My dog is a picky eater. How can I get her to eat?

Original Question: I have two Havanese female dogs that are 4 and 2 years old. They are very picky eaters and I have tried every dog food possible and they won't touch it especially if it’s wet. They will even turn their nose at people food. How can I get them to eat? - Donna

My dog is a picky eater. How can I get her to eat? Mar 5, 2018

Hi Donna,

Thanks for your question. It is a very common one.

Whenever I get this question, without a doubt it always relates to a small breed dog. They tend to be the pickiest eaters. There can be a few reasons for this.

The first and most common reason is because of the owners. These little dogs tend to get babied. It’s common for people to carry them, let them sleep in their bed, baby talk to them, and let them get away with whatever they want. Once this breed of dog becomes undisciplined, they start to call the shots and think they’re in charge. They will turn their nose up at food especially if things have been added to it before. The process of adding things to the food means that you’re paying particular attention to the food and the dog will get used to this special attention. Without it, the food is less enticing. When human food is added to it, it’s very difficult to reverse that situation because they tend to start to expect it. Most owners don’t agree with me on this point and they often tell me that I just don’t understand their particular dog.

The other reason why this happens as it relates to the owners, is that pet parents in general really hate not seeing their dog eat. They will start to negotiate to try to get them to eat. It’s important to realize that if your dog is a healthy weight, you don’t need to push food on it. Dry food, in particular, is very rich in calories. When we look at the amount of dry food our dog eats, we naturally think it’s a small amount when in reality, it actually isn’t. If you tried to eat a small bowl of kibble you would realize very quickly that you become full. So in almost every case like this, the dog is a healthy weight and the owner just needs wants it to eat more, when in actual fact, it’s eating the right amount.

Everything I’ve said so far addresses the common reason for dogs not eating. However, if the dog is not an ideal weight, and is actually underweight, then it’s a completely different situation and a lot more serious. If this were the case, I would want you to go to your veterinarian and have a physical exam performed and routine blood work to start. There could be a reason for the inappetence such as a metabolic disease, stomach irritation, pain, a lesion in the mouth, or dental disease. These would be medical reasons why your dog is not eating and they would lead to weight loss. If your dog is a healthy weight then I don’t think you have a lot to worry about and you should begin to monitor the weight but try not to push the food on your dog.

I hope this helps. Thanks for your question and good luck.

Dr. Clayton Greenway

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My dog is a picky eater. How can I get her to eat?
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My dog is a picky eater. How can I get her to eat?
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Pet parents hate not seeing their dog eat so they will start negotiating with them. It’s important to realize that if your dog is a healthy weight, you don’t need to push food on it. Once a dog becomes undisciplined, they start to call the shots and think they're in charge.
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