9 harmless reasons why dogs don’t eat

You’re worried because your puppy isn’t eating? Learn about the possible causes and why the loss of appetite can be harmless.

Don’t panic – why your puppy isn’t eating

Your new dog has moved in but something isn’t right? Your puppy isn’t eating or only eats very little. Dog owners get worried when their new flatmate refuses to eat. But what are the reasons behind it? Does a dog only not eat in serious cases or can there also be harmless reasons? See below for all the answers concerning lack of appetite in puppies:

Of course you’re wondering right now: Is your dog sick if his bowl and its contents remain untouched? But perhaps there’s no cause for concern regarding his unusual eating behaviour. Here are some reasons you should consider before you assume the worst:

1. Too big portions

Many food manufacturers indicate misleading portions for dog food on the packages. On the one hand, they want to sell more food, on the other hand the instructions don’t take different breeds into account. But surely it’s obvious to you that a Doberman needs a little more food than a Chihuahua. So, think about if the amount of food is simply too much for your puppy and, if in doubt, speak to the vet about it. There are standard calculations that you can use to determine the approximate daily amount.

2. New teeth

Between their 4th and 7th month, puppies go through the difficult time of second dentition. Then they often eat less and definitely nothing hard. Soak dry food or give him something softer.

3. Stress

A new home equals stress for your new flatmate. He has to get used to his new surroundings gradually – and sooner or later, there’s often a change in food. Many breeders give a supply of their own food, but at some point, this time will come for your puppy too. Only rest and time will help against stress.

4. Different training measures

Puppies are clever little things. Your little dog may be trying to train you to give him “better food”. He notices that you react to his behaviour and tests out which tasty treat you’re going to give him next. To eliminate this behaviour, you should stick with one food, wait and observe.

5. Competition at feeding time

If several dogs live in your household, then the pecking order could be the reason your puppy isn’t eating. If another dog shows dominant behaviour at the feeding bowl, your new flatmate will retreat. Several bowls or staggered mealtimes may be a remedy.

6. In heat

Your dog’s reproductive instincts are strong. So, if he’s already grown from a puppy into an adult dog, a female dog in heat can easily distract him. This confusion is purely biological but leads to a similar loss of appetite as when people fall in love.

7. Too many treats

You reward your puppy all day long with treats and then ask yourself why he isn’t eating? He’s simply full. On the other hand, he can also reject the rewards because he’s already eaten too much dog food. Make sure that you find ways other than food intake to reinforce your dog’s positive behaviour.

8. Gourmets and those who expect special treatment

Sometimes a dog is a real gourmet: he notices immediately if the ingredients in his favourite food have changed or if you’ve secretly switched brands. Then the refusal to eat is a sign that he doesn’t like the food. Particularly fussy dogs will only eat out of the hand - but the reason is usually not additional affection, but e.g. the size of the bowl or what it’s made of.

9. Age

The older dogs get, the less they eat. This is totally normal and you shouldn’t worry about it. Your dog is simply burning fewer calories because he moves less.

Dangerous reasons for your puppy’s loss of appetite

Contrary to the above reasons, if your puppy doesn’t eat, there can also be a serious cause:

Side-effects of an operation or vaccination

After an operation, a dog’s eating behaviour is often still affected by the after-effects of the anaesthesia. This can also be the case with a vaccination. You shouldn’t treat this behaviour lightly, instead keep a close eye on whether it’s getting better after a few days.


Maybe your puppy has seriously injured himself and is refusing food because of it. Typical examples include suffering from dental problems or inflammation in the animal’s mouth. Some dogs also swallow painful things. So, examine your puppy’s mouth carefully for injuries.


In the worst case, loss of appetite in your puppy can be a symptom of illness. If you’ve already ruled out all the other possibilities, this is unfortunately very likely. Then you should go to a vet immediately. He can see if your puppy is, for example, suffering from any of the following illnesses:

  • Kidney problems
  • Infections, e.g. urethral
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Cancer
  • Ear mites or mange mites

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What you can do when your puppy doesn’t eat

First of all, you need to rule out your puppy being sick. If it’s one of the “harmless” reasons, then maybe you can persuade him to eat by using a few tricks:

Get him used to fixed times

Routines are important to puppies. If your puppy refuses food, take it away after ten minutes. Then he’ll learn that he has to eat when you give him something.

Don’t constantly change his food

Every time you introduce something new, it means stress for your puppy’s body. Therefore, you should stick to one variant for the time being.

Show persistence

Some dogs only accept food after a long time. He senses if you stick to things consistently or are trying to please him.

Give your puppy time

Stress doesn’t go away just because someone decides that it does. Your puppy needs time to settle in. Putting pressure on him won’t work.

Dogs do not always eat what they should

Your puppy has refused food at home but raids the buffet at a children’s birthday party in the park? This or similar unpleasant situations can happen when you buy a puppy. In order to avoid financial ruin and embarrassment, you can take out dog liability insurance in advance. Providers like Luko offer help in case of property damage or financial loss, as well as injuries to others caused by your dog. Find out now what conditions and additional toppings you need so that you and your new dog can go through life safely.

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