Vet says dog who won’t eat ‘enough’ might be just fine

Q: My dog Trixie is a 15-pound Malti-poo who’s a finicky eater. Unless I feed her people food, she completely turns her nose up at food. Some days I even have to hand feed her to get her to eat.

It wasn’t always like this. At first she would eat dog food, but she’d get bored with it and I’d have to offer her a new brand every couple of weeks. It finally got so she wouldn’t eat any of it!

Her vet says she’s perfectly healthy and even a bit chunky. But she won’t eat! What am I supposed to do?

A: She’s “chunky,” but you claim she won’t eat? There’s something amiss with this assertion. Not that it surprises me. In fact, yours is a common veterinary exam room grievance. Dogs who get “bored” or “refuse to eat” (unless the food is mixed with McDonald’s, cat food or ice cream) are a daily adventure for most veterinarians.

Some of these “finicky” dogs have always had fastidious eating habits, while others seem only recently to have come by the behavior. Regardless, all appear to have one thing in common: They’re otherwise normal. Their veterinarians can find nothing wrong with them beyond a lower than average appetite.

Though common, these dogs are decidedly not typical. After all, most dogs will gorge themselves to illness and obesity –– if we let them. But that doesn’t mean slow feeders like Trixie aren’t normal or healthy. In fact, Trixie’s appetite is likely way more apropos to the number of calories she needs than those who approach their food with frenzied glee.

But here’s the thing: As appears to be the case with Trixie, many of these “unhungry”-but-healthy pets are overweight in spite of their supposedly impoverished appetites.

Thankfully, there are at least two simple explanations for this common phenomenon: 1) We think our pets need more food than they actually do, and 2) we want to see our pets eat “healthily.” In either case, we’ll press them to eat excess calories.

All of the above would seem to suggest that Trixie isn’t so much finicky as she is spoiled and overfed. Which is why I would suggest changing your approach as follows:

Feed her according to your veterinarian’s recommendation for food type, volume and frequency. After 30 minutes, pick up what she hasn’t eaten. If she hasn’t eaten anything in 48 hours, call your veterinarian.

Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice at Sunset Animal Clinic in South Miami. Her website is Send questions to