Q: My 12-year-old Shih Tzu has been a picky eater since he was three. He refuses to eat and would sometimes throw up. I resorted to spoon feeding him but he still rejects the food at times, leaving it untouched (even his favourite chicken liver). My vet has ruled out medical issues. I give him attention and walk him daily. What else can I do?

A: Dogs can be fussy eaters, not because they want to, but because we condition them to. It is great that you sent your canine for a check-up to rule out any possible medical issues. When your furkid became a picky eater, was he already getting a variety of food? Did you try to give him something else, hoping that he would eat that instead?

Dogs do not know about nutrition. They are naturally opportunistic eaters. If they are offered something that tastes or smells better, they will pick it over their regular food.

Some tips:

  • During mealtime, give your dog his usual food. Give him 10 to 15 minutes to eat. If he does not, remove the food. Wait an hour or two and try again. Repeat the cycle if your Shih Tzu still refuses to eat. If it is dinner time, stop the cycle a few hours before bedtime. Your dog will learn the value of eating promptly or suffer a growling tummy.
  • Do not feed your Shih Tzu any snacks. At each meal, food should look exactly as it did the last time. Do not give in and change the variety of food or else your canine will think that he will get something better if he does not eat. Repeat Step 1 over and over again if your dog is still disinterested.
  • No food in-between meals. Ensure that the only time he gets to eat is during his meals.

Your dog may hold out on you for a few days. It is normal. When he finally realises there is nothing extra coming from you, he will eat like a champ. If this tip does not work for your furkid, I will suggest a veterinary check again, but only if the previous check was done some time ago. A healthy dog does not starve himself.