Many pet parents become concerned that their fussy-eater will go hungry or will not receive the proper nutrition necessary to be healthy. There are many reasons why pet’s turn their nose up at the food bowl, and there is unfortunately no ‘trick’ to feeding a fussy pet; however here are some tips on how you can encourage your fussy eater to dine.

Before you try any of these methods, if your pet has only recently become fussy about their food, or your pet’s appetite suddenly changes, this could indicate illness and maybe even disease. In this situation we would strongly recommend a veterinary check-up immediately.

Some tips to start

  • Staying with your pet when food is offered
  • Petting, in conjunction with vocal reassurance, may be all that is necessary to induce eating
  • Mixing a highly palatable canned food with their usual food will often increase palatability enough to induce eating
  • Warming the food to body temperature will enhance the aroma of the food and also directly improve the palatability. Warming dry food for a few minutes on low heat (75c) in an oven or warming wet food in a microwave (6-10secs) will help. Do not over heat the food as you can “zap” away the essential nutrients
  • Oregano, basil or parsley can be mixed in with dog food to improve palatability
  • If necessary, cleaning the pets’ nose to improve its ability to smell the food may be helpful, particularly for cats
  • Trying different foods may also be helpful. Some cats prefer a dry food or a canned premium food
  • Most dogs can be enticed with a good quality cat food (this is only a short term alternative as the protein levels found in cat food are too high for dogs)
  • A pet that will not eat from a bowl may take food from your hand, and once they begin eating, they will usually continue voluntarily (from their bowl)
  • Place the food in a “happy environment” that is in a quiet, traffic free area of the house or yard. Don’t place their food bowl in front of the stereo speakers

How often should you feed your pet?

Feed your fussy-eater at regular times and provide smaller meals more often (3-4 times daily).

How to prevent your pet from becoming a fussy eater

Pets learn to become fussy eaters from the first day you adopt them. Offer a nutritionally balanced and complete pet food from day one and encourage them to eat by petting, providing vocal reassurance, warming food and placing in a “happy environment”.

Avoid using table scraps and particularly feeding single food items such as meat only (e.g. tuna, kangaroo, meat or chicken). Also avoid giving a variety of food choices in one meal. If your pet is well, but chooses not to eat breakfast, remove the food and offer the same type of food for dinner. Dogs in particular don’t need to eat twice a day or even every day and if we offer them something tasty if they don’t eat their biscuits they very quickly learn what they need to do to get that tasty meal!

A special note for cat owners

A common error made with cats is feeding primarily or exclusively a single food item (eg. fish or kangaroo meat). This can cause a cat to become addicted to one food item to the point where they refuse to eat anything else. Although many foods provide excellent sources of protein in a balanced diet, they are very unbalanced nutritionally when fed as the greater part of the diet and may cause a number of nutritional diseases. Exclusive diets also pose a problem if you ever need to change your cat’s diet, for example in the management of a disease.

Cats, unlike dogs, do need to eat regularly (they prefer to graze throughout the day if given the option). If your cat goes for any substantial length of time without eating, please contact your veterinarian.

Feeding an aged cat or dog

The objective in feeding and caring for an older dog or cat is to extend and improve their quality of life. Proper feeding and exercise are important in accomplishing these objectives. Adequate physical activity is important for the older pet to maintain muscle tone and lean body mass, to enhance circulation and to improve waste elimination.

Aged pets experience numerous body changes that result in altered utilisation of certain nutrients, as well as decreased tolerance to nutrient excesses or deficiencies and abrupt dietary changes. Because they are less active, older pets require fewer calories. Because of changes in smell, taste, the oral cavity and digestive system, the food should be highly palatable and digestible. Reduced protein, phosphorous and sodium intakes are extremely important for older pets because of renal and cardiovascular changes. Diets designed to meet these altered nutritional needs should be fed to the aged pet.

Some older dogs and cats have a decreased appetite and decreased digestive-absorptive ability, resulting in a loss of body weight. These pets should be fed at frequent intervals a palatable high calorie diet intended for the older pet. With ageing, the senses of smell and taste are diminished. These conditions reduce food intake so that it may be necessary to feed canned or moistened dry food, warmed, or a food with a strong odour.

Food intake may also be reduced because of decreased salivary secretion. If your older pet’s mouth is dry, add moisture to the food. This helps prevent choking on the food.

Maintaining good oral hygiene is important in ensuring adequate food intake and utilisation. Brushing the teeth with a toothbrush or even wiping the teeth daily with a gauze swab is helpful. If your pet suddenly goes off its’ food they should see a vet immediately.

Tried everything and still can’t feed your pet?

Please contact us. We have trained nutritional experts who can help you with any feeding queries or problems and can create a nutritional program for your pet

Want to see a vet? Book an appointment online now

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