How Long Can a Dog Go Without Eating? Here’s Everything You Need to Know!

how long can a dog go without eating

Dogs are smart creatures and often eat the perfect amount to fuel their bodies when left to their own devices. However, there are times when our pups go a long time without eating, and it’s only natural as a loving pet owner to become concerned.

Has your dog skipped a meal or two in the past? Are they currently on a kibble strike? While it’s important to bring any serious concerns up with your vet, we understand the need to do your own research. Keep reading to learn how long a dog can go without eating safely and what to do to encourage them to eat.

How Long Can A Dog Go Without Eating Safely?

If your dog skips an occasional meal, then you may not need to be concerned. One missed meal won’t affect them as long as your dog continues to drink water. However, most dogs can only safely go without eating for 3-5 days. If your pup continues refusing food, then you need to speak with a vet, because it could be a sign of underlying medical conditions.

A healthy adult dog will be okay for up to five days without food, but puppies and pregnant dogs need to eat every day. It’s important to get to the root cause of why your pup isn’t eating their food.

When Should I Worry About My Dog Not Eating?

When dogs go two full days without eating, it’s time to be concerned. Refusing food could be due to any number of issues, but if your dog’s appetite doesn’t recover after a couple of days or if they begin showing other symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea, then it’s time to bring them in for veterinary care.

How Often Should A Dog Eat?

Dogs should eat at least twice a day, but many enjoy three full meals daily. Some dogs may need specialized feeding schedules or methods, especially if they have a serious medical problem. It’s important to make sure your dog gets at least two meals each day to keep them healthy and happy. Going with a fresh food brand can help with portion control so you know you’re feeding your pup the correct amount every day.

Eating less than two meals a day can cause your dog’s stomach to become hyper-acidic. This can lead to vomiting and a decreased appetite, which leads to them eating even less and becoming more unwell. Sticking to a predictable schedule is the key to maintaining your dog’s health and appetite.

dog eating from bowl

How Much Should A Dog Eat?

The amount a dog needs to eat depends on several different factors. A Chug dog will have different dietary needs than a Schnoodle. Your dog’s weight and breed will determine how much food intake they require to stay healthy.

Most food brands include a feeding chart on their packing. For dry food, toy breeds like Shorkies need 1/3-1/2 cup of food per day. Small breeds in the 10-20lb range need 3/4-1 1/2 cups. Medium breeds (30-50lbs) need 1 3/4-2 2/3, and large breeds (60-100lbs) need about 3-4 1/2 cups per day. You should give an additional 1/3 cup for every 10lbs over 100lbs.

These numbers represent the full amount of food a dog needs each day, so you’ll need to split it up between their meals. It’s also important to discuss your dog’s specific needs with your veterinarian. These numbers are a ballpark estimate, and shouldn’t be substituted for professional advice!

Why Won’t My Dog Eat?

Dogs stop eating for a number of reasons. Sometimes the reasons are obvious, like an illness, and other times it’s harder to determine the root cause. It’s easy for a dog owner to become nervous when their pup doesn’t wan’t to eat, but most healthy dogs will be okay for a few days. However, if you know the reason behind their lack of appetite, then you’re more likely to help get them over the hump!


Illness is one of the biggest reasons a dog will refuse food. Sick dogs are very similar to humans. They often have no interest in food and just want to find a comfortable place to lay down and sleep. Many dogs refuse food when they’re struggling with a virus or other illness, and this isn’t something most vets will be concerned about. As long as your dog is staying hydrated and starts eating again after a few days, then they’ll be fine. However, if your sick dog is experiencing any vomiting, diarrhea, or other symptoms, then you should contact your vet.

Veterinary Medicine

Have you ever taken a round of antibiotics and felt sick to your stomach? Dogs go through the same thing. Sometimes a dog refusing food can be a side effect of medication. This is very common with antibiotics and can be common with medications prescribed for anxiety or motion sickness.

Emotional & Social Issues

Watching your dog refuse food because of life changes is an awful experience for a dog owner, but it happens. Moving, adding a new family member, the loss of a family member, or a drastic change in routine can upset your dog enough for them to refuse food. Other dogs may not be affected by lifestyle changes, but some will avoid eating when dealing with high-stress situations. There are plenty of ways to help your dog through tough periods in their life, and we’ll discuss some tips later in this guide.

Picky Eaters

Just like people, dogs can have very strict food preferences. You may think if you leave a bowl of dog food out your dog will eventually eat it, but that’s not always the case. Some dogs only like certain types of food and will refuse to even try a new food. It’s important to find what your dog likes and stick to it!

dog eating

How Do I Get My Dog To Eat?

When your dog stops eating, it’s important to determine the root cause first. Medical conditions and serious illnesses need to be brought to the attention of a veterinarian, and they’ll be able to advise you on what to do if your dog doesn’t start eating soon.

However, if your dog refused food because of any of the other issues we mentioned earlier, then there’s a good chance you can help them start eating again at home. Here are our best tips for encouraging your dog to eat.

Try Different Foods

Sometimes dogs will start refusing food they used to love. Or, introducing a new dog food might cause your dog to turn their nose up at it and trot away. Trying different foods can help encourage your dog to resume eating again.

You can try different brands, canned food, or adding a new food into their usual dog food. Cook up some broccoli or cucumber to add some color and texture to your dog’s food. Or, try adding a few pieces of ham or pork to get their mouth watering and stimulate their appetite.

Make Your Dog’s Food More Appealing

There are so many ways you can change up your dog’s food to make it more appealing. If your dog loves wet food, try mixing it in with their dry food. Another great option to mix with their food is beef broth. If your dog refuses all your attempts to make their food appealing and you need an appetite stimulant, try a favorite treat or piece of human food you know they can’t resist! Mix it in with the dog food and watch as they devour the whole bowl!

Think Out Of The Box

Most healthy dogs will jump at the chance to eat their normal food mixed with some people food or beef broth, but if that isn’t tempting your dog, then it’s time to get creative. Try giving them some baby food like turkey or chicken. It’s very easy to digest and gentle enough for dogs with a sensitive stomach. The scent alone would drive most healthy dogs crazy and should stimulate your pups appetite. You could also try stuffing their favorite food into a puzzle toy or hiding it in a snuffle mat to keep them entertained.

If you have more than one dog, let your pups eat together. A healthy dog will devour their food and it might make your sick pup feel more encouraged to eat. It’s also helpful to make mealtimes fun! Try placing your dog’s bowl in the kitchen while you eat, so it stimulates their pack mentality and encourages them.

Create A Low Stress Environment

A common form of anxiety dogs develop is food related. Shelter dogs may have learned to fear eating around others or can be easily startled by loud noises and other stimuli. Create a low stress environment where your dog feels safe while eating. Take note of your dog’s eating habits and learn what makes them feel most comfortable. If they enjoy eating with you in the room, then stick with that! Or, if they need to eat in a quiet space with no one else around, make sure to provide them with that sense of security.

schnauzer eating

When To Be Concerned

You never want to force-feed your dog because that will often make the problem worse. If they leave food longer than a few hours, then you should try some of the above tips to encourage them to eat.

It’s also important to make sure your dog stays hydrated during this time, especially if it’s hot outside. Make sure your dog has plenty of drinking water available, and try letting an ice cube melt in their water before offering it to them to help them cool off.

If none of these tips work and your dog hasn’t eating in days, then it’s time to be concerned. Your dog could have a health problem that requires serious attention. A healthy dog, even if he’s a picky eater, won’t stop eating for very long, so if your dog isn’t eating food after a few days, it’s time to visit a vet.

Your vet may suggest many of the same tips we did, such as offering canned food or mixing broth into their usual food to encourage them to eat. However, if your pup has a serious problem, they may need to look into more serious options like a feeding tube.

When dogs have a decreased appetite and go without eating for more than three days, it’s time to get them checked out. However, if your dog vomits or shows other signs of an upset stomach, then you’ll want to get them checked out within 24 hours. Dehydration becomes a serious concern when vomiting is involved and could become life-threatening.

Summary- How Long Can A Dog Go Without Eating?

Healthy dogs can go 3-5 days without eating. As long as you leave enough food and water out for them, they should resume eating when they’re ready. However, when dogs experience other symptoms and can’t keep anything down, then it’s time to check with your vet.

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