy), can be harmful to your dog’s teeth if they’re not being regularly cleaned.

Sore teeth may prevent them eating their food – especially if it’s hard (like biscuits) or requires extensive chewing (like our single protein No Hide Chews). If your dog has previously enjoyed these foods, and then suddenly stops eating them it could be that they’re having problems with their teeth.

Having a proper canine toothbrush and toothpaste or gel can help prevent dental issues, and costly associated vet visits for teeth cleaning or extraction.

  1. Behavioural Reasons
    Dogs can get stressed, anxious, depressed, or afraid – and these conditions can have a very real impact on their ability to function, and this includes their appetite and desire to eat.

    There are lots of different triggers that can cause anxiety, stress, or depression in dogs – from something as simple as a change in their routine or home environment, to meeting new people, interacting with a new pet, or environmental factors such as loud noises, stormy weather, etc.

    Generally, if a dog is refusing food due to one of these issues, they’ll start eating again within a day or two once they’ve adjusted or the issue has been resolved – but if the situation keeps occurring, or if the reaction in the dog isn’t a one off incident, then it might be prudent to seek medical advice or behavioural modification from a trained provider.

As we said, there are many medical reasons that might interfere with your dog’s diet, and if you’re not sure – then seeking expert advice at the vet is the best choice.

Fussy Feeders and Getting Them to Eat

For dogs that are bored with their food, don’t like the texture, want a new flavour, or some other reason known only to themselves, there are things you can do to encourage them to eat.

If you do decide to change their diet, it’s important not to do it too often – sudden changes in food and feeding patterns can cause upset stomachs, and other related issues. It’s recommended to change their food over a period of times (generally over the course of a week), in order to give their digestive systems time to cope – but if they’re flat out not eating, then this isn’t always easy.

There are multiple methods you can try, and how well they succeed will depend on your dog, and how well they react to situations, and whether they’re totally stubborn or not!

  1. Change Up Your Dog’s Food with Healthy Additions
    Rather than completely changing your dog’s food, you can try adding to it. For example, our Meal Toppers are full of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients – and once prepared, are simply sprinkled over the top of the dish – this change in flavour profile and textures may be just what your dog needs to get stuck in!
  2. Make Mealtime More Fun
    Some dogs get bored easily, and this can result in them either wolfing down their food dangerously fast (a choking hazard), or not being interested in their food.
    Preparing their meals and serving it in a puzzle bowl or spreading it onto a Lickimat can give them a challenge – they have to slow down and work out how to get every last morsel, or engage with the new bowl and figure it out (which is great for bored dogs).

    This can also be done with their healthy dog treats as well – toys such as the Zogoflex Dog Toy Qwizl provide an engaging challenge which keeps them busy so they’re happy at play and rewarded for it!

  3. Have a Routine that You Stick To, Including Set Treat Times
    Dogs are just like small fuzzy children, and they thrive on routine – but they can also be sneaky rascals who play on the heartstrings, use their charm, or make you feel guilty until you hand them more treats, or feed them ahead of time because they won’t stop with their demands for an early dinner.

    Having a set routine for feeding can help your dog know exactly what is expected, and when. This means they’ll anticipate their food, and be less likely to cause a fuss about eating it – it’s also important to consider your training methods, if you’ve got a highly intelligent dog, and you’ve trained them not to eat their food until you say they can, you’ve got to make sure you’re consistent with giving them that signal – or they’ll leave their food untouched!

    If you’ve got a treat beast, who likes to snack repeatedly through the day, you could consider swapping out their treats for healthy alternatives (such as acceptable fruits or vegetables), or giving them training treats, like our Peanut Butter Mini Biscuits, which they can enjoy for the taste and knowledge that they’ve been treated – and you can enjoy knowing that it’s low calorie, made with healthy, nutritional ingredients, and they’re bite sized so they won’t ruin your dog’s appetite for dinner later.

Dogs are funny creatures, too much change and they can stop eating due to anxiety, and not enough change and they might stop eating out of boredom. Finding the right balance is largely going to depend on your dog – their personality, your living circumstances, how and when they’re fed, the different flavours of their food that’s available, and their own dietary requirements.

If your dog is fussy about feeding, it’s important to take the time to find the root cause, and make sure that they’re happy and healthy, and then provide them with healthy dog food that works best for their specific needs.

At the end of the day, our dogs rely on us to look after them, but they have their own personalities and preferences – and working with your dog to source the best food and healthy dog treats for them is always worth the time, and the reward of better health and waggier tails that it brings.