How to Help a Sick Dog Who Won’t Eat

Is your dog sick and refusing to eat? This can be a frightening experience for a pet owner and sometimes, there is a fairly simple remedy that will help a sick dog and encourage him to eat.

If a dog doesn’t eat for a period of time, he will develop a condition known as hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. This can result in unpleasant sensations like weakness, shakiness and dizziness. In some cases, the initial problem that causes the dog to stop eating — such as an upset stomach — resolves on its own, but the pet may still refuse to eat due to the fact that he feels poorly as a result of hypoglycemia.

Furthermore, when a dog doesn’t eat for an extended period of time, stomach acids may accumulate, resulting in nausea or a stomach ache. In other words, the longer a dog goes without eating, the less likely he is to resume eating.

How to Get a Dog to Eat by Treating Hypoglycemia

By treating hypoglycemia, you may be able to help your dog to resume eating. Try the following method to get your dog to eat:
Give the dog maple syrup or honey. Offer 1 tablespoon per 20 pounds of body weight. Many dogs will lick the maple syrup or honey right off the spoon. If your dog refuses it, simply rub the syrup or honey onto the dog’s gums.

Wait for 15 to 20 minutes, then offer a small amount of food. It can be helpful to offer something tempting like plain, skinless chicken or boiled hamburger meat (with the fat drained away), in addition to some plain white rice. Do not offer a large amount of food, as the dog will be prone to over-eating, since he may be quite hungry. Instead, offer a small meal, about one-fourth of the dog’s normal meal size every 2 to 3 hours for 12 hours.

If your dog refuses the meal, wait approximately two hours and repeat the process of providing him with maple syrup or honey. If he still refuses to eat, provide the pet with maple syrup or honey every 6 hours until the dog visits the veterinarian. Once the dog begins treatment for the infection or illness that’s at the root of the problem, he will typically resume eating. In some cases, the veterinarian may prescribe an appetite stimulant medication.

Notably, if you have a high-calorie supplement like Nutri-Cal, you can use this instead of honey or maple syrup. Nutri-Cal is available via most veterinary clinics. Similar gel-style high-calorie supplements are typically available in the pet vitamin and supplement section of stores such as Petco and PetSmart. In fact, Nutri-Cal can sustain a pet indefinitely, so it’s a very handy item to keep on-hand.

Why Does Honey or Maple Syrup Help When a Dog Won’t Eat?

When your dog ingests the honey or maple syrup, it raises his blood sugar. This eliminates the dog’s hypoglycemia symptoms such as trembling/shakiness and dizziness. Once the symptoms have resolved, the dog is more apt to resume eating.

If your dog won’t eat for 24 hours or more, bring him to the veterinarian for treatment. Generally speaking, the longer you wait to seek treatment, the more severe the dog’s illness or infection will become; this means that the pet’s recovery will take longer and treatment is apt to be more expensive. Therefore, it’s best to treat your sick pet as soon as possible!

For additional insight, you may opt to take your dog’s temperature, as a fever can indicate an infection or virus.

Photo Source: Zsuzsanna Kilian on

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Mia Carter is a professional journalist and animal lover. Her furry family members include 6 dogs and 12 cats. She is also a feral cat colony caretaker. Carter specializes in pet training and special needs pet care. All of her animals have special needs such as paralysis, blindness, deafness and FIV, just to name a few. She also serves as a pet foster parent and she actively rehabilitates and rescues local strays and feral kittens.

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