Why Won't My New Puppy Eat?

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It can worry any new dog owner to offer food only to have the puppy ignore it. If that has happened to you, it's good to be concerned. If a puppy or dog doesn't eat, it could signal a medical problem or no problem at all. Some dogs don't eat every day, says veterinarian Dr. Sherry Weaver of Animal Hospital of Towne Lake in Georgia.

An overfed dog often won't eat.
An overfed dog often won't eat. (Image: Pavel Timofeyev/iStock/Getty Images)

Your Puppy Might Have a Medical Condition

A medical condition could be the reason your puppy won't eat. Some conditions that could cause decreased appetite include:

  • Cancer
  • Infection
  • Dental disease
  • Pain
  • Liver problem
  • Kidney failure

Sometimes vaccinations cause decreased appetite. Unfamiliar surroundings and eating near other pets also can cause a puppy not to eat.

A veterinarian can diagnose your puppy to determine whether there is a medical reason.

Your Puppy Might Not Be Hungry

Some dogs aren't hungry every day and don't want to eat just because you set out a bowl of food. If your puppy is growing and doesn't look sick or underweight, let her regulate her food intake, says Dr. Weaver. You don't need to mix in special treats to the dog food to entice your dog to eat. That might lead to your dog becoming an overweight, yet picky eater, says Dr. Weaver.

You Might Be Conditioning Your Puppy Not to Eat

If you try to entice your puppy to eat his regular dog food by adding treats, you might be teaching your puppy to wait for the treats. Once your dog learns that by refusing to eat, he'll get something better, he might refuse to eat until he gets the added treats.

A better method would be to take the food from your dog if he refuses to eat after about five minutes. Offer it again after an hour or two. If he still won't eat, repeat the procedure. When he gets hungry enough, assuming a veterinarian ruled out a medical condition, he'll eat.

You Might Be Offering Too Much Food

If you feed your puppy based strictly on the guidelines on the dog food package, you might be offering too much food. Some dogs want to eat only 60 percent to 70 percent of the amount recommended on the package, according to WebMD.

Los Angeles Veterinarian Dr. Heather Oxford says that food packages often overestimate by as much as two to three times the amount of food a dog needs.

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