Is Your Dog a Picky Eater?

Is Your Dog a Picky Eater?

Does your kitchen feel like the OK Corral? Are you and your dog in a food standoff? It can be incredibly stressful when your dog won’t eat. You worry about them getting the nutrition that they need to be healthy and happy. Generally, refusal to eat falls within one of two categories: Medical or Behavioral.

Medical: The most important thing to do when your pet won’t eat consistently is to make sure that there is not a medical reason for their behavior. Just like us, they don’t have much of an appetite when they don’t feel good. If reluctance to eat becomes a consistent problem, take them to the vet for an examination and bloodwork. Our furry family members won’t know if their liver functions are abnormal or say, “Hey, I have a terrible toothache”, but sometimes they give us clues in their actions. If pickiness is a continual problem, rule these things out first.

Behavioral: Like us, dog’s have likes and dislikes. Just as I know I would rather stay at the Four Seasons than the Motel 6, dogs know that some foods are edible and some are simply incredible. By offering table scraps and tons of treats, we are teaching our canine companions that holding out for something better might be a good idea. This is where I plead guilty, guilty, guilty! I have a hard time saying no to Pinky. If she could speak, I would hear “Waitress!!! I need a refill here – another order of treats!” If you are like me and trying to reform, here are a couple of things the experts suggest:

  • Make sure your dog is hungry (kind of obvious, but it had to be said). Some animals prefer to only eat at certain times of the day.
  • Stop giving them table food and tons of treats (again, had to be said. I am turning away so you can’t see my guilt ridden face and the snacks in my hand).
  • Double check your dog’s food and make sure it is fresh. Even kibble gets old, stale and loses its nutrients and good taste (especially if left in sunlight). If I bought Pinky the large bag of food, it would last until 2020.
  • Try feeding your dog in a new place. Keep their bowl away from distractions and competition from other pets and give them a view. Some dogs don’t feel comfortable eating in the corner facing a wall. Who wants to worry about being ambushed by the kid, a cat with an attitude or the dreaded vacuum cleaner while they are dining?
  • Try going on a walk or having a little fun. Some activity and excitement can stimulate the appetite.
  • If they don’t eat in 30 minutes, remove their food dish. After a little while, they will learn that they better grab it while they can or they are going to be hungry. This is one of the most common suggestions given to pet parents of picky eaters. It is also one that I am not 100% on board with. In my opinion, careful consideration needs to be given to your individual dog, before doing this. You always hear people say, “your dog will eat when its hungry”. While this is true for most healthy pets, for a few this is not the case. Toy dogs like Pinky are susceptible to hypoglycemia which can quickly become life threatening. For little ones, the food needs to be re-offered a couple of times a day. As with most things good judgment is key.

I hope these thoughts and suggestions are helpful. Pinky and I have plans to turn over a new leaf and start reforming……um, tomorrow.

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