how long can a dog go without eating

How Long Can A Dog Go Without Eating?

Like humans, dogs also lose their appetite when sick. If your dog skips a meal or two, there is no reason for concern, but if the aversion to food continues for a longer period, you may need to look closer.

How long can a dog go without eating? Keep reading to find out.

How Long Can A Dog Go Without Eating?


Like all other living beings, dogs need a regular dose of nutrition to survive and stay healthy. However, they can survive without food for longer, provided they have access to drinking water.

So, while dogs will start showing signs of dehydration within 24 hours, a healthy dog can go without food for 3 to 5 days as long as it is drinking water. Dogs may survive longer in extreme conditions, but they face serious health implications.

Old dogs, underweight dogs, dogs with health issues, and puppies may not survive as long without food. Also, female dogs who are pregnant, have just given birth, or are nursing cannot go for that long without food.

Puppies, especially small breed ones, will have hypoglycemia within 12 hours of going without food. It is because the regulatory mechanism of puppies is not fully developed. Hypoglycemia is the state where the blood sugar levels drop to a dangerous low. It can be life-threatening.

However, dogs usually do not starve themselves. If you think your dog is being picky, let it be. It will skip a meal or two and get back to eating. But, if it is not eating due to other reasons, you need to consult a vet.

10 Reasons Your Dog’s Not Eating


If you are here to determine the root cause behind your dog’s loss of appetite, here are a few reasons:

1. Health Issues

The dog will refuse to eat if it has an underlying illness. It is a matter of concern, and a vet must examine the dog for a proper diagnosis. Some illnesses that result in food refusal are:

• Stomach upset
• Pain
• Infection
• Allergy
• Intestinal obstruction
• Organ failure
• Autoimmune disease
• Cancer

2. Dental Issues

When dogs face an oral health problem, they will refuse to eat as it will cause pain and discomfort. Teething puppies will also experience similar symptoms and refuse food.

3. Anxiety, Depression, Or Other Mental Health Issues

Several reasons like separation from a sibling or family member, moving to a new home, or loud noise due to construction nearby can cause your dog stress.

Most times, if you pay close attention, you will be able to determine the source of stress. Try spending more time with your dog and remove the stress factor if possible.

4. Medications And Vaccinations

Side effects of vaccines and medicine often include loss of appetite. If your dog has been recently vaccinated or is on a new medication, consult your vet and check if they can help by changing the medication.

5. Female Reproductive Issues

Some female dogs refuse food during some stages of their reproductive cycle or when they are in heat. However, it may also be the opposite, resulting in an increased appetite.

6. Social Issues

If you have more than one pet, your dog may be a victim of bullying. There may be social disharmony, and another pet could be intimidating the one who is not eating.

If you suspect this to be the issue, keep an eye on your dogs during mealtime. If you are certain of the intimidation, give the dogs food at different times or feed them in separate rooms.

7. New Food

If you have made a recent diet change, the dog may not like the new food and could be refusing it. To avoid this, introduce the new food gradually.

Give the dog a mix of the old and new food, gradually increasing the percentage of the new food as the days go by.

8. The Food May Be Spoiled Or Contaminated

Dogs have a strong sense of smell. So if your dog is accepting treats and refusing food, the food may have gone bad. Analyze the food for discoloration, fungal or mold growth, and unusual odors. If you suspect something is wrong, stop feeding it to your dog. You can also contact the vet and have some samples checked.

The food tray may also be contaminated. Wash it properly before offering food the next time.

9. Pickiness

Sometimes, a dog may just start being picky. It will suddenly refuse to eat food that it has been eagerly eating for the past few months. Although it is not a matter of concern, it becomes very challenging for the owners.

10. Recovering From Surgery

If your dog had a recent surgery, do not panic if it is not accepting food. Its medications may be putting it off food.

When To See The Vet: Signs That You Should Not Ignore


Contact your vet if it has been 48 hours since your dog has last eaten or 24 hours since it has had anything to drink. But if your dog is showing any of the following symptoms, contact your vet immediately:

• Lethargy
• Vomiting
• Diarrhea
• Weight loss
• Weakness
• Gagging
• Coughing
• Wheezing

The vet will be able to do a thorough examination and diagnose the issue that has resulted in a loss of appetite. They will be able to determine if the dog is showing signs of dehydration or lack of nutrients. The vet may also ask you to run some tests if the physical examination is not fruitful.

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