How Long Can A Dog Go Without Eating With Cancer? (Very Important)

How Long Can A Dog Go Without Eating With Cancer?

“Your dog has cancer”

These are words that dog owners never want to hear and I wish that none of us ever have to in the future. However, even with the best of care and lifestyle, these unfortunate events still do happen.

One very common problem for dogs with cancer is the lack of appetite. Some of these sicks dogs can even stop eating which isn’t ideal.

How long can dogs with cancer go without eating?

The majority of healthy dogs can go without eating for three to five days, some even longer. However, dogs with cancer do not have such a big buffer as nutrition is very important to their recovery and immune system. Dog owners will need to use ways to stimulate their dogs’ appetite when this happens.

In this article, we will be discussing more in detail about your dog’s appetite and what you can do to improve it.

What Is Cancer In Dogs?

cancer cells

Cancer basically refers to uncontrollable cell growth in various parts of the body resulting in lumps and masses.

However, there are certain types of cancer that do not cause any abnormal growth in the dog’s body.

There are two types of cancer:

  • Benign
  • Malignant

Benign tumors tend to get affect a local area which makes them easier to treat.

Cancer cells that are malignant are more aggressive and can easily spread to other parts of the body thus causing more damage.

Even with modern medicine, there’s still no concrete cure and evidence about the causes of cancer in dogs. Some doctors think that it can be due to genetics, a bad diet, exposure to carcinogens, etc.

The most common types of cancers in dogs are:

A healthy dog can get cancer out of the blue with no rhyme or reason.

I guess that is how life works at times.

One out of four dogs gets cancer and the risk increases as the dogs get older.

How Long Can Dogs Go Without Food?

Most healthy dogs can handle three to five days without food rather easily.

There have been studies claiming that some dogs were even able to survive in the absence of food for up to 90 days without food and still turn out fine.

Dogs have evolved from wolves which are known to be able to go without food for more than a few weeks. This can happen when food is scarce in the wild.

Our dogs have most likely inherited this trait from their ancestors which makes them more resistant to starvation.

But we aren’t here to test the limits of our dog’s hunger but to know when to push that emergency button when the dog isn’t eating its dog food.

There are certain factors that can also determine how well your dog can handle going without food.


Adult dogs can definitely go without food a lot longer than senior dogs or puppies. Many puppies are known to die from hypothermia and starvation.

Younger dogs need to eat more often to fuel their growth even up to the point of a meal every few hours.

Older or senior dogs don’t handle starvation well as it places too much stress on their already weaker bodies.

Current Health

A dog that is currently healthy, at a good weight and has no underlying medical conditions can go without food longer than a dog that has one or more of the above.

There’s more buffer for a healthy dog to stand against the effects of starvation as opposed to a sick dog.

Dog Breed

A dog’s breed can also be a determining factor in a dog’s ability to last longer without having to eat.

Breeds that are used to hard work and rough weather can probably handle starvation better than a dog that didn’t come from such a background.

Access To Water

They say that water is life and for good reason. Without access to water, most living things won’t even be able to make it past a few days.

Humans can survive without food for 2-3 months but we can’t last more than three days without water.

Water is more important than food for survival because it is essential for regulating body temperature and keeping body cells alive.

A dog that doesn’t eat but is still drinking water stands a better chance than one that goes without eating and drinking.

What Happens When A Dog Stops Eating?

sad dog

When a dog stops its food intake, the common sign would be weight loss from its body fats and muscle mass.

The dog’s body will start to use its own body fat for energy as there’s no more food. And the muscle mass will also start to drop as there isn’t sufficient protein intake to sustain the muscles.

If the starvation carriers on for too long, this can start to result in organ failure, anemia, lethargy and eventually, death.

The effects of starvation are compounded for dogs with cancer due to cachexia.

Cancer cachexia is a condition whereby the dog’s body breaks down even faster due to the cancer cells.

This issue coupled with the weight loss from not eating can be fatal to dogs with cancer in just a few days.

Why Do Dogs With Cancer Stop Eating?

It can be very worrying to see your dog lose its appetite completely when it has cancer. This can be even more jarring when your dog has always been a greedy dog.

But these days your dog doesn’t even eat its food all at once or even at all.

Sick dogs usually don’t have the mood for food given their current health status. A lack of or decreased appetite can happen when the dog is in pain or discomfort.

If your dog is undergoing chemo at the moment, the treatments can also alter your dog’s sense of taste and smell which can greatly affect its appetite.

Is it Normal for a Dog to Go a Day Without Eating?

It can be normal in some cases but it should only be a rare occurrence rather than the norm. There were a couple of times when my dog or cat skipped a day of eating due to an ‘off’ day.

It usually starts with some diarrhea and they prefer to just sleep and recuperate. The appetite will return the next day or gradually over the next few days.

When to Contact the Vet About Your Dog Not Eating?

dog at vet

If your dog is still not eating after a day, it is best to give your vet a call. This is very important not just for sick dogs but for all dogs.

Your dog won’t come up to you and say what’s wrong hence its appetite is a great barometer of its well-being.

The vet might prescribe medication such as appetite stimulants, anti-inflammatories or pain meds to help your dog manage its discomfort.

The less pain your dog feels, the more it can focus on eating.

How To Increase Your Dog’s Appetite?

As we strive to provide the best care for our beloved dog on their cancer journey, we recognize the importance of good nutrition.

Nourishing the body with nutritious, life-sustaining food helps to foster a strong and resilient immune system, arming our dog with the strength to not just survive, but to thrive in the face of adversity.

Here are some ways that you help to increase your dog’s appetite.

Upgrade Dog’s Diet

Take a good hard look at your dog’s current diet and make a note of what you are feeding your dog on a daily basis.

If you are feeding your dog dry food or kibbles, stop that immediately.

Dry food is very bad for our pets in general due to the manufacturing process and its content. Kibbles do not contain any moisture and they contain more carbohydrates than protein.

Dogs are carnivores by nature and need animal protein to thrive.

In fact, your dog will be totally fine on a diet that is 100% animal protein along with whatever animal fat is in there.

A diet that is high in carbs or sugar is very bad for dogs with cancer as they encourage the production of insulin which causes the cancer cells to reproduce faster.

Stick to wet or canned food which is a lot better and healthier than dry food.

Furthermore, stop giving your dog any type of human food which isn’t doing your dog any good either.

Feeding dogs with cancer a poor and low-quality diet can only make things a lot worse.

Homemade Food

If your dog is a picky eater and isn’t too keen on commercial pet food, you can try making your own dog food if you have the time to spare.

All you need to do is to get some good quality meat like chicken, turkey or rabbit. You can choose to steam or boil the meat before feeding it to your dog.

The cooking process will neutralize some of the nutrients and minerals in the meat so speak to your vet about the need for supplements.

Although I don’t feed my dog any plant matter or carbs at all, I do like to add some fresh pumpkin to his food once in a while.

It helps with the digestive system and it contains many nutrients.

Pumpkin is also good for dogs with pancreatitis as it is easily absorbed by the dog’s body and helps to firm up the stool.

Heat Up The Food

There’s a reason why we always prefer our food to be served warm or hot. It is because it just smells and tastes better.

If your dog isn’t having much of an appetite, try heating up its food a little in the microwave.

When food is heated up, the molecules get more energized and make it more appealing. This helps a lot for dogs that have a keen sense of smell.

Adding Some Broth

chicken broth

Besides heating up your dog’s food to make it more appealing, adding some broth to your dog’s food can even take it to the next level.

The most popular types of broth for dogs are either chicken or beef broth.

The easiest way to make it at home is to just boil some chicken or beef bones in a pot of water for about an hour or two to really extract all the nutrients and flavor.

Once it has cooled down, add some to your dog’s food to help whip up its appetite. It is also a good way for your dog to be taking in more fluids.

You don’t have to add any extra seasoning or ingredients when making it for your dog.

Please do not feed your dog any of the cooked bones as they are brittle and can splinter very easily and cause injury to your dog.

Try Hand Feeding

Personally, hand feeding has worked for me on both my cat and my dog. Those were times when they just had surgery or recovering from an illness.

Hand feeding your dog will give him some needed encouragement to eat. It shows your dog how much you love him and that always helps to heal them.

Just put a little bit of food on your palm and let your dog lick it off. If your dog is receptive to it, just keep it up until your dog is full.

p.s. here’s wishing your dog a speedy recovery and lots of love

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