My Dog Wouldn't REALLY Starve Herself . . . Would She?

Updated on September 29, 2017
M.6. asks from Woodbridge, NJ
12 answers

I have a standard poodle who is a fantastic, wonderful dog and my companion. I posted a few months ago about how she ate everything in sight off the ground when we went for a walk. That must have been a puppy phase, because just after I posted, she stopped doing that completely.

One thing about my Lucy is she is pretty attached to me. She loves Dad and DS bunches, but she is clearly "my" dog. My office is in my home, so she literally spends her entire life with mostly just me. She does go to doggy daycare about once a week to keep her socialized with other dogs (a danger with some Poodles is that they get funny if they are not socialized) and she does really well there - both with staff and all the dogs.

I went to TX last Thursday for a few days to see my oldest. Lucy went to daycare that morning since otherwise she would have been home alone for about 10 hrs (which she doesn't do well with being left alone for more than an hr) and my husband picked her up after work. She was fine Thursday night because she didn't really realized I was "gone, gone." Friday morning when I still wasn't home, she stopped eating and basically went on a hunger strike until I came back on Sunday afternoon. My husband finally called me on Saturday - he didn't tell me sooner because he didn't want me to worry - and asked if I would talk to Lucy on the phone to see if that would help. She went and sat facing the corner and wouldn't come to the phone (good Lord, I sound like I am talking about a kid here).

I think if she got hungry enough, she would eat. Hubby, on the other hand, is pretty concerned about the next time I am gone for more than a day. Poodles are crazy smart, and Lucy is no exception. I've never had a dog that was THIS smart (and we have had some really smart dogs over the years).

I realize that I need to figure out how to deal with her extreme reactions to me being away (any suggestions in that regard are welcome as well!), but my first question is: would a dog actually starve themselves out of missing mom?

So many folks on here are so knowledgeable about dogs, I look forward to hearing the answers :) (Oh, I did ask our local vet a few months ago about "separation anxiety" issues, and he was no help. We live very rural and our only vet is a "large animal vet" who hasn't been very helpful with much other than the basics of doggy health like vaccinations and spaying and such)

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So What Happened?

**Edit - we do not live in NJ, that was oddly assigned to me when I signed up with no other choice. Apparently there was a glitch that has since been fixed, but I never went back and fixed the location since my postings have little or nothing to do with where I live. The next nearest vet is over an hour one direction.

Lucy seems to love my husband and the son still living at home with us just as much as me. When my husband calls each day to tell me he is leaving his office to come home, Lucy can hear him on my phone and sits at the front door and waits for him to arrive, which takes over an hour. Same with our son - she listens for his van from school to arrive and then waits at the door to greet him with hugs and kisses (she can actually hug people). I know that she is extra attached to me due to the sheer amount of time we spend together, but she definitely has a wonderful relationship with all our family members.

I definitely don't plan to change any of my future travel arrangements due to this issue, but my husband felt so terrible she wouldn't eat and just wants to try to at least help the issue. Plus, we want to work on strategies for when other folks watch her while we are gone.

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J.C.

answers from Anchorage on

That is really normal dog behavior actually. If you will be gone for more then a couple of days maybe have him offer her a special treat she doesn't normally get, like soft food or by adding some veggies (salt free) and a little broth to her kibble.

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C.T.

answers from Santa Fe on

My dog does this every time I am gone. She is a husky and is crazy smart. She also is very very attached to me. She also is just naturally picky and always has been with her dog food. She is elderly now - 16 years old! She eats even less now, so keeping her eating is very important. We were gone 11 days on a Yellowstone National Park Trip in June and she stopped eating. It turned out the college girl who I hired to stay at our house just came by twice a day and didn't actually stay here. My poor dog. She felt totally abandoned by me. I advised her to feed my dog ANYTHING. Cheese. Leftovers. Anything. She has very high quality dog food but she just refused to eat it. She did start eating the people food. I felt so bad. When I got home she was so skinny. I have been feeding her really really well since then and spoiling her a lot. We have done one 3 day camping trip since then (just recently). I have found what works. I hired a dog sitter who knows dogs and elderly dogs to actually stay at our house, sleep in our bed, and hang out here. When she left to go to work one day I had her leave on the TV. She came straight back after work. The other two days she was around all day pretty much except for running errands (so, kind of like my schedule). I had leftover cut up chicken from a roast chicken in the fridge as well as many cooked hamburger patties and rice. I also had soft canned food as well as no sodium beef broth to add to her food. The woman who stayed here basically hand fed her, petted her, loved on her, and walked her...and this time she ate like a champ! I know the vet says don't feed your dog people food but screw it! She is old and she needs to eat something. She is doing great now. So the trick was hiring someone to stay at our house and be WITH her and I basically spoil her with amazing food/goodies. Good luck.

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M.J.

answers from Sacramento on

One idea is to have him feed your dog something special when you're not there, such as diced chicken or beef. Add a bit to the meal and maybe your absence will be associated with positive things and ease the anxiety? Just an idea.

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D..

answers from Miami on

Our dog did the same thing. I would have to coax him to eat by putting pieces of food in his mouth while sitting on the floor with him. It would take feeding him by hand for at least 15 minutes to get him used to it, and then he'd eat it from his bowl. We learned that we really had to make sure we weren't gone too long because of this.

Now, this wasn't because I was gone or because my husband was gone. It was because we left him alone. So if your dog isn't eating because YOU are gone, then you need to work on her relationship with your family. Talk to the vet about this and see if you can get some advise. It's crazy to let a dog determine whether you yourself can go on a trip or not. Don't just let this ride...

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M.C.

answers from Chicago on

Normally I'd say this is behavior that can happen and be dealt with, but when you started with she's a standard poodle, it's different. They can be crazy moody, emotional, and stubborn, and almost disturbed (neurotic) enough to actually cause damage to themselves that other breeds wouldn't have. She might not die from starvation, but she could give herself digestive issues that can become serious. I'd try another vet for ideas and take some of the ideas in the other answers to slowly work on this with her.

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V.B.

answers from Jacksonville on

Our GSD (also extremely intelligent breed) has never eaten well when he left her. Whether being boarded at a kennel (familiar kennel) or whether we have left her home with a pet sitter (in the house, staying, not just dropping in). She is rather picky to begin with, but will go days without eating when we are gone on vacations or traveling and she is left behind.

Eventually, she does eat some. Typically, throughout her life, she would lose up to 5 lbs during a week trip. (she's almost 14 years old now) These days, the longest we have left her with a pet sitter is about 3-4 days, and we no longer board her at all.

The only time she has truly refused to eat for any *significant* period of time, was after battling "old dog syndrome" (vestibular syndrome, where something in their inner ear shifts and they are dizzy and vomit, can't walk due to dizziness, etc. Eventually, it resolves, and some are left with a permanent head tilt.) She refused every food offered (from deli meats, to rotisserie chicken, to raw steak) for about a week, even after she had begun recovering and was able to stand without falling over. It took some cajoling, but eventually, she did eat a nibble, and that seemed to re-activitate her hunger pains, which seemed to have turned off during her illness. she had NO food desire whatsoever... until she managed to eat a bite of stir fry steak. Then an hour later she was willing to eat a handful of raw steak and she was done. Then, slowly, she began to have more interest and ate more.

I don't think your dog will purposefully starve. She's just making a statement.

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M.G.

answers from Portland on

My sister didn't travel for years because she was concerned about her dogs. Finally she had to - and the dogs did just fine. They adjusted. Her dogs are quite high strung I think but they were ok.

My uncle on the other hand had some fancy type cats (some special breed) and when he went away, they did actually not eat or drink. I'm not sure what the care giver did - if he stayed while he was feeding them, or what - perhaps not at all. This was an extended (like 3 week) trip.

I don't think that's the norm though, and I've never heard of dogs being like this. My friend is a vet, and he's never mentioned anything like that. The thing is - your dogs would be around people and be socializing - so they wouldn't get lonely or funny.

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P.K.

answers from New York on

Go to another vet. You live in Woodbridge not some secluded town where there is nothing. If you have to, go to next town over.

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J.T.

answers from Dallas on

See a dif vet and test a low dose of Xanax. My crazy intelligent but VERY attached needy Doberman does well on Xanax for storms(he's terrified since our house was struck by lightning last year) and it gives him the munchies.

B.C.

answers from Norfolk on

Poodles are smart - and they can throw temper tantrums too.
I baby sat a toy poodle for a week when her folks (family friends) went on a cross country trip.
My mom allowed the dog only where there was no carpet in the house - kitchen, and our garage which was turned into a screened room over the summers.
Mitzy had a nervous bladder - any excitement and she'd piddle.
My room was right next to the kitchen and at night the dog could sleep right next to my bed.
When she thought she wasn't getting enough attention, she'd quickly gulp down all her water from her bowl so she could barf it up again.
Scared the heck out of me the first time she did this but then I tried just keeping her water bowl half full and then she never had enough water in one go to be able to barf it up.
I never let it stay empty - she had water when ever she wanted it - just not a lot all at once.
It worked - no more barfing!

Your poodle I'd say is trying to punish you - show her displeasure - for your being away.
I think she'll get over it fairly quickly.
Absolutely check with a vet to rule out any health issues - you may need to find one who is more familiar with dogs.
Go on as normal and do your best to ignore it.
However I'd consider trying to get her use to you being away every so often so she gets use to it, will believe that you're coming back, and not throw a tantrum for thinking you've abandoned her.
You might be her alpha but she should be accepting your husband as an acceptable replacement for you if you can't be there.

D.D.

answers from Boston on

Please don't change your plans and come home early from things because of your dog. If she stops eating she isn't going to die. Dogs have a routine (because we have a routine) and when their human isn't around they get thrown off their routine.

I also work at home and my dog and cat can usually be found in my office all day. When I'm not home for a day they survive. When I went on vacation for a week they survived. Tell your hubby to stop focusing on the fact that you aren't there and do something with the dog like going to the dog park or going for a walk with her. You can also stick her in daycare for another day or two if needed just to change things up.

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H.M.

answers from Dallas on

My mom's dog would do that when she was gone. My son would have to go out and sit beside him to try to get him to eat when we would go feed him. Next time maybe try to facetime with them from the start of the trip so she can see you and not just hear you.

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