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Will A Dog Starve Itself To Death? Best Solution for a Dog That Will Not Eat

If you are searching for this topic, it is probably because your dog isn’t eating, and you are very worried. If they are refusing to eat, will a dog starve itself to death? First, it is important to remember that there is a difference between a dog starving itself and starving itself to death. Let’s take a few minutes to discuss the difference. 

Dogs might also be eating for reasons like they aren’t a fan of the food you are giving them, or their bellies are sensitive to a certain ingredient in the food they are currently eating. Luckily there are solutions, no matter what the reason may be that your dog is refusing to eat.

Will a Dog Starve Itself?

For any number of reasons, a dog can avoid eating on purpose. The most common reason a dog will refuse to eat is that they have stomach and digestive issues. Some of these problems can include a stomach bug, gastroenteritis, or another type of injury that can affect their appetite. You could try feeding them their most favorite food in the world, but they would still avoid it.

In this situation, your dog is not technically starving itself. Their body is just telling them that they are not hungry and that they should not eat anything until they feel better. They are not starving themselves on purpose, they are just not eating for the time being. It’s their body telling them not to eat, not their mind. They are not starving on purpose.

Will a Dog Starve Itself to Death?

Just like with any living being, dogs can starve to death, but will they starve themselves to death is a different question. To understand this subject, there are two important questions that need to be considered when trying to reach a conclusion. We need to consider whether dogs understand what death is and if they know that starving will kill them.

Do Dogs Understand Death?

Dogs have a mind that is equivalent to a two-year-old, according to Science Daily. Two-year-olds do not understand life and death. Another article by Psychology Today stated that dogs are able to feel sad and depressed, causing them to disconnect from their surroundings. However, even in this mindset dogs are still able to connect to their canine survival skills.

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This is most commonly seen in the sad event that dogs are abandoned and resort to eating things like drywall and other things to keep themselves alive. It has not been proven that dogs understand death entirely. When their humans die, they see it as one day you’re there and the next day you’re not. They believe their owners will come back.

There are some great examples of dogs waiting for their owners after they had passed. One of the stories that stick with me the most is Hachiko. He followed his owner to the train station every morning and waited there for him every evening.

One day his owner didn’t come back because he passed away at work. Every day from May 21, 1925, to March 8, 1935, Hachiko would wait for his owner to return to the train station. March 8 was the day that Hachiko passed away. Every day until his last day Hachiko didn’t understand that his owner was dead and not coming back.

Do Dogs Understand That Starving Will Kill Them?

Dogs don’t understand what death is, so it is hard to believe that they understand not eating could lead to death. The only thing that dogs can really understand is that hunger goes away when they eat. They don’t understand what can happen to them if they don’t eat for too long.

If your dog is not eating, chances are they are not feeling well. When you are sick, do you want to eat? It’s not likely. But you don’t consider that you are starving yourself because you just aren’t hungry. Dogs get the same way when they are sick, but the chance of them starving themselves to death is incredibly low.

Can Dogs Be Anorexic?

Dogs surprisingly can get anorexia due to an extreme lack of nutrition. Anorexia looks different for dogs than humans, because dogs are not conscientiously trying to starve themselves. They can develop anorexia because they are not eating as the result of an illness. This could be a mental or physical illness, but an illness all the same. 

Can I Help My Dog’s Appetite?

If you want to help your dog eat because they have been refusing to eat for a while, the first thing you need to do is figure out why your dog is refusing. Your dog may not be feeling well, or it might have an underlying condition you don’t know about. Your dog could also just not like the food you are giving. 

Different Food

If you have recently changed your dog’s food and you’ve noticed that they aren’t eating, chances are they are not a fan of the food. To help them eat, you can either switch them back to the food they were eating previously or try to mix in some of their old food with their new food.

It is also possible that your dog could have a sensitivity to one of the ingredients in the new food you are giving them. Compare the ingredients of your new food to the old food to see if you can pinpoint what ingredient might be causing the issue.

Try Treats

If you are concerned about how little your dog is eating, try treating them with a type of food they don’t normally get. Chicken is a great option for dogs, especially if they aren’t feeling well, because it is easy on the tummy and has tons of protein. You can give it to them straight or try mixing it in with their food to grab their attention.

Appetite Stimulant

When your dog has refused to eat for a long period of time, or if they have been diagnosed with a health condition that lowers their appetite, an appetite stimulant might be beneficial for your pet. You can ask your vet to prescribe one for your pet, or they can recommend an over-the-counter appetite stimulant. Dr. Becker’s Appetite Flakes is a great option to try.

Hand Feed

Another solution you could try is feeding your dog with your hand instead of having them eat out of their bowl. This can help your dog feel comfortable, especially when they aren’t feeling very well. It might take a while to accomplish, but it is likely that your dog will continue to eat after you’ve hand-fed them a few pieces.


How long can dogs go without eating?

It is most common for dogs to be fine for about 5 days without food. In some cases, they can survive seven days without eating. If you can’t get your dog to eat anything after two or three days, you should take them to see the vet. 

If your dog is also refusing to drink, it is important to pay close attention to them. Dogs can only go two or three days without water before they start having problems. Make sure they are drinking, and if they aren’t, get them to the vet immediately.

What can I feed my dog if they don’t want to eat?

When you are trying to get your dog to eat, it is best to stay bland and simple. Vets recommend feeding them chicken with no seasoning and some white rice. You can also try to feed them some white meat from a rotisserie chicken. Some other options are sweet potatoes, bone broth, meat-based baby food, or unseasoned pumpkin.

My dog isn’t eating but is acting completely normal. Should I be concerned?

If your dog is acting fine, but not eating, you can wait it out. Sometimes dogs will not eat because they don’t like how the weather is outside. If it goes on for more than a couple of days, you should consider other options and possibly take them to the vet.

Do I need to force feed my dog?

Your dog is not eating for a reason, so you shouldn’t try to shove food down their throat to get them to eat. You can try to feed your dog with your hands instead of a bowl, but don’t force the food into their mouth if they are not interested in eating it.


Our pets are family, so it can be really concerning when they are not eating like they should be. Will a dog starve itself to death? Dogs can’t understand the concept of death, all they know is when they are hungry, they eat, and the hunger goes away.

If your dog is not eating for a long period of time, consider taking it to the vet because there could be an underlying issue. Your dog could have stomach problems, a stomach bug, or something else that is causing them to lose their appetite.

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