Any time your dog’s appetite changes, there is a chance that it is due to an illness. So, it’s worth investigating the cause when your dog turns her nose up at her dog food.
A lack of appetite can come from a bacterial or viral infection. Parvovirus is a common, potentially deadly illness that results in reduced appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea, which may be bloody. Even vaccinated dogs can get parvo. Worms can also kill your dog’s appetite. A fecal sample test from your vet is the best way to check your dog for an underlying illness that could be affecting her appetite.
When your dog is sick, she may refuse dog food, but may accept certain human foods like bland cereals or rice, or especially tempting foods like meat, eggs or fish. So, even if your dog is eating human food, she may have a reduced appetite because she is feeling sick. Always check with your vet if your dog’s appetite changes.
Dogs Crave Variety Too
You might notice that your dog happily eats her food when you open a new bag, but after a few weeks, she seems to get bored of it.
Few people seem to know that dog food starts to go bad once you open it. Dry kibble is coated with oils that go rancid, especially once the food is exposed to air. This becomes even more of a problem if you take the food out of the bag and store it in a container, and even worse if you never wash that container.
So, if your dog only wants to eat from a new bag of food, it could be that she craves new flavors, but it could also be because the food is going bad, even if you cannot see or smell a difference.
Always store your dog’s food in the original bag, and use a bag clip keep it fresh. If you buy more than 2-weeks’ supply at once, store some of it in the freezer.
Alternatively, a container with a spout like this one from Buddeezz (price check on Amazon) stores a bag of food in its original packaging. It’s airtight, so it can help the food stay fresher longer and keeps bugs out.
Will “Human Food” Spoil Your Dog’s Appetite?
It’s time that we let go of the idea of “human food.” Food is just food.
It’s perfectly reasonable for your dog to prefer fresh food over bland, over-processed kibble.
And it’s really important that you add fresh, “people foods” to your dog’s diet. Fresh fruits and veggies are packed with cancer-preventing antioxidants. Meat, eggs and fish are full of amino acids and nutrients that are destroyed when cooked and processed.
So, do not be afraid of giving your dog yummy, fresh “human foods,” for fear that she will become finicky.
If you never give your dog anything other than kibble, she may still find human food enticing, even more so because she is not allowed to have it.
Matilda and Cow mainly eat a raw, fresh diet, and they still enjoy eating kibble when I use it as training treats or when I don’t have any fresh food thawed for them. They enjoy kibble even more now because it is a novelty.
Instead of trying to keep your dog from developing a palate for fresh food, just negotiate and add fresh, nutritious toppers to their meals.
It does not take a lot of extra time to boost your dog’s meals. You can use an ice cube tray to freeze small portions of yogurt, eggs, fish, blended veggies, fruits, etc. Then, you can microwave a cube just until it is melted, then stir it into your dog’s food. Or just serve them as mini ice pops.
That’s how easy it is to make sure your dog gets more flavor and variety in their food each day, and it only takes an extra minute of prep time.
You can even use scraps from your meals. Just do not feed them under the table, as you’ll create bad habits and give your dog even less motivation to check her food bowl. Save scraps on the side, then add them to her meal later.
Avoid giving your dog fatty scraps of meat, and those heavily seasoned with onions or garlic, which are toxic to dogs. Never feed chocolate, grapes or raisins, all of which are also toxic to dogs, even in small amounts.
Is It Okay For Picky Dogs To Free-Feed?
If your dog doesn’t seem hungry at mealtimes, you can set the food down and allow her to pick at it throughout the day – but there are downsides to this. I had to stop because I have two dogs, so it would be impossible to keep them from stealing one another’s food.
Free-feeding exposes the food to ants, bacteria, dust, and whatever else might be in your kitchen.
It also makes it harder to keep your dog on a regular potty schedule.
You will also have a harder time monitoring your dog’s food intake and appetite for changes that can indicate an illness.
So, while it’s okay to free-feed if that works best for you, I really do not recommend it. It’s better to make your dog’s food more tempting so that she eats it within fifteen minutes.
Some dogs self-regulate their food intake. They may only need one meal per day, or they may prefer smaller portions throughout the day.
In the past, dog experts made it seem like your dog needed to be a robot – eat what their owner wants, when their owner wants them to eat it.
But there is nothing wrong with creating a meal plan that suits your dog’s individual needs. It does not mean that your dog is spoiled, or that you are lowering yourself in some way.
Dogs do not go off their kibble just to be a diva or to act out – they just know what’s good for them!