Cat staring at food not eating.

For many, pets are like children and when something is not right, it can be quite worrisome. Change is not always a cause for panic, though. If your pet is not eating, there can be many reasons. Some are benign and others quite serious. Thankfully for you, Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital has a few tips to help you decide whether to worry when your pet is not eating. 

Reasons Why Your Pet Is Not Eating

Just like humans, animals can have day-to-day changes in their appetite that can be influenced by a variety of factors. Some natural changes like stress or weather can contribute to appetite fluctuations, while more serious disturbances like systemic disease can also have an impact.

Reasons why a pet is not eating normally can include things like:

  • Food change/preferences
  • Food contamination or expired food
  • Bad taste (have you tried to mix something in the food?)
  • Excess of treats or table food
  • Change in routine
  • Meal time preference
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Heat
  • New medication that may affect appetite
  • Pain (oral or otherwise)
  • Nausea or digestive upset
  • Digestive obstruction such as a foreign body
  • Systemic illness or infection

The hard part is deciphering whether Fido doesn’t like the new food you bought, is sad that his human brother went back to college, or is really ill. Luckily, our staff is here to help you decipher the cause of your pet’s lack of appetite. 

When to Call

Knowing when to let us know that your pet is not eating can be hard, but the short answer is that it is never wrong to contact us. Understanding pets is what we do, and we would rather be proactive than wait until your pet is really sick to act.

When deciding when to worry about your pet, it is important to take a few things into consideration. You may decide to give things a little more time if:

  • It is within the realm of normal for your pet to skip a meal here or there (some animals are definitely more food motivated than others)
  • There is a good explanation why your pet didn’t eat (very hot weather, a stressful day, etc.)
  • Your pet seems to be acting normally otherwise

If your pet is having other symptoms such as lethargy, diarrhea, or vomiting, make an appointment right away. Likewise, very small, very young, or older pets warrant attention sooner. Healthy, adult animals who have gone more than 24 hours without eating should also be examined.

Any major deviation from your pet’s normal habits and behavior, including appetite fluctuations, should raise concern. Even if it is not an emergency, noticing changes is part of good pet wellness care. Bringing our attention to these patterns during your routine visits or sick visits may help our veterinary team to pinpoint a problem that could otherwise go undiagnosed. 

When your pet is not eating, it is important that you as the pet owner pay attention and be sure that the situation resolves as expected. Not every missed meal is cause for alarm, but noticing these changes can make a big difference in your pet’s care.