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How Long Can a Dog Go Without Eating?

A terrier looking into the camera with its bowl empty

Most, if not all, dogs will occasionally lose their appetites. Most of the time, there is no need to worry. But since most people want to be “pawfect” parents to their furry companions, they worry, anyway. Others want to know if they can forgo finding a pet sitter for a quick day trip. The answer to “how long can a dog live without food?” is dogs can go without food for 3 to 5 days

However, “how long can dogs go without food” or how long should a dog go without food is a better question. You should start to be concerned if your dog skips meals for 2 days.

What else should you know about how long can dogs go without eating? Read on.

When Should You Start to Worry If Your Dog Stops Eating

Can a dog go a day without eating? While a dog can go a day without food, they shouldn’t go longer than 24 hours without drinking water. So if your dog isn’t eating, check to make sure your doggo is drinking. More than a day without water means an emergency trip to the vet.

How Long Can Adult Dogs Go Without Eating?

When it comes to how dog a dog can go without eating, the answer is simple: An adult dogs can go 3 to 5 days without eating, but if they haven’t eaten within 48 hours, you should be concerned and consult with your vet. 

There are a number of reasons why your forever friend likely isn’t eating. Some reasons can be minor and will go away–such as an upset stomach. However, a lack of appetite could be a sign of something potentially life-threatening as well. 

So, if your dog stops eating, don’t panic, but don’t shrug it off, either. Check-in with your vet over the phone and ask them if you should bring your bestie in for a checkup.

How Long Can a Puppy Go Without Eating?

A small black puppy drinking some water out of a dog bowl

Puppies have higher metabolisms than adult dogs, so their “safe window” without food is much shorter. If your puppy isn’t eating after 24 hours, it’s time to consult with your veterinarian. Give them a call right away, and let them know about your pup’s behaviour along with any other changes in your pup’s life that might be related.

What Causes a Lack of Appetite?

Many things can cause your dog to lose their appetite, but they generally fall into three categories–food, environment and health/illness [1].

Food-Related Problems

Dogs LOVE routine. If your dog doesn’t have an appetite, there could be a problem with when and what you are feeding your dog.

Mealtime is a Real-Time

If you give them meals at different times, they might be a little put off by the irregular schedule. This can cause your dog to go a day without eating but is not a major cause for concern. Try to feed your doggo at the same time every day so they can learn to expect meal time. 

Check that Food

There could also be a problem with the food you’re offering. Sometimes, for little or no reason, your doggo could just decide that they don’t like their food anymore and go on a hunger strike. But more likely, especially if you feed them kibble, the food might be too old. Fats in kibble can go rancid, so check the date on the package or try a different food and see if that helps.

Environmental Problems

Dogs, like many people, don’t like change. If your schedule changes, it can affect your dog as well. With luck, your dog will adjust quickly and life will return to normal. A dog may skip a meal or two when upset by changes but should go back to eating soon.

A Response to Loss

The loss of a human family member or another furry family member can also affect your doggo. They get used to household dynamics, so when someone new is added or when someone leaves, it can affect your dog’s behaviour. 

Stress is a Mess

Some dogs lose their appetite when they suffer from stress caused by a move, traveling on vacation, being fed in a noisy environment, or having a food-aggressive dog in the house. Many dogs get motion sickness when riding in a car which can cause a loss of appetite for a day or more. But if these issues persist long enough that you are wondering how long a dog can live without eating, there may be another issue. 

Health Problems That Can Cause a Dog to Stop Eating

Health problems are the most worrying issue that may be causing your doggo’s appetite loss. There are a number of health conditions that can and will affect your dog’s appetite. Most of these issues require diagnosis, but many of them have other symptoms you can be on the lookout for. 

Symptoms to watch for:

      • Coughing
      • Diarrhea
      • Dry nose and gums
      • Gagging
      • Loss of skin elasticity
      • Pale gums or bright red gums
      • Panting
      • Thick saliva
      • Vomiting
      • Weight loss
      • Wheezing

If you notice any of these along with changes in diet, veterinary professionals recommend contacting your vet right away [2]. You should start to think about contacting your vet within 8 to 12 hours if your dog has vomited or had diarrhea along with a lack of appetite [3]. It may not be an issue of how long can a dog survive without eating, but something else is threatening their survival while also suppressing their appetite. 

Health Conditions that Cause a Lack of Appetite

Minor problems that may work themselves out quickly are:

      • Minor dental problems
      • Hormonal cycle of unspayed female dogs
      • Minor gastrointestinal distress
      • New medications
      • Recent surgeries
      • Vaccinations

If you suspect these may be the issue, keep an eye on your dog for any new or worsening symptoms and make sure they are getting plenty of water. If symptoms persist beyond 24 hours you should think about contacting your vet.

Major problems that you should be aware of include:

      • Cancer
      • Major dental problems (teeth, gums, jaws)
      • Diabetes
      • Gastrointestinal swelling or blockage
      • Hyperthyroidism
      • Infection
      • Kidney problems
      • Organ failure
      • Pancreatitis
      • Severe pain
      • Toxin exposure

If you think your dog has any of these conditions, call your vet immediately as these can be life-threatening.

How to Get Your Dog Cleaning Their Bowl Again

Once you determine that your doggo is healthy, you will want to encourage them to begin to eat, again. Often it takes a multi-faceted approach to encourage a dog that just isn’t in the mood for food. Here are some ways to get them eating again:

      • Make sure to feed your doggo on a regular schedule so they get used to a set mealtime.
      • Give fewer treats for a better appetite when you are ready to feed them.
      • Take your furry pal on a nice, brisk walk before dinnertime. Just as with humans, fresh air and exercise can stimulate an appetite.
      • Add chicken or beef stock to kibble for a bit more flavor.
      • Mix kibble with chicken breast meat can prime their feeding pump.
      • If you have multiple dogs, separate them. The calm and quiet could encourage eating. 
      • Elevate water and food bowls to make them easier to reach.
      • Add some canned food or a topper to their kibble.
      • Warming food gives off a more appetizing smell.
      • Offer smaller, more frequent meals, but remove uneaten portions after 10-15 minutes.
      • Offer home-cooked food, like chicken and rice, that is both tasty and easy to digest.

Don’t Wait Too Long to Find out How Long Your Dog Can Go Without Eating

A Husky licking his chops

It’s hard when your best friend isn’t eating and doesn’t seem to have their normal amount of energy. You should be concerned, but don’t panic. Most of the time the issue will resolve itself in a day or two, but if it lasts or you’re concerned, don’t hesitate to contact your vet. They can give you advice over the phone or tell you if you need to bring your forever pal in for a thorough checkup. Soon, with luck, they will be bouncing all over the house and eating everything you put in front of them, just like when they first joined your family.


[1] Dog Not Eating? Here’s Why and What to Do | PetMD

[2] Why is My Dog Not Eating? The Top 6 Reasons (

[3] Why Won't My Dog Eat? Learn About Reasons Why Your Dog Isn't Eating (