When your puppy stops eating, it may well be that they’ve decided that they’re full or have simply stopped fancying the food you’ve been feeding them. It’s understandable –  they do eat the same thing every day after all. However, it’s important to rule out the potential of an underlying health problem. 

Whether it’s something to worry about or not, we’ll help go through some of the most common reasons your puppy isn’t eating, what you should do if your puppy won’t eat, and how to rule out any health problems that might be connected to it. We’ve also added some tips and tricks to make mealtimes more fun and keep it interesting for your puppy. As if they weren’t exciting enough.

In our Zigzag puppy training app, we have a lot of information on nutrition and health you’ll find useful as you embark on your journey. Why not download a free trial today? You’ll also have access to a team of Zigzag expert puppy coaches who will be ready to help you through any hiccups you run into.

small puppy looking at white bowl
Photo by Kacper Chrzanowski on Unsplash

Why is my puppy not eating? 5 common reasons to keep in mind

If you’re concerned about why your puppy isn’t eating, the first step is not to panic. Here are some of the most common reasons why your puppy doesn’t want to eat their regular food.

Your puppy doesn’t like their regular food

Yes, puppies have a sense of taste. Food left out all day can easily make food go rancid and taste rather bad to your puppy. It might just smell like regular dog food to us, but you can’t fool a dog’s nose. They’ll know it’s yucky.

Your puppy has a sore mouth and doesn’t want to eat hard food

When your puppy is teething, their teeth and gums will be in quite some pain, so it can be challenging for them to find their food enjoyable. Sometimes they won’t even want to eat, even if it’s wet food! Kinda says a lot about teething, doesn’t it? 

The weather is hot

Just like humans, in hot weather, puppies will often not want to eat. This is quite common since they’ll slow down and become less active, making them not want to eat as much.  

Your puppy is stressed or upset

Stress can make puppies not want to eat, unlike lots of us who find comfort in endless Jaffa Cakes. Perhaps they are in a new environment and are in the midst of settling in with their new family. Give them some time! They still have to develop a taste for you. 

Maybe your puppy doesn’t like a certain bowl

Some puppies can be fussy about the bowl they eat from. Yep, puppies can be picky too. Some get startled by their ID tags clinking on china or ceramic bowls, and to others, stainless steel might not do the trick. Some dogs with big ears might prefer a narrower bowl so their ears don’t get in their food. Bet you didn’t know you’d face this kind of trouble with your new puppy!

puppy smiling at brown bowl
Photo by FLOUFFY on Unsplash

What to do when your puppy won’t eat

When your puppy decides that their kibble just isn’t doing it, there are a few changes you can make to encourage them to eat. As long as this hasn’t been going on for an extended period, try these things out! If you think your puppy has been fussy about food for longer than normal, going for a quick trip to the vets won’t hurt. 

Try a different type or brand of food to get your puppy to eat

If your puppy is eating kibble, don’t be afraid to try a different flavour or brand. You can’t be too surprised about puppies having a sense of taste, right? You can even mix some wet food in to soften it up. Imagine eating cornflakes without milk. See what we mean? 

Wet the puppy food if you feel your puppy might be teething

Pop some warm (not hot) water on your puppy’s kibble to soften it slightly. If your puppy is teething or they’re losing teeth, then they appreciate having slightly softer food.

Experiment with a different food bowl and see if it helps your puppy eat

There are many different types of puppy bowls to choose from. Try a different height, material, size or depth of puppy bowl and see if it suits them more. We all have that favourite mug, don’t we? It’s only fair they get to pick their bowl. 

Pick out a puzzle toy or interactive feeder

Puzzle toys, interactive feeders, and brain games can make food seem more interesting to them by turning it into a game – a fun puzzle for your puppy to solve. Fancy dog experts call this ‘’contrafreeloading’’; where dogs show a preference for eating from a problem-solving toy,  rather than being freely offered food. It’s kind of like when you feed babies, you know doing aeroplane sounds with a spoon.

Take your puppy out to the toilet

Puppies aren’t likely to eat on a full tummy. You’ll likely face puppies not feeling like food in the morning if they haven’t had a poo since the previous day. Gotta make room first, right? 

If your puppy is sick, has diarrhoea, is not drinking water or seems lethargic, please take them to the vet. While puppies not eating can have common causes, young puppies are still sensitive and need to eat and drink regularly.

How do I rule out any serious health issues?

If you have tried the suggestions above but your puppy is still refusing to eat, then you should likely seek veterinary advice.

Call your Vet surgery and have a chat with the staff. Trust us. You’ll feel much better after talking to them instead of reading what their symptoms on Google might mean. When has Google ever made you feel any better when searching for symptoms anyway?

bulldog in yellow jumper looking at camera
Photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash

How do I keep my pup’s food interesting?

One of the best ways to make your puppy’s food more interesting is by changing how it’s being served. We can use their regular food to teach tricks, put them in puzzle toys, or do some scent or training games

If your puppy normally eats their daily food happily, it’s a good idea to keep feeding them like you are without new bowls or puzzle toys. That way you’ll avoid turning them into fussy eaters. They could be left thinking ‘what else have you got for me’ and might wait for you to offer something better like cooked chicken, or a magician show while they eat. Clever puppies!

Dogs do not starve themselves, so if you’ve done everything to figure out why your puppy is not eating, try putting the food down for 10 minutes and allowing your puppy a chance to eat. If they’re choosing to stay away, pick the bowl back up and provide them a fresh meal at their next scheduled time. They’ll most likely be more hungry by then and will gladly eat! I know, it sounds a bit mean, but dogs should feast and famine rather than graze all day. They aren’t sheep after all. For puppies, routines will help them tremendously in general – they’ll also help with toilet training and sleep training

If they’re not a picky eater and you just want to make their food have more variety, then you can look at cooking it yourself. Lucky puppy, getting a gourmet treatment. Check out our guide to homemade puppy food and treats for inspiration.

We’ve made it to the end! We hope that ‘Why is my puppy not eating?’ is a question of the past. As you saw, maybe it’s just a matter of changing a few things around. Keep your vet close though – you want to make sure it’s nothing serious and it’s just that your puppy prefers turkey to chicken. 

While you’re here, you might enjoy reading our guide on puppy nutrition. We have a lot more in store for you in the Zigzag puppy training app to make your journey as smooth as can be. Our team of puppy coaches is also available on Whatsapp, email or on the phone whenever you have a burning question or need them for advice. Who knows…maybe they’ll share their secret homemade dog treat.