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Ask a Vet: What should I do for a puppy who won't eat breakfast?

March 21, 2011 |  1:48 pm

Have a nonemergency question about your pet's health? Dr. Heather Oxford of L.A. veterinary hospital California Animal Rehabilitation (CARE) is here to help! In this installment of Ask a Vet, Dr. Oxford offers some tips for dealing with a puppy who refuses to eat breakfast.

DogEat Jillian's question: My friend adopted Poppy, a 6- month-old puppy, from the county shelter. However, Poppy, who is fed three small meals a day, has been refusing to eat breakfast. She will eat lunch and dinner, but she picks at her food and does not always finish. My friend gives her Wellness dog food and mixes in some wet food as well. Is this a sign of illness? Do you have any recommendations to encourage young Poppy to eat?

Heather Oxford, DVM: This is actually one of the most common questions I am asked as a veterinarian. Some dogs are just finicky, or don't seem to be very food-motivated. In these cases, the most common meal for them to skip is breakfast, and they usually require a little bit of activity or stimulation to become hungry. Also, if your friend is going by the feeding instructions on the pet food bag, there is a strong possibility it is simply too much food. In general, food labels instruct owners to feed 2-3 times what their metabolic requirements call for, which is a major cause of animal obesity in this country.

Have your friend ask Poppy's veterinarian what her daily intake of calories should be for her age and size, and you will be able to calculate how many cups per day she should be eating based on the calories per cup information on the bag.

I would caution your friend from adding little bits of treats or other food items to the food when Poppy doesn't eat. Poppy would then quickly learn that if she refuses what is put in front of her, she will get something yummy added to it before long. You can see how that could potentially worsen the problem. Instead, if she doesn't show interest in the food, put the food up and save it for 1-2 hours later. Then re-offer, and remove it quickly again if Poppy still refuses it.

Poppy will get the idea soon enough, but if she still doesn't like eating at breakfast time, that's her prerogative!

To submit your question for Dr. Oxford, just leave a comment on this post or send us a tweet @LATunleashed and look for her answer in an upcoming installment of Ask a Vet!

About our vet: Dr. Oxford received her bachelor of science degree at Bowling Green State University, Ohio. She also received a master's of public health degree in epidemiology from Emory University and went on to work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. She then went to the University of Tennessee, College of Veterinary Medicine, where she received her doctor of veterinary medicine degree. She practices at California Animal Rehabilitation and is also certified in veterinary rehabilitation and acupuncture. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Wade, and German shepherd, Tess.

Photo: A dog (not Poppy) eats at a restaurant for dogs in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Jan. 5. Credit: Vanderlei Almeida / AFP/Getty Images

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