Your Questions: What can I do to make my dog eat?

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The Independent Online

My dog has been on dried food for a while now, but all of a sudden he's not eating so much. I don't know what to do to make him eat! Do you think he's bored of his food? Should I change it? Gill, via e-mail

As owners, we tend to think that we need to change our dog's food all the time, as we have such a varied diet, but this can cause a lot of problems for our pets if it's not done correctly. The first thing you should do is go to your vet and make sure that your pooch does not have any gastric problems. If he's feeling unwell, this could be the cause. Once you've got the "all clear", that's when the decision starts. It may sound obvious, but check if the food is off. It may be out of date. Smell it – is there a strong (more so than usual) odour? This might be putting your dog off his food. We forget how sensitive canines' noses are. If the food is fine, you need to ascertain that the food is nutritionally balanced.

One way to find out is to examine your dog's stools. They shouldn't be too soft and should have a shape to them. It should also be easily passed.

If he persists in not eating there could be a few reasons for this. Somebody – another member of the family or a neighbour perhaps? – could be feeding him something nicer, so get to the bottom of that. Don't give him human food, because this will only hinder the process.

Maybe he's not hungry or not getting enough exercise, so try feeding him after his walks. Do not hand-feed him and it is inadvisable to leave the food down for long periods of time. Also be sure to stick to a regular schedule of meal times. If you do decide to change the food, go to the vet. They usually have a nutritionist who will be able to guide you through the best available products on the market. (If you can afford it, the more expensive food will likely be beneficial to your pet.) They will also explain how to stagger the change in food. Remember this is a gradual process. If you do it too quickly, it can lead to sickness and diarrhoea.