How Long Can A Dog Go Without Food?

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how long can a dog go without food
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Food is a critical part of every living thing. But what if your dog stops eating? Without proper nutrition, dogs can quickly become sick and die.

Offering your pup a balanced diet can help keep them healthy, strong, and alive for many years to come. 

So how long can a dog go without food? Dogs can go 8 to 12 hours without eating and without having too many problems.

However, dogs shouldn’t go without food for too long, or else they may become ill or worse.

This in-depth guide will help you to identify why your dog might not be eating. It will also go over ways to get your dog eating properly again. 

How Long Can A Dog Go Without Eating If He Is Healthy?

If your dog is overall a healthy adult, it should be able to survive up to five days without food. However, that factors in that your dog will still be drinking plenty of water during that time. 

You should never starve a dog as punishment. 

Thin dogs standing outside.

How Long Can An Unhealthy Dog Go Without Eating?

However, if your dog has health problems such as kidney problems or diabetes, your dog not eating can be even worse. 

Any of these conditions can cause your dog to become violently ill in a much shorter time. Some may not even last three days. And skipping a single meal could cause complications to diabetes. 

Why Won’t My Dog Eat?

If you notice that your dog isn’t eating, there is often a reason why. Understanding why your dog isn’t eating is the quickest way to solve the problem and get them eating a balanced diet. 

You may need to take a trip to the vet to solve the mystery of why your dog isn’t eating. And some fixes might be as simple as changing your dog’s food, or it could take months to fix the problem. 

Medical Conditions

This is why you should take a trip to your veterinarian if you notice that your dog has lost his appetite. 

Your vet can rule out these conditions:

  • Infection
  • Blockage
  • Pain due to arthritis
  • Dental issues
  • Parasites
  • Cancers
  • Diabetes
  • Autoimmune diseases

All of these illnesses can cause your dog to have a lack of appetite

Mental Conditions

Dogs, like people, can suffer from the symptoms of mental conditions such as depression or anxiety. These can also cause your dog to lose their appetite. 


Watch for some of the symptoms that may indicate that your dog is suffering from depression.

  • Your dog may not be as playful
  • Abnormal sleep schedule
  • Indifference to things they once enjoyed, such as a favorite treat or toy

These symptoms may be connected to other health concerns as well, so make sure you check with your vet. 


Anxiety in dogs can manifest a lot of other problems than just not eating. These dogs can become aggressive, destructive, or have an aversion to being pet. Many people shift from working remotely to returning to working in the office can stress out your pet. 

You can get treatment from your vet, or you can try a few of these tricks:

  • Set aside time to spend with your dog
  • Give your dog some quiet space that is just for them
  • Socialize them more

Picky Eaters

While cats are often considered picky, but some dogs will also upturn their noses at some types of food. Don’t panic if this happens.

Just try one thing at a time to see what they like. Some dogs are also food possessive, so if you have company over, you may need to feed them in a separate room or even in their crate to get them to eat.

However, switching out foods can be time-consuming and expensive. Often it’s easier to work through the problem rather than avoid it.

Some things you can try:

  • Gravy toppers in small amounts
  • Water in your dog’s food
  • Offer food at specific times and pick it up if they don’t eat. Try again in a few hours.
  • Start feeding them less. Often a dog won’t eat if they are already full.

Pro Tip: Dog’s won’t starve themselves too long. So give it a day or two before you worry too much.

What Happens If A Dog Doesn’t Eat for 3 Days?

If your dog hasn’t eaten for three days, it is essential to get help from a vet immediately. Not eating for three days can cause problems with malnutrition or even other health issues.

A dog not eating can be scary for you and your family, but it’s usually nothing serious.

Will A Dog Starve Itself To Death?

dog holding a bowl

Unless your dog is suffering from an illness, they will not starve themselves to death.

Because dogs don’t understand death in the way that we do, there have been no recorded cases of dogs killing themselves by not eating.

However, a sick dog may not eat and suffer. Gastrointestinal problems or illnesses like cancer can make a dog stop eating altogether.

When Should I Worry If My Dog Isn’t Eating?

If your dog isn’t eating, you should always seek a veterinarian’s opinion.

This is especially true if the problem goes on for more than a few days or if your dog is not acting like themselves.

There are many reasons that your dog may not be eating or will lose its appetite, including dental issues, gastrointestinal problems, obesity, nutritional deficiencies, and more.

Can A Dog Go 8 Hours Without Eating?

Yes, generally, a dog can go 8 hours without eating.

However, if your dog’s current state of health is compromised, it is hard to say if they can go 8 hours without eating or not. For example, dogs with diabetes might not be able to go the full eight hours.

How Long Can A Puppy Go Without Eating?

Puppies are growing and should be eating accordingly. However, in the case of an upset tummy, your pup may need to fast.

A newborn puppy can go without food for around 2 hours. However, by the time you bring home a pup at eight to twelve weeks old, they will be able to go closer to five hours without food or water.

When should I worry about my puppy not eating?

Because they are always growing, you should keep a closer eye on your puppy if they are not eating. If after a day they still refuse to eat, you need to get them to a vet.

In addition to refusing food, watch for a decrease in energy levels.

Puppies will be puppies and get into all kinds of things they shouldn’t. For this reason alone, it’s better to feed your puppy on a schedule instead of leaving food out all day.

If the pup is throwing up or has diarrhea that lasts longer than a day, you should see your vet to make sure nothing is seriously wrong.

Why is my puppy not eating?

Puppies are complicated creatures, but they should be eating regularly. Here are a few reasons why your pup might not be eating.

  • Gut Infections. Viruses are commonly found in a dog’s digestive system. These parasites may cause a variety of issues. For example, as is the case with Parvo or roundworms.
  • Stress. A puppy might become confused in a new environment, resulting in stress and an aversion to food. It takes some time for the dog to get used to its new surroundings.
  • Pain. If your dog is in pain because of a disease or an accident, it’s likely to avoid food. For example, a teething puppy might struggle to eat because its mouth hurts.
  • Upset stomach. If your dog is vomiting or has diarrhea, it may not want to eat until they feel better. This is because of the discomfort in their stomach.
  • Unusual diet. When you change your dog’s food abruptly, they might refuse to eat it for a while, though this typically only lasts a few days.
  • Not used to your way of feeding. Having a set schedule is critical to keeping your puppy eating. Another tip to keep in mind is that if your pup was eating from a different type of bowl, plastic or metal, each has its own smell and could put your pup off their food.
  • Cold and seeking warmth. The puppies’ only source of heat is their mother, and if their environment is too cold, they may suffer from separation anxiety.
  • Pickiness. Some puppies struggle to adapt to different food. Make sure to mix it properly with their old to wean them off.
  • Organ problem. If your puppy is eating less than usual, it may point to an organ problem. If you suspect this, take them to the vet as soon as possible.
  • Not hungry. Puppies are naturally curious and will not always go after food first thing in the morning or when they first re-enter their kennel after playtime.

It is critical for you to monitor your dog’s eating habits regularly and get medical assistance if you are unable to solve the problem. You’ll be able to get them back into eating when you know why they are refusing food.

How long can a dog survive without water?

Dogs can go about two to three days without water before they begin to feel the effects of dehydration.

A dehydrated canine will begin to have a loss of skin elasticity, sunken eyes, and gums so dry they are tacky.

Allowing your dog to get this far is not only dangerous but also life-threatening. This is not an issue you should take lightly because it will be too late if you wait until your dog is showing signs of dehydration.

How to Get Your Dog to Eat

Sometimes it just takes a simple missed meal for your dog to become hungry again go back to eating. However, sometimes it takes more than that.

Your first step should always be to go talk to your Vet. They may be able to turn things around with the help of some electrolytes, appetite stimulants, or antibiotics.

Use your best judgment when it comes to how much you should worry. Here are just a few reasons why your dog may lose their appetite for a short while:

  • Recovering from surgery
  • Mourning a death
  • New Schedules
  • Different locations
  • Stress
Dog and owner taking a walk outside.

When Should You Contact Your Vet?

If your dog or puppy has gone a substantial time without eating or shows any of the following symptoms, you should make an appointment as soon as possible.

  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Quick or Significant Weight loss
  • Diarrhea or Bloody Stool
  • Gagging
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing

Methods for Feeding a Sick Dog

Bringing your dog home after surgery can be a stressful time. And your dog may not want to eat while they are recovering.

To avoid an extended period of anorexia, make sure to keep the food and water bowls in the same place you had them when they were at home. And let your dog set their own feeding schedule.

This will help with any stress that may come during this time and minimize fighting with your dog over food.

If you notice your dog is not eating, you may try a few tricks to entice your sick dog to eat.

Give Your Dog a Treat

Make sure it’s something special. Something like a bit of chicken or baby food may help them feel hungry again soon.

Change Dry Food Brands

Sometimes it can be as simple as picking up a can of different food to help them feel hungry again. If your dog eats chicken-based foods typically, try beef or salmon.

Use A Syringe

First, make sure that the dog food you are giving is moist enough. If not, try mixing in some warm water or chicken broth to it. Then put the mixture into a syringe. Give it to your dog slowly by placing the tip of the syringe at the corner of their mouth.

This is a drastic measure but might help if your dog is still in pain from their surgery.

If your dog fights you too much, call the vet. Your vet can walk you through what you should do or if you need to come back into the office.

Medicinally Stimulate Your Dog’s Appetite

All sorts of drugs can get your dog eating again; these are generally safe and effective. However, before using any medications at home, be sure to discuss them with the vet first because some medicines should not be given without veterinary supervision.

Heat up Your Dog’s Food

This age-old trick is often a great place to start. Warmed-up food smells better and usually can get even picky dogs to eat their food.

Give Your Dog Gravy

As long as your dog doesn’t have any dietary restrictions, you can also try giving them some gravy to get their appetite going.

Add Broth To Your Dog’s Food

While this method can easily turn into a bad habit, it can sometimes help get your dog back on track and is an easy way to measure how much they are eating. This means giving them one kibble at a time.

Read the Instructions On Any Medication

Medications can decrease your dog’s appetite. Before giving your dog any medication, make sure to read the directions carefully and look at whether or not it could affect their appetite.

Let Your Dog Eat Grass

Grass offers a lot of prebiotics and probiotics for your dog’s gut health naturally. While it may make your dog vomit, this is often a good sign as your dog’s body is purging out the bad stuff.

Pro Tip: Just make sure to keep your dog hydrated and if you notice blood or if your dog continues to vomit, take them to the vet.

Learn more about grass and dogs here.

Take Your Dog to the Vet

If you notice your dog is not eating as much as normal, you may need to make a trip to the vet. Veterinarians can check your dog’s overall health and ensure there is no underlying condition causing the lack of appetite.

Pro Tip: Make an appointment with your vet before you see them so they can perform any needed tests to make sure your dog is healthy.

What Foods Should I Feed My Sick Dog?

When dogs are sick, certain foods become more appealing than others. If your dog isn’t feeling well, you may offer them some tastier meals and easier on the tummy.

Wet Food

If your dog usually only eats dry kibble, try introducing some canned wet food. Many dogs enjoy this as a special treat. And, as an added benefit, wet food has higher water content, allowing it to keep your dog hydrated.

Baby Food

Baby food is enticing for dogs. It is also delicious and nutritious. In baby food, avoid any that have onion or garlic in them. Chicken, lamb, or turkey are excellent choices.

Bone Broth

Make sure that any bone broth you give your dog is made for dogs. These lines are lower in sodium and don’t contain any toxic foods like onions while still being full of nutrition.

Chicken Broth

The chicken broth will not only taste good to your dog but will also sit easily in your dog’s stomach. If the cause of the loss of appetite is an upset stomach, this can be an excellent food to try. Just be careful because chicken broth is high in sodium.

Shredded Chicken

For dogs with upset stomachs, shredded chicken is easy for them to eat and is an excellent incentive for them to eat something. Dogs adore chicken, so it’s a wonderful alternative as long as it’s unsalted and cut into small enough pieces.

Chicken and Rice

In most cases, chicken and rice are actually utilized in dog foods. Make sure the chicken is fully cooked (by boiling) and cut into tiny enough pieces that your dog can eat. If you don’t season it and use white rice, it’s bland enough to be gentle on an upset stomach.


Pumpkin is excellent for your dog’s digestion. However, it can sometimes cause loose stools if you feed your pup too much.

Pumpkin is high in fiber and contains vitamins and minerals that your dog needs. Pumpkin pie filling should not be fed to your dog since the sugars and spices in it might irritate his stomach.

What Are the Healthiest Foods My Dog Can Eat?

Dogs, like humans, need balanced diets. How often you feed your dog fresh, raw food is up to you. How much and how often you feed him dry kibble or wet canned food is your choice.

But what foods are the best for your dog? Here are a few healthy options.

Keep Your Dog Hydrated

While your dog may not be eating as well as you’d like, you can’t forget to make sure your dog is drinking water as well.

Dogs can actually go longer without food than they can without water. However, often these two problems happen at the same time.

One way to help make sure your dog stays hydrated is by offering them ice chips or extra wet food.

However, if your dog has been vomiting, you can also offer them Pedialyte. If your dog isn’t drinking at all, you should call your vet.

Signs of Dehydration

Keep an eye on your dog for any symptoms of dehydration, such as thirst. The following are the most frequent signs of dehydration to be aware of:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Panting
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Dry and sticky gums
  • Dry nose
  • Dry-looking eyes

What Not to Feed Your Dog

If your dog is unwell, you shouldn’t offer them anything too indulgent. Dogs can become ill after eating too many rich foods if you regularly feed your dog human food and treat it.

Don’t Ever Feed Your Dog:

  • Xylitol. Often found in peanut butter as a sugar substitute and can cause liver failure
  • Avocado seeds can cause an obstruction, and the avocado itself can make your dog sick
  • Grapes or Raisins can cause kidney failure
  • Caffeine
  • Onions or Garlic* are toxic to your dog

*Garlic in small amounts can be beneficial, but large amounts can harm your dog.

  • Alcohol
  • Milk or Other Dairy in large amounts can cause digestive distress
  • Human Medication
  • Chocolate
  • Macadamia Nuts can damage muscles
  • Uncooked Yeast Dough can cause digestive problems and alcohol poisoning
  • Cooked Bones can splinter and hurt your dog
  • Salt

When Shouldn’t I Feed My Sick Dog?

If your dog has been ill, it might not be an excellent time to feed them. Give your dog’s digestive tract a good twelve hours before trying food again.

If your dog is still struggling to keep food down after two days, take them to the vet.

How Much Should I Feed My Sick Dog?

Your dog should be fed small frequent meals. How much you feed them will depend on how active your dog usually is.

If they are very active, give them about 25% less than usual. But if your dog is generally more sedentary, don’t reduce their rations at all or even increase it a little bit.

What Else Can I Do to Help My Sick Dog?

Make sure that your dog has a comfortable place to rest. If your dog is normally active, keeping them in a crate will be too confining for them, but they may not feel very comfortable on the sofa if they are inactive.

Should I Feed My Dog After They Throw Up?

You shouldn’t feed your dog for a few hours after they throw up. They should stay hydrated by drinking lots of water, and you should wait until they are hungry again or up to twelve hours before you give them their food.

What to Do After 48 Hours

If your dog refuses food after 48 hours, you should visit a veterinarian as soon as possible. Before their condition gets worse, an expert team of veterinarians can diagnose and treat your canine companion.

the Bottom Line

Dogs can go 8-12 hours without eating without too many problems. However, if you notice your pup isn’t eating after 24 hours you should take your dog to your vet for a check-up.

Photo of author
Andrei Bratu
Andrei is the owner of Dog Food Camp and manages the team of expert writers on the site. He is passionate about helping dog lovers learn about canine nutrition.

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