🐶 Free shipping on order over $75

  • Sauce Box Subscription

    Shop Now
  • Chicken Broth
    & Sweet Potato

    Shop Now
  • Beef Broth
    & Sweet Potato

    Shop Now
  • Why Is My Dog Not Eating His Food But Will Eat Treats

    Why Is My Dog Not Eating His Food But Will Eat Treats?

    June 03, 2024

    Dog Won’t Eat Food, But Will Eat Treats? Here’s Why.

    Why Is My Dog Not Eating His Food But Will Eat Treats

    If your dog won’t eat their kibble, but will happily devour treats, you’re not alone; partial anorexia is a common problem with dogs and there could be several reasons for it.

    But don’t worry! You can fix the issue and help your dog eat their regular food again.

    Here are 15 reasons your dog won’t eat their food but will eat treats — and how to end the hunger strike.

    15 Reasons Your Dog Won’t Eat Their Food

    reasons dog will not eat food

    Diagnosing issues with your dog’s health and diet isn’t always easy because many things could cause it. But don’t worry; we share everything you need to know to solve this problem.

    Here are some common reasons dogs refuse their food and what to do about it:

    1. Recent vaccinations

    Vaccinations can sometimes temporarily reduce a dog's appetite. This is usually short-lived and they should get back to normal within a day or two. 

    After vaccinations, ensure your dog stays hydrated and offer bland, easily digestible food like unseasoned chicken and rice. If the loss of appetite persists or other symptoms develop, call your vet.

    2. Dislike for the food

    Have you ever hated the taste or texture of food? Sometimes dogs can be like that, too!

    Here are some things you can do to address this issue:

    • Make your dog’s diet tastier (and healthier) by adding some Dog Sauce
    • Try different high-quality dry dog food brands and flavors
    • Spruce it up with plain, sugar-free Greek yogurt, 100% Peanut Butter, or unsalted Tuna water

    *Gradually introduce new food by mixing it with the current food to allow your dog to adjust. Consult your vet if your dog's picky eating persists, as it may indicate an underlying health issue.

    3. Preference for treats

    You would gladly eat an Oreo over a bowl of spinach, right? Your furry friend is the same way. 

    To stop this, establish a feeding schedule and limit treats, giving them only as rewards for good behavior or training. Only give them healthy treats and don’t exceed 10% of their daily caloric intake. 

    You can also use a food puzzle or interactive feeder to make mealtime more fun for your dog.

    4. Illness

    If your pup isn’t feeling well, they might not want to eat their regular food, but could still be convinced to eat a tasty treat. This is normal.

    But if your dog is showing other symptoms such as lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, or changes in behavior, consult your vet immediately. There could be an underlying health problem making your puppy not want to eat. 

    During recovery, feed your dog bland, easily digestible food and make sure they always have fresh water.

    5. Dental problems

    Dental issues like gum disease, tooth decay, or broken teeth can make eating painful for dogs. 

    Regular dental check-ups and cleanings are essential to prevent and treat these problems. If you suspect dental pain, get them a vet examination. 

    Softening dry food with water or broth can make it easier for your dog to eat if they do have dental issues.

    6. Stress or anxiety

    Believe it or not, stress and anxiety can cause dogs to lose their appetite.

    Common triggers include changes in environment, routine, or the introduction of new pets or people. Has your dog undergone any of these recently?

    To help them adjust, try to maintain a consistent routine, create a calm and safe environment away from other pets, and give them plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. 

    You can also try calming aids like pheromone diffusers, anxiety wraps, or CBD.

    7. Changes in diet

    Switching your dog's food too quickly can lead to an upset stomach. 

    If you have to switch their kibble, gradually transition to the new food over 7-10 days by mixing increasing amounts of the new food with the old food. A gradual change allows your dog's digestive system to adjust and helps prevent gastrointestinal issues. 

    8. Spoiled food

    No one wants spoiled food! If their food is expired, your dog might not eat it. 

    Always check expiration dates and store food in a cool, dry place. I like to use airtight containers to keep it fresher (and tastier) for longer.

    9. Boredom

    If you ate the same thing for every meal, you’d probably get bored of it, too.

    To keep your pooch interested in their meals, try different pet food and flavors. Adding dog-friendly fruits and vegetables or some of our superfood Dog Sauce to their dry kibble can help prevent boredom. 

    As always, consult your vet before making any dietary changes.

    10. Medication side effects

    Certain medications can reduce a dog's appetite. When my boy had to get sutures after an unfortunate dog fight, he was loaded up on different painkillers and antibiotics and had a really hard time eating.

    I got around this by giving him some easily digestible food like unseasoned white rice and chicken.

    If your dog is on medication and starts refusing food, talk to your vet. They may be able to adjust the dosage or prescribe a different medication. 

    11. Age-related issues

    Dogs may begin to eat less as they get older, often due to a reduced metabolism or sensory decline. 

    If you have an older dog, consider senior-specific dog food that meets their nutritional needs and is easier to chew and digest. 

    I also like to mix in “human food” made for dogs, like The Farmer’s Dog. It’s healthier, tastier, and easier to digest than highly processed kibble.

    12. Teething (for puppies)

    Teething sucks. It can cause be uncomfortable and reduce a puppy's appetite. 

    Try giving your pup soft, easily chewable food while they’re teething. Teething toys and chilled items can help soothe their gums as well. My puppy loved cold baby carrots to ease his tooth pain!

    Consult your vet if your puppy's appetite doesn’t improve, as it could indicate other health issues.

    13. Overfeeding

    Paradoxically, feeding your dog too much can lead to a lack of appetite. If they know the food is always there, and they get bored of it, they’ll just stop eating and hold out for treats.

    To prevent this, only feed your pup at mealtimes and portion control based on their age, weight, and activity level. Your kibble bag should have a chart indicating the proper amount of food. 

    Avoid leaving food out for your dog all the time. If they don’t finish it, put it away where they can’t see or get to it. By making them uncertain when they may get food again, they’ll be more encouraged to finish their food when you put it out for them.

    14. Behavioral issues

    Behavioral issues like separation anxiety can affect a dog's eating habits. These can be difficult to fix, but not impossible.

    Look into behavior modification techniques, training, and creating a positive feeding environment. Feed them on a regular schedule, away from other pets or loud distractions. 

    Consult a professional dog trainer or behaviorist if needed. I hired a trainer for my dog Kota, and it made a huge difference with his behavioral issues!

    How to Get Your Dog to Eat Dog Food Again

    how to get your dog to start eating again

    Here are seven tips to get your picky eater back on their regular food:

    1. Stick to a Regular Feeding Schedule

    Many dog owners make the mistake of leaving food out for their dogs 24/7.

    I get it — dogs are a lot of work, and remembering to feed them on time can be a pain. But I promise you it’s worth it!

    You can fix most dog’s eating habits by feeding them at regular times every day. How many times per day depends on your dog’s age:

    • Puppies 1-6 months: 4 meals per day
    • Puppies 6-12 months: 2-3 meals per day
    • Adult dogs over 1 year: 2 meals per day

    I love feeding my dog on a regular schedule because it’s a great training opportunity. Every mealtime I make my dog sit, lay down, and wait before he can eat his food. It teaches him patience and discipline.

    Plus, if he’s ever outside and won’t listen to me, all I have to do is say, “Kota, are you hungry?” and he immediately runs inside. Feeding him several times a day means I can always fall back on this command to get him to listen!

    2. Add Some Sauce

    You like sauce, dogs do too!

    We created our Dog Sauce super food meal topper to help fix your dog’s appetite and give them a nutritional boost for a healthier coat and longer lifespan.

    Drizzle an ounce or two of sauce on their kibble, and you’ll fix your picky eater in no time.

    3. Cut Back on Treats

    Giving too many treats or table scraps can spoil your dog's appetite for regular meals. Limit treats to no more than 10% of their daily caloric intake and use them only as rewards for good behavior or training. 

    If your dog is holding out for treats, put them on a consistent feeding schedule and stick to it. This helps reinforce the importance of their regular food and makes them less likely to hold out for treats. 

    Speaking of treats — only use healthy, low-calorie treats. More indulgent treats should only be given sparingly.

    If you really want to work with your dog, consider using their regular kibble as rewards during training sessions. I fed my dog the majority of his kibble by hand for the first 3 months of his life, and it paid off! He’s a good boy now.

    4. Introduce Variety

    Just like us, dogs can get bored of eating the same food every day. A balanced diet is good for everyone!

    To keep your dog interested in their meals, switch it up by rotating between different high-quality dog foods and flavors or try canned food. 

    You can also add Dog Sauce to make meals more exciting and provide extra nutrients!

    Just remember make the switch gradually over time. It’s also a good idea to consult your vet to make sure the new foods won't cause digestive issues.

    5. Create a Quiet Eating Space

    If your dog’s environment is stressful or distracting, they might not eat. 

    Create a quiet, comfortable eating space where your dog can eat undisturbed. Choose a spot away from high-traffic areas, loud noises, and other pets. 

    If you have multiple pets, consider feeding them separately to prevent competition or anxiety. Crate training your dog and feeding them in the crate can help them feel safe while eating.

    6. Change Their Food Bowl

    If you thought kids can be picky, get a load of this — some dogs have preferences for different types of food bowls based on material, shape, or size! 

    If you’ve tried everything else and don’t know what to do, consider experimenting with stainless steel, ceramic, or plastic bowls to see which your dog prefers. 

    For dogs with long ears, try a bowl designed to keep their ears out of the food (yes, this is a thing). Elevated bowls can make eating more comfortable for larger breeds or dogs with arthritis.

    Remember to clean the bowl often, as residues or odors can deter your dog from eating. No one likes to eat off a stinky plate!

    7. Consult with a Veterinarian

    If your dog continues to refuse food despite your efforts, it's important to see a veterinarian. Persistent loss of appetite can be a sign of underlying health issues that need professional attention. 

    Your vet can identify any medical conditions or dental problems that may be causing your dog to refuse to eat. They can also provide dietary recommendations tailored to your dog's specific needs and health status. 

    Sorry, but I have to say it! Regular vet check-ups are essential to monitor your dog's overall health and prevent bigger issues.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What if my dog won't eat his food but is acting normal?

    If your dog won’t eat but is otherwise acting normal, it might not be an immediate cause for concern. They could be picky, bored with their food, or holding out for treats. 

    Here’s what to do:

    • Start by examining the food to ensure it's fresh and not spoiled. 
    • Try offering a different flavor or brand of high-quality dog food. 
    • Reduce the number of treats and stick to a consistent feeding schedule. 

    If they still won’t eat after a couple days or if you notice other behavior changes like lethargy, call your vet.

    Do dogs go through phases of not eating?

    Yes, dogs can go through phases of not eating or eating less. 

    These phases could be due to changes in environment, stress, boredom with their food, teething in puppies, mild illness, or stomach issues. 

    These phases are usually short-lived. However, if your dog consistently refuses food for more than a day or two or shows other symptoms like lethargy, vomiting, or diarrhea, it's important to consult your veterinarian to make sure there are no serious health concerns.

    Should I take my dog's food away if he doesn't eat it?

    Yes, it's generally a good idea to take away your dog's food if they don't eat it within 15-20 minutes. As I’ve said above, leaving food out for extended periods can reduce your dog's interest in eating. 

    You can give them the left over food in their next meal. Doing it this way helps establish a routine and teaches your dog that mealtime is limited. Consistency is key, and over time, your dog will learn to eat when food is given. That’s how I get mine to eat regularly!

    How do I help my dog to get used to regular dog food again?

    To summarize, pet parents can get their dogs used to regular dog food with these five tips:

    1. Gradually transition to a new food: Try feeding them different foods by mixing in increasing amounts alongside their current food over 7-10 days.
    2. Have a consistent feeding schedule: Stick to a consistent feeding schedule, giving food at roughly the same times each day.
    3. Limit treats: Only give treats as rewards for good behavior or training. 
    4. Enhance flavor: Add some Dog Sauce or wet food to make their regular food tastier.
    5. Exercise: Get your dog plenty of exercise to build up their appetite.

    Again, if they still won’t eat after a few days, talk to your vet to check for underlying medical issues like kydney disease or pancreatitis. Wishing you a healthy dog!

    Related Products

    DogSauce Dog Food Topper

    Shop Now

    Free Shipping

    Free shipping on orders over $75


    Money back guarantee if your dog doesn't like it

    Secure Checkout

    Fast and smooth payment processing