Dogs need good nourishing food to stay healthy and strong. Otherwise, you’ll end up going to the vet more often than you’d like and it is frustrating for you as well as the dog. In fact, the dog could often end with a lot of pains, especially stomach-related ones, if it doesn’t get reasonably fresh and healthy food.
That said, can dogs go without eating? If so, for how long?
Let’s find out.
Before jumping to the answer, here are a few things to consider.
Dogs and other living beings including humans understand the importance of food. All of us have survival and defense mechanism built in as a part of our genes, so in difficult conditions, we’ll do everything we can to protect ourselves. This is why eating is a natural instinct that all living beings do right from the time of their birth.
Does this mean, we eat all the time? No. We take food at reasonable intervals and get on with our work. Likewise, dogs too need food at reasonable intervals, say once every eight to 12 hours, and that’s it!
There are many pet owners who think that their dog is skinny and underfed, so try to push more food into the dog’s system. This is a wrong thing to do because dogs know how much they want to eat. As said before, food is essential for survival and they know it. This is why they’ll eat t regular intervals.
In fact, you have to establish an eating pattern and during feeding time, make sure to give your dog nutritious and well-balanced food in the right proportions. Don’t make it too big or too small.
Now, what is the right proportion? It depends on your dog. Some dog breeds need more food than others because their metabolic rates are higher. Even within the same breed, some dogs may be more active than others, and these active dogs need more food. So, the exact portion depends on your dog, its breed and activity levels. You can talk to your vet if you’re unable to come at the right portions with a trial and error method.
But never overfeed your dog as this can lead to stomach ailments, not to mention the excess pile-up of weight, which again can lead to health complications like diabetes.
If your dog goes without eating any kind of food for more than a day or two, it sure means your dog is sick. Even the pickiest of dogs will jump at food when they are hungry beyond a point. So, if your dog hasn’t touched food for more than a day, it is time to take it to the vet.’
Do not play a wait and watch game as it could end up being fatal for your dog.
The vet will thoroughly examine the dog and identify the cause of the problem. In some cases, she/he may give medications to your dog to make it feel better,
A study conducted by the American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition in 2005 shows that when enough food is not given to dogs when they are sick, it takes a longer time for them to get better. As a part of this experiment, 490 dogs were hospitalized in the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Barcelona and their vital signs were monitored constantly for a dog. At the end of it, the researchers found that dogs who were given food and those who ate it recovered faster than those dogs who did not eat.
This doesn’t mean you can force feed your dog. Instead, offer food at regular intervals and even better options would be to take it to the vet at the earliest.
Once the dog feels better, it requires higher amounts of food to make up for the loss of weight and strength during the sick days. So, increase the portions for the next few days when your dog starts eating well, and then you can scale back to the portions you served before your dog became sick.
Mental and Emotional Issues
If physical sickness is one part, mental and emotional sickness takes a big toll on dogs. When the owner dies or if the dog is abandoned, it takes a long time for the dog to recover. For the first day or two, it may not be able to eat food as a way to cope with its loss or mental trauma. This explains why dogs avoid eating food for a day or two if the owner has died. It is not just a mark of respect, but also a way for the dog to cope with its loss.
Now, this brings an important question. Should you force your dog to eat when it is physically or mentally down?
The answer is a clear no. As long as you make food available to it, allow the dog to choose its eating pattern. But if it hasn’t touched food for more than a day or two at the worse, take your dog to the vet immediately for an examination.
If your dog is going through some mental trauma or separation issues, allow the dog to come to terms with the situation and it will start eating again. Remember, dogs know that food is essential to survive and will want to look after themselves.
In many ways, it is similar to how we react when we are sick. When we are down with fever or nausea, the last thing that comes to your mind is food. Also, if you have lost a dear one, food is not something that will be at the top of your list. But eventually, you will get to it. The same rule applies for dogs. Give the dog sometimes if it going through a loss, and it will be fine again.
In rare cases, if this behavior persists or if it happens frequently, it could mean that your dog is in a depression or is going through some mental issues that need your attention right away. talk to your vet and see how you can help your dog to cope with its mental problems.
How Long Can a Dog go Without Food?
A dog can survive without food anywhere from three to five days. But this again depends on your dog, its breed and health conditions. The above rule applies to healthy dogs only.
If your dog curtails its activities when there is no food (which it is most likely to do), it can survive for a longer period of time say five days. Also, it depends on how much energy your dog can store and its rate of metabolism. if your dog’s metabolism rate is high, it cannot survive long without food. But on the other hand, if the metabolism rate is slow, it can go for a few extra hours without food.
Another aspect to consider is your dog’s age. Seniors can go on without food for a longer time because their activity levels slow down, but young pups may need food within a day or two at the most, as they need that food for their growing body and mind.
So, it is safe to say that healthy dogs can go without food for anywhere from three to five days, depending on a host of factors. But young dogs and puppies can’t survive more than a day without food.
Of course, it is never acceptable for any animal to go without food for that long period of time. It will be a miserable experience for the dog and could cause it to become very ill. Also, this lack of access to food can have an emotional and psychological impact as well.
This is why it is never ok to allow your dog to go without food for extended periods of time. Even in the most unfortunate of situations, make sure your dog has access to some food, even if you can’t provide good quality dry dog food or wet dog food to satisfy its nutritional requirements. Once you’re back to the routine, take your dog to the vet and increase its nutrition until it regains its lost energy and weight.
We saw that dogs cannot go without food for more than five days at the most But, what about water? It is believed that dogs can survive without water for three days at the most.
But remember, surviving is different from living. If your dog has gone without water for three days, it will be in poor health and will surely require a trip to the vet.
It is very unlikely that you’ll ever be in a situation where you won’t have access to water. So, never put your dog through it. Dehydration can be painful and even fatal if your dog is not in the best of health.
In short, your dog can without food for three to five days and without water for a maximum period of three days.