Why will my dog only eat meat? A Complete Guide

Medical Causes for Anorexia in Dogs

Medical causes of anorexia include any condition or illness that causes a dog to not want to eat. They can include hundreds, maybe even thousands, of potential issues. The medical disorders that can cause anorexia include diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, liver, pancreas, kidneys, airway, lung or blood, and anything that can cause pain. Information about some of the most common causes include:

  • Gastrointestinal Diseases – The gastrointestinal tract includes the system that takes food in, processes it, and eliminates it. This includes everything from the mouth, esophagus (the tube that takes food from the mouth to the stomach), the stomach, the small intestine, and finally the large intestine. A disease of any of these areas can cause a dog to not want to eat and are commonly associated with vomiting and diarrhea.
    • Diseases of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract include infections of the bacterial, viral, or parasitic variety. Examples of infections are hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, and viruses, such as coronavirus or parvovirus. Additional diseases of the GI tract include tumors, such as cancer, ulcerations, inflammatory diseases, food allergies, ingestion of indigestible objects that cause a “foreign body”, ingestion of spoiled food or trash, or even changes in food. Diseases of the mouth, such as bad teeth or ulcerations, can also cause pain and lack of appetite.
  • Liver Diseases – The liver is an organ in the abdomen (belly) whose main job is to filter body wastes and toxins from the bloodstream. When the liver isn’t working properly, toxins can build up causing nausea and inappetence. Many dogs will be lethargic and/or have additional symptoms, such as vomiting and diarrhea.
    • Diseases of the liver include hepatitis, cirrhosis, liver cancer, toxic reactions from drug therapies, and congenital problems, such as a Portosystemic Shunt.
  • Pancreatic Diseases – The pancreas is a small organ that sits near the stomach that has several jobs, including the production of insulin and digestive enzymes that help break down food in the stomach.
    • Diseases of the pancreas include inflammation of the pancreas, also known as pancreatitis, and tumors of the pancreas (pancreatic cancer). When the pancreas becomes inflamed, the organ can release some of the digestive enzymes in to itself, causing further inflammation, pain, nausea, and lack of appetite. Pancreatic cancer also causes lack of appetite, lethargy, weakness, and general vomiting.
  • Kidney Diseases – Diseases of the kidney, most commonly acute kidney failure or chronic kidney failure, cause a loss of appetite. Many pets will also drink more, urinate more or less, have ulcers in their mouth, foul-smelling breath, and be lethargic.
  • Airway and Lung Diseases – Diseases of the airway include problems associated with the nose, trachea, and lungs. Pets that have nasal diseases, such as infections or cancer, can’t smell their food and often won’t eat or will only eat treats. Pets with lung diseases may have a compromised ability to breathe, which causes them not want to eat as it can be difficult to eat and breathe at the same time.
  • Blood Diseases – There are many functions of the blood. Loss of blood or anemia from a variety of issues can cause dogs to become lethargic, weak, and lose their appetite. Anemia can result from loss of blood from trauma, ulcerations, immune-mediated problems where the body starts destroying its own red blood cells, or cancer. Often, we also see lethargy and weakness with diseases of the blood.
  • Neurologic Diseases – The neurologic system is focused on the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. Diseases that cause seizures, lack of coordination, inability to walk, or pain can all cause lack of appetite. There are hundreds of neurological diseases that include intervertebral disc disease, brain tumors, epilepsy, and vestibular disease, just to name a few.
  • Other Diseases – Any diseases that cause pain, such as a fracture, arthritis, or even something like eye pain, can cause lack of appetite.
  • As you can see, any disease that impacts the function of an organ can cause dogs not to feel like eating. If your dog is not eating, please see your veterinarian so that they can help identify the underlying cause and recommend the best treatment option to get your dog to start eating again.

    Focusing On The Essentials

    Part of the myth of your dog needing to eat meat is based on amino acids. These building blocks of protein are required for a dog’s health, similar to humans.

    Here are some basics about how protein works and why it’s so important for your dog:

  • A dog’s body uses amino acids to build different protein molecules, which then work to grow and maintain muscle, fur, and nails; produce hormones; transport nutrients; and aid in the functioning of the immune system.
  • A dog needs about twenty common amino acids to build all the proteins it needs for health and vitality.
  • A dog’s body can break down protein into about half of the essential amino acids it needs. However, the other half cannot be created by the canine body, which means that the dog must consume them. This includes arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine
  • These ten essential amino acids are – yes – found in meat, but that’s not the only place they’re found. High-quality plant, fungi (that’s yeast!), bacterial or algal protein sources also carry these essential amino acids. So yes, your dog does need meat…or plants, or fungi, or algae…

    How do I get my dog to start eating dog food again?

    12 Tricks That Will Make Your Dog Eat

  • Mix Foods. …
  • Use Chicken Broth. …
  • Cut the Scraps. …
  • Cut Back the Treats. …
  • Keep Serving The Meal Until Your Dog Eats It. …
  • Buy Higher Quality Foods Rather Than Diet Foods. …
  • Try Adding Dog Food Toppers. …
  • Buy Different Food.