How long can a German Shepherd go without eating? When to worry if your German Shepherd won’t eat?
German Shepherds generally love their food. Because the German Shepherd is a very people-oriented dog breed, there are far more stories of German Shepherds begging at the table than there are stories of German Shepherds being picky eaters.
But certain circumstances can cause your dog to stop eating. This can be very worrying, especially if your dog has always enjoyed his food!
In this article, we take a close look at how long a dog can typically go without food before the situation becomes an emergency.
We’ll also give you tips on how to encourage your dog to start eating again. However, if in doubt, always schedule a visit to your dog’s veterinarian.
How long can a German Shepherd go without eating?
A German Shepherd can go five to seven consecutive days without eating, as long as he drinks water. However, if your German Shepherd refuses to drink water for 48 hours, it’s time to bring your dog to the emergency veterinary clinic. This is a life-threatening situation and your dog will need professional medical attention, according to Dr. Phillips Animal Hospital.
Tips for Feeding a Picky German Shepherd
However, as many reviews indicate, when a dog suddenly refuses to eat, it may be a deeper health issue.
If you’ve tried everything you can imagine and nothing works, it’s time to dig deeper. Your dog’s veterinarian is your best resource for determining whether food allergies or an underlying health issue may be causing your dog’s lack of appetite.
Reasons A German Shepherd May Stop Eating
There are a number of known reasons why a dog may suddenly refuse to feed.
Context can matter a lot when trying to figure out what’s going on with your dog’s appetite (or lack thereof).
Here are some of the main reasons a German Shepherd may suddenly stop eating.
You just got your German Shepherd
As the charity Golden State German Shepherd Rescue explains, there is often an initial adjustment period when a puppy or adult dog joins their new forever home.
This period is exciting but can also be a source of anxiety. The anxiety can then cause the dog to have no appetite or an upset stomach for a while.
You changed his food
Food changes can be problematic for dogs. There are certain life transitions, such as when your German Shepherd needs to switch from puppy food to adult dog food, that means you can’t avoid a food change.
But try to do this gradually, otherwise your dog may not eat at all. This is especially true if your dog has never eaten anything other than this food. He may not trust the new food and refuse to eat it.
You changed his eating routine
If you’ve ever noticed that your German Shepherd always knows when it’s mealtime without the help of a watch, you already know how much these dogs love their daily routine.
When you change this routine, he may stop eating until he adjusts.
You have changed your daily routine
Similarly, entire books have been written about the mysterious way dogs seem to know when their masters come home – long before you come home!
If your routine has changed significantly, such as a move, the arrival of a new family member, the arrival of a pet, the loss of a pet, or simply a change in schedules work, your dog may react by refusing to eat.
This is especially true if changing your routine means you don’t have as much time to spend with your German Shepherd as you once did. Dogs can stop eating for emotional as well as physical reasons.
They take a new drug
Some dog medications can cause dizziness, fatigue, nausea, or upset stomach. If your dog has recently started a new medication and it seems to coincide with his loss of appetite, it could be the medication’s fault.
He is sick or injured
Dogs may be used to living a life of luxury as companion dogs, but deep down they still have their wild instincts that tell them to hide any signs of weakness.
Your dog may actually be injured or sick, and lack of appetite is the only outward sign that tells you something is wrong.
The food is not good
If you’re used to buying big bags of dog food in bulk, you may not be in the habit of checking sell-by dates. Expired foods don’t taste the same and your dog may not want to eat them.
This may be especially relevant if you’ve just ordered a new bag of food and your dog suddenly stops eating. The food may not be good. It may be outdated or compromised in one way or another.
It’s too hot or too cold
As Care points out, another less obvious reason your dog may not want to eat is that he’s too hot or too cold. Adjusting the thermostat can reactivate his appetite.
How to Encourage a German Shepherd to Start Eating Again
As you learned here earlier, making sure your German Shepherd is drinking water is far more urgent – just 48 hours without drinking is a very real health emergency for your dog!
Stopping eating can be a natural response to illness.
People do it and dogs do it too. It can be beneficial to allow your dog to go a few days without eating, especially if your dog has a stomach problem and just needs to get it out of his system.
But if a few days have passed and your dog still shows no signs of interest in eating again, it’s time to take action.
The first step should always be to consult your dog’s veterinarian. You want advice on what to feed and how much, especially if your dog has any known food allergies or health issues that may be influenced by diet.
Here are some other things you can try, provided your vet gives you permission.
Reheat the food
If your dog eats mostly dry food, try moistening it with broth or water and warming it up a bit. The smell could rekindle your dog’s interest in his meal.
Add a tasty garnish
You should be careful if your German Shepherd shows signs of food allergies, but you can try nut butter, crumbled dog treats, a little boiled egg, bone broth, wet dog food and other treat toppings to see if your dog eats them.
Change brand of food
As long as your dog doesn’t have a habit of refusing to eat during a change in diet, you can simply try changing the brand of food, if your dog likes it more.
Stop giving extra treats or table food
It’s very easy to get into the habit of giving your German Shepherd treats during training or shoving some leftovers from your plate into your dog’s mouth under the table during dinner.
But that can backfire if your dog decides to prefer your food or the treats to his regular food.
To get your dog to eat his own food again, you will first need to stop giving him treats and table food. Once your dog realizes that these food sources are gone, he may decide to eat his own food again.
Set a time for meals
Another creative idea to help an otherwise healthy German Shepherd get back to eating is to limit meal times.
In other words, only leave the food out for 20 or 30 minutes, then take it out until the next scheduled meal time.
This will teach your dog that if he doesn’t come in to eat, he won’t have anything until the next meal.
Ask your vet for an appetite stimulant
Veterinarians have an array of medications they can prescribe to stimulate your dog’s appetite, as PetMD explains.
If nothing else has worked, your dog’s vet may want to try an appetite stimulant.
In all of this, it will be important to take into account your dog’s background and take a look at your whole life together to understand why your German Shepherd is not eating. Do not hesitate to seek the help of a professional veterinarian.