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Why won’t my newly adopted dog eat?

Why won’t my newly adopted dog eat?

You are so excited to adopt a dog. You’ve been planning and searching, and you finally bring your new dog home. However, they aren’t so enthusiastic. 

They may be shy or withdrawn, even if they were lighthearted before you got them home. They may also refuse to eat. Of course, this is concerning. 

After all, your dog can’t survive long term without eating properly. The good news is that most dogs will begin eating within a few days, and there are several ways you can help them regain their appetite. 

Why won’t my newly adopted dog eat?

There are several reasons your new pooch may not want to eat. Most of these are related to the drastic changes they’ve just experienced. However, it can also be caused by a medical issue or a food issue. 

Environmental Change 

Environmental change is the most common reason a dog won’t eat once they enter a new home. Your dog is coming into a completely different environment. No matter how wonderful your house is, everything has changed. 

They will have to adjust to the home itself, including new sights, smells, and sounds. They will need to become accustomed to you and any family members. 

Their schedule will also change. Even the household rules may be different. This is a lot for your new dog to adjust to. 

How difficult the environmental change is for your dog will depend on a few factors. 

The first is your dog’s personality. If they are naturally prone to stress or resistant to change, they will have a hard time adjusting to their new home. 

Another factor is your dog’s previous experience. If they are coming from a shelter, they may have experienced trauma before coming to the shelter. They may have received little attention or exercise when they were in the shelter as well. 

These factors will make it harder for your pooch to adjust. If you’ve ever been in a long-term stressful situation, you may have noticed that when the situation improves, it takes time for your stress levels to go down. Your dog can also experience this. 


Environmental change can create a lot of stress. If you’ve ever moved to a new home, you can imagine what your dog is going through. 

You may find whenever you are stressed, you lose your appetite. Your dog can experience the same thing. 

It’s natural and normal for a dog to need a bit to settle in and regain their appetite. Many dogs will begin to eat within a few hours of coming to their new home, but others may take a few days to settle in. 


Unfortunately, your dog may be depressed if they aren’t eating after you bring them home. 

This is often caused by losing their previous owner. Dogs grieve the loss of an owner in a way that is surprisingly similar to humans. Even if their previous owner is still alive, they are no longer present in the dogs life. 

It’s also possible that the stress of environmental change or previous traumatic experience can cause your dog to be depressed. 

Just like humans, a depressed dog will become withdrawn and lose interest in the activities that they typically enjoy. Loss of appetite is common. Your dog may avoid grooming or sleep more than usual if they are depressed. 

Food Issues

Food issues can also curb your new dog’s appetite. Some dogs are picky eaters, and will refuse a new food. It’s also possible for a new food to cause stomach upset, which can also lead your dog to avoid eating. 

The other food issue that can cause your pooch to avoid their food bowl is a food allergy. Food allergies typically cause gastrointestinal symptoms, including vomiting and diarrhea within a few hours of eating. They may also experience sneezing, runny nose, itchy skin, or a rash. 

Medical Issues 

Medical issues aren’t as likely as the factors mentioned above. If your pooch was eating fine before they moved in, it’s unlikely that its a medical issue. 

However, if they were experiencing appetite problems before coming to your home, a medical cause could be to blame. 

Medical issues that can cause a loss of appetite include infection, cancer, pain, liver failure, and kidney failure. 

How to get my adopted dog to eat?

There are that you can take to get your dog to eat. In most cases, you can solve the problem at home with a little patience and love. 

Be Patient 

Do not try to force your dog to eat. As much as you want to help them, forcing them does more harm than good. 

If you’ve just brought your new furry family member home, give them 18-24 hours to begin eating before getting very concerned. 

Feel free to offer food and treats, and be encouraging. Avoid scolding them or pushing them into the food. 

Reduce Stress

Adjusting to a new home is naturally stressful for your dog. However, you can help lower their stress levels by keeping the home calm and quiet for a day or two. 

Give them a space of their own to be alone when they want, and lots of attention when they want affection. 

Learn Their Favorite Food and Routine

If you can ask the previous owner what your pooch prefers, this will go a long way towards enticing them to eat. Even if they aren’t a picky eater, having the same food provides one constant to offset the multitude of changes. 

Feeding the same food can also help prevent digestive upset due to changing food. 

It’s also a great idea to speak with the previous owner about your dog’s food schedule. If they are used to eating 2 meals a day, feeding them once a day can make the change harder. 

Even the time of day is important. Try to feed your dog as close to their former schedule as possible, at least at first. Once they are settled in, you can adjust the schedule by small increments if needed. 

Try Being Near or Far 

If your dog develops an instant relationship with you and wants to be by your side, stay near them while they are eating. You may find feeding them by hand helpful as well. 

If they are withdrawn or shy, they may prefer you to be far away while they eat. In this case, place the bowl in a quiet area that offers them a bit of privacy. 

Entice Them With Tasty Food 

You may find all you need to do is add a little extra flavor to your dog’s meal. Food toppers are a great way to make food more appetizing. 

You can purchase a premade food topper. You can also use gravy, chicken broth, or pumpkin. 

Human food is also ok, in small amounts. Feed them some boiled deboned chicken or a few tablespoons of tuna to get them eating. 

What to do if my adopted dog won’t eat?

How you handle your dog not eating really depends on how long they’ve been without eating, and their age. 

If you’ve followed the tips above and your new dog still refuses food, it’s time to call your vet. 

If your pooch is eating some, but not as much as they should, they may just need a little more time to adjust. 

When to see a vet about an adopted dog not eating

 Most cases of a dog not eating will resolve themselves with a little work and time. However, there are some situations that require help from your vet. 


If your new dog is emaciated or under weight, not eating becomes more of a concern. You’ll need a vet visit to avoid them having health problems due to poor nutrition. 

There’s also a higher chance that there’s a medical issue causing them to be under weight. 

Time Frame 

You should also consider how long your dog has been without eating. If you have a healthy adult dog, you can wait up to 72 hours before contacting your vet about their lack of appetite. 

Puppies, however, should be seen if they go more than 24 hours without eating. Puppies are growing quickly, and require nutrition for their growth and development. 

Symptoms of A Medical Problem 

If your new four-legged friend has symptoms beyond a loss of appetite, you’ll need to speak to your vet. These symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and lethargy. 

Signs of a food allergy, including stomach upset, rash or itching, and runny nose should also be evaluated by the vet. 


Lastly, dehydration warrants a trip to the vet. If your dog isnt’ eating or drinking, this is a serious problem. 

There are a few indicators of dehydration. One is your dogs gums. Their gums should be wet and pink. If they are dry, tacky, or pale, your dog is likely dehydrated. 

You can also do the skin test. Pull up the skin at the shoulder. When you release it, it should immediately return to it’s normal position. The longer it takes the skin to go flat, the more dehydrated your dog is.