How to Stimulate Your Puppy's Appetite

Published: 03/03/2021

You’ve just welcomed a new puppy into your home and your adorable new bundle of fur is everything you’d hoped for. There’s just one problem: your pup doesn’t seem to have much of an appetite, or is refusing to eat altogether.

A balanced diet is essential for your puppy’s growth and development, so refusing to eat is a major concern. But is it a sign of an underlying health problem, anxiety, or something else? And what can you do to stimulate your puppy’s appetite and encourage them to chow down with gusto once again? Keep reading to find out.

Why is my puppy not eating?

Unfortunately, there are a whole lot of reasons why dogs lose their appetite. Some of those reasons are relatively minor, but others can be a serious cause for concern.

A few of the reasons why your pup is turning their nose up at food include:

Stress

Has your puppy just moved into your home? Have you made major changes to their routine? If so, the resulting stress and anxiety could be causing an upset stomach and putting them off their food.

Picky eater

Some dogs are simply finicky when it comes to what they eat. If whatever you’re dishing up doesn’t satisfy their rigorous criteria, they might decide that they’d rather not tuck in.

Too many distractions

If they’ve just moved into a new home, your pup will be busy sniffing all the new smells, seeing all the new sights, and meeting all the new people. If they’re not particularly food-oriented, they might have too much else going on to worry about eating.

Upset stomach

If your dog is having some digestive problems and feeling a bit unwell, they may be reluctant to eat anything until their stomach settles.

Unappetizing food

Some dogs will eat just about anything, while others may turn their nose up at a food that they find less palatable. If it’s not enticing to your pup, don’t be surprised if they say “no thanks”.

They’re already full

Is your puppy filling up on too many treats throughout the day and then turning their nose up at dinner? They could already have a belly full of treats, or maybe they’ve decided to forgo dinner because they know they can hold out for extra-tasty snacks.

Parasites

Worms and other nasties can cause a wide range of digestive issues for your pup. That’s why it’s important to stay up to date with parasite control and visit your vet if you think there could be a medical reason for your puppy not eating.

Serious illness

Sadly, a loss of appetite can sometimes be an indicator of a serious health issue, such as liver or kidney problems.

Side effect of medication

If your pup is taking any medication, there’s a chance that a loss of appetite could be a side effect of the drugs. Speak to your vet if you think your pup is experiencing any medication side effects.

Teething and dental problems

Another common reason why dogs of all ages are reluctant to eat is if they have a sore mouth or teeth. If chewing causes them pain, they’re obviously not going to be thrilled by the prospect of tucking into dinner.

Other source of pain

There could also be some other injury or illness causing pain for your dog, causing them to be off their food as a result.

What should I do if my puppy loses their appetite?

It can be distressing when your pup all of a sudden decides to go on a hunger strike. If the problem doesn’t resolve itself quickly, or if your pup is losing weight or exhibiting other worrying symptoms, the most important thing you can do is get your dog to the vet for a checkup.

The vet can examine your pooch and determine if there’s any medical reason for their reluctance to eat. If there is — for example, if your pup has a broken tooth — your vet can provide the necessary treatment and advice to help get your pup back to full health. 

And if there’s no medical cause, you can then start considering ways to boost your puppy’s appetite.

How can I stimulate my puppy’s appetite?

The good news is that there’s plenty you can do to motivate and encourage your puppy to start eating again. Once medical reasons have been ruled out, you can look at other causes of your pup’s reluctance to eat and consider the solutions below. Of course, it might take you a little while to determine the cause of your dog’s loss of appetite, so there may be a little bit of trial and error before you find a solution.

Reduce stress

If stress is behind your pup’s dietary dislike, do what you can to remove the source of stress from their life. This could mean simply giving them more time to adjust to life with their new family and in a new home, or it could mean something a little more drastic, such as keeping them separated from another family pet. 

Give them more exercise

If your dog doesn’t get much in the way of regular exercise, they may not be especially hungry at mealtime. Making sure they get plenty of physical activity each day will help them burn off those calories and may provide an appetite boost. Not sure how much exercise your doggo needs? Check out our dog breed guides!

Make their food more appetizing

If your pup isn't excited about their kibble, wetting it with water or bone broth is a simple way to increase its palatability. Even mixing in some wet food with their dry food can make a big difference, while there are plenty of other toppers and additives available (including everything from chicken breast to cottage cheese).

Try hand-feeding

You may want to try hand-feeding your pup to see if this encourages them to tuck into their food. If it does, you could even use a training session as a way to give your pet dinner, making it fun and mentally stimulating for them at the same time. 

Switch to a new food

Alternatively, you may decide that the best way to stimulate your puppy’s appetite is to switch them to a completely new food. This could mean switching to a food that uses a different protein source, a food with higher-quality ingredients, or swapping from dry to wet food. 

Cut back on treats

We know you love your dog and want to spoil them any time you can, but remember that treats contribute to their daily calorie count. And if your pup is filling up on fatty treats instead of the nutritious food they should be eating, it’s time to cut back on the treats.

Prescription options

In severe cases, there are medications your vet can prescribe to help stimulate your puppy’s appetite.

So while a loss of appetite can be worrying, there are plenty of things you can do to overcome the problem. With a bit of luck, your pup will have their appetite back and be eating like a champ again in no time.

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