How to Force Feed a Dog

Written by cate burnette
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How to Force Feed a Dog
Learning how to force feed your sick dog can save her life. (dog image by Michal Tudek from

Veterinarians often use assisted feeding, sometimes called "force feeding," on sick or emaciated dogs that are unwilling or unable to eat on their own. Prime candidates for the procedure include dogs with a recent weight loss of more than 10 per cent and those that show little to no food intake for more than two days, according to Dr. Dennis McCurnin and Dr. Joanna Bassert in the "Clinical Textbook for Veterinary Technicians." Dogs that present with acute illness, injury or muscle wasting, and are losing protein or electrolytes through excessive diarrhoea or urination may also be candidates for this procedure. Learning how to force feed your sick animal at home assists in the healing process and can possibly save your pet's life.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Wet dog food
  • Large syringe, 20, 45 or 60 ml
  • Water
  • Bowl

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    Hand Feeding

  1. 1

    Place a small amount of wet dog food in your hand and roll it into a ball. The size of the ball will depend on the size of your dog. For a large dog, make the dog food approximately the size of a golf ball; small dogs need marble-sized food balls.

  2. 2

    Stand in front of your dog and open his mouth with the hand not containing the food. Drop the food ball on the back of your dog's tongue, hold her mouth closed, and gently rub her throat while pointing her nose toward the ceiling. This should cause her to chew and swallow without choking on the food ball.

  3. 3

    Continue with steps one and two until all of the food has been eaten.

    Syringe Feeding

  1. 1

    Mix the amount of wet food necessary for a feeding with warm water in a bowl until it resembles wet sludge.

  2. 2

    Draw the food up into your syringe. You may need to remove the syringe plunger, fill the tube, and then replace the plunger if the food cannot be drawn up into the tube.

  3. 3

    Stand in front of your dog and hold her head and mouth in your hand. Place the tip of the syringe in the cheek pouch on the side of your dog's mouth and gently press down on the plunger. Your dog will begin to swallow as the food drips into the back of her throat.

  4. 4

    Stop injecting food as your dog swallows, then resume pressing on the plunger when her mouth is empty, until all of the food is dispensed.

  5. 5

    Refill the syringe and continue with the process as necessary.

Tips and warnings

  • Use a blender to mix the food with water if your syringe requires a particularly smooth mixture in order to dispense the food.
  • Ask a helper to hold your pet if she is unwilling to allow the force feeding. You can also hold your dog between your legs to immobilise her during the feedings.
  • Allow time for your pet to comfortably swallow the food that is in her mouth before administering the next mouthful, advise McCurnin and Bassert.
  • Stop feeding immediately if your pet begins choking on the food. Allow her to drop her head and spit it out if necessary. Any aspirated food can potentially lead to pneumonia if sucked into the animal's lungs.

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