How many times a day should a dog eat? Discover the many reasons why a dog may not want to eat and what to do about it. And when you should go to the vet.

My personal dogs never miss a meal. They know breakfast is at 7am and dinner at 5pm. Starting at 4:30, Bear will sit and stare me down until I get up to feed him. And let me reassure you, they’ve never missed a meal in their entire lives with us.

[Q&A] #AskingForMyDog

Each week of 2020, I am choosing a question from a Rescue Dogs 101 community member.

This week’s question is from Paula, she asks:

I have a perfect little rescue pup. She is 6-1/2 years old and her name is Sissy. Sissy is a chihuahua, and she is soooooo sweet!! The only thing is, she only eats like once every 3 days. She sniffs at food, but she only eats once every 2 or 3 days. It seriously worries me. Is this normal?

So let’s start by asking…

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How many times a day should a dog eat?

Most vets recommend feeding an adult dog two meals a day. Breakfast and dinner.

So what if my dog only eats once a day? If you choose to feed your dog once in the morning, that’s totally fine.

Every person and dog’s situation is different. Go with what works with your schedule, what your dog needs and prefers.

I’ve also know some people that prefer to feed their dog three meals a day. It’s all relative. An over or underweight dog is not healthy, so feed the total amount your dog needs based on the packaged requirements.

If you feed raw or fresh, then seek an expert’s advice to make sure it is a balanced feeding schedule.

If you have a young puppy, they will likely need to eat 3-4 times a day. Talk with your vet for proper feeding guidelines tailored to your puppy.

Is this new behavior, or has she always only eaten once every few days?

Now, I am going to assume Sissy had been with you for longer than a few months. But if she is new to your home, then she just may need time to adjust to her new life.

Have you talked with your vet about Sissy not eating? If this is a new behavior, then I suggest talking to your vet right away.

Lack of eating can be health or stress-related. Getting a clean bill of health will put your worries at ease.

Have you tried changing her food?

Some dogs are pickier than others when it comes to what they will eat. Will she eat treats, fresh chicken or hot dogs? If so, then you likely just have a picky eater.

Try a different brand and protein. If you are feeding her chicken flavor, try beef or fish. Dog food brands are not created equal. Opt for high-quality food.

Try adding water, bone broth, and fresh foods.

Also, consider serving her food in a different type of bowl. If you are using plastic, try stainless steel. Read how to get my dog to drink more water for some more ideas.

puppy not eating

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Is she getting treats or other foods?

If you are feeding her snacks throughout the day, she just may not be hungry when it comes to mealtime. Try eliminating all the treats and see if that changes her appetite.

Is she getting enough physical and mental exercise?

If Sissy isn’t getting the exercise she needs, then she isn’t working up an appetite to burn the calories. Try taking a long walk and playing some mind games.

Use her food as training treats.

There is no rule that a dog needs to eat from a bowl. Make Sissy work for her food. Have fun with this, have her do some tricks, or even a simple sit, then give her a few pieces of kibble.

Read how to train your dog in 3 minutes a day for some more ideas.

You can also try some dog puzzles to work up the excitement of eating.

In conclusion

To review, there are many reasons why a dog may not want to eat:

  • Stress from a new environment
  • Change in the normal routine
  • Hidden health illness
  • Dental problems
  • Picky eater
  • Eating too many treats between meals
  • Not getting enough exercise

Paula, I hope this helps you and Sissy resolve her eating mystery.

Recommended reading just for you:

As a community we are here to help each other in times of need, so please share.

Is your dog a picky eater or a food mongrel? Please leave a comment below if you have any tips to get your dog to eat their food when they aren’t interested.

Have a question of your own? Email me with the subject line #AskingForMyDog and I may choose to feature it in our next Q&A!

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About the Author

Debi McKee is a mom of three kids, three dogs and the creator of Rescue Dogs 101... where she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. She also volunteers for a local dog rescue and Humane Society.

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  1. I have a jack russell called Milo, he’s my baby who is 4months old but the problem is that he only eats for 3 days and doesn’t for the next, he is very playful and happy but food is not his thing… I dont know what to do but i love him either way and care about him a loooooot…

  2. My dogs are picky eaters. Leo is 3 yrs old and Lea is 8 years. I have tried many different types including ordering various fresh foods. I have resorted to cooking a combination of ground beef, turkey and chicken cooked in a pressure cooker in chicken stock. I add peas and carrots at feeding time. 6:00 PM every day. I play catch and fetch and take them on walks every day. When they eat they devour their food but they don’t eat everyday. Plenty of water and snacks like jerky, SmartBones and greenies without fail. Should I worry? They go to vet on regular basis. Your thoughts? Thanks. RML

    1. It doesn’t sound like you have anything to worry about. I would just make sure what you are feeding them gives them all the nutrients they need. A balanced diet is important to keep your dog healthy.

  3. My dog is also a rescue, a shizu. I have seen many puppies being fed with chopsticks… people food. Chuwii is a very picky eater. We have found hand feeding fresh, cooked chicken from the airfryer works for us. We give him a supplement (powdered) on his chicken and he has gone from 12# to 20# in 8 months. We tried tuna and canned chicken before we hit on the airfried chicken.. Good luck! It’s hard to know your little one’s past way of being fed. Our supplement gives him everything else he needs.

    1. I’m so glad you found something that works for your picky eater! And relieved that you are giving him a supplement, as many people think that feeding fresh food is best, but then the dog lacks all the nutrients they need.

  4. Just a couple of possibilities, if the owner is worried about the dog not eating it is possible that the dog picks up on this. Dogs won’t eat if they are anxious and will pick up on the owners anxiety about food. This means that the dog only eats when it gets desperate. Try leaving the room while the dogs food is on the floor.
    Another possibility is that it’s been allowed to graze in the past and doesn’t understand the concept of meal times in which case leave it down so it can help itself.
    Some dogs are scared of the noise a metal bowl makes and don’t like eating out of them.
    Little dogs sometimes have trouble chewing hard kibble so soft food might help.
    Take it to vet first for a health check. I think I would definitely have a blood test done if the teeth were good.
    So long as the dog isn’t underweight it isn’t so much of an issue but definitely keep an eye on its weight. If it’s losing weight then it needs seeing by a vet as a matter of urgency

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