The Dogs Who Are Hesitant to Eat

Puppies may ignore food when not in a growth spurt, then gobble it down when growing.
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The dogs who are hesitant to eat tug at their owners' heartstrings, who feel that something surely must be wrong if Fido isn't eating his breakfast. While some medical problems could cause reluctance to eat, some dogs may have less of an appetite than others and just aren't hungry.

Medical Problems

If your dog normally shows an appetite and becomes hesitant to eat, he may be sick. Reluctance to eat, termed inappetence, may be a sign of illness in and of itself or it may occur in tandem with other symptoms. If your dog is lethargic, vomiting, having diarrhea or vocalizing pain by howling or barking, make an appointment with your veterinarian to rule out medical problems. Always consult an experienced veterinarian regarding the health and treatment of your pet.

Dental Problems

If your dog has a toothache, eating probably bothers him. Dental problems capable of causing inappetence include teething, inflamed gums and periodontal diseases in senior pets. If your pet isn't eating and has bad breath, reddened gums or yellowed teeth, make a vet appointment to have his teeth examined. A dog that is hesitant to eat due to dental problems may perk up if you soak his kibble to soften the food.

Puppies That Avoid Eating

Many puppy owners fret about picky-eater puppies. Pups often eat in fits and spurts that align with their growth. If you pup isn't eating but otherwise appears healthy, and your vet thinks he's doing fine, don't try to force him to eat. If your pup is hesitant to eat and has diarrhea or nausea, call your vet. This is not normal and may be a sign of an underlying health problem, such as those mentioned above.


If you spoil your pup by offering table scraps, you may be training him to delay eating kibble. A dog may decide to leave the kibble alone in favor of the tastier people food you'll feed when he doesn't eat. Switching food brands can tempt him to eat dog food for a little while, until he's bored with that brand and knows you'll offer the scraps. Keep table scraps to a minimum to avoid reinforcing food avoidance behavior.