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Any advice please my dogs have no interest in eating

I have 4 setters a neutered boy age 11, a rescue spade bitch age 10 and 2 intact two year old brothers. It is the two young ones who have eating problems. Up until the last week of May all ate together 4 meals a day, they were enthusiastic about eating and all considerate of each other and no grumbling or pinching each others food - no issues at all. The last week of May first one young boy went off his food and couldn't be tempted with anything. I checked him over and noticed that his tonsils were red so we went off to the vet. He hadnt got a temperature and his glands werent up but as we were due to go on holiday at the end of the week (with the dogs) the vet erred on side of caution and gave him some antibiotics. The next day his brother wouldnt eat either.    The situation continued but we went on holiday anyway leaving just the bitch with her old family (long story). As soon as we arrived there they would eat anything, back to their old selves. This got me thinking the vet had said therer could be a bitch in season which might account for their behaviour but we had asked around and No. But the bitch living with us had just gone on INCURIN for incontinence , which I believe is HRT for dogs. I mentioned this to the vet but she didnt think it could possible be involved.

We had been back from holiday for two weeks when the eating issue unfortunately started again. Its been a further two weeks now and neither has eaten properly. I have tried everything and it is upsetting (to me). They will readily eat a plain dog biscuit or human ginger biscuit but offered proper food they will either turn away or take it off me and then spit it out.

On occasion if I can get them started to eat with a bit of cheese or something then sometimes I keep adding a bit more and they keep eating until they have had a proper amount but this is not even once a day. Only sometimes do they seem interested but smell the food and look away. I have tried butchers tripe and terrier meal, a number of good dried food both soaked and dry, natures harvest, raw chicken wings, boiled rice and steamed white fish, tuna, pilchards etc. etc.

I stopped the Bitches HRT 5 days ago and am due to swap to Propalyn for the incontinence but at the moment am giving her no meds in case they are the problem. I must say the boys are excessively smelling her and also where she has pooed and urinated but are not trying to hump her at all or each other. In fact I would say they seem depressed. they dont have any signs of illness no diahorrea or vomitting or eating grass. 

The only thing I havent mentioned is that coinciding with the start of this last not eating episode two weeks ago one of the young boys  caught his foot under a gate and has ripped off two back paw nails completely. It is a mess and he has had to have meloxicam (anti inflammatory) and antibiotics.After a couple of days the anti inflammatory upset his stomach and he vomitted up the antibiotics so we stopped the anti inflammatory and changed the antibiotics. So he is depressed that he cant run free as they are taking a long time to heal. He is having regular check ups inc urine test and there doesnt seem to be any infection.

The two young boys are very close, could this be a depression thing with the one with the paw and the other is in symapthy.

The vet has taken a sterile urine sample from the bitch to ensure she doesnt have an infection as they think this could affect the boys ???? 

Im booked in at the vets on wednesday and dont know what to ask for next. The vet just says " a dog wont starve itself"

Help !! Does anyone have any idea what could be going on here and how I can break this cycle. 

I forgot to say historically they have been on Bob and Lush a good quality dried food which I soak for a few hours before feeding. They used to love their food and both weigh around 28kg

Could it be hormonal. Has anyone had experience of Doggy HRT. The associated medicine leaflet  just says it could deem the bitch "interesting" to other dogs.

Sorry for rabitting on here I just thought best to give all information up front when asking for advice

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Baffling! And I am sorry I don't have an answer except to try hand feeding ,this is the only way I could get Arthur to eat and now,of course,he thinks it is normal.It might be worth a try .The vet says a dog won't starve itself,Most dogs won't but setters will!

I hope you can get the problem sorted quickly.

I had this problem with one of my bitches. A lady in Australia recommended that I mix some some vanilla ice cream in her dinner. Well it worked. Since then I have never had a problem with her being a picky eater. Give this a try you have nothing to lose. JO. XXX

Julie, can I suggest that the more you fret about this disinterest in food, the more your dogs will enjoy the attention you are giving them.  You vet is right - dogs will not starve themselves to death  - and you are sustaining them with tempting bites. ;o])))

I have been there myself with a very skinny, frustrating young bitch, so I know just how you feel.  If you feed them 4 times a day, how about cutting mealtimes down to twice a day?.... and, being cruel to be kind, put their food down and if they don't get on with eating it, take it away.  Make them wait until the next mealtime (without any trearts etc)  When they are really hungry, they'll eat!!!

PS. This skinny bitch of mine would not eat dog food but would eat 'people food'.. it just shows how they drive you to distraction... When I baked pies, I used to cook her dog meat in the leftover pastry and Copper

would scoff the lot.  Funny dog, she had a phase of picking out the pink Spillers Shapes and leave them on the side... don't know why... they all taste the same (I know, Itried them!! ;o]))

Fortunately she grew out of these annoying habits - when I stopped stressing about them!

Ann made me laugh that you tried the pink shapes just in case they tasted different you sound as mad as me (",)

... But the black, charcoal ones .... Ughhhh... horrible! ;o]))))))

Hi Julie, I'd just like to say that I agree with Ann. It's such a difficult habit to break, this not eating lark. You've seen your Vet so you know there's nothing physical going on.

Try being really tough on them for a couple of weeks, they will not starve themselves to death, but they will push you because they know that in the past you have tempted them with little tasty treats and they're getting by on that. Put their food down for 20 minutes only, two meals a day is perfectly adequate for 2 year olds. If they don't eat it, take it away, let them see you bin it. Absolutely no treats till they decide to eat properly. This could go on for quite a while, be strong, and when they're hungry enough I guarantee they will eat.


Good luck you're going to need it to ignore those cheeky faces. Go girl. You will succeed.


Love Dawn R.


i loved the Dawn suggestion, indeed. We also went through a very stressing time (hand feeding, rotating foods, etc) and we sticked to the 15-20 minutes rules the bowl was down, then taken away.

is really frustrating since i hate to waste food, and for oberon the same meat that was tasty one day (chicken, lamb, etc) sounds like poison the week after.. i admit i was really concerned as he was developing (till 18 months or so) so we went crazy hand feeding and doing lot of tricks. eventually, now he is 3 years old and i dont mind if he skips 1 meal from time to time, he's much more stable

as tricks, i suggest the usuals: tins of makarels with the food, bit of cheese, cottage cheese, and rotating flavours.. we are on meat only now (sometimes raws, more often steamed in the microwave) but still we need to change flavour weekly. good luck !! what is the premium is that we have now a healthy, plenty of energy and full developed dog, so i think it is important, and it pay off, to spend energies and keep a good feeding regime while they are developing.., 

Lucy  (the bitch) has now been off INCURIN the doggy oestrogen tablet for a week and I think things are changing. We gave her a bath yesterday and have washed the bedding. (thank goodness for the good weather).The boys aren't smelling her as much and both had a small meal yesterday really late on (about 22.00) but wont eat if they are together in the same room. In the day they seemed more friendly with each other and have started to initiate play and lay together. They haven't fought this past two weeks but have noticeably not been as close. But the one with the poorly paw cant run free yet so this doesn't help.

We saw the vet yesterday (re paw) and he thinks that it was the hormone tablet that was making them think that the bitch was almost ready for them and having the two entire boys meant they felt in competition with each other (for her affection).

I have never bred so didn't understand that entire dogs would react like this if living with a bitch "in season". But I spoke to a breeder who told me she knew a dog who would only eat cake whilst his bitch sister was in season.

The literature on Incurin states that the bitch may have a swollen vulva and become interesting to dogs if on a high dose (which she wasnt) but this is much more than just being "interested" it has affected their personality. We have met bitches out walking who are on INcurin and the boys havent been bothered but in the home it is different.  It has happened twice now with the holiday break in the middle (where she didnt come and they were immediately fine). Each time it took about 14 days of her being on Incurin before they were affected in this way. 

Im not out of the woods yet but hopeful. It was so worrying when up to now they have been good happy eaters. I hope this has not started a fussy habit but thanks for your comments they are helpful.  

I have a 10 year old boy with a history of bloating who can only eat small meals - this is where the four meals a day comes in - it is just easier (or has been up to now) to feed 4 times all together. Also I cant leave food down at all as all the dogs have the freedom of the house and the two old ones would just eat it all up and get too fat. So if the young ones turn away from their food I just remove it then and offer again at next feed time. Its funny if they have a bit of cheese first it seems to set their taste buds off and they are more likely to eat.

Thanks all. julie

Have you tried making them sit still whilst you do a countdown to when they can start eating? - it has worked for me before now, they feel as if they've earned it with their ten second delay!

Indeed Jean - I usually make mine sit and wait, too. Has worked a treat so far. However, I have let things slip a bit recently (heat addled brain) and the youngster is now playing up, always suspicious and needing to check that he's not getting different food from the old boy and not finishing off his own as a result.

Such fickle critters - you always have to stay one step ahead of them. Hrrumpf!

I have a 5 year old boy who have had problems with eating most of his life, food is not high on his agenda.  I have found the less he eats, the less he wants.  I was feeding him on Burns, which was not substantial enough for his eating pattern protein levels are lower than some other kibble.  I attempt to feed Reilly twice a day, this time last year he was weighing just 25kgs, and looked so thin as he is tall.  After advice from a friend who had used Fish4Dogs with one of Setters successfully  I changed his kibble to Fish4Dogs white fish flavour.   Reilly now weighs a healthy 35kgs and looks fabulous, lovely shiny coat and more body.  He did not take to it immediately but I persevered with it as the kibble is bigger.  I would say that about 3 days per week he will only eat 1 meal per day still not high on his agenda, but I don't worry now as Fish 4 Dogs keeps  his weight stable I add a little tripe and chicken.  I also have a 10 month as well as Reilly  and he is also thriving well on Fish4Dogs though a much better eater. Hope this helps.   

Janice thanks for this. My 2 boys actually grew up on fish 4 dogs and have beautiful coats but despite soaking overnight they used to drink too much water and one kept getting bladder spasms when his bladder got too full (he wanted to we but couldnt and then wet himself 5 mins later when he was relaxed- see old blog post). The vet thought the natural salt content was too high for him so we had to stop that food and moved to Bob and Lush (duck and potato). This is also a good food should you ever want to give yours a change. Julie




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