Some Common Reasons Why Your Dog Won’t Eat

Dog stopped eating twice a day

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Many pet owners are used to their pets wolfing down their meals as fast as possible so when a dog won’t eat it can be very upsetting. Lack of appetite is called inappetence or anorexia (not to be confused with anorexia nervosa, the eating disorder in humans). It simply means that the dog has no appetite and won’t eat. This condition can occur for a number of reasons. Most of the time your dog will start eating again after he skips a meal or two. Here are some things to look for if your dog isn’t eating and what you can do to get him back to normal.

Temporary Gastrointestinal Upset

While dogs are carnivores, they are more than happy to scavenge whenever the opportunity presents itself, even in the home. Pet dogs frequently steal food from the counter, off the table, and eat things from the trash when they get the chance. Some dogs eat dog poop in the yard and other things that are tasty only to dogs. And if you take your dog to a dog park or other public place, he can have access to things like candy and other things left by visitors. The result is that dogs can sometimes eat something they shouldn’t. Heck, I was sitting at home taking an online traffic school and my dog got into some candy he shouldn’t have been eating. It happens.

If your dog won’t eat, it’s possible that he could have a temporary gastrointestinal upset. Look for signs that he has some diarrhea or notice if he has vomited somewhere. Your dog’s body will attempt to get rid of whatever he has eaten that has upset his digestion. In the meantime, he won’t feel much like eating. As long as there is no blood in the stool or vomit, you should allow your dog to expel the offending matter from his system, provided he doesn’t become dehydrated. If the vomiting or diarrhea lasts more than 24 hours, take your dog to your veterinarian.

Change In Routine

A change in routine can upset many dogs and make them stop eating. If you change the time you feed your dog, change the time you take walks or potty your dog, or make serious changes in your household such as adding a family member, a dog can easily stop eating. Taking a vacation or moving to a new home are other reasons why a dog won’t eat. Dogs like routine and anything that upsets what they are familiar with can make them stop eating, at least temporarily, until they feel secure again. It’s best to make any changes gradually and make sure that your dog feels secure and included in what’s happening in your home.

Dog stopped eating twice a day

Behavior Problems

Some dogs may stop eating because of behavior problems. These problems are not always caused by the dog who won’t eat. If you have another dog or pet in the home, your dog could be reacting to that pet. For instance, if your dog won’t eat, it could be due to another dog who is stealing his food or growling at him while he eats. Sometimes a dog won’t eat if he is a slow eater and the other dog eats fast. He may prefer to eat alone so he can take his time. If you have multiple dogs, it’s often a good idea to feed them separately – in separate rooms or in crates – so each dog can eat in peace. Dogs will often start eating again when they are left alone with their food.

Senior Dogs

Sometimes senior dogs can stop eating because of age-related problems. Too often owners assume a senior dog won’t eat because he is getting old when in reality the problem could be something that is easily remedied. For example, a senior dog can have dental problems which make it hard for him to eat his ordinary food. He may be hungry and want to eat but the food hurts his mouth. A trip to the vet to examine your senior dog’s teeth can reveal the problem and allow the vet to fix it. Your senior dog should be able to eat normally afterward. You can also warm a senior dog’s food and heat it to make it smell and taste more appealing to him since the senses begin to fade as a dog gets older. Try topping the food with some stew or something else tasty.

Picky Eaters

Of course, the bane of all pet owners are dogs who are picky eaters. Dogs are not born picky eaters – owners make them that way. If your dog won’t eat and you are feeding him a good quality food that he normally likes, put the food down and leave it for fifteen minutes. If your dog has not eaten it in that time, pick the bowl up and put it away. Do not give your dog treats or snacks during the day. Do not feed your dog any other food until it’s time for his next meal. Your dog will eat when he gets hungry. If you feed meals at a regular time each day and monitor how much you feed, and how much your dog eats, and keep the treats to a reasonable amount, your dog will stop being a picky eater.

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One more word: if you change dog food frequently, your dog will be picky about his food. It’s better to find a good food and stay with it. The more you change dog foods, the more likely your dog is to suffer from gastrointestinal upsets, which will lead to missing meals, which you will blame on the new food, which will make you want to try another food – it’s a vicious circle. Find a good food that your dog does well on and stick with it, even when you hear about new foods. If your dog is healthy and happy on a food, there’s really no reason to change. Remember that dogs don’t like change.

These are the major reasons why a dog won’t eat, barring illness. If your dog won’t eat after 24 hours, you should take him to the vet. It’s possible that your dog could be sick and your vet will need to check him out and start looking for more serious reasons why your dog is not eating. He or she will ask you about any other possible symptoms your dog may be exhibiting, so be prepared to discuss your dog’s overall health.

— Update: 10-02-2023 — found an additional article My Dog Only Eats Once A Day – Should I Be Concerned? from the website for the keyword dog stopped eating twice a day.

Wild dogs and wolves are scavengers and eat when food is available because they don’t know when they might find their next meal. They adapted to eating vast amounts in one sitting, gorging while they had the chance. Leftovers (if there are any) are then buried in the ground to try and preserve them for a later time.

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Domestic dogs have evolved considerably from their wild counterparts – a tiny chihuahua with its small stomach probably tends to graze a bit more daintily than a wolf, for example. Veterinarians recommend feeding your adult dog twice daily, with puppies needing their daily rations divided into three or more meals a day. This tends to help with satiety (the feeling of fullness), leading to less begging for food between mealtimes, as well as ensuring your dog is receiving adequate nutrition.

When you give your dog his meal, you should make sure he is somewhere quiet so that he can eat undisturbed and without competition or distraction from others. Fresh water should always be available too.

What Should I Look for in a Diet?

Dog stopped eating twice a day
Protein is essential in your canine’s diet.

You should look for a good-quality commercial diet that’s suitable for your dog’s age and size to ensure he gets the right balance of nutrients. Select a food that is certified by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) to give you extra confidence. AAFCO is a voluntary membership association made up of individuals who regulate animal feed sales and distribution. It helps to define common ingredients and nutritional requirements for pet foods.

Dog food manufacturers ordered ingredients by decreasing amounts. A good-quality animal protein source (either whole meat or meat meal) should make up the bulk of the diet, with lower amounts of carbohydrate ingredients. A complete dry kibble should give your dog all of the nutrients he needs, but some dogs may find wet food a bit more palatable, so consider mixing this with his biscuits if he is fussy.

Is It Ok To Feed a Dog Once a Day?

It’s not ideal to only offer food once a day – veterinarians might recommend splitting your dog’s daily rations into two separate portions. This tends to keep dogs more satisfied and can help with weight control. We know that a healthy dog’s stomach takes around 6 to 8 hours to empty, which means that a dog fed in the morning is likely to be hungry by evening time. However, some pet parents like the convenience of feeding once daily.

It is worth noting that there is a slightly increased risk of gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) when feeding a dog one large meal a day rather than a couple of smaller ones. A large meal is more likely to cause gastric distension and bloating, increasing the chances of this serious condition occurring. However, there are other risk factors at play, such as the breed and size of the dog. Feeding one large meal doesn’t mean your dog will get a GDV, but it is something to watch.

Some schools of thought suggest that only feeding once daily could lead to a hungrier and more irritable dog, contributing to aggression or anxiety issues.

Don’t forget that it is advisable to feed young puppies even smaller meals, ideally splitting their rations into three or four portions a day. They wouldn’t cope well with one big meal, as their small tummies couldn’t hold all their daily rations in one go.

What Should I Do If My Dog Doesn’t Eat?

Dog stopped eating twice a day
Some dogs are naturally more picky or less food orientated than others.

You could try the following tips to encourage him to eat better.

Feed Your Dog in a Quiet Place

Dogs are easily distracted and can struggle to concentrate on eating, especially if several other animals or people are around. Try and feed them on their own in a quiet area of the house where they can focus on their meal in peace.

Make Sure He Has a Good-Quality Diet

Ensure your dog has good-quality food with high protein and lower amounts of carbohydrate and filler ingredients. Foods that contain a healthy portion of animal fat rather than vegetable fats tend to be quite tasty to dogs too.

You might also consider adding a fresh, human-grade food like The Farmer’s Dog to the mix. It is prepared in a USDA-certified kitchen with real meats and fresh produce, then fresh-frozen and shipped to your door, based on the personalized recommendations for your unique dog.

Try Moistening The Kibbles

Some dogs prefer the texture of moist food. You could try soaking the kibbles in some warm water for a short time before feeding to soften them.

Feed Your Dog After Exercise

Exercise helps stimulate appetite, so consider offering your dog his food after he’s been out for a walk. Feeding after rather than before activity may also help decrease the risk of gastric dilatation-volvulus.

Add Some Wet Food

If you have already tried the other tips above, you could try adding some wet food to his kibble to encourage him to eat. Many dogs find wet foods quite palatable, and they contain a high protein content. However, they come with the disadvantage of being a bit smellier and messier to feed.

Establish a Routine

By setting a routine, you can help your dog know what to expect from his day, and he can start to anticipate mealtimes. You should put your dog’s food down, and if he doesn’t eat it within 15-20 minutes, then you should take it away again. Offer him his next bowl of food at the next scheduled mealtime, when hopefully he is feeling a bit hungrier.

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Don’t leave food down all day as it establishes poor habits and can lead to your dog picking and grazing. This makes it harder to monitor his intake. Dogs are also not very good at self-regulating, so weight gain could occur.

When Should I Take My Dog to the Veterinarian?

Dog stopped eating twice a day
Many healthy dogs eat once a day or skip occasional meals. But, if you notice any unusual behaviors, visit your vet for a checkup.

You should always take your dog to the veterinarian if you have any concerns, especially if it’s unusual for them to have a reduced appetite. Many dogs often only eat one meal a day, whereas, for others, this could be a new behavior indicating ill health.

Other symptoms that would indicate a problem include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Weakness
  • A painful abdomen

Your vet will start by taking a more detailed history from you and performing an examination of your dog to check him over. If your vet has any concerns, they may recommend further tests to pinpoint the cause of your dog’s reduced appetite. This could include blood and urine samples and diagnostic imaging like x-rays or ultrasound.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best time to feed a dog?

Vets recommend feeding your dog twice daily if possible, usually in the morning and evening. But, make sure he doesn’t eat too late because dogs need a few hours to digest their food and go to the bathroom if needed before bedtime.

Should I feed my dog before or after a walk?

It is thought that feeding your dog after a walk has several benefits. Exercising your dog on an empty stomach may help reduce the risk of bloating and gastric dilatation-volvulus. Additionally, walking him before mealtimes may help stimulate appetite and make him more likely to eat when he gets back home. This can be helpful with picky eaters.

What is the best feeding schedule for dogs?

You should feed adult dogs two meals a day, one in the morning and one in the early evening. This is usually before and just after work for most people. Puppies need an additional meal around lunchtime. Fresh water should be available at all times.

Should I leave food out for my dog all day?

No, it is best to try and establish set mealtimes for your dog. Try setting his food down for 15-20 minutes, and if he hasn’t eaten it in this time, then take it up and offer it again at the next scheduled mealtime. Leaving food out all day makes it harder to monitor how much he is eating, plus it might attract pests, especially if he is on a wet food diet.

Is it bad to feed a dog late at night?

It’s not ideal, as your dog may not have time to go out to the toilet following his dinner. He is much more comfortable overnight if he’s had a chance to digest his food and pee and poop before going to sleep. Giving your dog an energy boost late at night is not ideal either, so try and feed them around three hours before bed.

Final Thoughts

In most cases, only eating one meal a day is just a sign that your dog is a bit picky or fussy with his food. By trying some of our tips, you may be able to encourage him to move to two meals a day, which tends to be the regime recommended by most veterinarians. If your dog is showing any signs of ill health, get them checked over by a vet to confirm no underlying issues that might affect appetite.

Above all, feeding a complete, good-quality diet that is high in animal protein is the best way to meet your dog’s needs. And, as a bonus, it also encourages them to look forward to mealtime.

— Update: 10-02-2023 — found an additional article Why Does My Dog Only Eat Once A Day? from the website for the keyword dog stopped eating twice a day.

Dogs are known to be food-driven. So it is no surprise to see them getting all excited and happy when it’s time for their meals or treats.

However, if your dog only eats once a day, it can cause alarm, not just for you but for most pet owners. 

Should you worry about your dog’s health and nutritional needs if it suddenly stops following its regular schedule and starts to eat once a day?

We have compiled a handy guide to put your mind at ease in such a situation. 

This article will delve into a healthy dog’s eating schedule and share a few tips to help you feed your dog more often.

We will also mention some red flags you should watch to help you decide when to take your dog to the vet. Read on.

Dog Only Eats Once a Day – Is this a Reason to be Alarmed? 

Dog stopped eating twice a day

Most veterinarians typically recommend that adult dogs be fed at least two meals daily, with a gap of about 12 hours between the first and second meals.

Both meals must comprise high-quality dog food with the right amount of nutrients and calories to help maintain a healthy weight and optimum energy levels.

Meanwhile, puppies and small breeds should eat at least three to four smaller meals daily.

But you should not let them indulge in free feeding, which involves keeping food available to pets so they can eat whenever they wish.

This faulty practice leads to more calories and causes obesity or eating disorders in dogs and puppies. 

Dogs are animals of routine. So you should get your puppy used to a fixed feeding schedule early. This will help it adjust to its daily routine and avoid faulty eating habits. 

However, many dog owners prefer feeding their dogs a single meal every day instead of multiple times throughout the day for the sake of convenience.

A dog digests its food completely within six to eight hours. So by evening, it will have an empty stomach and be waiting for its next meal.

If your dog gets used to this routine and only eats once a day, it may suffer from gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV). GDV is an enlargement of the stomach and can be life-threatening for dogs.

Even if your dog does not contract GDV, it may still turn into a hungry and irritable dog and become prone to behavioral issues such as anxiety disorders or aggression.

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That is why vets recommend spacing out food rations throughout the day, keeping health problems at bay.

On the other hand, if you follow a regular schedule with frequent feeding, but your dog suddenly refuses to eat more than one meal a day, you should still get it to eat more often as soon as possible.

How to Encourage Your Dog to Eat More Often

If your puppy or adult dog only eats once a day, here are a few ways to help it eat more often and stop leaving food in its bowl:

Establish a Steady Feeding Schedule

Dog stopped eating twice a day

Puppies and adult dogs do well with routines. Maintaining regular feeding times will let your dog know when to expect food during the day and eat at only those times. 

You should also make sure that it is disciplined about its food. If you put your dog’s food down in front of it and it does not eat its meal within the next 15 to 20 minutes, take its feeding bowl away.

Feed your dog its next meal at the next scheduled mealtime. Hopefully, by then, your dog’s appetite will return and eat its food. 

Don’t allow free feeding; stick to the scheduled feeding times to help your dog pick healthy eating habits. If your dog grazes throughout the day,  it will not feel hungry at scheduled mealtimes.

Free feeding can also make it difficult to monitor your dog’s food intake, resulting in weight gain.

Serve Food in a Quiet and Peaceful Place

Dogs are fickle creatures that get distracted easily. If there are too many distractions, such as people or other dogs where your dog eats, it will not be able to eat peacefully.

Chances are that it may not even touch its food. Make sure you feed your dog in a quiet place or in your house, where there are not too many disturbances.

Have High-Quality Food

To make your dog eat more often, provide it with high-quality dog food that is rich in protein and has fewer carbs and filler ingredients.

Also, a diet with reasonable amounts of animal fat instead of vegetable fats is tastier, and dogs love it. Provide your pet with fresh water for drinking at all times.

Feed Them After Any Physical Activity

One of the reasons that your dog eats only one meal a day is that it does not have an appetite. Exercise can do wonders to whet an appetite. So ensure that your dog gets enough exercise during the day.

After it returns from its walk or playtime session, give it enough food to eat. It will most likely gobble down its food and lick its bowl clean.

Also, feeding pets after exercise instead of before it may reduce the risk of GDV, which makes it a win-win solution. 

Introduce Wet Food

Dog stopped eating twice a day

If you feed your dog only dry food and it does not eat more than once a day, include some wet food into its diet.

Although it is smellier and messier to feed, many dogs enjoy eating wet food. It also has a high protein content, which makes it great for your dog’s health.

Moisten the Kibbles

If you do not wish to introduce wet food to your dog’s diet, you can simply soak its kibbles in a little warm water for some time before feeding them to your dog.

Doing so will release the meaty aroma of the kibbles and make the food more appealing to your pet.

Change your Dog’s Diet

If your dog is bored of eating the same old kind of meal every day, it may refuse to eat it at some point.

Sometimes new food is all it takes to increase your dog’s appetite and get it to eat at least twice a day. Check out dog food that has natural, human-grade ingredients and add it to your dog’s diet.

Fortunately, the market for dog food has grown and changed a lot recently. So dog owners can easily find high-quality organic dog food without contaminants.

Tweak your Approach to Treats

Too many treats may be another reason that your furry friend is not eating more than one meal a day. A healthy snack once in a while is good.

But if you’re overfeeding treats to your dog, it may not be able to eat its second meal at the end of the day. 

Treats should be restricted to 5% to 10% of your dog’s daily diet.

If you use treats as a form of positive reinforcement during training to keep your dog happy and motivated, break them into small pieces before feeding them to your dog.

This will help you treat your dog without reducing its appetite at mealtimes.

When Is It Time to Contact the Vet?

Dog stopped eating twice a day

If your dog is not eating twice a day or more despite your best efforts, you should take it to a veterinarian to get it checked for any medical issues.

You should also immediately take your dog to a veterinarian if you have any concerns or suspicions about its lack of appetite. 

Often dogs do not feel like eating if they suffer from health problems such as infection, gastrointestinal problems, kidney disease, dental problems, or behavioral problems.

Older dogs are more likely to suffer from such health issues. So do not ignore your dog’s lack of eating as it may point to an underlying health problem.

Some signs and symptoms that you may see in an ill dog are lethargy, weakness, fever, and whining.

Digestive issues such as stomach pain, bloating, vomiting, and diarrhea are other symptoms that indicate a medical issue.

The veterinarian will take a detailed history of your dog’s health and eating habits and examine your dog properly.

If the veterinarian has any suspicions, they will do further tests such as blood and urine tests, ultrasound, and an x-ray to determine the cause of your dog’s lack of appetite.

They will then suggest a suitable treatment plan to help you bring your dog back to normal.

Final Thoughts

Usually, dogs eat multiple times a day without any fuss or drama.

However, if your dog only eats once a day, it may be a picky eater, in which case our handy tips and tricks above will help you get it to eat more.

But if it has any symptoms of an illness or refuses to eat even after repeated efforts to feed it, you should consult a vet as quickly as possible.




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About the Author: Tung Chi