How long can a dog go without eating?

Delighted to look after her

Delighted to look after her

I was wide awake.  It was pitch black outside.  I tossed.  I turned.  Finally I went downstairs to see if the dog was still alive.  The one I was looking after for the owner.  The one that hadn’t eaten for several days.  A gorgeous, friendly, Golden Retriever.  All I had to do was pop in and feed her twice a day along with the cat, and take it for a walk.  What was so difficult about that?  I was delighted to be of help. Another family had been looking after her but they’d had to return to England before the owners could get back.

The first evening meal and walk had been fine.  I’d fed her the mix of tinned and dry dog food.  Although on the walk I noticed she had the runs.  Drat.  Surely it would clear up by morning.

Unfortunately sad dog had a different type of the runs

Unfortunately sad dog had a different type of the runs

The following day the food was uneaten.  She was in her basket looking at me with sad, huge brown eyes.  Only a Golden Retriever has eyes like that.  Surely she was silently reprimanding me for leaving her in an empty house.  I arrived back in the evening after a day spent chasing around schools, to a pool of ….. stuff from both ends of the dog.  I cleared it up.  A virus?  Loneliness? I texted the owner who was suffering a family tragedy, played the whole thing down and took her back to our own house for company where she ignored our dog, Milly, followed me pitifully around, continued to mess from both ends and refused to eat.

Sad dog wasn't interested in Millie

Sad dog wasn’t interested in Millie

Guests arrived.  More mess in the living room from sad dog.  Sad dog still hadn’t eaten.  I gave it three days for the virus to clear, or for sad dog to get over whatever she had.  Three days came and went. She was drinking at least but….time for the vets.  Zed, my husband was in London.  Just me and the kids and the guests.  Who probably weren’t getting the attention I’d planned.

I called Diggory, my builder. He rang back that evening to give me the number of the local vet who I rang straight away.  No answer.  I looked up a vet on the internet and headed off in the dark, sad dog in the back seat, bewildered. Sat nav didn’t recognise the street so I’d made a rough map off the internet. I drove round and round the town in the dark. The road didn’t seem to exist.  Sad dog lurched around corners in the back.

Sad dog - time for the vets

Sad dog – time for the vets

In desperation I set off for the second vets located in a small village, driving with mad determination.  I couldn’t let sad dog die. She was thinner than a stray not the healthy Golden Retriever I’d been entrusted with.  I drove round and round the village, finally found the street.  No sign of a vet surgery.  I had to give up for the evening.  In a brightly lit house ten miles away guests and children were waiting for supper and bedtime and it was now nine o’clock.

The following day I dropped our guests off at the airport, collected my husband from the same airport, and found a 24 hour vet surgery in Cartaxo, forty minutes from the house.  We had to leave sad dog for tests and drove around in the dark trying to find the route out of Cartaxo, getting lost and trying to read the tiny, grey road signs.  The sat nav took us down unmade roads to nowhere. It always does that around Cartaxo.

A veterinary surgery - finally!

A veterinary surgery – finally!

Two hours later we returned so the vet could explain the results.

“I don’t know the problem,” the Portuguese vet said.  “You should leave her and we’ll give her fluids and do more tests overnight”.  We called the owners for permission, left the surgery and drove around in the dark, getting lost, trying to find the route out of Cartaxo again.

I rang the vet for an update the following day.  “Still not eating.  We should keep her for another night,” he said.  Oh dear.  The owners were due back tomorrow.  I had to return a healthy doggy albeit a much thinner one.

The owners drove straight to the vets from the airport.  Hurrah!  Sad dog had just started eating so they could take her home . The vet thought she’d probably had gastroenteritis.  Of course they got lost in the dark trying to find the route out of Cartaxo, while happy dog, reunited with her owners, peered out the back window of the car into the darkness with her big, happy brown eyes.

Sad dog now happy dog once more

After a week of not eating – sad dog now happy dog once more

All pictures except ‘Millie’ courtesy of


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