Old Dog Not Eating

Old Dog Not Eating

Is your old dog not eating as eagerly lately?

Worried and frustrated that your pawsome oldie is showing less interest in her food?

I guess most dog parents would agree that dogs live for FOOD.

At least mine did. Even at her ripe old age of 15, Hana had a great appetite. The only time that she didn’t feel like eating was when she had had a stroke – she got too dizzy and nauseous to eat.

Unfortunately, not all old dogs are like Hana. Some older dogs may have diminished appetite due to one reason or another.

What Causes Loss of Appetite in Old Dogs?

There are many possible reasons for a dog not eating. Common ones among older dogs include:

Decreased Activity

The most obvious one is older dogs are less active and have lower metabolism, so they don’t tend to eat as much.


Older dogs may also have more stress. They may not be able to see or hear as well, or they may have aches and pains in the body. All these put stress on the dog.

Stress is an appetite killer, so if your older dog is not eating, see if there are any physical issues or if he is in pain, and try to keep your older dog’s environment as stress-free as possible.

Cognitive Dysfunction

Older dogs with cognitive dysfunction (doggie Alzheimer’s) may also eat less or not eat at all. They may “forget” eating, or they simply do not know where to go for food.

Sore Mouth

Older dogs are more prone to have problems with their teeth and gums, which may cause them pain when eating.

Sometimes, however, a sore mouth can mean something more sinister, such as mouth cancer. So be sure to check inside the dog’s mouth to see if there is any abnormal growth, and if the dog’s breath is really bad.

Digestive Problems

If an old dog’s digestive system is not working up to par, he may suffer from issues such as indigestion, diarrhea, constipation, bloat, etc. All these problems can cause the dog to lose his appetite.

Other Health Issues

Other more serious health issues common in older dogs that may cause a loss of appetite include:

  • Congestive heart failure
  • Kidney failure
  • Liver disease
  • Pancreatic problem
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
If your older dog decides to “fast” for a day or two, that’s not a big problem. But if he stops eating for over 2 days, or if his appetite loss is accompanied by weakness, lethargy, and/or weight loss, then a trip to the vet is necessary.

Old Dog Not Eating – What To Do To Help?

For temporary loss of appetite, try some of these ways to entice your dog to eat:


Herbs are useful to dogs with a poor appetite in a couple of ways.

First, we can use herbs to stimulate the dog’s appetite. Many dogs like aromatic culinary herbs such as peppermint, parsley, dill, fennel, alfalfa, basil, and so on.

Sprinkle some such herbs on your dog’s food to add a bit of flavor and aroma. That may entice the dog to eat.

Second, some herbs are good for supporting the digestive system and enhance digestion. If your dog has a sluggish digestive system, chances are he may also have a poor appetite.

For example, fennel seeds and caraway seeds are known to warm up the digestive system and enhance a poor appetite.

If your old dog is not eating due to stress, the herb lemon balm may help. This herb has calming effects and can help reduce gas and bloating as well.


Dogs with a sluggish digestive system and poor appetite can also benefit from supplementation of digestive enzymes and probiotics.

Older dogs may not be able to produce enough enzymes for food digestion, so it is very important to give digestive enzymes to help them out.

Probiotics help balance the beneficial bacteria in the dog’s guts and further aid digestion.

Here is a great supplement for old dogs (affiliate link):

It contains not only digestive enzymes and probiotics, but also vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants to support digestion and overall health of old dogs.

Meal Toppers

Sometimes dogs get tired of eating the same food day in and day out (don’t blame them), and as a result, they may eat less or stop eating altogether. To entice them to eat, consider adding “toppers” to their food (especially if you feed them commercial kibbles).

There are a lot of different ways to add “toppers” to a dog’s meal. For example:

  • Add plain meat baby food (chicken, turkey, lamb) to your old dog’s regular food. (Make sure it doesn’t contain onion powder.)
  • Add as a topping or mix in with the dog food some lightly browned, unseasoned lean meat.
  • Add some cooked veggies, such as sweet potatoes, pumpkin, broccoli, green peas, etc.
  • Add a dollop of natural unsweetened plain yogurt as a topping.
  • Sprinkle a bit of grated or powdered cheese on top of the food.
  • Add some homemade unsalted chicken broth to the food.
  • If you feed wet, raw or homemade food, sprinkle a handful of your dog’s favorite kibbles or treats on top.

Change or Warm the Food

If even after adding yummy toppings to your dog food, he is still turning his nose up at the food, try a new brand or flavor of food. The novelty effect may help stimulate his appetite.

Also, try warming the food or adding warm water to dry kibbles. Warmth can make the food more aromatic and palatable. That may just make your dog start drooling and eating!


Never microwave your dog’s food. It can create “hot spots” that will burn your dog’s mouth.

Essential Oils

Some essential oils, such as Sweet Orange, Lemon, Petitgrain, can stimulate the appetite. If you have a diffuser, diffuse one or a combination of these oils in the room for 20-30 minutes before meal times.

Or simply add 5-6 drops of any of the above oils to a 15 ml spray bottle filled with water. Shake well (every time before use) and spray the room.

As you can see, it may take some time, patience, and ingenuity to entice your old dog to eat, but you can do it! Remember though, an old dog not eating for a day or two is fine, but over two days? Time to see a vet.