How Long Can a Dog Live Without Food?

You give your dog the tastiest and healthiest dog food you can find. You even mix dry and wet ingredients, make your recipes, and add dog food condiments, yet they still do not want to eat.

If your dog does not eat their food anymore the way they used to, it can be the result of something as small as not being in the mood or as serious as cancer.

So, when should you start to worry? How long can a dog live without food?

You are probably asking yourself these questions when you notice your dog has lost their hearty appetite. 

Find out how long a dog can survive without eating and the dangers that come with your dog not eating anything.

We will help you find out why your dog isn’t eating anymore and give you some tips on how to get your dog to eat again.

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How long can a dog live with no food

How Long Can a Dog Live Without Food?

A dog can live for 3 to 5 days without eating any food, provided they are in good health and are still drinking water.

However, it depends on several factors:

  • Age – adult dogs live longer without food than puppies and senior dogs.
  • Health – a healthy dog survives longer without food than a sick dog.
  • Hydration – if your dog also drinks more water they can survive longer.

Dogs who are underweight, sick, old, or very young do not last long at all because they are lacking nutrients way before they stopped eating.

This is why you must try your best to get your old dog to eat again despite their natural dietary changes.

Pregnant dogs or those who just gave birth may also live shorter than this without any food.

But don’t base everything on this simple generalization.

Dogs are different in many ways, so it’s not easy to give an exact time on how long they can survive without eating.

In fact, veterinarians treat inappetence and anorexia on a case-to-case basis.

Inappetence refers to reduced appetite, while anorexia is an intentional refusal of food.

So, if your dog is not eating and you cannot get them to eat anything, take them to the vet to find the cause.

Why Your Dog Isn’t Eating

It can be hard to tell why your dog isn’t eating because of the many possible reasons. 

It’s always best to ask your vet about this, but they are likely to tell you that it’s one of the following.

Recent Vaccination

Dog vaccinations are necessary to keep them happy and healthy as they grow old.

However, vaccinations have side effects like loss of appetite. This is normal and temporary. Other side effects that your dog may experience include:

  • lumps or bumps
  • sneezing
  • lethargy
  • soreness.

If your dog develops hives, itchiness, vomiting, or diarrhea after getting vaccinated, call the vet immediately.

Food Issues

Dogs usually refuse to eat food that they haven’t tried before. They become suspicious of the taste and smell.

They also don’t like going from home-cooked meals to wet dog food right away. So, make any changes gradual.

Check the dog food’s ingredients. Your furry friend might be sensitive to one of them, so they don’t like to eat it. Check the temperature of the food you’re offering them as well.

Another common food issue is you overfeeding them. If you’ve given them too many treats or too much food the past few days, they might have an upset stomach and want to stop eating for a few days.

Depression or Anxiety

Dogs can also feel depressed or anxious. 

A depressed dog is one who always looks sad and uninterested. They are not as playful or energetic as they used to be. 

They do not care about their favorite toys or playmates and would rather be left alone.

They also show changes in their sleeping schedule. Either they sleep a lot more or do not sleep at all, causing irritability over time.

On the other hand, dog anxiety shows itself in the following signs:

Like humans, dogs lose their appetite when they are experiencing mental and emotional health problems.

Separation anxiety is another reason why they don’t like to eat. 

They feel stressed out when they are left alone. They guard the house, self-loathe, and wait for you, so they have no time to eat.  

Medical Condition

Your dog might be in pain because of a medical condition that causes them to lose their appetite.

The most common health issues are:

  • allergy
  • arthritis
  • autoimmune disease
  • infection
  • injury
  • periodontal disease
  • upset stomach.

Your furry pal might also be suffering from severe conditions like cancer, diabetes, or organ failure.

Female Reproductive Issues

If you have a female dog who is currently in heat or at a certain stage of their reproductive cycle, they may refuse food or eat less than usual.

New Surroundings

If you have just moved into your new home, your dog may start acting up. They stop eating and want to be left alone because they feel nervous and anxious about the new place.

They could also be experiencing motion sickness from the long drive.

This may take a few days before they start eating again. Just give them some time to adjust and adapt!

If they don’t start eating after 48 hours, call your vet.

Your Dog is a Picky Eater

Some dogs act like cats when it comes to eating. They dislike a lot of food and it’s hard to please them!

Sometimes, they try human food once and never want to eat dog food again. You can help your dog eat dog food again by letting them try different types of dog foods.

Do this until they decide that they like one and then stick with it. 

Dog not eating food

How to Find Why Your Dog Is Not Eating

Follow these steps to learn why your dog won’t eat.

  1. Observe Their Behavior
  • Are they eating some foods but not others?
  • What aren’t they eating?
  • Do they seem less energetic than usual?
  • Pay attention to their stool as well.
  1. Check Their Food
  • Does it look and smell fresh?
  • Is it past the expiry date? 
  • Throw out any that is spoiled.
  1. Check Their Body and Teeth
  • Does their body language indicate pain? 
  • Do you see or feel any skin irritation, lumps, or injuries?
  • Is their mouth, gums, and teeth clean?
  • Are any teeth loose?
  1. Check Your Surroundings
  • If your dog stopped eating suddenly it could be because they’re eating something else.
  • Check around the house and outdoor areas where they spend their time.
  • Check your cupboards to make sure your dog isn’t getting in there when you are not looking.
  • It could also be your carpet, plants, or their toys that they have ingested.

Dangers of a Dog not Eating

Sometimes, dogs do not eat for a day or two just because they are not in the mood, or they are not feeling well.

However, complications may occur if they go several days without eating. For instance, if you have an alert dog, this alertness will lower due to the lack of nutrition in their body.

They also become more irritated, especially when you approach them. As this happens for extended periods, your dog can develop aggression.

Another obvious danger is their lack of exercise. They do not have enough fuel to enjoy the things they used to, so they just become less active.

Lastly, dogs can become dehydrated after a few days of not eating even if they drink enough water.

New Puppy Won’t Eat

It’s usually a different case when puppies do not eat, compared to adult dogs and senior dogs who suddenly lose their appetite.

Puppies love food! But if you have just adopted them, it means they are still trying to get to know you and the environment. 

As they are introduced to new types of food it’s normal for them to be suspicious and show caution towards their food.

Here are some things you can do when your new puppy doesn’t want to eat:

  • Consult your vet if there are medical symptoms.
  • Don’t spoil them with treats.
  • Take your puppy on walks so they get hungry.
  • Explore different types of dog food for puppies.
  • Establish a feeding routine.
  • Check if they want your company or not while they are eating.

Give your puppy adequate attention so they grow into well-behaved and healthy dogs in the future.

How to Get Your Dog to Eat

Here are some solutions you can try if your dog isn’t eating!

Change Their Food

Your dog may develop a disinterest in their current food.

Just like us, dogs lose interest in what they eat when they have it every day! 

You can try different foods aside from dog food or switch to different brands of dog food. 

Make sure you’re making homemade food with the nutritional value that your dog needs. It should also not contain any ingredients that your dog is sensitive to.

Try mixing the new food with home-cooked food then slowly make the transition or go back to home-cooked food.

It’s also best to have a rotation when it comes to their food so they can enjoy feeding time.

Here are some human foods you shouldn’t give your dog, no matter how much it will make them eat again:

  • candy
  • chocolate
  • nuts
  • grapes
  • artificial sweeteners
  • onions
  • milk
  • salt. 

Offer Treats

If your dog does not like what they’re having for lunch and dinner, give them a treat and see if they will eat it again. 

If they eat the treats and continue to ignore what’s in their bowl, it’s time to switch dog foods.

You also want to make sure you’re not giving them too many treats throughout the day because they tend to get full of it until their stomach has no room for a balanced diet.

Add Kibble Condiments

If your dog wants something juicier, tastier, and moister, try mixing their kibble with dressing or other condiments.

SuperGravy PAW jus - Natural Dog Food Gravy Topper - Hydration Broth Food Mix - Human Grade – Kibble Seasoning for Picky Eaters – Gluten Free & Grain Free, 30 Scoop, 01046

We recommend Clear Conscience’s PAWjus Super Gravy. It contains protein from the beef liver with that yummy and rich taste.

It also has prebiotics, probiotics, and enzymes to keep their gut healthy and to absorb nutrients better.

All you have to do is add water to it and your dog’s food will turn hydrated, saucy, and savory!

You can also add bone broth like Brutus’ Bone Broth for Dogs.

This 100% natural bone broth supports your pooch’s bone health through Glucosamine and Chondroitin. 

Available in beef and chicken, this food topper is packed with protein and vitamins with only 0.1% sodium.

Brutus Bone Broth for Dogs 64 oz| All Natural| Made in USA| Glucosamine & Chondroitin for Healthy Joints| Human Grade Ingredients| Hydrating Dog Food Topper & Gravy for All Ages(Chicken 2-Pack)

Do Not Punish Your Dog

If your pooch is a picky eater, do not punish them if they do not like what’s being offered to them.

Yelling at them or intentionally starving them to get them to eat will do more harm than good. They won’t learn anything from it, especially if their loss of appetite is due to an illness.

Try setting out their food for thirty minutes. Give them a chance!

If it still isn’t eaten, take the food away whether it’s eaten or not. 

Train Your Dog

If you’re changing their food from time to time and they don’t show signs of sickness, teach them to enjoy what’s given to them.

Invest some time and money in training your dog to stop being a picky eater. While you respect your dog’s appetite, it’s also essential for them to see you as the pack leader.

Otherwise, they will think they are in charge of what and when to eat.

Be patient with them. They will need repeated exposure to training and the food before they can learn to love it.

Call Your Vet

If your dog isn’t eating because they have a medical condition or mental health issue, it’s best to solve the root cause by calling your vet.

It’s important to do this, especially if your furry friend hasn’t eaten in 48 hours or more. They will examine your dog to find out the cause of the problem.

They will offer treatments and medications that will get your dog to enjoy food again. 

Best Dog Food for Picky Eaters

If your dog has developed a picky palate and you want to try new dog foods for them, we have a list of the best dog foods for picky eaters you can try.

The Honest Kitchen Human Grade Dehydrated Whole Grain Dog Food – Complete Meal or Dog Food Topper – Chicken 10 lb (makes 40 lbs)

The best one is Honest Kitchen’s Human-Grade Dehydrated Organic Grain-Free Dog Food. It’s suitable for all dogs, whether they’re young or old, big or small. 

It is available in chicken, turkey, beef, and fish, although the chicken variation is best for puppies, while adult dogs will enjoy the beef variant more.

This dog food contains organic oats and bananas for maximum nutrient retention and digestion. It also has no additives, preservatives, or other unnecessary ingredients. 

The Honest Kitchen guarantees strict standards for food safety and sustainability, just like the way they did when they started in a small kitchen.

Get dog to eat food

FAQ Dog Diet and Sickness

What Should I Do If My Dog Only Eats Human Food?  

There’s nothing wrong with your dog eating only human foods if you’re offering them a balanced diet.

However, if you want to save more time and money, you can get them to eat dog food again by using high-quality dog food.

You also want to stop giving them any type of food outside feeding time. 

It’s okay for your dog to eat human or dog food as long as they are the right type. Try your best to make their meals look appetizing!

How Do I Help My Senior Dog Who Stopped Eating?

Old dogs experience health problems the way old people do. If your senior dog doesn’t want to eat anymore, the best way to help them is by solving the root cause.

For example, dogs experience joint pain more often when they are older, so you give them an elevated dog feeder for eating.

Most dogs stop eating at the age of 15.

Learn what else you should do if your 15-year-old dog stopped eating.

How Can I Tell if My Dog is in Pain?

Pay close attention to your dog’s body language to see if they are in pain.

One sign of your dog being in pain is limping. They could have a wound on their paw or a fracture.

Other signs of your dog in pain include mobility problems, excessive grooming, change in personality, or loss of appetite.

Treat the source of your dog’s pain so they can get their appetite back.

How Long Can a Dog Live without Water?

Dogs typically survive shorter without water than they do without food.

This usually lasts about 2-3 days. 

Remember that they should always stay hydrated, so leave enough water for them when you are away.  

Find out what you should do if your dog has not drunk water in days.

Feed Your Dog with Nutritious Food

Your dog’s diet plays a big role in their health and well-being. They can only last a few days or weeks without food!

If your dog does not receive enough protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals, they could experience severe medical conditions.

If your dog only enjoys human foods, find out if they can eat the same human foods every day.