Puppy not eating food

Key takeaway

If your puppy isn’t eating, it can be cause for concern. THe most common reasons a puppy may refuse to eat include: stress and anxiety, environmental issues, digestive issues, illnesses, teething pain, and food preferences. If your puppy refuses to eat, it’s important to consult with a veterinarian who can diagnose and provide appropriate treatment.

If you notice that your puppy isn’t eating as much as they should be, or at all, it’s definitely a cause for concern. Puppies need plenty of nutrients while they’re growing, so if they’re not eating their food, it’s time to check in with your vet. 

In this blog post, we’ll be answering questions like “Why is my puppy not eating?” and “How much should my puppy eat?”. We’ll also discuss what you should do if your puppy isn’t eating so that you can get them back on track as quickly as possible.

Graphic showing how much puppies should be fed by weeks

How Much Should Puppies Eat?

The amount of food puppies should eat differs depending on their age, but it’s important to have a general idea about the amount so that you know if your puppy is undereating.

  • 6–12 weeks: When your pup is between 6-12 weeks old, they should be fed only puppy food. Puppy food is food that’s specifically made for puppies, as they need certain nutrients to grow and develop. Do not feed a young puppy regular, adult dog food. You should feed a puppy in this age group about four times a day. If your dog is on the larger side, you can switch to unmoistened dry food when they’re 9 or 10 weeks old. If they’re on the smaller side, 12 or 13 weeks old.
  • 3–6 months: When your pup is between 3-6 months old, you’ll want to lessen the number of times you feed them from four times a day to three times a day. 
  • 6–12 months: When your pup is between 6-12 months old, then you can start feeding them twice a day. If your dog is on the smaller side, you can do this when they’re about 7-9 months old. If they’re on the bigger side, you should do it when they’re around 12-14 months old. When you spay or neuter your pup, it lowers the amount of energy they need, which means you can feed them less. You can also switch from puppy food to adult food at this time. 
  • After age 1: When your puppy is above the age of 1, then you can officially switch to feeding them two-half portions a day. You can generally stick to this amount of food for the duration of their lives.

It’s also good to be aware of how much you should feed your pup in terms of weight. For example, a puppy who is 4-5 months old and weighs between 3-12 pounds should be fed ⅔- 1 ⅓ cups of food. A puppy who is 6-8 months old and weighs between 21-50 pounds should be fed 1-⅛ - 2-⅓ cups of food.2

Please consult the feeding guidelines on the food bag as different foods have different nutritional values.

While this is a good general rule of thumb to be aware of, the specific feeding methods for a pup will vary depending on the puppy and the owner. Overall, it’s just important to feed your puppy enough times throughout the day so that they get enough nutrients to grow. Large breed puppies must be fed different amounts than small breed puppies as well.

Reasons Why Puppies Won’t Eat

A puppy not eating much is definitely alarming. Puppies should be hungry, so if your pup is avoiding their food bowl at all costs, it could indicate several things. These are some of the potential reasons why your puppy won’t eat:

Food preference

The reason your pup isn’t eating might just be because they don’t like the food you’re giving them! Just like humans, puppies can be picky eaters, too. Finicky eaters may prefer wet food over kibble or prefer a different source of protein than what you’re giving them. 

Stress & anxiety

Dogs can experience stress and anxiety just like humans can. And just like humans, this stress and anxiety can cause them to not eat. There are a lot of circumstances that could trigger stress and anxiety in a pup– maybe they were abandoned at a young age or had a sudden change of owner. Puppy separation anxiety is a real thing, and a major side effect of it is a lack of appetite.

Environment

A dog’s environment plays a huge role in their eating habits. Some dogs don’t eat when it’s too hot outside. Some dogs may feel uncomfortable in a new or unfamiliar environment, which causes them to have a decrease in appetite. 

Graphic featuring reasons puppies won’t eat

Teething & pain

Teething can be extremely painful for your pup, and they may not be eating due to this discomfort, especially if you’re feeding them dry food.

Injuries can also make your pup reluctant to eat like maybe they have something stuck in their mouth that makes it painful to eat. If you suspect your puppy isn’t eating due to discomfort, you’ll want to first check for any visible sources of pain due to a physical injury. If you don’t find anything, you should bring them to the vet ASAP as it could be an internal injury.

Digestive issues

A puppy doesn’t know what they should and shouldn’t eat. So whether they ate something they shouldn’t have, or you accidentally fed them something they shouldn't eat, this could cause digestive issues. Certain foods, especially treats, can be too rich for your pup and cause dog diarrhea. And if your puppy learns that their food is what’s causing their digestive issues, they may be actively avoiding it, thus leading to them not eating. 

Illness 

Various illnesses, like an infection or parasites, could also be causing your puppy to not eat. Illnesses like kidney disease, pancreatitis, liver disease, and cancer can all cause a decrease in a puppy’s appetite and are all serious health conditions. If you suspect your puppy isn’t eating due to an illness, bring them to the vet as soon as possible.

When To See A Vet

A puppy not eating is not something to take lightly. If your puppy experiences persistent diarrhea or vomiting and displays signs of low blood sugar, such as weakness, drunken-gait, or seizures, in addition to not eating, you should contact your vet immediately.

What To Do If Your Puppy Stops Eating

My puppy is not eating. What should I do? If your puppy has stopped eating, the best course of action should be determined by you and your vet. Your vet will have the best idea of how to go about treating your pup’s lack of appetite in a healthy and effective manner. 

The below are some helpful tips to be used to increase your puppy’s appetite. However, pet owners should pay close attention to their pet’s behavior and be on alert for indicators like diarrhea and low blood sugar.4

Modify diet

The first thing you can do if your puppy isn’t eating is change their diet. For example, if you’re currently feeding them kibble, try giving them wet canned food or a combo of the two instead. You can also try incorporating a different protein into their food or adding warm water to their kibble. This will hopefully get them to better enjoy their food, which will cause them to eat more.

Limit treats

When you get a new puppy in the house, it’s tempting to reward them for everything. But this is actually doing more harm than good. Your puppy could be filling up on treats instead of real meals, which is causing them to not eat when it comes to mealtime. As tempting as it is, limit giving them treats and stick to real meals instead.

Feed on a consistent schedule

Focus on creating a consistent schedule for feeding your pup so they get into the groove of things. A consistent schedule creates a routine for your dog, so they know what to expect. It also trains them to seek food at a certain time.

Adjust feeding environment

A reason why your puppy isn’t eating may be because they’re anxious about eating around your other pets. So, if you normally feed them with other pets, try feeding them alone for a change. Ensure stressors are not present and aim to make their meal area as comfortable and safe for them as possible. 

Make mealtime more engaging

A great way to motivate your puppy to eat more is by simply making mealtime more engaging. You can do this by incorporating food puzzles or food dispensing toys to make mealtime more exciting. This way, mealtime will be something they actually look forward to.

Puppy Not Eating: Frequently Asked Questions

When should I worry about my puppy not eating?

You should be worried about your puppy not eating if they skip more than one or two meals, are having consistent diarrhea or vomiting in addition to not eating, or are showing any symptoms of low blood sugar. In any case, you’re always better off bringing your pup to the vet if they’re not eating, as it could be a result of a more serious health condition that requires immediate medical attention.

What do I do if my puppy won’t eat?

There are various things you can do if your puppy won’t eat, but you should consult with your vet first to determine the best course of action. Some examples of what you can do if your puppy won’t eat are changing the type of food you feed them, using an interactive toy to feed them, and changing their feeding environment. This will motivate them to eat more and make mealtime more exciting/comfortable for them. 

What causes a puppy’s loss of appetite?

A puppy’s loss of appetite can be due to many things, such as stress and anxiety, teething pain, digestive issues, or an illness. It’s important to determine exactly what’s causing your puppy not to eat so that you can figure out an effective way to treat them.

Graphic listing warning factors/when to see a vet if puppy stops eating

What To Do If Your Puppy Stops Eating

My puppy is not eating. What should I do? If your puppy has stopped eating, the best course of action should be determined by you and your vet. Your vet will have the best idea of how to go about treating your pup’s lack of appetite in a healthy and effective manner. 

The below are some helpful tips to be used to increase your puppy’s appetite. However, pet owners should pay close attention to their pet’s behavior and be on alert for indicators like diarrhea and low blood sugar.4

Modify diet

The first thing you can do if your puppy isn’t eating is change their diet. For example, if you’re currently feeding them kibble, try giving them wet canned food or a combo of the two instead. You can also try incorporating a different protein into their food or adding warm water to their kibble. This will hopefully get them to better enjoy their food, which will cause them to eat more.

Limit treats

When you get a new puppy in the house, it’s tempting to reward them for everything. But this is actually doing more harm than good. Your puppy could be filling up on treats instead of real meals, which is causing them to not eat when it comes to mealtime. As tempting as it is, limit giving them treats and stick to real meals instead.

Feed on a consistent schedule

Focus on creating a consistent schedule for feeding your pup so they get into the groove of things. A consistent schedule creates a routine for your dog, so they know what to expect. It also trains them to seek food at a certain time.

Adjust feeding environment

A reason why your puppy isn’t eating may be because they’re anxious about eating around your other pets. So, if you normally feed them with other pets, try feeding them alone for a change. Ensure stressors are not present and aim to make their meal area as comfortable and safe for them as possible. 

Make mealtime more engaging

A great way to motivate your puppy to eat more is by simply making mealtime more engaging. You can do this by incorporating food puzzles or food dispensing toys to make mealtime more exciting. This way, mealtime will be something they actually look forward to.

Puppy Not Eating: Frequently Asked Questions

When should I worry about my puppy not eating?

You should be worried about your puppy not eating if they skip more than one or two meals, are having consistent diarrhea or vomiting in addition to not eating, or are showing any symptoms of low blood sugar. In any case, you’re always better off bringing your pup to the vet if they’re not eating, as it could be a result of a more serious health condition that requires immediate medical attention.

What do I do if my puppy won’t eat?

There are various things you can do if your puppy won’t eat, but you should consult with your vet first to determine the best course of action. Some examples of what you can do if your puppy won’t eat are changing the type of food you feed them, using an interactive toy to feed them, and changing their feeding environment. This will motivate them to eat more and make mealtime more exciting/comfortable for them. 

What causes a puppy’s loss of appetite?

A puppy’s loss of appetite can be due to many things, such as stress and anxiety, teething pain, digestive issues, or an illness. It’s important to determine exactly what’s causing your puppy not to eat so that you can figure out an effective way to treat them.

Puppy eating food

Final Notes

Getting a new puppy is one of the most exciting things you can do. You have a new furry friend to keep you company at all times! But getting a puppy isn’t all that easy. You need to keep a close eye on your pup at all times to make sure they’re healthy and thriving. And if you notice your pup isn’t eating, that likely means something is wrong.

A puppy not eating is definitely alarming and a cause for immediate concern. If your puppy isn’t eating, the best thing to do is bring them to the vet, which you can do virtually on Dutch.com. 

With Dutch, you can get connected with highly-trained veterinarians and receive high-quality care for your pup, right from home. Dutch-affiliated vets are here to help you get to the bottom of your puppy’s lack of appetite and figure out a way to get their hunger levels back on track. A puppy needs around-the-clock care, so it’s always good to have a vet on hand you can go to if anything goes awry, and Dutch will give you just that. 

Sign up on Dutch today and you’ll get connected to a licensed veterinarian within 24 hours. And the best part is, we’re the only pet telehealth company that can get you your prescription delivered directly to your door. So what are you waiting for — get your pup the care they need today with Dutch.com.

References

  1. Mansourian, Erika. “Feeding Your Puppy: Full Guide & Timeline.” American Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, 21 Sept. 2021, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/puppy-feeding-fundamentals/

  2. “How Much to Feed a Puppy? Puppy Feeding Chart & Guide.” Purina, https://www.purina.com/articles/puppy/feeding/how-much-to-feed-a-puppy-chart

  3. Sanderson, Sherry Lynn. “Feeding Practices in Small Animals - Management and Nutrition.” Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck Veterinary Manual, 15 Dec. 2021, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/management-and-nutrition/nutrition-small-animals/feeding-practices-in-small-animals?query=puppy+not+eating

  4. Flowers, Amy. “Why Your Dog Won't Eat: Causes & Solutions.” WebMD, WebMD, 30 Aug. 2020, https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/guide/dog-not-eating-possible-causes-and-appetite-solutions#2