German Shepherd Not Eating

5 (Non-Medical) Reasons Your Dog May Be Refusing to Eat

Johnna Devereaux C.P.N.

In part one of our series on picky eating, we discussed how storage of your dog’s food could be directly impacting her desire to eat.

If you’ve determined storage isn’t the problem for your picky pooch, then you may want to consider other possible reasons that your dog turns her nose up at feeding time.

As a reminder, when we talk about finicky eating habits, we are not referring to dogs that have a sudden onset of refusing to eat. Any dog that has a voracious appetite and then suddenly does not, without any food or environmental changes, should be promptly seen by a vet. 

5 causes of picky eating in dogs

Here are 5 non-medical reasons your dog might be disinterested in her food bowl at mealtimes: 

1. New food: Did you recently change your dog’s food? If your dog is not at the bowl waiting to devour it then she might be telling you that something in the food doesn’t agree with her. Dogs in the wild instinctively know to avoid things that have previously made them unwell. So if your dog devoured the first few bowls of this new food, and now is suddenly less than excited, it may be a sign that you should try a different food brand or formulation.

The tricky part is determining what is causing the issue. Often, emphasis is placed on the primary protein and secondary ingredients are overlooked. But that’s not always the case. You may be able to offer duck as the primary protein from one brand of food but not another. The reason for this would simply be due to different formulations of secondary ingredients.

2. Same food brand/different bag. But wait, sometimes it is possible that a dog that has eaten the same brand of food for years and has loved it, suddenly shows a disinterest or lack of desire when you purchase a new bag of their food. If this is the case, call the food manufacturer and learn if they went through a recipe formulation change (this can happen!). AND, find out if there is an ingredient deviation from their usual recipe. Pet food labeling regulations allow for a company to “swap” an ingredient or find new sourcing for an ingredient if it is unavailable, and manufacturers are not required to change the bag label unless the “swap” occurs for a period longer than six months.

3. Watch for overfeeding: Most dogs are opportunists and will eat any time you are willing to feed them, if they are hungry. In nature, they wouldn’t know when the “next meal” would be so they eat when opportunity arises. If you find that your dog isn’t hungry at mealtimes, chances are you may have fed them too much at their previous meal, or that you may be giving too many treats in between meals. 

4. Note the time of year: As temperatures rise, appetite and activity levels tend to decrease. If you find that your pup is acting finicky and the thermometer is rising outside, chances are their caloric intake needs have reduced because their energy expenditure has also decreased. Try feeding a little less during warmer months. Or, if you can, try feeding your dog earlier in the morning or later in the evening when the air temperature is cooler.

5. Avoid free-feeding: If you leave your dog’s food out in their bowl for them to “graze” then you are doing them a disservice. As we discussed in part 1 of this series, exposing food to air, light, and moisture over an extended period of time causes oxidation and can turn the food rancid. 

If you’ve tried the above strategies and your pup still is disinterested in her food, schedule a wellness check with your vet to make sure there are no underlying issues that may be contributing to your dog’s finicky eating habits.


Johnna Devereaux is a Clinical Pet Nutritionist and canine wellness expert. She is the Director of Nutrition and Wellness for Bow Wow Labs and sits on their Board of Advisors. 

The points of view expressed above are those of our clinical nutritionist and supported by science, her education and experience. However, we recognize there may be different points of view or opinions on some aspect or even the premise of this article. Our goal at Bow Wow Labs is to provide the best, clearest, and most helpful information possible to help keep your dog happy, healthy and safe.


Related Resources

You Might Also Like:

Is Your Dog Finicky About His Dry Food? (Part 1)

Think Your Dog is a Healthy Weight? Think Again. 

How To Keep Your Dog Safe In The Heat