I'm having so much trouble making my 3-month-old puppy eat. I exercise him. I make him work for his food. I tried multiple types of food. I added canned food, etc. He just won't eat. I'm so worried about him. What should I do?
Stephanie Lopez - South Plainfield, NJ
I hear this scenario at least daily in my practice, and the answer is always the same: If he is growing well and your vet says he is not underweight, then the best thing to do is just provide nutritious food and let him eat when he is hungry.
I do not advocate ever tempting a dog to eat unless there is a specific medical reason, and if there is medical reason your puppy won’t eat, the best approach is to diagnose and treat that, rather than tempting him with more and more exotic foods. You must remember that your puppy is going to be just like a human child; he will eat more during growth spurts and then seem to eat nothing in between them. As long as there is no nausea or diarrhea, this is normal.
One of the critical differences between dogs and humans is that the dog got his metabolism from an ancient ancestor that rarely ate daily. Human owners often have a hard time with this, because we aren’t built that way. Humans who try to force a dog to eat when they aren’t hungry create what I see every day: the picky eater who is overweight. It is a major source of canine obesity in our country.
If his body is healthy (Be sure your vet did routine wormings and fecals!), a dog who limits their own food intake can be a blessing. My own dog Giget was a perfect, lean weight for all of her healthy, active 16 years, and for that whole 16 years, she chose to eat about every third day. I believe strongly in listening to what your dog’s body is telling you, because it is usually right.