What I’ve Learned About Getting Old Dogs To Eat

by Houndstooth on

Over the weekend, I talked with three friends who were all having trouble getting their senior dogs to eat.  I try to be a nice person, so I offered some advice and suggestions to each of them.  I know what it’s like to go through finicky eating with senior dogs and how frustrating it is, so I thought the least I could do was share what worked for us.  In a small way, Lilac’s legacy lives on.

I will start by saying that I know it’s frustrating when a dog won’t eat, but it’s also tinged with a little panic when you have an older dog.  Not eating can be a sign of something really being wrong, and if you suspect something is wrong, take your dog to the vet.  Nothing I’m going to suggest is going to make much difference if something is medically wrong with your dog.

That being said, I do know that there are times when older dogs just get finicky.  At one point, before I was writing the blog, we had three senior dogs in residence here.  I was in denial that Treat was a senior dog, because she was always on the go, but she was.  When the weather would start to turn warm between Spring and Summer Treat, Hawk and especially Lilac would go on a hunger strike.  I’d nearly jump through hoops of fire trying to get them to eat.  Some days went better than others.

Sounds TastyOne thing that worked wonders for us was “shaky cheese.”  For those who don’t know what that is, it’s Parmesan cheese that’s already been grated and is sold in a shaker jar.  It has a strong smell and sometimes we’d just take it out of the fridge and give it a good shake on top of their food.  The dogs would then inhale their food, afraid someone else might get their special treat.  This trick has been so effective in our house that if we happen to run out, we keep the jar and sometimes pretend to sprinkle shaky cheese on their food to get them to eat, and they like it so much that they eat their food too quickly.

That being said, if you use shaky cheese every day, it will lose its allure.  Trust me on this.  So, I started a quest for something new to entice them to eat.  Low sodium beef and chicken broth became another staple of our dinnertime routine.  I think the aroma of the broth heating on the stove added to their anticipation, as well.

We also found that sometimes mixing in some canned food, especially Merrick’s, helped stimulate their appetites as well as using Vita Gravy.  If you’re adding canned food on a regular basis, you might want to cut back and give them a little less kibble, though.  Some seniors can use a little extra weight and some might be in need of trimming down a little.  Just play that part by ear.

The main thing I found to keep them eating was to keep mixing things up.  I didn’t switch the kibble we were feeding them, but I did learn to rotate what we added in.  It seems that keeping a little variety in the mix helped us to keep them interested in eating when their appetites waned.  Generally speaking, the stronger the smell it had, the better it was at enticing them to eat.  I managed to not pull out my hair.  I also learned that sometimes they ate better early in the day and later as it cooled off a little, even though we were inside in the air conditioning.

Another important lesson I learned was not to stress over their eating peccadilloes.  If they didn’t want to eat, I put it up to offer it later.  This was partially so Blueberry, who was the baby dog at the time, couldn’t eat it all and also so that they could see that it wasn’t going to sit there forever.  If they missed a meal, I didn’t fuss about it.  When I got stressed about their eating, they got more determined not to eat.  I learned not to start the vicious cycle.  Another thing I learned was that they wouldn’t starve to death if they skipped a meal.  Even I have skipped one from time to time.  I learned to play it by ear as far as when to offer a little extra incentive to eat.  That’s just one of those things you have to figure out as you take into account what you know about your dog and learn what works for the two of you.

Breakfast is ServedHaving senior dogs is really a wonderful experience.  They grow much sweeter and more endearing at they grow older.  However, there are challenges that come with having an older dog and a lot of people feel isolated with those problems.  Finicky eating is one of the things that I think a lot of owners of dogs of a certain age worry about.  However, I want to let everyone who’s begged their older dog to eat know that you’re not alone.  Sometimes, I think they just enjoy keeping us on our toes and getting a little extra attention.  If you’ve got any tips of your own for getting your senior dogs to eat, feel free to share them.  They might really help someone out.

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  • Parmesan cheese is great stuff sprinkled on kibble – so the boys tell me. 🙂

  • jet

    I have a feeling that I will have this battle with Bender as he gets older. He already gets a bit picky about his food. He will eat a few mouthfuls of kibble and then follow me around to see what other food there might be on offer. At the moment he does this rarely, but I can see frequency increasing as he gets more stubborn and doddery.

  • Mixing things aröund and introducing new flavours worked with Rufus too. The dog that drooled over lamb in May would be bored of it by June, but would wolf down tuna! What a fuss pot. When he was young, he once went 5 days without eating! He wasn’t sick, he just didn’t feel like eating. We were literally spoonfeeding him until the vet said not to worry. He’d get hungry again. And he did 🙂

    Georgia The Bottomless Gut, of course has no such issues.

  • Sue

    I know the first time Song didn’t want to eat I was so worried and began to think she had something terrible wrong. Never come across a dog that wouldn’t eat. After a frantic call to the rescue kennels my mind was put at rest. She still occassionally leaves her food, but I’m ok with that now. I’ll have to get a tub of parmesan.

    Miss Bunny you look lovely as ever.

  • This is not my problem, yet…but with all three of mine being close to the same age, I know it’s coming when I have three seniors on my hands.

  • Jen

    Great advice and I think that this may work for a picky eater too! Leroy is a picky eater and I think that he just gets bored with his food. I try to mix things up like you said but I also try and keep the kibble the same too. Right now I am using the Stella & Chewy’s freeze dried patties to mix in with his food and he likes it. I will have to give the Parmesan cheeses a try!

  • A very timely post for me. Nina, our 14+ year old is suffering from old age kidney disease and also started having problems with urine leakage. We put her on the K/D diet at the same time we put her on a drug to stop the leaking problem. One of the side effects listed for the medication was indigestion so when she started burping more than usual we chalked it up to the meds. Fast forward a few months and Nina decides that she no longer wants to eat the K/D so we were trying all sorts of combinations to get her to eat. At this point we figure if her kidneys are going they are going and it is better for her to eat something. Come to find out that without the K/D she has less problems with indigestion. I guess she is smarter than we are.

    Currently we are mixing ground beef with pureed Merrick canned food. The extra smell from the cooked ground beef seems to be working for now to keep her eating. I will also keep your “shakey cheese” idea in mind for future use if necessary.

    Thanks for reminding me that we are not alone in our struggles with our elder dogs.


  • I too do not want to admit that Goose is a senior dog, but he is at 12 years old. It just does not seem like it with how active he is. But as the weather has heated up and is down right hot he seems to not want to eat as much (except treats). I appreciate your advise.
    Gooses MOM


    I love the idea of parmesan cheese. Gigi (10) has decided she does not like tuna fish with her kibble and some mornings does not eat her entire meal. When there have been storms during the night, I pretty much know Gigi will not be eating breakfast.
    Glitter (was almost 14 when she passed) had been finicky from the day we adopted her but it got worse when she got older. She also got osteo a few months before she passed so we also had to get pills in her. She could CLENCH her mouth so hard so I had to figure out other ways to get the pills in her. I found that putting the pill in white bread and then dipping the bread in meat flavored baby food worked! Warming the baby food helped too. Putting the baby food flavored pills on top of her food definitely got her to eat.

  • I’ve never experienced a senior dog in my house yet the only thing I do have is a very picky lab. Ive used the parmasean, chicken broth, tuna in water, feta cheese (the stinkier hte better) , cheerios lol… anything to get her to eat. She finally is back on a pattern but in the summer she will start to refuse food – I think its due to the heat here in Texas. This is great ideas for one day when I have a senior though 🙂

  • I worry about Jeffie, since he’s skinny to start with and the weight just visibly drops off him if he doesn’t eat for three days. However, he loooves cheese, and if he hasn’t eaten one day, I’ll grate some ordinary cheddar on his dinner next day – it hasn’t failed yet! Thanks for the idea of using shaky cheese! It’s cheaper than the parmeggiano reggiano we keep in a block for our own meals, and will be even smellier I’m sure!

    The difficult thing about Jeffie is that he doesn’t like sardines! I’ve never had a dog who doesn’t like sardines before. They have always been guaranteed to get a finicky dog eating and of course they’re high calorie and full of the right kind of fats so they’re ideal for seniors. I think he’ll eat tuna .. but that’s not something we want to feed everyday. It’s a LOT more expensive than sardines!

    Great post – and (if I may be permitted a gentle pun) food for thought!

  • Benny & Lily

    Our cousin loves cottage cheese or yogurt mixed in with their kibble
    Benny & Lily

  • Thanks, another great post, I enjoy reading your articles – straightforward and too the point – good information.

  • sara, oreo and chewy

    Oh yes. Having a dog who doesn’t want to eat is so disheartening, especially when they’ve always been voracious about eating.

    I sometimes mix in some chicken broth, ground beef or chicken. But, I’ve had the most luck with liverwurst and fresh kielbasa, probably due to the strong smells.

    Love the shaky cheese idea.

  • Gemma

    Peyton will be 10 in August, which is an official senior in my eyes. We have been lucky so far; he’d go off food in the summer until we switched him to kibble in the AM and raw at night. Since then, he never turns down food unless he’s sick. I hope that continues. We’re also lucky in that he has kept most of his teeth so I am hoping we can keep him on raw indefinitely. When he has been off his food due to a stomach upset, I cook up giant batches of boiled chicken and rice, and he inhales it! There’s also a probiotic my vet gives me that is beef flavoured and stinky, and that seems to stimulate the appetite too.

    We just had a 12 old foster who was very underweight. I was so worried she’d be finicky but she ate everything you put in front of her and begged for more! She also had a stomach of steel, which was amazing to me. We had to switch her cold turkey to a new food and she had zero issues. What a sweet old gal.

    Having experienced a senior in my home, I really understand what people mean when they say they are special. As much as I want my boy to live forever, I look forward to being a part of his twilight years. 🙂 It’s an honour.

  • Very good advice. All our guys are seniors now, and only Stella is a picky eater. We don’t worry unless she skips two meals in a row. We’re always rotating what we add in too.

  • Super good suggestions. We will have to try the shaker cheese, but we don’t have to much of problem right know getting them to eat. We have noticed they have cut back with the hot weather. I am like you they get fed at certain times and if they don’t eat it gets picked up, but I don’t set it back down for them to eat during the day. I make them wait until their supper time. I also use the rule of thumb that if they don’t eat one meal it is okay, but if they miss two meals in one day, I begin to stress and usually head to the vet just for a quick check to make sure everything is okay. Also use treats in between their meals if they skip a meal, sometimes there bellys get upset without eating and putting a little treat or white bread during the day helps with their upset tummy and they will start eating again. Have a great day and say cool. Sniffs, The HoundDogs and Mom

  • Our dogs have never been good eaters! I always say if there if one thing I could change about them, I would have dogs that would eat their food when you put the bowl down! I used to really stress over it a lot, but now I just say oh well, they’ll eat sometime! We tried countless brands of kibble and mix in goodies too. There is nothing medically wrong with them and they have been like this for years! Honestly, I think Macy may have contributed to it because she was the world’s most finicky eater from day one and I think they often just followed her lead. This is still great advice and we have tried everything you mentioned (and a whole lot more)! Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t…we gave up and now we just go with the flow knowing that sometimes they eat and sometimes they don’t. They are otherwise healthy, happy pups 🙂

  • JCP

    I’m going to book mark this. My boys seem to get a year older every year.

  • Biggie B’s mom

    I can’t believe that both are girls are seniors. Ms Allie will be 13 on the 19th of this month. She has always been a picky eater and we have tried all of the things you suggested. We have also found that liverwurst also works. We also just by regular beef or chicken gravy and mix it in with rice. This week we are using Fresh select in her and Gracie’s food.

  • Phantom, Thunder, Ciara, and Lightning

    Ah yes, we know all about the difficult senior dog eating issues. Phantom can be quite the challenge. We have done the broth and shaky cheese route with minor success. Works onc day, maybe not a week later:( And yes, mixing up the add-ins really helps. Of course, this boy would like his add-ins to be steak, turkey (real), fish, all the human yummy foods. We have found that his eating is better when we can get him to eat at least a small amount of his prescription i/d canned food. Seems to settle the tummy and make him want to eat some of his regular kibble. We just keep plugging away and hope for the best.

    Thanks for a great post.

  • Lorenza

    I am sure my mom will panic the day I refuse to eat!
    Sure is great to know that is something that will happen and now she will know what to do!
    Thanks a lot for your post!
    Take care
    Kisses and hugs

  • Thanks for telling me about the shaky cheese. Great advice! And something I won’t have to cook. Right now I have 2 senior dogs but they still both LOVE to eat. The only time Brooks wouldn’t eat was like you say, when he was sick–when he had his intestinal obstruction last week. But if the time comes when he gets persnickety, I will remember! Thanks!

  • We have been very lucky – Cali is 13 1/2 and food is the one thing that she can’t seem to get enough of (she IS part Golden Retriever!!) I think I would be worried sick if she stopped eating! Great suggestions 🙂

  • Good advice. We do the Parmesan Cheese for Stanzie too. Sometimes we really have to talk it up to get her to eat. I use an Italian accent and tell her it’s Pizza Pizza Pizza. She probably eats just to shut me up!
    Ha ha,

    Wyatt’s Mom

  • Chandra

    Parmesan is a fabulous idea! I SO wish I would have know about it in Daley’s very elderly years. There were only about three months during which meals were a challenge but all I have to do is think about it for a second and I can feel all the worry, anxiety and frustration over what an uneaten meal could represent. I know he would’ve gotten a kick out of shaky cheese and he definitely would have scarfed it right up. You better believe I’ll be trying it with Mason; he can be a picky eater and he’s stubborn so when he’s a grandpa, I know I’ll be in for it!

    I’ll be sharing these great tips with all my friends. Thank you!

    -Chandra at Daley’s Dog Years

  • OK, shaker cheese is a favourite of everyone at our house. I could go for a little shaker cheese right now, in fact. Those are great tips. We find that a little mashed sweet potato or pumpkin is a big hit too and on those days when they were super picky, canned sardines were magic. Pure magic.

  • I had an old Scottie that became very fussy, and I just home cooked stew things for him and he loved it. Wasn’t hard to do or keep in the freezer if I made a big batch.
    Stella, loves something different in her kibble each day, and thats easy to do to. Buy a bag of grated sharp cheddar, and sprinkle on a tablespoonful or a spoonful of dinner left overs, or (her big favorite) 1/4″ chunks of Braunschweiger ( liver sausage). Just enough to give it that good smell. I can’t imagine eating the exact same thing every day in the world, can you?

    Jo in MN

  • I had an old Scottie that became very fussy, and I just home cooked stew things for him and he loved it. Wasn’t hard to do or keep in the freezer if I made a big batch.
    Stella, loves something different in her kibble each day, and thats easy to do to. Buy a bag of grated sharp cheddar, and sprinkle on a tablespoonful or a spoonful of dinner left overs, or (her big favorite) 1/4″ chunks of Braunschweiger ( liver sausage). Just enough to give it that good smell. I can’t imagine eating the exact same thing every day in the world, can you?

    Jo in MN

  • Lots of good ideas here. I second Benny and Lily that cottage cheese works well for some dogs. I also found it helped to warm Agatha’s food in the microwave. It brought the smells out even stronger and created that sense of anticipation.

    It is worrisome, though, isn’t it?

  • Old fart dogs get picky?? I think if we ever saw Duncan turn his snout up at something we’d have to go to the Dr. Vet ASAP cause something must really really be wrong. I mean, I don’t think he even tastes his noms!!!

  • southside mike

    Iams makes a “dressing” to sprinkle on dry food in bacon, chicken & beef flavors. My dog loves it

  • Hello, I found this post through Google when I was looking for ways to get my senior chihuahua to eat her new dry food. The shaky cheese has really helped so far, thanks! But like you say, I don’t want it to lose its allure. I was wondering if you can describe how much of the broth you put in, how hot to heat it up, and is it to make the dry kibble mushy? Also, if there are other things that you use not listed? Thanks!!

    • I try not to use a lot, and with a smaller dog, you’d use a lot less than I would. Perhaps a tablespoon or so would be all I’d use for a little dog. This winter we’re giving our dogs Salmon Sauce from I and Love and You and they eat everything and lick the bottom of the bowl clean. I don’t know what’s in that stuff, but they love it! It’s also good for their skin and coats, so it’s win win. I even got desperate and used some liverwurst for a little bit, and I think the strong smell really motivated Miss Pickypants to eat.

      • Yes, I just do a very light sprinkle for the smell factor. Thanks for the reply!

    • Annish

      Lynn, from my reading, it appears kibble is too dry for healthy kidneys. Even for young critters, they suggest either canned food or moistened dry food. Your dog might not like mushy at first. You might want to ease into it. But their natural diet is quite moist flesh, so it makes sense they need wetter food than kibble. I use Stella and Chewy’s dehydrated food and soak it in hot water (or water and broth) and milk combo, that worked to get both older Poms to eat for awhile and hopefully helps their kidney’s stay healthier. Now struggling with the oldest Pom not seeming to recognize her food, which is how I landed on this page.

    • Hans De Raeymaeker

      I will certainly be trying the shaky cheese… my senior dog is over 17 now (her sister died at 14), but only in the past 6 months has it become nigh on impossible to get food into her – to make things worse she then does laps of the house most of the day, thus burning off the few calories she took on board :-/

      My panicked, hard-earned pearls of wisdom hopefully might help others who are at the end of their tether. When your dog won’t eat, it is heartbreaking so you will try a myriad of options, not all are ‘strictly’ healthy, but if your dog is losing weight in front of your eyes, you try anything.

      – So, as stated, variety has worked well… keep the diet varied.
      – Always mix the dry food (mixer or complete) with tinned food.
      – Pasta or rice with some eggs scrambled in works well.
      – Simple dried food like a cream cracker with butter also works.
      – For whatever reason, plain old custard creams are popular.
      – If you’re on good terms with a butcher, see if they will give you scraps, which you can then cook and serve up when cool. This, as a source of meat, is largely devoid of artificial additives – and your dog knows this only too well.
      – Lately, I have been buying minced meat and cooking it in a bit of oil, which she seems to like.

      Just this morning I almost collapsed as she finished eating most of what I offered, and then went and licked one of the other dogs bowls clean that had the cheap meat and mixer in it. Yep, fickle our old dears certainly are – but in 17 years she’s never let me down and I owe her anything I can do in her dotage.
      Hope something helps 🙂

      • Kendall

        We are really struggling with our 16.5 year old golden. Anything we try works for a few days and then she refuses to eat. She no longer will eat dry food of any kind. We tried ground beef, ground turkey, chicken, cycled back to ground turkey with taco seasoning, and now we’re back onto wet dog food in the small fancy containers. This has lasted a few days but she’s already losing interest. We are running out of options to try! She refused any type of chicken now and she used to love the Costco rotisserie. We need her to maintain her weight. She will eat treats, coffee cakes, etc anything that isn’t “healthy” but we need her to get protein in her. Any ideas??? We are supposed to go on vacation Sunday and are afraid to leave her bc the dog sitter probably won’t get her to eat anything.

        • Erin McGleenan

          When one of our dogs was very sick and needed to eat the foods that worked were rotisserie chicken( I know you said that used to work). We also had a lot of luck with canned food from Evanger’s. They have cooked pieces of chicken with the bones left in and the bones are sift and edible. Also have you tried eggs or sardines? Those were both foods recommended to us by a holistic vet. Good luck with your pooch!

  • Heather Evans

    I have an 11 yr old yellow Lab who has been skipping meals frequently (we feed our doggies 2x a day). I started adding baked sweet potatoes or canned pumpkin to her dry food. It seems to be helping but she still backs away sometimes.

    In the past, I have also added olive oil or a raw egg (not sure if this is acceptable or not).
    I will definitely try the shaky cheese tomorrow because that will be an easy fix if it works.

    • I think the biggest thing with ours was keeping a variety of different things going. We tried not to do the same add in twice in a row, which really helped. I hope it works for you!

  • Arne Christiansen

    Just found this on Google, thanks I feel better for my 15 yr old Husky.

  • Annish

    Thank you for the shaky cheese suggestion. I have an 18 year old Pom that is all kinds of perky still, but can’t see, hear, or smell very well anymore. I’m having fits trying to feed her. She’s clearly hungry, but doesn’t seem to believe I am giving her food. I have noticed that if the food is warm enough to give off a stronger scent she is far more likely to try it. Once she has eaten some she will generally eat the rest. I’ve done the broths with good success for the short term, but as you say, everything loses it’s charm after a bit. The cheese will probably give us a few easier meals. Will try some of the other ideas too.

  • Anime Nerd

    My dog is 13 years old, he is still energetic, but when it comes to food, he’s not so happy. We have to add water to his food and he doesn’t always finish. Will this really help him? I’m worried.

  • I just found this and am so glad I did! George has always been finicky, but he’s gotten worse over the last year. He just hit 11 in October. Thanks so much for the tips! I will put “shaky cheese” on my grocery list for this week! I’ll probably pick up some chicken broth, too. 🙂

  • anne_porter

    Thank you for this article.
    These are great ideas. I have an elderly Chihuahua named Chico who takes
    synthetic thyroid and blood pressure pills twice a day. I split the pills
    in half so it’s easier on him. He decided one day that he didn’t like the
    American cheese I used to get him to swallow the pills. I tried lots of
    things but Honey Pecan flavored cream cheese is his
    favorite. He lost allot of weight for a little guy, so I switched canned
    food just for him. He liked Merrick’s TurDucken the best. If he doesn’t feel
    like eating, I give him a few drops of High Calorie Nutritious Dog gel paste on
    my finger (comes in a green tube at Petco).
    Then I offer him some dog food on my finger. A few minutes later,
    like magic, he decides he is hungry after all and will eat his diner or breakfast. Small Iams kibble is offered at all
    times. I walk him separately from my
    three young girls (small mix breed dogs) as they tend to tire him out. I carry him when he does get tired so he can
    have a look around which he enjoys. Chico
    sleeps most of the day on the couch and is enjoying his golden years.

  • Pingback: What To Do When Your Older Dog Won't Eat | Your Old Dog()

  • Trace

    I have a 8 yr old underweight pomeranian from the shelter. He has bad teeth and some medical issues that are still being sorted out. On top of that, he is a extremely picky eater. I tried shaky cheese & different dog food brands but they never seem to tempt him to eat more than a few bites.
    However I found a method that finally worked..that is to mix his kibble with boiled chicken meat and soak it in lukewarm homemade chicken bone broth (I included his medication inside too).
    He would wait eagerly for his meal while I wait for the kibble to soften and the broth to cool. I think the aroma adds to the allure too! Now he eats it all up! He is still a little underweight but at least he is eating.

  • Do-It-Yourself Coffins

    Our senior dog never gets tired of the juice and bits left over from the canned chicken sold at Costco.

  • Kikml2

    You’re rght, mixing it up really does work. As long as you cycle what you feed them, they don’t get bored. Something i’ve found that works astonishingly well, is i take some chicken (usually from a Costco rotisserie but i’m pretty sure any chicken is fine, haha), and put it into a frying pan with one egg. Scramble the egg and the chicken together with your dog nearby and mix it in with a slightly smaller amount of your usual dry food. My dog sucks that stuff up like a vaccum. I haven’t seen her eat this quickly in years.

  • I recently adopted a 13 year old and from day one, his eating habits have had me a nervous wreck. Back and forth to the vet and trying everything has been frustrating. I found your post while continuing to research and feel a little more at ease. Thank you!

    • Kate Augustine

      Hi Robin? How are you going? I fostered a 12yo husky over the weekend and have been going mad trying to get him to eat this week!!

      • HI Kate: This guy is doing great now! He’s gone from 62 pounds to 89. He has full eating days and then won’t eat for a day, other than drinking water and taking a few treats. I find he has flavor favorites: Chicken, Salmon, Peanut Butter, and Pumpkin. No beef, pork, bison, venison, lamb or duck whatsoever. Rarely, turkey. I freeze his food (his preferred eating habit) in it’s original small plastic container. (Caesar’s Grilled Chicken and Caesar’s Rotisserie Chicken) On a good day he will eat about 5 of them. I also give him frozen peanut butter as a treat and he licks it like an ice pop. (Single Jiff to Go containers) I toss Caesar’s chicken dry kibbles in his regular dish daily but he rarely touches it. When he does, he only eats a mouthful like a snack. As for people food, he likes eggs over easy mashed on a plate. He will eat grilled and rotisserie chicken and grilled or broiled salmon. He likes any meat juices from our dinner plates, but won’t eat any of the food with them. I make him frozen treats (just by reusing the plastic dog food containers) of plain nonfat Greek yogurt, canned pumpkin, and peanut butter blended together. ( Once he started to eat regularly, adding arthritic and probiotic supplements to his food helps maintain his overall health. On a bad day, I put his pills into a little piece of cheese then give him a dog cookie (pumpkin flavored) because he never turns them down. When he has a couple of days of finicky eating, I’ll cave in and make him a slightly warm grilled cheese sandwich just to get his meds into him and put something into his stomach. He loves the sandwich hand fed in pieces. Usually, the next day he eats well again. He does have his days where nothing entices him, but I’m not as worried anymore because he will eat again soon. Oh, and he’s a late day eater, never eats in the morning. I am sorry I haven’t seen your message earlier. Hope things have gotten better for you!

  • Serene Dougan

    OK… I have been in total culinary distress, for over a year, with my 14.5 yr old yellow lab named Pilsner–Pill or Pillie–strangely appropriate–for short! Not only is the food an ongoing three ring circus, but she has to take 7 meds in the morning and 6 each night. I have had to change her food so many times I could open a boutique dog food shop with the left overs! Not kidding!! She suffered pancreatitis a couple of years ago and almost died, so her diet has been a nightmare to deal with in that she will have diarrhea and throwing up if something isn’t right. Because of this, she has lost a great deal of weight in the past year–now weighing 56 lbs–and her pancreatitis has disappeared, no longer showing up in her tests. Now she looks extremely ribby and can be easily picked up and put in the car by me. She will no longer eat any Pill Pockets, sliced beef, cheddar, gouda, salmon cream cheese, or liverwurst in taking her pills. Now, I make her ham and cream cheese roll-ups for her meds. I slice a stack of the ham into eight strips (store what isn’t used in a container for later) and then lay what I need on paper towel to dry it off. I then apply cream cheese on both ends of the strips, then place the pills in the cream cheese on one end–after this you must clean your fingers so you don’t transfer any med bitterness onto the ham when rolling them up–roll up as tight as you can without breaking the ham. I also make sure that I make one or two blanks to feed her first, because she always mouths and lightly chews the first one to see if I am sneaking something into her “treat” time. She usually spits it out up to 6-7 times, but once she eats that one, she gobbles the others up, one at a time. As for food, I am in constant turmoil, she might eat something only once, or she might eat it for two weeks. Sometimes she will eat it if I hand feed it to her, or put it on the floor, but not in her bowl. For many months, she wouldn’t eat if my husband was anywhere near, so he had to go to our bedroom until she was done. We are now in round 2,999… that would be why I am on this site! I have felt very isolated and helpless so many times, and even thinking about going away for a vacation without her is impossible! We have a 10 beach trip coming up, and she will be going with us. I have had to find places that were dog friendly, buy special socks, rain boots, rain slicker, and an expensive, heavy duty, custom made harness (did I mention that she is losing the use of her hind end and can’t do stairs, or falls down at random on her walks?!) to lift her up stairs, down stairs, and get in the car. Don’t get me wrong… she has been my baby since she was 8 weeks old and I worry about her like a child–the biggest reason she won’t be left behind! Thank you all for sharing things that worked because I have made notes and am going to the store as soon as I finish this entry! I will update on what worked and what didn’t at a later date…

    • You have been going through this for many years! What you wrote is what I’ve been going through with my new dog. What worked one day to give him medications didn’t work the next day. He’s the pickiest and most finicky eater I’ve ever had. I finally stopped stressing and just gave a buffet at his feeding station and completely eliminated what he refused to eat. What I discovered is, he prefers to eat late afternoon into the evening. After about $2ooo. in dog foods, treats, and people food over two months of trials, his preference is narrowed down to soup bones with marrow (I buy them and cut them into thick slices on my bandsaw, then freeze them.) I take two out at a time in the morning and he eats and chews on them throughout the day. He also likes those really small containers of gourmet dog foods in plastic containers.AND, remaining in the containers. He won’t eat off any dishes. But he wants those dog foods frozen too. The same with peanut butter. I have to freeze those “peanut butter to go” packages. Too top that off, he loves Frosty Paws “ice cream” treats. That’s what his diet has become. Certain dog treats like Busy Chews and sweet potato cookies are come and go with his taste. He will sample people food at dinner time, but just a bite or two. Never enough to be a meal. I was worried in the beginning that he was going to starve to death. But I’ve stopped stressing, and let him eat when he wants and how much. If he is hungry enough, he eats up to 6 containers of those little gourmet dog foods in the evening. I do place his medicines in the Frosty Paws by using a knife to make a space for it, then push the ice cream over it. He likes it so much that he eats the medicine with it. It’s good to know, it’s him, not me that maintains his diet.I hope you find a solution. I know what you are going through and it’s so frustrating. Let us know how you do!

      • Serene Dougan

        I went to the store after making a list from other peoples suggestions, and so far she has eaten only one out of the six items I have tried since yesterday… I spent nearly $200 on that single shopping trip! Pet Smart will take it back at full value, thank goodness! I am completely frustrated, and rightly so… she is already too skinny! I guess I just don’t want to face the end of her life, and especially don’t want to have to make that decision! She isn’t ill… all of her test have baffled our vet, especially at 14.5 yrs old. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f96d19881008f18189a916a9ea8e3090bb3a67e4cb5e9830a6f86a38c458329a.jpg

        • Sharon

          I’m glad to know I’m not alone, but sorry you are going through the same thing. My 10 yr. old Pyrenees has had athe hip and collapsing back-end issues for about a year. But last week he got very sick, with an undefined infection (high fever) the vet was able to get that under control with antibiotics, but he’s become WAY more finicky than his usual finicky self. He even takes some food into his mouth moves it around and spits it back out. We are at our wit’s end! We are afraid this is his way of saying, “I’m done, let me go.”

        • Flo Fronczek

          Looks like my dog, mine still likes a short walk. Other then not eattng I did try scrambled egg, yogurt, & American cheese, vegetables at different times with a different bowl. Not giving up yet but we will know when.

    • Carolyn Curvin Burkhalter

      I too have a picky-finicky-stubborn 13 year old lab/mix-he may go 2 or 3 days without eating-I thought he was losing his mind when he wanted me to put his grilled chicken and canned food on the ground-not in his bowl-he has a non-cancerous tumor in his liver and we are on limited time-how long -we have no idea so I am trying everything under the sun to get his appetite up so he can gain some wt.-he has never enjoyed people food-grilled chicken is the only people food he will eat-he too is on 4 meds in am-1 in the afternoon and 3 at night-trying new food is hard on his tummy-he has hip dysplasia in both hips-and he has spondylosis-he takes laser treatments for this-I DO NOT ever leave him-he is my heart and soul-I even have 3 tattoos of him-and 1 is a big portrait on my left calf-he is my life-hubby comes 2nd-lol

      • Kendall

        Did you ever find something that worked?

    • Kendall

      Did you ever find anything that worked for a while? We have tried ground beef, ground turkey, chicken, back to ground turkey with seasoning, and now we’re back to fancy wet dog food in plastic containers. But that has only lasted a few days and now she’s sick of those. We are supposed to go on vacation Sunday for 6 days but we are afraid the dog sitter won’t try as hard to get her to eat. How many days did your dog go without eating a full meal? How many calories is acceptable for a 64 lb golden retriever?

      • Rosanne Castronovo

        Odd we just went away for 4 days and my daughters stayed with Roxi. She ate for them!!

  • bernadette

    Thank you for these posts and my thoughts are with you all. My sweet 18 year blonde Shih Tzu, Lyla Rose, is not eating well either. She was always picky, but off and on for the last year it has gotten worse; and the last month has been rotten. I have no clue what it is what will turn her appetite on. Just suddenly, her bowl will be empty. The vet assures me nothing is wrong, just that she is elderly and to just keep offering her anything. Your stories have given me solace and ideas. Back to the stove…

  • gary

    Hi guys, thanks for all your great tips! So helpful, especially the raised bowl and parmesan.

    I have found that exploiting ingrained scrounging habits works for my ancient dog at the moment. The scrounging instinct stays strong even though her appetite is weak! Currently she will eat if we go through the drive-thru for burgers because it’s an old habit to hope some burger is coming her way (I know it’s not healthy food but anything is better than nothing with her particular set of health problems). She will take treats from my friend because it is her habit to scrounge from her too. My friend’s elderly dog will eat her food if it has been thrown out on the lawn for the birds. She is used to begging for food humans are eating so junk food is working at the moment. Handing stuff down from the dining table might also work, or leaving food somewhere where she can think that she’s foraged it herself. (She would always try to eat a chicken bone in a carpark that she wouldn’t eat at home!).

    My dog needs 900-1000 calories to maintain weight and with junk food I can ensure she gets it in a small volume of food before she gets full.

    If everything fails I make a sloppy mush of rice and chicken or cous-cous and mince and put small amounts in her mouth and hold her mouth closed until she swallows. I can get about 10 small mouthfuls down this way. Sometimes this starts her appetite off and she’ll continue on her own.

    I agree completely with those who are saying variety is key. It’s very frustrating cooking up delicious steak and chicken or opening tins of sardines to find she has got bored of it! I dread the day she gets sick of the burgers.

    She will only eat fresh food these days, not old food, and warm food with the fat melted and smelling nice.

    Exercise and swimming definitely make her hungry. Getting cold after swimming is a great stimulant. Doing things they enjoy all contributes to an upward spiral/positive feedback loop. Even brushing and extended patting might help, not sure.

    I actually feel that my dog is better at taking her six pills a day if I shout “SORRY PUPPY” into her deaf ears before the pill-shoving ordeal begins. Strange but maybe true. It seems to reconcile her to the battle.

    All the best to everyone and their lovely old dogs.

    • Rosanne Castronovo

      Yes! My 15 yo doxi is much like this too! Deaf also. Braunschweiger is good for getting pills down. The rest of eating…not interested. Gave her an oxtail bone that still had some meat on it and she totally cleaned it off. Best she has done in 3 years.
      Tough game!

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  • MadamButterfly56

    Shaky cheeses has wood fiber to keep it flowing..I have a 17 yr. Minpin,with congestive heart failure…She has been with this condition for over 2 yrs..I’ve been feeding her,French green beans and beef ..She gets brick cheese as a treat.Her muscle mass on her senior body looks and acts great..she get dry kibble(Blue Buffalo) occasionally…to clean her teeth.Ive. Done the same routine for my cat,cannned moist food out weighs the dry..I lost my other cat,cause he was addicted to dry food,and he got bulky…These animals are carnivores,,,they need animal protein…

  • garyanddaisy

    STOP WITH YOUR “That being said…” Childish. PROOFREAD your work and fix the spelling and grammar errors. 5rd Grade. Never begin a sentence with “However..” IF you are able to understand your dog, eating “problems” do not exist? Why is your DOG supposed to eat all the time, yet you can skip meals, and usually junk food, when you do eat? We don’t need smarter dogs, we need smarter DOG OWNERS!

  • Manny

    My Chow/Lab is 13 and a sweetheart. She’s decided that she no longer likes canned food no matter how smelly. I use to mix it with dry but when she turned her nose up at the mixture, tried each type individually and no takers. I’ve since began shredding boiled chicken and macaroni (boiled in either chicken or beef stock) with a little dry food (Chicken Soup for the Soul) and she loves it. But now she’s not so keen on it…I tried shredded and grated cheese but this works occasionally. She knows how to lick the cheese from around the kibble, chicken and macaroni bits. I tried rice as a filler but she would leave a lot of rice behind in the bowl, on the floor, in her water dish. Gravy works for everything…but again she eventually learns to lick gravy from around solid food bits. I’ll keep switching variety of flavors, textures and smells to see what happens.

    • Kendall

      My dog does the same thing. She learns to lick around the meat and just eats the gravy or cheese. Did you find something that worked? We have tried everything. We are running out of ideas

      • Manfred Fisher

        She liked spaghetti sauce and Big Macs. I’m afraid we just lost her as she had a stroke (vet confirmed) and we had to let her go.

    • Rosanne Castronovo

      Yes Roxi at 15 has a very discriminating tongue and can pick out and spit out what she doesn’t want!

  • JackJoe

    i know this is an older page BUT PLEASE!

    My Dog Needs To Eat His MEDS In Some Food ITEM……
    WHAT WORKS FOR MOST LITTLE DOGS – – – To Ensure They Eat There Meds?

    I Must Put My Silky Terrier’s Meds In Some Absolutely Eatable Foods?
    Please Help Me!

    • Lynne Sieradzki

      I used to hide my kitty’s meds in a bit of cheese 🙂

    • Kate Augustine

      I feel your pain!! I have recently fostered a 12yo husky and he is soooo fussy!!!! doesnt want to eat anything overly hard besides the occasional chicken neck. I have finally gotten him to eat mince but needed to give him a tablet. I cut it up into teeny tiny pieces, mixed it in with his mince and he ate 1 chicken neck and ignored the mince!!!! I sprinkled some parmesan cheese and he did go back to his bowl and probably ate 1/4 of it! I will try and feed him the rest of it tonight…..

    • Erin McGleenan

      I stuff my dog’s pills into Nutro’s Moist and Chewy Bites.

    • joie

      Definitely know your pain. I eventually wrapped the pill in raw meat and she ate it no problem.

    • Sonia Ferm

      I put the pill in a fig newton. I’ve been doing this for a couple of years for my older dog and he never grows tired of them.

    • Rosanne Castronovo

      My 15 yo doxi is very persnickety since a stroke 3 years ago. She takes Med’s twice a day…I put them in braunschweiger. She eats that.
      She is difficult to feed. I have made lots of homemade combinations only to have her walk away the sec d time round. She basically exists on treats and some dry cat food somedays. Don’t know what to do about it all. She has gained wright because she doesn’t run around the house like she used to.

    • Flo Fronczek

      Peanut butter, small pieces of hotdog or doggy pill pockets which my older dog won’t eat now

  • Erin McGleenan

    I found this site because we have a 19 yo shepherd that has become very finicky about her dog food. I agree variety is key. Things that I have found that work – nutritional yeast is one of her favorites. I sprinkle it on and sometimes mix it with the parmesan. Other things that have worked : canned pumpkin/sweet potato and squash, bone broth, sardines and yogurt. I mix the stuff up with her dry food. If I get canned food i get the chicken thighs and drumsticks from Evanger’s. It’s whole pieces of chicken with soft bones.

  • joie

    Wow, I’m not alone. I’ve tried all broth raw egg, which she used to love, now it has to be fried and mixed with hamburger meat. Tuna fish. She always took her meds wrapped in cream cheese. No more! I have to wrap it in raw hamburger after going through 6 or 7 strategies. She is on human food now and worried that it’s bad for her. Princess is 14 and still going for her daily walk??!

    • Kathy Bissell Stephan

      have you tried Greenies Hickory pill pockets for med? my 2 love them and take their med. everytime give it a try!

  • Kathy Bissell Stephan

    oh I have the same problem my little Cocker Spaniel will be 14 this week and she is spunky and loves walks and will beg for anything your eating but put her food down and she turns her nose up,I have been cooking chicken and using it and broth and now that became old I am now back to the sodium free broth,I also add baby food the chicken or lamb and applesauce (check labels for anything in it they shouldn’t have)but these 3 are safe,I had to use them in January to force feed her with a dropper because she had senior vertigo,and she loved it!So this I hope helps to and yes it can be frustrating but I just throw the love on her and I do not get upset because it makes her more determined not to eat,lol.Good Luck all.

    • Sandra Smith

      So glad I found this blog. 15 year old miniature poodle. She is blind which is another story and we have overcome that issue pretty well. Stopped eating last week. Took her to the vet (a million $ later…) and her blood work and x-rays are normal. I thought she was fading away. She will eat scrambled egg mixed with a bit of rice but turned away from chicken so now I will try another chicken preparation. I will get some cheese in the shaker and baby food tomorrow.

      • Kathy Bissell Stephan

        so glad I was helpfull,I try anything I can I pamper her she is my baby as I know all you feel the same way about your fur babies!

  • Dawn Keenan

    This is so helpful. I am going thru this. It started in may. Stopped. Started up again. I sadly got her into the habit of letting her eat in her bed. And its extended to me having yo handfeed her. To boot, my dog won’t drink water unless it’s outside and not in a bowl. I’ve spent thousands of dollars to find nothing wrong, along with stuff for reflux ,arthritis, etc….my vet still doesn’t get its mental. I’ve been doing the broth,cottage cheese. Mixing eggs, boiled chicken and rice in her regular food. It’s helping some. But weather is getting cooler again too.