How Long Can a Dog Go Without Eating?

By John Myers / September 30, 2021

Losing one’s appetite can be concerning for anyone, including dog owners. After all, canines cannot survive for long periods of time without sustenance. As such, it’s important to understand just how long a dog can go without eating.

The answer to this question, however, is not a simple one. It depends on several factors, such as the size of the dog and its overall health. In general, a healthy dog can typically go without food for about three to five days.

Keep in mind, though, that a lack of water can lead to dehydration, which can be fatal for dogs before starvation sets in. It’s important to remember that each dog is unique, so if your furry friend is not eating, it’s worth taking the time to learn more about their metabolism and overall health to better understand and address any issues related to their appetite.

Understand Your Dog’s Metabolism 

As you know, proper nutrition is crucial for your dog’s metabolism and overall well-being. Understanding how metabolism works can help figure out why food is essential.

Now, since metabolism is actually the process of turning food into energy, you should understand that not every food is the same. This process involves the muscles, the digestive system, the endocrine system, and the nervous system.

It’s a crucial process that never stops since your body requires energy all the time – even when you’re sleeping. And the same goes for dogs.

Animals have different metabolic rates, so their energy varies from one dog to another. Still, puppies should have at least one meal a day.

Although your dog can probably go a day without eating, it helps to have something along the way. Not even healthy pups can go another day without getting at least a tiny bit of food in their system.

Your pet requires a combo of wet and dry foods to receive essential nutrients.

How long can a healthy dog go without food?

It’s difficult to tell exactly how long can a dog go without eating because not all dogs are the same. Vets often treat food refusal and poor appetite, so make sure to seek medical help for your puppy if you notice they’re refusing food.

A healthy pet will probably survive three to five days without getting any food. As we said, getting at least a tiny bit of food helps them to survive another day.

As the days progress, you’ll see the change in your pet’s behavior. He/she will no longer have high energy levels and spend most of the time lying or sleeping.

Keep in mind that every dog is different, and some might not survive without food as long. Smaller pups and those with a medical condition probably can’t go as long as five days without eating.

How long can an unhealthy dog go without food?

Dogs that suffer from a medical condition often refuse to eat, which leads my owners to worry. In this case, you should see a vet for some professional advice in treating the condition.

Different things like dental problems, allergies, and parasites can cause loss of appetite. Does your dog have any medical condition? If so, that might just be the reason why he/she is not eating or drinking.

The problem with this is that an unhealthy dog can’t survive without food for as long.

Dogs with Parvo are in danger after already a day to two of not eating. Parvo is a serious health condition, so make sure to take your dog to the vet as soon as possible.

Recovering from surgery takes some time, during which your dog’s food intake might decrease. Still, some food is better than none, so make sure he/she doesn’t go as long without at least a few bites.

Here Some Possible Reasons Why Your Dog Stops Eating:

Health Issues

Health issues are often the most common reason why your dog isn’t eating. Now, it doesn’t have to be a severe issue to cause the canine to refuse food.

As we said, things like allergies, parasites, dental problems, and an upset stomach are the most common reasons. Other severe issues include organ failure, infection, pain, internal obstructions, and even cancer.

It’s essential to seek professional help if you don’t already know which conditions caused your dog to stop eating. Giving the diagnosis by yourself is tricky, and you’re unlikely to get it right.

Take your dog to the vet to determine what precisely the issue is. A professional will give proper therapy to help the animal get back on track.

Picky Eating

More often than not, dogs are just picky and don’t like the food that’s offered to them. Pickiness can drive owners insane, especially if the pup is stubborn and refuses all meals.

Luckily, it’s easy to determine whether this is the issue or not. Pickiness is typically the issue if your dog doesn’t want to eat the meal but is happy to eat the snacks.

Lure them with some of their favorite snacks to see if they’ll eat them. Once you know that they have nothing against eating snacks, you can go ahead and work around the problem.

Some dogs are too active and are eating less than they need. Others simply don’t like the food in the bowl, so make sure to try a few flavors and brands.

Changes in Lifestyle

Your dog may stop eating due to changes in the environment and lifestyle. Have you moved recently? A new home and environment might cause stress due to which your dog refuses to eat.

It might not seem like a big deal, but when you move houses, your dog is presented with a completely new environment he/she has to adapt to. Some dogs might not feel at home for quite a while, feeling homesick for the place where you used to live.

Also, if your dog had surgery or an injury, they probably can’t run and enjoy playing as they used to. This lifestyle change can often lead to dogs refusing to eat anything.

Both the change in environment and change in lifestyle are easy to fix by just working with your dog. Dedicate time to making them feel at home with all their toys, beds, and possibly even some cuddles.

Mental Conditions

Did you know that dogs can be depressed or anxious? Depressed dogs struggle to eat, sleep, and live everyday life. Anxious pups struggle just as much while also being afraid of other people and dogs.

Mental conditions are serious and can lead to many changes in behavior. Loss of appetite is one of the issues you might encounter when fighting these issues.

How long can a depressed or anxious dog go without eating depends on several things. If they’re otherwise healthy, it can be three to five days, as it’s the case with healthy dogs.

Still, don’t wait as long before seeing a vet. A professional will prescribe medication and treatment to help your pet battle both anxiety and depression.

Before you know it, you’ll see a positive change in behavior and the appetite returning.

What to Do When Your Dog Suddenly Stops Eating

The first thing you should do is make a vet appointment to ensure there’s nothing wrong with your dog. Although the reason behind refusing to eat is often a medical condition, that’s not always the case.

You’ll know what to do the moment the vet examines the dog. If your dog is sick, you’ll probably get some medications and a ton of advice to help them heal.

If there’s nothing wrong with your pet from a medical perspective, you’re probably working with a picky pup. In this case, all you can do is change your pet’s diet to find food they like.

The best way to go about this is to feed them wet food. As you know, your pup can’t go without eating too long, and canned food is always delicious for them.

You can also give them some chicken broth, rice, and cooked carrots for several days.


Will dogs die from not eating?

Although dogs can go days without food, they can die from starvation. How long they can go without eating depends on their health, but don’t count on more than two days after showing first symptoms of something being out of place.

What will happen if a dog doesn’t eat for a day?

You probably won’t notice anything wrong with your dog if they don’t eat for 24 hours. The most common thing dog owners notice is a change in mood.

Your pet can go 24 hours without eating if he/she has drinking water nearby. But, even if they can survive that day, they’re likely to be moody and possibly aggressive due to hunger.

How to get a dog to eat?

As we said, canned food is often the best to give to picky eaters. Still, not every pup likes it, in which case you’ll have to get more creative.

Some chicken broth might work, especially if you add some carrots and rice in there. You can also try food-dispensing puzzle toys that most pets find interesting.

Final Thoughts

It can be pretty dangerous for your dog to go days without food, so you should act quickly. The first day you notice something is wrong is the day you should make a vet visit.

A professional will give your pup adequate therapy if there’s something wrong. If not, you probably have a picky eater that just wants different meals.

Either way, your pet requires special attention when they lose appetite and stop eating. After already two days, it can be too late to try getting some help if there’s a severe medical condition.

For this reason, watch out for symptoms and act promptly. If there’s nothing wrong with your pup, you should try new food because the one you’re currently using is probably not to their taste.

Hopefully, we helped you understand how long can a dog go without eating and what you should do to help.

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About the author

John Myers

When I'm not working, you can find me spending all my time with my dogs. My dogs mean the world to me, and I do my best to give them the world. I'll do anything for them. I hope that my love for dogs can spread with everyone else that visits my site.

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