There are a lot of reasons your dog might not want to eat. The dog could be sick or your dog might be tired of the food he is given. A big change should be more of a concern than not eating once or twice. There could also be some lingering effects immediately after being spayed or neutered that could curb your dog’s appetite.
A short time of not eating should be expected. Other symptoms, in addition to not eating, should be monitored carefully as they may be a better indicator of your dog’s health.
Why won’t my dog eat after being spayed or neutered?
It is hard to say whether being spayed or neutered is a traumatic experience for a dog. But any kind of surgery is likely to leave them feeling a bit off for a day or two. The biggest reason your dog will not eat immediately is the surgery itself.
They may not want to eat because of the effects of just having had surgery. It is minor surgery, but it is still surgery. Having been under anesthesia for any amount of time is bound to slow the appetite of any dog. It should not last a very long time though. It should not be a concern in the short term, but at some point, it should be a concern.
There are lots of reasons your dog may skip a meal or two, and that should not be a great concern. Most dogs can go for a couple of days without eating, without any problems. Still, it is a good idea to monitor the animal’s behavior and use your own judgment as to whether to seek veterinarian care.
Spaying is a more invasive surgery than neutering, so a female dog will take a little longer to heal than a male dog who has been neutered will. It is a good idea to have this done when the pet is very young for minimal side effects.
The dog may feel a little dizzy or sleepy for a day or so after surgery, and may not feel like eating. There could also be some pain, and that too causes a loss of appetite.
The main reason then, that your dog will not eat immediately after surgery, is that it is not feeling good and are just not hungry. This is much the same as the human response to surgery would be.
Is it normal for a dog not to eat after being spayed or neutered?
Most veterinarians say it is normal for a dog to not want to eat for a day or two, or even three, after being spayed or neutered. At least one day of not eating, or eating very little, should be expected.
Most dogs will start to feel better on the second day, and be back to normal after three or four days. Because of the nature of the surgery, it takes longer for females to heal, and it will probably take them longer to get back on track with eating as well. For the short term, it should be expected that your dog will not want to eat.
A dog can easily go a day without eating, with no detrimental impact. The dog may still have some pain, and even pain meds can dull an appetite. Having surgery itself would also make a dog feel out of sorts, and may make her not want to eat.
So it is normal for a dog to not want to eat soon after being spayed or neutered. At some point, it will become a concern. Dogs will start eating again as soon as they feel better. For some, that will be the second day, and for some, the third day.
Even so, not eating can be a sign of more serious medical issues. If your dog was not an overly-enthusiastic eater to start with, it may not be a concern if they go two or three days after surgery without eating. If the dog was a voracious eater, it might be a bigger concern. The big thing to look for is a huge change in the dog.
A day or two is to be expected, but at some point, the dog should return to normal and his normal eating habits. Most dogs will take a treat even if they don’t want to eat their regular food. That can be a way to see if the dog is just not interested in eating, or if there is a bigger issue.
Not eating, with no other visible symptoms and the dog is acting normally, should not be a concern. It is when there are other symptoms along with not eating, that you should become concerned and contact your veterinarian.
Some reasons your dog may not want to eat
- As noted, just having had surgery will make them not want to eat for a day or two.
- Pain medication related to the surgery, or any kind of medication, can curb an appetite.
- Illness. In addition to not eating, look for other changes like cloudy eyes, diarrhea, coughing, being lethargic, or other behavior changes.
- Tooth pain
- Traveling, unfamiliar surroundings
- Unfamiliar people or animals around.
- Time of day
- Absence of owner
- Food preferences or time of day
What to do about my dog not eating after being spayed or neutered?
For the first day or two after being spayed or neutered, you should keep the dog as comfortable as possible and monitor the situation.
The first day at least, and maybe more, not eating is to be expected and should not be a concern. Keeping an eye on your pet and watching for other symptoms should be a bigger concern than whether they are eating – at least for a day or two.
At some point, the appetite should return. If, after three or four days, the dog is still not eating, you should contact your veterinarian. Watch for other symptoms even in the early stages. If the dog seems sick in some other way in addition to not eating, it is a good idea to get medical care.
While just having had surgery is a good reason for not wanting to eat, sometimes dogs don’t want to eat and there is no apparent reason. To some extent, this should not be a concern.
The main thing to do is keep a close eye on the dog’s behavior. Dogs are different just like people are, and what may be unusual for one dog may be normal for another dog. There are dogs that want to eat as often as possible, while other dogs may be fine with eating every other day instead.
If, after the first day, your dog is not eating, offer a treat that you know she will like. If she eats that, there is probably not a problem other than just being still in recovery mode. Try this again on the second day. On the second day, and thereafter, you should be concerned if they refuse a treat they normally like.
When dogs are in recovery mode, whether it be from surgery or some kind of injury, they may want to sleep it off. This is especially true if they are taking any kind of pain medication. Even so, excessive sleeping can be a sign of some other health problem. Again, it depends on how long it has been since the surgery was completed.
Some signs your dog may have another health issue:
- Drastic changes in behavior.
- Excessive sleeping, or overly excited.
- Coughing or sneezing
- Difficulty breathing
- Diarrhea, nausea, or dizziness
- Red or cloudy eyes.
How to get my dog to eat after being spayed or neutered?
Give your dog time to recover, and don’t expect them to eat for at least a day. That is normal and to be expected. At some point, they will need to eat, and that should happen naturally. If the dog does not have any other symptoms, other than just not eating, they may just not want to eat.
Often, this is more a concern for the pet owner than it is for the pet. If the dog seems fine otherwise, their not eating may not be a reason for concern.
Even so, you still want your dog to eat, and they do need to eat eventually. Offering them a tasty treat is a good idea, but dogs are smart. They may realize they can get a tasty treat by not eating their regular food. Just like people, dogs can get tired of the same old food and want something that tastes better.
Or, like humans, they may want tasty junk food instead of boring healthy foods. Getting your dog to eat by offering treats can be a good idea, but be aware that dogs are smart enough to manipulate you into getting what they want. Treats are a delicate balance at times with dogs.
Treats should be dispensed sparingly, and not to the point where the dog expects to be given one. Too many treats are not good for your dog. While using them to see if they are sick or just not hungry is a good thing, don’t give the dog a lot of them as a replacement for a regular meal.
It’s easy to get to the other extreme, however, and they get to where they expect the treat. Sometimes cutting back on treats is a good way to get your dog to eat his normal food if you find yourself handing out too many.
It can be a battle of the will, and you must always win these types of battles with your dog, for the dog’s ultimate wellbeing. Sometimes a little bribery is a good thing, but other times you need to wait it out until the dog is willing to eat what she is given.
Some other ways to get your dog to eat.
- Your dog’s appetite should return to normal in a few days after being spayed or neutered. If there are no other health issues, your dog could still need some encouragement to start eating again. Dogs love to eat, but they also love routine. Any change can throw them off balance and cause them to not eat.
- Feed your dog on a regular schedule, at the same time every day. If you feed your dog twice a day, do it at the same time each day.
- Take your dog for a long brisk walk before mealtime. Just like people, dogs can work up an appetite by being physically active.
- Add some warm water to dry dog food.
- Try adding some warm chicken or beef broth to the food, which should make it taste better. Don’t do this a lot, however, because the dog may never want to return to regular food once they get used to the broth.
- Change the food. Try a different brand. You can also give them some canned food if they normally eat dry food or vice versa. Sometimes a change of food is a good thing. Be aware that changing food can also cause them to not eat.
How feeding is done
Dogs are creatures of habit that like routine. Disruption of routine can cause a dog to not eat because she is getting nervous about something new.
- Try to always feed them at the same time every day.
- Let them eat from the same bowl or plate every time they eat.
- Avoid distracting noises.
- Don’t bother the dog while he is eating.
Dogs can also change as they grow, or just with time in general. To encourage your dog to eat, make sure they are comfortable and feel safe while eating. Separate your dog from other dogs to make sure there are no anxiety issues.
- Try different kinds of bowls or dishes.
- Put the bowl or plate at different heights to see what the dog likes best.
- Put some on the floor or ground. Some dogs prefer not to eat out of a bowl.