How Long Can A Dog Go Without Eating?

Julia Henriques
how long can a dog go without eating

As a dog owner, it’s natural to worry about your pup’s wellbeing, especially when it comes to his food. One of the biggest concerns pet owners have is … how long can a dog go without eating?

The truth is, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to this question.

That’s why in today’s post we’ll walk you through some of the variables that can affect how long a dog can go without food. We’ll wrap up with some tips about what you can do if your dog isn’t eating. 

How Long Can A Dog Go Without Food?

Generally speaking, a dog can go about 5 days without food. However, the length of time your dog can go without food varies based on individual factors, like breed, size, age, health, etc. Whether your dog is drinking water is another variable, because dogs can dehydrate quickly if they’re not getting enough water. 

RELATED: How long can a dog go without water?

Let’s take a closer look at the most important factors to keep in mind next time you’re wondering how long a dog can go without food … starting with size and age.

Small Dogs

Smaller dogs, like Chihuahuas and Yorkies, have faster metabolisms than their larger counterparts. As a result, small dogs can only go without food for a shorter period, typically around two to three days. Toy breeds can quickly develop hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, if they go too long without food. If your small breed dog gets shaky or lethargic from not eatin, rubbing something sugary like honey or syrup onto his gums can help. But hypoglycemia can be serious, so contact your vet right away for help.


Puppies need to eat regularly to support growing bodies. So … whatever the reason for your puppy refusing to eat, don’t let him go more than 12 hours without food. Puppies don’t have much fat stored, and they can become hypoglycemic quite quickly. If your puppy shows signs of low blood sugar like shaking or tiredness, contact your vet for help.  A puppy may stop eating for reasons like teething pain, recent vaccination, worms, or a serious disease like parvo.

RELATED: Bringing home a new puppy …

Large Dogs

Larger breeds, including giant dogs like Great Danes, can go without food for up to five days because they have a slower metabolism and a larger body mass to support them. So in general, larger dogs can go longer without food than smaller dogs can. 

However, it’s important to note that these are just rough estimates, and every dog is different. Size is just one factor, and some dogs might have other factors you need to consider … like whether they have underlying medical conditions or have higher energy needs due to their age or activity level.

Sick Dogs

Speaking of underlying medical conditions, people often ask: how long can a sick dog live without food? While a dog’s overall health definitely impacts how long he can go without food, the answer generally falls into the same time frame as above: sick dogs can live about 3 to 5 days depending on their size and health condition. 

Keep in mind that sick or injured dogs may also need more frequent meals to support their recovery. If your dog isn’t eating because he’s ill, consider why he’s not eating.

For example, most dogs with diarrhea will benefit from fasting for 12-24 hours (and some won’t show interest in food). Puppies shouldn’t fast, but in adult dogs it gives the digestive system a break.

In other cases you may want to encourage your dog to start eating again. Check with your vet if you’re not sure. Dogs may not eat due to mouth pain, nausea or other digestive issues, medications, stress or other illness. But lack of appetite can be a sign of many different health problems, and some can be serious, so you’ll want to figure out the reason. 

Diabetic Dogs

If your pup has diabetes, going without food can be a serious risk. Diabetic dogs struggle to regulate their blood sugar levels, and fasting for too long can be life-threatening, especially for dogs who are on insulin or other diabetes medications.

When a diabetic dog lacks glucose, their blood sugar can drop rapidly, known as hypoglycemia. This condition can lead to seizures, coma, and even death. That’s why it’s essential to keep a close eye on your pup’s blood sugar levels and make sure he eats regularly. 

If you notice any changes in your diabetic dog’s appetite or behavior, don’t hesitate to contact your holistic vet for advice.

RELATED: What you need to know about diabetes in dogs …

How Long Can A Dog Go Without Food Before Dying?

After about 5 days, the complications that come from dogs not eating start to get serious, and death is a possibility. The exact time frame before death depends on several factors like those listed above (size, health, dehydration etc.). 

For most adult dogs, after around five days without food the body will start to break down muscle tissue to provide energy. After this point, a dog’s organs can begin to fail, and death can occur.

How To Force Feed A Dog Who Won’t Eat

If your dog has lost his appetite, you might find yourself wondering how to entice him to start eating again.  

Force-feeding is pretty extreme, so you should only resort to that if your dog refuses to eat for several days. Even then, it’s best to ask for your vet’s help. You can usually purée food and use a syringe to feed small amounts.  In extreme cases your vet may need to give you subcutaneous fluids to give at home, or in more severe cases, IV fluids at the vet clinic. Feeding tubes are a more extreme measure that may be used for dogs who are hospitalized with severe illness.

If your dog refuses to eat for more than 48 hours, or doesn’t drink water for a day, seek veterinary attention to identify any underlying medical conditions. Hopefully your vet can quickly identify the issue, and find a less intense solution before having to resort to force feeding. 

Most of the time, asking yourself how to force feed a dog who won’t eat is the wrong question. Instead, there are several things you can do to encourage your dog to eat. Here are some ways you can coax your picky pup to eat:

  1. Hand-feed small amounts of food: Sometimes, dogs just need a little bit of encouragement to eat. You can try hand-feeding him small amounts of food, like pieces of chicken or cheese, to get him interested in eating.
  2. Warm up your dog’s food: Just like how we enjoy our food warm and cozy, our pets also prefer their meals heated up. Try warming up your dog’s food to make it more palatable and enticing to eat.
  3. Give bone broth or add broth to food: Most dogs love broth, and bone broth is especially nutritious. You can start by giving your dog some bone broth to drink, and if that helps stimulate his appetite, give some solid food with broth to make it more enticing. The added moisture can help hydrate your pup if he hasn’t been drinking enough.
  4. Change the food: Sometimes, dogs can get bored with their usual food, and changing up the brand or protein can help spark their interest. You probably wouldn’t want to eat the same food day in, day out either! 
  5. Try homemade food: Homemade foods like scrambled eggs or roast chicken can sometimes coax even the pickiest of dogs back to eating. 
  6. Feed smaller, more frequent meals: Rather than offering your dog large meals, try breaking his food into smaller portions throughout the day. This can help make mealtime less overwhelming for picky eaters.
  7. Use food puzzles or toys: Food puzzles or toys can help make mealtime more engaging and fun for your pup. Turning eating into a fun game can stimulate his mind and increase his appetite.
  8. Offer high-value treats: If your dog is really stubborn about eating, try offering him a high-value treat, like small pieces of cooked chicken or beef. This can help get his appetite going and make his regular food more appealing.
  9. Provide activity: Make sure your dog’s getting enough exercise and play to stimulate his appetite. If your dog doesn’t feel like going for walks or playing, that’s a sign he’s not feeling well and you need to rule out illness, possibly with your vet’s help. 

So remember, unless your vet has told you that you must force feed, forcing your dog to eat is never the answer. Try the tricks above first. And if your dog still continues to refuse food or shows other concerning symptoms … then it’s time to see your vet and make sure there isn’t an underlying health problem.

How Long Can A Dog Go Without Eating Solid Food?

Lastly, some people ask us how long dogs can go without solid food. Here’s the answer…

Dogs can typically survive for up to a week without any solid food, provided they’re drinking water to keep them hydrated. However, it’s important to note that prolonged fasting in dogs can have negative consequences, including muscle wasting and weakness. This can ultimately lead to other health complications, and even death. 

The bottom line is that even though your dog may last an extra day or two without solid food if he has water, you still need to take action as soon as possible to encourage him to eat solid food again. 

Try some of the tips and tricks above. If your dog still refuses food or shows other worrying symptoms, seek advice from your vet to minimize further risk and rule out any other underlying health issues.

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© 2024, Four Leaf Rover - The content on this website is not meant to replace veterinary advice. Please support the hard working holistic vets who make this information possible. To find a holistic or homeopathic vet near you or to find one who will do phone consultations, visit The Academy Of Veterinary Homeopathy.