Written by Dr. Ashley Geoghegan, DVM, CVA, CVFT
“Jake is old; he doesn’t eat much.”
“Petey has always been a picky eater.”
“Sam just doesn’t seem excited about meal time anymore.”
I’m so passionate about what I do that these statements are painful to hear. Every pet should get to have a joyful, vibrant life! He should gobble up his breakfast, dinner and all of his snacks. Your dog should LOVE to eat, no matter what his age or preferences are. And if he doesn’t, well there is a problem.
As an integrative veterinarian I am trained in conventional (Western) medicine as well as holistic (Eastern) medicine. One of the first advanced degrees I obtained was a CVFT, which stands for Certified Veterinary Food Therapist. Hippocrates was totally correct when he stated, “Let food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food.” What you choose to feed your pet every day will be the single most important health decision you make for your fur baby. Period. You really can’t afford to get this wrong.
Step 1: Rule Out Medical Issues
So, let’s talk about the picky eaters, the non-eaters and all the pets who don’t jump up and levitate like the Matrix when they hear their pet parents in the kitchen. First, we need to clear the dog medically. A veterinarian should take a good look inside your dog’s mouth. Are there any foreign bodies causing pain like a lodged stick particle? Is there any bleeding of the gums? Are there any damaged teeth? Full mouth x-rays should be performed annually to rule out any abscesses because dogs don’t run to the dentist like people do when any dental pain is felt. They simply eat less or become picky. Next, we need to examine the rest of the body and run blood work to check every organ system. Lastly, let’s observe what is coming out the south end. Is the bowel movement formed? Is it free of blood? Does it have a normal color? Once all of these things have been addressed, we can look at their diet.
Step 2: Look at Your Dog’s Diet
Dogs love food! They love to eat! They love to smell food! Here are my top three tips for picky eaters and adding nutritional value back into your pet’s diet.
1) Add some moisture into the food. Try adding moisture into your dog’s diet – this could mean whole, real food like Stella & Chewy’s Frozen Raw or nutrient-rich liquid like Stella & Chewy’s Bone Broth. You need to speak to your veterinarian and discuss which diet would be best for your fur baby. Often that could mean adding raw food–like Stella & Chewy’s raw treats–mid-day or replacing dinner with raw food. There are many ways to accomplish this. You and your vet will work together to come up with the best plan for adding moisture to Fido’s diet.
2) Try alternating the main protein. Don’t you think it would be super boring to eat the same meal every day of your life? Your dog doesn’t like it either. Add a little variety to the food rotation. Slowly, but routinely, food combinations should be rotated into the diet. This practice will help increase your pet’s interest in meal time and also provide a variety of nutrients to your dog.
3) Have your dog eat when you eat. Dogs are social animals. They like to eat when the family eats. So, set your table and then put down Fido’s food. Canines love eating with their pack. This routine can encourage the dog to understand that it’s time to eat, as well as promote the human-animal bond.
If you attempt to change your pet’s diet in any way, always speak to your veterinarian first. Any change in food should be transitioned slowly, as quick changes can cause a gastrointestinal upset.
That’s it! These simple changes can greatly enhance your dog’s feeding routine. Pretty soon you will be making your dog’s breakfast and he will be right next to you, tail wagging, anxiously waiting to gobble it up and you will think, “Wow–now I know!”
This article was written by veterinarian Ashley Geoghegan. All opinions expressed are those of Dr. Geoghegan.
Ashley Geoghegan, DVM, CVA, CVFT, aka Dr. G, is an Integrative Veterinarian in Mandeville, Louisiana and the Founder of VetNaturally. She uses a combination of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) and conventional Western medicine to diagnose and treat the pets who visit her practice. She is the former Army veterinarian who traveled the world treating President Bush’s bomb dogs, guard dogs and search and rescue dogs.. You can learn more about Dr. G at VetNaturally.com and Facebook.com/VetNaturally/.