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Puppy not eating? Is it a problem, or is your pup just picky?

Written by Napo HQ
Reviewed by Dr Louisa Lane
23rd Dec 2022
4 mins read
The photo shows a Golden Retriver puppy looking in their food bowl, and they seem unsure. There's a hand-draw cartoon of a dreaming bubble with a bone in. Is this a picky puppy that won't eat?
Summary
It’s not unusual for puppies to be picky eaters. Too many treats, switching puppy food, a change in routine, separation related anxiety, stress, and environmental changes can all cause loss of appetite. Some signs may be a hint it’s time to see a vet. Napo explains how long puppies may go off their food and when it’s time to seek expert help. There are many reasons puppies may be off their food. Go easy on the treats, and if they start losing weight or develop other symptoms, seek vet advice.
Being a picky eater isn’t uncommon for puppies despite perceptions that young pups eat anything, including stealing scraps and chewing non-food items when you’re not looking.
It is a worry when pups go off their food, but there are many reasons why your puppy isn't eating, many of which aren't serious. There are also steps you can take to get your puppy to eat again. There's also some times where you will need to contact the vet.
This article will help you to understand why your puppy has stopped eating, how to get them eating again, and when you should contact the vet.

Why is my puppy not eating?

There are many reasons why puppies go off their food. Possibly, they’ve been used to a particular type of food since being weaned; a change in food may mean your puppy won’t eat what you’re offering them – and so you can revert to the previous food. 
Other reasons your pup isn’t eating include the following:
  • Picky eater:
    Just like us, puppies prefer some foods to others. Have you changed their food, or are you handing out a lot of treats?
    Your puppy could be holding out, skipping meals waiting for you to give in and give them the good stuff. 
  • New home:
    Where you’ve just brought your puppy home, they may leave their food because they’re missing their mother or littermates. 
  • Changes in routine or environment:
    Puppies are getting used to the world around them. Sudden changes may put them off their food. Is there another pet in the house vying for attention with your pup? Or have you had a recent house move?
  • Stress:
    Like people, stress can cause puppies to lose their appetite.
    It could be a routine change,
    separation related anxiety
    because you’ve begun training your puppy to be alone, or a recent visit to the vet. 
  • Overfeeding your puppy:
    Those puppy dog eyes are hard to resist. Have you been overly-generous with the treats when training? It could be that your pup simply isn’t hungry.
  • Recent vaccination:
    Recently
    vaccinated puppies
    can experience mild fever, soreness, and loss of appetite after a jab, although reactions are usually mild.
  • The weather:
    When it’s hot, we may go off our food. Puppies can, too. 
  • Medication:
    Some medications can cause a temporary loss of appetite. 
  • Growing pains:
    Any type of pain can put puppies off their food. New teeth or growing pains may be responsible for your puppy’s loss of appetite. 
  • Parasite:
    Puppies with a parasite may experience stomach pains, preventing them from eating. 

How long can a puppy not eat?

How long your puppy can go without eating depends on the age of your puppy. Newborn puppies should eat every couple of hours. Older puppies can comfortably go for five hours without eating. You should feed puppies every five hours from when they're about four months old.
A puppy can last up to eight hours without food from six to seven weeks. By week eight, they should be weaned and eating regularly – this is when they’ll transition to kibble. They’ll be able to go overnight without eating but be naturally hungry in the morning. 

When should I take my puppy to the vet if they are not eating?

There’s plenty you can do to tempt your puppy to eat, but if they stay off their food, how do you know when it’s time to seek expert help?
Watch for signs of weight loss. For example, your puppy’s ribs or vertebrae may seem more prominent. Or your puppy may not be growing at the rate you expect. You should also watch out for other signs of illness, including:
  • Lethargy
    – tiredness may indicate puppy isn’t getting enough energy
  • Diarrhoea
    and vomiting
    – these could be signs of a health issue. It might also put your puppy at risk of dehydration. 
  • Regurgitation
    – is your puppy bringing food back up?

How much should a puppy eat?

How much food your puppy needs depends on its:
  • Age
  • Breed
  • Energy levels
  • Whether it has any medical conditions
You should follow guidance on any packaging, paying attention to whether this refers to current or estimated adult body weight. A rough rule of thumb is to feed your puppy 20g of food per 1kg of body weight per day. So, a puppy weighing 5kg will need 100g of food per day.

Do puppies not eat when teething?

Puppies usually teeth between three and six months old. Many puppies eat less and chew more when they’re teething.
Their mouths hurt during teething, so they may stop eating or eat more slowly. Some puppies who experience a lot of pain may stop eating altogether. Ask your vet for tips on soft foods, and moisten dry food with water.

My puppy is not eating much, is that normal?

There are many reasons your puppy could be off its food. It could be because you’re overfeeding them, they’re snacking on too many treats, experiencing stress from adjusting to a change in environment or routine, teething or struggling to adapt to a new food. Parasites can also cause a loss of appetite. While many reasons are common and part of being a puppy, if your puppy stops eating for a day or more, or has any other symptoms such as weight loss, vomiting or diarrhoea, you need to see a vet. 

My puppy is not eating much and sleeping a lot. Are they ok?

As we’ve explained, puppies may be off their food with good reason. However, where they also lack energy, are quiet or are just not themselves, you should seek help from a vet.

My puppy is not eating all their food: are they eating enough?

Puppies have small tummies. If they’re leaving their food, it may be because you’re putting too much in their bowl or overdoing the treats. Check food packaging to see how much you should feed your puppy based on its weight and breed. Depending on age, you should feed your puppy 3-4 times per day for steady weight gain. 
However, if your puppy is leaving food and not gaining (or losing) weight, the reasons may be stress, a change or environment, teething or other factors. Where your puppy is losing weight and experiencing other symptoms, seek advice from a vet. 

My puppy won’t eat dry food. Are they being picky, or is it a problem?

Some puppies are picky, which may be why they aren’t eating their dry food or kibble. You can try adding a small amount of wet food to tempt them. You can also cut up or puree fruits and vegetables that are safe for dogs to eat. For example, carrots, green beans, apples,
blackberries
, or bone broth. The main aim is to feed your puppy a complete and balanced diet for their lifestage (age) and breed. Be mindful that we can inadvertently encourage fussiness by overly exposing and offering them too many additives to their food earlier on in life. 

Got more questions about raising a healthy, happy puppy?

Puppy Academy
is a course of live, online classes with vets and behaviourists, and is free for every Napo customer who joins before their puppy is 20 weeks old. Classes include nutrition and diet, toilet training, chewing and nipping,
lead walking
, being home alone, and more. 
Through Puppy Academy, you’ll learn everything you need to be a confident puppy owner with a happy and healthy pup.

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