What to Do if Your New Dog Won't Eat

August 2019

Audience: Foster Caregivers, Public, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers

For the first day or two after arriving at a new home, a dog may not eat. Be patient, they need time to adjust to their new environment. Lack of appetite can have multiple causes, such as environmental change, stress, depression, illness, food allergy or a change in food. If your adult dog hasn't eaten for 72 hours or is experiencing other signs such as vomiting, diarrhea, or lethargy, call your veterinarian, foster coordinator or shelter/rescue for advice.

Tips for Enticing Your Dog to Eat

  • Add a little chicken broth or warm water to soften dry food
  • Mix a small amount of wet/canned food with the dry food.
  • Add a few small pieces of chicken.
  • Feed your dog in a quiet place; some dogs like privacy.
  • Try staying near your dog; some dogs like the company at first.

Other Helpful Tips

  • If your new dog is emaciated or sick, follow the feeding protocol recommended by your veterinarian, foster coordinator or shelter/rescue group.
  • Young puppies need to be fed more often and will get dehydrated and malnourished quicker than adults. Call your veterinarian, foster coordinator or shelter/rescue group for advice if your puppy has not eaten in 24 hours.
  • The sound of dog tags on a metal bowl can scare some dogs, and cause them to stop eating. Try using a plate or plastic bowl.
  • Sometimes hot or humid weather can cause dogs to have a decreased appetite. If your dog is less active, they might eat less during hot weather.
  • Make food changes gradually over several days. Abrupt changes in food or sometimes the food itself leads to decreased appetite. Contact your foster coordinator before making any changes to a foster dog's diet.
  • If your new dog is taking medication, ask a veterinarian about its side effects. Some medications can cause lack of appetite

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