Normally, your German Shepherd comes running into the kitchen when he hears the sound of his kibble being poured into his bowl. But recently, he doesn’t seem to be as interested in his food, which may make you wonder why he has lost his appetite. So, why won’t your German Shepherd eat?
Your German Shepherd won’t eat if he is sick (bacteria or viruses), sensitive stomach, nervous, stressed (new surroundings or loud noises), or have dental pain. Other reasons are a slowing metabolism, boredom of current food, reaction to a medication, or if he’s a senior dog with reduced appetite.
We know how stressful it can be when your beloved German Shepherd suddenly loses interest in food. But don’t fret as in this article, we’ll look at:
- Reasons why your German Shepherd won’t eat
- Tips to get your GSD eating again
So, if you want to learn exactly why your German Shepherd won’t eat, and more importantly, what to do about it, you’ll love this guide. Let’s begin!
Why Won’t My German Shepherd Eat?
Typically, your German Shepherd won’t just stop eating for no reason. As a responsible pet owner, it’s your job to find out why your dog no longer wants to eat his food so you can make the necessary changes. Your German Shepherd may have stopped eating because he:
- Is bored with current food
- No longer has an appetite due to age
- Has dental problems or is in pain
- Has separation anxiety
- Is a fussy eater
- Is feeling unwell
- Prefers eating at certain times
You need to consider other possible reasons why he’s not eating before you assume he is just not as hungry or even disliking his current food. Let’s take a look in more detail at the more common reasons why your GSD stopped eating his food:
1. He’s bored with his current food
Just like humans, dogs can get tired of eating the same food every day. If he slowly loses interest in eating, you might want to try buying a different dry food, adding wet food to his dry food, or soaking his dry food in some warm water.
I wrote an article on the best diet for German Shepherds where you can find a ton of helpful ideas and suggestions, including all the types of diet you can feed your dog.
You can also see if he’s willing to eat some scraps of meat or treats, which can help you determine if the food itself is the issue! If he is happy to take “human foods” from you, then you know that the loss of appetite in your German Shepherd is behavioral – it’s funny how they regain their appetite when it comes to human food or tasty treats!
If your German Shepherd is refusing all food, then the most likely cause is that they are unwell.
2. He doesn’t have an appetite anymore
With age, dogs tend to lose their appetite and ultimately might lose a little weight. It’s quite normal as aging can bring physical changes that may affect your German Shepherd’s appetite. Choosing dog food for seniors can significantly help with appetite issues.
However, not all senior dogs may benefit from this change, but it’s definitely something you can test.
Make sure to choose a good quality brand with sound ingredients and proper proportions, as contrary to popular belief, a reduced protein diet is not suitable for an older dog. In fact, it can cause additional muscle loss.
You should also select dog food meant for large breeds. Go for something like Hill’s Science Diet, Large Breed for Seniors from Amazon, or Purina ONE SmartBlend Vibrant Maturity Senior. Both are from reputable companies and have a multitude of favorable reviews.
German Shepherds are also known for being one of the breeds that are prone to a sensitive stomach. I wrote a monster of a post on this issue alone where I list 13 causes why your German Shepherd may have a sensitive stomach, ranging from mild sickness and diarrhea to far more serious conditions like bloat (GDV).
3. He has dental issues or pain
When your German Shepherd suddenly stops eating his dry kibble, it could be because the kibble is causing him some pain in his mouth. This might be the result of gingivitis, an abscess, or a damaged tooth.
If that’s the case, you should try adding warm water to his food to make it soft or temporarily switching over to some soft food and then have his mouth checked over at the vet.
4. He’s stressed out or anxious
You and your German Shepherd are attached at the hip, but you know how anxious and nervous he tends to get when you’re out of his sight, especially if your dog is very clingy.
If your German Shepherd spends long periods of time alone at home, he might be experiencing excess stress and anxiety, which would directly reduce his appetite. To find out a ton more on separation anxiety in German Shepherds and how to stop it, you may find this post, German Shepherd Separation Anxiety: Training, Help & Treatment, exactly what you are looking for.
5. He’s just a picky eater
It would be great if you could just buy a 30-pound (14 kg) bag of dry dog food every month or so and feed it to your German Shepherd for years to come. Unfortunately, your German Shepherd might not be eating because he’s a picky eater. If he’s used to getting treats or table scraps as a snack, why is he going to settle for dry dog kibble?
If you give treats just to entice your German Shepherd to eat, you are turning him into a fussy eater!
So, are German Shepherds fussy eaters? The fact is, it’s the owner who is usually responsible for making their dog a picky eater! A little healthy treat, especially some fruit or vegetables, now and again, is just fine.
6. He’s not feeling well
If the food isn’t the issue, your German Shepherd might have something else going on. Serious conditions like cancer, kidney failure, and infections could directly impact your dog’s desire to eat.
Your German Shepherd may have also eaten something poisonous whilst roaming in the garden or fields. Dogs are known for eating anything they can find left lying around or even getting into the garbage!
Take care with foods like chocolate or grapes, and never leave these lying around where your dog can get at them as they can be highly toxic. If you’re unsure what your German Shepherd can eat, here’s my top article on 34 perfectly safe human foods.
If your German Shepherd has had his recent vaccinations, sometimes these can cause adverse reactions, including loss of appetite. The good news is this should only be brief – just ensure your dog is drinking plenty of water and keeping himself hydrated.
German Shepherds need access to clean water at all times, and it’s a good idea to change their water every few hours.
If your GSD is struggling to keep hydrated and you are worried, you can always get a pet water fountain as the free-falling stream of water entices your dog to drink. I like the Petsafe Drinkwell from Amazon as it’s got two tiers and even comes with carbon filters to remove bad tastes and odors from the water.
If nothing else seems to be working and you are worried, you should schedule a visit with the veterinarian as soon as you can.
7. He likes to eat at certain times of the day
Just like you might not like to eat breakfast at 6 a.m, your dog might make a habit of only eating at certain times of the day. Though this can be concerning at first, you should be keeping track of how much food in total your German Shepherd is eating throughout the day.
If he still eats about the same amount, he just might prefer to eat at specific times of the day!
My German Shepherd used to eat one meal in the morning and one in the evening. However, now that she is older, she prefers to eat both meals in the evening. She won’t eat them all in one go (this is not recommended to prevent bloat), but she will eat them with 2-3 hours in between, which is fine.
The Next Steps
So, now that you think you might know why your German Shepherd isn’t eating, it’s time to make some changes to see if you’re right. The first thing you’ll want to do is see if his current food is the problem by switching to a new diet or feeding style.
Here are some ideas re changing your German Shepherd’s feeding behavior:
- If you have been hand-feeding your dog, try stopping for a while.
- Take your dog on a long walk before feeding, so he works up an appetite.
- Don’t feed your German Shepherd an hour before or after exercise – this also helps prevent bloat (GDV).
- Change your German Shepherd’s bowl as some dogs don’t like to see their reflection in stainless steel or glass bowls, so you could try switching to a ceramic one instead.
- Always ensure your dog’s bowl is clean.
- Give him lots of praise when he eats from his bowl.
- Make feeding time fun – try putting a lid on his food, so he has to remove it first.
- Keep your dog’s mealtimes separate from yours and shut them out whilst your family is eating – that way, you won’t be tempted to give him scraps!
- Try an interactive dog feeder that can make your dog’s mealtimes fun. They’re perfect if your German Shepherd is easily distracted by his environment. Check out the Outward Hound Fun Feeder on Amazon. It gets almost 60,000 top reviews!
- If your dog refuses his meal, take his bowl away after 15 minutes and then only put it down again a few hours later.
- Limit treats to training times only.
It’s also important for you to stay calm and confident whilst changing your German Shepherd’s feeding behavior. If he senses that you are stressed and anxious about his loss of appetite, he may also become stressed and not eat at all!
Check Out this Fun Animated Video on How to Get Your Dog to Eat…
If your German Shepherd is still not interested in eating and other feeding behaviors have started to change, you might want to give your vet a call and have him checked over. A sudden lack of appetite and resulting weight loss can be a sign of other issues going on.
Switch His Food
If your dog slowly lost interest in food over the course of a few weeks, he might just not like his current food anymore. Here are some ways to target his diet to boost his appetite.
- Choose a more fragrant food. If you take a whiff of your dog’s current food and find the smell to be unappealing, your dog might as well! Try picking food that smells more like meat and has a stronger smell.
- Add wet food or soak his food in warm water. Both of these methods will change the texture, taste, and smell of your dog’s food. The more the food smells and tastes like meat, the more likely he’ll want to eat it.
Fortunately, I have never had to switch my German Shepherd’s food, and she has had it for many years, in fact, from being an 8-week old pup. I feed her a brand of cold-pressed dog food which she just adores and continues to thrive on.
Hopefully, these steps will fix the situation and return your dog to his normal eating habits.
Take Him to the Vet
Vet visits can be costly, but so are the treatment methods for the condition or disease your dog might currently be experiencing. I would always recommend having a decent pet insurance policy in place, as this will always give you peace of mind.
Remember: Your dog’s appetite and weight loss will harm his health, but if they’re a direct result of some other underlying issue, you will need to tackle those issues first. Here are some conditions and diseases that your vet will be looking for:
- Kidney failure
- Mouth/teeth issues
After a full evaluation and a discussion about your German Shepherd’s change in eating habits, your veterinarian will hopefully be able to determine what the current issue really is. If that’s the case, don’t worry, as you should have a treatment method ready to go, and your dog will be back to eating like normal very soon!
It’s not exactly normal for your German Shepherd to stop eating, but it’s also not that uncommon. When your German Shepherd stops eating, you need to take the necessary steps to figure out the source of the problem and how to address it. Here’s a recap of what you can try:
- Switch his food or food type in case he’s bored.
- Add wet food or warm water to his food to boost his appetite and make his food more palatable and fragrant.
- Keep an eye on his other behaviors to see how his mood and movements have changed.
- Call the vet and schedule an appointment to have him checked over.
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- German Shepherd Allergies: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments
- Are German Shepherds Lactose Intolerant? What You Need to Know
- 5 Reasons Why German Shepherds Lay Down to Eat