What to Feed a Sick Dog That Won’t Eat

By Ann Collins / August 5, 2021

Getting your sick dog to eat can be challenging. If your dog is vomiting, has an upset stomach, or diarrhea, the last thing your dog wants to do is eat.

But just because your dog doesn’t feel like eating, doesn’t mean you should let them pass the day without eating. That might make their illness worse.

It’s important to get your dog to eat when they’re sick so they can take-in the necessary nutrients and vitamins to get them back to full health.

sick dog on couchBelow are some options on what to feed a sick dog that won’t eat.

How Do You Know if Your Dog is Sick?

A dog can’t literally tell you they’re sick or how they feel, so it is your job to look out for the signs.cartoon of an ill dog.Here are some symptoms you should look out for:

  • Bad breath
  • Excessive drooling or urination
  • Excessive drinking
  • Lack of appetite which leads to excessive weight loss
  • Stiffness or difficulty in rising or climbing stairs
  • Lethargic and sleeping more than what is considered typical.
  • Abnormal behavior or attitude changes
  • Coughing, sneezing, and excessive panting
  • Dry or itchy skin, sores, and lumps,
  • Upset stomach and diarrhea
  • Dry, red, or cloudy eyes

pooch laying by the door. As always, seek the advice of a veterinarian if you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above, especially if they appear to be getting worse

What to Feed a Sick Dog with No Appetite

sick dog with no appetiteConsult a veterinarian before before figuring out what to feed a sick dog. The reason is you want to make sure the illness is not worse than it appears.

Also, you want to make sure the food you will feed them will not make them sicker or cause an allergic reaction.

Chicken and Rice

chicken breast is good for a sick canine.This meal is an excellent source of protein and simple to prepare. Bland is best, so do not add any seasonings or oil that may irritate a dog with an upset stomach.

Shredded chicken breast would be ideal for your sick canine, so it doesn’t have to use energy breaking the whole pieces of chicken apart on their own.cooked rice

Cook the rice as you usually would; boiled in water. The boneless chicken breasts should also be simmered and make sure the pieces are cooked thoroughly before serving.

Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes are great in aiding dogs experiencing loose stool, constipation, and other intestinal issues. Sweet potatoes are frequently used by various dog food brands on the market due to their many health benefits.

This vegetable is packed with fiber and other vitamins such as Vitamins: A, B6, C, potassium, and manganese.large sweet potato. The best way to prepare them is to peel them and chop into large cubes and then boil for about 10-15 minutes or until soft.

Drain the water and then mash and serve them. Do not season them, keep them plain.

Your sick puppy will eat them right up. Lastly, if you choose to make this a regular part of their diet, then a trick is to pre-cut them into cubes and then store in the freezer for a later time.

Bone Broth

I find bone broth delicious and so does my pet dog, especially when he is sick. Broth is perfect for dogs with food allergies and sensitive stomachs.

close-up of bone broth.Pouring the broth over dry food is a delicious way to add moisture to food and entice a pup with no appetite to eat. Bone broth is full of minerals to strengthen the immune system.

Not to mention, it is a great way to supplement your dog’s joints with collagen and other nutrients. You can find organic bone broth at your local store, or you can prepare it yourself.

I know some people are wary of serving their pet food from the store and would rather make the soup themselves. To make the bone broth yourself, you will first need to grab your crockpot.

sick dog on the floorThrow in some beef bones with the beef marrow in the center. Or, you can throw in bones with joints still intact, like turkey or chicken bones. The goal is to use bones from quality sources of protein.

Fill the crockpot with water to about 2-3 inches and then cook on low. The time depends on you. I’ve heard of people leaving them in the pot from as low as 10 hours to 24 hours.

Remember, the longer you leave them in there, the broth will leach the bones of the necessary nutrients and vitamins. Once the broth is ready, remove all bones.

sick dog on pillowThis part is crucial because you don’t want your canine choking on loose bones. Let the bone broth cool down and then place in the fridge for about 2-3 hours.

Or if you’re not in a rush, leave it in the refrigerator overnight. The goal is to let the fat harden and float to the top. Then scrape the fat off and throw it away.

The broth at that point should be jelly-like and can be stored either in the fridge, or freezer for a longer shelf-life. I personally prefer to store mine in the freezer in an ice-cube tray.

This prevents me from having to defrost the whole container. All I do is take a couple frozen cubes of broth, place in a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave in 15-second increments.

My goal is for it melt into liquid form without getting too hot that it will burn my dog’s mouth.

Feeding an Illness Dog with Baby Food

tower of homemade baby food.This is a typical food served to sick canines in veterinarian offices. This food is perfect for pets suffering from intestinal illnesses.

Baby food is easy to swallow and digest due to its blended form. Furthermore, it is a great way to deliver medications orally.

It is recommended by veterinarians to feed Stage II meat-based baby foods, such as chicken, lamb, and turkey. Make sure the recipe you buy is free of garlic and onions.

What’s the B.R.A.T. Diet?

This diet is generally used by humans to recover from illnesses like the stomach flu. These bland foods are great for our stomachs because they are easy to digest and they are full of carbohydrates that will replenish our energy.

sick dog eatingThe question is, will this diet work for a sick pup that is also recovering from illness. The answer is yes, but it is not recommended.

You must seek professional advice from your veterinarian to make sure your breed will not have an adverse reaction to the B.R.A.T. diet. The last thing you want to is to make your best friend sicker or have an allergic reaction.

Also, there are a couple of ingredients in this specialized diet that are not safe for consumption by dogs so there are some guidelines you must follow before feeding your dog these foods.

Bananas: These are perfectly safe for canine’s, but don’t feed them too much. The fats in the banana will cause their stools to be runny. Runny stools are a hassle to clean-up.bananas

Rice: Just like bananas, dogs can eat cooked rice or pasta in small portions.Rice in a black bowl.

Applesauce: It is safe to feed this to your pooch if it is unsweetened and in small quantities. Unfortunately, many commercial brands contain sugar or other artificial sweeteners that are just unsafe for animal consumption.bowl of applesauce.Toast: This one is tricky because bread is safe for consumption by your dog as long as it is in small portions. But there are some things to watch out for. Some breads on the market include ingredients that are either toxic or will trigger food allergies in your pet.

White toast.Some ingredients to look out for are:

  • Wheat
  • Nuts
  • Raisins
  • Crust – cut the crust off before serving

How to Get an ailing Dog to Consume Food?

Getting your sick dog to eat can be frustrating. There were times I would beg my canine to eat, but they just didn’t have the appetite due to their sickness. But here are a couple of successful techniques I’ve tried in the past. Remember that all dogs are different and will respond differently to each strategy.

Bland Food

puppies eating plate of bland foodIf your pup is suffering from diarrhea, nausea, or is vomiting, giving them bland foods is a great way to get them to eat. Fatty or greasy foods like hamburger meat will only make their symptoms worse.

Also, foods that are seasoned or rich with flavor will probably upset their stomach more, so bland is best. Keep the meals, that were mentioned previously in this article, in mind because they follow the theme of bland foods.

Such vegetables like mashed sweet potatoes or unseasoned bone broth are perfect for your sick friend.

Feed a Dog with Small Portions

puppy sitting in food bowl.Don’t try to feed your canine a 5-course meal when they’re sick. The goal is to get any amounts of nutrients into their body, even if it’s in small increments. So feeding them little portions but often will suffice.

Depending on the size of your canine, a general rule of thumb is feeding one or two spoonfuls of food every hour. Once your pooch feels better, you want to make sure that they are getting their full nutrition.

Here are two of our favorite food brands that we recommend once your pooch feels better.

Strong Aromatic Foods

sick black dogSometimes dog’s have a reduced sense of smell due to their sickness, which will affect their urge to eat. Like humans, scent plays a big part in encouraging your dog to eat.

So when they’re sick, try to give them foods with strong aromatics or odors to entice them to eat. For example, fish has a naturally strong scent.

Or, you can quickly warm their food up in the microwave to accentuate the smell of the food.

Consult a Veterinarian

dog with veternarianAs always, if you find yourself unsuccessful with any of the previously mentioned strategies to get your sick pup to eat, then seek the advice of your veterinarian. Don’t get yourself down.

Veterinarians are professionals and have tons of experience with these cases. Have them prescribe medication or diet that will help get your canine back to full health.

Final Thoughts

It’s never easy to see your pooch sick. It’s even more frustrating to watch them not eat, even after trying every trick in the book to get them to. Hopefully, these tips and tricks will help you during these tough times.

Remember, feeding a sick dog strong sources of nutrients, unseasoned and bland food, and small portions are solid guidelines to follow. Lastly, always consult your veterinarian if you’re ever unsure about any foods or ingredients.

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About the author

    Ann Collins

    I've been a college grad for over 4 years now. I'm a full-time contributor for puppypointers and I absolutely love it. I enjoy meeting people from all over the world, especially those that have a warm heart for doggies. When I'm not writing, I spend a lot of time at the beach in sunny California.

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