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FAQs - Poor Feeders

Poor Feeders

don't panic, you are not alone...

Below is a summary of a SpeakEasy discussion that ran for two years. Obviously a topic that affects lots of you! By poor feeders I'm referring to those dogs with a poor appetite and who don't appear to eat as much as the recommended quantities on the food packaging. Also refer to the section on feeding greyhounds and lurchers.

My first dog, a 6 yr old lurcher bitch, was a poor feeder. Despite trying a wide variety of food, human and dog, she would sometimes refuse to eat for up to 3 days. This caused me much distress. However during the time that we had her (we lost her to an auto-immune problem after 2 years) she gradually gained weight. On one of our trips to the vet, I was told "If food is available she won't go hungry. She knows when she needs to eat, trust her." Eventually I started to relax and do just that. Maybe she needed to rest her digestive system occasionally.

Greyhounds and lurchers seem to quite commonly be 'poor' feeders. It may take until the next meal time to clear their bowl. Maybe they'll go up to three days without eating. These behaviours don't seem to be uncommon. As long as your vet is happy with the dog's weight, it's condition is otherwise good, and its not losing weight, then you haven't really got a major problem.

Who says how much your dog should eat? The recommended quantities given by dog food manufacturers who want to sell the maximum quanity of dog food. The figures are based on the average dog, who is probably more active that the average retired greyhound or lurcher. Remember also that a dog's requirements will automatically reduce as they become older. So your dog might not need as much as it says on the packet.

If you are worried, find out from the rescue centre/racing trainer what they ate previously. They might also be able to tell you if the dog has never had a robust appetite. You might be surprised, for instance that some kennelled dogs are given Weetabix for breakfast, and some racing dogs are given a 'stew' with lots of veggies. This might have shaped your dogs preferences. Also be aware that dogs can have allergies to certain foods, such as dairy products, wheat and red meat etc.

Firstly refer to the foods listed on the Feeding FAQ, if they don't work, the following were solutions used successfully on the picky feeders owned by the SpeakEasy regulars:

  • "Chappie tinned food with mixer, it's good for their digestion and easily digestable."
  • "...we discovered the Nature Diet - it's a bit like a microwave ready meal for dogs. It's all organic and he not only loves it but is healthier for it too! The bigger pet superstores seem to sell it, or you can order direct by phone on 01428 685050 It contains brown rice, carrots plus either fish, lamb, tripe or carrots - it costs about 50p a packet. If you put it in the microwave for 1 minute I challenge any dog to resist it.
  • "fresh pasta and minced lamb twice a day"
  • "Freshly boiled rice and defrosted raw tripe (from pet shop) usually works. However, we notice that he prefers to pick at his food and althugh he may walk away from his bowl at official meal times if we can keep our lurcher away from his bowl he picks throughout the day until's he's eaten it all. we wondered if this was how he was fed in kennels in retirement...
  • fresh rice and cooked chicken

Adding something tasty to your dog's meal may stimulate their interest. The following have all been used with success:

  • "add dry complete cat food when she isn't peckish. You would need to be careful though as I am told that cat food contains apetite stimulants which cause behavioural problems with some dogs."
  • Lots of mentions of dogs enjoying vegetables, raw or cooked.
  • "Dry dog food, mixed with a bit of tinned food or gravy, any left over veggies and GRATED CHEESE! Just mix a little of the cheese into the whole lot and see how she'll love it!"
  • "Pascoes complete with very small amount of Butchers tinned dog food - tripe and something. However she will only eat the pascoes warm."
  • "Pascoes with gravy on sometimes, and sometimes with those cheap Tesco's value sausages, sometimes with carrots."
  • "A spoonful or two of yoghurt." (too much might cause intestinal hurry)
  • "Wagg with frozen chicken and 'Delicious', a special dog gravy made by Wagg, and once a week they get frozen heart or liver instead of chicken, so they're not hard done by."
  • "Pascoes complete mixed with: Tuna (cleans her bowl immediately); or left overs especially gravy products (cleans her bowl eventually). "
  • "... pilchards and toast, but fresh white bread and butter is a near second. Fishy dog breath is the price you have to pay for a happy lad though."
  • "... tinned mackerel, pilchards and any oily fish is really good for them. Mine has this at least once a week, twice if I don't pinch the other half of the tin!! 'We' like them in the tomato sauce. That and cod liver oil daily makes their coats gleam."
  • " Try a complete that comes in small pieces, that way you won't have to soak it so much and she will be able to eat it easier than the larger pieces, my bitch turned her nose up at adult complete food but I tried her with small adult complete and she's fine with that."
  • "They also like Tuna fish and they love cheese. To make the food tasty a little gravy works, other times milk."

One contributor suggested the following strategy:

  1. Try to get as many different high quality kibbles as you can so you can easily try different them and find one that agree with your dog. The kind of little sample bags would be great.
  2. At the same time, try to find some healthy toppings that you can put with or on top of his kibbles: like some raw meat, some cooked meat some table scraps (but only if there aren't much salt or spice on them) some yoghurt or some cottage cheese, some soup, some canned tuna or mackerel in oil, some pasta
    These toppings don't need to be big (2 -3 table spoons e.g.), they just need to be tasty and healthy.
  3. While you are trying a new food, don't be anxious when feeding your dog. If he doesn't eat his food properly, spare them and feed them again next meal or disgard this meal but only feed him something different next meal so he doesn't associate the change in his food with his picky behavior. Maybe you can also try to tempt him to eat by hand feeding him a few tid bits of the food he doesn't like. But don't do it on a regular basis or he could wait for you to hand fed him.

Information provided by contributors to the SpeakEasy, and summarised by Jill

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