Five Dog Eating Disorders That You Should Be Aware Of

Five Dog Eating Disorders That You Should Be Aware Of

You might not think of your dog as being prone to eating disorders, but it can fall prey to them.

When you see your dog is putting on a lot of weight or losing weight, that should be a warning sign, but even refusing certain foods can signal an eating disorder.

There are, in fact, many types of eating disorders that can affect your pooch.

How is anorexia defined in dogs?

When a dog is said to have an eating disorder known as anorexia, this simply means it’s not eating food. Unlike with anorexia in humans, anorexia in dogs doesn’t mean it has a distorted body image.

Dog eating disorders can consist of various issues and symptoms, from eating too much to not eating at all – and sometimes these can happen overnight.

By knowing what signs to look out for in your dog’s eating habits and behavior, you can get your furry friend back on the healthy track.

Here’s what you should know about common dog eating disorders.

Eating Disorder 1: Overeating

Fat Dog

When your dog seems to want to eat all the time or it can eat two or more plates of food in a sitting, you might call it overeating when in actual fact it’s being fed too much.

So, sorry to say, you’re the one who’s causing the problem!

If your dog is begging for food, it doesn’t always mean that he or she is hungry – especially if you know you’ve just fed them.

The thing to know about dogs is that they will eat even when they’re not hungry.

As VetStreet reports, they can eat 16 percent of their body weight in one sitting!

So, if you’re dealing with Fido who loves to eat for the sake of it, it’s time to make some adjustments to how available you’re making his food.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that sometimes overeating can be as a result of an underlying medical condition, such as diabetes and hyperthyroidism.

If your dog wants food all the time and doesn’t seem to stop begging for food, it’s time to take it to the vet for a checkup.

Eating Disorder 2: Undereating

Dog Laying Next To Food Bowl

On the other side of the spectrum, there’s the dog who eats less or not at all.

If this is happening to your pet, consider if there’s something that could be at the root of the problem.

If your pet has undergone a massive life change, such as the death of someone in the family or moving to a new house, this can cause it to feel stressed to the point where it doesn’t have an appetite.

You might notice other symptoms that your pet pooch is depressed, such as if it doesn’t want to play with its toys, is sluggish, or isolates itself from others.

There are other factors that can be at play when your dog doesn’t want to eat.

These include underlying health conditions. Cardiac failure and parasites are two examples of health problems that can cause a pet to stop eating.

That said, it’s important to note that there are two types of anorexia in dogs. These are:


Skinny Dog

This is when the dog wants to eat but can’t due to pain or discomfort it feels when swallowing or digesting food.

For example, if the dog has a growth in its stomach or an infection, this can cause it to turn away from food that it would usually want to eat.

It just can’t tell you that it’s not feeling well.

Some health conditions, such as kidney disease, can also cause the dog to experience symptoms such as nausea, which can make it not want to eat food.

True Anorexia

On the other hand, true anorexia is when the dog is experiencing a psychological problem, such as the stress we mentioned earlier, that’s causing it to not eat.

There are other causes of true anorexia, such as a change in its routine or diet.

Remember, dogs are creatures of habit!

If you usually feed the dog certain foods that are now no longer available to it, or you’re feeding it in a new environment, this could cause it to stop eating out of stress.

Eating Disorder 3: Being Fussy About Food

Dog Choosing Food

If your dog is a picky eater, you might think that it just wants variety in its diet.

The truth is that your dog will gladly eat the same nutritious meal every day.

So then why is it becoming fussier around mealtimes?

The problem could be that you’re making it get used to having food other than what’s in its bowl, such as if you have been giving Fido lots of treats lately.

What he’ll do is try to avoid his food so that he can choose the treats instead.

This is what can lead to fussy eating behaviour.

Try to limit the amount of treats that you give your dog so that he realizes he has to eat what’s in the food bowl.

You might have to resort to putting down his food bowl and then removing it if he doesn’t eat the food within half an hour.

Then, do this again at the next mealtime. If your dog’s hungry, it will eat the food you set out for him and get back into the habit of doing so.

Bear in mind that if your dog has become picky about food overnight, there could be a health condition at play, so pay attention to other symptoms your dog could be displaying, such as vomiting or a lack of energy.

Eating Disorder 4: Eating Strange Items

Puppy Eating Dirt

Are you horrified that your dog is eating plastic, trash, or chalk?

These can be symptoms of Pica, a health condition in dogs that causes them to want to eat non-food items.

Sometimes this is a psychological problem, but it can also arise from a medical condition or poor nutrition.

Some medical conditions that can cause it in your dogs is hyperthyroidism, vitamin deficiencies, diabetes, and anaemia.

Other causes that can contribute to pica include a lack of mental and physical stimulation, frustration, separation anxiety, and depression.

If your pet is eating non-food items, it’s important to consult with a vet as the items could end up causing him or her more problems, such as if they’re a choking hazard.

If pica is caused by an underlying medical condition, treating that condition will help to relieve the pica symptoms.

Similarly, if pica is arising from a psychological issue, then relieving those will help.

For example, if your dog is eating trash out of boredom, taking it for daily exercise will help to keep it stimulated and prevent it from resorting to unhealthy behaviour.

Eating Disorder 5: Sudden Refusal To Eat

Puppy Sitting On Food Bowl

If you notice that your dog’s hearty appetite has suddenly vanished, that is something to pay attention to.

There are many reasons why this could happen, such as if you’ve rehomed your dog and it’s not eating because it’s not used to its surroundings.

In this case, it’s a good idea to gently persuade the dog to eat.

Stress can be a factor for why a dog suddenly won’t eat, but so can health conditions.

These two factors seem to be common in many types of dog eating disorders.

However, there are also some practical issues to consider if you’re dealing with a dog who suddenly doesn’t want to eat.

Is your dog eating in the company of a more aggressive dog who makes him feel intimidated when you set down their food bowls?

Have you changed your dog’s food bowl and he doesn’t like it, perhaps because it’s too high for him?

Pay attention to your dog at mealtimes to see what the problem could be as changing the eating environment, such as by letting the dog eat on his or her own instead of in the company of other pets, can be a quick and easy solution to the problem.

While a dog can safely go for a few days without food before problems arise, it’s vital to ensure that he or she is still drinking water.

If your dog is still refusing to eat after a day or two, it’s worth a trip to the vet to find out what the problem is.

The faster you act, the faster your dog can be healthy again. 

What To Avoid When Dealing With Food Issues In Your Dog

Family Consulting With Vet

If you suspect that your pet has a dog eating disorder, something to avoid is suddenly changing your pet’s food.

This is something you might consider in the hope of making your dog’s food more interesting, in a way to encourage it to eat.

Although you have good intentions when doing this, changing your dog’s diet is something that needs to be carefully planned.

If you make changes to the diet your dog eats, these should always be done gradually.

The process should be done over the period of five to seven days, during which you should gradually increase the amount of new food you’re adding to the previous food.

If you don’t do this slowly, your dog might experience uncomfortable side effects, such as an upset stomach, from the dietary change.

Or, he could refuse to eat, which will make the initial problem even worse!

You should always consult with your vet before making changes to your pets’ diet to be sure that you’re giving them a healthy substitute for the foods you’re keen to change.

Related Questions

How do you know if your dog is lean but not underweight?

Before you try to get Fido to pack on the pounds because you think he’s too thin, take him to your local vet for a screening.

A lean dog is often healthy, so it’s a good idea to consult with a professional who’ll be able to tell you if your dog is at a healthy weight or not.

How can you encourage your dog to eat?

You can try to stimulate your pet’s appetite by taking it for a walk before mealtimes and sticking to a regular feeding schedule.

Make sure you feed your pet at least twice a day and make mealtimes fun, such as by playing with a toy afterwards.

Try to limit treats if your pet is fussy about food.  


It’s not just humans who can suffer from eating disorders.

Your pet can also fall prey to them.

In this article, we’ve outlined the different types of eating disorders that can affect your pet, such as undereating and overeating, as well as other types of problems related to eating such as eating strange items instead of food.

We’ve also looked at the causes of these health conditions and what you can do to get your dog’s health back on track.

Ultimately, it’s always important to pay attention to your dog at mealtimes so that you can see if there are any problems present.

Sometimes, the issues your dog is having with food can be easily remedied, such as by changing its food bowls.

Other times, consulting with a veterinarian is essential so you can get to the root of what’s ailing your dog.

Although a dog is unlikely to suffer from lasting damage after a few days of not eating, acting fast can help you to bring it back to health so it can be the happiest pup on the block.

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