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The Top 11 Causes of Picky Eating in Dogs - Clear Conscience Pet

The Top 11 Causes of Picky Eating in Dogs

An updated exploration of the most common reasons for decreased canine appetite and changes in eating behavior

Although the term “picky eating dogs” is frequently thrown around, there is very little information available about the causes of picky eating and more seriously depressed appetites in dogs. Even more importantly, guidance is scarce when it comes to practical solutions for dog parents dealing with these potentially health-threatening situations.

By comparison, cats have the reputation for being “finicky.” Reluctance or refusal to eat is perceived as evidence that cats are independent and free thinkers, and these behaviors are even considered to be an endearing and amusing trait by some cat guardians The result is that many cat guardians accept the frustration of constant food switching, coaxing, and flat out begging their felines to eat.

In contrast, many see dogs who don’t eat well as picky or “manipulative.” We’ve been taught that dogs are supposed to love eating whatever we give them, and gobble it down with gusto at every meal. One illustration of this is the term “chow hound,” which is used to describe both dogs and people who love food and eat with unbridled enthusiasm.

Some who promote themselves as dog behavior experts direct their harshest judgment against the human guardians of picky eating dogs; they disparage dog parents for being weak and failing to take charge as “Alpha Pack Leaders.” Our belief is that letting a dog become malnourished to “teach them who’s boss” is ill-advised at best, and dangerous when taken to extremes.

Our conversations with customers and internal surveys indicate that picky eating is a more complex and widespread issue than has been commonly acknowledged. Dogs who previously ate well don’t just “decide” not to eat; there are many possible causes that may be at the root of significant changes in a dog’s appetite.

For those who doubt that this is even an issue, consider this: in the past few years, tens of millions have been spent by big Pharma to develop veterinary pharmaceutical drugs for canine inapppetance, the medical term for loss or decrease of appetite. These companies wouldn’t have invested so much if there wasn’t a large potential market for such drugs. At Clear Conscience Pet, we don’t like this idea at all. We feel strongly that natural solutions should be tried before considering putting a dog on a pharmaceutical drug with potentially serious side effects. This option should only be reserved for the most extreme and life-threatening situations, and only after natural options have been exhausted.

It’s our job as dog guardians to be open-minded and pay close attention to significant changes in eating behaviors. We should not automatically shrug this off as voluntary pickiness.  Drastic changes in appetite can be signals of physical or emotional problems that need to be evaluated thoughtfully in an overall assessment of the health and well-being of our canine companions.

As the inventors of SuperGravy, the #1 most award-winning pet food topper and palatability enhancing supplement, we have over 10 years of experience dealing directly with this issue. That real world research has given us a lot of insight into the canine appetite.

To bring a fresh perspective to this issue, following is an updated list of the 11 most common causes of decreased appetite in dogs:  


  1. Mild to moderately severe illnesses such as viral or bacterial infections that may not be obvious to the human guardian;
  2. Chronic Illnesses such as severe arthritis, IBD (Irritable Bowel Disease),  early stage organ failure, and cancers;
  3. Aging: As they get older, dogs can experience loss of appetite due to decrease of smell and taste  sensitivity; this is especially concerning in advanced geriatric dogs who are at high risk if they become undernourished;  
  4. Changing foods: We see many cases where a dog turns up their nose after being switched to a new food for whatever reason. Two common scenarios that we have seen are when a dog is switched to a senior diet by well-meaning pet parents, or to a “prescription diet” recommended by a Vet for whatever reason. Pet Food manufacturers have also been known to change pet food formulas without notification; this explains why a dog starts turning up their nose at a food they used to like;
  5. Feeding ONLY dry food to dogs; the evolutionary biology of canine nutrition is based on eating prey, which is “wet” food. Dogs should eat hydrated food! That’s why SuperGravy transforms hard dry kibble into a thoroughly moistened meal which more closely replicates what a canine would eat in the wild;
  6. TASTE FATIGUE: Can you imagine if you had to eat the same thing, every day, for your entire life? It’s not hard to understand why dogs get bored with their food! SuperGravy lets you give your dog a stimulating variety of different tastes and smells to keep them excited about their food. And best of all, SuperGravy provides variety and eliminates picky eating without the stomach issues that often come with food changes;
  7. Changes in family circumstances, such as: moving to a new house, animal or human family members leaving the home, separation, or divorce. Grief from the loss of a human or animal family member can lead to depression and appetite loss;
  8. Emotional stress from relocation; this can be very prevalent in rescue and shelter dogs;
  9. Environmental Toxins:  This is a significant issue for all dogs, and very small or especially sensitive dogs are  at highest risk. whether we live in the city, suburbs, or country, we are constantly surrounded by industrial airborne toxins as well as lawn spraying or other activities that involve toxic chemicals and pesticides. Remove dogs for at least 8 hours when applying pesticides in the home.  Be aware that construction, repairs, and renovations may release toxic or irritating substances into your environment;
  10. Medications, Vaccinations, and Anti-Parasite Treatments:  Some dogs may experience side effects from all of these substances, including temporary or longer-term loss of appetite. Of course, some or all of these may be absolutely essential for your dog. This is a very personal determination between you and your Veterinarian. But, in our experience, administering multiple vaccines at once seems to lead to more prevalent side effects, especially in small dogs. Consider titer testing for immunities as an alternative to re-vaccinating dogs who’ve already been inoculated for certain pathogens. De-wormers and flea/tick preventives can also lead to side effects, whether administered internally or topically. Essential treatments such as antibiotics for an infection can also lead to appetite changes. Be aware.
  11. HUMAN GUARDIANS SPOILING THEIR DOGS with unhealthy people foods, thus ruining their appetite for the biologically appropriate foods they should be eating! People foods to avoid most are sweets, breads, grains, and other carb-heavy foods. Adding lean meat and other clean animal protein-based snacks is biologically appropriate for dogs, but one must be cautious and only do so in moderation because it becomes a habit that is very difficult to break and therefore is likely to lead to picky eating if overdone.  

As you can see, picky eating in dogs isn’t a “one reason fits all” situation. The bottom line is that dog parents must be attentive, aware, and vigilant. If your dog has experienced a loss of appetite, it’s very possible that one or more of the Top 11 Causes may be responsible or contribute to the problem. 

SOLUTIONS for Picky Eating: SuperGravy is the #1 award-winning healthy pet food topper and broth mix for dogs. It dramatically improves the palatability of any pet food while supplementing the diet with superfood nutrients, Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Digestive Enzymes. Over a 10-year period, when used as recommended, SuperGravy has achieved 90%+ success in significantly improving “picky eating.” It has also been effective in boosting depressed appetites in dogs facing more serious health challenges.

We developed SuperGravy to naturally boost canine appetites and restore the JOY of eating to dogs. It’s the healthiest, most convenient, and best value choice you can make to boost dog appetites.  Our 100% Doggy Love Guarantee means that if your dog doesn’t eat better and enjoy their food more when using any SuperGravy recipe, we will either swap it for another formula or refund your money. That’s how we roll at Clear Conscience Pet, The Most Awarded Brand in Pet Nutrition since 2010.

© 2021 By Anthony Bennie, Founder and Chief Nutrition Officer