Why Does My Dog Only Eat Half of His Food? [Picky or Problem?]

Zack Keithy, our author, is a certified veterinarian technician (UC Blue Ash) for over 6 years (contact him here). The articles written here are based on his expertise and experience, combined with a review by our expert vet reviewers including Dr M. Tarantino. Learn more about us here.

Picture this: you’ve spent hours researching the perfect dog food, only to find Fido leaving half a feast behind.

Sound familiar? Why does my dog only eat half of his food?

The common reasons for this happening are overfeeding, an abrupt change in the dog food, stress and anxiety, as well as several other factors. Figuring out the main cause can help you develop the right way to help your dog regain its appetite again.

So, gather ’round, as we dive into this peculiar case of the half-eaten kibble and give you some tips on how to get them to chow down on their food.

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Possible Reasons Why Your Dog Only Eats Half of His Food

Reasons Why Your Dog Only Eats Half of His Food

It’s frustrating, right?

Spending a lot of time and energy preparing a delicious meal for your pet, only to watch them take a few bites and walk away. 

It’s wasteful, and you know that they’re not getting the nutrition that they need, so how do you fix this?

The first step to addressing this eating problem is to understand the cause, and below are several reasons why your pup might be leaving food in its bowl.

1. Boredom

Variety is the spice of life and eating the same thing every meal can become boring for us.

Even dogs can feel bored about their food too.

If you’ve been serving them the same food for a while, they might start to lose interest and leave their meals unfinished. 

2. Stress and anxiety

Ever felt so stressed that you don’t feel like eating? The same can happen to your furry pal.

Dogs can be sensitive creatures, and stress and anxiety can impact their appetite. 

If your dog is experiencing stress due to changes in their environment, routine, or family, it might not feel like eating.

3. Picky eater

Some pups can be selective when it comes to their meals. They know what they want, and anything less gets left in the bowl.

Even if you’ve tried different types of food, your pup might still not be interested. It’s not your fault, it’s just their taste buds!

4. Overfeeding

Giving your dog too much to eat can cause them to leave their meals unfinished. 

If your furry friend is being served more food than they need, they might only eat what they require and leave the rest. 

5. Change of diet

Changing the kind of food you serve your dog can be tricky. While you may have chosen a better food, your pup may not be on board with the switch.

Switching to a new food can cause digestive upset. This may cause your dog to not finish their meals. 

And even if the new diet agrees with your pet’s tummy, they can still require some time to adjust to the new taste and texture. 

6. Bad food

Bad food can refer to food that has gone bad or is expired. Some dogs can detect if their food is spoiled. 

Even dogs with good appetites might not touch any food that has gone bad. 

Bad food can also refer to human foods that are not safe for your dog to eat.

Some examples include chocolate, grapes, and onions, which can be toxic to dogs and cause serious health problems.

If eating that food made your dog feel sick before, it is normal for them to stay away.

7. Change in schedule

Dogs thrive on routine, and a change in their feeding schedule might throw them off and impact their appetite.

8. Health problems

A toothache can also cause your pet to leave some food in its bowl, and I must say this is something that lots of dog owners overlook.

Just like us humans, dogs can have dental problems that cause them discomfort and pain. They might then find it tough and painful to eat.

There are other health-related issues that can make your dog feel lousy and uninterested in eating too, such as infections, kidney disease, liver disease, cancer, and tummy problems.

Any unusual behavior or symptoms should be reported to your vet, or at least check with an online vet first.

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How Can I Get My Dog to Eat Its Food?

Struggling to get your dog to eat their food?

Here are some strategies that will work.

Creating a positive environment

Making your pet’s feeding time as pleasant as possible will make a huge difference in their eating habits.

By giving them a comfortable and stress-free atmosphere during mealtime, your pet may be more likely to finish their food.

And how do you do this?

Try using their favorite bowl or a toy food dispenser to keep mealtimes stimulating.

You can also opt to place the food bowl in a cozy and secure place. 

DO NOT yell at your pet for not being able to finish everything in their bowl.

That may associate the punishment with eating and further discourage them from finishing what you serve.

Don’t force your dog to eat

Forcing your dog to eat can cause anxiety and lead to further appetite loss, and please, don’t try some random trick you read online such as spitting in a dog’s mouth.

They don’t work. Period.

If your dog refuses to eat, try again later or consider switching up their food.

Feeding your dog the right food

Seriously, the right food can make a huge difference in a dog’s life.

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What’s important to them is food, shelter, and lots of love.

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Stop feeding it treats

This is the same advice parents receive when it comes to feeding their human kids snacks. 

Giving your dogs too many treats throughout the day will spoil their appetite, so don’t be surprised if they’re not hungry come mealtime. 

Consider reducing the number of treats you give them, or switch to healthier options like small pieces of fruits or vegetables.

Mixing different foods together

Mixing different foods can help make your dog’s meal more appealing.

For example, try mixing wet food with dry kibble or adding a small amount of broth to their food, or switching to fresh dog food to see the difference.

Ensure lots of exercises for your dog

Don’t you feel ravenous after doing something physically taxing? The same may be true for your pooch.

Try walking them around the block or playing a game of fetch and see how this will affect their appetite.

Don’t change its food abruptly or too often

Dogs can also have a hard time adjusting to sudden changes in their diet.

This can upset their stomach and cause them to lose their appetite. 

Who wants to eat when they’re suffering from a tummy ache?

If you’re planning to switch your dog’s food, make sure to do it gradually over several days to allow their digestive system to adjust.

Check with your vet

As always, if you are concerned about your pet’s lack of appetite despite your efforts, consult with your vet to rule out any underlying health issues. 

Your vet may recommend further testing or provide additional tips for getting your dog to eat.

Doggy says, you might be keen to read this too: Are Goldendoodles picky eaters?

Why is My Dog Not Eating Its Food but is Eating Treats?

Why-is-My-Dog-Not-Eating-Its-Food-but-is-Eating-Treats

Are you worried that your furry friend seems to be ignoring their food but jumping for joy at the sight of treats? 

Fear not, it’s quite common! Some dogs just prefer the smell and taste of treats over regular food. 

If your pup is otherwise happy and active, this could just mean that they’re simply getting too many treats and not feeling very hungry during mealtime. 

Is It Normal for a Dog Not to Eat One Meal?

It’s not uncommon for a dog to miss a meal or eat less than usual once in a while. 

The lack of appetite can be caused by minor health issues or a change in routine or environment.

Sometimes, they’re just not hungry. 

As long as your dog is still drinking water and behaving normally, missing one meal isn’t usually a cause for concern. 

However, if your dog consistently refuses to eat or shows other signs of illness, then that’s something to worry about. It could be time to contact the vet.

Signs That Your Dog is a Picky Eater

Let’s get to the bottom of this – is your furry friend experiencing appetite loss because of an underlying health issue, or are they just super selective about what they want to eat?

  • If your pup sniffs or licks their food without actually eating it, or consistently leaves food in their bowl, they may not be satisfied with their current food. 
  • Vets also consider those who take a long time to finish eating as picky eaters. 
  • Is your pet taking over 20 minutes to finish their lunch? Yup, picky eater. 
  • And if your dog shows a strong interest in human food but ignores their food, that’s another telltale sign.

When Should You Worry About Your Dog Not Eating?

Dogs are typically enthusiastic eaters. Throw and treat at them and they’d gladly scarf that down. 

But there are times when they skip a meal or eat less than usual. That’s normal. 

However, if your furry friend consistently shows disinterest in eating, it could be a cause for concern. 

Is your pup losing weight or seeming to have very little energy? Then they may not be getting enough nutrients from their food. 

Seeing your dog vomit or have diarrhea can be worrying, but these are also indications of an underlying health problem that could need immediate medical attention. 

Notice any change in your pet’s demeanor? Are they being withdrawn or aggressive all of a sudden? It might help to contact the vet.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long can a dog go without eating?

A dog can go without eating for a few days to an entire week depending on their size and overall health. However, this is not normal. If your pet hasn’t shown any desire to eat for more than 24 hours, consult with your vet.

Why does my dog eat a little and then walk away?

Your dog could be suffering from issues like a painful tooth or an upset stomach. If this is the case, your pet knows that they need to eat that’s why they are trying to eat despite the discomfort or pain. Keep an eye on them to see if the condition improves.  

Can changing my dog’s food too frequently cause them to only eat half of it?

Changing your dog’s food too frequently can cause digestive issues and lead to them eating only half of their meals. To prevent this from happening, try to introduce new food gradually over several weeks. Give your furry friend some time to adjust to the change. 

Do dogs go through periods of not eating?

Yes, dogs can go through periods of not eating due to stress, changes in routine, or illness. However, consider calling the vet if your pet is starting to lose weight or is showing signs of lethargy from not eating for a long time.

In Conclusion: Why Does My Dog Only Eat Half of His Food?

Now that we’ve cracked the case of the half-eaten kibble caper, just remember that the key is understanding your furry friend’s unique preferences and needs.

With a dash of patience, a pinch of observation, and a heaping spoonful of love, you’ll soon have Fido licking that bowl clean.

Until our next culinary canine adventure—bon appétit and happy tail-wagging!

In the meantime, grab your fix here:

You’ve made it to the end, but I hope it’s not the end of our journey. We want to hear your voice! Share your thoughts, problems, suggestions, or anything related to your dog in the comments section. And don’t forget to join our newsletter today too.

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Zack Keithy
Zack Keithy

Hey, I'm Zack, the Chief Editor here. I was formerly a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT) for a good 6 years before moving on to greener pastures. Right now, I am still heavily involved in dog parenting duties, and it is my desire to share all our knowledge with fellow dog owners out there! Connect with me on LinkedIn, or read more about Daily Dog Drama!

2 Comments

  1. This was very helpful for figuring out my dogs feelings around food and mealtime. Thank you.

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