Skip to content


    Attention All WebMD Community Members:

    These message boards are closed to posting. Please head on over to our new WebMD Message Boards to check out and participate in the great conversations taking place:

    Your new WebMD Message Boards are now open!

    Making the move is as easy as 1-2-3.

    1. Head over to this page:

    2. Choose the tag from the drop-down menu that clicks most with you (and add it to any posts you create so others can easily find and sort through posts)

    3. Start posting

    Have questions? Email us anytime at

    Is Your Dog or Cat a Picky Eater?
    Will Draper, DVM posted:
    In my practice, owners constantly ask me about dogs and cats that are finicky eaters. The first step to take is to determine the reason your pet is being picky about their food.

    If a dog or cat regularly eats dry food, then suddenly won't eat it, and prefers canned or soft, this can indicate dental disease or another type of oral problem. Sometimes, pet food spoils and causes a pet to turn up its nose to tell you the food has gone bad. I've seen a pet turn picky not because of spoiled food or for medical reasons, but because their bowl was changed from plastic to stainless steel. However, the usual reason is that picky eaters are just being picky -- and we have to do some investigating to figure out why.

    Most of the time, picky eaters are pets that frequently eat people food. Their human family members like to share what they are eating with their four-legged friends. Many of us feel that our food is "better" than pet food, and we want them to enjoy a bit of the good life.

    Here's the problem -- pets will often grow to prefer human food over their own. "People food" is not good for dogs or cats. Dogs should eat a premium dog food, and cats a premium cat food. Your pet's diet should be approved by your veterinarian, of course. Feed your pet a consistent diet. Giving your pets more variety will make them less likely to eat what you want them to eat. Owner compliance and consistency for a pet's diet is a key element to help avoid making your pet into a fussy eater. On that note, feeding your pet on a regular schedule also helps deter the development of a picky eater.

    Keep in mind that pets that receive treats on a frequent basis tend to be picky eaters. Treats should be limited to 1 to 2 times a day, and generally, treats should be given as a reward for something. "Treats," by nature, are better than their own food, so why should they eat regular pet food when they can hold out for the next treat, right?

    Check out some these WebMD Healthy Pets articles on methods to remedy the problem of a picky eater:

    How To Deal With A Picky Eater Cat

    When Your Dog Is A Picky Eater

    Do you have a dog or cat that is a picky eater? What did you do to solve the issue? Share your tips and strategies with other pet owners in the community.
    Dr. Will
    jltarbe responded:
    We have had our Shiba Inu for 2 yrs now. She has refused every dog food whether it's the premium or not. She eats what we eat except of course the foods she can not have. I have talked to the vet about this and he wasn't thrilled but said for us to give her vitamins. He says she's healthy.
    There are times when she won't even eat "people food". It worries me but she will eat when she gets hungry eventually.
    We have tried to leave only dog food for her and give her no people food but it goes on for days and she refuses to eat her food. Any suggestions?
    Aravis195 replied to jltarbe's response:
    Try not showing any emotion or anxiety when she won't eat. Take the food away, put it in the fridge, and present it later. If she won't eat it, don't react; just take it away again. The more important you make it, the worse she will get. My Shepherd won't eat if I watch, so I just make sure I don't.
    If she eats a bit, praise her just a little, and maybe leave the food there for a while.
    Also give her a diet that is natural for a dog - raw meat, bones, only a little good quality dry food.
    My Shepherd knows good food and avoids additives in it, so she never gets commercial food, except for the dry food.
    Aravis195 replied to Aravis195's response:
    There's one other thing I thought of: when you let her eat from your table, she loses her sense of who is pack leader. Never let her eat while you're eating! Tell her quietly, Go away. Then ignore her.
    I actually can leave my dog's food down in the laundry all day if necessary; she often leaves half for the evening, and even sometimes for late at night. She seems to know what she needs, and eats only that much. Occasionally she will eat only the chicken necks for two days, then will be ravenous and eat everything. It doesn't worry me; I just give the leftovers to the hens! She is about the healthiest dog I've known, and no spare fat on her.

    Helpful Tips

    Excellent website for information on parasites in dogs and catsExpert
    I just conducted a seminar and hands-on demonstration on diagnosis of fecal parasites to veterinarians and technicians. An excellent ... More
    Was this Helpful?
    33 of 48 found this helpful

    Report Problems With Your Medications to the FDA

    FDAYou are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

    Learn more about the AVMA

    WebMD Special Sections