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You love your Bulldog and enjoy watching him happily eating his food. Nothing beats the joy of watching your best friend scran his meal. But what do you do when your dog turns his nose up at his food? If your Bulldog won’t eat, you need to figure out why.
If your Bulldog won’t eat, he may be sick (bacteria or viruses), nervous, stressed (loud noises, new environment), or have dental pain. Other reasons are boredom of current food, a sensitive stomach, slowing metabolism into adulthood, a senior dog with reduced appetite, or reaction to a medication.
In this article, you’ll learn more about why your Bulldog won’t eat or eats far less than he used to. You’ll also discover solutions, so you know what to do when:
- Your Bulldog is bored of his food or has a sensitive stomach
- Your Bulldog is stressed or nervous
- Your Bulldog needs less energy because of his age
- Your Bulldog is sick or has dental pain or gum disease
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So, if you want to learn why your Bulldog won’t eat, you’ll love this guide. Let’s begin!
Why Is My Bulldog Not Eating His Food?
Typically, your English Bulldog won’t just stop eating for no reason. It’s your job as a responsible pet owner to find out why your Bulldog no longer wants to eat (or no longer eats as much) and make the changes necessary (if any) to stop this new behavior.
Before you assume he is just not as hungry or even disliking his current food; you need to consider all the possible reasons he’s not eating.
1. Slower Metabolism
If your Bulldog used to eat 2 to 3 meals a day but now seems only hungry enough for one, then you don’t have anything to worry about. You may have taken the previous meal frequency as the norm, but adult Bulldogs often eat less than their younger counterparts despite having larger mass (which should require higher calories to maintain).
However, as your Bulldog becomes an adult, his metabolism slows down to adjust and conserve calories. If anything, you should be glad that his appetite matches his metabolism, especially as Bulldogs are prone to obesity. Considering your emotional connection to your dog, you may want to feed him frequently, but doing so might only make him overweight.
The National Research Council of the National Academics sets a 50lb adult Bulldog’s calorie requirement at 1,353 for a very active dog and 989 calories for an inactive dog. The same source establishes 1,451 calories per day for a younger active Bulldog of the same weight.
So, it is best to avoid treating a dog’s food requirements similarly to humans (who need more calories in adulthood). If that’s your point of reference for feeding your Bulldog, remember that there’s a much steeper weight difference between human kids and human adults.
The decrease in calorie requirements of humans comes around the tail end of their middle age. For dogs, this might be a lot sooner, which brings us to the next reason.
2. Your Bulldog is Now a Senior
As mentioned earlier, some dog owners might use their eating habits as a point of reference for dogs. And if you notice how humans consume less in middle age, you might erroneously believe that a dog might only want to eat less well into its senior years. Considering a Bulldogs’s lifespan, the 6th year is equivalent to a human’s forties. That’s why it shouldn’t be surprising if your adult Bulldog starts eating less by his fourth year.
Remember, you can get higher calorie food to offset any calorie loss from the reduced frequency or quantity of food your Bulldog consumes. But generally, it isn’t even a factor you should offset as your dog’s body adjusts to the new intake. On the contrary, older Bulldogs require lesser calories due to reduced metabolism and level of activity.
That said, keep an eye out for rapid weight loss. If your Bulldog is losing weight, it is an indicator that his lower appetite isn’t a result of old age or slowing metabolism. Since you’re with your dog every day, the gradual weight loss might not be apparent. So, either weigh your Bulldog at home or have him weighed regularly at your vets.
3. Your Bulldog is Nervous or Stressed
Have you ever been so nervous you forgot you were hungry? Well, a similar thing can happen to a Bulldog, except on a different scale. Since we need a lot more food and can deal with our anxiety better, we manage to get a bite at the end of the day, even if we had a nerve-racking or stressful day at work.
I’m retired, so I don’t have to worry about those days anymore! But your dog doesn’t have to go to the office or have an upcoming date to get nervous. Here are a few things that will make your Bulldog nervous.
- Traveling or change of environment – If you have taken a trip with your dog or changed apartments, your doggo might be nervous.
- Loud noises – Is there construction going on or jet skis on a lake nearby? Any changes in your Bulldog’s environment that come bearing loud noises are likely to make him nervous. Fireworks and thunder are also usual culprits. My dog gets particularly nervous when a load motorcyle goes past.
- New pet or people – Have you brought home a new pet? Is someone new staying at your place? Some Bulldogs aren’t great at new introductions and can get nervous.
- Being home alone – If you have started going out for extended periods, your Bulldog might be nervous about this change. Not all species have the same tendency to suffer from separation anxiety, but no canine is completely immune to being a little nervous when their best friend is gone.
To manage your Bulldog’s nervousness due to environmental changes, you need to increase both your availability and your proximity to him. You need to be around your dog to comfort him whether he’s stressed about a location change or a new source of noise outdoors.
You’ll find that sometimes, it might take extended periods of being around your dog before he is receptive to eating. Ensure you know how to communicate with him and get to understand your Bulldog’s body language.
You can consider hiring a dog sitter to calm your Bulldog if he is prone to separation anxiety – ensure you feed him before leaving him alone. Check out this awesome video of a Bulldog suffering from separation anxiety who refused to eat unless her owner remained in the same room! The solution was amazingly quite simple…
Bulldog Won’t Eat Due to Separation Anxiety…
If your Bulldog has developed a serious case of separation anxiety, you may need to work on training strategies such as counter-conditioning and desensitization.
4. Your Bulldog Has a Bacterial Infection
If your Bulldog is OK, with the only difference in behavior being lower food intake, then you have nothing to worry about. However, if he eats so little that he’s practically fasting, you might have a genuine cause for concern.
This is further aided by symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea, which the National Animal Supplement Council asserts as indicators of a bacterial infection. Do not try home remedies to fix this. If your Bulldog is vomiting or has persistent loose stools, make an appointment with your vet and get him checked out.
5. Your Bulldog Has a Viral Infection
If your Bulldog is a Labrador at heart, he may have encountered the downside of being a social superstar. While Bulldogs might not be extreme extroverts, simply being in the proximity of another infected dog is all it takes to catch a virus.
Heavy breathing (compared to baseline), coughing, diarrhea, and vomiting, are signs of viral infection in Bulldogs. Some of these symptoms overlap with bacterial infection, and not eating (alongside vomiting and loose stools) is one of these symptoms.
In other words, it doesn’t matter whether bacteria or a virus causes the illness; you need to take your dog to the vet as soon as possible and keep him from coming in contact with other dogs.
6. Your Bulldog is in a Lethargy Starvation Loop
Sickness can lead to lethargy, and many factors can lead to starvation. It doesn’t matter what comes first because one can lead to the other, leading to the first. This cycle keeps going round and round.
Most often, people kick off a lethargy starvation loop when forcing their dogs to eat right. By holding off food, so the dog is “truly hungry” and receptive to the food he doesn’t like, you may end up making him lazy. The loss of energy and general lethargy leads to metabolic adjustment. With fewer calories being used, the dog feels less hungry, which leads to even lower energy usage.
Giving your Bulldog a calorie-dense treat can be a great way to break off this loop from the calorie consumption end. You can also combat your dog’s lethargy by simply getting him excited with fun activities and your energetic presence. Your Bulldog can return to health with better care, but sometimes it is trying to get your doggo healthy that you might end up reducing his appetite.
7. Poor Quality Diet or Inappropriate Feeding Style
If you are feeding your Bulldog low-quality food, it may be the cause of his refusal to eat. Not only does cheap, poor-quality dog food taste different, but it also lacks essential nutrients.
There are many types of food you can feed dogs, such as dry, wet, raw, home-produced, etc. However, the best diet for Bulldogs is a mix of dry with wet (as also mentioned in the above video). You can read more about this in my definitive guide, Best Diet for Bulldogs: Nutrition, Types, and More!
In a nutshell, as a brachycephalic breed with shorter noses and flat faces, a Bulldog’s tiny snout makes it difficult to pick up food, and eating and swallowing can be problematic. You should choose a small-sized kibble with a unique form and mix it with some more appealing wet food.
Also, you may have inadvertently turned your Bulldog into a picky eater by giving him too many treats or table scraps. He will naturally turn his nose up at his kibble if he knows he’ll get something far tastier from your plate! Try limiting treats to training times only.
Here are some other tips when feeding your Bulldog:
- Choose a more fragrant food. Better quality foods will have a meatier aroma.
- Add unsalted beef or chicken broth or even warm water to dry kibble. This can be an alternative to adding wet food and changes the texture, smell, and taste of the food, making it more enticing.
- Add a tasty topping. By adding other toppings such as plain Greek yogurt, chicken, salmon, or tuna, offers variety, and is the approach I take with my dog.
- Ensure your Bulldog’s bowl is clean. This is important as Bulldogs are prone to infection around their skin folds, especially around their mouth and nose.
- Feed twice a day. This keeps your Bulldog’s energy levels up, stabilizes blood sugar, prevents overfeeding and bloat (GDV), which can be life-threatening.
- Exercise your Bulldog to work up an appetite. However, don’t feed your dog an hour before or after exercise – again, to prevent bloat.
- Maintain a regular feeding schedule. Dogs are creatures of habit and thrive on routine. However, if your Bulldog won’t eat, remove his bowl and try again after 30 minutes.
- Try hand feeding for a while. But don’t make this routine as your Bulldog will learn to expect it!
- Ensure your Bulldog always has access to clean water. If your dog finds it difficult to keep hydrated, try a dog water fountain such as the Petsafe Drinkwell from Amazon. The constant flow of water will tempt him to drink and will keep his water clean and fresh. I like this one due to its large size and cool two-tiered design.
- Change your Bulldog’s bowl. Some dogs don’t like to see their reflection in a stainless steel or glass bowl, so try a ceramic one instead.
- Keep mealtimes separate from yours. This also removes your temptation to feed your leftovers!
- Make meal times fun. Consider an interactive dog feeder such as the Outward Hound Fun Feeder on Amazon. The purple one is suitable for your Bulldog’s flat face due to its low ridges and more open design.
- Change the location of your Bulldog’s bowl. A simple solution of moving your dog’s feeding bowl to a different room may do the trick as in the video above with the Bulldog with separation anxiety. This poor doggo associated a negative experience in the room where his bowl was, as this was the room he was always left in when alone.
Learn More on Why Your Dog Won’t Eat His Food…
8. Your Bulldog Has a Sensitive Stomach
Brachycephalic breeds have a particularly sensitive digestive system. Studies have shown a relationship between dogs with respiratory issues and digestive signs, especially among heavy brachycephalic dogs, such as English Bulldogs. A sudden change in diet can easily upset your dog’s stomach, so if you change the brand or type of diet, transition very gently.
Although Bulldogs are genetically predisposed to allergies, there is a common misconception that a reaction to food causes bulldog skin allergy. However, dogs’ food allergies are rare (less than 10%), and the allergy is more likely to be caused by fleas or environmental factors such as pollen.
Unfortunately, the dog food industry is partly to blame for this myth due to their misleading marketing of grain-free food as a solution to food allergies, when a protein source is usually the culprit.
9. Your Bulldog Has Dental Disease
Whether your best friend bit something hard the wrong way or just caught a bug, his mouth could be aching or be extremely painful. Such aches lead to refusal to eat even though your Bulldog is hungry. To make sure your Bulldog has his appetite, look for saliva/drooling when you bring him food. If despite drooling, he still refuses to eat, it might not be about appetite at all.
Ensure you get veterinarian help and, in the meantime, help soothe the pain in his jaw by trying some form of liquid diet. Switching temporarily to semi-wet food might work as well. Semi-moist dog food comprises 60-65% water and might be easier for your Bulldog to consume.
Keeping your Bulldog away from bones might not look friendly to outsiders, but considering the risk of a brittle bone-breaking, it is not an option. It might be hard not to throw him a bone if that’s all he will put in his mouth, but if the problem arises from dental disease, giving him a bone that poses a risk to his teeth isn’t the wisest choice.
10. Your Bulldog Has Motion Sickness
If your Bulldog has accompanied you on a trip and continues to avoid food despite returning home, it may not be about location; it’s about traveling itself. Dogs love a good trip and aren’t usually afraid to venture out. However, some experiences such as car journeys can leave them with motion sickness, which directly contributes to a loss of appetite. However, this doesn’t last long enough to make your Bulldog starve, as he should start feeling okay after a few hours.
If travel sickness becomes a problem, you can prevent it with anti-motion sickness medication. Make sure to withhold food for half a day before traveling (ironically), so your Bulldog doesn’t vomit or lose his appetite. You can also take additional measures like keeping the car cool and using a portable soft travel crate like this one from Amazon, which will make your Bulldog feel more safe and secure.
It also helps to reduce your speed, especially around bends and corners, and give your Bulldog a special toy he can chew on during the trip. If there’s more to keep your dog engaged than the streetlights or trees zooming by, he is less likely to come down with motion sickness and refuse to eat when you’re home.
11. Recent Vaccination or Other Medication
If you know how vaccinations work, you already know that they mimic symptoms of a virus without the risk of replication, giving one’s immune system a way of fighting the virus and getting better at eliminating it.
Earlier in this post, I went over that getting a viral infection can cause loss of appetite in your Bulldog. Putting two and two together would conclude that a recent vaccination can cause temporary loss of appetite (among other symptoms). However, this should only last a day or two.
Some medications can also cause your Bulldog to be off his food. Side effects are usually nausea and loss of appetite. If symptoms persist, check with your vet, as there is usually an alternative.
How Long Can a Bulldog Go Without Eating?
If your Bulldog doesn’t eat due to a recent vaccination, medication, dental procedure, or motion sickness, you know that he will get back his appetite in no time. That said, you need to know how long he can go without his desire to eat before it becomes a health risk.
A Bulldog can safely go without eating for up to 3 days. However, dogs can survive for up to 5 days if they consume plenty of water. You should visit your vet if your Bulldog has refused to eat for more than 48 hours and sooner if he has diarrhea as he can soon become dehydrated.
Still, you need to make sure you:
a) figure out the cause of the loss of appetite
b) take steps to adjust his diet to match the eating habits or fix the habits by changing his feeding style in the suggestions above, or consult a vet or pet nutritionist.
Bulldogs are as lovable as they are resilient, and it’s not uncommon for dogs to lose their appetite at some stage. Due to advanced age or temporary ailment, they might start eating less or stop eating altogether. With enough water and timely vet consultation, your Bulldog will be back to his healthy self in no time.
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