Pet Parent FAQ: Why Is My Dog Drinking Water But Not Eating?

Pet Parent FAQ: Why Is My Dog Drinking Water But Not Eating?

When our dogs aren’t feeling themselves, they tend to send us signs — some subtle, some not so much. If you’re suspicious that something isn’t right with your pup, pay attention to their eating and drinking habits!

Dog smelling food. Why is my dog not eating but drinking water.

Being a dog parent can sometimes feel a bit like being a detective. When your dog can’t verbally communicate with you to tell you that they’re not feeling well, they’ll communicate it to you in other ways — some ways are not so obvious, while others might grab your attention more.

Detective work comes in when you’re trying to put the clues together and figure out why your dog is experiencing a change in behavior, what could have caused it, and how you can go about fixing it.

Oftentimes the biggest question marks appear around a dog’s eating and drinking habits —pet parents often see notable changes in these behaviors when their dogs are not feeling so well.

So, let’s dive into one specific mystery to solve: “Why is my dog drinking water but not eating?”

Identifying Your Dog’s Normal Eating Habits

The key to understanding if your dog’s eating habits are falling outside of their normal behavior? Having a clear understanding of your dog’s typical eating schedule and habits at home, on a daily basis, when they’re feeling well.

So, what kind of eating habits might your dog have? Sometimes, it depends on you, and sometimes, it depends on them, but here are three common eating habits:

The Grazer
You leave food in their bowl all day long, and they pick at it throughout the day.

The AM & PM Eaters
You feed them in the morning for breakfast and in the evening for dinner, and they eat each full meal in one “sitting” and rarely leave any food behind.

The Timely, 3-Meals-Per-Day Eater
You feed them on a fairly regimented schedule of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And somehow, your dog has become like a clock and knows when each mealtime should come. They eat each full meal in one “sitting” as well and rarely leave any food behind.

What changes in eating habits should you look out for?

Unsurprisingly, the biggest change you should look for is one main one: that your dog is not eating when they usually do and is not showing an interest in food.

Being on the lookout for these changes can be a bit more challenging for pet parents of “grazers” because these dogs aren’t generally eating large quantities of food at once. Still, pay attention to the amount of food in their bowl, and if it’s not empty — or it’s been completely untouched by day’s end, there could be cause for concern.

An untouched food bowl is not always a red flag for a big issue, but it should be something that you take note of. If your dog hasn’t eaten for a full 24 hours, get in touch with your vet. *Note that 24 hours doesn’t have to be the benchmark — if you know your dog is a scheduled eater, and something seems off within a shorter window of time, contact your vet. You know your pup best, and a call to the vet is always a safe option!

Why would a dog stop eating but continue drinking?

If your dog has no interest in its food but they’re continuing to drink water, here are some things to consider:

  • Could there be a problem with their food?
    If your dog is usually a good eater and suddenly they seem uninterested in their usual meal, check the food. Give it a smell, check its consistency, and be sure it’s not expired/hasn’t gone bad. If something seems out of the ordinary with the food in any way, contact the brand to check for any recalls and dispose of it.

  • Could they be experiencing mouth/tooth pain?
    It might not be the first thing you think of, but if your dog has stopped eating, it could be due to pain in the mouth vs. pain in their stomach. If they seem to still be interested in their food but aren’t eating it normally (sniffing it, pushing it around with their nose, taking one piece at a time when they usually dive in), feel around their mouth and have a look at their teeth.

  • Could it be stomach upset?
    If your dog isn’t eating normally, and it’s accompanied by other symptoms like vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, or a change in energy (i.e., they’re acting more lethargic than usual), then you know you’ve got a bigger issue at hand than just a lack of hunger or disinterest in food. And it’s possible that it has something to do with their gut health, or could be a bigger gastrointestinal issue.

Could it be stress?
Like humans, dogs feel stress, too! And, like humans, it can impact their appetite. If your pup has recently been through a stressful situation (a move, a vacation, a new pup in the house, if you’ve had changes in your schedule — really anything that has disrupted their normal day-to-day environment), it’s possible that this could be the reason for their disinterest in food.

  • Could it be a serious medical issue?
    As we said, not eating isn’t always a red flag for something serious, but it can be. When a dog stops eating, it is certainly an indicator that something is amiss. According to PetMD, there are some serious medical issues that could be the reason for a dog’s loss of appetite, “Anything that can cause a dog to feel ill, such as kidney disease, pancreatitis, intestinal parasites, liver disease, cancer, infection, intestinal obstruction, etc., can lead a dog to refuse food,” and it’s important to note that in these instances, PetMD also notes that in addition to refusing food, a dog may likely refuse “water,” as well. So, if your dog is drinking normally, you may be able to rule out some of these issues, but it’s still worth asking your vet about, just to be safe.

What are some things you can do at home to help your dog start eating again?

If you’ve talked with or visited your vet and have ruled out that there is not a serious problem at hand, there are some things you can do at home to help your dog to start eating again.

If it’s an upset stomach:
There are so many great options you may already have at home to give your pet if they’re experiencing stomach issues like diarrhea, constipation, and vomiting. If you’re unsure about whether or not your pet should have any food items, it’s important to check with your vet.

Sticking with easy-to-digest, natural remedies like pumpkin, sweet potato, and/or chicken can be helpful to get your dog eating and feeling better again. Once your dog is back to its normal self, incorporating digestive aids like these into your dog’s daily diet can be helpful. Shameless Pets has designed treats just for this purpose — for digestive support for your pups! Our A Cluck A Day Dental Sticks, Duck, Duck, Beet & Pumpkin Nut Partay Soft Baked Biscuits, and Duck-Tato Jerky Bites are all great options to support your pet’s digestion.

If it’s stress-related:
If you can identify the stressful triggers, do your best to eliminate them from feeding time. Sometimes, creating a routine for your dog can help them find calm — especially when their stress could be triggered by a change in your routine. Not sure how to create a routine? Sometimes it takes a little trial and error to figure out what works best for you and your pup; maybe it’s making more scheduled meal times at specific times of the day or creating a mealtime routine (i.e., go for a walk first, then eat).

If it’s mouth/tooth pain:
After consulting with your vet that the situation is not serious and you can manage it at home, there are some things you can do to make mealtime easier for pups with mouth/tooth pain. Softening their food is a great place to start! Simply add warm water to the food and let it sit for a short period of time to soften; it could be just what they need. Alternatively, you could try switching to the wet/soft version of their dog food if they’re currently on crunchy kibble. You could also try adding softer, natural, healthy foods into their diet, like sweet potato or pumpkin (which are also great digestive aids — so it’s a win, win for your pup)!

If it’s appetite-related:
To boost your dog's appetite, consider offering smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day instead of large portions. A little warmth can go a long way in enhancing the aroma of their food, making it more appealing. Try hand-feeding or offering tasty treats to pique their interest in eating. Keep fresh water readily available to prevent dehydration, which could further dampen their appetite. Keep an eye on their food intake and adjust portion sizes as needed to ensure they're getting the nutrition they need. If appetite issues persist, don't hesitate to reach out to your vet for further advice and possible treatment options. Remember, it may take some time and effort, but with patience and persistence, you can help your furry friend get back to enjoying their meals.

As a pet parent, it’s truly most important to be in tune with your pet’s normal day-to-day behaviors and habits in order to be aware when something is wrong. Having a helpful vet to turn to is key, as is having great resources online to turn to when you have questions you need answers to. Having tasty and healthy treats doesn’t hurt either — and you can always count on Shameless Pets for that!