Some dogs are picky eaters all year round. Some are picky eaters only in the summer. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean your dog is crash dieting to get their beach body ready. Some dogs are simply less hungry during the hot weather for a number of reasons. It’s usually a very normal occurrence.
Why your dog might eat less
Decreased activity levels
Many dogs tend to be less active in the summertime. Many dog owners are aware of heat strokes, or burning paw pads on concrete, so they shorten activity and playtime. People generally also walk their dogs in the early morning or after dark, avoiding the peak heat of the day. There’s a reason we call them the dog days of summer!
The decreased activity level means they’re burning fewer calories, and do not need to eat as much food. This can be mistakenly interpreted by many loving pet parents as decreased appetite rather than a natural response to decreased need for calories.
Not getting enough water
Hydration is extremely important to your dog’s health and appetite, especially during the heat of the summer. If your dog gets dehydrated, the inner layers of their throat and esophagus can stop helping them swallow their food. Stay’s fresh diet is between 70-75% moisture, which is great compared to most dry foods, which generally have 7-10%.
In the summer, you still may want to supplement that with some icy treats to stimulate their water intake. Ice cubes or doggy popsicles are a real fun treat! And always make sure your dog has free access to fresh drinking water.
Sometimes, decreased appetite can actually be a reaction to the owner’s anxiety. In a situation where the owner gets upset at mealtimes, the dog may not understand why they feel that way, and may connect mealtime and eating with the owner's anxiety.
There are several ways to deal with this upsetting situation for both the owner and the dog. The first one is trying to reduce stress and keep calm (which we think is good advice in general!). The second is to have a calmer person handle feeding times, so the dog no longer sees it as a stressful time. Another good idea is to change the dog’s feeding place to a space where they can eat without the presence of the owner.
How to stimulate that appetite
If you want to maximize your chances to get your dog to eat a full meal, a good option is to feed them after their walk. Some dogs get hungry after physical activity (not an extreme activity though), and in addition, all the exciting stimuli during walk time may get their appetite up. Once you’re back inside and they’ve had a chance to calm down, give them that meal.
You can also boost your food’s palatability by adding some flavored broth or even very small amounts of salt. These can get your pup excited for a summer feast. You should add salt just for a few days and only if your dog doesn’t have any medical conditions that require salt restriction.
If you’re feeding your dog treats, our general rule is that treats shouldn’t be more than 10% of their daily caloric intake. If you do feed your dog more than 10%, they may be less hungry at meal time, so make sure to decrease their portion accordingly.
If none of these methods help, and you’re concerned about significant appetite loss over an extended period, we recommend you contact your vet.
As we move into cooler seasons and your dog gets more activity again, their appetite should return to how it normally is. So don’t worry if your dog doesn’t eat as much during summer since there is usually a simple explanation!