You may have clicked this article because you have a poorly puppy who just won’t eat anything. Perhaps you have an elderly dog who can’t be tempted with their usual favourite foods. Are you at your wit’s end trying to find something that they will eat?
This article will detail all the foods you can give your pup that will be safe and cause no further illness or upset. It will also provide you with helpful tips on how to feed a sick dog effectively and how to best care for one at home.
Table of Contents
Suitable Foods for Sick Dogs That Won’t Eat
When a dog won’t eat, it can be tricky to work out the reason behind their loss of appetite. Sometimes, it is because of some form of digestive upset such as nausea, diarrhea, constipation, or vomiting.
Other times, they are just off their food for some other internal reason like an infection. Even visible external physical injuries can put a dog off eating if they are in a lot of pain, having some strong pain medications, or being given other medication that has side effects.
Whatever the reason, it is important that a poorly dog eats and doesn’t vomit it straight back up. Food provides energy that is then used to help the body repair itself. If they don’t get enough food or water, it can cause other, more serious health problems.
So, what foods are best suited for a sick dog with little interest in eating? Below are ten different foods you can try sourced from Breeding Business, and all of them will be gentle on their stomach and high in nutrients.
Chicken is a well-known go-to for pet owners when a dog or cat is ill. It is a white meat that is extremely versatile, full of nutrients, easy to eat, and plain enough to not upset the already irritated dog’s stomach. A few recipes that you can use are:
- Shredded Chicken: Take a plain chicken breast and cook it in the oven. Once cooked, remove the skin, and then cut into very small pieces. You could also potentially use a cheese grater for this purpose. Once done, feed it to your dog little and often.
- Chicken and Rice: White rice appears later on in the list, but it is good to mix two bland ingredients together when they both have a high amount of energy.
Again, cook the chicken breast and cut into small chunks, then mix it into a bowl of cooked plain white rice. Wait until it is warm, not hot, before serving.
- Chicken Strips and Mashed Potato: Another combination of ingredients on the list is some plain chicken breast strips mixed in with some mashed potatoes.
Ideally, you should use sweet potatoes as they have more health benefits, which will be detailed later. Cook the chicken and cut it into manageable pieces, then boil the potatoes with no seasoning, mash them, and mix. Serve when warm.
Wet Dog Food
Wet dog food is something most dog owners will already have in their cupboards. It may be a standard meal for your dog, but if they aren’t eating their usual flavour, try a different one such as beef or lamb and microwave it for a few seconds to see if it’s more appetising.
Another way to serve wet dog food is by mixing it with a couple of dry biscuits. That changes the texture whilst still hydrating them and makes it easier on their stomach.
Finally, if you don’t have any wet dog food in, or only have the usual flavours, try mixing some dry kibble with a little bit of warm water. The biscuits can either be left to float in the water or mashed into a soft gruel.
Pumpkins are a surprising addition to the list as they aren’t something that dogs stereotypically eat. If you choose to try feeding your poorly dog pumpkin, do so with moderation and never give them more than a few spoonsful a day.
Pumpkins are high in fiber and a probiotic which makes them the ideal food to treat nausea and diarrhea. However, the same quality is why dogs cannot have too much of it. You wouldn’t want your pet to go from one extreme to the other – diarrhea to constipation.
To successfully feed a dog some pumpkin, put a little plain mashed pumpkin on a spoon and encourage them to lick it off. If they enjoy it, increase the amount slowly to two-three tablespoons a day, and make sure they eat other foods too.
Don’t attempt to feed them pumpkin pie or seasoned pumpkin as the richness and spices will only serve to further upset their stomach.
Fish can be a great substitute for ordinary dog food thanks to its nutritional properties, strong scent, and soft nature. It is versatile and can be mixed with other soft foods to make it even more palatable.
The best kind of fish to give a sick dog is boiled cod or tuna, and only in moderation as too much may serve to make them feel worse. It is also a good food to give to a dog who is a new mother, as the vitamins help with milk production.
Always cook the fish before giving it to a dog, and make sure that there are no added spices, salts, or seasonings. Also, de-bone the fish and remove the skin to make it easier to digest.
Turkey is a less popular alternative to chicken, but it has much the same benefits as its smaller counterpart. It is a white meat that can be substituted into any of the recipe ideas above if your dog doesn’t like chicken or you have turkey in.
Make sure the turkey is properly cooked through before serving it and consider mashing it with rice, potatoes, or carrots to make it more appealing. Adding these foods and warming it up gives the meal a stronger scent and makes it more likely that the dog will eat.
White rice is another bland food staple for poorly dogs that many owners have been advised to feed them. The blandness of the rice helps reduce any stomach churning and therefore relieves nausea, whilst the carbohydrate-rich grains provide energy to heal.
The biggest problem with using white rice is that is has no smell, so dogs tend to turn away from it. This is why most recommend mixing something else into it such as chicken, turkey, potatoes, carrots, or even a little bit of cottage cheese.
Make sure the rice is white as it is easier to digest, that it has been cooked thoroughly until soft, and that nothing has been added to it such as salt or pepper. Wait until the rice is lukewarm before serving.
Potatoes can be a great carbohydrate to give to a sick dog as they are soft, have a high energy output, and can be mashed up with other food. However, because ordinary potatoes don’t have much of a scent, sweet potatoes are the ideal type to use.
Sweet potatoes have more minerals than ordinary potatoes, have a distinct flavour, and have a stronger scent. They too can be mashed and tend to be softer than normal potatoes, and you can easily mix in carrots or small bits of chicken for more nutrients.
Make sure you only feed them this in moderation, and switch back to their ordinary food as soon as they start to feel better to avoid picky eating or complications.
Carrots are another vegetable that is suitable for poorly dogs. Raw carrots are a tasty snack for dogs even when they aren’t sick but eating raw carrots can be tricky when they feel ill due to the effort needed to chew them.
They do have a scent, but cooking them draws it out even more, and softens the vegetable up so you can mash it up to make it easier for them to eat. Again, mix with a little bit of meat or sweet potato for more flavour, and feed in moderation.
Some Baby Foods
Another surprising addition to the list is jars of baby food. Not all baby foods are suitable for dogs, so you need to read the ingredients and be sure that there is nothing in it that could make their symptoms worse or add to them.
Items to watch out for include artificial flavourings, onion, and garlic. Baby food should only be used at the beginning of an illness to encourage them to eat. After that, transition to something more dog friendly as too much can also make them ill.
Baby food is great for activating a lost appetite because it has a distinctive scent, its made to be easy on the stomach, and it is easy to swallow.
Finally, if your dog seems uninterested in any solid food at all or has an issue with their mouth or throat, try cooking a bone broth or chicken broth for them to lick up. This will give them some hydration whilst feeding them much-needed nutrients for recovery.
Get some bones from the local butcher and add a couple of dog friendly vegetables such as carrots or potatoes to the pot. After you’ve done that, add some apple-cider vinegar and olive oil and cook on low heat in a crock pot for a day or two.
Ways to Feed a Sick Dog
Once you know what you are going to feed your dog and have it ready, you may be wondering how you can best encourage them to actually take it. Wag Walking suggest a couple of ways you can do this without stressing the dog.
First, you can offer the dog food via handfeeding. This means they don’t have to move, so they don’t stress their upset stomach even more. They are also more likely to attempt to eat if it comes from your hand.
Secondly, if the dog’s appetite is gone entirely and refuses to eat anything, you can force feed them using a syringe. This only works if it is a liquid, so a broth or something specifically prescribed by the vet is best.
A video demonstrating how you can feed a poorly dog with a syringe can be found here, courtesy of YouTube channel eHowPets, but if you do go this route, you should call the vet for advice and guidance so you do it properly.
Finally, in some severe cases, your dog may need to be hospitalized and given a gastric tube that will feed them without actually needing to eat. This is very rare and happens in a select few instances, and if it does then the vet would teach you how to use it properly.
Tips When Caring for a Sick Dog
The animal charity Blue Cross have provided a helpful list of tips you can follow when caring for a sick dog:
- Don’t feed them any leftovers – this can make digestive illness worse.
- Give them easy access to a water bowl but monitor their water intake and check for signs of dehydration.
- Any water given should be boiled and cooled.
- Consult a veterinarian if symptoms change, don’t improve, or worsen.
- Set a timer for any medications your dog needs to make sure they don’t miss a dose.
To conclude, the following list of foods are suitable for a poorly dog with no appetite:
- Mashed sweet potatoes
- Mashed carrots
- Baby food
- Wet dog food
- White rice
If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the box below and we will reply as soon as possible.