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Stray Dog Won’t Eat Dog Food


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Are you concerned about your stray dog’s appetite? Chances are, you are here because you searched for “stray dog won’t eat dog food.” At Dog Ownership Guide, we believe that happy dogs make happy owners. When stray dogs don’t eat, it’s usually a sign something isn’t quite right. To find out what may be going on, we did the research so you don’t have to do it.

Stray Dog Won’t Eat Dog Food – Why?

We love caring for our dogs. A major part of that care is feeding. So, when you’re saying “my stray dog won’t eat dog food” it can be concerning.  The good news is if it’s only been a day, then chances are, he’s just not as hungry. Purina, the national dog food brand, reports dogs won’t starve themselves. However, if your stray dog won’t eat his food beyond a day, it’s time to consult a veterinarian.

Loss of appetite can indicate a medical issue. Since it’s difficult to know how your dog feels, a decreased appetite is often seen as a symptom of a medical issue. Loss of appetite plus other symptoms emphasizes the need to seek veterinary care.

My Dog Won't Eat His Food

Illnesses Affecting a Dog’s Appetite

A dog’s appetite can be affected by the following health problems:


Dogs of all ages are susceptible to cancer, so don’t rule this out if you have a puppy.


The infection could be from a recent injury or surgery, but it can also be caused by an unknown reason.


It’s not always possible to identify the source of pain in a dog, especially when it is internal, such as a stomachache.

Liver Disease

Older dogs should be tested for liver disease if they start to reduce the amount they eat.

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Kidney Disease

Kidney disease is also another medical condition that many older dogs suffer from, but it can be treated.

Dental Disease

Dental disease can occur over time, especially if proper oral hygiene is not performed. Dogs should have their teeth brushed daily and professional cleaning regularly.

Dental Problems

Oral pain from a piece of dry food cutting the gum or another cause can make your dog not want to chew anything, leading to a reduced appetite.

The best way to know if your dog is suffering from a medical condition is to consult with a veterinarian who can perform a thorough examination to rule out an underlying cause.

Other Reasons a Stray Dog Won’t Eat Dog Food

Besides health problems, your stray dog won’t eat dog food for many other common reasons.

  • Doesn’t like dry dog food – try Spot and Tango Unkibble
  • Scared of the environment, such as in the case of traveling or moving into a new home
  • Car anxiety or motion sickness
  • Not fond of a new food
  • Not ready for a new food (When to Switch Puppy to Adult Food)
  • Doesn’t like the food bowl
  • Dog food has expired, so it doesn’t taste good
  • Has an upset stomach after eating human food or too many dog treats
  • Getting older, so his appetite is changing
  • Recently received one or more vaccinations
  • Stressed in some way
  • Mourning the death of a fellow pack member or family member
  • Puppy may have lost teeth making it more difficult to eat or suffer from another dental issue, such as pain from emerging adult teeth.

Dog Won't Eat Food

When to Call the Veterinarian

If your stray dog won’t eat dog food after a day, call your veterinarian’s office to rule out any underlying cause for the appetite loss. If your dog won’t eat his food and it has been 24 hours, look for the following signs you should seek emergency vet care:

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Be prepared to spend a lot of time at the emergency vet’s office. Also, this is a good time to say if you don’t have dog insurance, you may want to consider getting some. The costs of emergency vet care can be extraordinary but dog insurance can cover the costs.

How to Get Your Stray Dog to Eat Dog Food

In addition to consulting with your vet, it’s a good idea to implement the following tips when you’re saying to yourself “my dog won’t eat his food”.

  • Turn dry food into wet food by soaking it in water
  • Avoid table scraps
  • Try a different dog food like fresh raw dog food
  • Try a different food bowl like Silicone Slow Feed Dog Bowl or another one of the dog bowls in our shop
  • Check the date on the dog food bag to see if it’s expired
  • Refrain from giving your dog human food
  • Allow your dog to eat grass if he tries to outside to relieve an upset stomach but be careful with grass seed (Is Grass Seed Safe for Dogs?)
  • Add boiled chicken to your pup’s food to make it taste better. Only do this until he starts eating his normal food again.
  • Feed your puppy small pieces of boiled chicken to not go too long between meals
  • Try baby food if your pup is under a year old
  • Consider an appetite stimulant such as CBD for Dog Appetite. Older dogs may need a medicinal appetite stimulant, especially if they have a medical condition making it difficult to enjoy good food. These stimulants reduce nausea and act as hormones to make your dog hungry.

Always check with your veterinarian before implementing any of the above to ensure it is safe to do so with your dog or puppy.

When Your Dog Won’t Eat on a Regular Basis

Picky eaters often concern pet owners much more because it can be nearly impossible to find a food they like. The lack of appetite can lead to partial anorexia.

Symptoms of partial anorexia include:

  • Weight loss leads to being underweight for his breed.
  • Going days without eating wet or dry food or eating a small amount.
  • Only eating certain foods, including baby food, human food, or table scraps.
  • Only eats at odd times, which causes him to miss meals.
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Pet owners do not have to worry too much about a picky eater, as long as a dog gets some food throughout the day. After a thorough examination from a vet to rule out underlying causes, do the best you can to reduce the effects of the partial anorexia your dog is suffering from and it may resolve itself over time.

Dogs who do not eat at all suffer from anorexia and the cause is usually more than just being a picky eater. If your dog won’t eat his food for long periods of time and there has been significant weight loss, communicate that with your vet for recommendations on how to ensure your dog receives the nutrients he needs to remain healthy.

Stray Dog Won’t Eat Dog Food – Putting It Into Perspective

Dogs of all ages – puppies to older dogs – are similar to humans. When you don’t feel well, you’ll eat less than when you’re not ill. Dental problems can cause enough pain to make chewing unbearable, so you don’t eat. When you’re nervous, you may not eat either. Certain foods may not taste good to you, so you don’t eat them or only eat a small amount of them if you’re really hungry. And if you go a day or two without eating, you make an appointment with the doctor to find out if there’s any medical issue causing the lack of appetite. Dogs are the same.

The only difference between dogs and humans when it comes to a reduced appetite is that dogs can’t communicate in the way that humans do by telling people what’s wrong. They rely on their pet owners to figure it out with the help of a vet.

Do your dog a favor and take him to the veterinarian if he hasn’t eaten after 24 hours. Usually, after 24 hours, he’s hungry enough to eat just about anything. That’s when you’ll know something serious may be troubling him.



Dog Ownership Guide – D.O.G. – launched in 2021 to meet the needs of dog owners and their dogs worldwide. Our website is a place to not only learn, shop, and entertain, but share as well. Leave a comment, contact us, or learn more about the founder.

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