It can be very concerning if your dog, all of a sudden, loses interest in eating. While it could simply mean you have a picky canine in your household, their change in appetite could also indicate an underlying health problem that needs to be dealt with immediately, particularly in senior dogs, young puppies, or dogs that you know have an underlying health issue. 

dog is a picky eater

The Difference Between a Picky Eater and a Health Condition

You need to determine whether your dog’s “picky eating” relates to their general appetite or a health condition, meaning they don’t want to eat much of anything, or if they really are just picky eaters. Thankfully, there are some telltale signs you can look out for:

  • Your dog takes a long time to finish its food. Dogs that don’t eat all their food within a certain amount of time, typically about 15 to 20 minutes, are more likely than their faster-eating counterparts to be considered “picky eaters.” 
  • They refuse to eat their own dog food but are more than happy to consume human scraps from the dinner table. If they turn down dog food but are perfectly willing to eat human foods like peanut butter, eggs, salmon, and cooked chicken, their eating behaviors are more likely due to pickiness rather than a serious health problem. 
  • You struggle to get your dog to eat on a regular basis. If you experience trouble getting your dog to eat regularly and if they refuse to consume their food at least once per day, you probably have a picky eater in your hands. 
  • Your dog is reasonably healthy. As we mentioned before, “picky eating” might be a symptom of an underlying condition – or it could just mean your dog enjoys the finer things in life and has culinary preferences of their own. Either way, it’s always a good idea to consult with your vet and make sure your pet is in good physical condition.  

Once you’ve determined you’ve got a picky eater at home, it’s time to figure out ways to get your dog back on track and improve its eating habits. 

Here are 5 tried-and-tested ways to help your canine friend eat better:

1. Stick to a consistent routine 

To address picky eating, you want to develop a consistent feeding routine. 

This means setting and sticking to an eating schedule, setting a 15-to-20-minute time limit on your dog’s eating, taking the bowls away if your dog doesn’t eat anything, and avoiding giving your pet any more food (including treats) until their next scheduled meal. 

Dr. Jerry Klein, Chief Veterinary Officer of the American Kennel Club, says, “Leaving food out long term encourages bad eating habits and is unsanitary.” 

If you keep the food out for a limited amount of time and give your dog food at a scheduled feeding time, they’ll more likely develop positive eating habits in the long run. 

2. Change up the recipe 

Perhaps, your dog simply dislikes the taste of their food. If this is the case, you might want to consider changing the ingredients a little bit or adding some flavor. Enticing, dog-friendly toppers you can add to your canine’s regular meals include bone broth or strong cheese, such as Parmesan. 

That being said, you need to be cautious when changing the food. The new ingredients or additives could create gut problems for your canine, which could even worsen their eating behaviors and lead to long-term health problems for your dog. 

If you think changing their food in some way is necessary, make sure the change is slow and gradual. For example, add the new ingredients to their food little by little as the days go by. 

Just make sure you consult with your vet before making any changes to your dog’s food.

3. Avoid giving too many treats

Of course, rewarding your dog for good behavior with edible treats is strongly encouraged, but too many treats can be detrimental to their appetite during mealtime. And constantly offering them treats to eat can send them the wrong message. 

When training your picky eater, you need to minimize treats. If you overfeed your dog with treats, they will likely feel full and, as a result, avoid eating from the food bowl. 

According to Dr. Mason Romero, a veterinary doctor, you also want to avoid feeding your dog throughout the day, which is a common mistake. 

“I only recommend treats when they are being used for training purposes,” he says. “Giving treats routinely throughout the day can lead to the pet feeling satiated and result in the pet not wanting to eat their breakfast or dinner.” 

4. Feed your dog the right amount 

If your dog is on the path towards healthy eating again, congratulations! The development of positive eating habits will ensure better long-term physical health for your canine. 

However, you need to make sure you’re feeding your dog the right amount of food. Feeding your dog too much food will put them at risk of becoming overweight or, even worse, developing obesity, problems that affect more than half of dogs in the US

When you’re giving your dog food, be sure you’re feeding them the right amount so they can maintain their weight and stay in good physical health. 

5. Get professional help

If you followed all the above steps but your dog still isn’t eating well, they should be checked by a veterinary doctor. If they also happen to be lethargic or they’re vomiting or having diarrhea, you should seek emergency pet care immediately. 

For those who have healthy dogs and want to instill healthy eating habits, another option is to enroll their canine friend in adult dog and puppy training at Greenlin Pet Resorts

Besides using training methods that are tailored to your dog’s individual needs and personality, we provide a fun, caring environment where your dog can develop loving, fulfilling relationships with fellow canines as well as our team of dedicated professional trainers. 

If you’re a busy professional or someone who’s going on vacation in the near future, you can also take advantage of our pet boarding and dog daycare services. 

Whichever service you choose, you can rest assured that your dog will be in good hands. So, want to make life better for you and your canine companion? Give us a call or complete our contact form, and we’ll contact you soon about the award-winning services we can provide.