How long can dogs go without food

how long can dogs go without food

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Our dogs need to eat to survive. All living things do. If your dog suddenly stops eating, it’s most likely a sign that something’s wrong. Your dog may not like certain foods but if they’re not eating anything at all then something has to be done. That’s why we want to answer the question, how long can dogs go without food?

You should know this so you know how long you have before it leads to worse conditions and it’s ideal that you contact a veterinarian whenever you notice any strange behavior like this.

How Long Can Dogs Go Without Food?

A study from 1912 showed how Oscar, a Scotch Collie survived 117 days without food. He survived and regained his weight after the experiment but the same can’t be said for the others who were tested. Please do not try this at home!

Your dog though can go for a fairly long time without food. Not 117 days, but they can last a fair amount of time especially if they have access to water. Exact numbers cannot be given because all dogs are individual and will react differently and they have been known to stay without food or water for between 11 and 20 days and sometimes more.

There are some factors that can influence how long this is and we will discuss them but you should never starve your dog intentionally. These factors are


Very young and very old dogs won’t last too long without food because at those ages they really need sustenance.

Initial Weight and Health

The body condition like the weight and health of your dog affects how long they can stay without food. Dogs, as well as a lot of other animals usually have to lose up to 50% of their weight before they will be at risk of dying. This will be quicker for a dog with less weight because they have less weight to lose.


Dogs who have access to water can stay without food longer than those who don’t.

Activity Level

The more activities your dog performs, the more calories they will burn and if they aren’t eating then they aren’t getting any calories and they’ll lose weight so a dog that’s just sitting around doing nothing will last longer than a dog that’s doing some sort of work or just playing around more.

How Long Can A Dog Go Without Food When Sick?

Most times illnesses come with a loss of appetite. This can be an advantage sometimes because if your dog has gastrointestinal issues, not eating as often gives them a better chance to recover faster, but this isn’t always the case and staying too long (usually a couple of days) will only make it worse.

A sick dog might be able to stay up to 3 days before any major issues pop up but remember, all dogs are individual and your dog may respond differently so if they are sick and they haven’t eaten for over a day contact your veterinarian immediately. The fact that they can stay that long doesn’t mean you should let them.

Also, make sure they always drink water. Staying without water leads to worse results. You could try giving them ice cubes or ice pops (make sure they’re safe and made for dogs) if they refuse to take water.

How Long Can A Dog Go Without Water?

Healthy dogs can stay 2 to 3 days without water. It shouldn’t even be considered if your dog is sick, very young, or very old. The fact that they can go that long without water doesn’t mean they should have to because it can lead to bad side effects.

Water is much more important to them than food and if your dog isn’t drinking water, they may be suffering from a kidney problem but if not, it’ll most likely be another medical issue and you should contact your veterinarian immediately.

Reasons Why Your Dog Might Not Be Eating

Health Issues

The exact issue might be hard to determine t could be something as simple as a toothache or something as serious as hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or pancreatitis and these could be life-threatening. You should look out for symptoms like tiredness, coughing, sneezing, panting or difficulty breathing, unusual inactivity or unresponsiveness, lack of coordination, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, itching, discolored eyes and gums, whining, muscle spasms, and the main topic of this piece, serious loss of appetite.

There are a lot of other symptoms but if you notice any unusual behavior you should visit the veterinarian immediately because even relatively simple issues like dental abscesses, if not handled properly can spread to the bloodstream and lead to more serious infections and even death. Always take your dog’s health very seriously.

Hormonal or Lifestyle Changes

Dogs are very sensitive and changes in their environment can lead to increased stress levels which might make them stop eating. These can be things like moving to a new place, losing their owners or caretakers and having to live with someone else, moving into a shelter, and even losing a toy. If your dog is depressed, they might not eat for days but just try to engage them in fun activities and spend time with them and you could also let them play with other dogs.

They Might Be Picky Eaters

Contrary to popular belief, dogs don’t just like to eat anything and your dogs might just dislike what you’re giving them. This might be because you just changed their diet or they’re getting tired of eating the same thing without any variety or special treats. Your dogs also have much more sensitive noses and can smell food that has gone bad even if you can’t and they’re more likely to not eat it.


Making your dogs eat more than they can lead to digestive issues and they might show an unusual lack of energy and inactivity. Overfeeding usually leads to a loss of appetite and if you keep forcing them to eat it will lead to just more appetite loss and could lead to obesity in the long run. If your dog isn’t eating, don’t worry, they might just be full.

How Long Can Your Dog Go Without Food After Surgery?

Your dog can stay up to 24 hours without food after surgery. A lot of their surgeries require full anesthesia. It usually makes them nauseous and uncomfortable and this leads to a loss of appetite. ideally, you should wait until it has completely worn out before feeding them so they won’t choke on the food.

Once the anesthesia has worn out, you can try baby food which is easy for them to eat and doesn’t require any chewing. You can also try feeding them yourself from your hand instead of using a bowl. Do this as slowly as you can and talk to them gently and don’t rush them. This usually make them feel better and more likely to eat.

If this doesn’t work, you could try a home-cooked meal and make sure you prepare this with ingredients safe for them, and it’s preferable you give them something you know they’ll like. Remember, don’t rush them or try to force them to eat because this will most likely make them not eat. If they’re still refusing to eat after 24 hours then you should contact your veterinarian.

What Happens When You Leave Your Dog at Home?

If you’re going to be gone for a while make sure you leave enough water. Your dog needs about two times more water than food every day so this is essential. If you’re going to be gone for a very long time you could also leave some food out for your dog and automatic water bowls can be a lifesaver.

It’s best to just have someone come over and check on them every day though, just to be safe. Your dog’s health should be a priority.

What Happens When You Leave Your Dog at Home?

First, dogs won’t starve when they skip meals. If your dog skips a meal or two it might be just natural behavior and you shouldn’t try to overfeed them next time. It’s can even be good sometimes because overeating can be harmful to dogs. Your dog isn’t going to stave because they’re picky about their meals.

When they’re hungry, they’ll eat. It’s important that your dogs have regular feeding schedules but like we’ve discussed dogs can be resistant to not eating but if they’re staying without food for too long then you should contact your veterinarian.


If you’re a dog owner you’re definitely going to come across this one day It might not be a major issue and if you don’t notice any symptoms then you can just monitor them over a 48 hour period and if they still aren’t eating anything then contact your veterinarian.

Dehydration is much worse than hunger though so if your dog isn’t drinking water or if you notice any symptoms or any unusual behavior do not hesitate to call your veterinarian.

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