Dog owners wonder how long dogs can live without food, particularly for the picky eaters. Canines can live without food for about 3 to 5 days. Some are known to go for longer in extreme situations. Their size, health, age, and water intake will determine if they will live to see their fifth day.
Healthy dogs can live without food for up to five days but only three without water. Intermittent fasting helps your dog build their immune system. However, keeping a dog without food for more than three days is starvation, where a dog can get dangerously hypoglycemic.
When your dog turns his nose up at his food for more than two days, start looking for other abnormal signs. If the refusal to eat persists, it is a sign that they are unwell and need immediate medical attention.
How Long Can Dogs Stay Without Food but with Drinking Water?
Like humans, dogs need food for sustenance and can only go for 3 to 5 days without food but with a bowl of water. Smaller breeds, however, cannot go for more than 24 hours because they are more prone to low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).
Refusing to eat for more than two days should be a cause for alarm since all living things depend on food for life. If your dog experiences bouts of eating difficulties regularly, consider incorporating probiotic chews into their diet. These supplements restore the balance of gut bacteria, improving stomach health, and restoring the gut lining in sick dogs on antibiotics.
If your pup has not been eating for two days consecutively, take them to a vet if you notice any of these warning signs:
- Anorexia or lack of appetite
- Rapid weight Loss
Old and young puppies shouldn’t go for more than 12 hours without eating since they don’t have much fat stored in their bodies.
Take note when your canine is not taking food but is taking plenty of water. This is a sign that your dog might be suffering from diabetes or other chronic illness.
How Long Can a Sick Dog Live Without Food?
Ill dogs can stay about three days without food with the exception of smaller breeds due to the risk of hypoglycemia. When animals are sick, it’s normal for them to take some days off without eating, especially when recovering from gastrointestinal tract issues.
Dental problems, anxiety, and nausea can disturb your pup’s appetite, and it takes days to adjust. Dogs need food after the onset of illness and during the postoperative period to shorten hospitalization and reduce mortality.
Even if your dog suddenly won’t eat due to health problems, try gently nudging them to eat by making their food more appealing. Sickness also reduces how long a dog can go without water because ill dogs get easily dehydrated, which can quickly get severe.
Can Dogs Go a Day Without Eating? (Small Vs. Large Dogs)
Dogs can safely go a day or even two without eating and not have any harmful effects, particularly for larger breeds. However, dogs that don’t eat for extended periods can experience nausea when their stomach becomes hyper-acidic.
A day passing without your dog feeding shouldn’t worry you unless accompanied by other clinical signs like vomiting. The number of days a healthy dog can stay not eating varies based on the breed size and weight.
Dogs weighing less than 15 lbs are categorized as toy breeds, including Maltese, Miniature Pinschers, Chihuahuas, and Italian Greyhounds. These dogs cannot go beyond two days without consuming food since they’re prone to low blood sugar.
The disease affects their neurological functions and may lead to other fatal health issues such as coma, confusion, and disorientation.
Canines that grow above 55 lbs are considered large dogs and giant breeds when above 100 pounds. Studies show that these dogs have different digestive sensitivity than smaller dogs. Large dogs can go longer without food due to their large fat reserves. Still, it’s a major cause for alarm when they surpass three days.
Before surgery, it is critically advised not to allow your dog to take food or water for 12 hours. Prior to surgery, your pup gets injected with an anesthetic that numbs their body and renders them unconscious for the procedure.
However, during anesthesia, a dog’s heart, lungs, and esophagus keep working. This becomes hazardous If they have food in their stomach due to aspiration (when food in the stomach returns to the throat). Veterinary advice is crucial for surgery prepping, particularly if your dog is diabetic and risks experiencing dangerously low blood sugar.
Common Reasons a Dog stops Eating
Dogs can choose what and when to eat. If a fussy eater skips a meal or two, it’s usually not a cause for concern. But if they usually live for meals and won’t drink water, it could be a sign of serious medical issues. Some reasons why your dog stopped eating may be:
1. Your dog is sick
Dogs get sick, and this can affect their feeding habits. Sick dogs find it hard to eat, probably because it is painful when chewing or swallowing or they are nauseated. Common health issues affecting appetite include:
Mouth wounds and cavities cause difficulty chewing food, and dogs may stop eating altogether.
Gastrointestinal issues and obstruction
Stomach issues cause discomfort to dogs and will discourage eating. Home remedies such as cilantro leaves broths can help settle an upset stomach in dogs in the short term
Dogs suffering from organ problems such as kidney failure often display reduced appetite. The buildup of toxins in the body causes nausea in dogs with renal failure.
Other significant illnesses
All medical conditions that cause nausea in dogs interfere with their appetite. This includes cancer, systemic infections, viruses like Parvo, and pain from arthritis, bloat, and pancreatitis.
2. They are depressed.
Major changes in a dog’s life can lead to depression, affecting their normal habits. If you suspect your pup might be depressed, Look for these signs:
- Lack of interest in the things they used to enjoy
- Low energy levels
- Sleeping most of the time
- Flattened ears
- Excessive licking, mostly at the paws
You can handle depression in dogs at home with more playtime, affection, and fun activities. Extreme cases need medication or an animal behaviorist.
3. Your dog is anxious
Like depression, anxiety can cause stop a dog eating.
Anxious dogs tend to bark excessively, urinate or defecate in the house. Aggressiveness, panting, relentlessness, and lack of appetite are also signs of anxiety in your dog.
There are many types of anxiety, like generalized and separation anxiety. The best way to take care of your anxious pup is to talk to a veterinarian. They will direct you on the steps to take and may prescribe anxiolytic medication.
4. Your dog is picky.
Our dogs are sometimes choosy and may choose not to eat whatever is on their plate. Try changing their diet to see if it’s the case. Changing up dog food by alternating with enticing canned food will prevent a dog who doesn’t eat because they’re picky from losing weight.
5. Recent vaccinations may decrease appetite
Many dogs experience nausea after vaccinations due to the medications. This lack of appetite shouldn’t persist for more than two days, during which veterinary attention is necessary.
How to Force Feed a Dog Who Won’t Eat
Trying to get your dog to eat can be a bit tricky, especially if you don’t know the cause of their lack of appetite. One way to get something into their stomach is by force-feeding your pup. This is done using a syringe, but it should only be exercised if your vet advises.
Generally, if your dog is very sick, they won’t be force-fed but instead, put on an IV to keep up its electrolytes and prevent dehydration.
But if you are trying to encourage your dog to eat, and they don’t need to be hospitalized, you can try the following:
1. Warm their food.
Warming your pups’ food makes the food more aromatic and should get your pal all over their pot.
2. Give them wet food
Give your dog wet food if they are used to dry food and vice versa. Dogs love wet food because it is more flavorful and resembles meaty products.
3. Wait it out
Allowing your dog to stay hungry will encourage them to seek food themselves. Some dogs simply need to skip a meal or two and get back to their usual appetite.
Not all dogs have a strong food drive, and many dogs are overfed. If your dog is physically healthy, they may not be eating simply because they don’t need to. Feeding your dog less and exercising more can help rebuild their appetite.
4. Treat your dog to safe, enticing human food
Try giving your dog more delicious food like chicken when they refuse their regular diet. Make sure the food doesn’t contain onions, garlic, or chocolate because they’re poisonous to dogs.
5. Feed them from Your Hand
Hand feeding will make your dog feel taken care of and comforted; it may persuade them to start eating.
6. Pour warm broth into their food
Offer them warm broth or pour it on top of their food. The broth is an excellent choice for your dog because it contains calcium and magnesium minerals. These minerals are good for their nervous system and are imperative, especially when your dog is unwell.
If they still don’t eat, they are sick or recovering from a health condition and should be given time.
7. Get veterinary attention
A vet will address the underlying issue causing inappetence in your dog. Most of the solutions listed are temporary, but this is a long-term, more effective way of improving your dog’s appetite.
All beings need food and water for energy to keep their bodies functioning. In dogs, staying without eating for more than two days is a sign that they are sick and requires a vet visit. Adding broth to the food, giving wet food, and warming food encourage appetite in dogs.
Tamsin De La HarpeAuthor
Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.
Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.