Food is one of the most essential elements of existence. It is a need of all beings, be it humans, plants or even our cuddly little furry friends. But how long can a dog go without food?
Knowing the answer to this question may enlighten you about the care of destitute dogs. It may also give you a better understanding of warning signs to look out for in your dog.
1. What Foods Are Safe for Dogs to Eat?
To maintain a healthy diet for your dog, they must consume the correct nutrients. Although they are members of the Carnivora species, dogs have adapted to an omnivorous diet.
Contrary to the stigma surrounding a dog’s diet, it is completely viable for them to flourish with the nutrients attained via a balanced vegetarian diet. Conversely, providing one’s dog with an all-meat diet would deprive them of all the necessary nutrients.
1.1. Nutritional Requirements of Dogs
6 basic nutrients are essential for every dog. These include –
If these requirements are not fulfilled, it may lead to improper functioning of certain organs in the body. It may also increase the risk of certain diseases and reduce the dog’s immunity. For example, if the dog is not provided with sufficient water, it may lead to a Urinary Tract Infection.
Depending on their respective breed, there may be some variation in the nutrients required by dogs. It may be advisable for dog owners to consult a vet regarding their dog’s nutritional needs. Being vigilant about a puppy’s dietary needs is even more crucial.
While puppies are usually sustained on baby food, most dogs can be sufficiently nourished by a diet based on kibbles (small, processed dry food prepared solely for dogs), wet food or canned food. So long as there is a moderation of either, the dog will thrive.
You can find a variety of dog foods in pet shops or at the supermarket. In addition, there are also some human food items easily found in houses that you can give to your dog.
Here is a list of foods that are safe for dogs to eat –
Thin slices of an apple can be a delicious snack for your dog, which would also clean their teeth and leave them with a fresh breath. However, apple seeds contain a small amount of “cyanide” released when the seeds are chewed or broken.
An apple’s core and seeds can be harmful to your dog. It should also be noted that when consumed in huge amounts, apples can lead to a stomachache or even diarrhoea. Limiting the consumption to a few slices may be best to prevent the same.
Bananas are high in potassium, fibre and vitamins, making them a great, low-calorie snack for your dog. They can help in combating gastrointestinal problems and promote bone growth. It is also a recommended source of nutrition for puppies.
It may be best to consult a vet before introducing anything new to your dog. Even after you get a go-ahead from the vet for adding this to your fur baby’s meals, it may be advised to limit its consumption to half a banana in a day. This is due to bananas’ high sugar content.
This fun-to-eat veggie is wonderful for your dog’s teeth. It is especially intriguing for young dogs and puppies who are teething and need something to bite into. It is also very nutritious and can be found in various dog foods.
Low-fat cheese like mozzarella or cottage cheese is safe for dogs to consume in small quantities. This reduces the risk of an upset stomach while giving your dog some variety in the foods they consumes. It may be used as a “treat” rather than a meal.
Cooked chicken can be incredibly healthy for your dog. You can also serve her/him chicken broth. It is high in protein and can be found in various dog foods. It can help build your dog’s lean muscle mass and nourish its skin and coat health. However, the skin and bones of a chicken should not be fed to a dog.
Feeding your dog cooked kernels of corn in small amounts is completely safe. They can also be a great source of vitamins and minerals. Off-the-cob corn can be a delicious and easily digestible snack for dogs in moderated quantities.
You can also feed organic cucumbers to your doggo, which are both crunchy and hydrating during those hot summer days. You can offer them diced or sliced. Make sure to wash the cucumber before serving and offer small pieces.
1.1.8. Green Beans
Many veterinarians recommend green beans as a treat for dogs. They should be offered plainly and unseasoned. You may serve them chopped, raw, canned or steamed. They are a very good source of fibre for your dog.
1.1.9 Ground Beef
Ground beef is highly nutritious and protein-rich and is also used as a home remedy for treating an upset stomach. Make sure there are no spices or added ingredients like garlic used to prepare this meal, as they can harm dogs. It should be served lean, plain and fully cooked.
Although the strong citrus scent of oranges may be off-putting for some dogs, oranges are a possible snack for your dog. They are a very good source of vitamin C, fibre and potassium. However, a dog should not consume the peels and seeds of an orange.
Unless a dog has a wheat allergy or is particularly sensitive towards grains, plain pasta can be a good alternative for her/him. Though they aren’t very nutritious, they can add variety to the diet.
1.1.12. Peanut Butter
This one, in particular, can be a very delicious and versatile addition to your dog’s diet. Unsweetened peanut butter containing no xylitol (a sugar substitute) can be paired with apple or white bread (without corners) to make a highly nutritious meal.
Plain, boiled white rice can also serve dogs with curd, chicken or other meat. Since they are quite bland, they are recommended for dogs experiencing digestive problems.
Unprocessed turkey can be a very healthy alternative to your dog’s diet. Not only is it easy on their digestive tract, but it is also highly nutritious. Skinless and unseasoned turkey is also used in the preparation of many brands of dog food.
Seed-less and rind-less watermelon can be a juicy, vitamin and anti-oxidant-rich treat for your dog. They are highly hydrating. They also have beta-carotene and various minerals that can help your dog thrive.
2. Foods To Avoid
You must keep certain items away from your dog at all costs. These may cause her or him serious harm if consumed. Dogs are instinctive to play with whatever they may find in front of them, especially when they are young.
A dog must be trained properly to prevent her or him from potentially reaching for something that can harm them. Some of the things you should never offer a dog include –
This one is an obvious “No“. There are no dog breeds that can safely consume alcohol. Any food or beverage containing alcohol can be toxic for a dog. It can cause vomiting, unsteadiness, respiratory problems, low body temperature, and many other issues that can potentially risk their lives.
Dogs can be sensitive to xylitol and sugar, which can be found in almost all gum brands. Not only is this ingredient a threat to your dog’s life, but the gum can also cause intestinal blockage in your dog’s body. If your dog shows any symptoms of the same, you must consult a vet immediately.
Avacado contains a toxin, persin, which is poisonous to a dog. It leads to the accumulation of fluid in the lungs and causes difficulties in breathing and even death. You should not offer so much as a tiny piece of avocado to your dog.
2.4. Macadamia Nuts
Although a dog can safely recover from macadamia nut poisoning in 48 hours, immediate veterinary care is required. The effects of a dog consuming a macadamia nut include vomiting, diarrhoea and weakness in the back legs.
The leaves, stem and pit of a cherry contain cyanide. This can potentially poison a dog if consumed in large quantities. Moreover, the pit of the cherry can also lead to intestinal blockage.
2.6. Chives, Onions And Garlic
Belonging to the Allium family, onions, garlic and chives are toxic to dogs and cats. They can cause the red blood cells in dogs to rupture, leading to anaemia. They can also induce nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhoea. If you do not get your dog medical attention after they consume these, it may lead to their death.
This one is rather famous. Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine which can increase a dog’s heart rate and cause significant illness. If the dog eats too much chocolate, it may die. The type of chocolate she or he consumed can also affect the survival rate and effects of poisoning
2.8. Grapes and Raisins
If a dog consumes grapes or raisins, she or he would develop symptoms of vomiting and diarrhoea within 6-12 hours. It can lead to acute kidney failure. It can also cause a lack of urine production in the dog.
2.9. Raw Potato
Raw potatoes contain solanine, a compound that can also be found in tomatoes. Uncooked potatoes and their skin can be toxic to dogs, especially when consumed in large quantities. However, feeding your dog cooked potatoes in moderation is perfectly safe.
This plant contains oxalic acid which can lead to excessive drooling, vomiting and irritation in the mouth in canines. Dogs should not be fed rhubarb as it can be mildly toxic to them. If your dog has consumed it, consult a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Also, Read – Tips on Keeping Your House Warm In The Snowy Months
3. How Many Meals Do Most Healthy Dogs Require?
Generally, dogs need at least 2 meals a day, with a 12-hour gap between them. If this requirement is not met, their stomach can become hyper-acidic. This may further cause nausea and distress.
Usually, a breakfast, lunch and dinner schedule is preferred for a dog. Another important factor to discuss is the size of each meal which may vary from one dog to the other.
If the dog in question is obese, it may be recommended to have smaller meals and exercise more often. Even in the case of small-breed puppies and dogs, the quantity of food they consume will be less than that of bigger breeds.
If your dog eats dog food, you may find a chart on the back of the packet showing how much should be served based on your dog’s weight, size and breed.
As a general rule of thumb, dogs should consume meals every 8-12 hours to retain their health. It is also recommended that you fix the time you feed them to instil a schedule and make potty training easier.
4. Warning Signs to Look for As a Dog Owner
Although sometimes, due to hot weather, your dog may skip an occasional meal or refuse food, it is important to remember how long can a dog go without food before her or his life is endangered. In some cases, dogs refuse food due to an underlying problem. Here are some warning signs that suggest health issues in a dog –
4.1. Changes in Eating Habits
Suppose they start eating food out of the garbage or pantry despite being generally well-behaved or refusing to eat anything (for more than a few meals or in normal weather conditions). In that case, you should consider taking them for a checkup.
Although it isn’t unusual for dogs to puke to extricate themselves from something they cannot digest, it may be an alarming sign if your dog vomits repeatedly or if you find blood in his vomit.
the normal temperature for dogs is around 101.0 – 102.5°F (38.3 to 39.2°C). It is not uncommon for some pets to maintain a baseline temperature above or below this value.
However, if their temperature falls to (or below) 99°F (37.2°C) or rises to (or above) 104°F (40.0°C), they may need immediate veterinary care. Sometimes dogs may experience both vomiting and fever which is all the more disconcerting.
4.4. Behavioural Changes
If your dog is excessively thirsty or seems unusually tired all the time, it may be a sign of an underlying issue. Sluggishness and inactivity can denote a fever. If your dog drinks too much water or urinates too often, it may be a symptom of a disease.
4.5. State of The Coat
The skin and coat of a dog are supposed to be smooth, shiny and soft. If there are bald spots on their skin or their coat appears rough and dull, this may indicate skin disease or some allergy. This can also be caused by a diet that isn’t suitable for the dog.
4.6. Abnormal Stool
The stool passed by your dog can be a good indicator of your dog’s health. Normally, their stool is supposed to be firm and moist. Dry and hard stools, worms, blood or mucus in the stool, or straining while passing it can indicate some digestive problem or dehydration.
If your dog is dragging her or his bottom along the floor in a sitting position, this may be a sign that she or he is facing issues with her or his anal sac. Other reasons for scooting include allergies or parasitic infections.
If your dog stops eating and experiences such symptoms, you should seek veterinary care for her or him. There are some other symptoms for which you should be on the lookout. These include abdominal swelling, difficulty breathing, urinating or passing stool, sudden weight loss or signs of pain.
5. Why Does a Dog Refuse Food?
There is a myriad of reasons why dogs stop eating. It could be due to something as simple as the boredom of being on a fixed diet every day or something more concerning, like some medical conditions which affect your dog’s appetite. This may be the most likely reason a dog refuses food if they are a picky eater.
Sometimes, due to anxiety, dogs can stop eating. If your dog is under some stress or suffers from separation anxiety, this may be why they are not getting enough food.
Normally, dogs are very enthusiastic about food. Depressed dogs tend to show less enthusiasm about eating and may act somewhat sluggishly. This lack of interest would not be limited to food alone. You will be able to notice other behavioural changes like aggression, disinterest in things they usually enjoy, and howling or whining.
If your dog does not resume eating despite your continuous efforts and is not showing any signs of mental distress, you may want to get a physical examination done for her or him.
Senior dogs may lose interest in food as they grow older. This can be another reason behind a decrease in your dog’s food intake. It is still important to be wary of the distinction between normal disinterest in food and potential symptoms that can be a cause for concern.
Keep an eye out for all other symptoms. Notice any changes in your dog’s sleeping schedule or anything that may seem uncharacteristic of her or him. Sick dogs, too, tend to refuse meals. However, you should not allow them to remain on an empty stomach for more than 24 hours.
If a sick dog is refusing to eat or drink whatsoever for over 24 hours, you should take them to a vet. You can try to force-feed her or him. Offer your dog a bland meal. At most, a sick dog can go 3 days without food.
If your dog hasn’t eaten for more than 2-3 days and is seeking comfort, shows disinterest in pursuing any activity, or has a lack of coordination and laboured breathing, these may be signs that your dog is starving to death.
6. How Long Can a Dog Go Without Food?
Unlike humans, who can survive up to 2 months without food, a healthy dog can only go 3-5 days without food. Such a situation can be very critical. If your dog hasn’t been eating for 2 days, you must immediately take him to a vet.
A dog’s survival without eating can also differ based on her or his breed and body weight. If a dog is already suffering from serious medical problems, refusing food may be considered normal.
If it has been 48 hours since your dog’s last meal, you may try to force-feed her or him with a syringe. Usually, if a dog refuses to eat for more than 3 days and can not maintain its body weight without eating food, it may need a feeding tube.
This is commonly seen in cases where the dog suffers from a disease that can not be cured quickly. The first retort in situations where a dog is refusing food is to prescribe an appetite stimulant that can help in increasing food intake.
A dog’s survival without food can be somewhat aided with more water intake. A dog can only go 72 hours (3 days) without drinking water. After the first 24 hours, it will get very dehydrated and become weaker over time.
The survival time of a dog that is neither eating nor drinking water can be even more reduced. It is prudent for your dog to drink water to keep diseases and complications such as kidney failure at bay. The answer to “how long can a dog go without food” can also vary based on her or his prevailing health conditions.
If a dog doesn’t eat for a prolonged period, it will develop life-threatening hypoglycemia. This can be seen using blood tests. After 5-7 days of starvation, a dog may die. They have survival instincts and would never purposefully starve themselves. Usually, there is a deeper reason behind a dog’s decreased appetite.
7. The Perfect Meal Plan
If your dog is moody and hates eating the same meal every day, it may be best to devise a meal plan for her or him that will be nutritious and entertaining. Try to introduce your furry friend to foods that are safe for him to consume.
Make a note of what your dog likes and incorporate it into its meals. You can pair bananas and peanut butter to offer it to your dog. The idea is to have him enjoy his meals. It is very important for a dog to eat a healthy, balanced diet.
There should be a balance between meat products and vegetables for your dog’s diet so they can be properly nourished. Otherwise, your dog may develop a deficiency that will compromise its immunity.
7.1. How To Choose the Correct Dog Food?
The correct dog food must contain fruits, vegetables, grains and meats. Most vets recommend Royal Canin, Purina ProPlan, and Pedigree Pro. They are well renowned for their high-quality products and even have some variety in their flavours.
You should read these foods’ ingredients and meal charts before purchasing or using them, especially if your dog has a sensitive stomach or allergies. You can also mix other food items, like meat, into the food to give your dog a change of pace.