If you have owned pets for any length of time, you have most likely encountered “the fussy eater”. In fact, I deal with this on daily basis with my terrier, Buster, and it can be extremely frustrating!
However, if a normally robust eater suddenly becomes fussy, I would recommend a vet visit as soon as possible in order to rule out sickness as the cause. This is usually one of the first indications things are not well with your pet, even though they are still acting normally to you. If illness is not the cause, I have found a few useful tips through the years that can help encourage fussy canines and felines to eat.
Step 1. Before making any changes in the pet’s diet, the first thing I try at the kennel is different methods of feeding the pet. Often pets do not like to eat alone, so just simply sitting with them often helps them eat. Also, some pets will immediately start to eat if hand fed. Feeding them outside as opposed inside the kennel has also worked. I have had customers swear by the use of plates instead of bowls – someone even told me once their pet did not like to see their reflection in the stainless steel bowl, so would avoid eating out of them!
Step 2. If I didn’t get lucky with Step 1, the next thing I always try at the kennel is the simplest – just warm up the pet’s current diet or just let the kibble soak in some warm water for awhile. Bingo! Your pet is eating again.
Step 3. However, it is often not that simple. If the pet can tolerate a slight change in diet, I often heat up a small amount of wet food and mix it with the food. Just replacing the warm water with something more flavourful often encourages the fussiest eater, however, make sure your pet doesn’t have sensitivities to wet food (ie. beef or chicken allergies). If you are dealing with a cat, you could try some tuna or salmon. However, make sure that what you try does NOT contain onion, which is toxic to both cats and dogs.
Step 4. If I am still not having success with Steps 1-3, I will try some different kinds of foods. Many owners, knowing that their pet is fussy, provide me with cooked chicken, beef, rice, cheese, liver powder, crumbed treats, etc. which I add to the food in small amounts. Often a sprinkle of parmesan cheese will do the trick. Things do become a bit tricky at this point, as the higher fat and dairy content of these foods could result in stomach upset and possibly loose stool. However, at this point, the pet has usually not eaten a few meals, so it is important that they start to eat soon.
Step 5. If the pet has gone more then a few days without eating anything, I would try and get in touch with the owner or the contact person. This is especially important for cats, which can develop fatty liver disease within a few days of not eating. A vet visit is in order and they usually prescribe appetite stimulants and specially prescribed food which is very appealing.
Always remember, you know your pet better then anyone. Eating behaviour I tolerate with my terrier, Buster, would set alarm bells ringing if one of my labs started to act the same way. If you are leaving your pets with a caregiver, make sure you let them know what the norm is for their eating “style” , so they know what to expect.
I hope you found this post informative. Stay tuned for my next post, “Casey’s Game of Chase“.