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Behavioral issue with eating

1762 Views 26 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  sue.owrutsky
Hi, I’m hoping some experienced dog owners here may be able to help me with some answers/advice. I’m not sure what section to post this in as he is a puppy, is having odd behavior, and this is related to diet, so I figured I would post in the general section.

I have an 8 month old male Vizsla who about a bit more than a week ago is refusing to eat more often than not. When he does eat he leaves more in the bowl than he eats. At last check he was 58 pounds.

He has always eaten his kibble mixed with some warm water twice per day, morning and evening. He would eat 2 cups AM and a little more than 2 cups PM. He just decided that he would refuse to eat on a regular basis. He will not eat the kibble at all, looks at it and walks away. I have tried everything I can think of with little results.

I have switched flavors, then brands of kibble. I then added several types/brands of wet food to the kibble with him still either just picking at it or ignoring the bowl altogether. I then bought freeze dried toppers and added that ground up and mixed with the kibble and wet food…same results. I then bought canine broth, warmed it up and added it to the mix of kibble, wet food, and topper….same results. I have tried hand feeding him and he has little to no interest.

I took him to the vet and they did not do any tests but from observing his behavior told me there isn’t anything physically wrong with him and he’s healthy. They prescribed an appetite stimulant and probiotics. This hasn’t helped either. He will gladly eat treats and anything he finds on the ground outdoors but not his meals.

My neighbor feeds his puppy a raw diet so I figured I would try that. He helped me prepare a large batch for my dog. This he ate with no problem but I have noticed a change in his urination. I fed him this diet for one day and he wound up urinating three times in the house, almost clear. He is perfectly house trained and never has accidents.

I also noticed him drinking less and urinating much more outdoors.

The ingredients of a batch of this diet are as follows: 15 pounds of raw ground turkey, 90 ounces of cooked (steamed) spinach (7.5 12 ounce bags of frozen spinach), 2 15 ounce cans of canned pumpkin, 5 tablespoons of iodized salt, and 2 teaspoons of bone meal. I bought a food grade 5 gallon bucket and a stirrer that I attach to my drill and mix it all up.

I grew suspicious of the urinary change so I investigated if spinach can cause any issues for dogs. It seems that in large quantities on a continual basis it can cause kidney issues among other physical problems due to its high content of oxalic acid. I am totally new to this type of feeding and have no idea if this recipe is dangerous for my dog to eat. I would love to have him back on kibble in some amount. I don’t know how long is safe for him not to eat if I just try to wait him out. That seemed to be the thinking of the Vet. I keep giving in and trying to get him to at least eat something. He is very stubborn and it would not surprise me if he went for days without eating if I just offer him kibble.

If anyone has advice on what I’ve described, or has suggestions on different ingredients for this raw diet your input would be greatly appreciated. I thought the raw diet had finally given me some progress but I’m not giving him anymore of that unless I find out if it’s safe and not going to mess up his kidneys in the amount in the mix. I’m very concerned about him not eating well at this stage of his life as he should be growing, not hardly eating anywhere near what he was.

I have an appointment with the Vet again on the 1st and I’m not sure what to do in the interim. Thanks for putting up with the long post, and again, any input would be great.
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Well I picked him up early from the breeder and have had him back about a week. I have gotten him to eat every meal since him coming home. If I sit by the food bowl and pretend I'm picking out a few pieces of kibble and eating it he then starts to eat and so far has finished all his meals in full. I'm not even putting water in it just straight kibble. I also didn't bother trying to feed him in the crate as the breeder was as that's a habit I didn't want to take hold. I have kept him on the Purina that he was getting at the breeders for now, I don't want to make any changes quite yet. I even got him to eat a small meal at lunchtime a few days. He looked like he had lost some weight so I was trying to catch him up. He looks back to what he was before all this started weight wise now.
I really have no explanation as to why he stopped eating but knock wood he is doing well now. The first 2 days back home he was very timid, staying on his bed and not much else. I think he may have been missing the other dogs he had to play with, plus the long ride probably didn't help. He seems back on track now.
Now if I could only get him to stop eating everything within reach when he's outdoors that would be great. I don't think he will ever stop doing that as it has been his main issue from day one. Even when he wasn't eating his food he was still trying to swallow any object in sight outdoors no matter how inedible.
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Well my dog is back to not eating. Little by little the tricks I have used to get him to eat have stopped working. He wants no part of kibble. He has a familiar progression. It starts with my sitting on the floor and sprinkling his treat in the bowl and pretending that I am eating it. For a few days that will get him to let me hand feed him from the bowl. As time goes by he will refuse to do that anymore. Then I will mix some fresh food in and make sure it is fully integrated with the kibble. He may finish this with much coaxing for a day. Then we get to the point he won't eat no matter how much effort I put into it. That's where we are now. He will gladly take and eat his treats. I have tried changing bowls, rooms where I place the bowl, brands of kibble, toppers, broth, etc.. I took the bowl outdoors on my patio and he will gladly eat grass, insects, and whatever other debris he can find while ignoring the food.

The breeder wants me to rehome him. She says she thinks he will do better in a home with other dogs that will show him what it means to be a dog. In the same breath she says there is nothing wrong with him. So I don't understand, does that mean that all Vizslas must live with other dogs? Which is it, is he normal and all Vizslas need other dogs, or does he have an issue....can't have it both ways. I stated to her that when she had him he would only eat when locked in a crate with the food, and he wasn't eating all his meals. She said that was normal too, if it wasn't she would have taken him to the vet.
In my opinion the dog has some fear issues, plus I guess he can't stand kibble even though he ate it fine for six months. I don't want to give my dog up, I love him and he loves me. He is like my child. Not to mention I have at least $7,000 invested in him between what he cost me to buy from her and extensive training that cost me over $3,500. I don't know what to do or what his issue is despite the breeder telling me he is absolutely normal.
When I got him back from her he had last considerable weight, I could see it in his body. I managed to put it all back on but now we are starting the gradual spiral of weight loss again. I have been taking him on a half mile walk in the AM before trying to feed him, a 3.5 mile walk midday, off lead time for him to run free in the yard, and another mile walk in the PM. I figure this will make him hungry but it is also probably burning off his reserves if he's not eating what he should be.
Do I just wait him out until he gets so thin by just eating enough to keep him alive until I have no choice but to give him back? It is so stressful. People are going to think I'm starving the poor dog to death. I don't care what she says this isn't normal. If I have to give him back my heart will be broken, and she is pushing hard to get him back. I've had eight dogs and have never had anything close to his issues. Also, when loose in the yard he is eating huge runners of lawn and other crap. I'm not quick enough to get them before he eats them. I have stopped all attempts to have him listen to me as I don't want to upset his fragile temperament even more with any corrections. The whole thing is making me sick with worry. I just don't understand. Even if he would eat these fresh diets they sell I could not afford to feed him that, it would drive me broke.
The other thought that crosses my mind is she switched this pup with the original one I was supposed to get late in the process. The people he was supposed to go to were taking him on an airplane, first to Florida, then back to California. She didn't think this pup would do well in that situation but I guess the other pup would. But he is totally normal? For anyone that thinks I should just give him back think about giving your child away to someone because he has issues, that's how seriously I take this. I am lost here.
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Dogs naturally compete with each other. When I had three other puppies at the house for a week, Heifer ate her food faster. So what your breeder is saying is true. Some of these dogs can be extremely picky eaters. Lucky for me, I’ve only had one like that. She would eat anything you handed her off the table, but acted like dog food had to be hand fed to get her interested in it. If she didn’t eat a meal, I just put it in her crate with her. She would normally wind up eating it.
Part of her behavior was learned. She was my daughter’s first vizsla, and she would hand feed if Lucy acted uninterested.
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I've never dealt with a dog like this, but it sounds like you'd like advice from strangers, so I'll try. Please don't take offense. I'm sure I don't understand the actual situation, but I'm still trying to offer things that might help.

My first thought is that pictures might be useful. You say he's too thin, but from the outside it's hard to know how severe the issue actually is. Healthy Vizslas can be a lot thinner than many people expect. Our 2 year old is filling out a bit now, but when she was younger strangers would often warn us we were underfeeding her despite our vet agreeing she was about right. It's hard to know without seeing, but I wouldn't worry too much about what other people say unless they are very familiar with the breed. If the vet thinks the dog is fine you might just need to ignore random accusatory comments from passersby.

Second, you mention that you are providing a lot of exercise, but as you probably know, they can be very athletic. Walks on a leash can be great for mental stimulation, but I don't think they actually provide much exercise. Free run in the yard might, if your yard is large enough and has enough interesting things in it. I wonder what might happen if you were able to give a few days of really intense exercise: enough that the dog says "that's enough" and prefers to take a nap to more running. This might require 6 or more hours a day of all out running in open fields. I wonder if he would have more interest in food after a couple days of this.

Lastly, there are affordable options between straight kibble and complex raw diets. Our dog had lowered interest in plain kibble at around a year and a half, so we moved to supplementing with chicken thighs. They are currently a little over $1/lb, thus cheaper than high end kibble. We usually debone them. but if you pressure cook, the bones become soft enough to eat. We miss the days when she'd wolf down the straight kibble, but she's currently happy eating a 1:4 chicken to kibble mix. You don't need to use this particular option, but there are lots of different inexpensive diets, and maybe one of them will work.

Good luck! It's clear you are trying to do what's best for your dog.
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Hi, Thanks for your response. At the moment he's not thin as I was able to have him eating all his meals until just recently which put back on what he had lost. He's 63 pounds. He was thin several weeks ago until I was able to hand fed him and he put back weight. He stopped accepting that method recently.
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The issue is it's a constant struggle to get him to eat, he often shows no interest especially when kibble is involved.

Another frustrating issue is he does not like to exercise off lead in the yard. He will just continuously eat whatever is on the ground, sod leeders, pine cones, acorns, bugs, bark, and anything else. I have a bunch of balls and other toys out there that I try to get him to chase or fetch but after one or two times he plants himself and starts ripping stuff out of the ground to eat. I try running and throwing the balls around figuring it will get him going but he has practically no interest. His only interest is eating junk, it's an obsession of his. I wish he would run around full out but he won't.

I've resorted to buying chopped lamb, cooking it and then thoroughly mixing it by hand with the kibble so he has no choice but to eat the kibble if he wants the lamb. I shred it to the point he can't eat pieces of lamb without also eating kibble. Even with this he isn't vigorously eating it, it's touch and go every meal.
I'm trying to do what I can to get him to eat. I have to cook this lamb every other day for it to stay fresh. I can get 4 burger size pieces from a $10 pack which is good for 4 meals. I don't even cook for myself but I want him to get nutrition while he's growing. I have tried every kind of dog food you could think of and if it's in with the kibble he doesn't even look at it.

If I don't go way out of my way to get him to eat I am convinced he would eat just enough to keep himself alive. I don't want him to go through that ever, especially at this critical growing stage. Thanks so much for the response.
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I too have a very fussy eater with a low appetite 8 month old called Lakey. The low appetite really kicked in when my older dog died so she no longer had to eat to stop the older one from getting it. This is likely why your breeder isn't having as much trouble with the feeding as you.
I mix a range of foods into the kibble from cheesy scrambled eggs, beef mince, chicken necks , canned salmon/sardines etc. I change it round every few days as she gets bored with each one quickly. I also have several brands of kibble that I switch up quite often.
Some days she won't touch the kibble at all, and will spit it out. Others she will eat the whole bowl. I have come to accept the kibble may become a thing of the past.
I do find she eats more when we have gone on a good off lead walk somewhere new, so she is mentally and physically tired.
I think it seems to be a trait of the breed as there are a few posts similar to this.
All in all I try not to panic about it too much (easier said then done) as i dont want her to pick up on my stress around her food, I try to give high protein treats to supplement the diet, change up her food regularly and take her for good walks in different environments to increase her appetite.
Hope that helps
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We also have a picky eater. We free feed our 2 yr old Boogie and if he isn’t interested I add sardines or wet dog food and put a little warm water in to mix it up. Usually then he eats most of it he love treats and I hide cheese around the house so he can use his hunting skills to find it. He is still thin. Has a huge outdoor run almost every day and comes back hungry. Our vet said not to worry… he will eat when he is hungry. This breed is known to be thin .hope that helps.
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