Has your dog recently gone through the highly concerning and traumatic experience of a stroke? Have you since noticed your dog no longer wants to eat? You likely have a lot of questions, such as whether this response is normal, how long they may avoid their food, and what you can do to get them eating again. Well, here is everything you are going to want to know and how to appropriately respond.
So, why is your dog not eating after a stroke? Dogs will typically not eat after a stroke because their brains and bodies have been adversely affected. They can be experiencing changes in their sense of taste and smell and their ability to chew and swallow. Some dogs won’t even remember that it’s time to eat.
Your dog’s not in a good place right now.
You likely know that already. Besides, chances are you’re not either.
It’s a highly worrying time.
The thing is, dogs will often respond to dramatic changes by not eating food.
It may seem strange, but it’s very similar to how we (as humans) often have little desire to eat following distressing events.
But back to your dog.
Let us continue to explore those potential reasons in greater detail before turning to how long food aversion typically lasts.
Why Is My Dog Not Eating After A Stroke?
Dogs can struggle to eat after a stroke because of appetite loss, sensory problems, memory problems, or motor control issues.
Loss of Appetite
Certain strokes can cause changes in the parts of the brain that regulate appetite.
Your dog may simply not be experiencing hunger due to the effects of changed blood flow in his brain to those areas.
Other times it could be your dog is experiencing sensory problems. Strokes can cause the sense of smell or taste to be interrupted.
As dogs are quite driven by scent to seek out and enjoy their food, their appetite can be adversely affected if their food doesn’t smell like anything.
Equally, if your dog can’t taste anything, he may not want to eat.
Fortunately, most of the time, sensory interruptions following a stroke are temporary.
Strokes can affect your dog’s memory, so it could be that he is having difficulty remembering when to eat.
Dogs have their own internal clock and sense of time, but this may have been thrown off by the stroke.
Motor Control Issues
Sometimes your dog can have trouble moving certain parts of his body after a stroke.
There are dogs who have difficulty swallowing or chewing, which would explain their reluctance to eat.
Is It Normal For A Dog To Not Eat After A Stroke?
Given the changes that take place in the brain after a stroke, it’s normal for your dog not to eat immediately afterward.
Looking at the reasons mentioned above, you can see that your dog might not remember or be tempted by food.
Your dog might not be able to physically perform the motions of eating.
In addition, his sense of hunger will naturally be affected if he can’t smell or taste his food.
Given that some dogs experience motor control problems, your dog may even find it a struggle to get to his food bowl, much less pick up food and swallow it.
The good news is that most dogs can recover fully after a stroke. While it’s normal for your dog not to want to eat, this is most likely temporary.
Dogs are more likely to recover fully after a stroke than humans; most of the time, your dog won’t suffer any permanent harm.
It’s normal not to want to eat, but usually, your dog can regain his full health after post-stroke treatments.
How Long Will A Dog Not Eat Following A Stroke?
The amount of time a dog may refuse to eat following a stroke can vary widely, depending on the kind of stroke and the damage caused.
- Some dogs can recover their appetite within the first 24 hours.
- Other dogs can seem to get worse and not eat for 24 to 72 hours and then start to recover and want to eat.
- And other dogs won’t recover their appetite on their own: they’ll need some medication or stimulation (see below).
Most dogs who improve enough to start to want to eat within the first 3 to 5 days can have a full recovery within 4 to 6 weeks.
Some of these dogs will have residual problems, but most will still enjoy a good quality of life.
If your dog is drinking but refuses food for longer than 48 hours, take him to the vet immediately.
If your dog refuses food and hasn’t had any water for 12 hours, take him to the vet.
Dogs with underlying kidney conditions can experience severe consequences of not drinking for half a day.
Even dogs in full health before their stroke will require fluids within those first 12 hours.
A dog who goes without water for as long as 24 hours will start to show signs of dehydration.
Technically a dog can go for up to 5 days without food, but if your dog has had a stroke, you wouldn’t want to leave him for that long without medical intervention.
What To Feed A Dog That Won’t Eat After A Stroke
Depending on the circumstances, you may need to change your dog’s diet after a stroke, particularly for underlying conditions. For most dogs, a diet that has plenty of essential fatty acids can be helpful, taking into account your vet’s recommendations. Hydration is also crucial to help in a speedy recovery. Your vet may also recommend specific antioxidants.
Some people try rubbing a dog’s gums with honey.
The honey can help with weakness by boosting your dog’s blood sugar levels, but because it causes large swings in insulin, it isn’t something you’d want to do daily.
In addition, your dog can become nauseous if his system suddenly is dealing with more sugar than usual.
Determine the cause of the stroke with your vet’s help so that you can devise a healthy eating regime for your dog.
Providing the right diet can also help avoid recurring strokes.
Strokes can be caused by prolonged health issues which may need medication, such as:
- Heart problems
- Kidney disease
- High blood pressure
- An infection
Include Fatty Acids
Generally, though, the best diet after a stroke will contain plenty of Omega 3 fatty acids.
Consult your vet to see what the right balance of fatty acids is for your dog.
Fatty acids can help reduce inflammation and improve blood flow throughout the body, particularly to the brain.
Because the brain is mostly fat, the right combination of fatty acids can assist the brain in repairing itself.
Be Sure Your Dog Stays Hydrated
For all dogs who have had a stroke, hydration is essential, particularly as dogs can be extremely thirsty following a stroke. The extra water can help your dog’s body relax and heal.
Be careful when offering your dog water, as he may not stop drinking while the water is in front of him. Remove the water after a few swallows and then offer him more a bit later.
Sometimes your vet may prescribe different fluids instead of water – perhaps with nutritional elements depending on what your dog needs.
If your dog is in urgent need of fluids, he may have to stay at the vet’s to receive IV fluids.
Some common IV fluids given to dogs who are in recovery include:
- Lactated ringers
- 0.9 percent saline
Some fluids may contain sugar or dextrose, depending on your dog’s condition, as well as added potassium or vitamin B.
If your dog is vomiting, your vet may add medication to the IV, such as metoclopramide.
Ask Your Vet About Antioxidants
Some antioxidants can be particularly helpful to dogs in recovery, such as:
- Citric acids
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin C
- Fresh rosemary (dogs will eat this herb in the wild: you can add some to your dog’s food yourself)
The purpose of these antioxidants is to minimize oxidation and lower the risk of another stroke.
How Can I Increase My Dog’s Appetite After A Stroke?
The first thing to try to increase your dog’s appetite after a stroke is to appeal to his sense of smell. If that doesn’t work, you may need help from your vet.
Stimulate Your Dog’s Appetite Through Smell
If your dog’s sense of smell is unimpaired by the stroke, tasty smells are the best way to stimulate your dog’s appetite.
Choose a type of dog food with strong odors (check with your vet to see what’s best for your dog).
If you are looking for a recommendation, I would take a look at Sunday For Dogs.
This premium all-natural dog food is made of some of the highest quality cuts of meat, including offal, and it also includes fish oil too for those fatty acids we talked about earlier.
And you can get it on subscription, meaning you can transition your dog over to this long-term, ensuring they obtain maximum nutrition in their time of need. (It also saves you time and money too!)
Brand aside, you can also warm up your dog’s food – either in the microwave for a few seconds or on the stove – to intensify the aromas of the food.
Chicken or beef broth is another good thing to try: if your dog is drinking, the smell of the broth can easily stimulate his appetite.
Consider Help From Your Vet
If you can’t stimulate your dog’s appetite by his sense of smell, you may need to see your vet.
There are medications that vets can prescribe that can help stimulate appetite in dogs.
Common medications for this include:
- Anabolic steroids
- Megestrol acetate
If medications still don’t help and your dog has gone for too long without eating (see above), your vet may have to put in a feeding tube.
Medications sometimes don’t provoke the needed response in the brain, depending on what areas have been affected by the stroke.
Vets commonly use feeding tubes as a last resort, but the good news is your dog can be fed through the tube at home until his appetite comes back.
If your dog has had a stroke, it’s naturally a highly worrying time.
Not only in regard to the visible changes it has on them, but also to their behaviors.
A dog refusing food is never nice to see – especially if they had a large appetite before.
It should return in time, though. And there are certainly things you can do to help.
Rest assured, so long as you are supporting your dog and following the advice and recommendations of your vet, you should find that your dog begins to eat once more.
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I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.