If you’ve got a dog who isn’t eating their food it’s completely natural to be concerned. As time goes by you will begin to worry that they’re wasting away and that it’s going to get worse. When an animal has been put off by their food it is never a good sign. A good appetite is a sign of good health, we believe.
This guide will help you give your dog vital nutrition when they’re just not eating or drinking themselves.
Should I force feed my dog if he won’t eat?
There’s always an underlying reason for this and the best course of action is to solve the underlying issue as force-feeding them food and water won’t resolve the issue. However, dogs don’t always know what’s best for them and it could be that force-feeding them food and water is only a temporary measure while you await the veterinarian or to give you time until you can take them there yourself.
Get them tired and exercised
A dog who’s tired and well-exercised is more likely to eat the food without the need of forcing it down. Plus, the exercise might get things moving in the digestive system which might make them feel better and back in the mood for food again.
Don’t force feed them junk food
If you have a dog who won’t eat then don’t go through all the effort of force feeding just to give them junk. Put your dog treats and takeaways away and only try and feed them nutritionally complete foods such as one of our recommended dry dog foods.
Warm the food up
Food which has been warmed up releases a much stronger scent than cold or room temperature food. If your dog is off their food and you really want them to eat then try and gently warm up some wet dog food or even safe human foods to tempt them. Warmed up food is also softer and easier to swallow which will make it easier if forced upon by yourself.
If this doesn’t seem to be enough then try applying just a little bit on your finger and dab it on their gums and tongue to let them taste it. If they can taste it and see that it’s good it might make them reconsider the hunger strike.
Give them soft and easy to eat food
Your dog may not be off food in general, just the food that you’ve given them. They may be having oral or dental problems which means that it’s painful to eat and that’s why they won’t eat. If you give them something that won’t irritate ulcers, wounds or tooth problems then they should be able to eat it once you force the issue by giving them soft foods they may not be used to.
Tune is a really good example of a food that’s bursting with nutrients that requires no chewing.
Don’t try and force-feed them what you’ve already been trying to try a different kind of food or brand and see how you get on with that.
Syringe feeding a dog
Syringe feeding and watering a dog is perhaps the most humane way to force feed vital nutrients and hydration. When you think of syringe you’re probably thinking about a needle, but in fact, there are chunky syringes with large exits which won’t scare them or hurt them in the slightest.
You won’t be able to get a huge amount of water and food into your dog with one of these as they only hold 5ml and the exit isn’t massive but it’s better than nothing.
The biggest benefit of these is the ability to give them water which is more important than food for any animal. To effectively use them, aim the nozzle towards the side of the mouth as this makes it harder for the dog to reject the food/water and instead it should roll down the throat.
Mush it up and put it in the mouth
With the use of a blender you can mush their (healthy) food into a paste and using a syringe, fingers, spoon or whatever you want you can simply place it in their mouth. If it’s smooth enough that they don’t need to chew they may swallow it. Other suggestions are to rub it into their gums gently as some of the nutrients can still be absorbed that way.
Dript it in
If you can manage to get vertical to the back of your dog’s mouth you can drip in liquids or semi liquids that will land at the end of the throat or back of the mouth so your dog has no choice but to swallow. This is most useful for water but you can still have some success with liquified food such as the mush you’ve made or you can even use baby food.
IV Drip under the skin
You shouldn’t give your dog intravenous fluid without the recommendation and help of a vet but it is one of the most effective ways to force feed a dog as it is injected straight into the blood to give them engineered nutrients and hydration. We have found a good guide on doing it here.
Take them to the vet
Dogs shouldn’t need to be force fed food as they’re a greedy bunch in general who don’t need to be asked twice to eat. As soon as you’ve spotted that they won’t eat work through our recommendations on giving them exercise and swapping out their food take them to the vet., If nothing seems to work then take them to a vet no later than 48 hours later, shorter if they won’t take water and only force feed them while you wait for your appointment.
Dogs love food so it really should be taken seriously then they don’t want it.
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Ronnie is the JugDog site editor and a dog expert who has lived and worked with dogs his entire life. Living in St. Helens, UK with his wife son and Jug Dog Jeff Ronnie spends most of time researching the answers to the burning questions of the dog community as well as reviewing the latest and greatest dog products.