How long without food (finicky eater) is too long (owner changed food when dropping off dogs)?

Owner dropped off two dogs and mentioned (casually, it seemed) that he'd gotten the dog food for free, and thought "why not try it, it's free." It didn't dawn on me until after he left that he meant I should try it (that he hadn't even seen if his dogs would eat it, or the effect it might have on them.).

It's Iams "Healthy Naturals" Lamb & Rice. It seems to have good reviews. But, I saw a few stories about people needing to feed rice and boiled hamburger to recover some dogs from it.

I found out from the owner what they were eating before coming here (Kirkland at Costco). I would have to beg a manager at Costco to be compassionate and sell it to me. (Otherwise I have to buy a membership.).

I don't want to overreact or be dramatic about this. I think all of us would say it's a bad idea to change food with already stressful boarding. (That's why it didn't occur to me that's what he was saying he was doing.). I want to be respectful to his position (he said changes food all the time, it's not a big deal.).

But, It's been 23 hours since they were dropped off.

1. After 21 hours since being dropped off, one dog (1 yo) ate about 1/2 cup and immediately went outside with loose stools ending in liquid.

2. The other dog (4 yo) still won't touch it (even moistened with water, a little flaxseed and olive oil, honey).

My questions:

1. At what point would it be too long for the 6 yo to go without food?

2. At what point should loose stools (or straight liquid) be considered unacceptable (either to me as a boarder, or for the dog's comfort and health)?

I don't want to be uncooperative about following the owner's expectations (just "tough it out."). I consider this a learning experience (like the other post about owners not using leashes). I'm learning that I have to talk to owners about basic things, maybe have my own "sign off" (contract) about what I require (leashes, don't change food). I'm willing to do what I have to do to make this work (struggling with the trots, etc.).

So, it's not a big deal to me. I would gladly buy the food (at my own expense) and get through this stay with the least problems. But, I also feel like I should be respectful to what the owner is saying. Maybe give it more time?

What would other sitters do? Aside from "don't change diet as part of boarding," (that ship's already sailed). How long would you try to make it work (owning your own responsibility for getting into this situation)?

FWIW: IMO, this is another example of what I see as a shortcoming on Rover. There needs to be ... (more)


Also, your idea about "Owner 101" is excellent. You should send it on up to Rover support. If we ever see it, we'll know it was from you!

I've been unusually inspired lately and sent a few things to Rover. I don't recall if this was one of them. You (and others) could send it in. That would cover if I didn't. (If I did, it would add more support for that enhancement.).

We regularly get a 12-year-old husky who eats now, but the first time we had her she only ate one bowl in five days. The owner said she ate three big bowls when she got home. As long as they're drinking water, probably ok. We have a rescue German shepherd now who has eaten treats only for three days

4 Answers

Sort by ยป oldest newest most voted

I would let the owner know immediately that one of the dogs seems to have an upset stomach and the other seems to not have an appetite for the new food at all. Really poor decision making on their part... It's possible that he can arrange to order some to be delivered to you or have someone bring it to you.

Diarrhea is pretty typical for a dog when changing food. But if the dog still has loose or liquid stool after 24 hours, they're mostly going to ALSO be dehydrated. Which just compounds problem. If they don't seem to improving, check their gums to make sure they're staying hydrated.

I agree with the chicken broth tip from Carmen. Maybe the owner can recommend a "tasty" additive that you can mix with this new food that they approve of (rice, meats, etc.). Most likely, even dogs that aren't fond of their food are going to start eating after a day or two.

I second the idea of a Rover 101 for pet owners. I had a client ask the other day if they should send their dogs' food with them for their two week boarding stay...


Also, how does an owner not know that food changes should be mixed gradually with the old food?


I would definitely contact the owner about the eating situation. Maybe he can give you his Costco membership number so you can get their regular food there.

And I love the Owner 101 suggestion. So many of my new/potential clients have never left their dog with a sitter before and don't have a clue what to do to prepare or what we actually do while sitting.


First, it is my opinion that no dog will starve itself. That said, here are my suggestions:

1) Reach out to friends and neighbors in your area (FB, Twitter, etc.) and see if, perchance, anyone uses the same food the owner was using before drop-off. If so, you could borrow/buy enough from them to get you through this stay.

2) I have had good luck with pouring some chicken broth over the food, sometimes even leaving it a while to soften it up. Usually within 48 hours the dog has eaten something. True confession (Rover Peers, please don't hurt me) I'm not above sneaking a self-starving dog a bite of bologna.

3) Keep an eye on the runny stools. It is not unusual in a dog that is nervous, regardless what food it is eating; just make sure the pup is drinking. If it becomes severe or is still happening in a day or two, call a vet.

Good luck!


He ate more and didn't have the runs. So, the first splat must have been due to the stress of boarding, change of environment. The other dog just ate some kibble for the first time (about 32 hours after drop off. So, this might be over.). Thanks.

Your 101 idea is a good one, though!


If dog has diarrhea better for them NOT to eat any food for their digestive system to rest.

A dog won't starve after a few days of not eating. The key thing is water. Especially if loose stools, you have to watch for dehydration. I've had foster dogs that wouldn't eat for a week! They were just too stressed out. I would mix gravy style canned food and they would only take couple bites. I agree it's really scary when a dog goes off its food. We're conditioned to think food is everything but its not. A dog can go a long time without eating. It's not preferred but in many situations especially with dog sitting, it will happen frequently.

Just make sure they're getting plenty of fresh water. Rinse and refill water bowl daily even if not empty. Thats the important thing.