The first step in addressing the problem of picky eating is to rule out any medical causes for the behavior. Make an appointment with a veterinarian if any of the following apply:
- A dog or cat used to be a good eater, but their appetite has waned.
- A pet is losing weight or has any other concerning symptoms (vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, etc.)
- A dog or cat seems to want to eat but has difficulty doing so.
- A pet is lethargic.
Once you are convinced that a pet’s picky eating is not the result of disease, the next step is to determine if the behavior really is a problem. Studies have shown that dogs and cats that are a little on the thin side are actually healthier and live longer lives in comparison to pets that are “normal” or overweight. If a pet is a little thin but otherwise healthy, this is probably the ideal body type for that individual.
But, when a dog or cat is too thin or a veterinarian has said that he or she is concerned the pet’s intake of nutrients is insufficient to support good health, it is time to step in:
- Begin by trying one or two different pet food formulations. Perhaps a pet who has only ever been offered dry food would eat more of a canned diet, or vice versa. Try different flavors and different brands, but give the dog or cat a week or so to get used to each before trying another. Frequent rotation of foods can actually promote finicky eating behavior.
- Foods that are designed for extremely active pets are generally calorie and nutrient dense. If a dog or cat eats the same volume of one of these foods, he or she will actually be getting more nutrition out of every bite in comparison to “regular” pet foods.
- Cut back or eliminate table scraps and treats. Filling up on these “extras” can cause dogs and cats to eat less of nutritionally complete and balanced foods.
- Consider a home-prepared diet. Some pets will eat more home cooked food than they will commercially prepared options. Make sure any recipes you use are designed by a veterinary nutritionist, however.