My four-year-old Terrier mix seems to be tiring of his food. He’s been on the same brand of high-quality kibble since I got him when he was a puppy, and we rotate through three flavors. Lately, he’s stopped getting excited around mealtime and sometimes even needs a little bit of coaxing to start eating. He’s fine as soon as he gets going, so I don’t think it’s an appetite thing. Is it possible he’s just sick of eating the same food every day? If I do want to mix it up and switch to a new brand, how do I go about making the transition?
This is an important question, and one I hear often—especially for our smaller breed dog patients. Here are some things to try:
First, your dog may be less excited about eating simply because he’s full. Sometimes we unknowingly feed a bit too much and over time our dogs become heavier. In that case, cut back his portions a little. Within a few days, he should be eating more enthusiastically.
If the problem isn’t too many calories, the next step, together with your vet, is to rule out any medical issues. For example, oral health conditions such as diseased gums or damaged teeth can be painful and cause an otherwise good eater to slow down because his mouth hurts. If your dog is underweight, there could be a number of underlying medical conditions, especially if he has soft stool or vomiting.
If there are no physical issues, let’s remember that Terrier breeds are both smart and persistent. They can quickly adapt and learn ways to train us pet parents if we’re not careful! Specifically, your dog may have become accustomed to you actively feeding him, and this learned behavior has become his routine. Stop coaxing him and give him a reasonable amount of time to eat. If he doesn’t finish, throw away the food or save it for the next meal. don’t feel guilty—missing part or all of a meal won’t hurt him, but it will help him understand how feeding time will work in the future. If this proves to be the issue, he’ll soon be back to eagerly eating on his own.
Now let’s talk about variety. Many dogs are happy eating the same food their entire lives, but it may be that your little guy needs a transition. It’s very important to make any dietary changes gradually. First, try mixing in a little wet canned food, ideally the same brand as the dry kibble you’re currently using. Mix the wet in with the dry food (one part wet to three parts dry). Perhaps that’s all the stimulation he’ll need. If he instead picks out the wet morsels and then looks to you for more, don’t give in and feed him more or you will create another bad habit. Over the course of a couple weeks, gradually remove the wet food until he is back on just the dry diet. Or, you may find that just a little bit of the wet food in his diet will be enough to stimulate his appetite, which is perfectly fine.
If he still doesn’t eat consistently and you think he is truly bored with the flavor, try mixing in a new brand of dry food. To prevent any digestion issues, introduce about 20 percent new food, and over the course of 5 to 14 days (depending upon how well your dog tolerates diet changes) add about 10 to 20 percent of the new kibble daily and remove that same percentage of the existing food.
Remember to work with your vet to rule out any underlying medical issues. If you go through this suggested process, I’m sure he’ll be back to eating happily once again.
ABOUT the Vet: David Gonsky, DVM, is the founder and medical director of West Loop Veterinary Care and the founder of Chicago Veterinary Housecalls. He is a graduate and former class president of the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. With more than 17 years of experience, Dr. Gonsky provides exceptional veterinary care to companion animals and the people who love them.