How Long Can a Dog Go Without Eating?

Pet Care


June 11, 2020

It would be best if you didn’t ever wonder how long a dog can go without food. Just like all humans require food to survive, so does man’s best friend. Your dog needs a balanced diet to grow healthy and strong. Like humans, there are times when your dogs will not eat their food as they should.

Although you need not be immediately alarmed when your dog doesn’t feed well, the lack of appetite means that something is amiss. In this case, you should carefully monitor your pup’s behavior over the next feeding times to see any changes. However, there are times when your dog stops eating or drinking altogether. Should this happen, you should consult your vet immediately. 

What Can Cause Dogs to Stop Eating

A healthy feeding dog results in a generally happier dog. Even though dogs can usually go for long without food, you should instead focus on helping your pup regaining a healthy appetite. There are many reasons why your dog might suddenly lose its desire for food. Here are the three most common reasons why this could happen. 

Health-Related Issues

Your dog might stop eating or may seem to have lost appetite if they’re experiencing some dental problems. Toothaches, even for human beings, can be quite a painful experience. Despite your dog’s desire to indulge in their favorite meal, their dental pains will deter them. Should you notice this change, you should observe their mouths for any signs of a dental problem.

Similar to human beings, sickness can significantly affect your dog’s appetite and metabolism. The loss of appetite is usually a symptom of a more significant issue. If your dog skips all meals in 24 hours, then it’s time to pay a visit to your vet. Although the diagnosis may not reveal anything detrimental, you’d rather be safe than sorry. In worst-case scenarios, your furry friend may be diagnosed with severe health issues like pancreatitis (a disease of the pancreas) or parvo (a condition of the heart and intestines), which can be a matter of life or death.

In other, more fortunate instances, your pup’s lack of appetite might be a simple side effect of vaccination and should not last long. Nonetheless, it is always best to pay attention to your furry buddy and keep them hydrated to avoid any fatalities. 

Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes can swing a dog into depression. For instance, when your dog is taken away from their warm cozy home to a shelter, they will most likely feel abandoned. The change is, of course, massive and will often result in the dog’s mood change. Most dogs will probably refuse to eat when they first arrive at animal shelters because they are depressed and cannot understand what led to their abandonment.

If you have relocated to a new area, your furry companion may be put off their food, probably due to the travel and unfamiliarity of the new home. However, this will not be persistent, and your dog should resume their healthy appetite once he’s settled in. Other lifestyle changes that may affect your dog include separation anxiety due to your unavailability at home, the introduction of a new baby or a new pet, as well as changes in your daily routines. Luckily, you can easily fix all this by showering your dog with all the affection they need.  

Picky Eating Behavior

You will often find most dogs eating dog food as well as human food. However, some of them can be quite picky eaters. If your dog is used to eating food similar to yours or wet canned food, they will most likely reject dry kibbles or raw food. Generally, a change in diet, no matter the reason, is often upsetting even to human beings and will likely result in a loss of appetite. Therefore, you must expose your pup to all types of food from a very young age. 

How Long Can Your Dog Go Without Eating?

So, how long can a dog go without food? The length of time a dog can go without feeding varies from one dog to the next. It is affected by factors such as age, general physique, mental health, and hydration. Therefore, there is no set time as to how long any specific dog can survive without eating.

However, a healthy dog can generally survive for three to five days without food. You should note that this estimation assumes your four-legged companion is mature rather than a puppy, although not elderly either. At the same time, how long can a dog go without water? The answer is not very long. If your dog doesn’t drink any water within 12 to 24 hours, you should immediately take them to the vet. That said, different situations will result in different experiences. 

  • If Your Dog Feels Ill 

A poor appetite is the first symptom that your dog does not feel too well. If the ailment affects the gastrointestinal tract, your dog might be required not to eat so they can recover. In such a case, your dog can survive for three to five days, depending on their age, breed, or medical condition. If your dog can consume just enough food to fulfill the basic nutritional needs, they will likely survive for slightly longer than five days. 

  • If Your Dog Suffers From Parvo

Parvo is a highly contagious virus. An estimated 80% of puppies suffering from parvo will die if not treated immediately. Most vets advise against feeding a puppy ailing from parvo. Forcing your pup to eat could cause even more diarrhea and vomit, leading to further dehydration. 

  • If Your Dog Suffers From Pancreatitis 

A common health issue in dogs is pancreatitis, which is caused by fatty foods. Treatment involves giving your dog’s pancreas some time to recover. During this time, your furry companion will have to stay for 24 hours without food. You can, however, sustain them on intravenous fluids. After the 24 hour period has expired, you can start feeding your dog light foods with gradually increasing portions recommended by your vet. 

  • If Your Dog Has Had Surgery 

Nausea is a secondary effect of surgeries, and dogs should not eat until the effects of anesthesia are gone. Although your pup can go without food for three to five days, it’s best to remember that they’ll be weak after surgery hence why you should consult your vet immediately. 

What Happens to Dogs When They Don’t Eat?

A starving dog is a terrible and depressing sight to behold. Starvation in dogs occurs in three phases, which can change their general appearance and behavior. 

  • Phase 1
    Although your dog will be okay for the first 24 hours, their glycogen stores will be used up instead of the nutrients in the food that they would typically consume. It is also crucial that your dog’s blood sugars stay at healthy levels during this period.    
  • Phase 2
    As your dog’s glycogen stores become depleted, their body will begin to create energy from other sources via gluconeogenesis. In this phase, your dog is quickly becoming unstable and has very little energy. This is a critical time to either feed them or visit a vet before it’s too late.   
  • Phase 3
    At this point, your dog is now breaking down their body fat for energy on a full-time basis. The effects of this starvation will even become visible. Their liver will also start releasing ketones into the bloodstream as a form of energy. If they don’t get medical help at this stage, death is imminent.  

Final Words

Although it may seem “unkind” to know how long your dog can go without food, it is equally crucial to have this information for unforeseeable health-related situations. Do not hesitate to consult your vet even though it may end up being a false alarm. Always remember to stay alert and monitor your furry friend’s health as you would your own.