May 16


How Long Can A Dog Go Without Food?

How Long Can A Dog Go Without Food

You have probably arrived on this page because your dog is not eating well or has even gone days without eating. You may be wondering why a dog would go without eating and how many days without a meal is safe. Is your dog not eating because he doesn’t like his dog food? Could it be that your dog is sick? 

The number of days a dog can survive without food is generally three to five days. However, it depends on his overall health. In this article, we will answer questions about how long a dog can go without eating, reasons why your dog may go without eating, and when your dog needs urgent medical attention. 

Why Would My Dog Go Without Eating?


When your dog’s appetite has decreased, it can often be a sign of sickness. It is essential to seek prompt veterinary attention because although it may only be a case of mild nausea, other more serious conditions could be a matter of life or death. Some of the diseases affecting dogs are parasites, liver problems, autoimmune disease pancreatitis, parvo, and cancer. Apart from illness, he may be dehydrated, so it’s important to check his water intake.

Dental disease 

One reason your dog may be refusing food could be due to an underlying dental disease such as periodontal disease or broken/loose teeth. Dogs will often avoid chewing if their teeth hurt or their gums are swollen. It is a good idea to check for damaged or loose teeth, as well as check to see if the dog’s gums are red, swollen, or bleeding. Gingivitis is quite common in dogs, and a more serious condition could be an oral tumor. Other signs of dental disease are bad breath and excessive drooling.


Dogs can experience depression and anxiety in the same way as humans. One sign of a stressed-out dog is a disinterest in food. How can you tell if your dog’s lack of appetite is due to stress? Often other signals will be present, such as a change in sleep and play habits, disinterested in things they once loved, aggression, growling, hiding, tucking his tail between his legs, or an aversion to being touched. Traveling and relocating to another place are often causes of stress in animals. Your dog may be refusing to eat due to being uncomfortable in his new surroundings. He may have also experienced some motion sickness. 

Recent Vaccination

If you have recently had your puppy vaccinated, it is not uncommon for him to skip a few meals. Vaccinations can cause a temporary inflammatory response in dogs, which means they often eat less food following the vaccination. The same can result if your dog has taken medication. This is nothing to worry about, and your dog should be back to normal in no time. If, however, your dog is still refusing food after 24 hours, please take him to the vet for a check-up. His poor appetite may be due to something more serious.

Behavioral Reasons

“But none of these seem to be the reason my dog won’t eat.” you may be thinking. Well, sometimes your dog may refuse to eat due to a behavioral reason. Dogs are sometimes like humans, and if they are not enjoying the taste may decide they would rather go without. Have you changed his food? Maybe it is his bowl? Is he receiving too many treats? These are some of the many behavioral reasons why your dog may not be interested in his food.

What Should I Do If My Dog Is Not Eating?

What you should do if your dog is not eating really depends on the reason. If he has an upset stomach, then you may let it run its course and don’t force him to eat. Keep offering dog food and water and monitor him well over the next 24 hours. If he is refusing water as well as food, you may try to spoon-feed or syringe some water or broth into him every couple of hours to make sure he doesn’t get dehydrated. If dogs go more than 24 hours without eating, it is vital to seek medical attention because if he is without food for too long, his health will suffer, and he may not survive.

Here are some ideas to try if your dog is not eating due to a behavioral issue:

  • Try new food such as a canned or home-cooked meal.
  • Add a little water.
  • Cut back on treats.
  • Try taking him for a walk before a meal.
  • Try a different bowl. 
  • Try feeding him away from other animals and distractions.
  • Don’t leave food out all the time but feed him on a schedule.
  • Have his favorite caretaker offer the food.
  • Consider a liquid diet (he may be experiencing pain when chewing)

If your dog’s loss of appetite is due to illness, then your vet will prescribe medication or a prescription diet. Sometimes you may be required to tube feed your dog for a while. 

A Dog’s Metabolism

Does your dog need to lose weight? A dog’s metabolism is similar to a human’s, and as a pet owner, you must monitor his weight. 

How does your dog’s metabolism work? In the same way as humans, metabolism involves the process of converting food into fuel, by using the digestive system, endocrine system, nervous system, and muscles. 

Many factors affect a dog’s metabolism, such as age, illness, and hormonal issues. As dogs age, their muscle mass will slowly decrease, and they can also suffer from osteoarthritis. This makes moving painful, which causes them to exercise less and, in turn, contributes to the loss of muscle function. Metabolism relies heavily on the muscles. If an older dog or even a dog suffering illness is less active, then they will easily gain weight. 

Hormonal disorders such as Cushing’s disease will cause dogs to have an increased appetite due to elevated levels of cortisol. Their metabolic rate decreases, making it harder to lose weight. Hypothyroidism is also a common hormonal disorder in dogs, which lowers their metabolic rate. Despite the fact they may have a decreased appetite, hypothyroid dogs often gain weight.

Genetics is also a factor to consider when looking at the metabolic rate of a dog. Just as in humans, dogs too can be predisposed to having slower metabolic rates, making it harder for them to burn calories. 

Talking to your veterinarian will help you determine the best diet for optimal nutrition for your dog. Your veterinarian will be able to determine the daily calories your dog needs. It’s important to be educated on how to help your dog maintain a healthy weight by supporting your dog with the required nutrition as well as regular exercise.

Your dog’s quality and length of life are heavily influenced by their metabolism. This is why your dog must be getting plenty of exercise and eating a healthy diet. Regular vet check-ups are equally important. 

How Long Can A Dog Survive Without Food and Water?

If your dog is not eating, it can be a cause for concern. We have already looked at the reasons why your dog might be avoiding food, but how long can he survive without eating or drinking? Generally speaking, a dog can safely go without food for three to five days, but it really depends on the health of the dog. Factors that influence how long dogs can go without eating are the dog’s physical and mental strength, age, hydration levels, and overall health. If your dog has gastrointestinal problems, then not eating for a few days can aid in his healing, as long as he is drinking plenty of water. If a dog is very poor in health, he may not survive more than 24 or 48 hours.

How about water? Dehydration is much more dangerous for dogs than going without food. Immediate medical attention is required if it has been more than 48 hours. A dog may go without water for up to three days. However, he would be in very poor health, and dehydration can be fatal. 

 How Do You Know If Your Dog Is Dying?

If your dog is terminally ill, there will be sure signs he is in his final days. Every dog experiences death somewhat differently and may not exhibit all the signs. Here are some things to look out for.

  • Lack of coordination - A dog may be weak due to fasting, diarrhea, or vomiting. If they are quite sick, they can become very unsteady on their feet. They can also struggle to go from one place to another.
  • Vomiting - Vomiting can occur for many reasons, and it may not be a sign of impending death. However, if your dog has a terminal illness, then vomiting could be caused by its digestive system shutting down. Vomiting is often a result of nausea and can cause severe dehydration if it continues. If your dog has been relatively healthy, then he or she may recover quickly. It is more of a concern if your dog is showing other signs of health issues.
  • Extreme Fatigue - If your dog is refusing food and/or vomiting, then he will have less energy and become lethargic. If your dog is dying, then he will no longer have the strength or motivation even to attempt to move anymore and may just lay in one spot, not even lifting his head. 
  • Complete Loss of Appetite - As death draws near, a dog will refuse to eat anything, or even if he does attempt to eat a little, he won’t be able to keep anything down. We have already looked at loss of appetite in a sick or fussy dog, so examine this sign looking at the overall picture.
  • Incontinence - As a dog’s body grows weaker, he will progressively lose all control over body functions. He will be unable to control his bladder and have accidents often.
  • Disinterested in his surroundings - As death approaches, dogs can become less interested in who and what is around him, including his favorite caregiver. 
  • Shaking or twitching - As a dog’s basal temperature drops, he will become chilled and may shake or twitch. If this happens, you may offer him a heated pad or warm blanket.
  • Terminal illness symptoms worsening - If your dog has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, such as organ failure or cancer, then his condition may deteriorate quickly. His breathing may become more labored.

When To Seek Help

If your dog is not eating well, don’t wait more than a few days to seek medical attention, unless of course, he shows other signs of serious illness. In this case, you will need to seek medical care urgently. 

About the author 

Stan Jones

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