Is your dog seemingly turned off by his food? Are you constantly adding tasty tidbits to try to entice her to chow down? If so, you are not alone and this blog post is for YOU! (and Fido, of course)
There is not going to be a post quoting science or siting research studies…instead, this is a post based on empirical evidence of the hundreds (more likely thousands) of dogs we have seen first hand, many of whom are plagued by a disinterest in their presented menu items. These dogs seem to have one thing in common - they are driving their humans to the loony bin!
It is constantly amazing to me how many pet parents are affected by the “If I Must” syndrome - you know, the look little Rocky gives you when you place his food bowl down in front of him. Maybe he comes close and does the obligatory sniff, gives you a dirty look then walks away…or maybe he just doesn’t get up off the couch so you go over and attempt to hand feed him morsels that you personally pick from the bowl based on their exceptional deliciousness (and you narrate that for him the entire time…”Look at what mommy picked for you? Isn’t it yummy? What a good boy, eat up now!”). Many of us have been there and, all joking aside, it is a very stressful state of being.
Dogs are carnivores…they are also instinctively prey driven and should WANT to eat. When your pet isn’t feeling up for it, you have to - of course - rule out an underlying medical condition that may have robbed him of his appetite. Quite often, though this phenomenon can be dealt with more simply than you would think.
Let’s take a look at some potential reasons why you get the death-glare from your dog when you place the food bowl in front of him. These are the top 4 reasons we have seen and the good news is, THEY ARE ALL FIXABLE!
Fido is FULL! - i know, you are thinking “but I feed him according to the bag suggestions for his weight” - but a couple of factors come into play. Is your dog underweight, overweight or the ideal weight? (now may be the time to not take your own word for it…ask a friend, family member or vet for their opinion as well!) There are visuals on the internet to help you assess this, but a general rule of thumb is if you can feel just a slight layer over the ribs but can still feel their definition with light pressure. If your dog is 25lbs but should really (ideally) be 20lbs, then you have to make sure you are feeding for what she SHOULD be, not what she is! Overfeeding is most often the culprit of your princess walking away from her lovingly prepared meal. A shut down metabolism can be the reason for the indifference.
AND REMEMBER….TREATS ARE CALORIES and those calories need to be accounted for!
- Food Sensitivities!! - We won’t call them “allergies” because that is opening up a whole other can of worms (hmmm..worms, maybe she could be enticed to eat those!). If your pup has a sensitivity to a certain food, it may make their tummy gassy or upset, it may make them a bit itchy..there are many ways it can manifest. The end result of a food sensitivity is that the dog INSTINCTIVELY knows that it’s food makes it feel yucky - thus, they turn their nose up at dinner time.
- Tooth pain - there could be something stuck in your dog’s mouth or a sore that you didn’t notice. If the actual act of eating causes discomfort, you can’t expect your fur kid to come running to the sound of the dinner bell.
- Boredom and Behaviour - yes dogs can get bored! Often this is tied to overfeeding, but imagine if you had to eat the same thing every single day…not very exciting right?? Is there a new pet or human baby in the house, is Fido left alone more now than before? These could lead to behavioural reasons that your pet doesn’t seem to want to eat.
Ok, so we have identified some of the main REASONS…now let’s talk about what to do about them!
Fido is Full - so stop overfeeding him! Seems simple but there is a right way and a wrong way to accomplish this!
After determining if your dog is at the correct and ideal weight, adjust your feeding appropriately and see what happens in 3-4 weeks.
It is definitely possible that your dog is at her ideal weight and you are feeding the right amount, but that some other factors may be coming into play and causing a slow down in metabolism…as dogs age, they require less calories - as do those who are spayed and neutered or are getting less exercise than they may have been previously.
Try to reduce the food by 20-25% for a week…if you were feeding 1cup of dry food in a day, try feeding 3/4 cup for the day instead…if you were feeding 2 patties of raw, try doing 1.5 per day for a week and see if the interest increases. Always be sure to monitor your pet’s weight - we don’t want rapid weight loss or to have Fido go the opposite way and be scouring for food everywhere!
Food Sensitivities - This is an important one! If your pet is sensitive to one of the ingredients in his or her food, why not consider a change to see if things get better. You could change to a different food within the same brand or you could try mixing it up in a big way and take the leap into a raw diet (which also has so many other benefits for the health and wellbeing of your furkid!). These changes need to be done properly and under the guidance of someone who knows what they are doing (do i sense another blog post coming on??) so as not to upset digestion and make sure all nutritional requirements are being met. If you already feed raw, try switching proteins to eliminate sensitivies. A rotation of 3-4 different proteins is ideal anyway, but if your dog has been fed chicken for 3 years, make sure you start small and just make the switch to an alternative before starting a rotation - again, having guidance in this is so helpful!
In order to assess if food sensitivities were the root cause of the “fussiness”, you have to give the change a bit of time to take effect. Wrap your head around a full 4 weeks and then see where you are at!
- Address Dental Pain with a visual inspection or enlist the help of a dental professional. A change to softer food may be warranted for awhile and remember that chewing (once the mouth is free of any problems or issues!) is the best way to keep the mouth healthy long term. We suggest raw bones (education on how to feed is key!) and antlers as the safest chews. If you buy rawhide, promptly walk to the garbage and throw it out!! It will do so much more harm than good!
- Boredom - Change it up! Go slowly, mix a new food in so that your pup’s tummy can adjust or add canned pumpkin as a digestive support tool.
A reduction in the amount of food given is honestly the least complicated and most effective tool in revving the metabolism of your dog but there are some other tricks of the trade as well:
- The medium chain triglycerides in Coconut Oil support digestion and metabolic function, so this can be a great (and YUMMY!) add in to your pet’s food.
- Pre-digesting the kibble (adding some water to it) can take some of the strain off of the digestive system of your pet and make it easier on them. Make sure you don’t let it sit in the bowl if you do this, as this is how bacteria breeds!
- Extra exercise of the mental or physical variety can often spark appetite. Introduce a new game (hide and seek), join an agility group or go for an extra half hour walk…a tired pup should want to fuel themselves even more!
- Change is good! You wouldn’t want to eat the same thing day in and day out…neither do they!
Remember - Nutrition is the basis for health and wellbeing in your animal companion but it doesn’t have to be stressful. Keep it simple, balanced and species appropriate and Fido will thank you, most likely by LICKING THE BOWL CLEAN! :)
~ Andrea Peters
co-owner, Adored Beast Apothecary