Some dogs who won’t eat just need a little time to feel better, but there are many times when eating is essential to their health and recovery. Here are some tips to get them to chow down when they don’t want to.
Q: My dog is sick, and he has lost his appetite. Do you have any tips on how we can get him to start eating again?
A: It’s distressing when our pets are sick and don’t want to eat, especially since we can’t explain to them that eating is an important part of their return to health. Fortunately, there are a few tricks that can encourage your dog (or cat) to start eating again.
— Try baby food. Giving your pet the pureed meat in those tiny jars — on its own, or mixed with some rice or his regular food — may help to jump-start his appetite. It’s not a long-term solution, but rather a strategy for getting him to eat again until he’s starting to feel better. Then you can slowly transition him back to his regular diet. Before trying this, read the baby food’s label to make sure it doesn’t contain onion powder, which has health risks for dogs and cats.
— Warm the food. Heating your pet’s food on the stove, or briefly in the microwave, can increase its smell. If your dog can’t smell it, he won’t be inspired to eat it. Serve it just above human body temperature — about 99 degrees Fahrenheit — so that it’s warm, but not hot. Stir it first to eliminate any hot spots. It can also help to use a damp washcloth to gently wipe away any mucus accumulation from your dog’s nose so he can better smell what you’re offering.
— Offer small meals several times a day. Your dog might not feel like eating his normal amount of food all at once.
— Ask your veterinarian about medication that can help. If your dog has an upset stomach, your veterinarian can prescribe nausea-relief medication or an appetite stimulant.
There’s more – including fun gifts for pets and their people – in Pet Connection, the weekly nationally syndicated pet feature I co-write with Kim Campbell Thornton and my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker.