dog jumping high to get the treats

Dog Not Eating Food But Will Eat Treats? Exact Reason Why

Have you got a dog that is not eating his food but will eat treats, and you want to know why? It’s a common puzzle, often faced by pet parents, that causes worry because we only want what is best for our furry friends. From behavioural reasons to medical issues, there are various factors that could be affecting your dog’s appetite. Let’s dig a little deeper and find out more!

Key Summary

  • Dogs that are eating treats but not their food could be caused by several reasons, from behavioural issues such as stress or routine disruption, to medical issues such as digestive disorders.

  • Sticking to a feeding schedule and providing a balanced, varied diet can help to resolve the issue.

  • Prevent further recurrences of poor appetite by maintaining consistency in your dog’s diet.

Dogs and their Feeding Habits

dog with a food

Dogs are instinctive creatures who are driven by their senses and, much like humans, their appetite can be affected by a range of factors. Sometimes, the reason why your dog is not eating could simply be that they aren't hungry!


An alternative reason, however, is that your dog is suffering from what is known as partial anorexia, which is usually caused by a medical issue. We’ve got some of the most common behavioural and medical reasons a dog won’t eat food summed up here:

1. Boredom with their Regular Food

If your dog has gone off its food but is eating treats, it’s possible that your dog is simply bored with their regular food. After all, imagine if you had to eat the same thing for every meal, every day! So, if your dog is still eating all the treats but not food, this could be a sign that it's time to spice up his meals a bit.

2. Stress and Anxiety

Just as stress and anxiety can impact human appetite, they can affect dogs in the same way. Changes in the environment, a new addition to the family or separation anxiety might be contributing to your dog's loss of appetite.

3. Disruptions in Routine

Dogs thrive on routine and predictability. Sudden changes, such as different feeding times or moving houses, can lead to temporary appetite loss as they adjust to their new circumstances.

4. Treat Overload

Overfeeding treats is another common reason why dogs might be refusing their regular meals. Dogs love treats, and they're not always the best at regulating their own appetites. If they're filling up on treats, they might not feel hungry when it's time for their regular meals.

5. Power Dynamics with Other Pets

If you have more than one pet at home, competition or power dynamics might influence your dog's eating habits. Some dogs may feel threatened or dominated by other pets, causing them to avoid eating.

6. The Food Bowl, Itself

You might be surprised, but some dogs are picky about their food bowls. Material, height or location can be enough for a dog to abandon their meals so you may want to consider this if you have recently switched up their dinner dish!

7. Dental Problems

Dental issues, such as gingivitis, tooth decay or oral injuries can make eating painful for your dog, resulting in a loss of appetite.

8. Digestive Disorders

Digestive disorders, including gastritis, pancreatitis and inflammatory bowel disease can cause your dog to lose their appetite. These conditions can make eating uncomfortable and dogs might associate their food with the discomfort.

9. Serious Illnesses

Serious illnesses such as cancer, kidney disease or liver problems can also cause a decrease in appetite. If your dog is constantly refusing to eat but will take treats, be sure to consult with your vet.

10. Side Effects from Medication

Certain medications can cause a loss of appetite in dogs. If your dog has recently started a new medication and you've noticed a decrease in their appetite, it's worth discussing with your vet.

Encouraging Your Dog to Eat – Practical Tips and Tricks

encouraging dogs to eat

Getting your dog back to eating normally can be a bit of a challenge, but here are some of our top tips

1. Introduce Variety

As mentioned earlier, one of the reasons your dog may be ignoring their food is simple boredom. If you've been feeding them the same food every day, it might be time for a change. Try introducing new flavours or switching between wet and dry food.


Just make sure any new food is safe and healthy for your dog, and introduce it gradually to avoid upsetting their stomach.

2. Make Meals More Appealing

To make the regular meals more attractive, make sure of a dog’s sense of smell by heating the food to enhance the scent, as this can help to entice them to eat. You can also consider adding a little bit of low-sodium broth or wet dog food to their regular meals to make it more enticing.

3. Cut Back on Treats

If your dog is filling up on treats, they won't be hungry when it's time for their regular meals so limit treats to ensure they make up no more than 10% of a dog’s daily calorie intake. If your dog is refusing their regular food in favour of treats, it might be time to reduce the number of treats they're getting.

4. Stick to a Feeding Schedule

Dogs thrive on routine. Try to feed your dog at the same times every day; vets recommend waiting around two hours before a walk. Implementing a structured routine can help to regulate their appetite, making it more likely that they will eat when food is offered.

5. Create a Quiet Eating Space

Make sure your dog's feeding area is quiet and free from distractions. Some dogs can become anxious or distracted in noisy, chaotic environments, which can affect their appetite.

6. Change the Food Bowl

If your dog has suddenly gone off their food, but you have recently changed the bowl, either make the switch back or find an alternative that makes your dog more comfortable to eat.

7. Consult with a Veterinarian

If you've tried various strategies and your dog is still not eating, it's time to consult with a veterinarian. As mentioned earlier, loss of appetite can sometimes be a sign of an underlying health issue and consulting a vet can help to identify this.

Preventing Future Feeding Issues

Once you’ve resolved your dog’s feeding issues, you are going to want to be sure they don’t come back. To ensure your pooch continues to munch on his meals, ensure you always provide a balanced diet. Keeping meal times varied will not only keep your dog interested but will also keep him healthy.


This is not to suggest, however, that you should be feeding your dog from the dinner table or constantly changing their meals, which could cause stomach upset, but rather introducing new flavours in the form of dog-safe fruits and vegetables, grain-free food or rotating between a few vet-approved dog food brands.

Manage the Amount of Treats

It is also crucial to manage the number of treats your dog is consuming. Treats are an excellent training tool and can be useful for strengthening the bond between owner and pet but they can quickly become a problem if they constitute a large portion of your dog's diet. To avoid this, make sure treats never make up more than 10% of your dog's daily calorie intake.

Establishing Consistency

Consistency is another key factor. Establishing and sticking to a regular feeding schedule helps your dog understand when it's time to eat, which can keep their appetite regular and discourage fussy eating behaviour.


The feeding environment also plays an important role. If possible, try to provide a quiet, stress-free area where your dog can eat their meals without being distracted or feeling anxious. Finally, regular check-ups are essential to prevent future feeding issues as your vet can ensure your dog is maintaining a healthy weight and not developing any deficiencies or other dietary issues.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why Is My Dog Eating Everything But His Food?

A unique behaviour observed in some dogs is the tendency to consume non-food items which is a disorder called 'Pica'. Pica is often an attempt by your pet to obtain nutrients that might be missing from their diet, but can lead to ingestion of potentially dangerous items like socks or toys, causing severe health risks like intestinal obstructions.

𝐢 Interestingly, while a dog might refuse their food, they might still indulge in Pica due to deficiencies or behavioural reasons. If you suspect your dog is displaying symptoms of Pica, it's crucial to seek advice from a vet.

Do Dogs Suddenly Dislike their Food?

Much like humans, dogs too have their food preferences, and these can change over time. We have already discussed some of the possible reasons dogs might not be eating their food, but it is worth considering that perhaps your dog's food is no longer appetising to them, or maybe their sense of taste and smell has changed due to ageing.


Dogs – especially senior ones – can be finicky about their food so it is worth keeping this in mind when addressing feeding issues.

Why Does My Dog Walk Away from His Food?

Another puzzling behaviour you might encounter is your dog walking away from his food. This might occur due to reasons such as emotional issues like stress or depression, disliking the food, the food being off or food insecurity. Food insecurity often occurs in dogs who've had to compete for their meals in the past.

What to Do When Your Dog Won't Eat Kibble But Eats Everything Else?

A common complaint from pet parents is that their dog won’t eat kibble but eats everything else. If your dog is ignoring their kibble but readily eats other foods, it might be a sign that they simply don't like the taste, texture or smell of the kibble.


It's worth experimenting with different brands or types of dog food. Adding some wet food to your dog's dry kibble can sometimes entice them to eat. Similarly, warm foods can often be more enticing to dogs due to the stronger aromas.


If you're sure that your dog's refusal to eat isn't due to an underlying health problem, you could try to add healthy, dog-safe human foods to their diet, like plain cooked chicken, pumpkin or carrots as an occasional supplement.

Will My Dog Starve?

Your dog will not starve itself in the face of tasty and nutritious food, as survival instinct will typically override pickiness, however, if your dog consistently refuses to eat for more than 24 hours, this could indicate an underlying health issue, and you should seek veterinary advice.

Final Thoughts

Determining why your dog won't eat his food but will eat treats can be challenging, but remember, this situation doesn't always signal an alarming issue. Your dog might be just picky or bored with his regular food.


Changes in appetite can sometimes be the first sign of a more serious underlying condition, so it's always best to err on the side of caution. If you are overly concerned, or your dog's appetite doesn't return to normal within 24 hours, it's best to seek advice from a veterinarian.


It can be stressful for a pet owner when their dog refuses to eat but it is important to remember to stay patient and attentive to their needs. Keep your dog's diet varied and balanced, limit their treats, and monitor their eating habits. And remember – regular check-ups with the vet are essential to ensure your furry friend stays happy and healthy!

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