If your dog is a picky eater, you may need to get creative to ensure they receive proper nutrition and caloric intake. Fortunately, dog food toppers can be a practical and convenient way to get even the pickiest pups to lick their bowls clean.
Here, we'll help you understand what dog food toppers are, how they can help with picky eating, and what to look for in a food topper so you can make the best choice for your dog's health and wellness.
What Are Dog Food Toppers?
Dog food toppers refer to small servings of additional food that pet owners can add to their pet's daily meals. As the term indicates, toppers can be sprinkled or poured directly on top of your dog's existing kibble as a special treat, nutritional supplement, or to encourage better eating.
Dog food toppers can come in a dry, powder-like form that’s meant to be mixed with water or a wet, stew-like form. Freeze-dried or dehydrated food topper options are also available. Recipes may contain cuts of real meat, vegetables, antioxidants, and other ingredients designed to support your pet's health and wellness. Often, dog meal mixers come in individual pouches or boxes for easy and convenient portioning.
Benefits of Dog Food Toppers
Regardless of your pet's age, breed, size, or eating habits, there are many potential advantages to using food toppers.
The right food topper for your pet will provide an additional nutritional boost that can benefit your pup's health. For example, some toppers are loaded with protein and can help to offset a sufficiency in your dog's diet. Others may contain certain vitamins to support healthy skin and coats, while some may even be crafted with ingredients like EPA and DHA for joint health.
Pet food toppers are designed with palatability in mind, so even the most finicky dogs will typically enjoy them. This makes food toppers a convenient option for those with picky eaters. Mixing in a food topper with an existing dry kibble or wet dog food can entice your pup to eat more, which may help to avoid unwanted weight loss and nutritional deficiencies.
Added Hydration (With Wet Toppers)
A wet dog food topper can be an excellent solution for dogs who could use more hydration in their diets. These toppers provide additional hydration that your pup may simply not be getting from drinking straight water alongside dry dog food. This can be especially helpful for dogs with kidney disease, though proper hydration is beneficial to all dogs — especially for their urinary tract health.
Immune Support and Physical Benefits
Many dog food toppers are designed to provide your dog with specific physical benefits and immune support. For example, a topper containing antioxidants like beta-carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E offers the immune system the boost your dog needs to fight illness. Meanwhile, a dog food topper with balanced omegas, taurine, and L-carnitine can support healthy heart function.
Why Isn't My Dog Eating Their Food?
If you've noticed that your dog isn't eating their food or that their appetite isn't what it used to be, there are a few potential causes to consider. The most important thing that you can do is to consult with your veterinarian to narrow down the cause(s) so that you can develop a game plan to help your dog eat better. Dog food toppers may help in the meantime, but of course, you'll still want to address the root of the problem.
Unfortunately, a sudden decrease in appetite is sometimes a sign of an underlying illness. This could be anything from an infection or virus causing your dog to feel under the weather to something more serious, such as cancer or organ dysfunction. If your dog has suddenly stopped eating or exhibited a decreased appetite, look for other symptoms that might indicate illness or disease. This may include lethargy, loss of interest in playing, limping, or other odd behavior.
If your dog has recently had a surgical procedure, this (combined with the pain medication your pup is likely taking) may cause a queasy stomach. As a result, your pup may have a noticeable decrease in appetite during the recovery process. The good news is that this issue should resolve on its own as your dog's recovery progresses.
Eating dry food may also be challenging if your dog has had recent dental surgery. If this is the case, your vet may recommend switching your dog to softer foods during recovery.
Bad Eating Habits
It's hard to resist praising your precious pup with extra treats or spoiling them with table scraps from time to time. Unfortunately, these actions can potentially create bad eating habits in your dog. After all, dogs are smart — and if they know they'll be receiving food scraps or treats, they may consciously decide to ignore their regular food.
If your dog suddenly won't eat their regular food but will eat table scraps or dog treats, bad eating habits could be the culprit. Make a conscious effort to scale back on the amount of treats and other indulgences you offer your dog. You should see a change in eating habits within a few days to a week. From there, however, you'll need to stick to these better habits to avoid another regression.
Stress and Anxiety
Unfortunately, dogs can suffer from stress and anxiety just as humans can. In fact, one study published in Scientific Reports found that 72.5% of dogs demonstrated at least one anxiety-related behavior. If your dog's eating habit changes are accompanied by other behavioral changes (such as hiding, becoming withdrawn, or even becoming destructive), stress or anxiety could be to blame.
In this case, treating your dog's stress or anxiety should resolve poor eating habits. The challenge can be finding the source of the problem. Have you recently moved or introduced a new dog to your home? This type of sudden change can be stressful for dogs. Loud noises, such as fireworks around the Fourth of July, can also lead to high stress levels in dogs. Fortunately, solutions are available, ranging from natural therapies to medications to help your pup relax.
Pain or discomfort from dental problems may also affect a dog's appetite and ability to eat. This is especially true if you feed your dog dry kibble, which requires more work (and thus may be more painful) to chew. Unfortunately, dental problems are extremely common in dogs. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), the most common dental conditions in dogs include:
- Periodontitis, gingivitis, or gum disease
- Cavities, tooth infections, and abscesses
- Oral trauma or fractured teeth
- Benign oral tumors
- Deciduous teeth
If you suspect a dental problem, see a vet promptly for a diagnosis. In the meantime, your vet may recommend switching your dog to a wet food or wet food topper that your dog can lick rather than chew, which will likely be less painful.
Pickiness and Behavioral Reasons
Just as some humans are picky eaters, dogs can be the same way. However, if your dog has always struggled with feeding and you've ruled out medical conditions as a cause, you should still consider the potential for behavioral causes before you assume that you have a picky dog.
Consider the context in which you're offering your dog's meal. Is your dog's food bowl located next to another dog's? If so, territorial instincts may cause your dog to feel uncomfortable eating near another dog's food. Something as simple as switching the location where you feed your dog could make all the difference.
Natural Dog Food Toppers: Homemade Remedies for Picky Eaters
Ultimately, if your dog's eating issues boil down to being a picky eater, there are some natural meal toppers you can try at home that may entice your pup to eat more.
Many dogs love the taste of blueberries, making them an ideal food topper for even the pickiest of dogs. As an added bonus, blueberries are loaded with antioxidants and are high in fiber, which is great for gut health and minimizing neurodegeneration (especially in senior dogs).
If your dog will eat whole blueberries, consider sprinkling a handful into your dog's regular food. To create a wetter texture, you can also puree blueberries and pour them over your dog's food.
Pumpkin is also an enticing flavor for many dogs. Not only does it taste delicious, but it also contains lots of fiber that can improve digestive health. Pumpkin has also been known to help soothe upset stomachs and relieve both constipation and diarrhea in dogs.
You can use canned pumpkin as a topper by simply adding or mixing a scoop of pumpkin puree into your dog's food. Just be sure to get 100% pure pumpkin puree with no artificial sweeteners or fillers, as some canned pumpkin contains an artificial sweetener known as xylitol that is poisonous to dogs.
Bone broth is a delicious treat for dogs and contains high levels of amino acids like proline, arginine, and glycine that have anti-inflammatory effects on dogs. Likewise, beef bone broth and chicken bone broth can promote healthy digestion, enhanced hydration, and improved skin/coat health.
To serve bone broth as a topper, you can pour it directly over your dog's food. This is a great way for dogs to get a little extra hydration, too.
Most dogs go crazy over the taste of peanut butter. The tantalizing taste and its high fiber and protein content make it an ideal topper for dog food. For some dogs, simply adding a scoop of peanut butter to the top of a bowl of wet or dry food will work fine. However, taking the time to mix the peanut butter into the bowl more thoroughly may be recommended for pickier dogs. This will ensure that your dog's food is thoroughly coated.
Plain Greek-style yogurt can be a nutritious and delicious way to add protein, calcium, and probiotics to your dog's diet while settling their stomach and enticing them to eat more. Pet owners can easily pour yogurt on their dog's food or mix it as desired. Just be sure to buy plain yogurt with no added sweeteners, as some artificial sweeteners can be poisonous to dogs.
In addition to being high in protein, fatty acids, and amino acids, cooked eggs are an irresistible treat for many dogs. The easiest way to incorporate eggs into a dog's diet is usually to scramble and cook them, breaking them into small pieces as they cook. From there, the scrambled eggs can be added directly to your dog's bowl as a topper or mixed in as needed.
Dog Topper Products: Flavor Enhancers and Protein Boosters
Prefer the convenience of a pre-packaged dog topper? The Honest Kitchen's flavor enhancers and protein boosters are made in the USA with human grade ingredients you can feel good about serving to your canine companion.
Superfood Pour Overs - Chicken
Chicken Superfood Pour Overs feature delicious chicken bone broth and cage-free chicken as its main ingredients. Meanwhile, superfoods like spinach, kale, and broccoli offer added nutrition and a taste dogs love.
Pumpkin Pour Overs - Salmon
Wild-caught salmon is the star of the show in this delicious and nutritious Pumpkin Pour Over, though dogs will also enjoy the savory and fiber-rich flavor of pumpkin and butternut squash. A hint of cinnamon, apples, and ginger balance out the flavor for a tasty nutritional boost!
Bone Broth Pour Overs - Turkey & Salmon
Turkey & Salmon Pour Overs can be poured directly over whatever is already in your dog's bowl to add an enticing flavor. This topper is loaded with real meat in the form of cage-free turkey and turkey bone broth. Meanwhile, wild-caught salmon and veggies like carrots and butternut squash add to this savory flavor.
Meal Booster - 99% Beef
Our 99% Beef Meal Boosters come in a convenient pack of 12 and are great for enhancing the flavor of your dog's meals while adding hearty protein to support healthy muscle growth. Each box contains 99% ranch-raised, grass-fed beef and is suitable for puppies and adult dogs alike!
Meal Booster - 99% Chicken
Looking for a way to add lean protein to your dog's diet? Our 99% Chicken Meal Booster is a great option. With 99% cage-free chicken as the main ingredient, the only other ingredients you'll find in this recipe are water and agar-agar. You can feel good about serving this human grade topper up to even the pickiest pups!
Meal Booster - 99% Turkey & Duck
Spoil your dog with lean, delicious protein in the form of 99% cage-free turkey and duck. The limited-ingredient Turkey & Duck Meal Booster comes in an easy-to-serve box, so you can easily pour it over any bowl of wet or dry food.
Functional Dog Toppers: Immunity and Bodily Health
Looking for the best dog food toppers for immunity and overall physical health? The Honest Kitchen offers several options to suit your dog's specific health and wellness needs.
Heart Health: Turkey Broth & Salmon Stew
With a boost of balanced omegas, taurine, and L-carnitine, our Turkey Broth & Salmon Stew recipe promotes cardiovascular health. Tasty ingredients your pup will crave include turkey bone broth, wild-caught salmon, apples, pumpkin, and butternut squash with no additives, by-products, or artificial flavors ever!
Immune Support: Beef Stew
Support your pup's immune system with our Beef Stew Functional Pour Overs, which contain antioxidants like beta-carotene and vitamin A to boost immune health. Meanwhile, all-natural ingredients like beef bone broth, butternut squash, beets, and blueberries deliver the taste your dog craves.
Hip & Joint: Chicken Stew
Chicken Stew Functional Pour Overs are made with hip and joint health in mind, featuring EPA and DHA to support pets at all life stages. Loaded with chicken bone broth, cage-free chicken, butternut squash, carrots, and fish oil, your dog will be begging for more!
Revive & Restore: Chicken & Pumpkin Stew
Looking to boost your dog's sluggish appetite? Our Chicken & Pumpkin Stew Pour Over will do just that with the flavors of chicken bone broth, pumpkin, cage-free chicken, and apples. Likewise, a boost of antioxidants and B vitamins revitalizes your pup's health and wellness with each serving.
Skin & Coat: Salmon Stew
The omega fatty acids, biotin, and vitamin E in our Salmon Stew Functional Pour Overs promote a healthier coat and skin while serving up irresistible flavors like fish bone broth, salmon, butternut squash, carrots, and whitefish.
Provide Tastier Mealtimes for Your Dog With The Honest Kitchen
Dealing with a sudden change in your dog's appetite can be stressful, but a visit to your veterinarian can help you get to the root of the problem. Whether your pup is suffering from an underlying medical condition or has simply become a picky eater, food toppers can encourage your dog to eat while boosting their nutrition.
When you're looking for high-quality dog food toppers that you can always rely on to contain human grade ingredients without artificial preservatives and by-products, The Honest Kitchen has you covered. Shop our entire selection of dog food toppers today!
*Health Disclaimer: This post is educational in nature and doesn’t constitute health advice. Please consult your pet's veterinarian or other healthcare professional for specific guidance on this topic.