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My Dog Won’t Eat His Food But Will Eat Treats | What To Do

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Dogs are man’s best friend, but sometimes these friends just like young children become fussy; but what to do when your dog won’t eat his food but will eat treats?

Your beloved dog stops eating nutritious food and becomes irritable. 

Like humans, some dogs are just picky, and their refusal to eat maybe because of certain situations like discomfort or a minor illness. 

In other cases, it may even be that your dog just prefers the sweet and savory taste of the treats that you give him rather than healthy food. 

Dogs are smart and can easily pick up on behavioral patterns and in this article, we will show you what to do when your dog won’t eat his food but will eat treats.

When they sniff out regular dog-food and avoid it, they know that they’ll be getting a lot of attention from their human friends and maybe some savory and tasty treats as well. 

Even the smarter ones realize, that if they keep up with their ruse, they could get offered some delicious human food other than their regular dog food. 

What To Do When Your Dog Won’t Eat His Food But Will Eat Treats 

In this article, we will reveal why your dog won’t eat his food but will eat treats and what you can do about it.

Psychological Or Medical Factors 

There are several reasons for a dog to avoid eating food or have anorexia

Some general factors to look out for can be:

  • If your dog is starting to lose weight
  • If your dog is eating less than 70% of the normal diet
  • If you suspect some other underlying condition
  • If your dog doesn’t eat for a week, even though he seems healthy and normal
  • If you notice that your dog has become lethargic

Anorexia in dogs can lead to several long-lasting dangers such as:

  • Extreme loss of weight and muscle mass may lead to weakness
  • Dehydration, if the water consumption of your dog is less than required
  • Inadequate protein build-up
  • Anorexia, if untreated can shorten your dog’s lifespan and in turn lead to death 

The general behavioral patterns are grouped into two categories: psychological reasons and medical reasons. 

Psychological Causes 

There is no underlying psychological cause or reason for a dog’s anorexia. 

It’s usually a change in the natural habitat or some other external situations that lead to a loss of appetite. 

Common examples can be:

  • New pets in the home
  • Guests in the home
  • A new schedule for the homeowners
  • Switching the dog food
  • Loud noises like thunderstorms or heavy rain 
  • Weather changes
  • A shift in scenery like shifting to a new home 

Medical Causes

Medical factors include any illness that causes the loss of appetite for a dog. 

The medical causes that can cause anorexia can be diseases to the liver, stomach, pancreas, intestines, etc. 

Some of the common causes are as follows: 

  • Gastrointestinal diseases can cause a dog to not want to eat and is usually associated with vomiting and diarrhea
  • Diseases to the gastrointestinal tract that’s the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine can be bacterial or parasitic
  • Examples can be the roundworm, hookworm, or parvovirus
  • Additional diseases include tumors or ulcers
  • Another factor can be the ingestion of indigestible external objects like a rubber ball or a toy
  • Sometimes, it can even be as basic as food allergies
  • Liver diseases like liver cancer or hepatitis can lead to nausea and inappetence in a dog
  • Diseases of the kidney such as chronic kidney failure will make a dog lethargic and can cause a loss of appetite
  • Dogs who suffer from nasal diseases can’t smell their food and won’t eat or will only eat treats
  • Loss of blood or anemia can make a dog lethargic and weak and not wanting to eat
  • Neurological diseases cause a lot of pain that can lead to loss of appetite in a dog
  • Some other medical factors like pain or a fracture can also lead to inappetence

Has Your Dog Already Eaten?

A reason that your dog is disinterested in food is that it has already eaten. 

Your dog can be sneaking extra meals from elsewhere or from someone else. 

The problem may even be closer to home – everyone from your family may be giving your dog an odd treat now and then. 

Another reason can be that your dog can reach up to the shelves stacked with the food to its liking. 

In that case, you should store the food in tight-lid containers or locked cabinets. 

To make sure, you can also check in with your neighbors, family members, or have a look in the trash can. 

You can also avoid indulging your dog in needless treats before their actual eating time. 

Another way is to give your dog a limited number of treats per day along with a balanced diet to maintain a healthy appetite. 

You can never truly know if your dog has somehow managed to get himself treats, all you can do is set up a routine and your dog will adjust in no time at all.

Dog Food Choices 

Check the food you’re offering your dog to make sure that it’s not spoilt or expired. 

This can be a major reason why your dog suddenly doesn’t want to eat food.

You need to make sure that the food you’re providing is safe and consistent.

Don’t keep on switching the dog food as it may mess with your dog’s digestive system.

If you do want to switch to another brand or another choice, do it gradually.

You can try to mix the old and new choices for some time until your dog is only eating the new food. 

You can also try to use new flavors to instill appetite in your dog.

Mix a spoonful of canned food to dry kibble to create new and different flavors that may excite your dog into eating. 

Heat the canned food before offering it to your dog as it will give it warmth and release the aroma. 

Try to associate a habit along with mealtime.

You can take your dog for a walk before every mealtime, which will increase its appetite and this will help your dog to associate walking with regular meals. 

Is There Something Wrong With The Food Quality? 

Most of the time, when your dog is being picky and fussy while eating, it’s time to check the quality of the food you offer him.

Dogs have heightened senses that help them detect if the food has gone rancid or bad. 

Kibble if left outside for too long may develop mold that the dogs can sense very easily. 

Palatants are ingredient systems that are added to make pet foods, treats, etc taste better. 

These also ensure that your pet is receiving the vital nutrients that they need. 

Palatants change the taste of the food and some dogs like the added flavor while other dogs don’t. 

Dogs may also refuse kibble if they’ve been exposed to canned foods, treats, or other fresh diets.

They can recognize the different aromas of these foods that they enjoy and won’t respond to kibble if it has become a habit. 

These diets are usually high in fats and proteins that dogs love. 

Another reason can be that these foods resemble human food and dogs love to eat what their human friends are eating. 

To check the quality of the food, you can try giving your dog food from a new batch and if they consume it, that means the previous batch had gone bad. 

Is Your Dog Bored? 

A dog getting bored with food is generally unheard of.

If your dog is on a stable diet, he will continue the same diet as long as it’s offered. 

The reason being, that if your dog doesn’t know that more options exist, it won’t get bored. 

If your dog suddenly becomes picky, it’s something that he has picked up. 

As they age, dogs do seem to experience a change in their food habits and appetite but it’s not a proven theory. 

If your dog does seem bored, maybe it’s time to slightly switch up his diet to make it more interesting. 

How To Monitor Your Dog’s Appetite 

Discovering why your dog is facing a loss in appetite can help you deduce what steps, if any, need to be taken.

Most of the reasons are usually nothing to be concerned about, but some may require immediate medical attention. 

Observe their behavior and pattern. 

Look for unusual or disturbing signs.

Try to observe if your dog is stressed or disturbed in any way. 

Keep a check on the smallest of behavioral changes that you notice as it may lead to a much serious underlying issue. 

Try to maintain a calm and composed environment and try feeding your dog.

Your dog may respond to the kibble in an environment where it feels safe and comfortable. 

Check your dog’s body and mouth and look for any swelling inside that’s making him reluctant to eat. 

It’s always best and safest to consult your veterinarian if the issues persist. 

Two days is the most your dog should go without showing any improvement in their appetite before you seek professional advice. 

Steps To Get Your Dog To Eat Nutritious And Healthy Food 

A lot of dog owners have to put up with their dogs’ picky and fussy habits. 

But what to do when these habits are sudden and quite strange?! 

The cause doesn’t matter as long as your dog gets the required amount of nutrients for a healthy and active lifestyle. 

Let’s look at several ways in which you can help yourself and your dog in the most efficient ways.

It’s Time For a Visit To The Vet

If your dog has been showing signs of distress for more than 2 or 3 days, you should seek immediate medical assistance. 

It may not be anything serious but a professional opinion will entirely rule it out. 

In case it turns out to be something serious, you should not worry as once the issue is resolved your dog will feel much better and get back to his previous eating habits:

  1. Always remember, a healthy dog won’t starve himself needlessly
  2. Once at the hospital, make sure to discuss all behavior changes, alterations to the dog’s diet, or any health issues you may have noticed, with the veterinarian
  3. Transparency with the vet will go a long way for your dog’s health and benefit

Managing a Consistent Routine 

Consistency is key, even in the case of dogs. 

Just like babies, dogs adhere to a consistent routine. 

Regularly timed meals, at a standard corner of your home, are the best way to keep your dog consistent with the everyday surroundings. 

A good routine for a fussy and picky dog may include:

  • Feeding on the same bowl
  • Feeding at the same time
  • Maintaining the same taste and texture in their food
  • Developing an activity like walking or playing before and after mealtime
  • Giving them enough time until they feel satisfied with their meals

Variety In The Dog Food

Just like their human friends, dogs also get tired of eating the same thing every day. 

A little variety goes a long way. 

You can try the following tips for an effective rotation cycle:

  • After a certain time, dogs refuse to eat dry kibble
  • Pouring some warm water over your regular dog food will make your dog more likely to eat it
  • You can develop a rotation program where your dog gets the same meal every three days
  • On the fourth day, you can give your dog a mixed meal to not completely change the taste of the food
  • Such a shift between two types of food may help develop a consistent appetite and eating habits
  • You can try different brands to mix the dry and wet food such as the Purina ONE SmartBlend Natural Adult Dry Dog Food and Purina ONE SmartBlend Canned Wet Dog Food that is available in different flavors like chicken, lamb, beef, etc
  • Even though canned food is more expensive than regular dry kibble, but it’s worth the investment if it gets your dog to eat the food 
  • Another way is to rotate the brands that may develop different tastes for your dog

Slow Transition

Transitioning to a new brand can be quite tricky.

However, it will yield a good outcome if done properly.

Here are the steps you should follow for a smooth transition:

  • Dogs often don’t respond to new brands of food immediately
  • If you’re transitioning your dog towards a new brand, its best to go slowly
  • For about 10 to 12 days, your job is to decrease the amount of old food and slowly increase the amount of new food
  • By the end of this period, your dog will only be eating the new food
  • The process is slow, but your dog is more likely to eat new food if you follow the process

Is The Food Upsetting Your Dog’s Stomach?

Your dog may not eat the food if he believes that it’s the reason for his discomfort. 

Many times it may happen that your dog has developed an allergy to a certain type of food that you’re serving him. 

Many dogs find that the usual kibble irritates their stomach.

You can follow these steps for better results:

Heat The Dog Food To Improve The Flavor

This method is usually implemented for older dogs who generally reject their food. 

However, this method can also be used for an average fussy dog. 

This can help your dog in the following ways: 

  • Heating the food improves the flavor
  • It releases an essence that the dogs can sniff and get excited
  • It makes your dog’s food seem tastier and better, stimulating appetite
  • Make sure to let the food cool down for a while before offering it to your dog

Create a Secure Space

Dogs tend to thrive more in a safe environment. 

You can try to build a secure and free environment for your dog which results in long-term benefits:

  • Many owners say that their dogs feel free in the presence of similar people
  • Some dogs won’t eat in the presence of loud noises such as firecrackers or thunderstorms
  • Eating in an entirely new location can make your dog reject the meal
  • It’s also hard for a dog to eat with distractions present like an aggressive dog, children wanting to play with it, or entirely alone in a new environment
  • Dogs also tend to face difficulty eating if on vacation with the family
  • In case of a vacation, your dog first needs to adjust to the new surrounding before eating comfortably

Stop With The Needless Treats

Too many treats can tamper with your dog’s appetite.

In general, treats only compose 10% of a dog’s diet.

Any more than that and you’re overdoing it:

  • Set a limit on the number of treats per day
  • Try to keep a check on where else your dog is getting the treats from if any
  • Try to avoid offering a treat to your dog if he’s not eating the food you’ve provided
  • Through this habit, you’re indirectly turning him into a picky eater
  • Try to avoid giving your leftover food to your dog

Exercise Is a Must

Exercising is a great way to build up the appetite of your dog. 

Your dog will be craving food by the time he’s done with the physical activity. 

These are some of the ways to keep your dog busy on all fours:

  • Go for daily walks twice a day to regain appetite and maintain fitness
  • Running is a great physical activity to improve stamina and appetite
  • A game of fetch goes a long way in improving the appetite of your dog
  • It doesn’t matter which way you opt for, as long as your dog is tired
  • A tired dog is more likely to eat his meal to reenergize
  • After exercising, let your dog rest for about 15 to 20 minutes and then offer him the food

You can even use a few other tricks such as:

  • You can make sure that you’re feeding the correct amount of food to your dog
  • Don’t under or overfeed your dog
  • Your dog may need more time to digest an earlier meal than you think
  • You can turn the feeding session into playtime or a fun activity
  • Another trick that dog owners swear by is making their dogs work for the food
  • A small shake-the-paw or rolling over goes a long way
  • You can pat the dog while giving him the meal which he can associate with warmth and love
  • If you can get the dog excited enough, he will eat the food without creating a fuss

Final Thoughts

After going through this article, you may have realized why your dog won’t eat his food but will eat treats, or that your dog is either going through some behavioral changes or he’s just become finicky. 

Unfortunately, a lot of dog owners ignore these changes and co-relate them with either a phase that will pass with time or think that it’s not important enough to look into it. 

If you’re a dog owner, you have to treat your dog like you would any family member, you need to understand their wants, you need to take them for regular checkups and keep tabs on their behavior usual or unusual. 

Small factors mentioned above can be the cause for your dog to not eat his food but only treats and it’s up to you to work towards it and find out what that reason may be.

Always remember that a healthy dog will never starve itself and generally some external factors are responsible for unusual behavior in your dog. 

Based on the above-mentioned practices, you can learn from them and see if your dog is doing well and healthy. 

After all, dogs are man’s best friend. 

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