Dogs, by nature, are voracious eaters. But, there may come a time when your dog loses its interest in food. The reason could either be due to health or it could be a response to stress. Regardless of the cause, the question is ‘how long can a dog go without food?’
In this article, we will help dog lovers like you find out how many days your healthy dog can make it without eating anything at all. And, in case your pet is sick, how long will it survive if its appetite continues to drop.
Moreover, we want to give you tips on what you can do to bring back the normal appetite of your pet by helping you choose the appropriate appetite stimulants for dogs.
How Long Can a Dog Go Without Food?
Like all mammals, your dog needs to take its regular meal to sustain its metabolism. Food is the main source of energy that fuels its body for normal organ functions. Also, food is the source to maintain its normal body temperature. That being said, for how long can a dog go without eating?
Generally speaking, an adult dog can go without food for 2 to 3 days, without you having to worry too much. In fact, for as long as your dog is in its healthy state of the body, it can go as far as 5 days without eating anything, provided that it is drinking.
However, although it will survive for up to 5 days without food, it does not mean that nothing detrimental is happening to its system. As mentioned earlier, food provides your pet with nourishment and energy, a lack of it leads to a lethargic behavior.
Even if it seems that nothing is wrong with your dog (e.g. still playing actively), do your best to encourage your buddy to go back to its normal eating habit, lest it would lead to anorexia. This is a life-threatening condition that can escalate to dehydration and malnourishment.
What Happens If Your Dog Does Not Eat?
As a fur parent, we understand that you cannot stand seeing your fur baby not touching its food. Let’s take a look at the three phases of a dog that does not consume food.
This occurs during the first 24 hours of your dog not eating. You won’t notice anything serious but the glycogen level begins to go down. The blood sugar is still at a normal level keeping your dog’s metabolism still at a healthy level.
With continued fasting, the glycogen level begins to diminish. To compensate, the body begins to look for other sources of energy which is referred to as gluconeogenesis. Your dog slowly becomes unhealthy and anorexic.
Since there is still no food intake, then the body continues to use fat for energy. At this stage, the dog gets very anorexic. The liver releases ketones into your dog’s bloodstream for energy. If your dog continues not to eat, it is just a matter of time before it breathes its last.
But, How Come Your Dog Is Not Eating?
One of the first indicators that your canine pal could be sick is a loss of appetite. Sick dogs suddenly consume less food and become lethargic.
Some other reasons are:
- Dental Problem
How Can You Make Your Dog Eat Well Again?
Is your dog looking and behaving well but does not want to eat? Most likely the cause is behavioral. Here’s what you can do:
- Do you give in to the begging behavior of your cute pet? By cutting back on the treats, you increase the chance that it will resume its normal eating habit again. We know that your dog deserves those treats but remember that those are high in calories and may make your dog feel full and satiated.
- Have you tried taking your dog out for a walk before eating? It helps stimulate the appetite. A tired pooch is yearning to be fed.
- Is your dog on a dry food diet? Try shifting to canned dog food. Just like you, your canine pal may also be looking for varying tastes and texture.
- Now the case may be different (and a bit challenging) if your dog is sick. In that case, you may have to resort to more flavorful food or you may even have to use appetite stimulant for dogs.
Feeding a Sick Dog Who Won’t Eat
To speed up the recovery, your canine pal has to eat well. Here are our tips for you:
- A change in its usual food may help. Choose a dog food that is more flavorful like canned dog food. If you have the time, you may also want to cook something nice for your recuperating pet. Try boiled chicken, ground meat, or tuna.
- A small portion of a meal helps. One tablespoon is better than nothing at all. What you can do is feed a smaller amount of food several times a day.
- Choose food that is very aromatic to entice your sick dog to eat. Add fresh herbs like mint, dill, and ginger.
- This is the time to show how much you love your dog. So, if you have to hand feed your pet, do so.
How Long Can a Dog Go Without Eating With Cancer?
Same as humans, dogs who are sick tend to be picky eaters. This is especially true if your pet has cancer. Aside from the illness itself, the medicines for the treatment of cancer add up to its appetite problem.
Without food, your cancer-stricken dog won’t make it long without eating anything at all. The longest is 48 hours. This is why we recommend the use of appetite stimulants for dogs.
How Long Can a Dog Go Without Eating After Surgery?
Going under the knife is no easy feat. And since dogs are hard to restrain, non-invasive canine surgeries require anesthesia. One of the common side-effects of anesthesia is the loss of appetite.
Though disinterest in food is normal after surgery, we have to point out that if your dog continues not to eat on the second day after the surgery, then it is time to call the Vet. Lack of food post-surgery is dangerous for your pet.
In short, 24 hours is the length of time your dog can go without eating after surgery.
How to Choose the Best Appetite Stimulant for Dogs?
Now that you are aware as to how long can a dog go without eating, you are probably frustrated if your dog still shows disinterest in its food. You have exhausted everything but still, your canine pal is uncooperative.
But, don’t give up because you can find help with appetite stimulants for dogs. Here are our tips on how to look for the right appetite stimulant:
Be careful when choosing the appetite stimulant for your dog. Your choice may or may not be appropriate for your dog’s condition.
It would depend on the underlying reason why your dog is not eating.
For instance, if the loss of appetite is due to stress, then giving your dog an aromatic meal like a chicken rotisserie may solve the issue. Whereas the traditional acupuncture or the CBD products may not be the appropriate treatment in this kind of scenario.
In short, the choice of the appetite stimulant for dogs should be in line with the reason behind your dog’s eating problem.
If your dog is on a medication for an existing ailment, be extra cautious when giving her/him an appetite stimulant. Why? Because you are not sure whether the combined effect of the medicine and the stimulant won’t produce a drug additive reaction.
Be aware of the possible additives the appetite stimulant contains and the negative effects these will have on your dog.
The amount of stimulant to be given is not ‘one size fits all’. You can find the detailed instructions of the appetite stimulant based on the weight and age of your dog.
In case you choose acupuncture option, consult a professional regarding the number of sessions that your dog has to undergo. Depending on the eating problem, sometimes, 1 session is enough.
4. Health Conditions
If your dog is taking meds for its current ailment, you may have to ask the vet if the appetite stimulant can interact with the medicines.
For instance, the medications that your dog is taking may be increasing the level of vitamin B in its system. Thereby, choosing vitamin B supplements to boost the appetite can pose the risk of vitamin B toxicity.
4 Types of Appetite Stimulant for Dogs:
1. Natural Appetite Stimulants
When it comes to natural stimulants, a simple yet very effective method is to warm the food. By doing this, the aroma of the food is released and this has a very appetizing effect on your dog.
Another natural appetite stimulant is to get its body moving. Take a walk and play fetch are some of the things that can tire your dog and hungry, too.
Ever thought of using essential oils to boost their appetite? Rose oil is known to increase appetite. Simply apply a few drops on your dog’s collar.
And, of course, nothing beats the smell and taste of a chicken rotisserie.
2. Holistic Appetite Stimulants
Most of us know the healing effects of traditional acupuncture. It is good for relieving pain and nausea. Apart from those, it is confirmed that acupuncture has helped a lot of dogs with their appetite problem. Not only is this safe but acupuncture poses no side-effects to the well-being of your pet.
What about CBD products? Also known as cannabidiol, it is one of the chemicals found in hemp and marijuana.
Depending on where you live, some states have legalized the use of marijuana in treating conditions like loss of appetite. You may find it surprising but yes, there are CBD products that are made specifically for pets.
What these products do is to lessen the pain of your pet while pumping up its appetite.
Just make sure that you consult a vet for some CBD product recommendations. CBD is safe but not THC which is also a chemical present in marijuana and hemp. The difference is that marijuana has more THC while hemp has more CBD.
3. Pharmaceutical Appetite Stimulant for Dogs
The vet can prescribe medications to boost the appetite of your pet such as:
This is an antihistamine medicine that is given not just for motion sickness but as an appetite stimulant for dogs as well. But, you have to watch out for possible side-effects like vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea.
When nothing seems to work, the vet may prescribe the Mirtazapine appetite stimulant. This is a medicine that also works on increasing the serotonin level of your dog. But, this medicine interacts with SSRI or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
- Ghrelin Receptor Agonist
This appetite stimulant for dogs is fairly new in the market. What it does is to make your dog feel hungry. Once given to your dog, the medicine will send a signal to the brain to cause the feeling of hunger.
If there are appetite stimulant vitamins for fur parents, maybe you are also asking if there’s also for your fur baby. Yes, and these vitamins are effective in stimulating the appetite. The B vitamins and the multivitamins are known to work as an appetite stimulant for dogs.
To Sum Up…
How long can a dog go without food? For as long as your pet is not sick and it is properly hydrated, then 5 days. But if your pet is sick, the max it can go without eating is 24 to 48 hours.
At any point that you see a change in appetite, stop counting the days. Instead, take your pet to the vet who may prescribe the best appetite stimulant for dogs that is safe and effective.