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Why Won’t My German Shepherd Eat? Tackling Feeding Problems

Last Updated: December 27, 2023

As a German Shepherd owner, you’re accustomed to seeing your furry companion dive into mealtime with gusto. So, it’s understandably worrying when your normally voracious eater suddenly turns up their nose at their food. This shift in eating habits can be both puzzling and concerning.

If your German Shepherd refuses to eat, it could be due to various factors such as illness, a sensitive stomach, anxiety, stress, or dental discomfort. Additional causes include a slowing metabolism, monotony with their current diet, adverse reactions to medications, or a naturally reduced appetite in senior dogs.

Understanding the sudden loss of appetite in your cherished German Shepherd can be distressing. However, there’s no need to worry. In this article, we’ll delve into:

  • The various reasons why your German Shepherd may be refusing to eat.
  • Practical tips to encourage your GSD to start eating again.

So, if you’re eager to uncover the reasons behind your German Shepherd’s change in eating habits and find effective solutions, keep reading.

German Shepherd with a bowl of kibble looking disinterested in its food

Reasons Your German Shepherd is Not Eating

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 dislikes his current food. Let’s take a look in more detail at the more common reasons why your GSD stopped eating his food:

1. Boredom with Current Food

Like humans, dogs can get tired of eating the same food daily. 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 or unsalted broth.

A German Shepherd looks at a bowl of dry dog food and is totally disinterested in eating it.
My German Shepherd Willow is not eating her kibble.

I wrote an article on the best diet and nutrition for German Shepherds, where you can find many helpful ideas and suggestions. This includes all the diets you can feed your dog, such as raw or homemade.

To discern whether the food is the issue, try offering your dog some meat scraps or treats. If your dog eagerly accepts “human foods,” it suggests that the appetite loss is behavioral. It’s interesting to note how their appetite suddenly reappears for human food or enticing treats!

However, if your German Shepherd is refusing all food, the most likely cause is that they are unwell.

2. No Appetite Due to Senior Years

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 affecting your German Shepherd’s appetite. Choosing dog food for seniors can significantly help with appetite issues.

However, not all mature dogs may benefit from switching to a senior diet, 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 unsuitable for an older dog. In fact, it can cause additional muscle loss.

Read more: Best Dry Foods for Older German Shepherds.

German Shepherds are also known for being one of the breeds prone to a sensitive stomach.

3. 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 result from 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 at the vet.

German Shepherd with Toothbrush

4. Stress or Anxiety

You and your German Shepherd are attached at the hip, but you know how anxious and nervous he gets when you’re out of sight, especially if your GSD is clingy.

If your German Shepherd spends long periods alone at home, he might be experiencing excess stress and anxiety, which would directly reduce his appetite.

To learn more about separation anxiety in German Shepherds and how to prevent it, you may find this post, German Shepherd Separation Anxiety, precisely what you are looking for.

5. Picky Eater

It would be great just to 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. Why will he settle for dry dog kibble if he’s used to getting treats or table scraps as a snack?

If you give treats 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! Now and again, a little healthy treat is just fine.

You can also try fruits or vegetables, especially if the treat cupboard is bare.

6. Illness

If the food isn’t the issue, your German Shepherd might have something else going on. Severe conditions like cancer, kidney failure, and infections could directly impact your dog’s desire to eat and cause a loss of appetite.

Your German Shepherd may have also eaten something poisonous while 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 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’re 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 a great size for large dogs, looks good, and even comes with carbon filters to remove bad tastes and odors from the water.

Note: Clicking the above link(s) will take you to Amazon or an online store where we have an affiliate relationship. If you make a purchase, we may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

If nothing else seems to be working and you are worried, you should schedule a visit with the veterinarian as soon as possible.

Two German Shepherds lying side-by-side

7. Prefers Eating at Certain Times

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 simply might prefer to eat at specific times of the day! Similarly, your dog may prefer to eat little and often.

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 within 2-3 hours, which is okay.

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 feeding style.

Change Feeding Behavior

Here are some ideas for 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.
  • 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 must remove it first.
  • Keep your dog’s mealtimes separate from yours and shut him out while your family eats – that way, you won’t be tempted to give him scraps!
  • Try an interactive dog feeder that can make your GDS’s mealtimes fun. They’re perfect if your dog is easily distracted by his environment. Check out the Outward Hound Fun Feeder. It gets over 115,000 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 while 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 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 signify other issues.

Switch Your Dog’s Food

If your dog slowly loses interest in food over a few weeks, he might no longer like his current food. Here are some ways to target his diet and boost his loss of appetite.

  • Choose a more fragrant food. If you take a whiff of your dog’s current food and find the smell unappealing, your dog might also do so! Try picking food that smells more like meat and has a more intense aroma.
  • Add wet food or soak his food in warm water. 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 I’ve fed it to her for many years, from being an 8-week-old pup. I feed her 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 regular eating habits.

Take Your Dog to the Vet

Vet visits can be costly, but so are the treatment methods for the condition or disease your dog might be experiencing. I would always recommend having a decent pet insurance policy, as this will always give you peace of mind.

Veterinarian Examining German Shepherd

Remember: Your dog’s appetite and weight loss will harm his health, but if they directly result from some other underlying issue, you will need to tackle the causes of your GSD not eating first. Here are some conditions and diseases that your vet will be looking for:

  • Cancer
  • Kidney failure
  • Infections
  • Mouth/teeth issues

After a complete 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 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.


How Long Can a German Shepherd Go Without Eating?

A healthy German Shepherd can go up to five to seven days without eating as long as they still drink water. However, if your German Shepherd refuses to drink water for 48 hours, it is time to bring your dog to the emergency veterinary clinic.

My German Shepherd Eats Only Once A Day. Why?

If your German Shepherd is eating only once a day, it may be due to a routine that has been established over time. However, feeding your dog only once a day can lead to health problems such as gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV). Add variety to the diet and check the consumption.

German Shepherd Not Eating and Diarrhea. Why?

If your German Shepherd is not eating and has diarrhea, it could be due to various reasons, such as a change in diet, stress, anxiety, or a gastrointestinal infection. The vet may recommend a bland diet or medication to help alleviate your dog’s symptoms.

Final Thoughts

It’s not typical for your German Shepherd to stop eating, but it’s also not 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 boost his appetite and make his food more palatable and fragrant.
  • Monitor his other behaviors to see how his mood and movements have changed.
  • Call the vet and schedule an appointment to have him checked over.
Sharon Waddington
Sharon Waddington is the founder of World of Dogz. With over 30 years of experience working with dogs, this former Police Officer has seen it all. But it’s her trusty German Shepherd, Willow, who steals the show as the inspiration behind this website. As Sharon’s constant companion Willow has played a pivotal role in shaping her passion for dogs. Recently, Sharon has become deeply passionate about the plight of rescue dogs and is an active advocate for dog rescue, striving to make a difference in the lives of dogs in need.

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