I have a picky eater, his name is Leroy.
I also have a dog with IBD, his name also happens to be Leroy.
Sometimes Leroy doesn’t want to eat his food and it’s up to me to decide if he’s just being picky or if he’s having an IBD flare up.
Here’s a few steps that I use to break all that down.
- Is he eating treats? If Leroy’s eating treats and begging for my snacks, most likely he’s feeling fine and just doesn’t want his boring food.
- Is he acting normal? When Leroy’s having an IBD flare-up he has loose stools, his stomach gurgles and he seems depressed. If he’s normal goofy Leroy, he’s feeling just fine.
- Is he drinking water? Leroy drinks like a fish so a good sign that he’s not feeling well is if his water intake has decreased. I can easily tell this by checking his water bowls.
- Is he just not eating for me? Leroy is known for playing me when it comes to feeding. He knows that if he stares at his bowl when I put it down that I’m going to add something else to it. He will actually step away from the bowl and stare at me until I add something, but if my husband puts the bowl down he will happily gobble that food right up. He knows that my husband isn’t interested in playing his games. I’ve put it to the test many times. Once Leroy went 3 days without eating his breakfast because it was me feeding him. He would eat it just fine at night when my husband fed, so on the fourth morning I had my husband feed him and wouldn’t you know, he ate every single bite.
Now Sherman would be more of a red flag for me if he stopped eating because he’s never refused a bowl of food in his life. If Sherman stops eating, he’s going to the vet asap.
So what do you do if your dog stops eating?
The first thing you should do is make sure that your dog is healthy. If there’s any question you should make an appointment with your veterinarian. A dog that abruptly stops eating, has weight loss, is vomiting or has diarrhea should definitely see a vet. A puppy that stops eating, should see a vet. A senior dog that stops eating should also see a vet.
While there can be many medical reasons why a dog would stop eating some of the more common issues can be issues with their teeth, sores in their mouth, foreign body or cut in their mouth, intestinal issues, pain or infection. Keep in mind that Newfies are notorious for getting into things that they shouldn’t. Perhaps they counter-surfed in the middle of the night and ate a tub of butter and now they’re feeling the effects. Perhaps they ate too many apples off the apple tree yesterday and now they’re constipated. With a Newfie, who knows. Maybe they’re stomach just needs 24 hours to get to normal. This is where all those mental notes that you took and stored away in your brain come in handy.
Tips for a picky eater that are not sick:
Don’t give in. Feed them their regular food and that’s it. You’ll start a vicious cycle is you keep adding new things to their food and you risk giving them an upset stomach. I’ve been there and all I did was make things worse. Remeber when Leroy would only eat if I cut up boiled eggs and sprinkled them on his food? That was a HUGE mistake and it made him sick.
Pick it up. If a dog has food at its disposable all the time he’s just going to pick at it throughout the day and you’ll never know how much their eating. Not to mention, who wants to eat food that’s been sitting in bowl all day? Allow your dog a time frame of when they can eat and if they don’t eat it, pick it up. Give them a parameter.
Make them work for it. Have them do a sit before you put the bowl down. Before I give you this food you have to earn it. Sometimes this makes the dog want the food more than if you just handed it over. You can even try feeding them from a meal dispensing toy to keep it interesting. We used a meal dispensing toy when Leroy was getting 3 small a meals a day back when he was recovering. He normally doesn’t get 3 meals a day but we were trying to get him to slowly gain a little bit of weight. The meal dispensing toy was perfect because he thought it was a game. We have the Buddy Magic Mushroom by PetSafe and it’s a good size for a big dog.
Excercise. A dog that isn’t active might be depressed. Newfies get depressed easily for many reasons so make sure that your dog is getting daily exercise and attention.
Give them space. Let your dog have their space when they’re eating and don’t hover. If Leroy’s going through his picky phase he will NOT eat if I’m in the room. Maybe he senses my anxiety about him eating? I’m not sure.
Switch foods. Talk to your regular veterinarian or holistic vet about changing your dog’s diet and see if they think it’s a good idea.
Cut back on the treats. Instead of giving a treat maybe try giving your dog attention like a belly or a chin scratch for good behavior. A Newfie likes nothing more than a good scratch under the chin.
Take suggestions with a grain of salt. Nowadays people go to the internet to ask for suggestions on how to get their picky dog to eat. I see it in every single dog forum that I’m in and it makes me cringe with all the different suggestions that people make of what to add to the food to get the dog to eat. First, adding 20 different things to the dog’s food isn’t going to make the issue better. Second, way too many people dish out suggestions without knowing the dog’s medical history, so be careful out there.
Be specific. When talking about your dog not eating, be careful how you word it. When I worked at the vet we would get clients in daily that would say their dog hadn’t eaten in days. Really? They haven’t eaten ANYTHING in days? Not one morsel?
Normally the response would be something like, ” Well he’s eaten dog treats and the pot roast I gave him but he won’t eat his dog food.”
Well if you’re going to give me cheesecake when I don’t eat my carrots, why would I eat the carrots?
This goes back to the “a healthy dog isn’t going to let himself starve” fact. He’s not sick, he’s smart, he’s living the good life eating pot roast.
If all of that fails, and your dog is healthy, you might need the help of a dog trainer. A good dog trainer should be able to spot any behavioral issues that might be causing your dog to be a picky eater and they can probably help you with the way that you’re dealing with it.
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