Why Does My Dog Only Eat At Night? 6 Reasons + Solutions
Dogs are so much fun to have around. They bring us joy and happiness, but they also come with their own set of rules and behaviors that we must learn and understand. There are simple and obvious things everyone knows. Like most dogs need to be walked every day, and they all need to be fed and have water.
Then there are more complicated things. For instance, dogs are social animals, so they need to be around people or other dogs. If you’re gone all day, your dog could get lonely and might start barking or chewing on things to relieve boredom.
Other dogs pick up weird habits like licking concrete, sleeping under your bed, or only eating at night. Those behaviors can make you feel lost when it comes to understanding your dog and what she needs.
So, what about only eating at night? Why does my dog only eat at night? The truth is there are a few things that could contribute to your dog only eating at night. Most likely when you come across what is influencing your dog, you’ll recognize it right away. A quick rundown of why your dog is only eating at night is:
Why Do Some Dogs Only Eat At Night?
If you read through the list above and immediately recognized what is going on with your dog, you may want to skip ahead to that section or even to the next part of this article. If you’re not sure which reason or combination of reasons has led your dog to only eat at night, keep reading. I’ll go into detail on all of them.
Anxious While Home Alone
Anxiety while home alone can stem from many places for dogs. Dogs are social animals and would rather be around people or other dogs most of the time. If you’re gone all day, your dog could get lonely and experience separation anxiety. Other dogs might have experienced something traumatic like being abandoned. These dogs may become anxious when left alone and only feel comfortable when someone is around.
No matter the cause of anxiety, it manifests differently in different dogs. Some dogs take to chewing on things or otherwise being destructive while others may bark, or whine.
If your dog is only eating at night, it’s possible she’s anxious while you’re gone during the day and can only relax enough to eat when you’re home with her at night.
Long term, dogs who experience anxiety may lose their appetite altogether. You don’t want to put your dog in that situation so if your dog does have anxiety you’ll want to address it.
Free feeding is when food is available to your dog at all times throughout the day. This is different from scheduled feedings where you set a specific time for your dog to eat. If you’re free feeding your dog, the idea of a schedule, at least for food might not be something that crosses your dog’s mind.
Chances are she’s getting her daily caloric intake just fine but knows she can eat whenever she wants and therefore isn’t in a rush to gobble up her food.
We never free fed our dogs, but when we had just one dog it seemed like we did. We’d give him his cup of food for breakfast but he wouldn’t finish until it was almost dinner time. He’d take small bites here and there throughout the day, by the time dinner came though, he was starving and would wolf down dinner as soon as it was served.
Now we have two dogs so he can’t get away with leisurely eating his breakfast because his sister will eat it for him.
The point is, if you free feed, your dog won’t be on the same type of schedule and may adapt to her own habits.
Only Comfortable Eating At Night
There are many reasons this could be the case for your dog. Maybe there’s another animal around during the day that intimidates your dog, maybe it’s too hot during the day to eat, and maybe your dog only wants to eat when you’re there to keep an eye on her.
As you can see this one is a little tougher to narrow down. However, keep observing your dog, and if she does eat during the day make a mental note of what was different that time. Then try to recreate the situation. Hopefully, you’re able to make the morning a comfortable time for her to eat too.
Her Food Doesn’t Taste Good
Given the gross things dogs eat (poop and grass come to mind), it’s hard to believe that there is anything a dog wouldn’t like! But, some dogs simply don’t like some foods.
Just like people, every dog is different and what one likes, another may not. It’s possible that your dog only wants to eat at night because she’s starving by then and still needs to eat something, no matter how gross it is.
Maybe one of the above reasons is what started your dog only eating at night, but now she’s developed the habit of being a nighttime eater. If your dog only eats at night and there doesn’t seem to be a good reason why this is the likely culprit. Especially if she didn’t live in ideal circumstances before you were able to adopt her.
What If My Dog Suddenly Only Eats At Night?
When our dogs suddenly change their behavior it can be alarming. Good for you! As a responsible owner, taking the time to try to figure out what is going on with your best friend. As you’ll see there are a couple of new reasons and a couple of other reasons that relate to what I’ve already talked about that could cause your dog to suddenly be a night eater.
As dogs age, their metabolism changes. This means they don’t burn calories as quickly as they used to. They also may not have the same interest in food. All these factors can lead to a dog suddenly only eating at night because that’s when they feel like they need to eat.
Sickness or Injury
Dogs can’t exactly tell us when they’re feeling under the weather or if they’re in pain. It’s not uncommon for a dog to change their behavior when they’re not feeling well. If your dog suddenly starts only eating at night, it might be worth a trip to the vet to rule out any health issues.
Change In The Seasons
I don’t know about you, but for me, on a hot summer day, it’s hard to eat anything too heavy. My body just can’t quite do it. Of course, I’m lucky enough to be able to opt for a light salad, some fresh fruit, or some grilled veggies on a hot day. Your dog, however, still gets the same food.
It makes sense then, that on a hot day your dog may not have the same interest in her food as she does on a cooler day. If you live somewhere with drastic changes in temperature, this could explain why your dog only wants to eat at night during certain times of the year.
If you’ve recently switched your dog’s food, it could be the reason she only wants to eat at night. Dogs can be particular about their food and some may not take too kindly to a change in diet. If you’ve switched your dog’s food recently, try going back to the old food and see if that makes a difference.
Is It Okay For My Dog To Only Eat At Night?
Many dog owners ask the question, “Is it okay for my dog to only eat at night?” As we saw above, there are many reasons why a dog might only eat at night. So, while no one answer fits all dogs, there are some things to consider when making the decision.
First, figure out why your dog is only eating at night. If your dog is not eating during the day because of anxiety, or because she doesn’t like her food, it is best to address the situation so your dog can start eating twice a day.
Second, if your dog is relatively inactive during the day, she’s getting old, or she’s formed the habit (and the stressor has been removed!) she may only eat once per day and be perfectly fine. However, if your dog is active and playful, it is best for her to eat twice per day. Ultimately, the decision of whether or not it is okay is based on her individual situation.
Is It Unusual For My Dog To Only Eat At Night?
Though it isn’t unheard of, it is unusual for a dog to only want to eat at night. Make sure there are no distractions such as toys or a tail-pulling toddler around when your dog should be eating breakfast. If your dog has always been a nighttime eater, there’s probably no cause for concern. However, if your dog suddenly starts eating only at night, it might be worth investigating to rule out any underlying health issues.
Is It Okay To Only Feed My Dog At Night?
Really, you should feed your dog breakfast and dinner. If, despite your best efforts, your dog only eats at night and has only eaten at night for at least a year (remember the seasonal change I mentioned above!) then it is probably okay to feed your dog only at night. However, you can not make that decision for your dog.
And even if your dog has decided to only eat at night I would still offer her breakfast just to be sure.
Can Dogs Eat Just Before Bedtime?
Dogs sleep a lot throughout the day and therefore have a lot of bedtimes. It’s only natural that your dog will eat before going to sleep at some point. When it comes to going to bed for the night, it’s also okay for your dog to eat right before then, too. However, a lot of dogs will need a bathroom trip shortly after eating and before laying down for the night.
In the summer we keep our dog door open from sunrise to sunset. But in the winter we don’t open it at all. I’m always reminded by my dogs that they need a potty break to go outside after dinner when we transition to our winter habit of keeping the door closed. Those first few days I always seem to forget to let them outside as soon as they are done eating.
Luckily, they are good at telling me they need to go!
How Can I Make My Dog Eat Breakfast Too?
Just like you don’t want to force your dog to only eat at night, you don’t want to force your dog to include breakfast in her morning routine. Yet because dogs are generally better off eating two meals a day, you may want to try to encourage your good girl to eat breakfast.
Limit Eating Time
Give your dog her breakfast but only leave it out for 15 minutes. Start doing the same with her dinner every night. She will likely figure out what is going on and begin to eat when she can, which will be when you feed her, which will be twice daily since you’re a responsible dog owner.
Lessen And Extend
This will be harder for people who work away from home, but with the help of the whole family, it might be doable. Split your dog’s dinner into two smaller-sized meals. Give your dog one meal earlier than her normal feeding time and the second meal at her normal time. Gradually extend the time between meals until she’s eating both breakfast and dinner daily.
Make Breakfast Extra Tasty
When you first start trying to get your dog to eat breakfast, you can try to make it extra appealing. You can try adding some tasty bites of cornish hen or something else dogs love. However, if she eats around the kibble and only gets the treats, try adding some canned tuna water or something else that will enhance the flavor of her kibble.
Make Sure Your Dog Gets Enough Exercise
As I discussed, one reason dogs might only eat at night is because they aren’t very active. That’s fine if your sweet pooch is an old lady but most dogs should be getting lots of walks and time to play. If your dog isn’t burning enough calories to warrant breakfast too, that’s a problem that should be easy for you to solve.
Summary: Why Do Some Dogs Only Eat At Night?
There could be a few reasons why your dog only eats at night. It’s possible she’s anxious and can only relax enough to eat when you’re home with her. If you free feed, your dog may not be on the same type of schedule and may adapt to her own habits. It’s also possible that your dog only feels comfortable eating at night or that she simply doesn’t like the taste of her food. Lastly, your dog may have just developed the habit of being a nighttime eater.
If your dog has suddenly started eating only at night, and you’re concerned, it might be a good idea to check with your vet to rule out any health issues. Other than that, try to figure out what else changed and see if there’s anything you can do to help your dog.
As you can see, there are a lot of reasons why your dog may only want to eat at night. The best way to figure out which one is to pay attention to your dog’s behavior and try to rule out the possibilities one by one. With a little detective work, you should be able to get to the bottom of your dog’s nighttime eating habits.
Whether it is okay for your dog to only eat at night is ultimately based on her individual reason and needs.
Remember, that if your dog only eats at night, she isn’t the first dog to ever do it, but keep in mind the habit is unusual.
When it comes to feeding your dog only at night and your dog eating just before bedtime, as long as there are no health concerns, both are generally okay. Just be sure your dog is the one who is deciding to only eat at night and you aren’t forcing her to. For bedtime eating, your dog may still need a potty break between dinner and bed.
If you decide your dog should eat breakfast there are a few things you can do to encourage her, including limiting her eating time, splitting her dinner into two smaller meals, and making breakfast extra tasty. You should also make sure your dog is getting enough exercise, as this can help increase her appetite.
It is up to you whether or not you want to try and get your dog to eat breakfast too. If she’s happy and healthy eating only at night then there’s no need to change things. But if you’re concerned about her health you now have some ideas to try.