You’ve just collected your puppy from their vaccination. It’s meal time. You prepare their food and lay down the bowl, only to find it’s completely left. Time goes by and the bowl remains full. Sound familiar, right? That I know because I’ve experienced it with multiple puppies over the years and it’s naturally concerning. But why isn’t your puppy eating, how long with this go on and how can you increase their appetite or get them to eat? Well, here’s everything you are going to want to know, and do.
So, why is your puppy not eating after vaccination? Puppies can refuse food after vaccination because their immune systems are working to combat the components of the vaccines. Most puppies will resume eating normally within a day or two, but sometimes puppies can react negatively to a vaccine because of sensitivities or allergies, and it may go on longer unless addressed.
While it’s alarming, there are some practical things you can do to get them eating again.
We will be looking at them shortly.
But first, let’s delve into the causes in great detail so you fully understand why this is happening and can rectify it with the right solution.
Why Is My Puppy Not Eating After Vaccination?
Your puppy may not want to eat after vaccination because he experiences sensitivities to vaccines or because he just isn’t feeling good.
Sensitivities To Vaccines
Some puppies will be more sensitive to vaccines than others. The learning process for the antibodies can take more of a toll on some pups.
With some puppies, the injection site can become inflamed and, therefore, be tender to the touch. If your puppy is dealing with a painful injection site, he’ll be less likely to want to eat.
Some puppies can get a skin disease as a result of certain vaccines, such as rabies vaccines. Puppies who are affected usually show bits of dermatitis (irritated skin) or alopecia (hair loss) in the following places:
- The tail
- The footpads
- The scrotum
- The tips of the ears
Small dogs tend to be more susceptible to skin irritations.
Breeds like Dachshunds, Miniature Poodles, Bichon Frises, and Terriers are some examples of dogs whose skin can be more prone to problems.
Not Feeling Good
Your puppy has just been injected with a small amount of the disease.
Because he’s just received some foreign substances into his body, his immune system will be working hard: this is what causes him not to feel good.
Human beings usually don’t want to eat when unwell, and it’s the same for your puppy. He may just not feel up to the effort of eating.
Vaccines can cause nausea, too, which can inhibit anyone’s appetite.
Is It Normal For A Puppy To Not Eat After Their Vaccinations?
It’s normal for a puppy not to eat after their vaccinations. Some puppies may feel lethargic or generally unwell, so they won’t want to eat. This can last for 36 to 48 hours and is a normal response as their immune system adjusts to the vaccine.
Your puppy may also have a mild fever (102 to 104 degrees).
Most puppies will want to rest and may be a bit grumpy for a while. Some puppies might sneeze or cough, which is also a normal reaction.
Just like us when we get vaccinations, your puppy may not want to eat since he is feeling unwell.
Normal reactions to the vaccine are things like:
- A mild fever
- Not wanting to be touched
- Decreased appetite
The above symptoms usually go away on their own, and it’s normal for your puppy not to want as much food for a day or two.
In some puppies, you might see a stronger reaction, such as:
- A sudden and severe change in behavior (e.g., becoming very aggressive or distraught)
- Difficulty breathing
- Fatigue to the point where your puppy is struggling to walk
If you spot any of the above signs, bring your puppy to the vet urgently.
There are also more severe signs of an allergic reaction, like:
- Trouble breathing to the point of collapse
- Bumpy or itchy skin (not just around the injection site)
- Constant, severe vomiting
- Constant diarrhea
- Swelling of the neck, face, or around the eyes
Any of the above symptoms constitutes an emergency and requires you to rush your puppy to the nearest emergency vet hospital.
Note: Most allergic reactions occur within moments of the vaccination, so it’s essential to remain at the vet’s for at least 30 minutes after the vaccination. Better for your vet to be there if needed to reverse the reaction if it occurs.
How Long Do Vaccine Side Effects Last In Puppies?
Most vaccine side effects will disappear within a few days of the vaccinations. Sometimes a lump at the injection site may appear – it can be red or painful to the touch. If your puppy gets a lump, it should disappear within a few weeks.
There are a few things you can do to help your puppy recover as quickly as possible from any side effects he may be experiencing:
- Give your puppy a warm, comfortable place to rest. You may have selected some comfy blankets and a dog bed, but don’t be concerned if your puppy prefers to rest somewhere else
- Be sure to provide access to plenty of fresh water for your puppy. Water will help flush the toxins out of his system
- Offer him his favorite foods and do your best to stimulate his appetite (see below), but don’t be too concerned if he doesn’t want to eat on the first day
- Let your puppy come to you when he wants attention, and handle him gently. The injection site might be tender, or he may want gentle stroking but not be ready to be picked up
- Offer some extra TLC to your puppy if he is feeling unwell. Even if he doesn’t want to be touched, you can sit with him or beside him so that he feels accompanied
Your puppy should be back to normal with no further side effects within 48 hours.
If he hasn’t eaten at all for more than 24 hours, or if he hasn’t had food or water for longer than 12 hours, contact your vet.
What To Feed A Puppy That Won’t Eat After Vaccination
After vaccination, your puppy will benefit from food that is easy to eat, strong-smelling, and high in protein yet easy to digest. You want food that will help soothe your puppy’s digestive tract.
If Your Puppy Has Diarrhea
It’s a good idea to feed your puppy bland food until the diarrhea has resolved itself.
Try mixing up a bowl of lean, easy-to-eat protein such as minced beef, ground turkey, or fish (no bones).
Combine 80% of your chosen protein source with 20% finely chopped green vegetables with cooked buckwheat, quinoa, or rice.
Bone broth is another excellent food to give a puppy with diarrhea, and it’s easy to make yourself. Boil some raw animal bones (beef or chicken) in a large pot of water for 8 hours with the lid on (you don’t want the bones to boil dry).
If your puppy eats kibble, you can pour the warmed broth over the kibble to soften it for him.
Bone broth also goes down well when poured over moist dog food, but warm up the food first.
Warmed food (even in a microwave) will have a stronger smell and will be more tempting for your puppy.
If Your Puppy Is Lethargic
If your puppy is lethargic, bland food (as described above) can also help. Chicken and rice is a particularly good combination, using white rice rather than brown rice as it’s more soothing on the stomach.
Be sure not to season your puppy’s food – seasonings can worsen his stomach problems.
If you don’t have access to ground chicken, boil some chicken breasts and then shred them with a fork.
You can also buy bland chicken and rice dog foods if you don’t want to cook them yourself.
This is the brand I recommend. In fact, it’s one of the best dog foods you can get your dog, indefinitely.
Leftover shredded chicken can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 to 4 days or 2 to 6 months in the freezer.
If Your Puppy Is Constipated
If your puppy is constipated, pumpkin can help. Vets suggest a teaspoon or so per day for small breed puppies, with one tablespoon per day for larger puppies.
If in doubt, ask your vet and go by your puppy’s weight. Too much fiber isn’t good, either!
Note: Be sure to give your puppy pure pumpkin puree rather than pumpkin pie filling. Pie filling is full of sugar and spices that can cause more harm than good.
How Can I Increase My Dog’s Appetite After Vaccination?
You can increase your dog’s appetite after vaccination by giving him food by hand, making his food more tempting, and going at your puppy’s pace.
Give Him Food By Hand
Some puppies love being fed by hand if they’re not feeling well. They feel coddled, loved, and (rightfully) spoiled.
Of course, you might not want to feed your puppy his entire meal from your hand, but hand-feeding can be a good start to tempt him into eating. Give him lots of kind words of encouragement, too.
You can also use a spoon, which is easy enough if you’re offering your puppy baby food. Be sure the baby food is suitable for dogs, though. Ask your vet if you have any doubts.
While offering your puppy food from your hand or from a spoon, get down to his level. You want eating to be as effortless as possible for him while he isn’t feeling well.
You may only be able to get him to eat a few small bites, but a little food is better than none at all. And if your dog is wearing an e-collar, he’ll find eating much easier with your help.
Make His Food More Tempting
The warmer and juicier your puppy’s food is, the more he’ll be tempted to eat it.
Try some of the meat-and-rice combos mentioned above, and remember to serve his food warmed up.
If you don’t have bone broth handy to soften dry kibble, try a bit of warm water. You want your puppy’s food to be easy to eat and strong-smelling.
In addition to ground chicken or beef, you can try hard-boiled and chopped eggs.
Some puppies love a bit of dog-friendly, plain yogurt on top of or on the side of their food.
If this is your puppy, make sure the yogurt is vet-approved.
Go At Your Puppy’s Pace
Yes, you want him to eat, but you don’t want to force-feed him, either.
Trying to oblige him to eat might put him off his food even more, so be gentle and go at his pace.
Be encouraging but not forceful, and he should soon start eating again as normal.
As you can see, it’s entirely normal for a puppy to refuse food after their shots
And even more interestingly, it can go on longer than you think.
In the meantime, try those suggestions referenced above to try and stimulate your pup’s appetite.
Besides, they may be willing to have a bit here and there.
Just consider that if this goes on for longer than 1-2 days, it is generally advised to contact a vet.
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I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.