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Dog Won’t Eat Their Food But Will Eat Treats? 5 Possible Reasons

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By Nicole Cosgrove

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Most dogs will eat almost anything in sight, so it can be very concerning when they suddenly stop eating. Perhaps your pet is refusing to eat his mealtime food but is still eating treats or table food. While it’s better than not eating at all, you definitely will want to get to the bottom of this behavior as quickly as possible so you can provide your pet with balanced nutrition that will keep it healthy.

We’ve created a list of reasons your dog might be refusing to eat its normal dinner. We’ll also discuss what you can do to get your pet eating again and when it’s time to call the vet.

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Dog Won’t Eat His Food But Will Eat Treats (5 Reasons)

1. Dog Food Is Spoiled, or It’s a Bad Batch

shih tzu puppy eating
Image Credit: STEVEPHILCOPHOTOGRAPHY, Shutterstock

The most common reason that dogs refuse to eat their dinner is that you accidentally purchased a bad batch. Like any other type of food, dog food can wind up with some bad ingredients that will spoil the food or cause it to taste bad. Inexpensive brands might have less quality control, which can result in spoiled chicken or fish getting into the food, but this still occasionally happens with high-end foods as well.

How Can I Get My Dog To Eat Again?

If your dog eats the same food every day but suddenly stopped when you opened a new bag or a can from a new box, there is a good chance that spoiled ingredients are to blame. We recommend closing up the bag and purchasing another from a different location. If your dog eats the new food, throw the old bag out or contact the company and tell them about your experience. If your dog refuses to eat the new food, then you can save the old food because it’s not the problem.

2. Dog Doesn’t Like The Brand

Pit bull American Staffordshire Terrier with food bowl eating
Image Credit: BoJack, Shutterstock

Many people like to try out different brands, and sometimes it can be difficult to find the brand you like, forcing you to experiment with something new.

While dogs are nowhere near as picky as cats, some canines can still be quite selective and refuse to eat some brands. We found this to be especially true with healthy brands. Many dogs prefer foods loaded with corn and other unhealthy ingredients over a healthier brand.

How To Get My Dog To Eat Again?

If you just purchased a new brand of food and your dog is refusing to eat, there is a good chance that it does not like its new food. We recommend closing up the bag and purchasing a brand you know that your dog enjoys. If your dog eats the old brand, you will need to discard or give away the new brand. If your dog still doesn’t eat, save the new brand until you learn the cause.

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3. Dog Dental Issues

Dog teeth
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Experts say that more than two-thirds of all dogs suffer from some form of periodontal disease.  Your dog may have developed a toothache that hurts when it eats the hard kibble or when it eats cold, wet food. If the treats are softer than the kibble, it could be a sign your dog is having dental issues.

How Can I Make My Dog Eat Again?

If you think your pet is suffering from a dental condition, you can try switching to softer food and make an appointment with the vet to have your dog’s teeth looked over. It’s a good idea to get your dog used to manual brushings with dog-safe toothpaste to prevent dental problems as long as possible. Crunchy food is also better than wet food for most dogs because the hard kibble will help scrape away plaque and tartar.

4. Dog Is Sick

sick dog
Image Credit: Igor Normann, Shutterstock

Several illnesses can eliminate your dog’s appetite causing it to avoid its dinner. Sometimes tempting it with something special like a treat or table food can get them to eat, but they will continue to avoid regular food.

How to Get Your Dog To Eat Again?

If you think your dog is not feeling well, you can let it go with some table food or treats for a day or so to see if it feels better. However, your dog cannot survive on treats alone, so you will need to make an appointment with the vet quickly if your dog does not begin to eat again after a day or so. Also, make sure you are not giving your pup any human food that can cause him further discomfort.

5. Dog Holding Out For Treats

Sick Labrador
Image Credit: Phuttharak, Shutterstock

Dogs are quick learners. If your pup realizes that it can get some treats by refusing to eat its dinner, it might begin to do it at every meal.

How Can You Get Your Dog To Eat Again?

If you think your dog is holding out for treats, you will need to hold back for a few days until your dog begins to eat its dinner again. Treating them after a good meal can help reinforce the preferred behavior.

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Summary: My Dog Won’t Eat

Most dogs will refuse to eat their dinner if it tastes bad, and it’s not uncommon for any company to produce a bad batch now and then, especially if the food uses all-natural ingredients that can spoil easily. Some crafty dogs can also learn how to get treats and may try to hold out for them. In this case, you will have to be the parent and hold back on the treats until your dog starts eating again. In any case, you will need to get your pet to the vet if more than 2-3 days go by without a proper meal.

We hope you have enjoyed reading over this guide, and it has helped answer your questions. If we have helped your dog return to its normal eating habits, please share this discussion about why your dog won’t eat food but will eat treats and what you can do about it on Facebook and Twitter.

Related Read: Buying Dog Food in Bulk: Complete Guide

Featured Image Credit: pakornkrit, Shutterstock

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