5 Best Dog Foods for Picky Eaters with Poor Appetites 2019

Have you ever excitedly filled your dog’s food bowl with a new diet just to watch them turn away without even trying a bite? It’s a frustrating routine, especially if you’ve spent time and money trying to find a food that will appeal to your picky pooch.

There are a number of reasons a dog may not eat. If you can solve the underlying issue, then you can often return your pup to the voracious eaters canines are supposed to be.

But what if there isn’t anything wrong with your dog and they just happen to prefer other pleasures in life overeating? Finding a tasty diet that will appeal to your dog’s instinctual drives can help.

Keep reading to see our list of the best dog foods for picky eaters.

What Can Cause a Dog Not to Eat?

Has your dog suddenly stopped eating or is less interested in food than they used to be? This can be a sign that something more serious is going on.

Dogs that once ate like champs who suddenly turn their muzzle up at the food bowl are likely experiencing health or dental problems. If your dog’s appetite does not return within a couple of days or they start showing other symptoms, it is best to get them to your vet right away.

Sometimes “anorexia,” or refusal to eat, is prompted by stomach upset caused by a snack of rich human food or a passing virus. Vomiting and diarrhea often occur when this is the case.

Pain caused by dental problems like a cracked tooth, gum disease, abscess, or a lodged foreign object in the mouth can also cause a dog to suddenly stop eating. Check your dog’s mouth for signs of redness, bleeding, or bad breath that indicate a trip to the doggy dentist might be in order.

Stress is another big contributor to dogs not wanting to eat. If your dog is nervous because you’ve been packing your suitcase or still anxious from a recent vet visit, they may fast for a couple of meals until they feel comfortable again.

Even if your dog is a frequent or long-term picky eater, anxiety may be playing a role. Many dogs get nervous around meal times because of consistent stressors like another food aggressive pet in the house or an aversion to their food bowl or the room they are fed in.

Before you try switching your dog’s diet, try changing their feeding environment. Change their bowl for a different type (like metal to ceramic), move them to a different room, and feed them alone.

Can Dogs Taste Food?

If you have a habitual picky eater whose anorexia is not caused by stress or illness, you may have wondered to yourself if dogs can even taste food the way humans do. The answer is both yes and no.

Like humans, your pup has taste buds on their tongue to help them determine if what their eating is good or dangerous. Dogs, however, have only about 1700 taste buds compared to a humans 9000.

Dogs taste buds are also geared to detect different flavors than the human tongue. They seem especially focused on tasting things like meat and fats as well as sweeter substances like fruit.

Our canine companions do not seek out salt flavors the way we do, likely because meat contains an excess of salt already. They do, however, have special taste buds on the tip of their tongues that can actually taste water, something humans lack.

How to Use a Dog’s Taste Preferences to Find a Food They’ll Eat

If you’ve wasted money on new foods trying to find something your pooch will eat, you’re not alone. Picking a diet for your dog can be a challenge when you don’t actually know if the food tastes good.

When looking for an appealing, palatable food for your picky eater, start by focusing on their instinctual love of meat and fat flavors. Look for diets that list meat as the first ingredient.

While dogs are attracted to sweet flavors and many dog foods add sugar to increase palatability, sugar is not healthy for dogs and can do damage to their system. If your dog seems very attracted to sweet foods, look for diets that contain added fruits and tomatoes instead of sucrose or corn syrup.

When picking a food for a reluctant eater, it’s also important to take into account the smell of the food. Dogs have a superior sense of smell and often use this tool to decide if something is worth eating.

Reviews of The Best Dog Foods for Picky Eaters

#1. Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Dog Food Recipe

Best Overall

Ziwi Peak Air Dried Food
Score: (5/5)

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High-protein diet with 96% animal ingredients and strong taste and odor for picky eaters.
Pros

Contains tripe for an attractive odor

96% animal ingredients

High in protein and fat

Cons

Expensive

When it comes to foods with high levels of animal ingredients, tasty fats, and strong, appeasing odors, you won’t find better than Ziwi Peak’s air-dried dog food. This diet is number one on our list of best dog foods for picky dogs not only for its highly-palatable taste and enticing aromas but also for its quality ingredients to keep your pup in peak condition.

This food comes in six great flavors, but it’s the tripe and lamb recipe we guarantee your picky eater will love.

When it comes to ingredients with a particularly ripe smell that your dog can’t deny, tripe easily tops the list. This ingredient is made from the stomach lining of cows and has a strong odor you would expect from the digestive tract of a particularly stinky animal.

In addition to a scent that will attract your picky eater to the bowl, this food is made with 96% fresh meat, organs, bones and green mussels. That’s a lot of meat and fat to love!

Best of all, this food is air-dried, a processing technique that leaves many of the nutrients and their associated smells, intact. This means an attractive and tasty meal for your dog with nutrient-dense pieces to help them thrive.

All that quality does come at a price. This food is priced at the high end of the spectrum, but well worth it for any dog owner desperate to get their picky pooch eating consistently.

#2. Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Raw Stella’s Super Dinner

Runner Up

Stella & Chewy Freeze Dried Dinners
Score: (5/5)

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High-protein, high-fat diet with appealing taste and texture for picky eaters.
Pros

Freeze-dried to retain taste and smell

Patties with an appealing texture

High protein, high fat

Cons

Expensive

Must add water before feeding

Even if you provide tasty, odorous dog food, many dogs will balk at anything that resembles traditional kibble. Our second choice of food is meant for those kinds of picky eaters.

Stella & Chewy’s freeze-dried diet is perfect for dogs who hate the texture of kibble because it is made with airy, dried patties that are mixed with water to serve. Not only is this food softer than traditional kibble, but it retains much more of the scent and flavor of the natural ingredients.

Like our first choice food, this one comes in multiple flavors, but we especially like the beef recipe for picky dogs as it contains smelly, rich ingredients like liver and tripe.

This is also one of the best tasting dog foods because of the high animal ingredients and added fruits for a touch of sweetness. The first six ingredients are various beef meats, organs, and bones and the recipe also contains cranberries, beets, and blueberries for pups with a sweet tooth.

All told, this formula contains 95% animal ingredients. And because it’s freeze-dried, most of the nutrients remain intact and bioavailable to your pup, which will keep them happy and healthy for the long term.

This food is slightly more expensive than Ziwi’s Peak, but an excellent choice for owners who want a food that won’t just entice their dog to eat, but also help them maintain exceptional health.

#3. Nutro Wild Frontier Vital Prey Wet Dog Food

Best Canned Food

Nutro Wild Frontier Canned Food
Score: (5/5)

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Quality ingredients in an appealing gravy base with strong odors for picky dogs.
Pros

High in animal ingredients

Gravy for added palatability

High protein

Cons

Higher price

Added starch

Many picky eaters find canned diets more appealing because of their heavy odor and squishy texture. Our number three pick is the best of the best canned dog foods for picky eaters for its ultra-high meat content.

Like all our choices so far, Nutro’s Wild Frontier canned food comes in a variety of flavors, so you are sure to find one your dog loves. We do recommend the salmon and liver for the pickiest of eaters for its strong scent and unique flavor.

This food gets almost all of its protein content from animal ingredients like salmon, chicken, liver, and eggs. This means an extra helping of protein and fat to entice your picky pup.

Beyond the quality meat ingredients, this food also contains dried tomatoes and broths for an extra taste explosion. The broth also gives this food the consistency of a gravy, which many dogs prefer over traditional congealed style wet foods.

Like all quality canned diets, this food will cost you more to feed by itself than many quality dry diets. This food, in particular, is higher on the price spectrum.

#4. Wellness Simple Natural Wet Canned Limited Ingredient Dog Food

Best Ingredient Canned Food

Wellness Simple Limited Ingredient Canned Food
Score: (4.5/5)

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Appealing canned food texture with limited ingredients for picky dogs with sensitive systems.
Pros

Limited ingredient to avoid stomach upset

Multiple protein varieties

Higher fat

Cons

Lower protein Contains some filler ingredients

Higher price

Another great canned diet we had to include on our list is Wellness’ Simple limited ingredient wet food.

Many dogs avoid certain foods because they contain ingredients that upset their stomach or make them itch. With this food, you get the benefits of a palatable wet food diet along with a short ingredients list that makes avoiding allergens much easier.

This food is available in four flavors: duck, lamb, turkey, and whitefish. The duck and lamb formulas include oatmeal, while the whitefish and turkey flavors are grain free.

If your dog is a picky eater and sensitive to grains, we recommend the whitefish recipe for its appeasing fishy odor and allergy friendly ingredients.

This food does not contain as much protein as our number three choice but does contain more fat which many dogs are more attracted to anyway.

As a limited ingredient diet, this food is priced higher despite less protein and will cost you slightly more than the Nutro wet food.

#5. Crave Grain Free Adult Dry Dog Food With Protein

Best Dry Food

Crave Adult Dry Food
Score: (4.5/5)

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High-protein, high-fat dry food with added fish for appealing odor and taste for picky eaters.
Pros

Affordable

High protein and fat

Added fish for appeasing odor and taste

Cons

High in plant-derived protein

Less palatable kibble form

No sweet fruits added

If you’re looking for a traditional dry food that your dog will actually eat and fits into your budget, then Crave’s adult dog food is a great choice for you.

This food also comes in a variety of flavors, but we consider their salmon and ocean fish recipe one of the best dry dog foods for picky eaters because it has the strongest odor and a high-fat taste dogs love.

This food is protein packed and contains animal ingredients like salmon, chicken, lamb, and fish meal. These meats add to the overall levels of protein and fat and make even these traditional kibbles more palatable.

And, because this food is grain free, sensitive dogs are more likely to do well on it.

Unlike some of our other choices, this food focuses on savory ingredients and does not contain any sweet fruits or vegetables. If your dog has a bit of a thing for sugar, another food on this list might be a better choice.

But if your dog is all about the meat, you’re not going to find a higher protein food at this price point. In fact, this is by far the most affordable food on our list.

What is the Best Dog Food for Picky Eaters?

When it comes to finding the right food for picky dogs, you need a diet that packs high animal protein and fat with a desirable odor and texture. Ziwi Peak’s tripe and lamb formula contains an impressive 96% animal ingredients and the strong taste and odor of tripe that dogs go crazy for.

This food is easily one of the best dog foods for picky eaters because of its appetite stimulating benefits and nutrition-packed formula. And the air-dried processing technique keeps nutrients and odors intact while maintaining a more appealing texture than traditional kibble.

If you have a super picky pup or one that gets bored with foods easily, try mixing one of our wet food choices with any of our dry foods to create a powerful taste explosion your dog can’t deny.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of food do picky dogs like most?
Personal preferences will vary from dog to dog, but most dogs prefer the taste of canned and moist diets over dry kibble. Air-dried and freeze-dried foods also appeal to picky dogs because of their strong odors and taste.
If my dog doesn’t eat a new food right away, should I try something else?
Many dogs, especially those with picky sensibilities won’t eat a new food when it is first offered. Give them time to get used to the smell and taste before moving on to a different food.
Should I free feed my picky eater?

If your dog doesn’t eat much at mealtime, then it only seems to make sense to leave the food down until they finish. But, even in reluctant eaters, free feeding frequently leads to your dog consuming too many calories.

Instead, work to lower your dog’s anxiety around meals, upgrade to a more appealing food, and encourage them to finish their bowl at scheduled meal times.

Summed Up: The Best Dog Food for Picky Eaters

Ziwi Peak Air Dried FoodStella & Chewy Freeze Dried DinnersNutro Wild Frontier Canned FoodWellness Simple Limited Ingredient Canned FoodCrave Adult Dry Food
Appetite Stimulating Features96% animal-sourced ingredients, strong odor, appealing texture95% animal-sourced ingredients, high fat, high protein, tasty pattiesHigh protein, quality ingredients, appealing gravy baseHigh fat, appealing texture, limited ingredientsHigh protein, high fat, added fish for strong odor and taste
Ingredient Quality5/55/55/54.5/54.5/5
Price$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Sources

  1. Amy Flowers. “Dog Not Eating? Possible Causes and Appetite Solutions” petmd.com, 13 Sept 2018.
  2. Stanley Coren. “How Good Is Your Dog’s Sense of Taste?” psycologytoday.com, 19 April 2011.
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