How Long Can A Dog Go Without Eating?

how long can a dog go without eating

How long can a dog go without eating?  A day?  Two Days?  Are dogs meant to fast in general?  All good questions and they have been asked many times as well.  When you are a new dog owner or caring for a dog, you may wonder about their eating frequency and general feeding habits.

Hi my name is Mike and I’ve been caring for animals since I was a kid.  Dogs are my pet of choice and I decided to start this website to help fellow dog lovers like myself answer pet related questions.  Today we will be discussing the question, “How long can a dog go without eating?”.  There are a few answers to this question depending on the circumstances at hand.  Lets dive into it.

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How Long Can A Dog Go Without Eating?

I’m sure you’ve met at least one dog who acted like a small vacuum when it came to food.  How long can a dog go without eating anything though?  Up to a week is the general consensus among vets but there are exceptions to this rule.  If your dog hasn’t eaten anything for more than two days though, I would strongly advise contacting your vet and making them aware of the situation.

All dogs are a bit different when it comes to food as well.  Some will snack on anything you put in front of them including items that can’t be digested.  I had a dog once who ate an entire set of rubber exercise bands!  Other dogs will be very fixated on human foods while neglecting to eat their own.  Some dogs won’t be motivated by food at all and just eat when they are hungry.  I’ve worked with dogs of all types and I can tell you that the food motivated ones are way easier to train.  It reinforces a reward system when you are able to feed your dog a tasty treat.

To get back on topic, dogs will have many reasons for not eating and not all of them have to do with their stomachs either.  My aim in this article will be to show you some of the top reasons why your dog may not be eating and some of the things that can be done to alleviate the different issues as well.

Why Isn’t My Dog Eating?

As I just referenced, dogs will have many different reasons for not eating in general.  Lets look at some of the more common issues you may face with your dog and how to resolve them if/when they arise.

Diet Change

One of the most common reasons a dog will stop eating is because of a food or diet change.  When you change your dog’s food, they may not understand what’s going on or they could dislike the new food you are providing them.  This could be because the food has a different smell or taste compared to the old one.  Dogs are also creatures of habit and sometimes changes to their normal daily routines can put them off as well.  Feeding time is a significant part of their day.  If it changes even a little bit, they may react by not eating the new food and waiting for their old food to come back.

How do we deal with a dog not eating due to a diet change?  There are 2 main ways that I use.  The first method is to mix in old and new food together.  As this is done, your dog will begin to get used to the newer food and eventually you can switch over completely.  I recommend starting with a 60/40 old to new mix and adjusting it daily a bit towards the newer food each day for a week or so.  This should be plenty of time for your dog to get used to the new food.

The second method I will use with dogs who get picky with the first.  If the dog won’t eat the new food or the old/new mix, begin gating their eating periods.  By gating I mean, place their food bowl down for a certain period of time, make sure they know its there and give them 10-15 minutes to react to it.  If they don’t take the bait, remove the bowl and try again at a later time.  Sometimes the forced restriction is enough to get them to give the new food a second shot.  It’s important to remember not to give them any other food during this time as you want them to be hungry enough to give the new food a shot as well.

separation anxiety

Separation Anxiety

If your dog gets anxious when you leave the house, they may have prolonged separation anxiety if you leave on longer trips as well.  Sometimes this kind of anxiety can manifest itself in your dog not eating for prolonged periods of time.  They may also eat the minimum amount to keep them going until you get back as well.

A good way to get a dog eating if they are experiencing separation anxiety is by providing them a high value treat or snack.  Ideally you want to pick something that they wouldn’t ever say no to.  A good example would be a piece of freshly cooked steak.  These kinds of snacks will hopefully put them in a better mood and get them to relax a bit.  They may be more inclined to eat if you throw a few pieces of steak mixed in with their normal food as well.

Another good idea to help a dog out when they are feeling anxious is to leave a bowl of dry food out for them at all times.  They may not eat like they do normally at home but as long as they are taking in a few bites here and there, everything will be fine for the short term.


If your dog has a cold or is feeling sick, they may decide not to eat anything for a day or so.  This intentional fast is actually encouraged by many vets as It is one of the best ways dogs can heal their own bodies and promote general wellness.  Fasting is a very common thing in nature and it can be used to help heal from things like injury and sickness when needed.  Do keep an eye on water consumption though.  If your dog doesn’t eat or drink anything for over 24 hours, It’s time to contact your vet and get some feedback.

I have a dog right now who will stop eating at least twice a month.  She will still drink but her stomach will start to make bubbling noises for about a day or so and she will stop eating for this time.  Her attitude and activity level remain unchanged.  If you have a dog who does something similar, I would once again just make sure they are drinking enough water.  A 24 hour fast for your dog isn’t a bad thing as long as it doesn’t happen daily!

Dental Health

A lot of dogs will have dental issues from time to time in their lives.  Sometimes these issues will cause them to stop eating for a period of time.  It could just be inflamed gums or broken teeth.  Brushing is a solid preventative measure and is highly recommended if you are feeding them any kind of human food.  Our foods tend to have more things that can cause tooth decay in them like sugar.  This can really mess with your dog’s oral health in the long term.

If your dog is favoring their mouth or if they are clearly in pain, it’s time to contact your local vet and see about making an appointment.  Your pup may require some minor dental work or the vet might prescribe something that brings relief as well.  Whatever the case, get your dog the help they need and the eating should return to normal in no time.

Can my dog fast

Environmental Concerns

If your dog stops eating abruptly and there are no other known issues, it may be time to check your environment for clues.  For example, do you have plants in the house?  Are they missing any of their leaves?  What about dog toys?  Do you notice any of them missing?  Your dog could be acting out by chewing on these types of things and they could be causing stomach issues in return.

Earlier I referenced a dog I had who ate a set of rubber exercise bands.  After he ate these bands, he couldn’t keep any other foods down because the bands were causing blockages and general havoc internally.  We ended up having to take him to them vet and getting these items surgically removed.

A few years later, this same dog decided to eat a rubber bone as well.  This got stuck in his intestines and back to the surgery room we all went.  Bottom line here, sometimes dogs will eat things they shouldn’t.  It’s important to keep an eye on your surroundings and make sure your dog isn’t acting out like this.

Another environmental concern could also be any poison or pesticides you may use in your garden or basement to keep away pests.  Your dog could always see this stuff as a snack as well.  Monitor these things very closely and keep an eye out for changes in your dog as well.  It could be the difference between life and death for your pup.

Can My Dog Fast?

I get questioned a lot about how long my dog can go without eating but I also hear about fasting as well.  The recent intermittent fasting health craze in humans seems to have brought this on.  Yes, it is absolutely fine for your dog to fast on occasion.  In fact, many studies have shown that periodic fasting is actually quite beneficial for you and your furry friend.  Periods of prolonged and intermittent fasting will actually give your dog time to heal things going on inside their bodies that they may not be able to take care of under normal circumstances,

Why Is Fasting Good For Dogs?

As stated above, it can give your dog a change to heal internally.  One of the main things both humans and dogs expend energy on is digestion and energy storage.  When we give those systems a break by not eating for a period of time, we free up that energy to perform other functions within our bodies.  In the case of your dog, they can use this energy to help heal a sprained paw or inflammation.  There are also many other benefits to fasting in general as well.

I wouldn’t force your dog to fast but if they don’t want to eat for a day or so, let it be.  Once it’s time for them to eat again, believe me the appetite will be there.  If you notice this going on for 2 days or longer and they are not drinking anything either, time to get a vet involved.

How Long Can A Dog Go Without Eating Summarized

So there we have it.  The, “How long can a dog go without eating?” question has been answered.  We have also looked into some of the main reasons your dog may not be eating in the first place.  If you notice your dog isn’t eating for a day or so, I wouldn’t worry about it too much.  If they stop drinking as well, it’s time to contact your vet.  Please keep in mind that calling on your vet to help answer some of these questions is whey they are there in the first place.  I have worked with many vets over the years and they would much rather prefer preventative questions to surgery or expensive hospital visits.

Keep in mind that a little fasting here and there is beneficial for your dog as well.  They have this built in to their genetic code.  If they are feeling off or sick, your dog might decide to fast for a day or so.  Water is a much more important factor to keep an eye on as dogs can dehydrate very easily.


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