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How To Force Feed Your Pet

Pet Care Tips 4 min read
cat being force fed with syringe

Like us, when our pets are sick, they lose their appetite. Since the nutrients from the food they eat are incredibly important to help their body recover, it’s sometimes necessary to force-feed your pet when they are not eating.

There are many reasons your pet may not be eating, such as renal failure, not liking the taste of their medication, or if a puppy or kitten have lost their parent and need help to eat.

When To Start Force Feeding Your Pet

If your pet hasn’t eaten for more than one day and encouraging them to eat with other appetite-stimulating methods is not working, you can start force-feeding your pet. If they don’t eat for more than 2 days, this can be very harmful to our pets, especially cats. If your pet does not accept the food, or if your pet is vomiting, you should go to the vet.

If encouraging them to eat, and then force-feeding is not working, reach out to your veterinarian for more tips. It may be necessary to insert a gastrointestinal tube which is a very invasive and worst-case scenario.

#AskNHV: How do I force feed my pet?

What You Need To Force Feed Your Pet

  • Syringe (a small syringe is the best, as it will be easy to hold). I suggest a 3 ml syringe
  • Canned food (Royal Canin Recovery or a/d from Hill) these diets are like baby food and have a soft consistency but are specific for dogs and cats that are not eating. You can also use baby food (without garlic or onion), or a homemade diet after blending it.
  • Bone broth. We have two bone broth recipes on our blog that you can make at home, one with beef, and one with chicken. You can also buy it at any grocery store or pet food store. But do pay attention to the ingredients listed in the bone broth, as it can have some ingredients that may be toxic for your little ones, such as garlic or onion.
  • Hand towel to clean your little one
  • Paper towel to clean your hands
  • A tablespoon


  • Mix the diet of your choice with some bone broth to create a consistency that will be easy to add to the syringe. You can also add to this mix the supplements and medication that your little one is on.  
  • Load the syringe.
  • Wrap a towel on the neck of your little one. For cats wrap their whole body.
  • Put the syringe at the corner of your pet’s mouth. Always leave your fur baby’s head in the anatomical position (normal, as he walks, for example) and do not aim upwards; because when the head is up (looking up), the glottis opens up to the lung, causing food to go into the lungs. So, when syringe feeding your little one, keep these basic precautions in mind to avoid a bigger problem.

Don’t Stress

If your pet is stressed, take a break and be patient, and if you are stressed, they’ll be able to feel that too. Remember your little one is sick. You can syringe feed your little one many times per day as required.

Just remember that although they won’t enjoy being force-fed, you’re doing it for their wellbeing.

Lesstress for dogs, and Matricalm for cats, are two supplements that may help your pet with the stress of syringe feeding. Multi Essentials is also another supplement that should be taken to help your furkiddo get their required nutrition, which is especially important since they’re not eating.

We know force-feeding your pet can be incredibly uncomfortable for you and your pet. Just remember that although they won’t enjoy being force-fed, you’re doing it for their wellbeing.

If you have any questions or concerns about force-feeding your pet, please reach out to us on any of our social platforms.

Dr. Amanda Nascimento DVM, MVSc, PhD

Dr. Amanda Nascimento DVM, MVSc, PhD

Dr. Amanda completed her undergraduate degree in veterinary medicine in 2010 and graduate studies in veterinary pathology (MVSc. 2012 and PhD 2016) at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of São Paulo. She completed her post-doctoral training at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine – University of Saskatchewan in 2018. Dr. Nascimento will be hosting her own blog series and sharing her knowledge with our extended NHV family.

Published: December 1, 2020

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