When A Dog Stops Eating, How Long Before They Die?

A dog’s appetite can offer a peek into their current state of health.

A dog with a healthy appetite is less likely to be struggling with an underlying illness, while a dog that will not eat could be a sign of health decline.

When a dog suddenly stops eating, many owners wonder when they should start to worry.

Dogs can only go so long without eating, which is why it is so important to understand this time frame and the potential dangers that come along with canine anorexia.

In this article we will discuss how long a dog can go without eating before they die, what could cause anorexia in dogs, and how you can help your canine friend going forward.

When A Dog Stops Eating How Long Before They Die

How Long Can A Dog Go Without Eating?

Most dogs will experience an upset stomach at some point throughout their lives.

If your dog ever begins to shy away from their food bowl because of it, it’s important to be aware of just how long they can go without eating.

When referring to healthy dogs, most dogs can go up to 5 days without food.

This is only the case if they are still drinking water, as water is essential for their survival.

Though dogs can survive for up to 5 days without food, you should never allow this to happen in your pup.

An extended period without food can significantly impact your dog’s health, especially if it is a result of an underlying illness.

Before we move on, it’s important to note that any dog that will not eat for more than 24 hours should always be seen by a veterinarian.

Why Did My Dog Stop Eating?

If your dog with a healthy appetite suddenly begins to turn their nose up at food, there is likely an underlying cause behind this change in behavior.

Ranging from emotional stress to GI upset, let’s discuss the most common factors behind canine anorexia below.

Your Dog Is A Picky Eater

Just like some humans are picky with the food they put in their stomach, so are some canine friends.

This is especially common when you switch your dog’s diet, leading many to participate in a food strike if it’s not up to par.

If your dog will eat their favorite treats, but will not eat their regular food, they may simply be picky.

Your Dog Is Stressed

Dogs can be deeply impacted by stressful events in their life.

This can be anything from an environmental change to a scary thunderstorm, causing them to turn away food until their nerves pass.

These dogs will typically display other forms of stress and anxiety as well, including many noticeable behavioral changes.

A stressed or anxious dog may:

  • Refuse to eat
  • Hide away
  • Tremble
  • Whine
  • Vocalize more than usual
  • Turn to destructive behavior

Your Dog Has An Upset Stomach

Have you ever attempted to eat a meal while you are nauseous?

It is not a good feeling and our dogs do not enjoy it either.

GI upset in dogs can easily lead to overwhelming nausea, causing a dog to avoid their food at all costs.

These dogs may also experience diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and lethargy.

Your Dog Started New Medication

A dog that has started new medication could be experiencing GI upset that we are unaware of.

Some medications can make a dog nauseous, especially if they have just begun taking them.

This is extremely common with antibiotics, but we urge you to ask your vet about any side effects before offering medication to your pup.

This will help you be prepared for any nausea to come.

Your Dog Is Recovering From An Illness Or Medical Event

It can take time for a dog to recover from an illness, injury, or even a medical procedure.

Many dogs will have a decreased appetite in the days following their medical event, causing them to refuse food in many cases.

A decreased appetite is to be expected in many situations temporarily, but it is important to offer your dog a buffet of food options in hopes of stimulating their appetite again.

Your Dog Has Other Underlying Conditions

If your dog is battling any form of underlying illness, this can often impact their appetite.

Anorexia can be a sign of a developing medical condition, an unmanaged condition, and even a worsening condition.

Some of the most common underlying conditions that cause anorexia in dogs include:

This is why it is so important to take anorexia in dogs seriously, as you never know if it is due to a serious underlying illness.

How To Encourage Your Dog To Eat

If your dog ever begins to turn away from their standard diet, it’s important to determine whether or not they have an appetite at all.

Not only can you offer your pup a variety of food options to see if they are interested in anything else, but these enticement methods can also encourage your pup to eat.

Some of the best ways to get your dog to eat include:

  • Offering them a ‘buffet’ of different dog approved foods
  • Offer them boiled chicken breast and white rice
  • Add some boiled or shredded chicken onto their normal food
  • Mix some chicken or turkey flavored baby food into their kibble
  • Offer them wet food, if they don’t already eat that
  • Put some wet food in the microwave, as this can make it more enticing

If your dog still refuses to eat after trying the methods listed above, you can assume that your pup truly does not have an appetite.

When Should I Worry About My Dog That Is Not Eating?

If your dog suddenly skips a meal, it is not always the end of the world.

Sometimes dogs get mild GI upset and will return to having their normal appetite by the end of the day.

However, if your dog skips more than one meal, we always suggest reaching out to your vet for guidance.

It is even more important to seek veterinary care if they are displaying other abnormal symptoms, or if they have gone 24 hours without food.

To help you better understand when you should have your dog seen by a vet, let’s list the longest each age range of dog can go without food before worrying.


If your puppy has not eaten for 12 hours, we suggest calling your vet.

Puppies are at risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) if they do not consume enough food each day, and this is life-threatening when it occurs.

Adult Dogs

If your adult dog has not eaten for 24 hours, then we suggest reaching out to your vet for guidance.

You should do so even sooner if they are experiencing any other signs of GI upset or other behavioral changes.

Senior Dogs

If your senior dog has not eaten for more than 12 hours, we suggest reaching out to your vet for guidance.

Senior dogs are more prone to developing serious medical conditions, so their anorexia can be a result of underlying illness.

My Old Dog Will Not Eat, Why?

As we mentioned above, it is even more important to take anorexia seriously in senior canine friends.

Older dogs are more prone to underlying illness, as dogs over the age of 10 simply fall victim to metabolic and systemic conditions more often.

Due to this risk, it’s ideal to act quickly when they stop eating.

Old dogs can still stop eating due to minor GI upset or stress, but it is still best to act quickly.

Even if they are not eating due to minor illness, these complications still impact our senior friends more than younger dogs.

It is always best to be safe and have them seen within the 12-24 hour window.

My Dying Dog Will Not Eat, Is It Time To Say Goodbye?

Many veterinarians use appetite as a way to gauge when a dog with a chronic illness is suffering.

Many serious conditions like cancer or cardiac disease will often impact a dog’s appetite in the late stages, offering owners a hint of when it could be time to say goodbye.

If your dog with a chronic disease has stopped eating, it may be time to have a discussion about quality of life with your vet.

This is especially true if their life has begun to decline in other ways, ranging from chronic lethargy to weight loss.

Your veterinarian knows your pup’s situation best, so we suggest treating their guidance when making this decision.

Final Thoughts On What To Do If Your Dog Stops Eating

There is a list of potential factors behind your dog’s decrease in appetite, so it’s important to observe their behavior for any other sign of illness.

If your dog has not eaten in 24 hours, we always suggest visiting your vet.

Most dogs will start eating again by 24 hours, but if they have not then something else could be going on.

Your dog can survive for a few days without food, but if they are also not drinking then it is time to get them to your veterinarian to be checked over.

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