How to Get a Stressed Dog to Eat: Tips and FAQs

Our furry friends can experience stress just like humans do, and one common side effect is a loss of appetite. If your dog is refusing to eat due to stress, it’s important to address the issue promptly, as prolonged periods of decreased food intake can lead to health problems. In this article, we will provide you with some helpful tips on how to get a stressed dog to eat, along with answers to frequently asked questions.

Tips to Get a Stressed Dog to Eat:

1. Determine the underlying cause: Identify what is causing your dog’s stress. Common triggers could include changes in the household, separation anxiety, loud noises, or unfamiliar surroundings. Understanding the cause will help you address the issue effectively.

2. Create a calm environment: Make sure your dog has a quiet and comfortable space where they can relax and eat without distractions. Provide a cozy bed or crate and ensure the area is free from loud noises or sudden disturbances.

3. Stick to a routine: Dogs thrive on routine, so try to maintain a consistent feeding schedule. Feed your dog at the same times each day, which will help create a sense of security and predictability.

4. Offer high-value foods: A stressed dog may be more enticed to eat if offered something they find particularly delicious. Consider adding some cooked chicken, lean meat, or a small amount of wet food to their regular kibble to make it more enticing.

5. Warm up the food: Heating your dog’s food slightly can enhance its aroma and make it more appealing. Ensure the food is not too hot, as dogs have sensitive mouths. A few seconds in the microwave or adding warm water can do the trick.

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6. Hand feed or use puzzle toys: Some dogs may find it easier to eat when food is offered directly from your hand or through interactive puzzle toys. This can help stimulate their appetite and make mealtime more enjoyable.

7. Minimize stress triggers: If you know what causes your dog’s stress, take steps to minimize exposure to those triggers. For example, during thunderstorms, create a safe space for your dog and play calming music to reduce anxiety levels.

8. Consult your vet: If your dog’s lack of appetite persists or if they experience other concerning symptoms, it’s crucial to consult your veterinarian. They can rule out any underlying medical conditions and provide additional guidance tailored to your dog’s specific needs.


1. Why is my dog not eating when stressed?
Stress can affect a dog’s appetite by causing them to lose interest in food or feel nauseous. In some cases, stress triggers can lead to a decrease in a dog’s appetite.

2. How long can a dog go without eating?
While it varies depending on the dog’s size and health, most dogs can safely go without eating for up to three days. However, it is important to address the issue before it reaches this point.

3. Should I force-feed my dog?
No, it is not recommended to force-feed your dog. Forcing them to eat can cause further stress and worsen the situation. Instead, focus on creating a calm environment and using strategies to entice them to eat.

4. Can stress cause a dog to lose weight?
Yes, stress can lead to weight loss in dogs. If your dog is consistently not eating due to stress, it is essential to address the underlying cause to prevent further weight loss and potential health issues.

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5. Can I try different types of food to encourage my dog to eat?
Yes, offering a variety of food options can be helpful. Experiment with different flavors and textures to find what your dog prefers. However, ensure any dietary changes are done gradually to prevent digestive upset.

6. Is it normal for a dog to lose appetite after a major life change?
Yes, major life changes like moving to a new home, the arrival of a new family member, or the loss of a loved one can cause stress and a temporary loss of appetite in dogs. However, if the loss of appetite persists, consult your vet.

7. Can I give my dog treats instead of regular food?
While treats can be used to encourage a dog to eat, they should not replace a balanced diet. Treats should only be given in moderation and should not exceed 10% of your dog’s daily caloric intake.

8. Can exercise help stimulate a dog’s appetite?
Yes, regular exercise can help reduce stress levels and increase a dog’s appetite. Engaging in physical activities, such as walks or play sessions, can help improve their overall well-being.

9. Should I consider using appetite stimulants?
Appetite stimulants should only be used under the guidance of a veterinarian. They may be recommended in certain situations to help encourage a dog to eat, but it’s important to address the underlying cause of the stress to achieve long-term results.

10. Can separation anxiety cause a dog to stop eating?
Yes, separation anxiety can cause a dog to lose their appetite. The stress and anxiety associated with being separated from their owner can lead to a decreased interest in food.

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11. Are there any natural remedies to reduce stress in dogs?
Some natural remedies, such as lavender essential oil or chamomile, can help calm stressed dogs. However, it’s important to consult with your vet before using any natural remedies to ensure they are safe for your specific dog.

Remember, each dog is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Patience, understanding, and a proactive approach will help you support your stressed dog and get them back on track to a healthy appetite.