Undernutrition is a serious risk to the overall wellness of dogs. For this reason, many dog owners become desperate when faced with a dog who is a picky eater. This is why vets are inundated with questions like "how much food to feed my dog?" and "can dogs eat cat food?".
Is your dog a picky eater? Here's how to get them back on a steady and nutritionally balanced diet.
Reasons Why Dogs Refuse Food
It's essential to first determine if your dog is actually a picky eater. Sometimes the problem isn't that they simply dislike the food options presented. Sometimes there is an actual medical issue at play that is not visibly noticeable.
There's not a single health problem that makes a dog refuse food for an extended period of time. Often it could be because of some sort of digestive trouble. Vomiting or diarrhea are good indicators that something is not going quite right with your pup's stomach.
Trying out various forms of protein will also help determine the cause. Options to choose from include chicken, beef, pork, fish, kangaroo, eggs, vegetarian or vegan dog food. These are all great options to consider when it comes to not only the taste your dog prefers but also what's best for your dog's gut health and digestive system.
There could be various medical conditions such as canine food allergies, sensitive stomachs, gut health issues or a liver shunt that oftentimes require dogs to eat a speciality diet. Whether that is home cooked meals, including certain dog supplements, a lower protein diet, and choosing between raw or kibble food.
It could also be a dental issue, where it's physically painful for your dog to eat. It could also be because of parasites or some other bacterial infection. Checking on your dogs dental health is extremely important in determining what type of food they eat. Wet food, raw food, or soaking kibble in warm water provide soft alternatives.
However, it's not always a clinical issue. Sometimes it can be because your dog is temporarily stressed or anxious. If you've recently moved homes or changed your schedule, your dog could just be trying to adjust.
It could also be what you suspected - your dog flat out doesn't enjoy his food. Just like humans, every dog has their own preferences when it comes to proteins.
Your best bet on how to handle these medical problems is to avoid them altogether with a comprehensive dog wellness plan which includes routine visits to your vet for blood work, dental work and more.
Ways to Deal With Picky Eating
It's all well and good to say that your dog is a picky eater. However, if you are constantly cycling through foods with no success, you may be desperate for new strategies to employ. If you've tried swapping out foods and still haven't found success, here are a few ways that you can try to combat picky eating.
#1 Feed Your Dog in a Distraction-Free Area
Dogs, especially puppies, are easily distracted by each and every interesting movement or noise. If your puppy is ignoring its food, try moving its bowl to a quieter corner of the house. This gives them the time to calm down and really give their new food a try.
#2 Give Them a Workout
Just like humans, dogs need plenty of activity to remain healthy. Even large breeds won't be inclined to eat if they haven't been getting a regular workout. Planning a walk before mealtime can be an excellent way to build up an appetite for new food.
#3 Cut Down on the Snacks
Sometimes the only problem is that you are spoiling your dog. If they're already getting a healthy diet of table scraps and dog treats, is it any wonder they don't want to try out new food? By cutting down on snacks during the day, you can give them a healthy appetite at mealtime.
#4 Warm Up the Food
Dog food generally isn't meant to be eaten warmed up. But you should remember that the most vital sense to a dog is their sense of smell. This is how they best interact with and understand the world. Warming up food can often make its smell more noticeable to a dog and make it seem more appealing.
#5 Mix it Up
Suppose you want your dog to try a particular new brand of food - maybe a diet version. But they just can't get over the loss of their old staples. In this case, why not add in a little bit of the previous favorites? Mix the two foods together and slowly reduce the amount of the older option. This lets your dog gradually get used to the new food.
If your dog is still picky, a valuable secret weapon is chicken broth. Few dogs don't love the taste of chicken. Just add a bit of the broth to their dry food mix. It will be a very stubborn pooch indeed who won't want to give it a taste.
#6 Be Persistent
Sometimes your only problem is quitting too early. It can often take a few different tries at new kinds of food before finding one that really clicks. Cycling through as many different food types as possible gives you the best chance of finding a winner.
Don't be afraid to also get a little tough. While you shouldn't starve your dog, sometimes you need to drop the pampering. A few meals where you only offer the new food will often make them hungry enough to be willing to try a new experience.
How a Dog Wellness Plan Helps
One of the most worrying parts about having a picky eater dog is being uncertain of the cause. Is it just because of the taste? Is it stress? Or are there much more severe digestive issues at play?
With a good dog wellness plan, you can safely remove that uncertainty. Regular fecal tests will ensure that you are well aware of any digestive issues your dog is having, and regular dental care will prevent lack of eating from mouth pain. A dog wellness plan from Wagmo removes the question of how you will pay for these additional services, letting you focus on taking care of your beloved pet.