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What to Feed a Sick Dog With No Appetite

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Dogs are known for wolfing down almost anything palatable that is put before them. So it can be confusing for pet parents to see their pooch turning their nose up on a bowl of food. Sometimes it’s more than just being picky; not eating can be a sign of a sick dog.

Whether it is a reduced appetite (hyporexia) or a complete loss of appetite (anorexia) a dog with no appetite is no fun. In fact, a loss of appetite is often an indicator of an underlying problem that will need to be investigated by your vet.

In this article, we discuss more on what to feed a sick dog with no appetite, plus we offer tips on home remedies and food you can give to your doggo to help entice them into eating.

What are the Reasons That Your Dog Has No Appetite?

There are several reasons that can lead to loss of appetite in dogs. These reasons can be divided into three categories:

  1. Behavioral changes
  2. Medical reasons
  3. Food-related problems

Behavioral Changes

Dogs are naturally sensitive to their environment and may prefer things in a certain way. A change in a dog’s surroundings or routine can trigger anxiety, fear, depression, or stress, causing them to not want to eat.

Some of the things that could be keeping your pooch away from their food bowl include:

  • Moving to a new neighborhood
  • Bringing new pets in the home
  • Presence of new house members
  • Traveling abroad
  • The loss of a fur buddy
  • Re-homing after the loss of a pet parent
  • Absence of the pet parent or being under someone else’s care
  • Being locked in a kennel

All these situations can trigger high-stress levels that can affect a dog’s hunger. Signs that your pooch may be stressed are outlined in the following table.

Behavioral Change



  • Panting
  • Tucked tail or ears
  • Pacing or shaking
  • Loss of appetite
  • Cowering away
  • Barking or whining
  • Excessive shedding


  • Increased heart rate
  • Excessive drooling
  • Compulsive behavior like aggression
  • Restlessness
  • Increased vigilance
  • Hiding away
  • Frequent potty accidents


  • Being clingy
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Going potty indoors
  • Withdrawal and hiding away
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Lack of interest in social and play activities

Medical Reasons

If your dog is unwell or has undergone a medical procedure, their appetite may be affected. A dog can lose appetite due to several medical reasons including:

  • General illness
  • Dental challenges
  • Side effects of medications or vaccinations

General illness

A doggo who is feeling ‘meh’ may lose interest in eating. Dogs can easily detect when something is not right in their bodies, especially when they experience other accompanying symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea. While a loss of appetite for a short period of time may not necessarily be a point of concern, if your dog is experiencing continuous symptoms and not wanting to eat, it’s time to take action.

In addition, if your canine buddy has suffered a front leg injury, they could have a difficult time getting to their food during meal times. A dog leg sprain is also a common injury that can inhibit motion and cause a loss of appetite.

A dog could also be experiencing pain due to conditions like dog arthritis. When a dog experiences pain while moving, it may opt to stay away from its food if it’s far away from where they prefer to rest. Moving the food closer to their preferred area is one short-term solution.

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Dental challenges

Dental disorders like gingivitis and periodontitis can cause pain and make it difficult for your dog to eat. It is also possible for dogs that have experienced some form of traumatic injury to the face and jawbone to shy away from their food, especially if it’s dry kibble. Symptoms of a dental problem may include:

  • Bad breath
  • pawing or constant rubbing of the face/mouth
  • Bleeding from the gums
  • Red swollen gums
  • Reluctance to eat

Getting a dental problem solved quickly is the only sure way to help your pooch regain their ability to eat food. Puppies can also experience dental challenges when growing deciduous teeth which might affect their eating ability.

Side effects of medications or vaccinations

Your dog may also experience a loss of appetite due to the side effects of medication or recent vaccination. Every medication prescribed for treatment has side effects, including a temporary loss of appetite or an upset stomach.

Pet vaccinations also have side effects like lethargy and a loss of appetite. Though not all dogs are guaranteed to experience side effects, it is important to look for severe reactions that might need urgent vet care. The good news is vaccine side effects are often temporary, and your pooch should be back to its normal self within a few days or so.

Food-related Problems

Sometimes, your dog may refuse to eat not because of any medical or behavioral problems but because of the nature of the food itself.

Food that is Off

Dogs have a heightened sense of smell. So if their food has gone stale, is expired, or spoiled, they are most likely to reject it. Though some dogs may not be as sensitive to stale food, breeds like the Shih Tzu or Yorkshire terrier will likely turn their nose up at it.

You can do several things to ensure that your dog’s food retains its freshness and good taste:


How it Helps

Store dog food in air-tight containers

  • Preserves the freshness and taste of food, especially a good option for kibbleEnsures that food doesn't come into contact with moisture and become soggy
  • Helps avoid food going stale or rancid due to air exposure

Serve fresh kibble/food at every meal time

  • Ensures your dog is getting fresh food at meal times
  • Helps avoid stomach problems caused by stale or moldy food

Check food expiry dates often

  • Ensures you are not giving your doggo expired food
  • Helps you remember to re-stock with fresh food
  • Helps you plan to use soon-to-expire food before it goes bad

Buy food in smaller quantities

  • Helps avoid storing food for too long, specially with small and medium-sized dog breeds that don't eat much
  • Helps with budgeting by buying food that won't go bad before consumption and get thrown out.

Serve small quantities of food depending on your pups’ appetite

  • Avoids food wastage
  • Helps to gauge your doggos’ appetite; if they need more you can give it to them
  • Helps control food intake for dogs that eat too fast leading to illness

Cover leftover food and refrigerate wet food

  • Helps food remain fresh for longer
  • Helps keep food from getting contaminated

Finicky eaters

It is also possible for your doggo to get bored with their diet, especially if they are a finicky eater. If your pooch has been on the same type of food for a while and you notice that they are not as enthusiastic about meal times as before, it's time to change up. You can add variety to their diet and try to keep the foods interesting.

Finding the type of food that your picky eater might love might take some trial and error. Once you find a particular brand, try different versions to keep things interesting. It’s important to transition to a new food slowly, however, since a sudden change might make your pup feel sick.

Sudden change in food

Making sudden changes in the type and brand of food can cause stomach problems, especially if your pooch has a sensitive stomach. Sometimes this can lead to vomiting, upset stomach, or diarrhea. Ultimately a pooch with a bad tummy will have no desire to eat. However, this should not be long-lasting, particularly if you seek the intervention of your vet.

If the loss of appetite persists beyond several days, then your vet will make a more detailed assessment as it may be an indicator of a more serious underlying medical condition.

Too many treats

If your doggo has figured out that they can get treats often, especially as a way to encourage them to eat their food, they might avoid eating a full meal altogether.

Treats should be used sparingly and should make up only 10% of their daily calorie intake.

Restricted diet

While veterinary-prescribed diets are great for treating chronic conditions and ailments in dogs, they may not be the most palatable. Most dogs loathe prescription food. So if your pooch is on a veterinary diet, it might explain why they may be shunning their bowl at meal times. However, you can get creative to help them eat better:

  • Try different brands, especially those with a money-back guarantee
  • Warm their food by mixing in hot water with kibble and let it soak for a minute or so
  • Try mixing different textures and flavors
  • Give the food in small portions at first and keep trying to re-feed your fur baby often
  • Use a product such as beef liver powder for dogs to make the meal more enticing

Home Remedies for Dog Appetite


It can be frustrating taking care of a dog with zero appetite. There are however some home remedies that you can try to help your pooch recover and feel better.

Supportive Care

A pup that has not eaten for two to three days will need supportive care. This involves syringe feeding your doggo and ensuring they get some nutrition into their system. In more severe cases, your vet might place a feeding tube or give fluids through intravenous therapy. This is important in replacing and restoring healthy electrolyte levels and rehydrating your dog.

In addition, your vet might also prescribe appetite-stimulating medication.


Once an ailing pup has been stabilized, your vet might suggest starting them on a bland diet first before transitioning back to a normal diet. Refeeding calls for small portions of food to be given frequently to help your pooch gradually get back into their normal eating routine.


Dehydration can cause your pup to lose its appetite. It is, therefore, vital to ensure that your pup always has access to fresh, clean water. You can add liquid gut supplements into the water to help boost appetite and ease an upset stomach.

Change in Diet

You can motivate an ailing pup to eat by sprucing up its diet. Your vet might also prescribe a change in diet to help your pooch recover more quickly. Often a prescription diet or dog diet food is targeted at addressing an underlying medical condition that might be affecting the appetite of your dog.

Make Your Dog Comfortable

If your dog is recovering from an illness or he is immobile due to surgery or a limb problem, it is critical to keep them as comfortable as possible. This means that they have easy access to their space, food, and bathroom.

It also includes keeping them warm in a cozy and comfortable bed. In addition, you can offer little healthy organic dog treats to keep their spirit up.


Keeping your doggo active is vital in helping them maintain a healthy lifestyle.take your pup out for a walk every now and then for as long as possible. Exercise helps improve your doggo’s physical and mental health. Exercise also helps improve the digestive and cardiovascular systems and build and strengthen muscles.

What to Feed a Dog With No Appetite



It can be challenging trying to figure out what to feed a sick dog with no appetite. One way to help ailing and recovering canines is by introducing a bland diet for dogs. A bland diet is a diet that is soft and easy to digest for your pooch.

When your doggo experiences vomiting, diarrhea, stomach upset, and has lost their appetite, it is best to pull their regular diet for a bland one. This will give their gut time to recover while still providing crucial nutritional value to facilitate the healing process.

Popular bland diets often consist of one protein and carbohydrate source. They help regulate stool formation while giving the gastric system time to rest and recover.

Chicken and White Rice

Chicken and rice are common ingredients in the majority of bland and normal dog foods. These are considered to be easily digestible and gentle on the stomach.

You can boil skinless, boneless chicken and mix it with white rice in a ratio of 1:2. That is one cup of chicken meat to two cups of plain boiled rice.

It is advised not to add spices, oil, or extra salt as it may upset your doggos’ already sensitive stomach.

Bone Broth

This liquid is made from boiling marrow bones⁠—beef, turkey, chicken⁠—in water for some time over low heat. Bone broth is a delicious meal that can help dogs with a low appetite because it sits easy for a pooch with a sensitive or upset tummy.

In addition, bone broth can make kibble more palatable by adding moisture and a meaty taste to it. Bone broth is also easy and convenient to make in big batches. You can make a large quantity and keep it in your freezer in portions depending on your dog’s size.

It’s important to remember that bones must be removed from the broth before serving to your dog. Sieve the broth once it cools to ensure you remove every bone piece that can harm your dog if eaten. Alternatively, you can buy ready-made broth as long it is unsalted and spice-free.

Chicken Breasts

Plain, boiled, shredded, and spice-free chicken breasts can be an excellent food alternative for an ailing pooch. Because chicken is naturally tasty for dogs, shredded chicken breasts can help motivate your pooch to eat.

In addition to being easily digestible, chicken contains essential minerals like magnesium, iron and potassium, vitamins, amino acids, and healthy fat that can help a recuperating doggo with no appetite.

You can also make shredded chicken breast in big batches and store it in your freezer. You could also buy ready-to-eat shredded chicken breast from reputable pet food brands.

Wet Dog Food

If your doggo’s lack of appetite is due to physical illness like dental challenges, wet dog food can be a great option. Because of its consistency, wet dog food is easy to lap up.

In addition, the smell of wet food can be appealing to a dog with no appetite. And if there are leftovers, you can always reheat them in the microwave. Wet or canned dog food is also convenient for pet parents who want to give their sickly furbabies a healthy boost of nutrition but do not have time to make home-cooked meals.

Baby Food

Because of the consistency and nutritional value of baby food, it is considered a good home remedy for dog loss of appetite. Baby food is formulated to support easy digestion and absorption for delicate baby tummies. It is also easy for dogs with mouth and jaw-related ailments to eat because baby food is often made into a smooth puree.

So if your pooch is ailing, has a failed appetite, and can't seem to keep much down, your vet might recommend trying out baby food.

Baby food is also easy to swallow, making it a convenient way to slip in your doggos’ medication without them noticing. Keep your dog away from baby food containing ingredients like onions and garlic, which are toxic to dogs.


Pumpkin is a great source of fiber and nutrients, not just for humans but for dogs as well. The fiber in pumpkin can help a dog with diarrhea, especially canned pumpkin puree.

Compared to fresh pumpkin, canned pumpkin has a higher concentration of vitamins and fiber. This is because fresh pumpkin has more water content. Nonetheless, if fresh pumpkin is all you have, it can still help with your doggos’ upset tummy.

Another alternative is to use plain pumpkin powder, however, do not use pumpkin pie mix because it might contain xylitol which is poisonous for dogs. It is also recommended to avoid canned pumpkin puree containing spices or added salt, as these could further irritate your dog’s gut.

To prepare a pumpkin puree for your pup, peel, cut, de-seed, and boil the pumpkin until tender. You can puree it in a blender or food processor. Give small quantities of the pumpkin—about 2-3 spoons–and increase the quantity steadily as needed.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a great treat for dogs. They pack some high-quality fiber and vitamins like beta-carotene which is an antioxidant for boosting the immune system. Sweet potatoes also contain essential minerals like manganese, B6, and potassium which are great for a sick doggo.

Remember that even though sweet potatoes are full of goodness for your pooch, only given a little at a time. You can bake, boil, steam, or dehydrate plain sweet potatoes. Avoid adding any seasonings or salt. A dog should only eat plain well cooked sweet potatoes so no additional butter, cream, or milk.

You can offer sweet potatoes as a treat, a single bland meal for your ailing pup or you can add it to dry kibble as a topper to enhance taste and texture.


If you are still stuck on what to feed a sick dog with no appetite, fish is a good option to try. Because fish has a natural odor that appeals to dogs and can motivate your pooch to eat, this is because smell plays a big role in a dog’s appetite.

Fish oil found in fish like cod can help boost your pup’s overall health and brain function.

Because fish is tender, easily palatable, and digestible, it can be a great option for dogs with a sensitive tummy. Dogs with mouth difficulties can also easily eat fish without much problem.

Remember to debone your fish and cook it through till it is well done. Serve only a small portion first. You can always pair it with veggies like pumpkin or serve it with plain boiled white rice as a bland meal.


For pups without grain allergy, oatmeal is a great bland meal. Because it is high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, oatmeal can help ease a queasy and upset tummy. In addition, it has benefits like keeping the coat and skin healthy, lowering cholesterol, boosting the immune system, helping the production of red blood cells, and recovery.

Remember to introduce oatmeal in small quantities. You can give about one spoon at the start. Also, only cook the oatmeal in water and not milk.



Keeping your furbaby well-fed and hydrated during illness is key to their recovery. However, that can be tough to do when you have to constantly wonder what to feed a sick dog with no appetite. A loss of or reduced appetite can slow the recovery process if your dog doesn't get the right nutrition.

Home remedies for dog appetite can be a lifesaver, especially for a dog that is losing weight due to lack of appetite. Offering a bland diet can help stimulate the appetite of a doggo. But remember to always loop in your vet before attempting to offer any kind of special diet or food to your furbaby.

Check out our resources for dogs, where you can learn ways to keep your pooch healthy and happy.

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