How Long Can A Dog Survive Without Food?
[All you need to know]

By kropek2021. • Updated October 22, 2021

The two main reasons why people ask ‘how many days can a dog go without eating?’ are either their dog is sick and refuses to eat, or their dog is healthy, but they are not eating as much as expected. Like other animals, dogs also need timely meals to maintain their health and metabolism. When dogs consume and digest the food, the body converts it into energy that helps them stay warm and perform other biological functions.

The survival of dogs without eating food will depend on their health and breed. Some say that healthy dogs can survive without food for many days or even a couple of months without eating as long as they have clean water and safe shelter. A sick dog can survive for days or some weeks, depending on the type of illness or disease. When provided with proper nutrition and supplements, sick dogs tend to recover at a faster rate.

Factors That Affect The Survival Rate

Body Condition

The primary body condition before going to the ‘no food stage’ affects their ability to survive a significant time without having food. If the dog starts with average or above-average body weight, we can expect them to stay longer without eating than the already starving dogs. 

Age

Age is another factor that affects the rate of survival. So how long can a puppy go without eating? Unfortunately, there’s no exact information on how long young or old dogs can go without food. However, based on research conducted by Veterinary Pathologists, they concluded that death caused by starvation was infrequent in dogs younger than the age of six months.

Shelter And Care

Dogs kept outdoors during harsh weather conditions or were subjected to abuse will significantly reduce their lifespan and chances of survival. If proper treatment and nutrition are not provided at the right time, they will succumb to death within a few days.

Level Of Activity

The more physical activity your dog has, the more calories they’ll have to burn. As a result, they’ll have to consume more food to get the energy and vice versa. Your dog can go without food for a longer time if they don’t have any energy-consuming activities or exercise (without food.)

Drinking Water

As we discussed before, dogs can survive for a reasonable time without food. Still, without water, they can survive for five days more or less, and slowly, their health and physical condition will start to deteriorate if not treated immediately. Some factors like your dog’s size, age, and the temperature outside have a role in estimating the survival rate.

Dehydration happens when the body’s fluid levels drop below average, which can be commonly caused by either illness or if your puppy is overheating from being in a hot environment.

If your dog is dehydrated, it would be tough to regain their health by rehydrating them, especially if they refuse to drink water again. Take your dog to the vet as quickly as possible if they are dehydrated.

Signs Of Dehydration

  • Extremely tired or drowsy
  • Refusing to eat or drink
  • Panting excessively
  • Dry gums and nose
  • Sunken eyes
  • Depression

If you are not sure whether your dog is dehydrated or not, an easy way to know is to check their pee. If it’s clear, then you have nothing to worry about; your dog is perfectly hydrated. And if their pee is darker in color or yellowish, to be precise, it means they are dehydrated

How Long Can A Puppy Go Without Water

Puppies can sometimes become fussy eaters like small children. You always have to ensure that they are not getting into trouble and are fed at the right time. Your puppy may not go near the water bowl for a day or night. Or, they’ll only drink water only when you are around them. 

These are only typical behaviors that pups have, so you don’t have to be angry at them or stress about it.

Many vets say that dogs, puppies especially, cannot survive for more than three days without drinking water. As a responsible dog owner, please spend some time with your dog to ensure that they are properly fed and taken care of to avoid any unfortunate situation. If you think your pup or adult dog is not drinking enough water, we strongly suggest you seek medical help.

Animal experts say that dogs should drink at least one ounce of water for every pound they weigh. Therefore, if your dog weighs around 60 pounds, they should drink 60 ounces of water a day. On a hot day, they might even drink more than the said amount too. So ensure that you have poured enough water into their bowl to drink whenever they are thirsty. 

Then how long can a small dog go without eating? The answer would be the same. Be it a pup or a small dog, naturally, they cannot survive for more than three days. Due to their small size, it would be difficult for them to bear the starvation, and slowly, their body will start to collapse if immediate treatment is not provided. 

Why Isn’t My Dog Eating Or Drinking?

There are several reasons why your dog might not be eating food or drinking water. And as a dog owner, it is very concerning when they are not eating. But do not call the vet right away just because your dog skipped a meal. 

They may not have the appetite to eat their regular food if they get filled up by eating treats and snacks. If you have other pet animals in your house, make sure that your dog is not eating from their bowls. 

Here are some common and some lesser-known reasons why your dog is refusing to eat or drink.

Illness

Do we like to eat or drink when we are feeling a little under the weather? Obviously, no. We want to lay down and take a good nap for some time. Your dog also feels the same when they are feeling sick. But make sure that they are getting light nourishment rather than a full meal to make them feel better. 

Stress And Fear

Dogs are also affected by stress, which might impact their ability to digest food correctly. When dogs are exposed to a new or unfamiliar place, your dog will be hesitant to eat or drink until they get used to the new location and people. This behavior is natural as your dog is nervous. If they don’t start eating in a few days, it is better to call the vet to find out why they refuse to eat.

Animals, dogs especially, will take a lot of time to trust anyone if they were abused or mistreated by their previous owners. They’ll be mentally scarred for a significant amount of time because of the trauma and pain they had to go through. You might have seen videos of animal lovers and activists saving dogs who were subjected to domestic abuse.

Due to fear and the feeling of being threatened, they will refrain from seeing anyone or eating food and drinking water. To tackle this problem, all you have to do is be patient and love them unconditionally. Once the dog feels safe, they will naturally start to socialize.

Surgery And Medications

If your dog went under surgery or has some medication, it is normal to see dogs not eating or drinking. This is because the medicines make them feel nauseous or lose their appetite. Once the recovery period is done, your dog will be back to normal in no time.

Specific Eating Time

Some dogs like to eat their food at specific times of the day. This practice is also quite regular in dogs as they have become used to eating at a fixed time. They will refuse to eat the food you gave if it is at unusual hours.

Your Absence

When you leave your house next time, notice how your dog behaves. They will not smell their bowls even if it’s their favorite food. But the moment your dog sees you in the house, they will devour everything in the bowl.

Dogs are pack animals, meaning they like to spend time with their group. So when you’re gone, their pack is incomplete. They’ll be waiting for you to come back to start eating.

Same Boring Food

How do you feel when you eat the same food every day? It feels boring. Your dog also feels the same every day when they eat the same pet food you bought from the store. In this case, we suggest you change their usual food. Try to feed your homemade dog meals for a few days, which you can do in a few minutes with minimal ingredients

For instance, you can mix well-cooked chicken or any meat with boiled rice and veggies. You can also add supplements to increase the nutritional value of the food. 

What Happens If Dogs Don’t Eat?

It won’t cause too much harm if they skip a meal or two for a couple of days, but if your dog starves for an extended period, there will be severe problems. Things could get complex if they become dehydrated if they don’t have an adequate supply of water. Here are some common aftereffects of not eating food:

  • Starvation will reduce their level of alertness drastically without having proper nutrition. 
  • When they don’t eat food, they might become agitated, and eventually, the dog will be highly aggressive.
  • When they don’t eat for some time, they will become less active over time.

Research conducted on dogs showed the following changes when they were starved;

  • Decreased RBC (Red Blood Cells)
  • Decrease in Platelets which helps to stop the bleeding when an injury is sustained.
  • Reduction in the formation of Albumin (type of blood protein)
  • Irregularities in the formation of blood calcium
  • Bleeding and bruising of the inside of the stomach
  • Thyroid gland atrophy

How Can I Make My Dog Eat?

The vital thing you should know as a dog owner is never to force-feed your dog. Sometimes, your dog might go on a “protest” if they don’t like the taste or the texture of the food you gave them. Remember that healthy dogs won’t starve themselves to death for no reason. There might be something that could be bothering them from eating the food.

One method to know whether your dog is sick or having some issues is to point their favorite food item right in front of their nose. Try giving them a small amount of meat, cheese, etc., and notice how they react. If they are healthy, the food you pointed at them will be gone in a matter of seconds. On the flip side, they’ll sniff it and walk away.

If your dog is not eating or drinking anything after 48 hours, you should probably book an appointment with your vet. They will take a good look to find out why your dog is refusing to eat and offer some treatments and medications to help your buddy recover.

And then there’s the matter of picky eaters. Even though this is not that serious of an issue, it is not good for health. Sometimes, they might be having some pain due to indigestion or don’t like the food you gave them. If that is the case, here are some tips to increase their appetite and make the food more interesting;

  • Eating alone can be boring at times. You can try hand-feeding because many dogs like to eat while having company. 
  • Warm up their food lightly in the microwave.
  • Add lukewarm water to their food to make it softer if it’s too dry for them to munch on.
  • Pour beef or chicken broth or tuna water to make it tastier.
  • Give them wet food if they usually eat dry food and vice versa.
  • Change the usual food.

If none of these tips convince your dog to eat the food, it is better to call the vet to determine why your dog is refusing to eat. With the help of supplements and medications, it will be effortless to tackle this issue.

Note: Do not give them food such as chocolate, certain nuts, grapes, any uncooked or undercooked item, caffeine, etc., as all of these could pose a threat to their health.

What If I Can’t Feed Them?

There might be some situations where you may not feed your dog for various reasons. What will you do? Let’s clear it now. If you are out of town for a couple of days, we suggest bringing someone your dog trusts. Ask your friend or family member to spare some of their time to take care of your dog. It is best to get someone who knows how to handle a dog. 

If you don’t find anyone, the next best option is to hire a dog sitter or take your pet to a friendly boarding facility where they have access to clean water and quality meals at the right time. Here, your dog will meet other dogs and make sure that the facility has fun physical activities so that your dog doesn’t feel left out or bored.

Conclusion

Dogs will not have any severe health issues if they skip their meals one or two times a day, but there will be severe problems if it continues for many days. Dogs love to eat, and everyone knows that. Your canine buddy will not refuse food unless there’s something wrong with them.

Sometimes, it may be due to stress, fear, or health problems. If you notice your dog not wanting to eat their meals, try to change the food as it may have become stale. Another option is to feed your homemade dog meals, which is a much healthier and safer option. 

If your dog has access to clean water and a safe shelter, they will be able to bear their feeling of hunger for a couple of days. The survival rate will depend on many factors such as their age, size, environment, etc. However, we advise you to feed your dog at the right time and take care of them properly so that they can have a healthy life.

Feel free to share this article with fellow dog lovers or anyone planning to own a dog.