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How To Force Feed A Dog Who Won’t Eat

Dogs aren’t very picky eaters, and they eat even when they aren’t hungry.

So when a dog does not care for any food put in front of it, it is incredibly concerning for its owner.

Many things can cause a loss of appetite in dogs. Whatever the reason, you must take action immediately so that your dog gets the nutrition it needs.

Read on for a guide on why dogs lose their appetite and a few ways how to force-feed a dog who won’t eat.

4 Reasons Dogs Lose Their Appetite

1. Health Issues

Photo of Dog Refuse To Eat

Some medical conditions that can lead to a loss of appetite in dogs include:

  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Dental problems
  • Depression
  • Food allergies
  • Food poisoning
  • Infection
  • Neurological disorders
  • Pain
  • Parasites
  • Problems with internal organs
  • Recent vaccination
  • Separation anxiety
  • Tumors
  • Upset stomach

2. Behavioral Issues or Pickiness

Some dogs tend to be picky eaters, which may be why they don’t eat what’s in their bowls.

Other dogs may have behavioral problems—they may be used to table scraps or being hand-fed, or they prefer eating alone.

Your dog may be refusing to eat because there is a stranger or another dog in your house, and they’re too wary and stressed to focus on food.

3. Changes in the Environment

Photo of Depressed Dog Looking at the window

Changes in their environment can lead to discomfort and behavior changes in dogs.

The absence of a family member or another pet, weather changes, moving house, traveling, or recent stress can be underlying causes of a loss in appetite.

Your dog may refuse to eat if you shift its feeding schedule or place its food bowl somewhere else.

4. Food Issues And Changes in the Diet

Your dog may refuse to eat if the food is too hot, cold, salty, sweet, bitter, or fatty. It may also ignore food if you are giving it too many treats.

If you’ve switched dog food brands, your pet could be sensitive to one or more of its ingredients—another potential reason for lack of appetite. Notwithstanding food allergies, off-putting smells or tastes may affect the best of eaters.

If you haven’t changed your dog’s diet for a long time and it seems bored of its usual fare, perhaps it’s time for a change.

When Should You Force Feed Your Dog?

Photo of Dog Rejects Food

Force-feeding your dog should not be your go-to solution if it refuses to eat food. Sometimes dogs may want to skip a meal or two if they are not hungry, which is entirely normal.

Give your pet a little time, and just put its food within reach. If it eventually feels hungry, it will eat on its own.

Your dog may also need more exercise and playtime to stimulate its appetite.

If a day or two passes and your dog still isn’t eating, it is likely a symptom of a serious health issue. In this case, consult a vet immediately. Your vet will help you identify the problem and suggest the best treatment.

If necessary, the vet may also prescribe medication to treat the underlying issue or an appetite stimulant to boost your dog’s appetite.

If your dog is exhibiting behavioral problems due to a recent change in its environment, you can help it overcome these issues through training, positive reinforcement, and exercise. You can also enlist the help of a trainer or vet.

If none of this works, your vet may tell you to force-feed your dog. Force-feeding should only be done under the supervision of a trained professional who will advise you each step of the way.

Methods of Force Feeding A Dog

You can use different methods to force-feed your dog—the most effective one largely depends on the underlying issue. Here are some examples:

Give Your Dog A Treat

Photo of How To Trick Dog To Eat

If you have not given your dog a treat for some time, it may be time to give it one. Mix in the treat with its regular food so that it will be tempted to eat it.

Heat the Food

If your dog is sick or its sense of smell is affected, you can heat its food before serving it. Heating the food releases a stronger scent and may make your dog want to devour it.

Give Your Dog Soft Foods

If your dog has trouble eating or swallowing due to a dental problem or a sore throat, soft foods may ease the way and avoid pain or discomfort.

Syringe Feed Your Dog

Photo of Force Feeding With Syringe

If it has been more than 48 hours since your dog last ate, you can use a syringe to force-feed it. Only do this if your vet has given the go-ahead for force-feeding.

Mush the Food Up

You can mush up your dog’s food in a blender and force-feed it using your fingers, a spoon, or a syringe. This is especially helpful if your dog is suffering from dental problems and cannot chew.

Drip It In

If your dog refuses to eat, you can get food into its stomach by dripping liquids or semi-liquids into your dog’s throat or the back of its mouth. This will leave your dog with no choice but to swallow.

You can use this method to give it water and juice. You can also blend your dog’s food and feed it the liquified form.

Use An Intravenous Drip

Photo of Dog with Intravenous Drip

Using an intravenous drip for your dog should be the last resort, and you should not do it without the recommendation and assistance of a vet.

Intravenous fluid is injected straight into the blood, and it is one of the most effective ways to deliver the nutrients and hydration that your dog requires.


Now you know how to force feed a dog who won’t eat. We hope these methods will help you feed your dog and keep it healthy and fit.

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