Best Appetite Stimulants for Dogs: Natural & OTC Options

Appetite stimulant for dogs
If your dog isn't eating, have a vet check him up for the cause before trying appetite boosters at home.

My dog won’t eat. What should I do to boost his appetite? I have been here before with my own dog and it was not good. In fact, it is very hard to try to determine why he just doesn’t want anything to do with food. Before you try any appetite stimulants, I always advise that you start by finding out the cause of loss of appetite. Start by going to the veterinarian for a check-up.

The most common appetite stimulants for dogs include Meclizine, Ghrelin Receptor Agonist, Mirtazapine, Maropitant, and Entyce. Although you can buy some of these without prescription (OTC), it is important that you have a vet look at your furry friend first and do a prescription. If you know his problem, you can try some natural appetite boosters. One of the very best is rotisserie chicken.

Let’s look at the topic in detail.

Best appetite stimulants for dogs

Appetite stimulants come in when your dog has refused eating so much that its health has become a concern. Also, they are only to be used with the prescription of the vet given that some have side effects on your dog. The most recommended appetite stimulants for your dog are listed below:

1. Meclizine

This drug is an antihistamine which reduces nausea due to vertigo and can help revive the appetite of your dog. Nausea, being one of the reasons behind poor appetite in all animals, needs to be taken care of before the dog can start eating like it usually did.

2. Ghrelin Receptor Agonist

Ghrelin is the hormone which makes animals hungry. When your dog starts acting upon its food, the ghrelin receptor agonist will be given to it to make the dog hunger even in sickness. This way, the dog can start eating again.

3. Mirtazapine

This drug is prescribed for dogs whose anorexia is caused by cancer, kidney disease and medicines like chemotherapy. These conditions make the dog queasy.

It works by increasing the levels of serotonin in the body and through the central nervous system.

One caution with this drug is that, owing to how it works, it should not be administered to dogs that are on Selective Seratonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs).

4. Maropitant

Maropitant is a common drug given to dogs to deal with nausea. With nausea being one of the reasons behind poor feeding habits in dogs, this is an important drug for your dog to revive its appetite.

5. Entyce

Entyce, created by Aratana Therapeutics, is among the few veterinary therapeutics approved by the FDA to be safe and effective in the stimulation of appetite in dogs. This drug works in treating poor appetite due to acute and chronic conditions. Its mode of work is to mimic the hunger hormone ghrelin. The use of this stimulant thus makes the dog hungry and willing to eat.

It is administered once a day as an oral medication.

6. Cyproheptadine

Cyproheptadine works as an anti-serotonin and antihistamine medicine which has good oral absorption and very safe for use in cats and dogs. It can also be used in treating canine Cushing’s Disease and atopic dermatitis in both cats and dogs.

This usage makes it one of the best medications to not only revive the dog’s appetite, but it also treats the primary cause of the anorexia.

Can you buy the stimulants over the counter?

Unless the appetite stimulant has been approved by the FDA such as Entyce, you need to have a prescription for them before you can buy them from any store. For purposes of safety, even the FDA-approved ones need to have a prescription before their use.

Some drugs have adverse effects on dogs whenever they are used and they are not meant for that specific dog. For instance, if one dog was sick and was given some medicine to stimulate its appetite, do not assume that the same medicine can be used on your other dogs whenever it falls sick. Always consult with your vet for the safety of your dog.

Natural ways to stimulate a dog’s appetite

The medical appetite stimulants have some side effects which may be undesirable to some dogs. For this reason, you can go for natural methods which are just as effective. They include:

Acupuncture

While acupuncture cannot cure a medical condition such as a disease, it is known to reduce nausea, inflammation, and pain. As such, when your dog is sick from Addison’s disease, pancreatitis, kidney disease, liver failure, and diabetes, it will have great relief from the procedure.

Ensure that the person performing the acupuncture is an expert since it is a delicate procedure that may harm your dog if done poorly.

Rotisserie Chicken

For dogs who have an issue eating, you should go for foods that are easy to eat and digest. Among them is rotisserie chicken. The smell of this food is great and the dog will be easily tempted to eat up. The best parts of this chicken are the meaty ones. Avoid giving the dog the bones as they may be hard to eat and digest.

Besides these remedies, you can try the following:

  • Warm the dog’s food
  • Clean its bowls
  • Feed it with the hand
  • Introduce a new diet slowly

You may be surprised that the reason your dog is not eating enough is a simple one.

Why your dog won’t eat

Dogs, being cousins to the wolves and other members of the dog family, have a natural tendency towards fasting for a few hours (at most a day) whenever they feel unwell. Often, this periodic fasting cleanses the body by getting rid of the temporary condition.

However, if your dog has gone for two or more days without a meal, you need to be worried as it is a sign of ill health or another serious issue. This case requires calling the vet as soon possible.

There are various reasons as to why your dog may lose its appetite such as the following:

  1. Cancer

Above the age of 10 years, cancer leads to the causes of deaths in dogs. This has led researchers to focus on this disease with the result that most canine cancers can be easily identified and treated. Among the most common types of cancers are skin cancers, malignant lymphoma (cancer of the lymph nodes), breast cancer, mammary gland tumors, soft tissue sarcomas, and many others.

Some of the symptoms of cancer in dogs include wounds that do not heal, bumps or lumps on or under the skin, swellings, lameness, enlarged lymph nodes, abnormal bleeding, reduced appetite, low enthusiasm, and many others. If you ever notice any of these signs, be sure to let your vet know about them as quickly as possible.

Canine cancer is common to given breeds of dogs more than others. To obtain pure breeds, inbreeds are required. Inbreeding increases the chances of having cancer with pure breeds of golden retrievers, flat-coated retrievers, boxers, Bernese Mountain dogs and others being highly prone to canine cancer. Crossbreeds have fewer cancers which are of a genetic nature. Cancer in dogs is highly treatable especially when discovered in its early stages.

  1. Food not eaten by dogs

For most people, the sight of their dog looking at them with big begging eyes is just too much to ignore giving them part of their food. However, not all human food can be eaten by dogs. In fact, some human delicacies pose dangerous threats to the health of your dog. These include:

Cooked bones: When bones are cooked, they become more brittle hence may splinter and injure your dog as it chews on them. The dangers of these bones include perforation or blockage of the digestive tract, constipation, injuries in the mouth, and damaged teeth.

Garlic, onions, and leeks: The foods found in the allium family have the risk of damaging your dog’s red blood cells hence likely to cause anemia. The issue becomes serious, however, when the dog eats them in large amounts and especially when in their raw forms. They may also cause hemolytic anemia which is a dangerous condition for your dog.

Bacon: Chances are that you already gave your dog some bacon from your plate. Assuming you didn’t already know, large amounts of bacon will likely send your dog to the vet for pancreatitis. When the dog eats the fat in the bacon, it is likely to have a dysfunctional pancreas unlike in humans.

Avocados: Avocados are bad for your dog as they cause stomach upsets due to having too much fat and it may cause gastrointestinal obstruction from the slippery pit.

Corn on the cob: Corn is not poisonous to your dog. Rather, it is the cob which can easily block the gastrointestinal system. Cobs cannot be seen on X-rays and may thus require an ultrasound to find them. After that, surgery may be required to remove it.

Raisins and grapes: Grapes, raisins and some currants and cranberries have been known to cause rapid kidney failure in dogs. Some of the foods that have them include cookies, trail mix, and Raisin Bran. The reasons for this effect on your canine friends are not yet known.

Coffee: Coffee is a stimulant which human bodies can harness easily. On the other hand, this stimulant causes undesired effects in dogs including an increased heart rate, heart arrhythmia, panting, high blood pressure, seizures, and tremors.

White bread: The sugar and oil in white bread are enough to cause pancreatitis in dogs. The Schnauzer breed is particularly prone to this condition and should be kept away from white bread at all costs.

Macadamia nuts: Macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs and may cause temporary paralysis, nausea, weakness, and diarrhea if eaten to about two nuts per pound of body weight or more. These nuts can also cause diarrhea, nausea and severe weakness in the dog if eaten.

Dairy: A majority of the dogs have lactose intolerance. Similar to people with this condition, eating diary products such as ice cream, milk or cheese leads to various undesired issues among them diarrhea and vomiting.

Raw dough: Raw dough has yeast which makes the dough continue to rise even after being ingested. In dogs, the rising may extend its entire abdomen leading to life-threatening conditions such as blockages. The stomach may also be twisted in what is known as gastric-dilation volvulus. Also, as the dough ferments in the stomach, it will produce ethanol which is dangerous to dogs as it causes alcohol poisoning.

Plums and peaches: The only bad thing about these fruits is their pits which can choke the dog if ingested. However, the fruits themselves are not poisonous to dogs. If you decide to feed them plums and peaches, ensure you remove the pits first.

Chocolate: Chocolate contains caffeine which is not good for dogs. If eaten, caffeine foods cause dehydration, irregular heartbeat, muscle tremors, vomiting, abdominal pain and, if not treated, death. Any food with caffeine should be kept away from dogs at all costs. While you love your dog and wish he could enjoy what you love, keep caffeinated foods away from him.

Alcohol: When it comes to alcohol, dogs are like children. They will take the booze yet the effects are adverse on them.  Alcohol poisoning is more serious in dogs given their anatomy and body size compared to humans. As such, a little alcohol will easily send your dog to the vet. Keep the sweet alcohols away as dogs will not easily tell that they are alcoholic.

Sugar-free candy or gum: When candies or gum are listed as being sugar-free, they have a sugar substitute called xylitol. This compound leads to an insulin increase in dogs to dangerous levels and should thus be avoided. Also, this compound has adverse effects on the dog’s liver. In puppies, it easily leads to death given their small bodies. Its effects also include low blood sugar.

If you come across any of these foods, ensure you either supervise the feeding (for the non-poisonous ones), or you do not give them to the dog at all.

  1. Nausea

Your dog can be nauseated for various reasons including eating any of the foods mentioned above, being sick, gastrointestinal blockages, and even car or sea sickness. In this state, it will have less appetite than normal.

  1. Pickiness with food

Besides some foods having adverse effects on dogs, some have a bad taste to them. In some cases, what may be sweet to humans may not have the same taste to your dog. It can thus refuse to eat such foods.

  1. Stomach upset

Just like in human beings, dogs will shun food whenever they have a stomach upset. The reasons behind this behavior include giving the stomach time to get rid of the bad contents and being in suspicion of the food as the cause of the stomach upset.

  1. Diabetes

A dog with diabetes will have various symptoms including excessive thirst, a fruity breath, changes in appetite, loss of weight, increased urination, lethargy (lack of enthusiasm and energy), urinary tract infections, dehydration, vomiting, blindness due to the formation of cataracts, and chronic skin infections.

Dogs are more prone to diabetes when they are female and obese or overweight. Some breeds also have a high prevalence of this disease such as Samoyeds, Keeshonds, poodles, dachshunds, standard and miniature schnauzers, and Australian terriers.

  1. Renal failure

Renal or kidney failure in dogs is characterized by various symptoms such as

  • Constipation
  • Loss of weight
  • A lack of appetite
  • Increase in thirst
  • Acute blindness, etc.

If you see any of these signs in your dog, you need to have it checked as soon as possible.

  1. Intestinal worms

When your dog has intestinal worms, you will note the following symptoms:

  • Loss of weight
  • Poor appearance
  • Diarrhea at times with blood
  • Dry hair
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite

Among the most common types of intestinal worms in dogs include roundworms, whipworms, hookworms, tapeworms and others.

  1. Viral infections

Viral infections in dogs have various symptoms such as:

  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Mild fever
  • Discharge from the nose and eyes
  • Convulsions
  • Seizures

They include canine hepatitis, canine distemper, canine parvovirus and many more.

  1. Stress

The signs of stress in dogs include, digestive issues such as constipation and diarrhea, self-isolation, aggressive behavior, reduced appetite, increased sleeping, eyelids peeled back, laid back ears, lips curled back, shivering or shaking unnecessarily, tense muscles, abnormal shedding, excessive drooling, licking lips and nose, scratching and itching, and yawning too frequently.

These signs can be noted if the routine of the dog is known beforehand.

  1. Bacterial infections

Skin infections, leptospirosis, kennel cough, Lyme disease and others are among the most common bacterial infections in dogs. Their symptoms include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Poor skin outlook
  • Scratching due to itching

Each type of infection has its own symptoms which the vet will point out upon observing the dog.

  1. Kidney disease

The signs of kidney issues in dogs are:

  • Changes in water consumption
  • Listlessness and depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Chemical odor of breath
  • Changes in the amounts of urine
  • Vomiting
  • Blood in urine
  • Pale gums
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Acting drunk

You should immediately call your vet when you notice these signs since any delays may spell death for your dog.

  1. Liver disease

Liver disease is common in dogs depending on the food you feed it and other living conditions. You will notice that your dog has the liver disease primarily through jaundice (yellow tinge on the skin observable through the ears, gums and eyes). This is due to the buildup of bilirubin which is a byproduct of the breakdown of red blood cells. If not excreted by the liver, it tinges the blood yellow.

If the lack of appetite in your dog is accompanied by any of the symptoms described above, you should have the vet check it to ascertain the root cause of this kind of behavior.

FAQ

Are there side effects?

Among the side effects of using appetite stimulants in dogs include:

  • Dry mucous membranes
  • Sedation
  • Increased heart rate
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased thirst
  • Increase salivation
  • Drowsiness
  • Lethargy
  • Dizziness
  • Constipation
  • Confusion
  • Anxiousness
  • Increase in weight

Each medicine has its own side effects which you should ask the vet to tell you beforehand. With these medicines and routines, your dog will be back to its normal eating habits in no time.

When should I use appetite stimulants?

  1. When your dog has refused eating so much that it has impacted its health,
  2. The food intake by the dog is too little to support a healthy weight level,
  3. The dog is taking medication that reduces its appetite,
  4. The dog is on the recovery path from an illness, and
  5. The dog is being introduced to a new diet.
Dr. Winnie
About Dr. Winnie 341 Articles
My name is Dr. Winnie. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Duke University, a Masters of Science in Biology from St Georges University, and graduated from the University of Pretoria Veterinary School in South Africa. I have been an animal lover and owners all my life having owned a Rottweiler named Duke, a Pekingese named Athena and now a Bull Mastiff named George, also known as big G! I'm also an amateur equestrian and love working with horses. I'm a full-time Veterinarian in South Africa specializing in internal medicine for large breed dogs. I enjoy spending time with my husband, 2 kids and Big G in my free time. Author and Contribturor at SeniorTailWaggers, A Love of Rottweilers, DogsCatsPets and TheDogsBone