How Long Can Dogs Go Without Food?

A dog is a man’s best friend, and the perfect companion for walks, cuddles, hugs, and games. Dogs are such energetic and loving creatures, it can be impossible to believe they can be sick too. However, to keep a dog healthy, and happy, you need to take good care of your little guy’s dietary needs. This way it has the energy to keep running around, making your, and your family’s day brighter.

Ideally, you should feed your dog once, or twice a day. Nonetheless, if you’ve missed feeding time, there’s not much to worry about. Here, we’re going to discuss in detail how long can dogs last without food?

A corgi smiling in a field of green glass.

What Happens to Your Dog if You Don’t Feed It?

Starving causes lethargy, and sickness in dogs if it goes on too long.  Moreover, there are major changes in the constitution of the animal’s blood too. The number of its red blood cells, platelets, and albumin, a protein in the blood, all change. The animal may also develop ulcers and bleeding in the stomach due to prolonged starvation. Slowly, the cells of its liver will start to shrink, and its body structure will start to deteriorate. Slowly, the body’s mass starts to decrease, and the animal becomes unable to survive. Dehydration fastens this process significantly.

How Long Can Dogs Go Without Food?

The time any dog can withstand starvation depends on several features. Many people claim that dogs can last up to 4-5 days without food, however, scientific experiments prove this wrong. An experiment conducted on an adult scotch collie recorded him starving for 117 days, and he still survived. The dog lost 63% of its body mass but was able to regain all its weight after he was fed regularly again. After the experiment, the dog lived a healthy life.

Dog kibble in a bowl with a dog sitting beside it

The Factors That Effect a Dog’s Ability to Live Without Food

Its Weight

When any living being stops eating, the body starts digesting the body’s stored fat for energy. This allows them to survive for a limited period until their fat reserves run out. Humans die when they lose 40-50% of their body fat, and for the longest time, scientists believed that was true for all dogs too.

This percentage is the standard and is the answer to why some dogs die of starvation early, while others can survive longer. Let us take the example of two dogs. One weighs 80 pounds, while the other is 50 pounds heavy. We know both dogs can last until they still have half their body weight. The 80 pounds dog has to lose 40 pounds, while the 50-pound dog won’t be able to survive losing more than 25 pounds. The second dog’s body will give up earlier because losing 25 pounds is faster than losing 40 pounds.

The truth is, most dogs die when half of their fat gets depleted. Nonetheless, some dogs like the Scotch Collie discussed earlier, can survive longer. This proves that there are other factors that affect the life span of a starving dog.

A dog looking up at the camera with a bowl of dog food beside him

Its Age

The age of the dog plays an important part in his survival. Older dogs are more likely to die of starvation early, while younger dogs can hold on longer. There are multiple reasons for this, one of which is the medication old dogs are usually on.

Another reason is the problems in bodily functions that dogs experience as they age. The organs don’t work as efficiently. Couple that with the fact that dogs lose weight as they age, and you will understand why feeding older dog regularly is important.

Dog with his head out of the car window

 Its Breed

Dog breeds that are used to harsh living conditions can survive small periods of starving easily. However, dog breeds that are used to being pampered are unable to keep up. This is a matter of habit, and perseverance that slowly builds itself over time.

 Its Activity

When you work out, your body burns glucose to provide you with energy. If your body has a reserved amount of glucose in the form of body fat, working out more will decrease this store faster. This is why active dog breeds are less likely to starve long periods of starvation.

border collie chasing after a purple ball

The Living Conditions

To put it very simply, dogs that have access to clean drinking water can last longer without food. While animals can survive without food, most of them die due to dehydration. Temperature is another important factor. Hot temperatures mean excessive sweating and water loss, but winter months are more deadly to starving animals.

Digestion releases heat, which keeps the body warm. This is why you feel extra hungry in the winter season. If an animal starves during the winter months, chances of the animal freezing to death increase significantly.

Australian shepherd laying on a couch

How Long Should You Wait Before Taking Your Dog to the Vet?

Dogs are smart, proud, and moody animals. If your dog stops eating, the simplest answer could be it doesn’t like the food you’re giving it. You can try to switch the dog food you are using to see if there is a change. Dogs that are adopted, or have been moved from one place to the other, might have problems eating properly. Let the animal take its time, and it should start eating soon.

If your dog doesn’t start eating soon, even after you’ve tried everything, you should take it to the vet. The standard waiting time before going to the vet is 48 hours. However, if you’re dog starts getting diarrhea, vomiting, coughing, lethargy, you should take him to a doctor right away.


A Labrador is lethargic because of not eating


Always leave your pet with a dog sitter, or relatives that can feed it when you leave for long periods. If your dog is being stubborn about his food, the answer is to allow him to skip a few meals. A healthy dog will eat what it is given if he finds no alternative. It is prudent to keep an eye out for any other signs of sickness.

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