If your ridgeback has stopped eating their food it’s difficult to know what to do and can end up being very worrying. This article will cover the most common reasons why Rhodies stop eating and the appropriate action to take.
7 Reasons Why Your Ridgeback Isn’t Eating
There is a range of reasons behind food refusal, let’s cover them below, in no order of importance.
1. His stomach disagrees with the diet/kibble
Rhodesian ridgebacks, like most breeds, are not immune from having sensitive stomachs. And unfortunately, most kibble on the market is not appropriately made with your ridgeback’s stomach in mind.
If you have recently switched kibbles or changed his diet in any way, this could be the cause. However, if you have been using the same high-quality kibble/diet with great success for a long time then this likely isn’t going to be the case.
2. He’s receiving too many tidbits or treats
If your ridgeback has recently received a lot of table scraps, tidbits, or tasty treats, not only could this suppress his appetite to the point where he doesn’t want to eat, but it could also encourage him to wait out “until something better comes along”.
With over 40% of dog owners in the USA giving table scraps to their dogs on a daily basis, this is quite a big problem, to say the least. Tidbits can also cause a lot of stomach sensitivity which would bring us back to the first reason on the list.
Confirm with your family whether they have given your Rhody any extra tidbits or treats without you knowing.
3. A change in his environment
Eating is a very “primal” activity and animals need to let their guard down in order to eat. Even to this day, our domesticated dogs will be on high alert when eating their food.
Your ridgeback needs to feel safe and comfortable in order to gobble down his food. Changes in the local environment can absolutely have a huge effect on how your Rhody feels. Changes like new neighbors, new construction work, new noises, smells, even a new person or guest inside your home, can all impact this situation.
4. Lack of exercise
Rhodesian ridgebacks have adapted over hundreds of years to thrive on a high amount of exercise. The average ridgeback’s metabolism is extremely efficient and if he or she doesn’t receive enough exercise, they literally won’t feel the need to eat.
Exercise is important for a range of important reasons, a healthy appetite being one of them.
5. No clear feeding schedule
The importance of having a clear routine is monumental for working dogs like ridgebacks. Having a set time for everything from exercise, training, eating and more, not only prepares them for the task at hand, but also reduces anxiety stress, and quite literally improves the quality of their life.
Eating is no exception. If your ridgeback is receiving his food at different times, his body will easily get confused as to when he’s supposed to eat.
By having a set schedule, 7am and 6pm (for example) his body will learn to be hungry and develop his appetite in anticipation for these times.
I will start by clarifying, simple “boredom” is quite hard to diagnose.
If your ridgeback has been consuming the same diet for a long time, it’s possible that’s working well for him, but he’s just become bored of it. And is now refusing it in the hopes that he receives something else.
Boredom usually develops over a gradual period of time with your ridgeback becoming less and less interested in eating, as opposed to a sudden stop.
If your ridgeback otherwise seems, healthy, happy, and all other boxes have been checked, it could simply be that he’s bored of the food.
7. Health issues
It goes without saying, a lack of appetite and food refusal are extremely common symptoms of many underlying health issues.
If an underlying health issue is at play, food refusal may happen slowly, or more commonly, instantly.
Additionally, most underlying health issues are also accompanied by other symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, lethargy, or any other unusual change in mood or temperament.
When To See a Veterinarian
Before moving on to things you can try at home, it’s important to cover when it’s appropriate to seek veterinarian help.
Four scenarios when you’ll need to contact your veterinarian:
⭐ If your adult ridgeback has completely refused all food for more than 1-2 days it’s important to call your veterinarian for further advice. They will probably ask you to bring him in for a health check.
⭐ If your ridgeback is refusing food AND FLUIDS, this is more serious and you should call your veterinarian within 12-24 hours. Dog’s can go several days without eating, but only a few days if they aren’t drinking (depending on their health).
⭐ If your ridgeback is a PUPPY or SENIOR, again, this is more of a serious issue because both are vulnerable and susceptible to further health issues than adults. With a puppy or senior, call your veterinarian within 24 hours even if they are still consuming liquids.
⭐ If your ridgeback is showing other symptoms aside from food refusal such as diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, lethargy, weakness, or a change in mood, call your veterinarian.
9 Tips To Get Your Rhodesian Ridgeback Eating Again
Assuming your situation doesn’t require veterinarian help, you could try the following tips to help your ridgeback start eating again.
But please, always prioritize their health, and if you think the vet needs to be called, don’t hesitate.
1. Give them some time
As long as your ridgeback is an otherwise healthy adult and still consuming fluids, he or she can go 5-7 days without eating.
The first thing to do if your ridgeback refuses food is just to give her a little time. Sometimes, it might be a random blip, and she’ll start eating again the following day.
It’s important not to rush into any dramatic changes before giving her adequate time to carry on eating for herself.
This would also weed out any fussy eating as no healthy dog will voluntarily starve themselves. That’s a fact.
If after 1 days she hasn’t eaten anything, it’s then time to start considering the following.
2. Remove common allergens from their diet & lower the carbs
As you ridgeback isn’t eating her food it’s necessary to consider what her diet consists of. Common allergens are the culprit of a lot of upset stomachs and sensitivity. Believe it or not, chicken, beef, pork, lamb, gluten, soy, and dairy are all common allergens. This comes as a surprise to most.
Ensure the kibble you use is from a premium brand that focuses on “whole and fresh” ingredients, using more stomach-friendly protein sources such as turkey, duck, or fish.
What’s also important is to ensure her diet is high in protein, medium to high fat and low carbohydrates. Carbs are the cause of many issues in dogs today and this is because their digestive system hasn’t really evolved much from when they were roaming in the wild with wolves. High protein and fat with low carbs are what a dog’s body is best at digesting.
3. Follow an 80% dry 20% wet food split
Many veterinarians often recommend following a split between dry kibble and wet dog food (mixed together). Depending on which brand you are using, they may even offer the same kibble in wet form.
Wet dog food is far more palatable, tastier, nutritious, contains fewer preservatives, additives, and the ingredients are closer to their natural state. Wet dog food is far superior to dry.
The only reason you can’t go 100% wet, is because it’s extremely rich and would then cause further problems.
Substituting just a small amount of dry food for the wet food (mixed together) is all that’s necessary and can transform your ridgeback’s mealtimes. Not only will make her food nice and moist but it will be ten times tastier and appetizing! This might be all it takes to get your ridgeback eating again. Of course, choose a reputable brand and avoid allergens.
4. Rotation diet
The rotation diet is a simple thing to do once your ridgeback is back eating her food. It does, however, involve knowing (with certainty) two different foods that your ridgeback likes. You then simply rotate them every 2-3 months.
As long as your ridgeback gets on well with both kibbles, rotating them (with a 7-day fade in and out) won’t cause any upset stomachs AND will prevent future boredom from happening.
Many people have great success with the rotation diet. The most recommended way to do it is to stick with the same brand and type of dog food, just change the flavor. This way, the ingredients, and formula will be mostly the same (again, avoiding the chance of upset stomachs).
5. Increase exercise
If you are able to increase the general activity levels of your ridgeback, this should also help develop a healthy appetite. A well, exercised ridgeback, is usually a hungry ridgeback.
Only increase your ridgebacks exercise if he is currently in good health, is not a puppy or senior. Avoid exercising for more than 2-3 hours per day to avoid potential joint issues.
6. Add meat broth to her kibble
If you don’t want to change foods or use the wet dog food split, a simple way to make her kibble more palatable and tasty is to pour a small amount of meat broth over her food.
Making it wet will make it easier to eat, and the meat flavor is a no-brainer. Just be sure to use a healthy broth and avoid high-salt stock cubes. Natural meat broth with no seasonings is ideal.
7. Add meat chunks or peanut butter
You could also try adding a few meat chunks (unseasoned, boiled) OR even peanut butter (Xylitol-free, low salt) to make the kibble tastier.
Don’t do both together, choose one or the other, and be sure to mix it in with the kibble thoroughly, otherwise, she might just single out the good bits!
If this works, it signals that’s your ridgeback was perhaps either bored of the food, her existing kibble isn’t making her feel too good, or she has become accustomed to receiving extra tidbits or human food.
8. Stop tidbits and treats
While trying some of the other techniques, it’s best to stop giving table scraps and treats throughout the day. Although the goal is to get your ridgeback to eat, it’s important she’s eating the correct food and receiving proper nutrition.
If you were giving tidbits and too many treats, this could be the very reason why she isn’t eating her food in the first place. So it’s important to stop while you encourage her to resume normal eating.
9. Avoid day grazing and stick to a schedule
Avoid leaving her food bowl down throughout the day, choose two appropriate times, usually when the household wakes up at 7 or 8, then again at around 5 or 6 in the evening. Once you set your hours, stick to them without fail, after time, her body will get conditioned to be hungry at these times.
Hopefully, this is something that most are already doing.
How Long Can Your Ridgeback Go Without Eating?
If your ridgeback is refusing food, it becomes increasingly worrying as to how long she go without eating.
Dogs are naturally able to go longer without food but their tolerance for not drinking water is much less. At most a dog can go three days without water intake but can survive for five to seven days or more without food
Dr. Philips Animal Hospital also recommended, like above, to give your dog a little time to carry on eating for herself. Sometimes, it can be a random food refusal, and she’ll start eating again as normal the following day.
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