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Border Collie Won’t Eat: 7 Reasons Why & What To Do

I know it can be quite concerning when your border collie refuses her food, I’ve been there myself. This article will run through seven of the most common reasons, solutions, and when to speak to your veterinarian.

7 Reasons Why Border Collies Stop Eating

border collie wont eat

Below are 7 reasons why your border collie isn’t eating. Some of the reasons will come with their own explanatory solution, but still, we will cover further solutions in the next section after this one.

Several reasons why Border Collies stop eating include low-quality dog food that’s upsetting their stomach, eating too many treats, anxiety, a lack of exercise, boredom, unclear feeding schedule, or health issues.

  • Low quality dog food
  • Too many treats or scraps
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Lack of exercise
  • Lack of daily feeding schedule
  • Boredom
  • Health Issues

1. Low-Quality Dog Food

It’s crucial that you are using a premium kibble. Dog food isn’t made equal and that’s why you find a drastic variance in price amongst brands.

The number one issue with “low-quality” brands is that they use many fillers, by-products, and various additives to bulk up their food.

Companies that do this are able to save a lot of money during manufacturing as these ingredients are cheap to source and easy to store.

Ultimately, this means a cheaper price for you.

And of course, cheap, low-quality ingredients like these are far more likely to irritate your collie’s stomach and digestive system.

Border Collies are a highly active breed and will thrive off a diet that’s rich in protein and fat, with low carbohydrates.

Carbs (in all of their forms) are actually one of the culprit ingredients and it’s even been stated by the national research council that carbs are literally not needed to sustain a healthy canine diet.

  • By sticking to high protein and high fat with the lowest carbs possible, you’re mimicking a diet that would have been eaten by dogs in the wild for thousands of years. Taste of The Wild has many low-carb options.

Another important point to make: Common allergens.

Many Border Collies have sensitive stomachs, and many ingredients we consider to be “normal” are in fact common allergens.

Chicken and beef being the most notable. Despite how widely used chicken is, it’s actually a common allergen, and many dogs are far better off getting their protein from sources like Salmon, Duck, or Turkey.

Brands like Orijen, Acana, Taste of The Wild, and one particularly good for sensitive stomachs is Nulo Limited Ingredient.

2. Too Many Treats/Scraps

It’s hard not to treat our furry friends well throughout the day, but for some, it can really disrupt their appetite for mealtimes.

Either the treats and scraps are suppressing her appetite, or your collie has come to learn that if she just waits long enough, she’ll receive something far tastier than her real meals.

It’s always recommended to avoid feeding table scraps, and only use healthy low-calorie treats that will not disrupt her appetite.

And it’s worth asking everyone in the house about this! Although you might not be slipping her food, someone else may be.

3. Stress or anxiety

Border collies are easily stressed. Any kind of additional stress or anxiety can instantly affect their appetite.

From stressful environment changes, to changes in their routine or day to day happenings. Anything remotely stressful may cause food refusal.

Things that can cause stress and anxiety in collies include:

  • Being left alone too often
  • Environment changes
  • New neighbors
  • Outside noises or smells
  • Moving homes
  • Lack of attention/care
  • Losing a companion (pet or human)

As you can see, many things can trigger stress and anxiety in collies.

4. Lack of Exercise

Border Collies are a high-energy working breed and need A LOT of daily exercise. Border Collies, like many other energetic working breeds, are known to have very efficient metabolisms.

Meaning their bodies burn and use food to get the maximum amount of energy to work and keep active, without much of it going to waste.

If your collie eats her breakfast as usual but then doesn’t receive her 1-2 hours of intensive exercise that day, it’s possible that she won’t have an appetite or feel like she needs to eat by dinner time. And she’ll have no problem refusing her food.

Border collies need around 1-2 hours of high-pace exercise per day. This is a good amount to keep them physically fit and will ensure her appetite is high.

As border collies have never been known to be greedy eaters, it’s important to make sure she has a good reason to eat, exercise is a big factor.

5. Lack of Daily Feeding Schedule

Schedules and routines are crucial for dogs to feel comfortable and know what’s going on. A change in schedule or not having one in the first place can cause a huge range of behavioral and health problems, eating being just one of them.

Hopefully, you aren’t keeping her food down in the bowl all day, but if you are it’s time to remove it and stick to specific eating times.

By setting (and then sticking) to set feeding times, you’re training her body to become hungry at those times. Yes, it really works like that! It’s even the same for us.

Adult collies should be fed twice per day, once when you and your household wake up around 7 or 8 am and once again in the evening at 6 pm being the most ideal. Once you set times, stick to them.

6. Boredom

This one is a little harder to really know, but collies do have a fussy streak in them.

Sometimes there can be nothing wrong with the food you’re using, she’s had her exercise, she eats at set times, yet she sniffs her food, looks at you, then backs away! It could be that she’s just bored of it.

An indication that boredom has set in, is if she once did like and consume that food, but then gradually stopped.

There’s a chance that this signifies a developing health issue, but if you’ve ruled health issues out already, it leaves boredom.

It’s admittedly hard to know whether your collie is just being fussy, but one way to combat this is by following what’s called a rotation diet. Which I will explain more about in the next section!

7. Health Issues

Last but certainly not least, her food refusal may be caused by an underlying health issue.

If you’re unable to identify a possible reason as to why your collie is refusing her food, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

You should also schedule an appointment with your veterinarian if she has completely refused food for 1-2 days straight. By this time she’ll need to receive nutrients, and a veterinarian can help.

Refusing to eat or a lack of appetite can be a symptom of a vast range of health issues. This doesn’t mean that food refusal is always due to a health issue, but it can certainly be the case.

Ruling out health issues is always important to do as early on as you can, if you’re unsure, please contact your veterinarian and explain your situation.

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Psst. Don’t miss this! One of the best ways to train your border collie is with Brain Training For Dogs. Owners report improvement in obedience, behavior, and even friendliness in record time. Okay, back to the article!

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Ways to Encourage Your Border Collie to Eat Her Food

Let’s run through the best ways you can encourage your collie to eat her food when you put it down.

1. Eliminate common allergens from her diet

To start with, all dogs are lactose intolerant to some degree, and while dairy may be hard to eliminate completely, it’s important to at least limit.

Another good move would be to switch protein sources from chicken, beef, or pork, to one that isn’t an allergen, like salmon, duck, or turkey. Switching foods will be an appropriate move if your collie isn’t eating anyway, and it may spark her interest to eat again.

Recommended kibble for sensitive stomachs with salmon based protein: Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin & Stomach

2. Follow an 80% kibble 20% wet food split

If you haven’t heard of this split before, it’s about time! Veterinarians have long recommended following a food split for multiple reasons.

Wet food is much more palatable, tastier, it creates an interesting texture and it’s much more nutritionally dense. By mixing in a small amount of wet food in replacement of her dry food (around 20%) your collie will enjoy the benefits outlined above.

Wet food is so irresistible for dogs, it’s very likely that this will work, just be sure to thoroughly mix it around, otherwise, she may still leave her dry kibble.

Recommended wet food: Blue Buffalo Limited Ingredient Wet Dog Food

3. Follow a rotation diet

Another widely recommended tactic is to rotate two different dog foods every 2 months just to keep it interesting.

Of course, you first need to find two different foods that your collie likes, before rotating.

Many owners opt to keep the same brand and simply change the flavors, this is a great way to do it. This will eliminate boredom and the flavors will remain to be “fresh” in your collie’s mind.

4. Time-restricted eating

This is a powerful tactic that you may only need to do once or twice. The next time you put the food bowl down, give her 5-10 minutes to start eating it, once 5-10 minutes is up, countdown from 10 and then remove her bowl until next mealtime. The countdown from 10 is simply used as a verbal cue for her to learn from.

This is a proven technique that has solved many bad eating habits in dogs. Of course, it’s not advised to keep removing her food if she doesn’t eat, this ideally works after the first or second time you try it.

This technique works so well because it’s telling your dog that she needs to her meal when you put it down otherwise she goes without, and this lesson is learned very quickly.

It’s a fact that no healthy dog will starve themselves, and in the worst cases dogs can go 2-3 days without eating, but by this time you would have already visited the veterinarian.

5. Make her food tastier

Make her food more interesting and appetizing by trying any of the following tips:

Mix in a tablespoon of peanut butter (no Xylitol or salt)
Add in natural chicken broth (if wet food isn’t already being used)
Use dog food seasonings (check out these)
Mix in a small amount of plain cooked meat (fish or turkey ideal)
Aside from using wet food, the above tips should also work well.

Peanut butter has been declared safe for dogs to eat, but you need to know a few things. You must use peanut butter that doesn’t contain Xylitol (a common artificial sweetener that’s toxic for dogs) or one that has a high salt content.

And in some cases even though peanut butter is “safe” for dogs, some dogs may still have their own individual allergies and intolerances. Full advice here.

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Last Thoughts

So there you have it, you now know 5 reasons why your Border Collie might not be eating, and you have 5 solutions to try out.

It can be hard to pinpoint exactly what’s causing your collie to refuse food. Once you’re aware of the main causes outlined above, think about any recent changes or events leading up to now which may have had an impact on your collie, and of course, always speak to your Vet if you are unsure.

Remember that ruling out health issues is super important and should always be done first.

Further FAQs

➡️ How can a change in a Border Collie’s environment affect their eating habits?

A change in a Border Collie’s environment can cause stress or anxiety, which can in turn impact their eating habits. They might eat less or even refuse to eat entirely until they’ve adjusted to their new surroundings.

➡️ How does teething in puppies affect their eating habits?

Teething can cause discomfort in puppies, which can affect their appetite. They may refuse to eat their regular kibble because it’s too hard. In such cases, offering soft food or soaking their kibble in warm water can help.

➡️ How can I tell the difference between a picky eater versus a medical condition?

If your Border Collie is being picky about eating, they’ll still show interest in treats or favorite foods. If they’re refusing all food, it could indicate a medical condition and a vet should be consulted.

➡️ Can changes in a Border Collie’s behaviour be related to changes in their eating habits?

Changes in a Border Collie’s behavior, like increased aggression or lethargy, could signal health issues. If these changes coincide with a loss of appetite, it’s important to seek veterinary attention promptly.

➡️ Are there any specific symptoms to watch for that could indicate a serious medical condition causing a lack of appetite?

Symptoms to watch for in Border Collies that could indicate a serious medical condition causing a lack of appetite include vomiting, diarrhea, unexplained weight loss, lethargy, and changes in behavior.

➡️ What impact can changes in weather or season have on a Border Collie’s appetite?

Changes in weather or seasons can affect a Border Collie’s appetite. During hot weather, they may eat less. Similarly, they may consume more food during cold weather to maintain body heat.

➡️ How often should a Border Collie eat and how much food should they consume per meal?

An adult Border Collie should eat 1.5-2 cups of quality dog food, divided into two meals per day. Puppies and active working dogs may require more food.

➡️ How can medications or recent vaccinations affect a Border Collie’s appetite?

Certain medications or recent vaccinations can cause temporary loss of appetite in Border Collies. If this continues for more than a day or two, it’s best to consult with a vet.

➡️ What are some safe and healthy ways to stimulate a Border Collie’s appetite?

To stimulate a Border Collie’s appetite, you can try introducing new, high-quality dog food, adding some warm water or low-sodium broth to their meals, or offering smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day.

➡️ Is it normal for a Border Collie’s appetite to decrease as they age?

As Border Collies age, their metabolism slows down and they may require less food. However, a sudden decrease in appetite should be addressed with a vet to rule out potential health issues.

View all Border Collie articles >>

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Before making any decisions that could affect the health and/or safety of your dog, you should always consult a trained veterinarian in your local area. Even though this content may have been written/reviewed by a trained veterinarian, our advice to you is to always consult your own local veterinarian in person. Please read our full dislcaimer if you have any questions.