Last Updated on May 17, 2023 by The Puppy Mag
If you have a German shepherd that isn’t eating their food, it can be both confusing and worrying. I’ve been there myself!
This article explains the most common reasons why GSDs refuse their food, when to be concerned and what to do about it.
7 Reasons Why German Shepherds Stop Eating
If your German Shepherd has stopped eating, there’s a very high chance that it can be explained by at least one of the following seven reasons.
After covering each one in full detail, you may realize that one of the causes sounds familiar to your situation. The next section will provide the best solutions.
There are several reasons why German shepherds stop eating their food. These include disagreeing with their kibble, inactivity, lack of feeding schedule, receiving too many treats, boredom, environmental issues, and underlying health issues.
1. Not agreeing with his food ⬇️
German Shepherds can have sensitive stomachs, and it can be quite exhausting to find food that works well for your furry friend. Just when you think you’ve got the right brand, he starts disagreeing with it.
German Shepherds are smart, and they aren’t going to eat what continues to make them sick or feel bad. It’s not uncommon for dogs to refuse food if it’s previously made them feel unwell.
How do you know if it’s this? If you’re currently in the process of trying new foods it’s really important to observe your GSD during and after mealtimes. You’ll be able to see if he’s acting unusual once the food bowl goes down, does he pick at it? does he have diarrhea, sickness, or appear to be “under the weather” shortly after eating it.
More will be explained about the correct diet and brands in the next section.
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2. He’s not active enough ⬇️
German Shepherds are fit, working dogs that love physical exercise. German Shepherds ideally need around 2 hours or more of exercise per day.
Because German Shepherds have been such a highly active breed for most of their existence, their bodies and metabolisms have adjusted accordingly, meaning they’re very efficient at using food for sustained energy.
Therefore, if your German Shepherd isn’t being physically worked enough, he just isn’t going to have an appetite…
Exercise is so important for athletic working breeds like GSDs that their overall health really depends on it. Appetite is just one of many things closely linked to exercise.
3. No daily feeding routine ⬇️
All dogs, not just German Shepherds, rely heavily on routine. Having routines helps them understand their day and allows them to become comfortable in their environment.
When it comes to eating, it’s really important to set two appropriate times once in the morning and once in the evening, and then stick to it. Most adult GSDs are fed just twice a day. For puppies, this varies.
Day grazing should not be something you engage in with your German Shepherd. He shouldn’t have too many treats or tidbits throughout the day, and his food should not be left out for him to pick at.
By sticking to certain times you are training your German Shepherd to become hungry at those times. Yep, it really does work like that!
4. He’s bored with his food ⬇️
Diagnosing boredom is admittedly a little harder to do! But it could be the case…
If your GSD has been eating the same food for a while, he may just be bored of it. If it’s boredom it will usually happen slowly and there will be no other apparent negative effects. Boredom will not make your GSD sick, so if you do see signs of sickness or being unwell, you can rule boredom out.
A good way to know if it’s just boredom is if he suddenly perks up when different food is offered to him. This may be table scrabs or other forms of food.
There’s a very simple way to tackle boredom, and that’s by following a rotation diet. If you aren’t familiar with what that is, it will be covered in the next section.
5. He’s uncomfortable in his environment ⬇️
Dogs are very sensitive animals and their survival instincts creep into everyday life more than we realize. Just like with humans, your dog’s behavior will change dramatically when he’s not comfortable in his environment.
What’s considered a change? A change in the environment could be a new neighbor, a new pet, a new person in the household, a loss of someone in the house, or maybe you moved house entirely, the list is quite extensive.
If your German Shepherd doesn’t feel safe and secure with his environment or he just isn’t sure of something, he isn’t going to eat and in severe cases won’t even drink.
Think about your close surroundings and if something has changed. In cases like this, it’s just a matter of time before your German Shepherd gets accustomed to the change and regains normal composure.
6. He has underlying health issues ⬇️
Unfortunately, not eating or a lack of appetite can be caused by a very wide range of health issues.
This doesn’t mean to say this is the case for your GSD, but it should certainly be considered and if you have noticed any other accompanying unusual behavior then be ready to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.
It’s said that no healthy dog would voluntarily starve themself so if your GSD doesn’t have a health condition then he should be eating by the end of the second day.
This changes when health issues are present. If your German Shepherd hasn’t eaten anything in 2 days, you must go to your local veterinarian for further assistance.
This is original content produced and published by The Puppy Mag | www.thepuppymag.com
6 Ways To Get Your German Shepherd Eating Again
Let’s run through the best ways to get your German Shepherd eating again. Remember, if you have any doubts, it’s always best to rule out health concerns first by visiting your local veterinarian.
1. Remove common allergens ⬇️
If your German Shepherd isn’t getting along with his food, it’s likely due to having a sensitive stomach. In which case, you’ll need to be more careful with the brand you try next.
There are many common allergens in dog food that may be causing the issues. The biggest culprit being chicken. Yep, chicken, as well as beef, pork, and lamb, are all common allergens, despite being used all the time!
Try opting for a premium dog food brand that uses either duck, salmon, or turkey as the main protein source. These digest easily and usually cause fewer issues than chicken.
Opt for a food that’s high in protein with low-medium fats, and low carbohydrates. Usually fat should be on the medium to high end, but as it’s harder to digest, it should be kept low while your GSD regains stomach strength.
Try opting for a limited-ingredient dog food that’s made for sensitive stomachs. Our top recommendation: Purina Pro Salmon for Sensitive Skin & Stomach.
2. Follow 80% / 20% dry kibble to wet dog food mix ⬇️
Substituting a small amount of kibble for wet dog food is widely recommended by veterinarians as a way to increase nutrition, water intake and to make the food A LOT more appetizing.
Wet dog food is considerably tastier, juicier, has a higher protein content with fewer preservatives and additives. Adding a small amount to every mealtime will be irresistible for your German Shepherd.
You should keep the amount of wet dog food small because it’s extremely rich. Adding too much will have the opposite effect and may even disrupt your GSD’s digestion.
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3. Ensure his exercise is enough ⬇️
Be sure to reevaluate your GSD’s current exercise routine and increase if there’s room to.
Consider whether he’s really getting enough… 1 hour for a German Shepherd in their prime isn’t sufficient. It’s frequently recommended that GSDs receive around 2 hours and, in some cases, even more every day.
This working breed needs this kind of physical activity in order to develop a healthy appetite.
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4. Consider his environment
Have you recently changed where you put the food bowl? something as little as this could be enough to stop him from eating…
If you’ve recently moved the bowl, move it back, and see what happens. On the flip side, you can try moving his bowl to a different spot to see if that has an effect. I’ve personally tried this before with huskies and simply moving the food bowl was enough to encourage them to start eating again.
If you have young children, allow your GSD to eat in peace. They don’t mean any harm, but constant pestering, being loud or just being around your GSD could be putting him off eating.
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5. Time-restricted eating
If you think your German Shepherd is just being fussy, then time-restricted eating is worth trying.
This involves putting the food bowl down for 10 minutes only, before removing it until the next mealtime. This may be hard to do at first and you may feel guilty, but stick with it and by the next mealtime, he should be ready to eat again.
By the next mealtime his survival instincts to eat would have certainly kicked in and he’ll be more enthusiastic to eat his meal when you put it down, or else, it gets removed.
I’ve tried this, and many people I know have tried this and it typically works after the first try. For some people, this had even cured fussy eating for several months after trying it.
Important note: don’t reuse old kibble, always give fresh. And don’t remove more than two mealtimes in a row. After two, you should be scheduling an appointment with your veterinarian. Remember, “no healthy dog will voluntarily starve themself”.
6. Rotation diet
The rotation diet is simple but works well. You need to have at least two different kibbles that you know your GSD gets on well with.
Once you have at least two different kibbles all you need to do is rotate the food every month. Use the first kibble for one month, then switch it over to the other kibble. And continue to switch every month.
Many people have success with sticking to the same brand, but just changing the flavor. This way you don’t run the risk of upsetting his stomach with an entirely different formula.
How Long Can German Shepherds Go Without Eating?
German shepherds, like most dogs, can go 3-7 seven days without eating food. That is, assuming they are still drinking fluids. If your GSD refuses to drink, then this is much more serious and you should call your veterinarian within 24 hours.
Of course, you don’t want to wait long before contacting your veterinarian, even if your GSD is still drinking.
If you can’t get your GSD to eat within 1-2 days, then it’s best to visit your veterinarian.
If your GSD is a puppy or senior, then you should seek veterinarian advice much sooner 12-24 hours. Puppies and seniors are fragile and have potential underlying health issues. In these circumstances, it’s not worth the risk of trying to fix the issue yourself.
Hopefully, you have a better understanding of what can affect your German Shepherd’s eating habits and appetite. This issue is actually more common than you might think, so you’re not alone.
It’s always recommended to visit your veterinarian if your dog hasn’t eaten in 2 days, but you don’t have to wait this long if you are unsure or suspect there to be something legitimately wrong.
If you have anything to add to the article please contact us and we will update the post. For now, visit our German Shepherd section for related more posts.