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Not Eating Dry Food in Dogs

Written By hannah hollinger
Published: 07/12/2017Updated: 10/06/2021
Veterinary reviewed by Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS
Why is my dog not eating dry food?

What is Not Eating Dry Food?

Every dog has his particular set of food preferences. Some dogs prefer only dry food, some want a mix of wet and dry, and some will only eat human grade food prepared for them at home. All of these are within the range of normal dog behavior. However, if your dog normally eats dry food, or kibble, as part of his regular diet, then you have cause for concern if he refuses dry food altogether. This could mean that a dog on an all-dry food diet stops eating altogether, or that a dog on a mixed wet-and-dry food diet refuses to eat any food that has kibble in it.

Potential causes could include:

  • Dehydration
  • Nausea
  • Oral injuries
  • Periodontal disease
  • Tooth root abscess
  • Tongue cancer

Dry food requires greater digestive effort, and is also harder on the mouth. If dry food is too difficult for your dog to digest, because of either its low moisture content or the effort it takes to digest it, or if it hurts him to chew dry food, your dog may communicate through his refusal that dry food is not a viable option. 

Dehydration and nausea can often subside with some home care, so make sure your dog has a full bowl of clean water. If your dog refuses his normal ration of dry food for more than 2 or 3 days, or if he seems unwell, then you should take him in for a veterinary examination. There may be more serious issues that cannot resolve on their own. Oral injuries, tooth root abscess, and tongue cancer are all very serious problems that require veterinary care.

Some dogs dislike dry food and choose to eat wet food or 'human foods' such as chicken and vegetables. This is a preference, and not a cause for concern as long as the dog is eating a balanced and complete diet.

Why Not Eating Dry Food Occurs in Dogs

Problems with dry food consumption may originate in three parts of your dog’s body. Your dog’s refusal to eat dry food can stem from a general systemic failure, in which the need for hydration drives your dog to seek moist food. Your dog may have difficulty digesting dry food. There can also be various problems within your dog’s mouth that make it painful for him to process hard food.


A dog’s lack of hydration affects his entire body. A dehydrated dog may have a dry nose, mouth, and gums, with sticky mucous membranes; he may be tired, dull, and weak, he may pant more than normal and have a fast rapid-fire breathing pattern, and will be generally operating at a low capacity. Dehydration simply means that your dog’s body is losing more water than it takes in, through panting, vomiting, or simply drinking less, possibly because of a deeper condition. This is more likely to occur in young, old, and nursing dogs, as well as small breeds. 


If your dog is nauseous, he has an upset stomach. This can occur as a reaction to illnesses, such as Parvovirus and gastroenteritis, or environmental causes, such as motion sickness, blockage of the intestines, or toxic exposure. Nausea is an equal-opportunity condition; dogs of any age, breed, or sex can experience nausea. 

Oral Conditions

Oral conditions can include tongue cancer, tooth root abscess, periodontal disease and various other oral injuries, such as lacerations, puncture wounds, and broken teeth. Tongue cancer, the most common one being squamous cell carcinoma, is most likely to occur in dogs between 6 and 10 years old, and in the breeds: Keeshond, Standard Schnauzer, Basset Hound, and Collie (Boxers actually suffer from tongue cancer less than most other breeds). While there may be a genetic cause to tongue cancer, this is not certain, and there are no other clear causes. Tooth root abscess, also known as apical abscess, is a pus formation under or around your dog’s tooth or teeth. It develops from an oral infection, which can result from periodontal disease, bacterial skin infections and puncture wounds caused by bites, splinters, and wood. Any dog can receive an oral injury from a foreign object that he takes into his mouth. Dogs like to chew many different things, and some of those things, like sticks, rocks, and other hard objects, can injure your dog’s soft oral tissues, sometimes even breaking a tooth. As teething puppies chew more often than adult dogs, this may make them more vulnerable to oral injuries.

What to do if your Dog is Not Eating Dry Food

While all causes are potentially dangerous, mild cases of dehydration and nausea can be treated at home with simple measures. A dehydrated dog needs to get fluids in his system; it is really that simple. The extent of his treatment depends on the extent to which your dog is dehydrated. If the dehydration is mild, just make sure your dog has access to clean water; he can then treat himself by drinking enough water. A more dehydrated dog, who has serious underlying medical causes, may need fluids administered through subcutaneous or intravenous infection, such as through an IV or with a bag of lactated ringer solution. Both are typically done at your veterinarian’s office, though with proper training, lactated ringer solution can be administered at home. 

A dog may become nauseous by ingesting any number of inappropriate substances, such as unclean water, poisonous plants, various environmental toxins, and bad food. Your dog may cure a brief case of nausea by himself, through vomiting up the offending substance. However, if the nausea continues for more than a few hours, your dog should be examined by a veterinarian. Various tests will be administered to determine the exact cause of your dog’s nausea. Depending on the cause, your dog may be treated by administration of IV fluids or medications, and may even have his stomach pumped. 

Tongue cancer is an extremely serious condition. Any operable tumors must be surgically removed; this may include removing portions of your dog’s tongue or jawbone, followed by chemotherapy or radiation.  

Tooth root abscess and other oral injuries also require vet care, in order to diagnose the issue and provide the appropriate medicine, which will likely include antibiotics and anti inflammatories. 

Take care to dispose of any potentially dangerous chewable items, such as wood and other breakables. More serious oral injuries may require lancing and draining of the wound, or even surgery, followed by antibiotics.

Prevention of Not Eating Dry Food

Tongue cancer probably can not be prevented. However, most other causes of your dog’s avoidance of dry food can be prevented. To avoid dehydration becoming an issue, make sure that clean water is available to your dog at all times. Keep any toxins and breakable items that your dog might chew away from him to avoid nausea and other kinds of oral injuries. To avoid the infectious diseases that may cause nausea, be very careful in allowing your dog to socialize with other dogs, and keep his vaccinations current. Brush teeth regularly to minimise the risk of periodontal disease.

Cost of Not Eating Dry Food

The average cost of treating dehydration is $400, while the cost of nausea treatment ranges between $50 and $1000, depending on the cause. It costs an average of $1200 to treat tooth root abscess, while tongue cancer, which is dangerous, complicated, and expensive, costs an average of $12,000 to treat.

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Not Eating Dry Food Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals


Bichon Frise




13 Years


2 found this helpful


2 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Panting Reluctant To Eat Dry Food
My 13-year-old bichon mix Honey has recently become reluctant to eat dry food. I've started to add water to soften it up and she's eating it up but still takes her time. One thing I've noticed is she does pant quite a bit when she gets up to walk around. We did move from Colorado to Arizona this past year so I'm not its due to the climate or some other underlying cause. We recused her when she was 6-years-old and she doesn't have the best teeth. We feed her a cup a day of dry food but I split it up, half a cup in the morning and the other half in the afternoon. Come dinner time she gets about a 1/4 of wet food. Her weight has maintained at 15 lbs and she seems to be pretty spry and active a points of the day. Her water intake seems pretty good and she loves her wet food. We do make sure to feed her food with low fat and calories with high protien. I walk her around the block when I can but due to the Arizona heat it's once a day at night time.

Aug. 19, 2018

2 Recommendations

It is possible that Honey is feeling some pain due to her teeth which would explain a preference for softer food especially if you acknowledge she has bad teeth to start with. This would be something to follow up with your Veterinarian as they will make an examination and may suggest a few extractions. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 20, 2018

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3 Years


3 found this helpful


3 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Increased Thirst
Loss Of Appetite
My dog Jack a 3yr old mastiff mix has had diarrhea and panting non stop while he is up and while he is sleeping but what worries me is he stopped being interested in his dry food which he usually easily eats 4-5 cups a day. Just upped and turned his nose to it after a day of diarrhea, that night I got him dry puppy food to try which he ate 5 cups of. Today he wont eat anything but wet canned food which he has had 4 cans today. He is still energetic. Does he need to go to the Emergency Vet?!? Also know he hasn't got into anything, food was still good as other 3 dogs are fine and only new thing was a bone that he didnt chew just licks the flavoring off.

Aug. 11, 2018

3 Recommendations

Sometimes when a dog gets a gastrointestinal upset, they may be turned off their normal food afterwards; however you should ensure that Jack stays hydrated and encourage him to eat the best you can. Check inside the mouth to be on the safe side in case there are any injuries or anything else to be concerned about. If there is no improvement by Monday morning visit your Veterinarian; if the symptoms get worse or you’re generally concerned visit an emergency clinic. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 12, 2018

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