What can I do about a finicky eater?
Dear Dr. Barchas,
Our two-year-old, healthy and playful Cocker Spaniel has
suddenly rejected his Beneful dry dog food. We have been pouring
milk, gravy, etc. on the food, and he still will not eat. We have tried canned dog food. We slipped up and started giving him a few table scraps and treats from the dinner table, and now that we have stopped that he refuses to eat
anything. I can feed him his dog food out of my hand and he will eat it.
Any suggestions? I know... I should have never started the tasty
treats... but he kept on staring at me with those eyes.
If your dog truly is healthy, then he is trying to manipulate you. Believe it or not, this happens quite often.
Many dogs (read: Labrador Retrievers) are phenomenally food motivated. You can expect them to eat anything that remotely resembles food, and often things that don't, any time they encounter it.
Other dogs are more picky. They may have strong preferences for certain types of food, such as table scraps. Or, their desire for attention may trump their desire for food. These dogs may refuse to eat until they get table scraps or are hand fed.
Here is my recommendation. Offer your dog a bowl of dog food for breakfast. If he eats, that's great. If he doesn't, don't worry about it. Either way, don't let him know that you care about the matter. If, after half an hour, he hasn't eaten his breakfast, remove the bowl and try again at dinner time.
Once he realizes that he can't manipulate you by refusing to eat, he will probably resume his normal eating habits.
Be aware that if your dog is acting sick, or if he goes more than 24 hours without eating, a veterinarian should evaluate him. There are many illnesses that can suppress appetite. The above recommendation applies only to healthy dogs.
As well, cat owners should not employ the above tactic. When a cat stops eating, it usually means he's sick.