10 Ways on How To Stimulate a Sick Dog’s Appetite

Sickness can knock down your Bulldog’s ravenous appetite. Your pooch will refuse to eat, which will make matters worse for its health. To add to that, getting a sick dog to eat isn’t an easy task. So for this post, I will share my proven methods on how to stimulate a sick dog’s appetite safely at home.

One missed meal shouldn’t cause panic, but if your pet refuses to eat for days, you have to do something. If not, your doggo’s condition will get worse, and it may succumb to death.

Reasons why dogs lose their appetite

how to stimulate a sick dog's appetite

Like humans, canines can lose their appetite for a variety of reasons. The following may explain your pet’s poor appetite:

  • Illnesses. Diseases, infections, and injuries will affect your dog’s appetite. Ailing canines will only eat a small amount or totally refuse food while they are sick. It’s crucial to coordinate with the dog’s vet, so you can do something to stimulate its appetite.
  • Stress. A sudden change in the household or the presence of other animals can stress a dog. This will cause a canine to refuse to eat because eating itself is a vulnerable experience. The good thing is that stress-induced appetite problems will go away once your dog is calmer.
  • Post-surgery conditions. Right after surgery, it’s normal for dogs to have a poor appetite. The canine will be placed in an IV drip to keep it hydrated and supply nutrients while it’s yet to regain its full appetite.
  • Aging. Old dogs become weaker, and so do their appetite. It may not be the case for all dogs, but as canines age, pet owners observe them to be less interested in eating.

How to stimulate a sick dog’s appetite

A sick dog with a poor appetite is every pet owner’s dilemma. But with the following hacks, you can help your dog get its appetite back.

1. Make meals more flavorful.

how to stimulate a sick dog's appetite

The very first thing you can do is to make your dog’s meals more appealing. Sick dogs often have a poor sense of taste, which makes their regular food less appetizing.

You can start by adding low-sodium broth into your pet’s kibble. Mix it until you have a sticky consistency. Aside from the improved taste, the food will also have a better smell, which might be enough to entice the taste buds of a sick canine.

Another thing you can try is adding herbs to the food. The likes of oregano, parsley, turmeric, and rosemary are safe for most canines. It will also boost their food’s flavor while giving it a fresher breath.

Take note that as much as you want to add flavor, you shouldn’t use artificial additives. In the long run, artificial flavors could make your dog sicker.

2. Keep the food warm

In my experience, sick dogs often dislike cold and stale food. Warming it up a bit might do the magic for an ailing canine.

Remember that you’re not supposed to microwave kibble. Doing so may cause a chemical reaction to the food, which could upset the dog’s stomach.

Instead, you should add a small amount of hot water to the food. Mix it well and wait until the water cools down a little bit.

In the case of wet food, you should check the label to see if it’s safe to microwave or not. But in general, vets don’t recommend microwaving any dog food.

3. Top it with treats

how to stimulate a sick dog's appetite

Food toppers are a great way to stimulate a sick dog’s appetite. Unlike typical kibble, toppers have a richer flavor and stronger smell. It’s also packed with nutrients and antioxidants that will help a sick dog recover faster.

For sick and picky dogs, I highly recommend the Blue Buffalo Wilderness Trail Toppers. These are chunky bites made of real meat, which you can get in beef, chicken, salmon, duck, and more varieties. Aside from meat, it’s also blended with broth and animal organs to enhance the flavors naturally.

The best thing about this Blue Buffalo meal topper is it doesn’t have any grains or by-products. It’s easy to digest even for canines who are dealing with a health problem.

Aside from commercially formulated toppers, you can also use homemade options. Rotisserie chicken is a good option, as well as other classic favorites of your pet.

4. Ask the vet about ghrelin receptor agonists.

Ghrelin is the hormone responsible for stimulating hunger among dogs and humans. There are so-called ghrelin receptor agonists, which are new medications in the market used for pets with poor appetite.

These agonists will mimic the effect of the ghrelin hormone. In turn, your sick dog will feel hungry and will be compelled to eat. However, make sure that mobility isn’t an issue, or your poor dog will suffer even more.

It’s best to ask your dog’s veterinarian about using ghrelin receptor agonists. Make sure that your dog is prescribed an FDA-approved medication that’s labeled for therapeutic use. The vet can guide you on the proper dosage and means of administration to achieve the best results.

5. Consider using CBD products.

Cannabidiol (CBD) products are becoming a big thing in veterinary practice, specifically in states where it’s legal to use. One of the key effects of CBD products is boosting a canine’s appetite. The best thing is that CBD will also ease the pains and aches of your sick dog. It’s hitting two birds with one stone, which will reduce the suffering of your canine.

Remember that CBD is different from THC. THC is a psychoactive compound, which gives the ‘high’ feeling, and it’s not used in veterinary practice. Meanwhile, CBD delivers relaxing and calming benefits, which are often used in dog treats and food products.

But just like any supplement or new product, you should consult your dog’s vet first. The vet will prescribe the right dosage or if a product is suitable for your pet.

You can also purchase over-the-counter CBD treats, which you can use as a topper for your dog’s meals.                

6. Change the feeding situation.

A change in feeding situation is also needed to help your sick dog eat more. For example, instead of feeding it in the kitchen, your sick dog will likely eat more beside the bed. As much as possible, you should eliminate the need to exert effort for your pet to eat.

In some cases, you may need to hand-feed your sick dog. This is the case, especially if the canine has a broken leg or is still sluggish from surgery. Assisting your sick dog will allow it to receive the nutrition that will speed up recovery.

With sick dogs, you should consider feeding small amounts multiple times a day. This is usually the feeding method for puppies, but it’s also helpful for ailing canines. Small amounts of food are easier to digest, and shorter feeding times are less stressful.

7. Use Vitamin B as an appetite booster.

It’s said that Vitamin B12 is an effective appetite booster that delivers a rapid effect. Increasing your sick dog’s Vitamin B intake can help regain its appetite. However, make sure that the Vitamin B dosage is suitable for the canine’s weight, size, and overall health condition.

Again, you should involve the vet in this process. Too much supplementation of any vitamin can be toxic to dogs, so you shouldn’t self-administer any product without consulting an expert.

Besides improving your dog’s appetite, Vitamin B12 also helps in red blood cell production and maintains a healthy nervous system. It’s also an integral vitamin in breaking down food components like protein, fats, and carbs.

Aside from Vitamin B, certain minerals like zinc can also have an appetite-boosting effect.

8. Give your dog more exercise.

Added exercise will help increase your dog’s feeling of hunger. However, this depends on how sick your canine is. Usually, mild indoor exercise is suitable for mild conditions that don’t affect your pet’s mobility. 

You should encourage your dog to get as much physical activity as possible without making its condition worse. Aside from its appetite-boosting effect, exercise will also prevent your sick dog’s muscles from wasting away.

Regular physical movement will also aid in your dog’s digestion, which results in better nutrient absorption and faster healing.

9. Explore acupuncture

Photo Credits – Daily Paws

While it’s not a popular solution, acupuncture is said to help boost a sick dog’s appetite. It will not treat your pet’s condition, but it’s an effective way to reduce physical pain. In turn, your dog will feel more comfortable standing up and eating a meal.

Canines suffering from health problems like kidney failure, diabetes, and hormonal conditions are known to benefit the most from acupuncture in terms of appetite.

Many vets are trained to provide acupuncture sessions. Since it doesn’t involve the use of any medications, it’s relatively safe for canines.

10. Change to a new food

Lastly, your pet’s poor appetite might be a sign that it’s already tired of the current food product. Sick dogs are more sensitive, and they will refuse food even if they’ve been eating it for years.

Remember that diet switches must be done gradually and with the supervision of a veterinarian. You wouldn’t want to make your dog’s sickness worse because you rushed with a food change.

To avoid adverse effects, you should replace a small part of your sick dog’s meal for weeks. Start by replacing 1/8 of the canine’s meal with the new food and observe if it’s going to suffer from negative effects.

If your pet showed improved appetite for several weeks, you could replace another 1/8 portion of its food. This will snowball over the course of a few months until you’ve fully changed your dog’s diet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Should you force-feed a dog that refuses to eat?

A: If your dog refuses to eat multiple meals, you may need to force-feed it. This should be done after consulting your dog’s veterinarian to ensure that the process will be safe. If force-feeding still doesn’t work, the veterinarian will have no choice but to tube feed your pet.

Q: How long can a dog go without eating?

A: Most dogs can only take up to five days without food before they get sick. Any day after that will increase your pet’s risk of suffering from life-threatening conditions. So it’s important to take action to save your pooch from the consequences of starvation.

Q: Do dogs stop eating when they are dying?

A: It’s common for dogs to have a poor appetite at the end of their life. Medications and extreme sickness will affect your dog’s appetite. However, just because your dog isn’t eating doesn’t mean it will already die. You can consult the veterinarian to stimulate your sick dog’s appetite.

Q: How long can an elderly dog live without eating?

A: Elderly dogs will suffer from life-threatening effects of starvation faster than a younger canine. It will also depend on the overall health condition as well as the breed of the dog. But whatever your dog’s age is, you should consider the refusal to eat as a serious problem.

Q: Why is my dog not eating but acting normal?

A: Canines can refuse to eat a meal and still act normal. However, as your pet skips more meals, it will start to take a toll on its health. Your pooch will begin to weaken, and it will go downhill from there the longer your dog is left without food.

Q: What should I feed a dog with no appetite?

A: You can entice your dog’s appetite by giving cooked chicken organs. Human baby food in meat varieties is also a good option. The smellier the food is, the better. For sick dogs with poor appetite, it’s best to keep meals light, so it will be easy to digest.

Final words

Knowing how to stimulate a sick dog’s appetite is crucial to support its recovery. Each dog is different, so your pet may respond differently to the methods I shared above. Patience and the help of a veterinarian will give the best results. The key here is understanding your pet’s condition and what’s causing loss of appetite.


  • Brad

    Hi I'm Brad, the founder of bulldogpapa.com. Having been a vet of 6 years I work alongside our team to provide valuable insight into your dog's health. I have a frenchie myself named Senzu who is my pride and joy!

Leave a Comment