My Labrador Won’t Eat – A Full Guide


Will your Labrador Retriever not eat their food? Labradors are well known for their love of food, often eating anything and everything that’s put in front of them.

But often you’ll find your Labrador might start eating far less, or nothing at all. There are lots of reasons why this might happen, from a change in their environment to the health of the dog. 

Your Labrador might even have become a fussy eater, only wanting to have the very tastiest of meals and disregarding all the rest.

In this article, I’m going to run through various reasons which might affect your Labrador, and stop them from eating their food.

I’ll also recommend methods of how to get your Labrador eating again, with a balanced and healthy diet.

How much food should a Labrador eat per day

Let’s begin with how much a Labrador should be eating per day.

This is going to change quite drastically depending on the age and shape of your Labrador, as well as the amount of exercise your Labrador receives.

Below is a brief guide of how much food you Labrador should be eating. If they seem to be going off their food, or are leaving large portions, it’s useful to first check that they aren’t just being overfed.

Weight in poundsWeight in KilogramsCups of kibble
50232.5 – 3
60273 – 3.5
70323.25 – 3.75
80363.5 – 4
100454.24 – 4.75
Labrador Daily Feeding Chart (Taken as an average, all Labradors and food differ slightly)

How long can a Labrador go without food

You may be concerned that your Labrador has skipped a meal or two, but it may surprise you just how long Labradors can safely go without food.

A healthy Labrador can easily go two or three days without eating, without having any detrimental effects on their health. You can imagine this would have been important for their wild ancestors who wouldn’t have lasted very long if they could starve just from having a bad day or two of hunting.

Whilst you don’t need to over-worry about a healthy Labrador missing a day’s food, you should monitor them closely if they do. If a healthy lab, with a usual strong appetite, suddenly stops eating then this could be a sign of illness.

An upset stomach may pass after a day or two, but if your lab stops eating for a few days or more it may be a sign of serious issues and you should contact your vet immediately.

There could be other things affecting your Labrador’s appetite too, so not eating for a day is not always a sign of illness.

A better sign of something being seriously wrong with your Labrador is whether or not they are still drinking enough water. So let’s look at that next and then discuss what other reasons there might be for your Labrador not eating.

How long can a Labrador go without water

Whilst a healthy Labrador can go a few days without eating and not have any side effects it is an entirely different picture if they are not drinking water.

Water is much more vital to a Labrador than food is. This is the same for most animals, even humans can last a far, far longer time without food than without water.

If your Labrador stops drinking water they will quickly begin to suffer from dehydration and lack of water may be fatal to your Labrador within just a few days.

My Labrador won’t drink water

As dehydration can be so quick to set in, not drinking water is a much more worrying sign for your Labrador than not eating food.

Even Labradors with upset stomachs should usually continue to drink water to ensure their fluid level is kept up. In fact, it’s usually more important for ill Labradors to continue drinking water.

This is particularly significant if they are suffering from diarrhea or vomiting as their fluid levels are going to drop quite sharply if they don’t drink enough water to compensate for the lost fluids they will become dehydrated very quickly.

Even an ill Labrador should be drinking water at least every few hours or so if they are not then it might be a sign of a serious problem.

This is a more critical sign than not eating food. Refusing to eat food can be due to a number of other issues rather than ill health, whereas refusing to drink water is likely to be a result of a serious issue and complications can develop quickly, therefore it’s important you visit your vet immediately should your Labrador stop eating food and drinking water.

My Labrador puppy won’t eat

If your Labrador puppy is refusing to eat then it might be a sign of a more serious issue than when older dogs lose their appetite.

Labrador puppies should have a strong impulse to eat and usually devour whatever you put in front of them with joy.

Their health may also deteriorate more quickly and they won’t be able to last as long without food as an adult Labrador might, so it’s important to act more quickly to understand whether your puppy is ill or just off their food for another reason.

Any Labrador may stop eating for a short time due to the emotional effect of what’s going on around them. If you have recently moved house or you have guests visiting then often Labradors will be a little uncomfortable for a while. With puppies, it’s important to try to understand quickly whether the loss of appetite is an emotional one that they’ll quickly overcome or a medical issue.

If your puppy isn’t eating you should monitor them closely for any signs of unusual bowel movements or discomfort.

When it comes to puppies, it’s more important that they eat something, even if it may not be quite in line with their planned balanced diet.

If your puppy refuses to eat at one meal time then you can justifiably try and entice them with an added treat in their food, such as gravy or raw egg yolk. This is a good test to see if they are just being emotionally affected by something as a gravy covered meal should be too much to resist even for the most stressed pup.

Try not to do this too often as you don’t want your Labrador to become a fussy eater, but it’s more important to make sure your puppy is willing to eat something whilst they are still young and vulnerable.

If your puppy still continues to refuse food at the next meal time even when you have added extra goodies then you should visit your vet immediately.

My adult Labrador won’t eat

When it comes to healthy adult Labradors, time is much more on your side.

Labradors can easily go for three days without eating so you can take more time in trying to understand why they’re not eating than you could with a puppy.

The key warning to look out for is whether they are still drinking water. If your Labrador stops eating and drinking water then you should take them to the vet immediately.

If they are continuing to drink water but won’t eat then you have enough time to monitor them for the next couple of days. Labradors should drink water every few hours or so.

If your lab has an upset stomach then it is quite natural they will skip a meal or two whilst their body recovers. As long as they are drinking water then it’s ok to wait a day or two.

Try to feed them small amounts of food, maybe even entice them with a treat or mix gravy with their food. If they still refuse to eat then it might be time to take them to the vet.

If they are still willing to eat treats, or will happily tuck into their meal if it’s mixed with something tasty like gravy then it’s probably quite likely that you don’t have a fussy pooch!

Fussy Labradors are in danger of having an unbalanced diet, but they can be taught to eat their food. I’ll go into more detail on that later in the article.

My old Labrador won’t eat

It’s quite common for senior Labradors to have a decreased appetite, especially as their activity levels drop.

Older dogs generally need less food to sustain themselves, and they may also be more susceptible to an upset stomach which might put them off their food temporarily.

The main two things to watch for in older Labradors are to ensure they are still drinking water and to make sure they are starting to look underweight.

If either of these things occur then you should take them to the vet.

My Labrador is a fussy eater

If your Labrador won’t eat their normal food but is happy to eat something more interesting, like treats or food mixed with gravy, then you may indeed have a fussy dog.

Labradors are very intelligent, and they know how to get what they want! If they know that a tastier meal is likely once they ignore their boring kibble then ignoring their kibble is exactly what they will do!

If your Labrador is drinking water and happy to eat treats then there probably isn’t any need to be concerned about their immediate health, they’re just trying to manipulate you. They don’t call them ‘puppy dog eyes’ for nothing.

Weaning your Labrador back onto a healthy balanced diet isn’t too hard but it does require some resilience from your side. The important thing to remember is that a healthy adult Labrador can easily go three days without eating, so stick to this plan.

  1. Give them their meal. Leave it out for 30 minutes. If they don’t eat it then take it away.
  1. Wait until their next mealtime. Don’t feed them any treats in between.
  1. Give them their meal again. Leave it out for 30 minutes. If they don’t eat it then take it away.
  1. Continue this strategy. In the end your Labrador will eat.

This isn’t suitable for puppies or senior Labradors who might not be able to go so long without eating. But healthy adult Labs will be fine.

Once they know that an alternative isn’t coming if they ignore their meal then they will get used to eating it, they will even enjoy it. Trust me!

The problem people have with this strategy is they give in too early. They think that because their Labrador hasn’t eaten all day that they’re being mean.

So just remember that your Labrador can easily go three days without eating and have no health impacts, you certainly aren’t being mean. Giving your Labrador a healthy balanced diet is one of the best things you can do for them.

By the end of day two, even the fussiest Labrador will usually have given in and will start eating their food. So stick with it, you will win the war of fussiness!

My Labrador won’t eat dry food

Sometimes a Labrador will quite suddenly stop eating their dry kibble.

It’s not unusual, but it’s important to check they are still drinking water even if they won’t eat their food.

If you’re quite sure that they are healthy (no vomiting or diarrhea) and are still drinking water but your Labrador still leaves their dried food then it’s probably because they are bored with it.

Has someone recently given them a few leftovers from their meal? Have they been having gravy mixed with their kibble as a treat at the weekend?

Your Labrador has most likely experienced an alternative food and thought “I’m not going back to those dried biscuits”.

Your Labrador has started to become a fussy eater. I have laid out the steps you should take in order to get your fussy Labrador to eat dry food. Stick with that plan and your lab will be back chowing down their kibble in no time.

It’s really important that Labradors have a balanced diet, so try to avoid treating them too often as they might just get used to it and start thinking they want gravy with their meals every day!

Summary

When your Labrador stops eating their food it’s usually either because something is physically wrong with them or emotionally wrong.

The largest danger is if something is physically wrong with them. For adult Labradors you can monitor their water intake, if they aren’t eating or drinking this is a worrying sign and they need to go to the vet.

If they are still drinking then they should start to eat again in the next couple of days (it might just be an upset stomach).

If they will still eat treats then they might be stressed from a recent change in environment such as a house move, or they might be becoming fussy eaters.

Fussy eating can be cured using the steps I laid out above, and stress from a change in environment will calm down once they have settled.

A loss of appetite in Labrador puppies is more concerning as they are usually happy to eat anything and everything. If they don’t eat for a whole day you should take them to the vet.

Other things that might cause a Labrador to stop eating may be pain, especially in the mouth such as tooth or gum decay.

If your Labrador is still eating a little but starts to becoming underweight then you should take them to the vet.

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