How Long Can A Dog Live Without Food? 6 Key Things You Need To Know

Sometimes, dogs refuse food. It may be due to a medical or behavioral reason. Whatever the case may be, dog owners who realize their pet did not touch today’s meal will feel alarmed, especially when they have a healthy eater on their hands.

If you can’t trick your dog to eat anything, you should drop by the vet’s office. As for the most significant question we all have, Dr. Louis Budik of Transit Valley Animal Hospital has an answer. 

According to the vet, healthy dogs and cats can last "three, four, five days without eating, many even longer than that.


Without Eating

Food is not the main issue, but water is. If your dog is not eating or drinking water, it can be a big problem. If your dog has a medical condition such as a kidney problem, you need to take your pet to the vet right away. These dogs have an immediate need for medical attention due to their illness.

If your dog is not acting excited about feeding time, you can follow these steps.

1. Recall when your dog stopped eating

Dog owners will always notice if their pet is not eating. You may have a good memory but to be safe, take note of the time you first noticed your dog not eating.

If your dog is sick, you don’t need to be alarmed for the first 48 hours unless your dog showed other symptoms. If your pet has been vomiting or experiencing diarrhea for days and now, it doesn’t touch its food, there could be bigger problems. In this case, you need to visit the vet right away without waiting.

48 hours waiting for symptoms

In case you’re not the only person who looks after the dog, ask if your dog has been acting unusual. It could help you find clues as to what is happening with your dog.

Without Eating

2. Check for symptoms

Press your pet’s belly to see if it is hard or if your dog is in pain when you push it. You should also check your dog’s gums which should be moist and pink. Look for signs of dehydration to see if your dog needs immediate medical attention.

If there are other alarming things you discover while examining your pet, report it to your vet right away. Better yet, drop by for a visit just to make sure.

Not eating

3. Check your dog food

If your dog is acting healthy and not eating is the only alarming thing you can find, examine your dog meal. The problem could be the food itself.

If you changed your dog food, it’s normal for some dogs to dislike the new formula. Some dogs would refuse the food altogether.

Look at the appearance of the dog food and smell it. There could be issues with the dog meal and not with the dog. In this case, giving your dog a fresh supply of dog food might solve the problem.

Some dogs may have a sensitive digestion system. Your dog may have allergies that you may not know.

If you can’t find what is wrong with your dog’s sudden dislike for food, just give your vet a call. It’s always better to play safe when your dog’s health is at stake.

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4. Stress

A change in the routine may affect your dog. Dogs like routine and if there is any changes, your dog would upset and stop eating. Changes including moving houses, taking a vacation, or new member in the house. As mentioned above, change in feeding routine can also upset your dog.

  • If you have to make any changes, try to make the changes gradually and allow your dogs to adapt the changes without felling insecure.
  • When adopting a new dog, choose the same food that he's been used to. Then you may mixing old food with new food day by day.
  • You should feed your dog the same time everyday. If you are too busy, you may consider hiring a pet sitter, or buying a dog feeder.
  • While on vacation, you should bring his stuffs along. With his familiar bed and favourite toys, he will calm down a bit.
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5. Why dogs won’t eat

Refusal to eat is one sign of illness. Sick pets suddenly eat less than they usually do, refuse to eat, act lethargic, and shy away from contact.

As noted by one animal expert, these behaviors help animals cope with their illness. It’s crucial to support these rather than force dogs to do otherwise –including fasting. In cases where a dog’s gastrointestinal system is the problem, not eating could result in health improvements.

A few days of refusing food could help recuperation, but don’t ignore this behavior for too long. Research conducted in 2015 by the American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition revealed sick dogs that lack nutrition is more likely to die.

Without Eating

6. Key Takeaways

At some point in your dog’s life, you might notice your pet is not eating. There could be some reasons behind this behavior.

Beyond this waiting time, drop by your vet’s office to ask for advice. It’s always better to discover what illness is plaguing your pet early rather than wait until things get worse before going to your vet.

Waiting for 48 hours is reasonable if your dog is not experiencing other symptoms which indicate a severe condition. Dehydration is more dangerous than hunger, so you should be alarmed if your dog is not drinking water too.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 9 comments
Carolyn Patton - December 6, 2017

Thanks for your input on why my dog won’t eat he just ate a plate of pancakes with my grandson.Iam at the place where as long as he eats something. You did help me with picking a dog food that he might like right now I’ll try anything even pancakes with syrup.

    Brenda Leary - December 9, 2017

    Hi Carolyn,
    I’m glad that my blog can help you. Pancake is an odd choice for dogs, and also not a very good one. You should only feed him once in a while because eating pancakes can cause obesity and diabetes.

Sandi Steuwer - December 30, 2017

Hi Brenda,
First visit to your blog, it’s awesome! I actually feel smarter. I need to ask a question, if that’s ok. My Whiz mix had a couple teeth removed, vet gave antibiotics, and a week later, I’ve noticed her little heart beating funny. Not irregular, but like its vibrating,for lack of a better word, and harder. Its really hard to describe how it feels. But definitely not normally. Plus she coughs about twice a day,which is new. Any ideas?

Many thanks,
Gabby’s Mom


    Brenda Leary - January 4, 2018

    Hi Sandi,
    Strange heartbeat in dogs is not something you should worry about. In fact, it is quite common in dogs. However, it can be an early symptom for more serious health problem. My advice is that you keep an eye on Gabby, if the condition gets anymore worse, call the vet.

Lesley - January 7, 2018

Happy New Year Brenda!
Can I ask your advice about an 8 year old mini Schnauzer of mine who has recently had several teeth removed. He now makes strange noises as if the gaps might be causing it. He doesn’t appear to be in pain and will go out for his walks ok.

    Brenda Leary - January 16, 2018

    Hi Lesley,

    Sorry for not replying sooner. I definitely missed your comment!

    In my opinion, I think it is normal because, as you were saying, those strange noises can come from the gaps. As long as your dog does not feel any pain and still enjoy his daily walks , it’s a good news 🙂

    If your dog has any strange symptom regarding teeth removal, you can read my article here: http://cuddleyourdogs.com/dog-teeth-extraction-recovery/. You can find a lot of comments here as well.

    Best wishes for you and Happy New Year!

Karen - February 3, 2018

Hi – looking for some answers & reassurance… My almost 11 year old Scottish Terrier, Captain Jack just had oral surgery, and had to have most of his teeth removed yesterday. The vet has him on pain pills & antibiotics. Jack has been drinking water, but refuses to eat. He acts normal for a while, then seems to just stand there. I took him back to the vets today & she gave him both shots of pain med & antibiotic, cause I couldn’t get the pills down him. She said his mouth looks good, nice & pink. He’s resting now, but should I be worried? If he doesn’t eat – I plan to put his rice & gr beef in a blender & try to get some in him with a turkey baster. I just pray he eats on his own soon. I even put some dissolved beef bullion cubes in his water to help keep him hydrated & give his body some electrolytes, and he refused that! If he further refuses that – I’ll have to give him plain water again.

Unfortunately – his teeth have been very bad since he was a pup, and he did have dental work done about 4 yrs ago, but this is the most extensive thing he’s had to endure. I just feel so helpless.

    Brenda Leary - February 4, 2018

    Hi Karen,

    Just like us, dogs suffer pain after taking teeth extraction. Therefore, I recommend that you should keep giving him soft food or softened food to minimize discomfort. However, you should take him to the vet again if he keeps behaving abnormally.

    There are some tips on how to encourage your dog to eat after surgery (I make a little bit research after reading your comment so I haven’t tried these tips yet 🙂 but I think they can be useful)

    1. Add warm water to your dog kibble to soften it and make it easier to eat. Then you can heat it up for a few seconds to enhance (make sure it is not to hot!)

    2. Add their favorite flavors

    3. Hand feed kibble

    Keep in mind that you always have to keep your dog hydrated (if your dog keeps refuse the water with dissolved beef bullion, give plain water)

    You can also check some other tips and a lot of comments on dog teeth extraction recovery here: cuddleyourdogs.com/dog-teeth-extraction-recovery/

    Have a good day 🙂

Debbie Taylor - May 1, 2018

I have a question my dog hasn’t ate anything since yesterday he had been sivlering has loss stools and vomited once he is still drinking water lots of it my vet can’t see him for 3 more days what can I do on I did get s little and I mean little yogurt in him


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