Do Dogs Lose Their Appetite in Hot Weather?

Many of us experience a smaller appetite when it’s warm out, and this can often be the case in our pets too. A study into the feeding habits of cats found that they eat as much as 15% less during the summer months. While there is less research on this in dogs, it’s likely that they respond to hot weather in a similar way when it comes to appetite. In this article, we’ll talk you through the reasons behind this phenomenon, and what you can do to encourage your dog to eat up.

Why Do Dogs Lose Their Appetite in the Summer?

There are a few different reasons why dogs tend to want to eat less in the summer.

First of all, dogs tend to have reduced activity levels when it’s hot, exercising less and resting more. They need less energy as a result, and so may eat less.

The summer also triggers hormonal changes in dogs. The higher temperatures and increased daylight, particularly between June and August, trigger a slower metabolism. This results in food being digested more slowly, which can affect appetite.

It’s also thought that hot weather can overwhelm a dog’s senses, so that their food doesn’t seem as tasty or smell as good as normal.

Meanwhile in the winter, dogs require more energy in order to maintain their body temperature. The reduced daylight during the winter triggers a change in metabolism the other way, promoting fat storage and increasing appetite.

Changes in routine can also affect your dog’s appetite. For example, children might be at home for a prolonged period during the school holidays, or maybe you are taking more day trips and leaving your dog at home because of the heat. Taking your dog with you on holiday is another change that could influence their appetite over the summer months.

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Other Reasons Why Dogs Might Have a Reduced Appetite

While it is true that cats and dogs tend to have a reduced appetite over the summer months, being off their food can also be a sign of an underlying health condition.

There are a large number of reasons why a dog may not be eating. Reduced appetite and weight loss can be signs of:

  • Stress
  • Pain
  • Nausea
  • Fever (high temperature)

These are likely to be symptoms of further health conditions, which could include infection, dental disease, gut issues, hyperthyroidism, or heart, lung, liver or kidney disease. It’s important to always speak to your vet to figure out the root cause.

Your dog will usually show other symptoms as well that will let you know something is wrong, however this won’t always be the case. If you notice any changes in your pets normal routine, even if they seem small, like a change in appetite, it’s important to speak with your vet so you can rule out any underlying causes as early as possible.

How Can I Increase My Dog’s Appetite in the Summer?

It’s normal for dogs to lose their appetite during the summer to an extent, but it’s still important that they eat enough. While you should never force them, encourage your dog to eat their normal recommended daily portions of food for their age and breed all year round, so that they’re receiving all the nutrients they need.

However, only offer gentle encouragement. Forcing your dog to eat, especially when they’re not feeling well, can cause an aversion to food where they start to associate feeling unwell (or the feeling of being forced) with food, so that these unpleasant feelings return whenever they’re faced with their dinner. Forcing a dog to eat can also put them at risk of inhaling the food, causing more issues.

Every dog is different, and smaller than average portions during certain times of the year might be right for your dog – just make sure you ask your vet first before reducing portion sizes.

Here are our top tips for encouraging your dog to eat during hot weather:

Give your dog their food somewhere cool and shaded. Your dog will be more inclined to stay by their food bowl and eat up if it’s in a comfortable location.

Adjust meal times. If your dog normally eats in the early evening, it may still be very warm at that time, and they might not want to eat. You could try pushing their dinnertime back by an hour or two so that it’s cooler. Similarly, an earlier breakfast time before the sun has had time to heat up could help encourage your dog to eat.

Make sure your dog’s food is served fresh and at room temperature. While frozen treats are a great way to keep hot pups entertained on warm days, for pets that are struggling with a change in appetite, chilled food can actually dull the aromas and flavours, making it less appetising. Heating it ever so slightly to body temperature will help it to release its tempting aromas, or keep it room temperature to avoid introducing any more warmth to an already hot day.

Add food toppers to make your dog’s food more appealing. Adding a little extra something to your dog’s bowl to enhance the smell, flavour and texture might just be all the encouragement they need. Nature’s Variety Freeze Dried Toppers are a great way to do this – the freeze drying process removes all the moisture which concentrates the meaty flavour for a tantalising flavour and smell. You could also try adding low-salt chicken broth or chopped cooked veggies to your dog’s food. Just be mindful of your dog’s overall calorie intake and ensure that no more than 10% is made up of treats or extras to avoid upsetting their balanced diet.

Consider a different diet. Switching to a new dog food and introducing exciting new flavours could be a great way to encourage your dog to eat up. However, it’s best to ask your vet before making changes to your dog’s diet – changing suddenly and without checking if it’s suitable for your dog could cause stomach upset. If your dog usually has kibble, leaving it to soak in a bit of warm water before serving can sometimes be enough of a change to encourage dogs to eat.

Experiment with being there while your dog eats. While some dogs prefer to be left alone to eat their food and might feel anxious if they’re being watched, others might prefer to have company. Dogs are social animals, so having you there with them could motivate them to eat up. Hand feeding can also work well for some dogs.

Limit treats during the day. Treats shouldn’t make up more than 10% of a dog’s daily food intake. If your dog is struggling to eat all of their main meals, it’s a good idea to reduce the number of treats you give them even further so that they are hungrier at meal times when they’ll be eating more nutritious food.

Wrapping Up

Just like us, dogs can experience a reduced appetite during the summer months, particularly when it’s hot out. While it’s important to never force your dog to eat, encouraging them with some of the tips above can help to make sure they’re still getting all the nutrients they need. Different things will work for different dogs, so don’t be afraid to try a few things out – and if you’re concerned at all, always speak to your vet.

Animed Veterinary Nurse, Beth Walker