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Why Is My Puppy Not Eating?

Puppy not eating its food

 

Welcoming a new puppy into your home is an exciting and joyous experience, but it also comes with its fair share of challenges. One common concern for many new puppy owners is when their pup suddenly loses interest in food. If your puppy isn't eating, it's natural to feel worried and wonder wonder "why is my puppy not eating?" There are several reasons why a puppy may not be eating, ranging from simple and benign to more serious health issues.

 

Understanding the potential causes can help you address the problem effectively and ensure your puppy gets back to their happy, energetic self.


How Often Does My Puppy Need to Eat?

A puppy eating from its food bowl

 

There is nothing more concerning than your puppy not eating, especially if you don’t know the cause!

 

Puppies have unique nutritional needs due to their rapid growth and development, requiring frequent meals to fuel their high energy requirements and support their overall health. For young puppies up to 12 weeks old, feeding them small meals every 3-4 hours is essential to maintain their energy levels and promote growth. As puppies grow older, they can transition to fewer meals per day, ultimately settling into a feeding schedule of 1 - 2 meals per day by adulthood.

 

Regular meals help stabilise blood sugar levels, prevent hypoglycaemia, and provide the necessary nutrients for healthy bone, muscle, and organ development, ensuring that puppies thrive during their early stages of life.



Although frequent meals are incredibly important, if they miss a meal or two don’t be too panicked! It’s bound to happen, every now and then it is completely usual for a pup or a dog to miss a meal, just like us, we aren’t always 100%, all the time!



Generally speaking a healthy puppy (8 weeks and older) can go 24-48 hours without eating (as long as they continue to drink water) however, it's essential to monitor your puppy closely during this time and consult with a veterinarian if they continue to refuse food or show signs of illness or distress.

 

Prolonged periods without eating can lead to dehydration, weakness, and other health issues, so it's crucial to address any concerns promptly!


Why Has My Puppy Stopped Eating?

There are numerous reasons why a puppy might not be eating, and while some are harmless and easily resolved, others might require prompt veterinary attention. If your pup has stopped eating their raw, kibble or anything in between, knowing the potential causes can help you take swift and effective action to get your puppy back to their usual bouncy self. 

 

1. Transitioning Periods:

If you've recently brought your puppy home or switched their food, they may be experiencing a transition period. Not only can changes in the food itself cause pups to stop eating, changes in environment can unsettle their routine, leading to a temporary loss of appetite. If you have just brought home your new pup, it’s important to continue to feed them what their breeder has been feeding, and if you are looking to change, first give your puppy some time to adjust to their new environment, then consider gradually transitioning to new food over 10-14 days, to ease the process. This slow transition may also help with any possible digestion upsets allowing time for the tummy to adjust!

 

2. Stress or Anxiety:

Puppies, like humans, can experience stress and anxiety. Moving to a new home, being separated from their littermates, or encountering unfamiliar situations and sounds (such as children and other pets) can all trigger stress to your pup. Provide a calm and comforting environment, provide them a crate or a safe space, and shower them with love and reassurance to help alleviate their anxiety.

 

3. Dental Issues:

Teething (which usually occurs between 3-6 months of age) or dental issues can make eating painful or uncomfortable for puppies. Check your puppy's mouth for signs of teething, such as swollen gums or excessive drooling.


To help alleviate any teething discomfort: 

  • Durable Chew Toys: Offer sturdy rubber or nylon chew toys designed for teething puppies. Brands like KONG and Nylabone make toys specifically for this purpose.

  • Frozen Toys: Make a frozen treat for your pup or place a chew toy in the freezer for a couple of hours. The cold can help soothe their sore gums.

  • Edible Chews: Offer safe, edible chews like dental sticks, just ensure they're appropriate for your puppy's size and age

If you suspect dental problems, consult your veterinarian for advice on how to manage your puppy's discomfort.

4. Health Issues:

A loss of appetite can be a symptom of an underlying health problem. Gastrointestinal issues, infections, parasites, or metabolic disorders may affect your puppy's appetite and energy levels. Keep an eye out for other signs of illness, such as vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy, or changes in behaviour, and consult your veterinarian straight away if you have concerns.

 

5. Food Preferences:

Just like humans, puppies have preferences when it comes to food.  Your puppy may simply not enjoy the taste or texture of what you are offering them or be unfamiliar with the smell. 



Studies have shown that puppies are heavily influenced by early experiences. If a pup was not exposed to many different types of foods during development, they are much more likely to become “fussy eaters”.



Even during prenatal stages, research has shown, that flavours consumed by the mother can pass to the foetus where the pup will develop a preference for this flavour.



It’s also important to never leave food out for longer than 20 minutes at a time, no matter if it’s raw, fresh or kibble! For foods using only natural preservatives, like Petzyo, this is very important as once ingredients are exposed to air and temperature, foods can go rancid quite quickly, despite that they may appear fine! Always offer them a fresh serving or pop it in the fridge between meals! Be sure to wash your doggo’s bowl before each meal as well to reduce bacteria growth!

 

6. Environmental Distractions:

Your puppy's environment can impact their appetite. Loud noises, other pets, or even changes in weather can distract your puppy from eating. Create a quiet and calm eating area for your puppy, away from distractions, including children, other pets and tv to encourage them to focus on their food and not feel rushed. It’s also a good idea to feed them before your own family has their meal, as this will not only set a routine, they will be more calm and less likely to beg - which can result in overfeeding or filling up before their own meal!

 

7. Overfeeding:

Overfeeding can lead to a decreased appetite in puppies. If your puppy is filling up on treats or snacks throughout the day, they may not feel hungry at mealtime. As a general rule of thumb, you should not feed any more than 10% of their daily calories on treats! They will quickly learn to ignore their meal if you are going to indulge them in treats instead!


Why Is My Puppy Not Eating His Food But Will Eat Treats?

If your puppy is not eating their regular food but happily accepts treats, there could be a few reasons for this behaviour.

One common reason is that just like us, puppies love the taste and texture of treats as they are often more flavourful and appealing than their regular food! Sometimes, pups will outwit us and hold out eating their regular meal if they know that something better might come along! Try not to give in, and withstand those puppy dog eyes - its for their own good!

An adorable puppy looking lovingly into the camera



One way to help solve this is to gradually mix a small amount of their regular food with the treats and slowly increase the amount of dog food while reducing the treats. This helps them adjust to the taste of their regular food.


My Puppy Is Not Eating Much But Acting Normal?

If your puppy is not eating much but is otherwise acting normal, it may not be cause for immediate concern, especially if they appear healthy and otherwise happy! However, it's crucial to monitor their food intake closely and ensure they are getting the nutrition they need. Every dog is different, and their appetite can vary based on factors like age, breed, activity level, and health status.



Check to see how much food your pup needs every day. One study showed that 74% of pet owners overfed their pets, likely due to not understanding just how little a pup needs!

Additionally, consider your puppy's activity level when assessing their food requirements. If they are not exercising much, they may not need as much food as more active dogs. Adjusting their portion sizes accordingly can help prevent overfeeding.



While a temporary decrease in appetite can sometimes occur due to factors like stress, teething, or hot weather, it's essential to be vigilant, as going off food can be a sign that something is wrong. If your puppy's decreased appetite persists for more than a day or two, or if you notice any other concerning symptoms, such as lethargy or changes in behaviour, it's important to seek veterinary advice promptly.


Why Is My Puppy Not Eating and Sleeping a Lot?

A puppy sleeping

 

If your puppy is not eating and sleeping a lot, there could be several reasons behind this behaviour. Firstly, it’s important to understand that puppies require a significant amount of sleep to support their rapid growth and development and even as adults they require more sleep than humans!

  • Newborn to 8-week-old: 20-22 hours
  • 8 to 12-week-old: 18-20 hours 
  • 3 to 6 months: 16-18 hours
  • 6 months to Adult: 14-16 hours

 

Keep in mind, factors like breed, activity level, health, and environment can influence sleep needs.

 

If your pup seems to be sleeping more than the normal amount, and not eating other factors to consider are: 

  • Illness or Health Issues
  • Teething
  • Stress of Anxiety
  • Growth Spurts
  • Dietary Issues
  • Vaccination Side Effects


It is incredibly important for puppies to regularly eat to maintain energy levels. Consult your veterinarian who will be able to assess their health.