How long can a puppy go without eating?

When it comes to nutritional needs, newborn puppies are quite simple – they get everything they need from their mothers’ milk and spend over 90% of their wake time suckling. Once the puppy is weaned, providing proper nutrition is your responsibility. You need to offer the right type of food – in the exact amount and the correct time. If you follow the rules and stick to the plan, but your puppy refuses to eat, you need to be worried.

So, how long can a puppy go without eating? The exact answer depends on the puppy’s age, size, and breed. However, the general rule of thumb is that newborn puppies can go two hours without eating. This timeframe applies to puppies up to three weeks old. Older puppies can go up to five hours without eating. As the puppy grows, the ability to go without food increases too.

This article will explain exactly how long a puppy can go without eating at each life stage. We will also review the most common causes of appetite loss in young puppies and emphasize the importance of seeing the vet as soon as your puppy stops eating.


How long can puppies go without food and water?

Puppies can go for several hours without food and water, but the exact number of hours depends on several factors, including the dog’s age, size, and breed. Age is the most important determining factor.

Here is a short review of the puppy’s different life stages and the number of hours a puppy can go without eating.

How long can a newborn puppy go without eating? 

A newborn puppy is supposed to spend more than 90% of its wake time eating. Even if asleep, a newborn puppy will frequently wake up just to eat. The safe amount of time a newborn puppy can go without food is 2 hours. Anything more than two hours is a red flag.

How long can a puppy go without eating when between 1 and 3 weeks old?

The food deprivation tolerance is similar to in newborn puppies. Namely, at this phase, puppies can also go for no more than two hours without eating. This is a very delicate life stage, and puppies need a proper nutritional boost to grow and build strong immunities.

How long can a 4-week old puppy go without eating?

When one month old, puppies become stronger and can withstand long periods without eating. However, this does not mean they should be left without food for longer.

It is advisable to ensure 4-weeks old puppies are eating at least every four to five hours. If the mother is not available for longer than five hours, you can supplement them with soaked kibble.

It is worth mentioning that the maximum amount of time a puppy can go without food at this life stage is seven hours. Nonetheless, you should never allow this scenario to happen.

How long can a 6-week old puppy go without eating?

The puppy keeps growing stronger and more resilient. At the age of six weeks, a puppy can safely go without eating for between five and six hours.

At this point, the maximum amount of time the puppy can be left without food is around eight hours (once again, a scenario that must always be avoided).

How long can an 8-week old puppy go without eating?

An 8-weeks old puppy is fully weaned and can successfully thrive and progress on five meals evenly distributed throughout the day. The “no food” period can safely last for up to seven hours.

However, puppies become particularly adventurous at this point, which means they will be spending most of their free time running around and exploring. These activities are quite demanding nutrition-wise. Therefore, it is necessary to provide five meals per day.

How long can a 9-week old puppy go without eating?

When 9-week old, a puppy can endure 8 hours without eating. At this point, the puppy has a larger stomach capacity, thus demanding regular feeding. By regular feeding, we mean preferably four meals per day – every three to four hours. 

Separating the daily food amount into several separate meals is better because of several reasons. First, overeating may distend the puppy’s stomach and lead to increased appetite. It also increases the risk of developing a life-threatening condition known as bloat (later on in life). Secondly, dividing the food into several meals will result in a more manageable potty break schedule.

How long can a 12-week old puppy go without eating?

A 12-week old puppy can withstand 12 hours long “no food” periods. However, just because it can, it does not mean it should. Ideally, at this age, puppies should be fed four separate meals per day.

How long can a 20-week old puppy go without eating?

A 20-week or 5-month old puppy can safely go without eating for as much as 12 hours. However, to ensure proper nutrition and satisfy their growing needs, at this point, puppies need three meals per day.

It is advisable to give two larger meals – in the morning and evening and one smaller meal somewhere during mid-day.


Top 6 reasons why puppies refuse to eat

There are many reasons why puppies refuse to eat – some are transient and self-limiting while others are potentially life-threatening and warrant immediate veterinary attention.

Although there are many potential reasons, these are the most common:

  • Fussy eating habits – some puppies have more delicate palates than others and might be picky over what they eat. In such cases, offering other food will result in a normal appetite. However, if your puppy refuses everything you offer, you are probably dealing with something more than fussy eating.
  • Anxiety – just like in people, anxiety can lead to decreased or absent appetite in puppies. Puppies thrive on routines, and even slight changes may trigger anxiety and appetite loss.
  • Hot environment – who wants to eat when the thermometer values are skyrocketing high? Increased environmental temperatures are associated with decreased appetites not just in puppies but all animals and humans.
  • Worm infestations – it is no secret that puppies are often loaded with intestinal parasites or worms. Certain worms can be transmitted from the mother to the puppies via the placenta and via the milk. In a nutshell, puppies can be born with worms and become infected soon after birth. Worms often cause digestive upsets and appetite fluctuations.
  • Health issues – appetite loss is a non-specific symptom many health issues manifest with. If caused by a more severe systemic issue, the appetite loss will probably be accompanied by other clinical signs and symptoms.
  • Teething – this is a troublesome phase for most puppies. Even if hungry, the pain caused by teething will keep them away from the food bowl. Providing your puppy with proper cooling and gum-soothing toys is important to overcome the teething phase fast.

Conclusion

Puppies can go several hours without eating and drinking. However, this does not mean that you should stretch the limits and see how the situation develops. If your puppy is not eating, seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.

Puppies, especially younger puppies, are very susceptible to health issues, and their overall health can decline really quickly. Going several hours without eating will severely impact their immune system and make them prone to infections.

Taking proper care of your puppy is of paramount importance. It is vital to be proactive and take action the moment you notice something is going on.


FAQs

How many hours can puppies go without eating?

The exact number of hours puppies can go without eating depends on their age. Newborn puppies and puppies less than three weeks of age can go for two to a maximum of three hours without eating. Older puppies can endure more extended periods of not eating – up to five hours. 

Can a puppy go 10 hours without food?

Puppies should never be left without food for 10 hours. In fact, puppies should not be left without food for more than five hours. Typically, young puppies will feed on milk every two to three hours (based on exact age).

Should I worry if my puppy is not eating?

Yes, refusal to eat is a concerning issue that warrants urgent veterinary attention. Puppies are fragile, and their overall health state can deteriorate quickly. If your puppy has not eaten anything for more than a few hours, contact your vet immediately.

Can puppies go all night without water?

Yes, puppies can go all night without water. Puppies that are not fussy sleepers will go through the night comfortably sleeping and without requiring water. However, if your pup is a keen water drinker, you can leave a water bowl overnight. Just keep in mind that leaving a water bowl may result in a mess and will likely warrant few potty breaks during the night.

Can puppies go all night without food? 

Yes, puppies can go all night without food, and there is no need to leave a filled food bowl inside the crate. You can schedule the last meal just before bedtime and then provide the first meal as soon as your puppy wakes up. This does not apply to young puppies that can constantly suckle milk. 

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