Why Isn’t My Puppy Eating? Here’s What to Do

Last Updated: October 23, 2020

There are a multitude of reasons for why puppies may not show an interest in eating as one would expect. Much of it depends on the particular situation, breed, environment, age, diet and underlying health factors. Brand new puppies introduced to the household may not be eating for reasons that are very different from a senior dog that one has noticed is suddenly “off food”.  For the most part, healthy puppies and dogs should be eating in general. Below we will identify a few reasons why a new puppy may not be as enthusiastic to eat as one would expect.

1. Stress

scared puppy
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Bringing a new puppy home is a big deal for the puppy. It has been removed from its litter and mother, suddenly introduced into a brand-new environment with different sights, sounds, smells etc. While it’s exciting for us, it can be stressful for the new puppy. During this transition time, it’s important to maintain a consistent diet.

Switching and changing foods can cause gastrointestinal upset. For small and very young puppies (6 weeks to 4 months), keeping them on the same diet they were weaned onto is favorable. If they are eating dry kibble, moistening it or adding some wet puppy food can help increase palatability.

Once you have established an eating area for the puppy, put the food down and allow the pup to eat freely. You can check on the bowl and look for signs that she has eaten. Young puppies should be eating at least every 6-8 hours. If they are not, it’s time to see the vet and ensure that there is no underlying cause for anorexia.

Introducing treats and limiting to just one or two types is a good idea at this time as swell.  Training with treats is an excellent way to establish good behavior and routines for your new puppy. The treats should be small and soft so they can easily be eaten and you have plenty on hand that don’t replace an actual meal in terms of calories.

2. Digestive upset and obstruction

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Puppies can and will eat indiscriminately. She may eat anything you give her. Unfortunately, new puppy owners will give puppies snacks and treats that are not recommended, causing digestive upset including vomiting and diarrhea. Puppies are also curious and may eat inanimate objects around the house.

It’s important to control what you feed your new puppy and also ensure a safe environment for her to explore so she doesn’t randomly eat your sock or shoes. These can and do lead to an intestinal obstruction, which typically requires surgical intervention to remove. The above are avoidable costly mistakes when the right environment is established for success at home with your new puppy.

3. Infections

dog at vet
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Puppies have a very naïve immune system. Their mother’s antibodies that they obtained while nursing have begun to break down, and their own immune system needs time to begin producing its own antibodies against common viral infections.

Parvovirus is an intestinal virus that causes severe illness in puppies. The best way to avoid this is ensuring she gets her vaccine boosters beginning at about 7-8 weeks of age, and continuing her boosters every 3 weeks for a total of 3-4 boosters. Intestinal parasites are another common cause for GI upset in puppies.

Again, regular puppy visits to your family veterinarian to treat and prevent these conditions are important in the first few weeks of your puppy’s new life at home.

  • Respiratory infections such as kennel cough and canine influenza can be mild, but again, puppies are highly susceptible to this infection, and can lead to life threatening pneumonia. The best way to prevent this is through proper vaccination and avoiding high traffic dog areas such as dog parks, kennels, etc. until your new puppy is fully vaccinated and ready to go out and about (16-17 weeks of age)

4. Organ or metabolic dysfunction

sick dog
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This is not common but new puppies can have issues with their major organs such as liver, kidneys, heart etc. It could be a result of being born with a congenital problem, or acquiring a condition such as an infection in the process of transition to her new household.

5. Boredom with food

bored puppy
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It is possible that your new pup is not into her food, but if she is truly not eating, it’s important to have her examined to ensure that none of the above factors may be playing a role in her refusal to eat. Don’t assume she’s not eating because she doesn’t like her food. If you are concerned, call your vet!

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