Help! My Puppy Won’t Eat

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Getting a new puppy is an exciting and busy time for new owners. So it can be quite distressing when your new friend won’t eat the dog food you put out for him. You want the best for your puppy and know that eating is essential to his health. But what is the problem?

Try not to worry too much as there can be a variety of factors affecting your puppy’s loss of appetite and his eating habits. However, the first step in determining why your puppy is refusing to eat may be a trip to the vet if you haven’t had a recent checkup. This visit will rule out any medical reasons your pooch has a loss of appetite and is refusing to eat such as illness or dental problems. Once you have ruled out any health issues, it is likely the reason your new puppy is not eating is because he needs a little time to adjust.

New Environment

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Dogs in general, and puppies especially, tend to become overwhelmed when their environment or routine changes too much. Despite your best efforts, your puppy’s entire world just changed and they may be feeling a little disoriented. If your puppy seems withdrawn, the stress of a new environment may be causing the lack of appetite.

New puppies may also be missing their mother and siblings. Depending on their age and where you adopted from, puppies have been with their family since birth. It is completely normal for them to whine a bit and feel lonely. If your pup is refusing dog food of any kind including wet food, consider that some dogs need privacy to eat while others like companionship.

Try giving him some space and letting him explore his new home on his own. It may also be a good idea to avoid too many visitors for a couple days so as not to inundate him with too much new stimuli. He will likely eat once he feels more comfortable and familiar with his surroundings.

Too Much Excitement

If stress doesn’t seem to be a factor, your puppy could be overly excited. If your puppy is moving around a lot, constantly exploring, and trying to get your attention, he may just be too busy to eat. Once he slows down, he will likely take a nap and be ready to eat. Give him space to explore and let him wear himself out.

Food Changes

When your puppy approaches the food you put out but then seems uninterested, he may not find the food appealing. Chances are, he is used to a specific type of dog food that he was fed in his previous home or shelter. Your dog might be a picky eater and needs his old formula that he is used to.

Try calling the previous owner, shelter, or breeder and ask them what type of food he was given. Was he given mostly dry food or wet food? You may also want to inquire about his feeding schedule. Was he given free access to food all day or was he fed at specific times? Avoiding disruptions in his feeding may help him adjust to his new home quicker.

Tips to Encourage Eating

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While you may be stressed that your puppy isn’t eating, it is important not to force him to do anything. Just try again at the next feeding time. Dogs are predisposed to avoid starvation and he will likely come around to eating once he feels more comfortable in his new home. Keep an eye on him and consider using the following tips to help encourage him to eat:

  • Cut back on treats: If you’ve been giving your puppy treats between meals, try cutting back. He may be too full of treats to eat at mealtime.
  • Go on walks: Try walking and playing with your puppy a little more right before mealtime. Engaging him in exercise may help bring back his appetite.
  • Add to the food: Warming kibble up or putting a little chicken broth over it may make the food more enticing to your puppy. Adding a little wet food might help your picky eater start eating.
  • Feed on a schedule: Give your puppy food at specific times each day, usually twice per day. This will help him establish a routine.
  • Make mealtime fun: Allowing your puppy to play with a toy that dispenses food may help engage him at mealtime and encourage his appetite.
  • Adjust the feeding environment: You can try to change his feeding situation and environment by leaving him alone or being present. You may even try putting his puppy bowls at different heights to see what your puppy prefers.

As long as you have ruled out medical causes with your vet, try to stay calm when your puppy refuses to eat. He is likely adjusting and just needs some time. However, continue to monitor him and take him back to the vet if his appetite does not improve.

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