Why is My Puppy Not Eating

Ohhhh puppies!!!!  They are such simple yet complex little creatures of unconditional love.

They can also be busy and a bit fickle when it comes to eating.

I remember picking up my current female dog, a long trip to West Virginia from Georgia and offering her an early morning tater tot, she immediately thought I was trying to poison her.  Thinking about it from her perspective, tater tots are real food, so she was kind of right.

Now if I offered the same dog a tatter tot or something even shaped like a tatter tot she would probably try to eat it!

Again, puppy appetites can be fickle.  One of my puppies wouldn’t eat his puppy food until he had scattered his whole bowl of puppy food across the floor.

But I learned these endearing tidbits about their puppy appetites and behaviors fairly early on after their arrival.  It was normal for that pup. 

What is normal for one pup may not be normal for another!

There are about as many puppy feeding charts out there as there are charts on training your puppy.

Many of these puppy food charts are compiled by large dog food corporations, and believe it or not, that is a good thing and a bad thing.

Modern skepticism would tell us that a dog food leader in the dog food industry would recommend over feeding.  And, most of the time, I would agree.  Typically feeding a little less than they recommend is wise.

But, dogs, like humans have different metabolisms.  Puppies also have different metabolisms.  And, food is essential to growth.  No one wants a fat puppy (hard on growing joints) but also no one wants an emaciated puppy; one that can’t grow and is considered abused.  So the food companies are trying to come up with a general statistical “mean”. 

Statistical means refers to the average that is used to derive the central tendency of data in question; how much food should I be feeding my puppy?  Here is a great chart on puppy feeding.

Typically I tend to feed my puppies more and then cut back when they regulate into adulthood.  Adult dogs eat less.

Most Puppies Self Regulate

Most puppies self regulate if you are feeding them often enough.

I had always been taught by my mentor in veterinary medicine to feed puppies under 12 weeks old 3 times daily if possible and allow them to self regulate.  Give them 5 minutes of having the food bowl down and what isn’t eaten gets picked up.

A hungry puppy will probably eat until he is full.   Remember he has a tiny puppy stomach and a tiny puppy bladder (for potty training) and that he likely doesn’t need much to become full.

Make regular trips to your veterinarian.  Hopefully you are scheduling regular trips for vaccines and wellness checks, but they are certainly better educated at helping you keep your puppy on the right weight track.  A good vet will tell you when you have a fat puppy (and you are risking his growth plates) and if you can up his food just a smidge.

Adult dogs have more of a problem with over eating and gaining weight even with their dry kibble .

Know Your Puppy’s Eating Habits

I have had puppies that would never skip a meal or a treat; and I have had pups that seemed to constantly have attention deficit disorder (ADD) and have trouble focusing on anything much less a meal.  After a very short period of time it is apparent that skipping a meal here and there for these puppies is normal.

I still have one of these!  Sometimes he eats, sometimes he doesn’t.  I can see his ribs but he is healthy and self regulates.   I probably offer him 6 cups of dry kibble dog food a day for a 55 pound dog (that is A LOT).  But he is constantly in motion, has some anxiety, and sometimes just doesn’t feel like eating.  If the problem progresses I know something is wrong, but I also know his eating habits well because I believe in meal feeding.

If my other dog doesn’t want a treat I know she is seriously ill!  Eating habits are important to know and recognize.

The FDA has recently approved an appetite stimulant for dogs, 


Puppies really do need to eat.

If your puppy skips meals for more than 24 hours there may be something seriously wrong with him. An adult dog that isn’t eating may have less of a serious problem.  But a pup with a significant loss of appetite is a concern.

Most will never go this long without eating “something” or a small amount because they need those calories to keep up with the puppy zoomies!

One of the first signs of illness is refusing to eat, and it should be taken serious.  Even if you have a frequent meal skip-er or puppy with ADD when it comes to eating be sure you are at least mentally charting their skips or misses.

Water is the most important!

As we know your body can go days without food (not recommended) but after a few days without water dehydration becomes deadly.

Fewer people monitor their puppy’s hydration intake but it is even more important than monitoring his food.  Make sure that he is drinking.  A dehydrated puppy can get very sick and need hospitalization quickly!  Remember dehydration leads to death.

And adult dog that isn’t eating is much different than a pup that isn’t eating or has a loss of appetite.

Wet food can stimulate your pup to eat but it may mask a problem or give him diarrhea if he is not used to eating wet food. 

I actually try to avoid wet food with my puppies, because dry food is best for their teeth and I don’t want to teach them bad eating habits or to create an adult dog who won’t eat or who is refusing to eat.

Your adult dog’s health can be contingent upon some of the habits you build when he is just a pup.  Your dog’s diet is dependent on what you expose him to when he is a puppy.


Anything more than random vomiting should be of concern.  Yes, if you see your puppy drink a large amount of water, then chase a butterfly, then vomit; chances are you know the cause.  Some puppies do drink too much too quickly.

But vomiting is a sign of distress and the body trying to expel something. 

Vomiting also leads to dehydration (BAD)!


Diarrhea can also be a cause for concern.  Again, it is one of those symptoms that can lead to dehydration (BAD).

Sure, I think all puppies get loose stool on occasion but it shouldn’t last too long and it should never effect their activity level. 

A lethargic puppy who isn’t eating with vomiting and diarrhea is bad news!

It can also be the body’s way of trying to deal with infection or disease.

Parvovirus is marked by dehydration, vomiting and serious diarrhea.

These can all be signs that your puppy has ingested a foreign body that may need surgical removal, and if not removed can cause death.

So, be prepared to allow your veterinarian to run blood tests and x-rays.  Puppies can be much more fragile than adult dogs, so in order to ensure his well being sometimes lots of tests and IV fluids are required.

Remember your dog’s health is crucial.

The Most Important Take Away

Puppies don’t have the immune system or bodily strength of an adult dog when it comes to illness.

Know your puppy!  Your dog’s diet is up to you!

Watch him eat, watch him drink, go outside and watch his bathroom habits. 

Keep an eye on him so that he won’t eat something he shouldn’t like a sock!

And, if he gets sick watch his signs and get him into a vet.

Yes, puppies get diarrhea, yes puppies vomit, they eat too much, they drink too much the run around like crazy people; but they need to be monitored like you would do to your own child.

If they become lethargic it becomes even more dangerous.   To find a vet near you click here.

Knowing the signs is one of the most crucial pieces of knowledge for prevention.

Then, keep an eye on him and monitor him until his good behaviors become conditioned and you don’t need to keep as close of an eye on him anymore!

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