Why Won’t My Greyhound Eat? How to boost his appetite


Tummy trouble in a pet greyhound is pretty common, whether he is newly-homed or has been with you for years.  The reasons for it can vary.  

Here’s a list of some common greyhound belly-ache causes:

  • Hard time digesting new food
  • Finds kibble too dry
  • Emotional response to new environment
  • Being a “spook”
  • Lack of fiber
  • Protein in new food too high
  • Less hungry, due to less physical activity
  • Parasites
  • Bad teeth

You’re right to be concerned when your greyhound is not eating.  Before a little problem becomes a big one, you’ll want to figure out what’s going on. This guide will help you track down the root of the problem.  

Hard Time Digesting New Food

This was my first experience with a pet greyhound, and I hope it’s not yours.  Here’s where I went wrong when I adopted Peaches:

The lady who ran the adoption program loved Purina Pro Plan, and used it for all her dogs.  I ran right out, and brought home the largest bag.  When I fed it to Peaches, she had terrible diarrhea, so it was back to the store, $30 poorer.  I had never had a dog before, so my next idea was to go with what looked good on TV.  

Never do this.

We tried Kibbles-n-Bits, which upset her stomach so badly, it growled and squeaked like squirrels were doing battle in there.  Then, we tried Gravy Train.  They don’t tell you that the “gravy” consists of cornstarch and food dye, which made Peaches hyper.

Your Vet Can Recommend a More Digestible Food

In desperation, I took her to the vet, who did a great job of outlining Peaches’ digestive problems, and helping us to arrive at a solution.  In fact, the kibble the vet gave me worked out so well, I started my other greyhounds on it when they came home, and things worked out much better.  Now, you might be thinking that Peaches was an exception; but tummy trouble in a newly-homed greyhound is pretty common. You may be able to prevent this entirely by getting your new hound off to a gentler start.  

How to Make Your Greyhound’s Meals More Digestible 

Try any or all of these ideas:

  • For the first meal, mix the kibble with boiled rice and chicken (or hamburger), and see how he fares.  
  • Mix just a bit of the new kibble into his regular food, at first; and increase the amount, as he adjusts to it.
  • Buy a kibble that features easy digestibility.
  • Use a raised feeding stand.
  • Break his daily meal into two or three smaller meals, served throughout the day.

Finds Kibble Too Dry

This is easily solved!  Just add one cup of water to each feeding.  It will look like a sloppy mess, but it’s all gravy to your greyhound!  Scraps of meat and vegetables also add moisture, as well as appealing variety.

This isn’t just your greyhound being picky.  He was used to getting these tasty bits from his racing days.  In spite of what you may have heard, the greyhound trainers don’t just throw them a slab of meat and walk away.  If you ask ten trainers what is the best diet for a greyhound, you will get ten different answers!  Each trainer takes great pride in his own personal recipe to make and maintain a champion.

As for the water, any time you can get more water into him, it’s a good thing. If you can help him spread it out over the course of the day, it’s better for your greyhound’s kidneys.

Greyhounds HATE Stuck Food!

One oddity about greyhounds is they will sometimes walk away from food that has become pasty and is stuck to the bowl.  I don’t know why this is a problem; but I find if I loosen it up with a spatula, the dog will finish it.  To prevent the food from sticking in the first place, you can mound it all on one side of the bowl, and carefully add the water down at the bottom, just before you put the bowl down.

Emotional Response to New Environment

New house, new people, new routine, even new surfaces to walk on – Your new greyhound’s entire world has been turned inside-out!  He may be on antibiotics from his pre-homecoming vet work.  Plus, they tend to bolt their food at the kennel.  Not a good combination!  He may feel slightly off.  Chicken-Rice is your best friend, or you can stir a couple tablespoons of yogurt into his food.

Here’s my favorite way of making chicken-rice for a greyhound.  I suggest making up a batch and freezing it before your new greyhound comes home.

Chicken-Rice for Greyhounds

1 good-sized piece of raw chicken, such as a leg quarter or a breast

3 cups rice, uncooked

7 cups water

Put all ingredients into a large pot (mine’s an 8 qt. size).  Be sure you have a tight-fitting lid (set aside, for now).

Over high heat on a medium-size burner, bring to a full, rolling boil, stirring a few times, so the rice doesn’t clump or stick.

Once it boils, turn the heat down to low, give it one more stir, and cover (Put the spoon in with your dirty dishes).

Cook for 20 minutes.  Don’t peek!  You will not lift the cover until the food has cooked AND rested.

Then, shut off the burner, and let it sit for 10 minutes.

Uncover and move to a cool burner or cooling rack.  Remove the chicken to a plate.  For faster cooling, use a clean wooden spoon to create a hole in the center of the rice.  

Let the meat cool slightly, before cutting it up, removing all the bones, and returning the meat to the pot.

Once the food is no longer hot, parcel it into containers or Ziploc bags, and freeze.  Never put hot food in plastic.

Eating Too Fast

As I mentioned earlier, it’s not unusual for a greyhound to bolt his food. When he does so, he gulps down a lot of air, too. This can be dangerous in deep-chested dogs like greyhounds, because it can cause bloat. 

Prevent Bloat: a matter of life or death

Bloat is a deadly condition where the full stomach can flip over. That is why you always want your greyhound to rest after eating. You don’t want him running, flipping a toy around, or going up and down the stairs. 

This is one compelling reason for getting a raised feeding stand. It helps your greyhound to take in less air while he eats.  It’s also another reason to add water to the dry food. It makes it harder to eat quickly. Plus, the kibble expands in the bowl, instead of expanding in his stomach. 

Being a “Spook”

A spook is a greyhound who has a habit of being irrationally afraid.  They skitter away at the slightest sharp sound, and always sleep with one eye open.  This personality type is completely genetic, as anyone who breeds greyhounds will tell you.   

Peaches was definitely a spook.  If anyone came near her while she was eating, she would dash back to her bed, trailing a mouthful of food all the way.  

This is not something you are going to cure; and if you try, you’ll be cleaning more wasted food off the floor than you’re greyhound gets in his stomach.  

Do not feed him outside, in hope of mitigating the mess.  This invites all kinds of vermin to feel right at home; which sounds all warm and fuzzy, until they start chewing up your house.  Just one bold rodent can cause a fortune in damage, in a very short time.

Spooks Need Private Dining

Set up your spook’s feeding station in an isolated area, where he can have some privacy while he eats.  Another solution would be to feed him where you normally would, but have everyone leave the room until he’s finished.  

Another problem you may have with spooks, and with extrememly lazy greyhounds, is a preference to eat in their beds.  Each of mine has tried this no-no at some point.  The dog will fill up his mouth with food, like a chipmunk who’s packing it away for the winter, trot back to bed, spit the food onto the bed, and dine in comfort.  If allowed, he will repeat this behavior, until he’s finished.  

Your first plan of attack for this is to baby-gate the dog into the kitchen, so he can’t get back to his bed.  He may avenge this by spitting food at the gate.  If he does, let him stay in there, until he has cleaned up his mess.

The Five-Minute Rule for Greyhounds 

Now, you may have a hound with a lot of competitive spirit, who will escalate to a stand-off by laying down on the kitchen floor, refusing to eat anymore.  

Give your rebel 5 more minutes (no more!), before going in and cleaning everything up.  Act neutral – No mean stuff, but no goo-goo talk, either!  Put away his uneaten food for the next meal (don’t try to save what ended up on the floor).  At the next meal, feed him a smaller amount.   If he has so much food that he’s playing games with it, he’s probably not that hungry.  Remember, now that he is not an athlete anymore, his caloric needs are greatly reduced.  

This time, put the gate up right from the start.  You may get another refusal, but that’s OK.  Just repeat the plan, and let him come to terms with the rules of the house.  Unless he is very sick or crippled with arthritis, he does not need to eat in his bed.  If he was that sick, he would not have the energy to run laps between the bowl and the bed.  You, on the other hand, are responsible for keeping dog food in its place; not being tracked through the house, attracting insects, mice, and spiders.

Too Much/Too Little Fiber 

Fiber is the parts of grains and vegetables that are undigestible – Hulls, skins, etc….. but that’s actually a good thing!  We all need some fiber to help process our food.  Fiber helps our dogs (and us) in two major ways.  First, it slows down the entire digestive process, giving the body more time to absorb all the nutrients.  Otherwise, the beneficial stuff can just pass through, or – worse – turn to fat.  

Second, as the fiber works its way through, it “brushes” the entire tract clean.  Otherwise, bits can cling to the tract, causing constipation, and forming pockets that can harbor bacteria or even cancer.

One caveat – Never adjust your greyhound’s fiber intake, without first making sure that he is taking in enough water (see next section, “Not Enough Water“).

Stool Can Indicate Fiber Need

You will know if your greyhound is not getting enough fiber, because his stools will seem surprisingly small and firm.  Not to be gross, but if the stool bounces a little or rolls when it hits the pavement, it may be a bit too firm.  

If this is allowed to go on, you will see your greyhound start licking or chewing at his backside with a sense of urgency.  If he begins scooting his backside across your rug, this is a sign that his anal glands may be impacted.  This is a fancy way of saying that he has 2 little sacs on wither side of his tail, which act as a sort of holding area for some of his poop.  If his poop is too firm, it can back up in these glands. They can clog up, and even become infected.

If you add fiber, do it gently and gradually, or your greyhound will get The Dreaded Greyhound Gas.  Cooked sweet potato, canned pumpkin, and oats ground fine in the blender are all good, healthy ways to add fiber.  Do not use wheat bran, as it contains phytic acid, which, according to Tom Meulman, administrator of the greyhoundhealth ProBoard, “can reduce the absorption of some minerals, which include iron, calcium, and zinc. All of which are essential to a greyhound’s health.”

Not Enough Water

Greyhounds can be really awful about drinking enough water.  I searched for a specific “recommended” amount, and found only the generic dog rule of thumb, which is 1/2 oz. to 1 oz. of water per pound of the dog’s weight, per day.  That would be at least 30 oz. for my current greyhound, but I would say that she only takes in that much on a really hot day. 

Even my vet admits that, with greyhounds, it’s often best to throw out the rule-book!  The best way to tell if your greyhound is properly hydrated comes from legendary greyhound author, Dennis McKeon, who offers the following technique in his article, “core strength, hydration and determining your greyhound’s ideal weight:”

“The first step in properly assessing a greyhound’s weight and condition, is to determine if he is properly hydrated. The easiest way to do this, is to grasp a fistful of his hide, at the widest part of his back (as you look down upon him), which is directly above the waist tuck. It should be easy to grasp a handful of hide, and you should be easily able to pull it upwards, to the point where it can no longer stretch—this will not hurt the dog, provided you don’t overstretch it. At that point, where the hide will no longer stretch, you then release it. If the dog is properly hydrated, it will snap right back into form. If it gradually sags back into shape, or if it is very difficult to grasp, you likely have a greyhound who is under-hydrated, and more often than not, somewhat underweight. An overweight dog can also be under-hydrated, but that is less often the case.”

Protein in New Food Too High/Too Low

Once your greyhound is not racing anymore, he does not need as much protein.  He will naturally get less, once he is switched to dry food, instead of all that meat that he was getting at the track.  The exact percentage needed will depend on your individual greyhound, and may change as he ages.

Because you want to choose one kibble that works and stay with it, it’s best to choose one with a protein content in the low-to-mid-twenties, and tweak it to the perfect protein balance for your dog. Keep in mind that too much protein is tough on his kidneys, and that it is better to err on the low side than the high.  

Correcting Your Greyhound’s Protein

Here is how, and when, to make a gentle change to your greyhound’s protein intake:

Increase the protein if your dog seems to be getting pudgy, even though he’s getting enough exercise and you don’t want to cut his portions.  You can up the protein by gradually replacing 2 Tablespoons of the kibble with an equal amount of cooked meat, sardines, or yogurt.

Decrease the protein if your dog seems hyper or has loose stool, and you have ruled out all other possible causes.  You can cut the protein by by gradually replacing 2 Tablespoons of the kibble with an equal amount of cooked rice.  Be sure the rice has been cooked thoroughly and with plenty of water.  It shoud be bloated and sticky.  If it is only the dry side, it will draw water from your dog’s body, and dehydrate him.

Greyhounds Need Meat Protein

More important that a specific percentage of protein is the kind of protein he gets.  It should be high quality animal protein, because it contains specific amino acids that he needs.    These amino acids are not found in plants.  Besides, soy does not tend to agree with greyhounds.  

Some vegetables are OK, but just because your dog can digest them does not make the case for a greyhound living the vegan life.  No disrespect intended to those who believe strongly in going vegan, but I must insist and advocate strongly for the biology of the greyhound.  Think how it would feel to have someone of another species force you to eat a diet that wasn’t meant to sustain human life.

Good choices to look for on the label are poultry, beef, eggs, fish, and lamb.  I have found chicken to be the most digestible of these, and lamb, the least.  Lamb is quite rich; and you may need to feed smaller portions of a kibble containing it. 

Hidden Danger of Too Much Fat

A word about beef (and fat, in general) – Beef fat is very tough for a greyhound to digest, and too much can make him quite sick, as I found out one Christmas, when Lily cleaned everyone’s plate following a roast beef dinner.  After vomiting four times, she lay on the rug, practically comatose.  I learned later that if had been any worse, she would’ve ended up getting IV fluids at the animal hospital.  

Less Hungry, Due to Less Physical Activity

This is why I say to ignore the feeding chart on the dog food bag!  There is a huge range of how much food greyhounds eat.  The amount decreases sharply when the retire from racing, and will decrease further as they age.  

With each of my greyhounds, the appetite fell off at age 7, and again at age 10.  Suddenly, they just stop finishing their food.  I cut their serving size, and they go back to cleaning the bowl.  I notice that whenever I read feedback on the forums regarding how much people feed their greys, everyone’s dogs seem to eat a lot more than mine.  In a day, my dogs average about 1 pint of kibble – rice – yogurt (mostly kibble), maybe 1 cup of table scraps (distributed throughout the day), and a handful of treats (mostly biscuits).

Parasites

I believe that this cause of gastric distress is GREATLY overlooked by pet greyhound owners! Consider these facts:

  • Worms are one of the most common complaints at the vet’s office.  
  • Parasites can live in your soil for up to 30 (yes, thirty) years.
  • They are highly contageous (think dog parks, or really any corner of your neighborhood that is popular with dog walkers)
  • They can be devilishly hard to get rid of.  Some dogs have them on and off for life.
  • They can be passed to your dog by his mother.
  • There are several different, very common types.

If your greyhound has loose stools or an upset stomach, please watch for further symptoms that it could be caused by worms (sickness or loss of appetite that last for a day or two, goes away, and returns in a few weeks; white strands or rice-like particles in his stool).

Bad Teeth

If your new greyhound has sore gums or tooth decay, he may find a crunchy new diet disappointing, and even painful.  In addition, bacteria from bad teeth can travel through his digestive tract, making all sorts of mischief down there.  What may seem like a food allergy or bowel condition may actually be a simple toothache. 

A greyhound usually gets a dental cleaning as part of his pre-homecoming vet work. What they fail to tell you is that it doesn’t include needed dental work. 

Check your greyhound’s teeth right away.  Don’t worry, he’s used to it!  If you feel nervous about going into his great mouth full of fangs, put on some rubber gloves.  

Have the Vet Assess Dental Health

Otherwise, get him seen by your vet right away.  This doesn’t mean he needs immediate treatment, but you want to know, right up front, where things stand with your dog’s dental health.  

Some kennel managers brush the dog’s teeth, give them cookies to munch on, and some do not.  You just don’t know, until you look.  What you see may look pretty gross.  Don’t get nervous-  it may not be decay, but staining and tartar. 

Look closely at his gums.  A small amount of redness at the gumline is not an emergency.  With daily brushing, that often goes away.  

If you see bleeding or pus, make an appointment with a vet who has done greyhound dentals before.  Have him check your greyhound’s mouth thoroughly, and make a treatment plan.  

Anesthesia Can Be Deadly for Greyhounds 

Dental work requires anesthesia, to which greyhounds are extremely sensitive. If he needs extraction, gum treatment, or even just a more thorough cleaning, insist on a vet who is experienced with sedating greyhounds.  Your pet’s life could depending it. 

Loss of appetite from a dental problem can compromise your greyhound’s health pretty quickly, so be very proactive about his teeth.  Get him on a daily brushing program.  If he has a sore mouth, soak his food with water to soften it up, until the problem is resolved and he can enjoy harder foods again. 

Conclusion

If your greyhound is not eating, and none of these ideas seem to fit, please have him checked out by his vet.

Gail McGaffigan

The owner of the Greyhound Homecare website and YouTube channel, Gail has had retired racing greyhounds as pets since 1997. Please visit our channel, too! https://www.youtube.com/c/GreyhoundHomecare

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