How Long Can a Dog Go Without Eating [When Sick or Healthy]?

Picture this:

You wake up one day, and find your dog’s bowl is still full. You try service some homemade chicken recipe, but your high-appetite dog is still not interested.

Is my dog unwell or did he eat at my neighbor’s place?

It is not unusual for a dog to stop eating, but when it gets to 2 or 3 dogs, then it is a reason to worry.

A normal healthy dog can go for about 3- 5 days without food before the situation gets fatal. However, this may vary among dogs based on their body weight, age and metabolism rate.

The rate of depletion of food reserves in the stomach will depend on the amount of calories that your dog needs for their body organs to perform effectively. This is why it is important to monitor your dog’s loss appetite before it becomes fatal.

What Causes a Dog to Stop Eating?


Perform a physical examination of your dog by checking their mouth for sores, teeth for any inflammation or injury to their body to find out if there is any excruciating pain that may be the cause of food avoidance.

Is he drinking water?

If your dog only stopped eating but is drinking water as usual and their stool and urination is still regular, there is no need to panic. Usually, dogs can go longer without food but they can only live without water for 2- 3 days.

If he is vomiting or has a running stomach, then you need to take him for a vet check-up.

Food related issues

You need to check the expiration date of the food you are serving him, and any changes in color or smell. This is because dogs are highly sensitive and can determine bad food quickly.

Diet and schedule changes

If you made a diet change recently, it could be they are not enjoying the new ingredients as much. It is recommended to switch up your dog’s diet to avoid a monotonous diet but do it in portions.

Dogs also thrive best when they are on a schedule and any changes to time or place of taking their meals could lead to appetite loss.

Social or environmental issues

Dogs tend to react to changes in their social or environmental issues. For example, if you relocate to a new location or a family member moved out, then your dog may react to this change by not eating.

Your dog may be overwhelmed with such changes and may be in “adaptation phase”. Give them some days to get used to the new normal.


First you need to monitor their behavior. If they are going about their schedule as usual and have only skipped a meal or two, it’s understandable.

However, if they are sleeping all day, hiding or acting up they may be depressed or anxious about something. This is common in the case where a dog is separated from his owner for some time or when they enjoy eating when the master is around.

How to Get Your Dog to Start Eating (Again)

Here are some ways to help your dog regain his lost appetite, and start gobbling down his meals in minutes:

Switch the diet

Dogs get bored quickly if they eat the same meals for months without a change. If he has on a wet diet for a long time, introduce dry kibble in between the wet food servings. Change up their diet in proportions depending on their favorite food to keep their palate juicy.

For injury or illness

In case your dog had a recent vaccination or has a sore in their mouth that is preventing them from eating, he needs urgent checkup from a vet.

Importantly, if your dog is not urinating or passing any stool, and they are vomiting or have diarrhea- a visit to the vet is vital!

Create a conducive time and environment for eating

If you suddenly change up their eating location, give your dog food in a familiar place where they enjoy spending time. For dogs who love eating while in a company rather than when alone, try fitting your schedule to when you are around too.

Anxiety and behavioral changes

Sometimes, a dog just needs some time to deal with a loss, a move or separation from their owner.

However, if they are sleeping all day, avoiding social interaction and not eating at all costs, you can take them out for walks and spend more time with them to bond and get familiar with their surroundings.

Avoid giving them table scraps

As much as we love and adore our dogs to an extent of sharing our human meals, this only reduces their appetite for their kibble. Avoid giving them table scraps or treats before their meals, since this will only make them look forward to more table scraps, and stop eating their regular meals.


A regular eating routine is important for your dog. If he suddenly stops eating, you will need to find out quickly what may be the reason.

How long can a dog go without eating? Typically, most dogs can go 3-5 days without food depending on their age, weight and activity levels.

In case your dog is vomiting or has an underlying medical condition, you should visit your vet for a quick checkup. However, if they are just tired of taking the same diet on end, consider switching up and observe if they take up the bait.

To make sure your dog does not skip meals, ensure you give them quality and not substandard food. The ingredients should also be fresh. Check expiration dates to avoid food poisoning cases.

FAQs on How Long Can a Dog Go Without Eating

Dog not eating but taking water

There are many reasons a dog may not be eating but you need to monitor him for about 2-3 days before visiting your vet for checkup. It could be they want their favorite treat or do not like an ingredient in their diet. A dog can live for 3-5 days without food but they can only live for 2-3 days without water.

Will a dog starve themselves to death?

It's highly unlikely for a dog to starve themselves to death but they can hold it out for as long as they can. Could be you stopped giving them their favorite kibble or they lost their owner. While they can last about 3-5 days without food, consider giving them water to keep them hydrated.

Is it good for my dog to skip a meal?

Skipping a meal or two in a week for your dog is normal, and somehow beneficial to their body. It gives the body time to relax, clean up and revive. You can try giving them chicken soup, lots of water and fruits to keep them energized.

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