How Long Can a Dog Go Without Food – Everything You Should Know

Food is an essential part of every dog’s life. But what if a dog does not eat for an extended period of time? This question, as well as a few other noteworthy points, will be addressed here. Because dogs, like humans, have fat over their muscles, going without food for a few days won’t hurt them as long as they have access to water. 

Fat is essentially unused calories that remain after digestion and are saved as a reserve for times when our calorie intake is low. This is why exercising and eating less than the body’s maintenance levels help us lose weight. 

However, this does not imply that it should be practiced in any form, such as if you want to allow your dog to lose weight. However, it is still an interesting topic to discuss. Dogs require nutritional meals two to three times per day. 

Without this, your dog is at risk of malnutrition, vitamin deficiencies, and other problems. In this post, we’ll delve a little deeper into the subject and see what happens if a dog goes without food for an extended period.


How Long Can a Dog Go Without Food – Everything You Should Know

1: The age of the dog plays a big factor

Age will play a significant role in determining how long a dog can go without food without suffering severe consequences. A puppy, for example, cannot go long without food because it is rapidly growing and requires more calories than an adult dog of its size would normally require.

This is because a puppy requires extra calories not only to support its maintenance requirements, but also to provide calories used to grow new muscle, bones, and further develop its brain. Adult dogs can go without food for the longest period, usually three days before becoming ill. 

Dogs, on the other hand, can go for up to a week and, in some cases, even longer if they have access to fresh water and enough rest. However, after three days, the dog will begin to become weak and ill. He may also begin to lose weight as his body begins to eat the fat that has been stored for moments like this by evolution. 

Elderly dogs can go nearly as long, but the onset of feeling ill will be much faster on day two, and severe weakness will follow after five days. This, however, is dependent on several additional factors. 

Elderly dogs have a much slower metabolism than their younger counterparts. However, dogs over twelve years old are more likely to suffer from serious health issues from not eating if they go without food for a long period of time. No matter what age your dog is, never avoid feeding him less than two or three times per day, unless your vet says otherwise. 

2: The weather conditions matter

The weather can also have an impact on how long a dog can go without food. When the body is cold, the metabolism slows down to provide energy to keep the body alive. When the body is warm, the metabolism speeds up to find more energy to supply the blood to the muscles. 

When an animal, similar to a human, dives into a cold lake, the “dive mechanism” quickly kicks in and effectively shuts down the metabolism. With warm weather, the opposite is true. As a result, when dogs are exposed to colder conditions, such as snowy regions or simply cold regions, they can survive for a few days longer than they would otherwise. 

This is similar to how hibernation works. A common misconception is that when animals hibernate, they go to sleep for most of the year. The truth is that their metabolism slows down in the winter to conserve energy because food may be harder to come by. 

Going without food becomes much more difficult in hot weather because a dog uses a lot more calories in hot weather. Hot weather causes the metabolism to speed up to obtain energy to power the muscles. Hot weather can reduce a dog’s ability to go without food by up to half, and possibly more, compared to cold weather.

3: Its living situations can have an influence

What kind of living conditions the dog is in is easily a big determinant of how long a dog can go without food. For example, when we exercise, we must maintain a caloric surplus to ensure that our bodies have enough calories to provide energy to our brain and muscles. When we try to lose weight, we try to eat fewer calories than we need to maintain our weight. 

The same concept applies to dogs. If the dog is constantly active, he will not make it nearly as long as an inactive dog or a dog on bedrest. Dogs that do not move around as much will not burn nearly as many calories. A dog who is exercising, moving around a lot, or simply stressed out will use up his stored energy much faster. 

Dogs must meet their caloric maintenance needs to have enough energy to last until their next meal. Furthermore, dogs who live in environments that make it difficult to get enough sleep cannot go as long without food. Dogs typically sleep for more than sixteen hours per day. 

During those sixteen hours, the dog’s metabolism essentially shuts down, allowing it to save all of its calories. When a dog can’t sleep this much, it’s consuming calories from the stored fat. So, in ideal living conditions, a dog can live for three to seven days, or even longer in some cases, but only with severe side effects.

4: Depends on the breed of dog

The breed of the dog in question is a huge factor, perhaps the most important factor aside from age. You may be aware that some dogs, such as Huskies, are better suited to winter environments, while others, such as Pit Bulls, are better suited to warmer climates. The way these two breeds deal with different climates is similar to how they deal with their metabolism. 

As an example, a pitbull is typically light, fast, and agile, with a small stature. All of this is made possible by the fast metabolism of a Pitbull. This means that a Pitbull’s quality of life will deteriorate as a result of a lack of food fast. 

Huskies, on the other hand, have a slower metabolism, which is due in part to their close relationship with wolves, as well as their nativity to the wintery snow found in Northern climates. This slow metabolism is one of the reasons Huskies can live in the north for so long because they can go without food for longer periods than many other dog breeds. 

A Chihuahua, for example, does not have the same ability to store energy as a dog breed like a labrador. The important thing to remember here is to pay attention to the dog’s native land. If it can survive in very cold climates, it most likely has a slow metabolism and can go longer without eating than a dog with a fast metabolism such as a pit bull.

5: Its diet can play a big role

A dog’s diet can make or break its ability to go long periods without eating. A dog that eats a healthy, balanced diet is considered average, and three to seven days is considered the average amount of time that a dog can go without eating. Unfortunately, not every dog has a well-balanced diet

As a result, we should think about different diets and how they might affect the dog’s ability to go without food. Dogs on a very healthy diet, such as a raw meat diet, will make it longer than average because they have more muscle on their bodies and eat fewer times per day. 

Because the dog isn’t used to walking over to its bowl when it’s hungry, this may help it go longer without food. Dogs on a poor diet, on the other hand, will not persist even the average of three to seven days. Instead, it will last less time than this. 

This is due to the dog having less muscle and stored fat, leaving the dog without an energy source once all of its food has been digested. This poor diet can also increase the dog’s chances of developing a vitamin or mineral deficiency much faster than a dog eating a well-balanced and healthy diet. So, a dog on a good, healthy diet will last three to seven days, and possibly longer if it’s lucky.

Getting Your Dog Back on Track

1: Short-term vs. long-term tactics

Getting your dog back on track will depend on whether the problem causing your dog not to eat is something minor, such as a stomach upset, or something more serious, such as an illness like gout. Try giving your dogs treats, small amounts of human food like pure ham, or food like wet dog food for short-term issues like stomach upset. 

The goal here is to vary what you feed your dog so that he can get something into his stomach to keep him going until he gets better. If the issue is long-term, it may be time to switch to a different food brand. Of course, this will depend on what is wrong with your dog and why he isn’t eating as much as he should. 

Because there are so many possibilities, your best bet is to take your dog to the vet and discuss what you can do. Depending on the cause, a veterinarian can assist you in developing a comprehensive plan to get your dog back on track and exactly how long can your dog can go without food.

2: How to get your dog to eat

It’s critical to get a dog to eat, even if it doesn’t want to. Dogs who do not eat are at risk of malnutrition, vitamin deficiency, and even depression. If you’ve tried new foods with no success, try feeding your dog in small amounts. For example, rather than filling your dog’s food bowl, feed him one piece of kibble in your hand. 

If he eats it, offer him another piece. If he feels ill, this will make him feel less intimidated. The next option is to think about liquid foods. This could include things like dog gravy with a blended kibble inside. This will make eating easier for your dog because it will not require much more effort than drinking water. 

If none of this works, it may be time to consult a veterinarian about treatment options. In the meantime, if the vet deems it necessary, he may insert a feeding tube into your dog. If your dog just will not eat anything you put in front of him, following step three may be your best option. 

3: Knowing when to contact a vet

You should not wait too long before contacting a veterinarian. A dog that refuses to eat for more than 24 hours is most likely in need of veterinary care. An upset stomach is a common cause of a dog’s lack of appetite, but it usually resolves in less than a day. If your dog vomits or has diarrhea, make sure it doesn’t last longer than 24 hours. 

If your dog’s condition does not improve after a few days, take him to the vet for an evaluation. If you wait any longer, your dog may be in grave danger. If your dog exhibits any other symptoms, such as fatigue, tremors, pale gums, or other unusual symptoms, take your dog to the veterinarian. 

Dogs typically recover from illness in one day, so anything that lasts longer than that is likely serious and should be evaluated by a veterinarian. Knowing how long a dog can go without food is great, but getting him proper care is even more important. 

4: What to do for a sick dog

If your dog is feeling ill but is not in any danger, it is critical to keep him comfortable until he feels better. To begin, make sure he has a cool, comfortable place to rest. This could be a dog bed, a crate with a blanket inside, or his preferred spot on the couch. The important thing here is to keep him cool and to ensure that he can sleep without being woken up by loud noises. 

Make sure he’s drinking water when he’s awake. If you ask how long can a dog go without food, the answer is not long, particularly for dogs that are sick. If a dog does not eat, he should drink plenty of water, especially if he is vomiting. If possible, have him use the potty outside and examine his feces. 

Examine the feces for worms and any discoloration. If you notice anything unusual, collect the feces in a bag and contact your veterinarian right away. Usually, fleas, worms, and other minor issues are easy to treat with medication prescribed by the vet. These treatments usually work fairly quickly. 

5: Dogs that have underlying conditions

Dogs who are unfortunate enough to have underlying conditions will necessitate a slightly different approach to their care. If your dog has diabetes, for example, this could be the reason he isn’t eating. Dogs suffering from gout or even worms may lose their appetite. Gout, like diabetes, can be fatal if not treated promptly

A lack of appetite can be caused by a variety of other factors. This could be a common cold, parvovirus, or other viruses spread by dogs. If you are aware of any underlying conditions in your dog, contact your veterinarian and explain the situation. It could be something related to the underlying condition, or it could be a result of the medications not working properly. 

For example, if your dog has diabetes and his insulin is no longer working properly, he is in grave danger. Be cautious because a lack of appetite can be a symptom of a variety of conditions. It’s also a good point to remember that certain medications that a dog may currently be taking could cause a lack of appetite. So, if your dog has started any new medication, it could be the reason why your dog will not eat. 


Dogs are extraordinary animals, and you’d be surprised at how long they can go without eating. A dog will most likely not be harmed if he does not eat for a short period. However, if it occurs regularly, it may be harmful. We can learn a lot about the metabolism of dogs and their ability to go without eating by studying their ancestors, the wolves. 

Fortunately, it will not cause any long-term harm after only a few days in normal conditions. Regardless, if your dog has underlying conditions, a new condition, or has gotten into something he shouldn’t have, such as a household cleaner, it can be dangerous. A lack of appetite in dogs can be caused by a variety of factors. 

A problem with their teeth could be the source of the problem. If your dog has a cracked tooth, an infected tooth, or other dental issues, it could be causing him extreme pain when he eats, causing him to avoid it. In any case, never wait more than two days before contacting a veterinarian, and that is a very generous timeline.

Written by Brian Rucker

Brian Rucker has been a dog lover since childhood. He has had his Lab Mix with Hound for over 10+ years now! They enjoy playing outdoors together. Brian loves sharing his knowledge about all things dog on this website. Read more of Brian's articles.