Working in a boarding facility you see it all the time; dogs who won’t eat. Usually its the little ones…not eating is a form of protest for being cruelly abandoned and left behind (insert sarcasm here). But on regular occasion we do get the bigger ones who just won’t take a single bite. You can see the sadness in their eyes and sometimes it’s reflected in body language by the way they pace and pant of just being really uncomfortable; eating is not going to happen.
I am really fortunate to have a dog who regulates herself. She only eats when she is hungry, which is usually at night. I know many pet parents who fret over their dog not eating. In some cases, yes you definitely should be alarmed. A dog who goes suddenly from walking garbage disposal to not eating the tiniest crumb should be taken to the vet.
But a dog who sometimes grazes, sometimes gobbles, and other times doesn’t eat for a day or two, don’t worry. This is a natural feeding pattern. This goes back to dogs being domesticated down from wolves; wolves are bingers and fasters by nature. When they hunt, they take down a huge kill that will fill them up for days or even weeks. Then they spend a small period of time fasting until their next meal.
A lot of small dog owners tell me they don’t understand why their dog won’t eat or on the flip side of things, they tell me their dog “always seems hungry”. Just because your dog “seems hungry”, doesn’t mean he his. He is most likely abusing the system. Think about it; what is one of the first things you do when you are bored? If you’re anything like me, you go in search for food.
Feeding your dog should be about getting him or her the right nutrition and maintaining a healthy weight. So what do you do when your dog is in a rut and just won’t eat? Maybe you work at a boarding kennel like me and need some advice on healthy things to add to food. Well, look no further because right here is a great list of things to add to boost your dog’s appetite.
Now before you yell at me, I realize yes, treats are candy.
This should be a very minimally used tool! However there are some great freeze dried treats with all natural ingredients that are a bit more healthy than a few other choices out there. The freeze dried ones are great because you can crumble them up and spread them across the food to make it smell a bit more appetizing. Other ones that are more like training treats can just be dropped in and mixed up inside the food to be disguised as kibbles.
I recommend this trick only if a dog is having a very minor setback in their regular diet.
I love these little guys! The food boosters are just little drops of freeze dried raw food that are meant to add a healthy dose of nutrition to your dog’s food. Most of these boosters are made with real meat and vegetables so they will smell great to your dog! It’s like bacon bits on your salad, but healthier.
If you are interested in feeding a raw diet, this is also a great way to slowly introduce your dog. Besides tasting great, these boosters can help with the digestive system and keeping it running smoothly.
One of the fastest ways I have noticed to get a dog to eat is by adding a liquid of some kind. Broth, keifer, and salmon oil are all excellent options.
If you choose chicken or beef broth, just make sure it is organic and has low or reduced sodium. The high salt content can make your dog dehydrated otherwise. Only use enough to barely cover the bottom of the bowl and give it a swirl to coat the food. Usually the tasty smell of chicken will entice your dog to chow down.
Salmon oil is a fantastic choice as well; very few dogs can resist the scent of stinky fish. Besides that, salmon oil is ridiculously healthy for your dog. Packed with Omega-3’s, it will help give her a shiny coat, healthy bones and joints, and a boosted immunity system.
Keifer is a great way to help with your dog’s digestive system. It is a liquid version of yogurt and an excellent probiotic. Use only unflavored and of course, organic keifer. When giving it to my dog I usually only do about a capful, or about a tablespoon.
Ah yes, the best of all: meat.
I don’t know a dog alive who won’t hog down for some tasty meat! At my job, we have several options. An all-time favorite is lamb roll. It is just a long tube of lamb and you cut off small pieces and mix it in their food. Sometimes you get the clever canine who will pick out the pieces of lamb and not eat kibble, so I try and double up with lamb roll plus broth. That almost always does the trick.
Another option we have is chicken. Usually the chicken is raw or just cooked very lightly. Dogs love chicken and usually don’t mind it raw. I know some owners cringe at raw food and that’s okay! If you don’t feel comfortable feeding your dog raw meat, boiled chicken is excellent as well and can actually last much longer in the fridge if you need it to.
Try to stay away from raw pork; it often times has worms in it before it is cooked. The best meats to use are chicken, beef, turkey, duck, and/or salmon. All of these are full of protein and are an excellent choice for a healthy additive.
This choice is often times popular for small breeds and older dogs. Wet foods are usually a great, cheap choice when trying to help your dog eat.
When choosing a wet food, make sure it has a low gelatin content. It should not have a bunch of clear, jelly-like substance when you peel it out of the can. It should look like soft meat almost; my rule of thumb is you should be able to pronounce most, if not all, of the ingredients.
Something else that you can easily make with wet food is a gravy. Using one small can of wet food and two to three parts of water mixed together, you will have a quick, tasty gravy that you can put on your dog’s dry food anytime they are struggling to eat.
Fruits and Vegetables
This one honestly can be a bit hit and miss, but it’s worth a shot.
Pumpkin is one of the first things I add to a dog’s food when they are not eating. It helps cleanse the system and boost the appetite naturally in a dog. Blueberries, peas, carrots, and apples are all really nice to add to food. They all are packed full of vitamins that help support various systems in your dog’s body.
Make sure you check a list or ask your vet before giving your dog certain fruits and vegetables. Certain ones like onions, garlic, avocados, and grapes are extremely toxic to dogs and can cause illness or even death if eaten in large quantities.
When choosing fruits or vegetables, make sure they are organic. Wash them thoroughly to make sure any pesticides are off before giving them to your dog. Do not use frozen fruits or veggies as they sometimes will have sugars added.
There you have it; my healthy recommendation of dog food additives. I suggest only using these additives as boosters; once your dog starts eating again, resume their normal diet. Otherwise they may expect a special treat every time they eat. With that said, though, all of these items listed can be combined to make an extremely healthy diet plan for your dog if you would like the food changes to be permanent. Happy eating!