There are a few things that you have to take into consideration when determining how to get your older dog to eat. Chances are that if you’re reading this article then you’re struggling with how to encourage your old friend to eat or stimulate his or her appetite.

Why is my elderly dog not eating?

There are many reasons that can cause an older dog to stop eating:

  • Disease or illness should be your first suspicion.
  • Bad teeth – If you don’t clean your dog’s teeth regularly, your dog could be in a great deal of pain due to periodontal problems. Abscessed teeth and bacteria under the gum line can go to your dog’s heart quickly and also be deadly. Learn how to naturally and easily clean your dogs teeth without brushing here.
  • Pain can be a big problem. Just like us; when we’re in pain, we don’t feel much like eating.
  •  Dogs DO get depressed. Consider including a Hemp aka CBD Oil to help with nervousness or anxiety and exercise your dog daily!
  • Poor, unhealthy food choices. Your dog was  and NEVER will be meant to live on kibble. Ever. For any dog to thrive, they must be fed the appropriate diet for their genetic makeup.

old dog won't eat

Here’s a few helpful natural remedies you can do yourself right at home:

Like the human body, your dog’s entire body thrives off of water.

This means that every part of your dog’s body including his or her brain, heart, lungs, liver, kidneys and skin are affected by the dog’s level of hydration.

Don’t assume that your dog drinks what he needs. They are much like us. Humans that are sick are almost always dehydrated.

However, we realize that the old cliche “you can lead a horse to water, but not make him drink” holds true.

But, this is where you come in by following the recommendations here on our page. When your dog is fully hydrated, this means he will have higher energy levels, better skin, a healthy cardiovascular system and renal system and more.

Dehydration is a BIG Problem

old dog that won't eat

Dogs that are extremely sick to the point of not eating on their own are likely dehydrated. Your starting point should be to hydrate your old friend.

Regardless whether your dog is drinking water or not or if he seems to pass the dehydration skin test; many of these animals are still dehydrated and lacking nutritional vitamins and minerals.

We can help in this area which requires more than just water. Many of the dogs we work with show improvement quickly. Please reach out to us at the link further down the page where we discuss personal consultations.

Ideas to Stimulate Your Old Dog’s Appetite and Get Your Older Dog to Eat

The following ideas may help. However, if your dog is suffering from a serious disease such as liver disease, cancer, etc., these recommendations may not work and specific nutritional guidance is often needed in the form of private consulting.

If you feel that you fall into this category, please scroll to the bottom of the page for additional information on how to move forward with a private consultation.

What can I feed an old dog that won’t eat?

  1. Food variety:  Your dog was never meant to eat the same thing day in and day out. This completely goes against nature. You have to provide variety and variety in the form of real, whole foods and proteins. NOT dog foods or prescription dog foods. Our cookbook may help. The recipes are made using limited ingredients for easier digestion. You can learn more here.
  2. The stinkier the better: Dogs LOVE stinky things. With this in mind, try enticing your pet with something such as a GREEN tripe (NOT WHITE) or sardines packed in water (drained).
  3. Missing minerals:  Despite what you read, there are only a few examples of when a dog doesn’t need a little salt in the diet. Dogs with heart or liver issues should avoid. Other than that, your dog requires sodium in the diet just like you do. Use common sense. You don’t want it to be too salty, but enough to give some light flavor and nutritional value. If you’re currently homecooking, you should also be including calcium daily.
  4. Feed their meals warm. NEVER cold right from the fridge. Just like you, they prefer it warm.
  5. They have to eat: With this in mind, there may come a time that you have to feed your dog whatever he or she will eat. At this point, carbs may make a difference. This can be scary, especially if your dog has cancer. The key is to provide more protein than carbs while getting your dog to eat.

Appetite Stimulants You Can Purchase

It’s important to understand that for best results these stimulants should be used in conjuction with a healthy, home cooked diet and NOT dog foods or prescription diets.

  • Just like it works for depression & anxiety, Hemp aka CBD Oil is used by many holistic, herbal professionals to successfully stimulate the appetite in people and pets. Learn more about Hemp here.
  • Agatha’s Elixer contains some excellent ingredients that stimulate the appetite, boost the immune system and detox the liver.

The Effect that Your Dog’s pH Balance Has on His Appetite & Health

how to restore pH balance in dogs

If you’re already feeding a healthy home made diet for your dog and you’re dog no longer wants to eat, then you should suspect that it could be something serious.

Assuming that you’ve taken your old dog to the vet and they’ve given your pet a diagnosis (or maybe not) of kidney disease, liver disease, heart disease, pancreatitis, etc.,  please consider contacting us to so that we can help restore your dog’s pH balance in the body. We do this using FOOD. Understand that we are not giving medical advice, instead providing nutritional help.

Your dog’s body works to carefully monitor the pH levels of blood and other bodily fluids. When your old dog is sick and won’t eat, this means the body is either too acidic or too alkaline. In order to overcome any sickness, healthy pH levels are a must for your senior dog. Disease and sickness are typically secondary to unhealthy pH levels in a dog’s body.

Urine pH determines whether the food your dog is eating is working or not. Karen Becker, DVM says that normal healthy urine pH for dogs is between 6 – 6.5 which is just slightly acidic and good for dogs.

It’s critical to keep your dog’s urine pH around 6.5 and always below 7.0 to avoid the urine becoming too alkaline and cause the development of struvite crystals. To complicate things even more, a pH below 6 can cause calcium oxalate stones.

Dog’s that eat dry dog foods and especially grain based diets are at a higher risk of the dog’s urine becoming too alkaline. These foods also cause urine concentration and ammonia pH to escalate as well.

So, you see why it’s important to understand your senior dog’s pH levels and where they stand. Your dog cannot heal from anything when the pH in the body is out of whack. If your old dog is sick and not eating, then he or she needs help right away.

You can purchase strips from your pharmacy and test your dog’s urine at home so that you know where your dog’s pH levels are, however, this won’t help the immediate situation.

Setting up a Private Consultation

We work with many older dogs on a regular basis and we simply ask that you make a contribution to our website to help us spend the time it takes to help you.

The suggested contribution is $50-$100 for the personal consultation.

You can read a few of our many testimonials below. If you decide that you would like a personal consultation, please Contact us here.

In order to give you the best consultation we can, we need vital information from you. PLEASE take the time to provide the following details.

While we don’t want you to write a book, we do need to know certain details that impact your dog’s overall health.

Copy and past the following questions into the form on our contact page listed above and place your answers below each question please.

  • How old is your dog?
  • Do you exercise your dog?
  • What have you been feeding your dog through out his life?
  • What was/is your dog’s latest diet?
  • What treats do you feed?
  • Has your dog been diagnosed with a disease? If yes, what?
  • Is your dog arthritic?
  • What symptoms does your dog have?
  • When did you last vaccinate your dog?
  • What did you last vaccinate for?
  • How often have you vaccinated this dog?
  • What product or protocol do you use to treat fleas and ticks and how often?
  • Are you willing to feed a home cooked diet?
  • Are you willing to include some supplements if necessary?

A few testimonials from happy dogs and happy owners … 

I have to tell you your recipes are working. Lizzie won’t eat food out of her bowl but after we gave it to her in a syringe, she decided she liked it and was licking it off a spoon! So glad I found you.


Hi Janie, 

I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate all of your diet and supplement advice for my fourteen year old dachshund, Buddy.  He was basically dying from his liver disease when I contacted you a month ago. Buddy was suffering from hepatic encephalopathy and my vet had not given much hope for him to survive. The prescription food he prescribed seemed to make the symptoms worse and when it looked like I was going to lose him, I decided to make some homemade chicken and rice to feed him for what looked like his last few days to live.
When I started to feed him the chicken and rice he started to improve and that is when I started to search for answers about natural homemade diet for him. I found your recipes online and decided to contact you for diet advice. The plan you recommended has given miraculous results for Buddy and he has improved each day since starting it. I have also learned to recognize when a certain food is not working for him. 
I will admit I was skeptical when I started the hydration diet and hydration therapy but the results have been amazing! I wish I had learned about the amazing benefits of a natural diet many years ago. Buddy is so much more energetic and the hepatic encephalopathy symptoms have completely stopped. 
I can never thank you enough for all of the time you have taken to help our Buddy.
Kindest regards,
Kathy Hamilton

Hi Janie:

I am cooking your recipes for Speedy and actually just recently started cooking for all of them. It has made a world of difference!

T. Culley

I contacted Janie in hopes for help to know what to do for our little Kinsler who was diagnosed with Stage 3 Kidney Failure. She immediately offered help for Kinsler. At that time he was not eating and Janie suggested a quick solution of whole foods. I had a time getting the greens down him, but it worked!

He is now eating everyday!

B. Bradford

Recent Posts
Note: Please note that we no longer respond to questions in the comment section of our blog. If you have any queries regarding the blog content please contact us through our contact form here Contact Us.
Showing 23 comments
  • frank pirolo

    I have 14 1/2 year old Lab that has been on a steady dry food diet since a pup and lately she never finishes what’s in her bowl. She is always full of energy and loves being outdoors. I’m thinking that it could be the daily snacks I give her when I come home from work and she’s gotten spoiled from the crackers and cheese she gets. Also I’ve been giving her a slice of ham or cheese mixed in with her dry food but this only worked for a few months and now has stopped eating that too. Should I stop doing this? Is a raw diet good for her or should I stick with cooking her meals.

    BTW, love the questions and your answers as well here.

    • janie knetzer

      Hi Frank:

      Thanks for your kind words…. I have a real soft spot for labs. I lost my yellow lab last year. 🙁

      Ham, cheese, crackers aren’t good for her. Especially the ham. Kibble; while dogs can exist on it, it too is not good for them. Raw is good, but I’m not crazy about starting an older dog on completely raw when we don’t know for sure if anything is going on in the body.

      Did you look at my cookbook by chance? It’s an instant download book. In your case, I would try feeding her any of the recipes in the book despite which disease or illness they fall under. If her stool gets soft (due to grain), then try just feeding the recipes for cancer and heart disease and rotate the recipes. They are simple, limited ingredient recipes. You’ll need to add calcium. It tells you how to do that in the book too. I would also give a good multivitamin and you can look at what we offer on our site to see if you like any of those. They can be a big help!

      Let me know if this helps.


  • Barbara N

    My 12 1/2 year old lab developed what seems to be a fear of his dog bowls. This started 12 days ago. I have been able to get him to hand feed but now he seems uninterested. He also has lots of anxiety. If a spoon drops on the floor he runs away. If a bit of his dog food falls on the floor he runs away. Today for the first time he has eaten nothing. He has refused hand feeding of fresh chicken as well as little meat balls made from his canned dog food. Vet says blood work is fine and his ultra sound of the belly is clear….three vets have been unable to figure this out over the last two weeks. Help….

  • Maggie

    My 12 year d miniature schnauzer is drinking but not eating at all. Been to vet and they want to run a barrage of tests which I’ve decided against as I don’t think it’s fair on her. She is still going into the garden and still greets family and friends. What can I temp her with. Help

    • janie

      Hi Maggie:

      The one thing you should have done is bloodwork to check how her kidneys and liver are doing. You need to know this so that you know how to proceed.

      Did you have blood work done?


  • Sue

    My German Shepherd has gone off his food he is 13 years old and has been blind since he was seven but that has not been a problem during his life! I know the heat has got to him he just lays on his bed with a cool coat and fan on him!He has been on raw food all his life and will not touch it now he will eat a small amount of ready made meals that are cooked but not enough for his weight 35 kegs please has anyone got any suggestions I would be very grateful.

    • janie

      Hi Sue:

      I’m so sorry to hear about your old boy. Has he been to vet and diagnosed with anything? Many times when dogs have kidney disease and stop eating, steaming leafy greens and getting them to eat them, can stimulate an appetite. I would have the kidneys and liver checked Sue.

      When they stop eating, there’s a reason. So, finding out why is also very important so that you can develop a protocol of foods, herbs and other defenses.

      I hope this helps a little.


  • Angela Heisler

    It’s so tough when your dog decides to not eat. I want share a product that I found.

    It is called Superfood Seasoning and all dogs LOVE it! Protein is the first ingredient and then it’s loaded with Superfood fruits and veggies. It has vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that our dogs need.

    If you would like to know more, you can email me at thepetlifewithpawtree

    HUGS during these difficult and unsure times!

    Angela Heisler

  • Nancy Scaramuzzo

    My 14 yr old dog was just changed to new dog food. She was good for about a week but then went on lockdown..nothing…there are no underlying problems. I did put her on Brown rice and just a small piece of boiled chicken, as she has Allergies to it…sure she ate it but now I’m trying to get her back on her dog food..Honest Kitchen. No eating for 4 days..caved in and gave her a small piece of toast dry this morning..she almost took m6 hand off..please advise..I’m desperate, I love her but she’s stubborn too..I managed to put a spoonful in her mouth…she spit it all over..nice! I can’t feed her chicken and rice the rest of her life…it was ok bc I was desperate 4 her to eat..yes, I even chanced the chicken. She’s very smart and is waiting 4 me to cave 8n again. She’s getting weak today. Any and all comments appreciated. Thank you in advance.

    • janie

      Hi Nancy:

      Did you consider my cookbook for her. She obviously wants change and people food. You can use any of the recipes in the book since she’s pretty healthy and no major concerns.

      I would definitely do that. Give her variety. She doesn’t want to eat The Honest Kitchen every day for the rest of her life. I would also include Daily Multi for her and the cookbook shares how to incorporate calcium which is a must.

      You can view the cookbook here and Daily Multi here.

      I hope this helps Nancy! Keep me posted… :)


  • Kristine

    Hi I have 13 years old dog and he is not eating also he cannot hear us. Before, when we call his name he look at us immediately but now he is not responding and does’nt open his eyes. He only opens it if he is going to his bed. We cannot carry him to go to vet because he is being sensitive and angry everytime. What can i do to help my dog?

    • janie

      Hi Kristine:

      I’m sorry for the delay. I would try and find a mobile vet to come to your home to see what is going on. I would also look into acupuncture and good, real, whole food for him, if he’s not already eating a good diet.
      I hope your old boy recovers.


  • Idamis Avendano

    Hi I have a 10yrs old American bulldog that lately is eating less and drinking less water. He has gotten more skinny and am worry. I already took him for his shots and the vet said he was in good health and that was just 2 months ago. Have tried standing beside him comforting him and talking to him to try to get him to eat but he just takes a couple of licks of food and water. Please can you help me. Thanks Ida

  • Amanda

    good afternoon
    I am going to try some of these tips for my 14 year old maltese cross shih Tzu.
    She has had a heart murmur for some time and over the last few months it is progressing slowly as in getting worse, so therefore she is on numerous medications for that and her teeth are not the best but putting her under to have them out is very risky so therefore she is on painkillers every so often so therefore she is extremely fussy with food. I have that much different food for her and cook fresh food and yes with what you say above I get stressed when she doesn’t eat as I get so worried because of the medication she is on she needs to eat. Will try the tinned salmon as she does like biscuits that are fish flavoured and I soak the biscuits to soften them for her to eat. I spend a fortune on her every week but would not have it any other way.


    • janie

      Hi Amanda:

      I’m sorry to hear about your old girl.

      Are you doing anything at all for her teeth? If not, you need to try and do something such as using a spray and maybe gently, very gently use a plaque/tarter remover such as this one which is the same one that I use. BE VERY GENTLE, BUT SCRAPE OFF WHAT YOU CAN A LITTLE AT A TIME. Just try and to a little each day, so that she doesn’t get stressed. Here’s the link: Plaque/Tarter Remover

      I use this dental spray, and I’ve used several in the past. This one is pretty good. I would use it for several days before scaling the tarter: Happy Parents Premium Dental Spray

      You MUST feed a diet that contains a lot of good sources of protein and greens. Did you by chance look at my cookbook which includes recipes for Heart Disease with 3-5 ingredients for the crock pot? If not, you can take a look here if you want: Home Cooking for Sick Dogs The recipes will be soft for her.

      I would also use COQ10 DAILY. This is an excellent supplement from Vetriscience: Vetriscience COQ10

      Next, I would definitely include these along with the Vetriscience above: Heart Treats These contain a lot of ingredients that are excellent for the heart and I often recommend them individually.

      If you can afford it, I would also include our daily multivitamin which is a powder and easy to administer in his food. You can read about that here: Daily Multivitamin

      I hope this helps your old girl Amanda.


    • Lana Black

      Did you find a food that worked? Having same issue with our 13 year old Havanese/Shih Tzu. Heart murmur getting worse. Enlarged heart. Been on heart meds since March. Liver enzymes VERY ELEVATED since last year (over 1500 ALT and ALP). Dental issue same as you…had her booked for one last July, and that is when we discovered the liver enzyme issue in the pre-anesthetic blood test. Can’t eat kibble. Won’t touch canned dog food any more. Boiled turkey/sweet potato/beef broth is ceasing to entice her. Bought raw food that I cooked and mixed with beef marrow broth – that work for a while, but not now. But she WILL eat treats. Weight was 5.34kg last year. In past few months, now down to 4.3kg. But still will go for walks, and can still do stairs from deck to do her business outside. But weight loss is going to catch up with her.

  • Cheyenne

    My 12 1/2 year old senior Collie has many food allergies including chicken, beef, wheat, barely and oats. We started mixing dry and wet food at the vet’s recomendation. We also put in a fish oil, 2 joint supplements and an apsirin. He gobbled up his new food at first, now he barely eats again. Any suggestions?

    • janie

      Hi Cheyenne:

      Are you only willing to feed him traditional dog food such as dry and from a can? There are much better options for him including home cooking and using a dehydrated formula such as this one: ONP Dehydrated Stew

      How do you know he has food allergies and what symptoms does he have? Also what joint supplements do you use?

      Do you include a good multivitamin for him Cheyenne?


  • Karen

    Thanks! My 13year old American Bulldog refuses to eat dog food, dry or wet. He was getting so skinny I’ve been cooking his meals twice a day. I definitely need a more varied diet for him so these are great suggestions.

    • janie

      You’re welcome Karen. I’m glad the ideas help!


  • shelle

    This was VERY helpful and thorough…i am going to try some of the suggestions for my senior poodle, who has digestive problems frequently.
    thank you!

    • janie

      You’re very welcome Shelle. Thank you for your kind words!


Leave a Comment


Start typing and press Enter to search