Many pet owners are used to their pets wolfing down their meals as fast as possible so when a dog won't eat it can be very upsetting. Lack of appetite is called inappetance or anorexia (not to be confused with anorexia nervosa, the eating disorder in humans). It simply means that the dog has no appetite and won't eat. This condition can occur for a number of reasons. Most of the time your dog will start eating again after he skips a meal or two. Here are some things to look for if your dog isn't eating and what you can do to get him back to normal.
While dogs are carnivores, they are more than happy to scavenge whenever the opportunity presents itself, even in the home. Pet dogs frequently steal food from the counter, off the table, and eat things from the trash when they get the chance. Some dogs eat dog poop in the yard and other things that are tasty only to dogs. And if you take your dog to a dog park or other public place, he can have access to things like candy and other things left by visitors. The result is that dogs can sometimes eat something they shouldn't.
If your dog won't eat, it's possible that he could have a temporary gastrointestinal upset. Look for signs that he has some diarrhea or notice if he has vomited somewhere. Your dog's body will attempt to get rid of whatever he has eaten that has upset his digestion. In the meantime, he won't feel much like eating. As long as there is no blood in the stool or vomit, you should allow your dog to expel the offending matter from his system, provided he doesn't become dehydrated. If the vomiting or diarrhea lasts more than 24 hours, take your dog to your veterinarian.
A change in routine can upset many dogs and make them stop eating. If you change the time you feed your dog, change the time you take walks or potty your dog, or make serious changes in your household such as adding a family member, a dog can easily stop eating. Taking a vacation or moving to a new home are other reasons why a dog won't eat. Dogs like routine and anything that upsets what they are familiar with can make them stop eating, at least temporarily, until they feel secure again. It's best to make any changes gradually and make sure that your dog feels secure and included in what's happening in your home.
Some dogs may stop eating because of behavior problems. These problems are not always caused by the dog who won't eat. If you have another dog or pet in the home, your dog could be reacting to that pet. For instance, if your dog won't eat, it could be due to another dog who is stealing his food or growling at him while he eats. Sometimes a dog won't eat if he is a slow eater and the other dog eats fast. He may prefer to eat alone so he can take his time. If you have multiple dogs, it's often a good idea to feed them separately - in separate rooms or in crates - so each dog can eat in peace. Dogs will often start eating again when they are left alone with their food.
Sometimes senior dogs can stop eating because of age-related problems. Too often owners assume a senior dog won't eat because he is getting old when in reality the problem could be something that is easily remedied. For example, a senior dog can have dental problems which make it hard for him to eat his ordinary food. He may be hungry and want to eat but the food hurts his mouth. A trip to the vet to examine your senior dog's teeth can reveal the problem and allow the vet to fix it. Your senior dog should be able to eat normally afterward. You can also warm a senior dog's food and heat it to make it smell and taste more appealing to him since the senses begin to fade as a dog gets older. Try topping the food with some stew or something else tasty.
Of course, the bane of all pet owners are dogs who are picky eaters. Dogs are not born picky eaters - owners make them that way. If your dog won't eat and you are feeding him a good quality food that he normally likes, put the food down and leave it for fifteen minutes. If your dog has not eaten it in that time, pick the bowl up and put it away. Do not give your dog treats or snacks during the day. Do not feed your dog any other food until it's time for his next meal. Your dog will eat when he gets hungry. If you feed meals at a regular time each day and monitor how much you feed, and how much your dog eats, and keep the treats to a reasonable amount, your dog will stop being a picky eater.
One more word: if you change dog food frequently, your dog will be picky about his food. It's better to find a good food and stay with it. The more you change dog foods, the more likely your dog is to suffer from gastrointestinal upsets, which will lead to missing meals, which you will blame on the new food, which will make you want to try another food - it's a vicious circle. Find a good food that your dog does well on and stick with it, even when you hear about new foods. If your dog is healthy and happy on a food, there's really no reason to change. Remember that dogs don't like change.
These are the major reasons why a dog won't eat, barring illness. If your dog won't eat after 24 hours, you should take him to the vet. It's possible that your dog could be sick and your vet will need to check him out and start looking for more serious reasons why your dog is not eating. He or she will ask you about any other possible symptoms your dog may be exhibiting, so be prepared to discuss your dog's overall health.