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My barn dog isn’t eating. Should I be worried?

barn dog
Written by Sara O., DVM

Note: This article was originally published on our sister site Love & Let Go.

Why your dog may go on a hunger strike

If your beloved barn dog stops eating, many people will try different types of food to entice him. While it’s possible your pup simply doesn’t enjoy the food you’ve chosen anymore, it’s not the only potential cause.

Sometimes they’re simply not hungry, or there may be an underlying medical problem causing a loss of appetite.

5 common reasons your dog may stop eating:

  1. Your dog is sick and nauseated
  2. Your dog has dental disease
  3. Your dog’s food has something wrong with it
  4. Your dog is already full
  5. Your dog is a picky eater

Why is my dog not eating his food anymore?

Your dog is sick and nauseated

When your dog is sick and nauseated, he may not want to eat. (Humans feel the same way when we have the flu.)

Curious dogs often find things to nibble that do not agree with their stomachs (like grass in the horse pasture), so they’ll vomit. Some dogs are also very sneaky about getting into the trash or stealing people food from the feed room.

Any food that isn’t specifically designed for dogs can make them nauseated.

In other cases, underlying illnesses or diseases, such as pancreatitis, kidney, or liver disease, may cause your dog to stop eating.

What now?

If you notice your dog isn’t eating, take him to your veterinarian so he or she can do full exam and help figure out what is causing the issue.

Your dog has dental disease

Dental disease is very common in dogs, especially if you haven’t kept up with routine dental care. Dogs with severe tartar buildup on their teeth or inflamed gums may not want to eat.

If your dog has teeth problems, crunching hard kibble can be very painful.

Dogs with dental diseases could also have an infected tooth causing discomfort. Sometimes barn dog issues go under the radar, too, since they’re often off doing their own thing. Out of sight, out of mind…

What now?

If you suspect something may be wrong with your dog’s teeth or mouth, ask your veterinarian to do an exam and help come up with an action plan to help get your dog back to normal.

dog dental disease

Rule out dental disease with your vet (Image Source: Pixabay)

There’s something wrong with the food

If you just opened a new bag of dog food, and your dog suddenly stopped eating, make sure that the food is not spoiled or otherwise tainted. If it’s not stored in a temperature controlled room, for example, this could be the cause

Smell the food and look through it for any obvious issues like bugs.

Sometimes your dog simply smells or tastes issues that aren’t clear to the human eye. Critters may have chewed through the food bag, and your dog knows!

What now?

If anything seems off in their bag of food, throw it away and get them a new bag. If that fixes the issue, great. If not, it’s time to chat with your vet about other potential causes.

Your dog is already full

Many times, there is more than one person may be feeding the dog—especially around a busy horse barn.

Your dog may have eaten food from someone else and does not want any more.

Some dogs also eat a lot of treats. Similar to kids who eat a bunch of sweets and are too full for dinner, full dogs may not want their normal feedings.

What now?

Establish rules about who feeds the dog when—and how much. Make sure treats are part of that discussion.

lots of dog treats

Make sure your dog isn’t getting fed too often (Image Source: Pixabay)

Your dog is a picky eater

Some dogs have no competition for food with other animals. That may make them feel less urgency about finishing their food—no other dogs are going to take it from them anyway.

Other dogs are simply very picky eaters.

Many dogs have learned that if they do not eat, they will eventually be offered people food or treats.

What now?

Chat with your vet and try a few different types of food to see what your dog prefers. Be careful not to substitute dog food with people food because you feel guilty that your dog isn’t gobbling down his food.

What should I do if my dog isn’t eating normally?

Talking to your vet is always advised if issues persist.

Here are a few short-term fixes you can try in the meantime to entire your dog to eat again. If your dog loses his appetite, you can try cooking tummy-friendly food for them.

Plain chicken, rice, and scrambled egg is a balanced diet and may help entice them to eat.

Note: Do not to use any seasonings like salt or pepper. Dogs need a bland diet.

What else can you try?

Sometimes dogs prefer to eat their food warm. You can also try canned food or wetting dry kibble with water then warming it slightly in the barn lounge microwave.

How long can a dog go without eating?

A dog can go 2-3 days without eating.

They may go up to a week without food if they have water, though that’s obviously not ideal. Be sure to call your vet if your dog still isn’t eating .

Note: Veterinarians often worry about low blood sugar if small dogs aren’t eating for several days.

bowl of dog food

Dogs can go several days without food as long as they drink (Image Source: Pixabay)

Don’t Panic

Most of the time, when your barn dog is not eating, there are other clues that can help you figure out why. By making an appointment with your veterinarian early on, you’ll minimize stress for you and your pup.

More often than not, getting dogs back to their normal feeding habits is fairly easy!

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About the author


Sara O., DVM, attended Louisiana Tech for her undergraduate school, and then attended St. George University to complete veterinary school. After veterinarian school, Dr. O. moved to east Texas has been a small animal and exotic veterinarian. She lives happily with her husband Greg and her babies Ruby, the Schnoodle, Monkey the tortoise, and Oliver James “OJ” the cat. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling the world with her husband, baking, and taking Ruby shopping.