Just like humans, dogs are individuals with unique food preferences and needs. The term “picky eater” is often used to generalize dogs who do not enjoy eating or cannot eat. There are, however, many reasons why a dog may be a picky eater. Each reasoning may require a unique approach when trying to find a diet that will work best for your dog. Here are a few common reasons a dog may be a picky eater, some tips on how to address them, and recommendations on which ACANA® dog foods and treats may work best!
1. Your dog has allergies
Dogs can experience both food and seasonal allergies just like people. Allergies occur when the immune system views certain substances (like ingredients or foods) or environmental triggers as threatening to the body. In return, the body will react in different ways, including the development of rashes, ear infections, vomiting, diarrhea, etc.
Dietary allergies in dogs are most commonly related to an animal protein (i.e. chicken, beef, fish). However, dogs may be sensitive to any ingredient within a diet. Symptoms of dietary allergies generally present themselves immediately after being exposed to the ingredient or food. It is important to note that any dog can develop allergies at any time during his or her life!
If you suspect your dog is experiencing an allergic response to something in their diet, there are a few things to try and troubleshoot. First, try and eliminate the triggering food or ingredient. One way to do this is by feeding a limited ingredient diet. Single protein, limited ingredient diets are a great way to narrow down the list of food that is safe for your pet to consume. Second, cut out all treats from your dog’s diet until you have a better idea of what is causing the allergic responses. In extreme allergy cases, a prescription diet may be necessary.
Allergens can take up to six weeks to make its way out of your dog’s body, or even longer to see improvements. It is always a good idea to consult your trusted veterinarian in these situations. Knowing the health history of your pet will better guide them in making the safest and best recommendations for your dog!
If allergies are a problem, here are some recommended ACANA® diets to try:
- ACANA® Singles dry kibble
- ACANA® Freeze-Dried Treats
- ACANA® Freeze-Dried Food in the Ranch-Raised Beef Recipe
2. Your dog has digestive trouble
Some dogs are naturally more sensitive than others. For these individuals, diets that feature easily digestible proteins are a great place to start. Fish is a good example of an easily digestible protein. Fish, especially of the white variety, is low in fat and free of fiber making it a high-quality protein that is easy on the your dog’s digestive system.
Alternatively, some dogs may benefit from a higher fiber diet in order to promote more regularity and slow transit time. In these cases, feeding a diet that features high fiber ingredients such as pumpkin, green beans, apples, or carrots is a great way to add bulk to your dog’s diet without adding a lot of calories.
If your dog has digestive issues, you can try these ACANA® recipes:
- ACANA® Pacifica (Canada)/ ACANA Wild Atlantic (USA)
- ACANA® Light & Fit
3. Your dog has personal preferences
Most dogs prefer a variety of flavors and will readily accept new foods. However, some dogs will have specific preferences for certain flavors or even textures.
Some dogs can get overwhelmed by more diverse food recipes that feature flavors from various sources – like a recipe that has beef, lamb, pork and chicken. These dogs may do better on something more simple like a recipe that features a single protein, limited ingredient diet.
Flavor fatigue can also happen to dogs who have been fed the same or similar flavors for an extended period of time. One way to combat this is to feed a rotational diet. Rotational feeding simply means rotating between different dog food recipes to ensure your pet is getting nutrients and flavors from a wide range of ingredient sources to support overall health and maintain interest. Rotational feeding can be done daily, weekly, monthly or from bag to bag.
To use rotational feeding, start by replacing 25% of your dog’s old food with their new food, gradually increasing it over time until you’re feeding 100% of the new food.
Texture of food is also important to consider. Some dogs prefer the crunch that comes with kibble, while others want a more meat-like consistency that is typical of a wet or freeze-dried food. Figuring out what your dog likes best will help guide you on what types of food will work. Keep in mind that many dogs may enjoy a mixture of textures. In these situations, building a bowl using a kibble topper may be beneficial!
If your dog has specific preferences, here are some ACANA options to try:
- ACANA Singles for dogs that need a simplified diet
- ACANA Highest Protein for dogs doing a rotational diet
- ACANA Freeze-Dried Food as a meatier texture or kibble topper
- ACANA Premium Chunks as a meatier texture or kibble topper
4. Consider environmental influence
Do you pour your dog’s kibble into their bowl every morning and it sits there for several hours uneaten? Although feeding your dog may seem easy and straightforward, how and when you feed them your dog may impact their feeding behavior. It is also important to note that changes to your dog’s environment may impact their behavior. For example, did you start a new job and now leave for the day at a different time? Have you recently moved? Do you have houseguests? All of these factors and more may impact your dog’s desire to eat.
Here are some tips to help:
- Set a time for meals and make sure to stick to it.
- Leave the food out for no longer than 20 minutes. If your dog doesn’t eat anything, take the bowl. Make sure to cover and place any wet or rehydrated food into the refrigerator to preserve freshness.
- Try to avoid feeding treats or other foods in between feeding times until your dog is on a more consistent schedule.
You can further encourage your dog to eat their meals by making the food more enticing. To do this, add a yummy kibble topper such as a freeze-dried food or wet food. A few sprinkles or dollops can go a long way in keeping your dog on schedule.
If you’re looking to make mealtime more interesting, here are a couple of recommended ACANA options:
Picky eating can be relatively normal for some dogs, especially if the picky eating is due to a taste preference. However, picky eating can also be a sign of an underlying health concern. You should consult your trusted veterinarian if your dog experiences a significant appetite change that lasts for more than 24 hours or does not return to normal.
Additionally, if you have a puppy, a senior dog, or a dog with severe accompanying symptoms such as diarrhea or vomiting, or a dog with a previous health concern that needs to be managed through diet (ie: Diabetes), it’s best to contact your veterinarian immediately following a significant change in appetite.