How Long Can A Dog Go Without Food?

How Long Can A Dog Go Without Food? Photo of a dog looking sick because of not eating food.

Is your dog refusing to eat? How long can a dog go without food? And what should you do about it? All of that, and more, are below.

The standard maximum amount of time a dog can go completely without food is 3 days. It’s essential to understand how much your dog is eating or how little your dog is eating so that you can assess how long they have. Not eating could be due to lack of interest in chosen food, dental issues, medical issues, mental issues, or emotional issues.

Understanding these will help you address this behavior and get your dog back to their usual, food-focused selves!

How long can a dog go without eating?

Our dogs rely on food to survive, just like any and every other animal on the planet, of course. Most dogs can go as long as 3 days if they refuse to eat anything at all. After this point, they will need external support from a vet to keep their body from shutting down. 

If they are still eating a bit, they can go much longer before they require extra and external help. That extra time depends on how much they’re eating.

Reasons why my dog isn’t eating

As introduced above, there are quite a few reasons your dog might not be eating. These include:

  • Lack of interest in the food you’re giving them
  • Dental issues
  • General medical issues
  • Mental issues
  • Emotional issues

Lack of interest in the food you’re giving them

Dogs can be picky eaters, despite their strange appetite for eating weird things. One of the most common problems with your dog’s appetite could be sheer boredom. Often, high-quality dog kibble is, well, dull. Much like many of us find a salad to be.

Try to urge your dog to eat by mixing in something you know they like. Or talk to your vet about shifting to a different type of food that might taste better.

Dental issues

Dogs commonly have dental health issues such as gingivitis, cavities, broken tooth, and gum issues. All of these make eating downright painful. A quick look in their mouth can help you see if this is the case. 

General medical issues

Many medical issues could be causing a lack of appetite. For example, digestive health concerns, infections, or simply having the flu. These should pass, and your dog’s appetite should come back quickly. It might even be stronger at first since your dog will want to fuel their body to get it back up to full power!

Mental issues

Whether this is due to age or deterioration of their mind’s capacity after an injury, a mind that forgets to eat will lead to a dog forgetting to eat. They might be confused about food or even apprehensive about it.

This can sometimes be helped by medications or setting meals to a timer s that you can coax your dog to eat. If you think it might be this situation, a specialized vet is essential!

Emotional issues

Emotions also factor into a dog’s appetite, just like with humans! If your dog is scared, anxious, or depressed, you’ll find that they won’t eat nearly as much or even at all.

When this happens, the best thing to do is understand what is causing your dog to feel this way and do your best to offer comfort and love. The safer they feel, the easier they’ll be able to recover and have their appetite return.

What should I do if my dog is not eating?

Getting your dog to eat when they don’t want to is frustrating and often scary for us, as attentive pet parents. When you want to know the plan of attack, focus on the following steps:

  • Find out why your dog isn’t eating
  • Try incentivizing them to eat
  • Try feeding them treats
  • Call in a vet if you need it

Find out why your dog isn’t eating

It could be straightforward as far as chance in food brand or perhaps even the eating location. If there is something obvious behind the behavior, try to resolve it. This is the first step because it rules out some of the “harmless” reasons and helps you get a better picture of what’s going on with your dog.

Try incentivizing them to eat

Next on your list will be trying to incentivize them to eat! This would include mixing in some dog-safe gravy or perhaps adding in some chunks of cooked chicken breast. These are often favorites for dogs and will give them an excellent incentive to try to eat, even if it’s just a little bit.

That might be all it takes if the reason is something that’s easily dealt with. If it isn’t, your dog may not even relent to have some chicken breast.

Try feeding them treats

Next, you’ll want to try feeding your dog treats. Pick ones that you know that they love. If they eat those, no problem, it’s probably something in the food that isn’t agreeing with them, even with the gravy of extra tidbits that you can add to their dish.

If they still don’t relent, you can safely assume that it could be one of the medical or emotional reasons, as we explained above.

Call in a vet if you need it

Your vet is a great ally to have on hand for issues like this. They’ll know your dog’s medical history and will be able to assess your dog’s health by you bringing them in and explaining what’s going on. Be sure to explain what you’ve tried already and be open to their suggestions on what to do next.

Most people won’t go to the vet because they think it’s a waste of time and money, but your vet is the most experienced person to assess your dog’s wellbeing. And that’s what this is all about, right?

How do you force-feed a dog who won’t eat?

It’s important never to force your dog to eat anything. You can coax and incentivize, and even seduce your dog to eat by making it smell scrumptious. But you should never literally force your dog to eat.

If your dog doesn’t want to eat and you put something in their mouth, they’re likely to vomit it up, or it could cause a blockage if they happen to choke on it. 

The other thing is that they may lash out at you. If you ignore their warning signs and try to feed them anyway, it’s not unheard of for a dog to bite their pet parent, no matter how kind that dog usually is or how much the pet parent wants to help.

Can my dog go 12 hours without eating?

Yes, dogs can go 12 hours without eating and be safe as fr as their health is concerned. Sometimes dogs will fast if they have an upset stomach, as mentioned above. If they suddenly stop eating anything for 12 hours or longer, it’s time to look at what’s going on.

After all, dogs are food fanatics, so suddenly refusing to eat for long periods of time is very strange!

What happens if a dog doesn’t eat for 3 days?

After 3 days, their body will have used every resource available to keep the body going. The body and its organs can, and will, start to shut down.

If your dog has gone 3 days with no food at all, get them to a vet immediately to be given a tube-based diet to keep their body safe. In rare cases, this process can take longer. We’ll talk about that next!

Can a dog survive a week without food?

A dog isn’t capable of surviving a week without food. If they are still eating some food and drinking, it’s possible to go as long as a week. However, vet care is still recommended for nutrition purposes.

In rare cases, very sick dogs can last weeks or even months without proper food. In these cases, their bodies operate at much lower levels, so it takes longer for them to go through their energy reserves.

However, you will want to do this with a vet’s watchful supervision! Never leave your dog to survive without any kind of food for months at a time if you have not talked to your vet extensively about it.

What happens if your dog stops eating?

The actual process will depend on what’s going on inside your dog’s body to make him lose their appetite, of course. However, the general steps include:

  • They become dehydrated
  • Their energy levels drop
  • Their body calls on its reserves for energy
  • There is no more energy to burn
  • Their organs start to shut down

Once your dog reaches that last stage, be it as soon as 3 days or longer, it can be hard for them to recover appropriately without lasting damage from beginning the shutdown process as a survival instinct. 

When should I worry about my dog not eating?

Generally, you’ll want to worry about any sudden change in behavior, including refusal to eat. If your dog simply refuses to eat anything, even their favorite treats, it’s always a good idea to get your vet involved!

My dog stopped eating and only drinks water

Something in the food could be upsetting their stomach. Try switching o a bland diet and see if they eat that! If so, the food is your culprit!

Why is my dog not eating and just laying around?

If you notice a lack of appetite with lethargy, you could be dealing with anything from depression to a medical condition. If it lasts for several days and isn’t something you can coax them out of, you might want to check with your vet sooner rather than later.

Why do old dogs stop eating?

Older dogs don’t need as much food as younger dogs because their bodies slow down. A dog in their end stages of life will also stop eating as they succumb. This can be heartbreaking to witness, but it is part of the process. Humans are much the same way. A vet can also help with this emotionally and help explain what’s going on.

What do you feed a sick dog with no appetite?

If your dog is sick and has no appetite, go for a bland diet. This could be boiled rice or chicken, mashed pumpkin, and even dog-safe peanut butter. Whatever you think will most incentivize your dog to eat! Again, remember not to force-feed them.

Why is my dog not eating his food but will eat treats?

Dog are picky creatures, as discussed. They probably don’t like their food because it’s good for them! Their treats taste soooooo much better. 

How long can a dog go without eating after surgery?

Pain medications often give dogs an upset stomach. That, combined with the confusion over the surgery itself, can put off their stomach for 24 hours. If they go longer than 48 hours with no signs of interest at all, it might be a good idea to check with your vet. 

When should I take my dog to the vet?

If your dog refuses to eat and it’s been 48 hours and ticking, it’s good to check with your vet. They might be able to give you some advice over the phone, but many will want you to bring them in. A vet check-up is never a bad idea, so don’t put it off!

In Conclusion

A dog is capable of living up to 3 days without any food. They can survive longer with partial food and water. Causes of refusing to eat include dental issues, medical issues, and physical or mental health issues.

A dog simply going off of their food can be mild or severe as far as its underlying cause, making a proper approach essential. Learn the signs of each and how to get your dog back to their food-obsessed self!

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Dog Advisory Council

A team whose main goal is to serve knowledge about the canine world. Together since 2012, we thrive to transform and inform, so each dog can live a happy and fulfilling life. Read more about us.