Refusal to Eat - Helping the Finicky Eater
"My dog loves his food one day and refuses to eat it the next day." "My cat gives new meaning to the term 'finicky eaters.'"
The food refusal these pet owners are describing is usually the result of feeding habits owners have helped their pets establish. If you have a problem eater in your house, chances are you might be the cause of the problem. Remember one thing, a healthy dog will not go hungry. Cats, on the other hand, need to eat as health issues can quickly arise if they don't.
Before discussing how problem eaters are created, a word of caution. Sometimes refusal to eat is a sign of illness. If your pet is normally not picky about his/her food, and if you have avoided creating "problem eater" habits, a trip to your veterinarian may be in order. Know your pet. Know what is normal for it in terms of eating habits, behavior and appearance. Any deviation from its normal habits may be a sign of illness.
Perhaps one of the most common reasons pets refuse to eat results from the misconception that pets need as much variety in their diets as humans do. Some pet owners forget that humans require a variety of foods to ensure the consumption of nutritionally balanced meals. A quality pet food has the proper balance of all the nutrients a pet requires together with a high level of palatability. Offering variety in pet foods encourages a pet to become a "holdout" to see what it will be offered next. When you find a nutritionally complete and balanced diet your pet enjoys, stay with it.
An indulgent family member rather than the pet may be the problem. By feeding human treats and food from the table, your pet's hunger is satisfied with all this "good stuff" and it either refuses to eat or nibbles only a few bites of the food it should be eating.
Free-feeding, meaning the pet's food is left out all day and/or all night, is one of the most common ways a picky eater (and even over-weight) is created. The pet owner has turned over the control of feeding right over to their pet. By doing so causes several problems. First, the pet has just shown it's owner that he/she is in charge, NOT the owner. Second, if a pet has access to food all day long, how can one expect the pet to be hungry at any given time? Third, leaving food out all day, especially all natural food, is an invitation for insects and spoilage...NOT good for the health of the pet!
The basic guideline is to put your pet's food down for him/her. What is not eaten in 10 to 15 minutes should be taken away until the next scheduled meal. A healthy pet will NOT starve. A healthy pet WILL eat when hungry!
Some dogs are eager to eat a particular pet food for several days. Suddenly this eagerness vanishes and they eat reluctantly or refuse to eat for a few days. This refusal can be the dog's own attempt to control calorie intake When a dog learns that eating pleases its owner, it soon eats to please. Sometimes words of praise and affection when the food is offered will reinforce this eat-to-please behavior. Overeating can cause a dog, like a human, to experience an uncomfortable feeling. It attempts to relieve its discomfort by not eating or eating very little of its food.
Many pet owners comment that their dogs eat less during hot weather. This is not unusual. Studies show that, as a general rule, dogs need about 7.5 percent fewer calories with each 10 degree rise in temperature.
A cat's eating habits should not be confused with food refusal. Most cats tend to be occasional eaters. They nibble at their food, walk away and return periodically for more nibbles. Seldom do they eat voraciously. Their occasional eating is sometimes interpreted as not liking a certain diet.
Some pets indulge in what the veterinary community describes as "dietary indiscretion." Regardless of how well-fed these pets are, they raid garbage cans. If the raids are successful, they lose interest in their regular diet. The habit of eating garbage may also be a dangerous practice which may result in vomiting or diarrhea or the pet's consuming contaminated food or toxic chemicals.
To prevent this indiscretion, be sure your pet doesn't have easy access to garbage in the house, basement or garage. Check out the garbage cans in your yard. Be certain they have tight-fitting lids. For their own protection, and in order to be a good pet neighbor, pets should not be allowed to roam in neighbors' yards.
If, for health or other reasons, you must change your pet's diet, do it gradually over a seven to ten day period. Add a small amount of the new diet to the food currently being fed. Each day increase the quantity of the new diet and decrease the amount of the old. This gradual diet change helps avoid digestive upsets.
The following page describes in detail, the hows and whys behind changing a pet's diet, gradually. Read How to Properly Introduce Your Pet to New Food.
My name is Bree Weasner, and I’ve been bringing pet owners like you valuable information on pet nutrition and natural holistic alternatives to conventional pet care since 2001.
New Jersey, USA