Healthy Nutrition for Picky Dogs


By Dr. Jennifer Coates, PetMD

Some dogs seem to barely eat enough to stay alive. Iíve had a couple of them myself, and despite being perfectly aware that slim dogs live longer than fat ones, I canít stop myself from worrying that they may be missing something from their diets.

The first thing to do if you have a picky eater on your hands is to rule out medical causes for the behavior. A veterinarian should check your dogís teeth, gums and the rest of the oral cavity for any abnormalities, perform a complete physical exam, and maybe order blood work or other laboratory tests to confirm that your pet is healthy and not suffering from any conditions that might be related to poor nutrition.

Once you and your veterinarian have determined that your dog is simply finicky and not sick, there are a few things you can do to help him/her get all the nutrition they can from every bite.

Next Page: great tips for finicky pooches

  • Make sure you are offering your dog a food that offers balanced nutrition and is made from high-quality ingredients. Look at the ingredient list for things like chicken, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, etc. Higher quality foods are also more nutrient dense than poorer quality options, so smaller volumes contain comparatively more nutrition. The MyBowl tool is a great way to evaluate your dogís current diet and to comparison shop.
  • Donít switch to new food too often. Frequently changing what you are offering can actually make your dog more finicky. He will quickly figure out that something “better” may be coming down the road and try to wait you out. For the same reason, limit the number of treats you give throughout the day. Pick a food that you think is appropriate for your dog and stick with that choice for at least a few weeks.
  • Donít be scared to let your dog get hungry. It is not dangerous for a healthy, adult dog to miss a couple of meals (this does not apply to puppies or dogs with certain health conditions like diabetes, however). Offer your dog his food and pick up anything that remains uneaten after 30 minutes or so. Try again with the same type of food at the next regularly scheduled meal time. I recommend meal feeding rather than free feeding because it can be hard to monitor a dogís intake when the bowl is always full.
  • Feed two or three times a day. Dogs will often take in a bit more if they are offered food several times a day rather than just once.
  • If you feed your dog a dry food and want to continue to do so because of its lower cost and greater convenience, try adding just a small amount of canned food. Limit the canned food to less than 10 percent of your dogís diet and mix it in well with the dry so he canít just lick up his “treat” and leave the balanced nutrition in the bowl.

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Finicky Eater? Suggestions on Maintaining a Healthy Diet originally appeared on

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Michealhussey M.
Past Member 2 years ago

Truly the best blog I never got such information before this thanks.
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John S.
Past Member 3 years ago

Good article.

Frans Badenhorst
Frans Badenhorst3 years ago

good article, thanks.

Vladimir M.
Vladimir M.3 years ago

Picky eaters.Dogs? what's that? Feed 6 days a week I cook for my dogs. Pasta,rice sweet. potatos,cheap meat,leftovers from a chicken we prepare for us....they get the meet cooked,,or raw. abone to chew on.cleans their teeth,..
If they ever refuse to eat they go hungry. Same for children. here is I cook nothing extra for children I definetely will not prepare something extra for dogs. If you don't want to eat go hungry. If you are hungry you eat what is served to you.

Valentina R.
Valentina R.3 years ago

Why, oh why put such a short article in two pages, Care2?

Also, are you suggesting to let your dog be hungry, or feed him/her twice or more a day? Because that's quite incoherent.

LMj Sunshine

Thank you for info.

LMj Sunshine

Thank you for info.

LMj Sunshine

Thank you for info.

LMj Sunshine

Thank you for info.

Terri B.
Terri B.3 years ago

a "dry food only" diet is bad for dogs. dry dog food is higher in calories than wet food, and since the dogs are getting only dry food, it is much harder on the kidneys and can lead to kidney disease in the future. dogs should not be kept on a dry only diet, especially if it is just for convenience for the owners. they need the wet food, which is much more nutritious and healthy.