Why Is My Puppy Not Eating?

Is your puppy refusing to eat? It’s frustrating to not know why your dog suddenly shows no interest in food. But it may help to know that it’s actually pretty common. Next to housebreaking, questions about puppies’ diets are some of the most frequent for new pet parents.

Veterinary medicine classifies your dog’s lack of appetite as either anorexia or pseudo-anorexia.  Anorexia happens when your dog doesn’t want to eat, and pseudo-anorexia is when he wants to eat, but can’t.

There are many reasons for anorexia and pseudo-anorexia in puppies–some serious and some mild. Here are nine questions to ask yourself if your puppy isn’t eating.

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1. How Long Has He Gone Without Eating?

Young puppies should be fed three or four times daily, while older pups should eat twice a day. Has your puppy skipped one meal or several? Going a few hours without eating is probably not cause for concern. However, if your puppy goes longer than 12 hours without eating, you should look for signs of illness and contact your veterinarian.

2. Does Your Pup Have a Fever?

Have you ever taken a dog’s temperature? A puppy’s normal body temperature should be between 99 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. You can use a canine rectal or ear thermometer to see if your puppy’s temperature is normal. A temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher is considered a fever, and your vet should be consulted.

3. Has Your Puppy Vomited or Had Diarrhea?

Stomach discomfort is a common reason dogs of all ages refuse to eat. Since dogs can’t talk, vomiting and diarrhea indicate stomach upset in puppies. Short episodes of vomiting and diarrhea are usually nothing to worry about. However, if these conditions persist or become worse, it’s time to call your vet.

4. What Kind of Food Are You Feeding Him?

You probably already know this, but puppies need to eat specially formulated puppy food. Why? Foods for puppies have more of the vitamins, nutrients, and calories that puppies need to grow. According to the American Kennel Club, puppies can eat wet, dry, or semi-moist food, as long as it’s for puppies and for your pup’s size. Larger dogs have different nutritional needs than smaller dogs, so take that into account when choosing a food.

Most dogs would rather eat wet food rather than dry kibble. Sometimes changing your puppy’s food or warming it up slightly can encourage him to chow down. Also, you may want to try wetting your puppy’s kibble, since this can make the food easier to chew.

5. Is Your Puppy Drinking Water?

Like people, dogs can go much longer without food than without water. Dogs should always have access to clean water–even puppies who are just getting used to potty training. According to WebMD, dogs should drink a minimum of one ounce of water for each pound they weigh each day. If dogs don’t drink enough, they can become dehydrated. Dehydration symptoms include dark yellow urine, sunken eyes, lethargy, and panting. If your puppy isn’t eating or drinking–especially if they’re showing signs of dehydration–that’s a definite cause for concern, and you should call your vet right away.

6. Is Your Dog Urinating?

Regular urination is a good sign of health in dogs. Puppies need to urinate more often than mature dogs–often once every two hours. If your puppy is going much less frequently, that may be a sign of dehydration. If you have an indoor dog potty such as Bark Potty, you can easily keep tabs on how often your puppy goes. Let your vet know if you suspect your dog isn’t urinating as often as he should, despite ready access to clean water.

7. Is Your Puppy Teething?

Just like human infants, dogs are born without teeth. New teeth begin to emerge when your puppy is three to five weeks old. When your pup is three or four months old, he will start getting permanent teeth. Getting new baby teeth or new permanent teeth can be somewhat painful for your furry friend, and may sometimes cause your pup to stop eating temporarily.

You can help your puppy during this time by providing him with puppy chew toys. If teething is the cause of your puppy’s lack of appetite, you can rest assured that he’ll want to eat when his mouth pain subsides.

8. Has Your Puppy Experienced Emotional Stress?

Dogs’ and humans’ appetites can be influenced by emotions. Intense stress, such as just moving to a new home or family, or experiencing separation anxiety, can cause dogs to stop eating temporarily. Even a slight change in routine can cause stress in some dogs. Luckily, once the puppy becomes used to whatever is causing the stress, he will usually go back to eating a normal diet. If not, talk to your vet about ways to lower your pet’s stress level.

9. Did Your Puppy Just Get Vaccines?

Vaccines are important to help keep your dog healthy. As a puppy, your dog will need vaccines for distemper, measles, hepatitis, and rabies, among other conditions. However, these preventative shots can sometimes cause a lack of appetite. If your dog’s loss of appetite is caused by vaccines, they should be eating like normal within a day or two.  Talk to your vet if your puppy is experiencing any other side effects after receiving injections.

There are many reasons why your puppy might refuse to eat. When it comes to your pet’s health, better safe than sorry. For your own peace of mind, contact your vet if you’re worried.

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