Help! Dog Won’t Eat His Food But Will Eat Treats [Solved]

Dogs have a naturally high appetite for food, and it is rare for them to stop eating their regular meals even for a moment.

If your dog’s feeding habit changes all of a sudden, it could point to an underlying problem, either an illness or a change in the environment.

If your dog won’t eat his food but will eat treats and table scraps, you should be worried. As soon as you notice this change of behavior, you should attempt to find out the main reason for the dog not eating before the change blows into a serious illness.

In this article, we find the reasons why your dog won’t eat his food but will eat treats and other sweet snacks, and the steps you should take to find the exact causes and possible solutions to help your dog get back to eating his regular healthy diet.

How to Find Out Why Your Dog Has Stopped Eating (Steps)

If your dog is not eating his regular meal but is eating his treats, you should take action to find out the cause of this change of behavior. The following are some of the steps you can take to find out why your dog is not eating:

Monitor any changes in behavior

If your Fido stops eating immediately, it is possible that there is an underlying reason for that.

Start by checking is there has been a deviation in his behavior. Has his sleeping pattern changed? Is the poop smelly? What is the color of the urine? Asking yourself these questions can give you leads into the apparent change of behavior.

For example, if there is a change in the dog’s stool, either in terms of color, smell or the number of bathroom trips, you should schedule a visit to the vet to examine the dog and see if the dog is suffering from a specific illness.

Check the food

If your dog suddenly not interested in eating his meals, it could be an issue with his food. Examine the food that you are giving your canine to see if its stale, expired or there has been a change in ingredients.

You can even take a small bite to see if there is a change in taste. If the food is not expired and everything looks fine, you should contact the manufacturer to see if there was a change in the ingredient composition that the dog does not like.

You can try a small quantity of a different dog food brand to see if the dog will eat. If the dog gobbles the new brand to the last bit, this could mean that it is a problem with the food. However, if the dog refuses to eat the new brand, this could mean that the source of the problem could be something else other than the food.

Examine the dog’s mouth and skin for anything unusual

Examining your dog’s mouth can help unearth anything unusual such as swollen gums that may make it painful or uncomfortable to chew or swallow food.

Also check for the presence of parasites on the dog’s skin, fur loss, injuries, or lumps on the dog’s skin and legs.

Related: Dogs that don’t shed much

Examine the dog’s environment

A change in the dog’s environment could also trigger this change in his eating routine.

These changes could be a change in the location of the food bowl, a change in the house arrangement, a new baby, the presence of other pets in the house, etc. The dog may react to the new changes by refusing to eat food.

You should also check the house for missing objects.

Look for missing toys, torn carpet, house plants, etc. that the dog may have eaten. In such instances, the dog may start vomiting while trying to remove the foreign objects. If your dog is struggling to vomit, you should rush him to the vet immediately.

Behavior triggered by own actions

Have you been giving your dog too many food scraps lately?

A dog could stop eating either because he is too full or he is waiting for more scraps from the next serving. He is likely to have developed a liking for human food, thereby losing appetite for the dry kibbles that you are serving him.

Common Reasons Why Dog Won’t Eat His Food But Will Eat Treats

If your normally high-appetite dog develops a selective loss of appetite, you should immediately try to find out the cause of the behavioral change.

The following are some of the reasons why your dog won’t eat his food but will eat treats:

Medical Issues

If your canine suddenly hates his food, it could point to a possible medical condition that needs to be addressed quickly. Check for signs of illness by observing the dog’s behavior, poop and urine to determine if there is any change that may have occurred.

Some of the illnesses that may lead to a loss of appetite in dogs include depression, infection, swollen gums or tongue, tumors, parasites, allergies, poisoning, stomach upset, and problems with internal body organs such as the kidney, heart or liver.

Regardless of whether you’ve detected some illness or not, you should visit your vet to have your Fido examined. The vet may be interested in knowing the changes in behavior that you observed, the color of urine, whether the poop is smelly, solid or dog is having diarrhea, any changes in the environment that may cause the dog to be depressed, etc.

Dental Issues

Swollen jaws and injuries in the mouth can be painful not only to your dog but to humans as well.

If your dog has swollen jaws or gum disease, he can experience pain and discomfort when chewing and swallowing his regular food. This may force him to skip mealtime and opt for treats because they are soft and gentle to the gums.

He doesn’t like his food

Has the dog’s regular diet changed in the recent days? If your dog is unhappy with the current diet, chances are that he will not eat it until he sees his familiar diet or an alternative meal that he is happy with.

When switching to new dog food, make a gradual transition by mixing a portion of the new diet and a portion of the old diet, while reducing portions of the old meal gradually until the dog is comfortable with his new meal.

Similarly, if your dog has eaten the same diet for a long time, he may be bored with it, and he is only interested in the treats and food scraps that taste a little different. If that is the case, try different dog food brands to test what he likes and what he does not like.

Food is expired or has unfamiliar ingredients

Your dog may also stop eating because the food he is eating is spoilt or has ingredients that he does not like.

Before pouring the kibble into the food bowl, always check the expiration date indicated on the packaging and the food itself. If the food is expired, dispose it off in a trash can.

If the food is not expired but the dog is still not eating, check if the food is spoiled. Even though the dog food is concealed in a sealed container, it may still get stale due to moisture or high temperatures.

If you notice any unusual smell, molds or other foreign objects in the dog food, get rid of it immediately and give him an alternative home-cooked meal or commercial formula.

Another thing you should check is if there has been a change in the ingredient composition. Your Fido may have developed sensitivities to one or more of the ingredients that the manufacturer added to the formula.

Changes in the Dog’s Environment

Has anything changed in the environment that the dog is used to?

A recent relocation, a new family member, a new pet, change in the feeding bowl location or the absence of a common family member can trigger a change in the dog’s feeding behavior. Even a new feeding bowl or an adjustment to the feeding schedule can cause your dog to stop eating for a few days.

How to Restore Appetite in a Dog that Won’t Eat His Food

Once you have identified the main reason why your dog is not eating his food, you should find a quick remedy to help him restore his appetite.

The following are some ways that you can use to help restore your dog’s appetite:

Stop/Reduce the Treats

If your dog prefers eating his treats rather than the main mean, you should quick action since too many treats may have a negative health implication.

The immediate course of action that you should take is to ration or withdraw the treats completely for a while. This will leave your dog with no alternative other than to gobble what is left in the food bowl to fight the hunger pangs.

Make a habit of giving treats when he has done something deserving, rather than providing treats as an alternative to his regular food.

Try a new food

Is the current food the problem? If you suspect that your dog to sensitive to one or more ingredients in the current food, you should try new dog food.

When choosing a new dog food, focus on the ingredients, guaranteed analysis and the type of protein. Also, if your dog is used to diets that have chicken as the main ingredient, try other formulas that have a novel protein such as bison, duck, venison or rabbit as the main protein source.

Buy smaller quantities first to see what brand your dog will like. If he does not like the first food you buy, try other brands in small quantities until you find one brand that he is comfortable with.

Schedule a visit to the vet’s clinic

Dog Won’t Eat His Food But Will Eat Treats

If your pup is still not eating despite switching to a different dog food brand, he may be having a health condition that requires to be examined by a vet.

Book an appointment with the vet at the earliest time possible to have the dog examined. The vet will perform tests on the dog to find out if he has any illness that is causing a loss of appetite.

During the clinic visit, the vet may require you to provide a background of the dog’s condition such as the number of days he has not been eating and the observed behavioral change.

Make a food schedule

Sometimes, a dog may stop eating his food due to a change in mealtimes. You can solve this by creating a food schedule for your dog and stick with it. Provide meals at the same time every day, and your dog will adjust to this schedule. Also, teach your dog to eat his regular meals first before he can have any treats.

Read More About :

  • Jenny
  • Updated a couple of weeks ago

Jenny is an avid animal lover and enjoys spending time with her two adopted cats and one dog who lost one leg in an accident. Inspired to blog about pets by her dad, a retired veterinarian, and veteran.