Lew Olson's newly revised edition is filled with an abundance of new topics and information. Whether you are new to home feeding or a seasoned raw feeder, have a senior dog or a new puppy, a pregnant mom or a toy breed, this book presents all the information you need to make the best nutritional decisions for your dog.

Picky Eaters

Picky Eaters

By Lew Olson • October 2004 Newsletter
Loss of appetite or losing interest in food choices is a frustrating and worrisome situation for dog owners. Owners will often try to switch foods or offer tempting choices to help entice their pet’s appetite. My first suggestion when a dog loses interest in food is to get a blood panel, urinalysis and examination by a veterinarian. The first order of the day is to rule out physical reasons. There are many health issues that can cause loss of appetite and these need to be ruled out first.

If a health issue is discovered, often special diets or changes in preparation of home made meals are necessary. A convalescing dog or a dog with on-going health problems may need some changes to tempt them to eat.

For these dogs, it may mean temperature adjustment, texture or even changing the container the meal is served. Some animals may find heated foods more tempting, while others may want room temperature. Others may prefer their food pureed or cut into smaller pieces to whet the appetite. And some animals (especially those who are undergoing chemotherapy) may find a metal bowl carries too strong of a smell to make the food tempting.
Dogs with gastric issues may need to avoid high fat foods, while dogs with renal issues may need lower phosphorus diet choices. For more information on special diet needs for dogs with specific health issues, look here:
Liver Diet needs
Kidney Diet needs
Diet Tips for Dogs with Cancer
Pancreatitis Diet
Heart Healthy Diet
Occasionally a dog will lose their appetite after convalescing from an illness or from certain medications. In these instances, it might be helpful to try foods that are more tempting due to taste or temperature. Generally foods that are high in fats are the most appetite enhancing. Some foods I have tried with success include:
– Eggs lightly scrambled in butter and adding yogurt or cream cheese
– Sauted chicken liver in butter
– Hard boiled eggs
– Cooked or boiled hamburger, mixed with grated or parmesan cheese
– Baby foods, such as pureed meats
– Homemade chicken soup with noodles
– Canned salmon or sardines
– Macaroni and cheese with minced beef or sausage
– Plain yogurt with pureed liver, mix well
– Canned chicken chunks
– Bites from your own plate (dogs often think is premium food!)
Be creative, although do not use highly spiced foods for dogs that may get tummy upsets. These are foods to be used only for a few days, and can also be used to mix with the dog’s regular diet to help enhance flavor.
Some dogs may be reluctant to take prescription pills or medications. These pills can be coated with cream cheese, peanut butter, cheese whiz or braunschweiger (soft luncheon meat) to make them tasty.
Another type of appetite problem can occur be when switching diets (whether kibble to another brand, commercial dog foods to a raw diet, or commercial diet to home cooked).
With commercial foods, it is recommended that this be done make the switch slowly. Simply add a small bit of the new food to the old, gradually increasing the percentage of new food until the transition is complete.
When switching a dog to a raw diet, some dogs may show reluctance to eat the new food. Often this has to do with the temperature change and the texture of fresh foods. Try serving the raw foods close to room temperature, rather than cold from the refrigerator. (never serve frozen foods, they are hard for a dog to digest).
Some dogs may prefer raw food in larger chunks, or you may need to try ground raw foods at first. Food that is unfamiliar to a dog may take a bit of time and patience to get the dog to try it. If it is a healthy dog, and they show no interest, I will take the food up after 10 minutes and try it again later at the next meal time. Sometimes it helps to lightly heat up raw food, as the smell of fat can entice a dog to try the food.
Whenever you have a dog that is a picky eater, regardless of what food you may feed or trying to switch them to, there are some important points to remember.
Do not hover over the dog anxiously, to see if they will eat. This often is more fretful for the dog, and they may become averse to eating because it makes *you* appears so anxious. Try to act nonchalant and put the bowl down and turn away, or go to another room. If the dog won’t eat it, put it up and try again for the next meal. Sometimes we unwittingly teach our dogs ‘not to eat’ with this behavior.
Try to feed the dog on a regular schedule, and stick to it. That way the dog will automatically become hungry at those times, and anticipate their meal.
Act happy while preparing the meal, and act like this is an exciting event. If you have another dog that eats heartily, so much the better. This will model competitive eating for the fussy dog about competitive eating. If the dog still won’t eat, pick up the bowl casually after ten minutes and put it away. Act like this is no big deal. Do not get upset angry if your dog won’t eat.
Try giving your dog a regular exercise program to promote appetite hunger. This could be a daily walk, throwing a ball bowl or taking your dog to the a park. Agility, obedience, flyball or tracking classes are also very good activities for a dog. Exercise will help build an appetite, as well as provide mental stimulation.
Please remember, some puppies will go through periods of fast growth period and then slow down times. The slow down time can cause less appetite, and also teething time can cause loss of appetite due to sore gums. Hormonal changes in intact females can cause loss of appetite changes, as well for males if a female in heat is within ‘scenting’ range. Always be aware of any changes in your dog when appetite decreases. Stress can cause inappetence, which can include moving, changes in their owner’s mood, weather changes and grief. Be aware of changes in the environment as well as your dog’s health. These can all offer clues to loss of appetite changes and help in resolving the problem.
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