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Why Won’t My Golden Retriever Eat? 9 Reasons & What To Do!

When your Golden Retriever hears the sound of his kibble pouring into his dish, he usually comes bounding into the kitchen. However, he doesn’t seem to be as interested in food as he once was. So, you may be wondering, why won’t my Golden Retriever eat?

If your Golden Retriever won’t eat, it might be because he’s bored with his current food, he is a picky eater, prefers to eat at a specific time, or is losing his appetite due to his age. He may also feel uneasy, stressed, or anxious, have dental pain, be ill, or have a response to his medication.

We know how troubling it can be when your precious Golden Retriever suddenly loses interest in food, especially as he usually enjoys it so much! In this article, we’re going to explore all the different reasons your Golden Retriever isn’t eating to help you work out what’s causing the problem.

You’ll also learn the various steps to get your dog’s appetite back, including exactly what to do before and during meals.

A Golden Retriever staring at his food bowl uninterested. Why Won't My Golden Retriever Eat?
“Huh! This does not look appetizing at all!”

Read on to find out the most common reasons why your Golden Retriever won’t eat and how to get him eating again!

Golden Retriever Not Eating? Here’s Why

Skipping the odd meal is not uncommon for dogs. However, it can be rare for Golden Retrievers as they typically love their food!

In fact, the Golden Retriever is one of the breeds most likely to become obese. In the U.S., 62.7% of golden retrievers were overweight or obese, according to data collected by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention in their 2013 survey. 

More recent data still shows that 55.8% of dogs are overweight or obese in the US, classified by their veterinary healthcare provider. The latest statistics in the UK are not dissimilar, with 51% of dogs being overweight, as confirmed by vets.

But why is this? The association blames owners for the increasing “humanization” of their dogs by feeding them too many unhealthy foods and treats and failing to exercise them sufficiently.

However, if your Golden Retriever doesn’t eat for two days, then it’s time to visit the vet, as typically, your dog won’t stop eating for this long unless something is wrong. It’s your duty as a responsible pet owner to establish why your Golden Retriever won’t eat and then make the appropriate changes.

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Let’s take a look at the main reasons why your Golden Retriever could have lost his appetite:

1. Bored with his Current Food

To investigate whether your dog is bored with his current food, we need first to understand how dogs taste and smell.

Your Retriever’s sense of taste is much less pronounced than that of humans. Indeed, while we have approximately 9,000 taste buds, dogs have only around 1,700. So, their sense of taste is about one-sixth of the power compared to ours.

Instead, they use their powerful noses to differentiate between various flavors. Dr. Michael T. Nappier, DVM, DABVP, of the Virginia Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, explains:

“Dogs have up to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses, versus only about 6 million for us. And the part of their brain dedicated to interpreting these is about 40 times larger than ours.”

Dr. Michael T. Nappier, DVM, DABVP

This latest pilot study demonstrated that untrained dogs also used their sense of smell to pick their favorite food choice. For 89% of the time, the dogs usually consumed more of the food they initially chose, indicating they didn’t need to savor each type of food when deciding.

However, exactly like humans, dogs can become bored of consuming the same food daily. If your Golden Retriever gradually loses interest in eating, endeavor to add some wet food on top of his dry food to alter the flavor and consistency, or soak his food in some warm water, or add unseasoned chicken stock.

If this doesn’t work, make an effort to purchase an alternative type (e.g., wet, mixed, raw, freeze-dried, etc.) or food brand. You may also test to see if your Golden Retriever will consume some meat leftovers or treats, which may help you figure out if the food itself is genuinely the problem!

If your Golden Retriever is content to receive human food from you, you can deduce that his appetite loss is, in fact, behavioral. It’s quite amusing how dogs regain their appetite when offered “people food” or delicious treats! Check out my comprehensive guide, Best Diet for Golden Retrievers: Nutrition, Types, and More! for loads of helpful tips and advice.

2. Senior Dog with Reduced Appetite

With age, dogs usually lose their appetite and eventually may lose a bit of weight. It’s reasonably normal as growing old can cause a reduction in taste and smell, shifts in eating habits, and different dietary needs. Also, as your Retriever’s exercise requirements reduce, he is likely to be less hungry.

Your Golden Retriever may benefit from a dog food designed for seniors, as this can notably help with a reduced appetite. For example, older dogs (like humans) don’t need as many calories due to lower energy needs and a slower metabolism.

However, not all senior Golden Retrievers may approve of this switch, as all dogs are different, but it’s unquestionably something you can try. But don’t presume that diets marketed as “senior” have lower protein, phosphorus, and calories, as the amounts vary by brand.

Contrary to common belief, a reduced protein diet is not beneficial for a healthy older dog. It can contribute to even more muscle waste, so you shouldn’t feed a senior dog a reduced protein diet. Make sure to choose a good quality brand with healthy ingredients in their correct nutritional proportions.

Always check the nutritional adequacy statement advised by the Association of American Food Control Officials (AAFCO) on the packaging. This statement determines the life stage of the dog for which the product is approved. However, there is no specific category for “senior dogs,” so choose a food that’s labeled “adult maintenance” or “all life stages.”

You should also select food designed for large breed dogs. Choose something like Hill’s Science Diet, Large Breed for Seniors from Amazon, or Purina ONE SmartBlend Vibrant Maturity Senior, also from Amazon. Both are from well-respected and trustworthy brands and receive thousands of positive reviews.

3. Picky Eater

Many dog breeds can become fussy eaters. Sometimes they are trying to play you! They are, after all, pretty smart! But do Golden Retrievers fall into this category? Are they picky eaters?

Gold Retrievers are usually not picky eaters, but they can absolutely end up being finicky if you enable them to be! If you invariably feed your dog with many different varieties and textures of dog food, feed too many treats or table scraps, you may have unwittingly made your Golden Retriever picky!

You should be able to purchase a huge bag of kibble every month and feed it to your Golden Retriever without any problems for years. There’s no need to keep swapping and changing. Sadly, your pet may not be eating as you’ve made him into a fussy eater!

A Golden Retriever looking away from his food. Golden Retriever Not Eating
“I’m really not that hungry!”

Also, don’t feed your Golden Retriever too many treats or “people foods,” especially between meals. If he’s used to receiving these regularly throughout the day, it’s no wonder he’s turning his nose up at his kibble! If you offer treats to encourage your Golden Retriever to eat, you are, in reality, transforming him into a fussy eater!

You may discover that your dog likes a certain kind of food, such as wet food, semi-moist, freeze-dried, or raw. Once you’ve found what he prefers, stick to it!

4. Separation Anxiety

Your Golden Retriever affixes himself to you at the hip; you’ll know precisely how distressed and worried he becomes when you’re getting all set to go out. He might show signs and symptoms of whining, barking, howling, pacing, digging, trying to escape, urinating, defecating, drooling, and refusing to eat.

If your dog spends long periods alone, his distress and suffering will undoubtedly continue. It’s known as separation anxiety. It merely means that your Golden Retriever cannot cope with being on his own, and it’s one thing you might need to resolve.

Related: How Long Can Golden Retrievers be Left Alone? How Long is OK?

5. Prefers Eating at Certain Times

Your Golden Retriever might prefer not to eat at certain times of the day – similar to you not wanting your breakfast at 6.30 am! Although this may be initially worrying, it’s not unusual, especially as your canine moves toward mid-age.

You should, nonetheless, monitor how much food your Golden Retriever consumes during the day. Don’t worry if he is eating about the same amount.

Take my dog as an example; she would always eat her first meal early morning and then her second late afternoon. Yet, now she is actually older, she doesn’t like to eat in the mornings and eats both of her meals during the afternoon and evening.

She won’t be allowed to eat both meals in one sitting, as this helps to prevent GDV (Gastric Dilatation Volvulus), commonly known as bloat, but I’ll let her have both meals within a few hours. Bloat is a life-threatening situation that needs emergency treatment, and your dog should avoid one large meal.

On some days, my doggo will scarcely consume any food at all. However, she’ll make up for it the next day when she becomes an eating machine! But I always stay abreast of what she’s eaten.

6. Environmental or Routine Changes

Dogs are creatures of habit and become accustomed to their routine. Changes can make them feel anxious until they learn to adapt. If your Golden Retriever suffers from anxiety due to environmental or routine changes, he may lose his appetite. Here are some situations of what can cause this:

  • Moving house
  • Vacation
  • Relationship break-up
  • Bereavement
  • Family member moving out
  • New partner moving in
  • A change in your routine, such as working nights
  • Moving his bowl to a different room

All of these changes may trouble your Golden Retriever and cause him to lose interest in his food. If you have to make adjustments to your dog’s routine, try to do it gradually if you can. Only make multiple changes one at a time.

7. Illness

If you’ve established food isn’t the issue with your Golden Retriever, he might be unwell or be in pain, particularly if he isn’t drinking or has other symptoms. 

If your Retriever has an upset stomach, including vomiting and diarrhea, you may need to contact your veterinarian sooner. An infection, virus, or even severe conditions such as cancer, liver, or kidney disease might directly affect your Golden Retriever’s motivation to eat. Other causes could be allergies or parasites.

Furthermore, your dog might have eaten something harmful. Golden Retrievers are renowned for eating things that you may accidentally leave lying around! Secure the garbage to prevent your pup from snaffling any rotten food!

Never leave foods, such as grapes, raisins, or chocolate, lying around or where your Golden can reach them as just a tiny amount can be poisonous, causing severe harm. Check out my article; What Foods are Toxic to Golden Retrievers? 27 Bad Foods! for tons more info on this.

8. Medication

If your Golden Retriever has recently started taking some medication and is no longer interested in eating, he may be suffering from side effects, including nausea and loss of appetite. Ensure to inform your vet as there could be a more suitable alternative to switch to.

Occasionally, vaccinations can cause an unpleasant reaction. If your Golden Retriever has had his recent shots, this could be the short-term cause of his reduced appetite. The good news is this should only be temporary. In the meantime, ensure your Golden is drinking lots of fresh water and remains hydrated.

PRO TIP!

If your Golden Retriever doesn’t feel like drinking and finds it tough to keep hydrated, try a pet water fountain such as the Petsafe Drinkwell from Amazon. The constant flow of water tempts your dog to drink and keeps his water forever fresh. I like this one due to its cool two-tiered design and it comes with replaceable carbon filters.

9. Dental Pain

If your Golden Retriever all at once stops eating his kibble, it could be because his food is causing him pain or discomfort in his mouth. Some causes could be an abscess, a damaged tooth, a cut, gum disease, or teething in puppies.

In such an event, try adding some warm water to his dinner to make it moist or briefly switch over to a wet diet and have his mouth checked over at the vet.

How Long Can a Golden Retriever Go Without Eating?

As we’ve discovered, there are many explanations as to why your dog may not be eating. So you might be wondering: when is it time to call the vet? How long can Golden Retrievers go without eating?

Golden Retrievers can go between 3-5 days without eating as long as they remain hydrated. However, you should call your vet if your dog has refused to eat for more than 48 hours, as he could be sick. In any case, unhealthy, underweight, young, elderly, or pregnant dogs will need medical attention sooner.

Sick dogs, like, humans, need to eat sooner than later. Don’t worry if your dog doesn’t eat for a day or two, as he will be okay as long as he is staying hydrated and not suffering from sickness or diarrhea. However, this study proved that a lack of sufficient nutrition is undoubtedly detrimental to a sick dog’s recovery. Hospitalized dogs had a better chance of leaving the hospital when they ate enough food to fulfill their resting energy requirements.

The take-home message is simple for owners: If your Golden Retriever stops eating for a day or so, but is otherwise alert and active, continue to keep a close eye on him. Try feeding him some bland home-cooked food such as plain white rice with cooked chicken. If your dog is reserved, quiet, or showing other symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, or lethargy, or has not eaten at all for two days, then you should seek veterinary care.

How Do I Get My Golden Retriever to Eat?

So, what’s the deal? How do you get your dog to start eating again?

To get your Golden Retriever to eat, make changes to his diet or feeding behavior. Switch his food to something more aromatic, add warm water, chicken broth, or a topping, such as meat or fish, to his food. Work up his appetite by exercising him well, stick to a routine, limit treats, and don’t feed leftovers.

Let’s look at these solutions in more detail. But first…

This Fun Video Has Some Excellent Tips on How to Get Your Dog Eating…

Dog Won’t Eat? 7 Ways to Overcome Loss of Appetite in Dogs

Switch Your Dog’s Food

If your Golden Retriever has slowly lost interest in his food over a few days or weeks, he might just not like his food anymore. You might need to see if your dog’s current food is the problem by switching to a new diet, flavor, or feeding style. 

Here are some ideas to target your Golden Retriever’s diet to boost his appetite.

  • Choose a more fragrant food. If you take a quick sniff of your Retriever’s food and think it to be revolting, your doggo might too! Change to better quality food with a powerful meaty aroma.
  • Add warm water or unsalted chicken or beef broth. Both of these ways will transform the texture, smell, and taste of your Golden Retriever’s dinner, making it far more appealing.
  • Add a topping. Try adding wet dog food or other toppings such as plain Greek yogurt, chicken, or tuna. I frequently take this approach as I find it works with my dog.

Change Your Dog’s Feeding Behavior

Below are some suggestions on how to change your Golden Retriever’s feeding behavior:

Keep to a specific feeding schedule.
Exercise your Golden before feeding to work up an appetite. However, please wait at least an hour before putting his bowl down to prevent bloat (GDV).
If your Retriever refuses his meal, don’t try to force it. Remove his bowl after 15 minutes and then only return it a few hours later.
Try hand-feeding for a while to see if your doggo just wants some TLC!
Limit treats to training times only.
Don’t feed your Golden Retriever your leftovers from the table.
Try keeping his mealtimes separate from yours or keep him in another room at your meals.
If you’ve been hand-feeding your dog, try stopping for a while as he may want to go it alone! Give him lots of praise and encouragement when he eats from his bowl.
Make feeding time fun – put a lid on his food, so he has to remove it first. Make it into a game.
Change your dog’s bowl to a ceramic one as some dogs don’t like to see their reflection in stainless steel or glass bowls.
Always ensure your Golden Retriever’s bowl is clean.

Always remain calm and patient while changing your Golden Retriever’s feeding style. You won’t see an improvement overnight! It takes time and is something you’ll need to keep working on. If your dog perceives that you are stressed and anxious about his loss of appetite, he may become more stressed and refuse to eat at all!

PRO TIP!

Try an interactive dog feeder to make mealtimes more enjoyable for your Golden Retriever. They are effective, especially if your dog is easily distracted by his surroundings. Check out the Outward Hound Fun Feeder on Amazon. This crazy bestseller has over 50,000 positive reviews!

Take Your Dog to the Vet for a Check-up

If you have tried all the suggestions above, and your Golden Retriever still isn’t interested in eating, it’s time to take him to the vet for a check-up.

Your Retriever’s lack of appetite and subsequent weight loss will undoubtedly harm his health long-term, but if it’s a result of an underlying health issue, you will need to tackle those issues first.

After a full assessment of your Golden Retriever’s shift in eating habits, your veterinarian will no doubt be able to determine what the problem is. Don’t worry, though, as you’ll soon have a treatment plan ready to go, and hopefully, your dog will be back to eating like normal very soon.

Final Thoughts

It’s not uncommon for Golden Retrievers to lose their appetite at some stage. However, if your dog is persistently not eating, you need to figure out the root of the problem and solve it. Hopefully, these suggestions will resolve the situation and return your beloved doggo to his everyday eating habits. Good luck!

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