How Long Can a Dog Go Without Food?

There are several reasons why you might be concerned about your dog not eating. Has your pooch not touched his food today? Or are you running late and unable to feed your dog at her normal meal time? Regardless of the specific situation, regular meal times are very important for dogs. Dogs are pets that need routine to stay sane and well-behaved. If your dog is not eating for several days then there might be an underlying issue. Read on to find out when to take action if your dog is going without food.

Why Is Your Dog Not Eating?

Several things can explain why your dog is not eating. There might be an underlying health issue or perhaps there are environmental and behavioural factors affecting her appetite. Read through some of the possible causes below.

Environmental Reasons

New Environment

The environment of the dog will impact their behaviour. Feeding your dog in an unfamiliar environment can make your pooch confused and too stressed to eat. This can happen when you feed your dog somewhere other than at home, perhaps while you are travelling. A crowded space will also distract your dog away from his bowl.

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If you’ve moved to a new house then your dog may need to some time to adjust. Spread around items that your dog is familiar with so that he feels more comfortable in the new house. Examples are a blanket, dog bed or toys. Don’t worry too much about your dog not eating if moving house is the cause. Your dog will get back into his normal feeding patterns as soon as he is used to the new house.

Unsuitable Feeding Space

The placement of the feeding bowl might also be a reason why your pooch isn’t eating. Perhaps the bowl is not at the right height. Larger breeds eat more comfortably from a raised platform. You can purchase a raised dog bowl table from your local petshop. Smaller breeds can easily eat from a bowl placed on the ground.

Other placement factors might be, again, how crowded the space is. A dog that has not yet adjusted properly to the household might prefer eating in a more quiet space. Somewhere where there are not a lot of people passing by or other dogs feeding.

Also, always make sure that the dog bowl is clean. Don’t leave any leftovers in the bowl because this can attract bacteria and ants.

Health Reasons

You don’t need to raise alarm when your dog has skipped a meal or two. However, if your pooch has gone more than a day without eating or drinking water, then there might be a health issue. Take your dog to the vet if more than 48 hours have passed since your dog has eaten. In case your dog is not drinking water either then take your dog to the vet after 24 hours.

There are a few symptoms to look out for when your dog is not eating. Check his gums. They should be pink and moist.

Also, check for gastrointestinal issues. Does your dog have diarrhoea or is he constipated? Touch his stomach and make sure it is not tense or painful. Your dog will not want to be touched in a sensitive area. If the stomach is painful then he will pull away, whimper or growl when you are touching it. If any of these symptoms are present, take your dog to the vet immediately and don’t wait for the first 24 hours to pass.


Another factor impacting your dog’s appetite is their diet. As mentioned, dogs need routine in their life and this includes their meals. Irregular meal times can cause stomach upsets like gassiness.

Aside from irregularity in meal times, also reflect on how many treats your dog is receiving every day. If snack time is close to meal time, your dog might still be full from the treat. Too many treats throughout the day will fill up his furry belly. Make sure that the wet and dry meals are the main source of nutrition. Treats should remain exactly what they are called, an occasional special extra.

The food itself needs to be consistent as well. Changing the menu for your dog needs to be done gradually so that your dog’s digestive system can adjust. Sudden changes will cause gastrointestinal issues. It is also wise to test out whether your dog is allergic to new foods by feeding only a few bites, at first.

Just like humans, dogs have their own tastes. Has your dog stopped eating when you tried a new brand? Maybe Rover simply doesn’t like it. This is why you should introduce any diet changes gradually, for both health reasons and behavioural reasons.

Other than new food, check whether the food is still fresh. Dogs are much more sensitive to smells so they will notice when a food is no longer edible.

What You Need to Remember

Regular meal times is important for a dog’s health and good behaviour. 1-3 meal times are appropriate depending on the breed, age and level of activity. Stick to the same feeding times. Keep the portions and composition of the meals consistent. Sudden changes is not pleasant for your dog’s digestive system.

If your dog is refusing to eat, check for symptoms of illness. Is your dog still drinking water? Are the gums healthy? Does your dog have any aches, especially a sensitive stomach? If you are concerned that your dog might be ill, go the vet within 24 hours. If your dog is otherwise healthy then consider the environmental factors. Are there any changes in routine that could cause your dog to be stressed? Introduce environmental changes and changes in routine gradually. This will help your pooch adopt the new spaces and routines better, without having to go hungry.

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