What To Do If Your Puppy Won’t Eat

As with all puppies, a good diet is the foundation for good health. Proper nutrition is especially important for large breed dogs, such as German shepherds since dietary imbalances can contribute to future bone and joint problems, which can put active dogs at risk of future injury.

You’ll also want to be sure your German shepherd puppy is getting the essential nutrients it needs, in the right ratios. The right nutrition is important for their immune system and development. And, since many German shepherds tend to be on the sensitive side, an easy-to-digest diet may be beneficial for some dogs.

Usually, growing puppies eat with gusto and burn off their meal just as quickly, especially active dogs. It’s recommended that they eat puppy food or an all life stage food formulated for growth and maintenance of large breed dogs until they are at least one year old.

Since puppies are usually very food focused, when they don’t eat, it can be a cause for alarm. It’s important to note, puppies don’t have fat reserves and should not go more than twelve hours without food unless directed by your vet.

There are many reasons why a puppy might suddenly or gradually stop eating, such as:

  • They are being finicky
  • They are teething
  • Dietary indiscretions
  • Too many treats
  • Growing pains
  • Illness
  • Upset stomach
  • Injury
  • Obstruction
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Heat
  • New environment
  • New food dishes

However, if your puppy has any of these symptoms, they may be having a medical emergency and you should see a vet right away:

  • Dehydration, refusal to drink water, dry or sticky gums
  • Pale or white gums
  • Diarrhea that last more than 12 hours
  • Vomiting and diarrhea (no waiting)
  • Blood in their vomit or diarrhea
  • Obvious pain or distress
  • Distended painful abdomen
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Cough, congestion

So, if your puppy seems otherwise healthy, what should you do if they refuse their food?

1. Evaluate the food

The first thing you can do is stop all treats and evaluate the food. If it’s a new food, is a new protein or something very different about it that your puppy may dislike, for instance a new kibble size?  You should also check the expiration date and check out the food to ensure the food is fresh and doesn’t seem ‘off.’

If you’re transitioning to a new diet, you can try slowing down the transition by mixing more of the old food with the new food to see if that helps. You can also keep a close eye on your puppy’s stool to be sure they aren’t getting an upset stomach.

2. Get a medical check up

If everything checks out with the food and the refusal to eat continues, you should talk to your vet. Since puppies are at risk of disease or other problems, it’s important to be sure your pup is healthy.

3. Make the food tastier to encourage them to eat by:

  • Moistening the food

Once you know your puppy is healthy, you can try to encourage them to eat.  For example, if your puppy is teething, they may appreciate you moistening their dry food or mixing in some wet puppy food of the same protein source to make it softer.

  • Warming their food

Try gently warm water or broth and pour is over their food to soften it and release more aroma to entice the puppy to eat.

  • Using a topper, such as bone both

If using bone both, be sure it is free of onions and garlic and skim the fat to prevent digestive upset.

  • Adding some baby food

If you don’t have time to make bone broth and can’t buy any that is free of onions and garlic, you can try coating their kibble with chicken or turkey baby food.

  • Mix in veggies, rice and chicken

You can create your own topper by mixing steamed rice, some veggies such as carrots and green beans, and chicken to their food. Just be sure not to exceed 10% of their calories from the topper to prevent nutritional deficiencies.

  • Buy food puzzles

If your dog just seems bored or too busy to be bothered with eating, you may want to try feeding from an interactive food puzzle to make mealtime more interesting.

  • Try an RX diet

If your dog is feeling off, you can ask your vet for an appetite stimulant or prescription diet that is easy to digest to calm down their digestive system and get them back on track.

  • Switch foods

You can also try switching foods since your puppy just may not like what you’re feeding or may not feel well after eating it. All dogs are different and what works wonderfully for one dog, may make another sick. You just never know what your dog might thrive on until you try.

  • Never hide pills or vitamins in their food

To keep your puppy from going off their food, never hide their medication or vitamins in the food. Always feed in a separate treat.

We hope that these tips help you get your puppy to eat.  We understand how stressful it can be to feed them when they are being finicky or don’t feel well.  Please feel free to share this article with your friends.

You may also like: A Guide To The Best Foods For German Shepherds