Updated: May 4
Every loving pet owner wants to spoil their furkids and provide them with an array of yummies to wet their palates. As much as this is wholesome and from a genuine place of love, being overzealous with food choices and portions might turn your pet into a picky eater!
Picky eating can be a learnt bad behaviour. Out of concern, some pawrents tend to offer a new alternative each time their pet turns their nose up at a meal. Repeatedly doing that enforces the habit, leading to a never-ending cycle of the pet rejecting one meal to get a “better” one next.
Picky eating could also arise from hooman habits, such as feeding your pets scraps from the table or treating them too often.
Why should I be concerned about picky eating?
Fussy eating in itself may not be a health problem or disorder, but this habit can still lead to many consequences in the future! It’s not uncommon for pawrents to panic and resort to opening 6 other cans of food to coax appetite. After all, a variety of food tends to make us hoomans feel satisfied and enriched.
Dogs and cats, however, do not need this much variety to thrive. Making sure your pets’ meals are balanced in nutrition is much more crucial than presenting your pets with a buffet of options and different meals each day. Often, pets end up being fed foods that should not make up most of their diet. This could lead to gastrointestinal imbalance, causing your pets to lose weight, become malnourished, start vomiting, and become lethargic.
Check our Dog Nutrition 101 guide!
Does my pet need medical intervention?
Just as we have our own likes and dislikes towards food, our pets have preferences as well! If your pet has been fussy with food since they were young, or eventually became a fussy eater while still being in good health, it’s most probably a picky eater by character.
If your pet develops a sudden fussiness or aversion towards their food, get concerned! It could be a sign of illness or food intolerance, so bring your furkid to the vet for an examination. If they are rejecting food and water, seek medical attention within 24 hours.
The rejection of food can indicate underlying health issues, high-stress levels, or damaged teeth and gums. Watch your pet closely to spot any signs of oral pain or tenderness and take note of their overall energy levels and wellbeing.
They might also be rejecting food or undereating due to food intolerance or allergies, which would manifest with other symptoms, such as excessive scratching, throwing up, balding spots and hair loss, passing foul-smelling gas often, and diarrhoea.
In cases of food intolerance, the vet may advise you to avoid certain ingredients your pet may be intolerant towards. In that case, scout around for a well-balanced food that is transparent and clear about its ingredients and their sources. NUTRIPE is a good option with a great variety of formulae using different ingredients. For the most sensitive stomachs, you may want to consider the Prey series by Taste of the Wild, which features single protein formulae. Pet supplements such as Himalaya Digyton may also help with alleviating many of the gastrointestinal symptoms for your pet.
Bring your pet to the vet to get checked if you suspect it to be suffering from any of these factors.
How to correct picky eating
Excessive treating does not equal love!
If scrumptious treats are given too often, it’s natural for pets to prefer these yummies over their main feed. You’ll have to start by lessening the number of treats and scraps that you’re feeding your pet to ensure they focus on their daily meals to get the balanced nutrition they need to function and thrive.
No more free-feeding
Free feeding refers to the practice of leaving a filled bowl of food out for your pet, ensuring 24/7 access to food. Some pawrents put a day’s ration in, while others simply refill the bowl whenever its contents lessen.
So why is free-feeding bad for your pet? Free-feeding diminishes the value of food and can get in the way of training. It also makes it harder to detect your pet’s feeding patterns, which is beneficial in diagnosing if your furkid is simply being fussy or losing its appetite due to health issues.
Fixed meal durations
Instead, introduce fixed meal schedules instead! Serve your pets their meals on a regular schedule in appropriate amounts every day, leaving the bowl out for about 15 to 20 minutes. If your pet ignores their food or is done eating, take the bowl back and do not feed them until the next scheduled session.
Your furbaby will eventually realise that rejecting their meal will not result in a “better offer”. Scheduled feeding for puppies also helps in toilet training, allowing you to pre-empt their toileting schedules and prevent accidents in the house!
Of course, make sure to always check that they are not rejecting their food due to intolerance or allergy towards an ingredient.
Resist those pitiful eyes!
Resist them I tell you! This is probably the biggest barrier any pawrent with a soft spot for their furbaby will face. Remember that their daily meals are provided in ample amounts and that training them to accept their diet plan is for the greater good!
It’s a journey
Finicky eaters are not easy to work with, and we understand the pains that you have gone through for progress! Some of you might be feeling guilty about the habits that you may have unintentionally encouraged, and some of you may be feeling worn out from going through multiple brands to find the jackpot foods that would spark joy for your furkid.
Correcting picky eating is definitely a journey that requires a lot of patience, perseverance and acute observation skills. We hope that our article has helped in your endeavour. Best of luck, Pets Club fam!
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