Like humans, there are instances when a dog does not want to eat. This is despite giving it its favorite delicious food. Yet it happens. It could be that your dog is not in the mood or it could be a sign of something far more serious. There are many reasons why your canine friend may not be eating as well as it used to. It is best to get to the root of the problem so you’ll have a better grasp of how to address your dog’s appetite concerns.
Establishing Loss of Appetite in Dogs
It is easy to say that your dog is not eating well. But the most nagging question of all is how can you be sure your dog has lost its appetite? It is crucial to establish a baseline so you will have a better idea of the level of appetite of your pet.
Most pet parents base their “conclusion” on the feeding guidelines of their dog’s commercially-prepared food. For instance, the packaging can say that a certain dog should consume 2 cups per day. If the dog consumes less than 2 cups, does it mean the hound is already losing its appetite?
It is important to keep in mind that these feeding recommendations are based on the law of averages. The majority of normal and healthy dogs only consume between 60 and 70 percent of the amount of dog food recommended by manufacturers. In our example, this means 1.2 to 1.4 cups every day is still considered “normal”.
To help you determine the presence of anorexia or loss of appetite in dogs, it is crucial that you have a baseline. If you have a record of the daily dog food consumption of your pet, this can serve as the baseline. For example, if your pet is able to eat 2 to 2.5 cups every single day, then this is its baseline. If one day it cannot even finish a single cup, then something must be off.
In most cases, your dog may be suffering from an illness. There may be no other signs and symptoms except for this loss of appetite. As such, it is best to seek your veterinarian’s opinion about the matter. He can run some tests to determine if the anorexia is due to an ongoing disease process or something else.
Causes of Canine Anorexia
Canine anorexia is not the same as anorexia nervosa in humans. Anorexia in humans is more of an eating disorder with implications for psychiatric mental health. When we talk about anorexia in dogs, there is the complete loss of the dog’s appetite. It is often an indication of a disease process. There may be other conditions that can make your dog not want to eat at all. Your vet’s expertise should help determine the exact cause of anorexia in dogs.
When a dog is ill, its focus can be on the disease process itself. It is also possible that its brain is more focused on the resolution of the illness. One should understand that illness is a form of stress which can deplete the dog of invaluable energy.
While anorexia does not always indicate a serious illness in dogs, it is better to be certain. A veterinary evaluation is a must to help determine the exact illness that is causing the dog not to want to eat. Examples of disease conditions that can lead to a loss of appetite in dogs can include systemic infections, cancer, and kidney failure. Problems in the liver and pain syndromes can also bring about anorexia in dogs. Your vet can also assess your dog for the presence of other signs and symptoms before arriving at a definitive diagnosis.
It is also important to recognize that the treatment for these disease conditions can also bring about loss of appetite in dogs. Some medications can produce anorexia as a side effect.
- Upset Stomach
Some dogs have a knack for eating non-edible items such as poop, dirt, socks, and what have you. They eat these objects sometimes out of curiosity. At other times, they may see these items as more nutritious and palatable than the dog food that they are eating.
The dog’s stomach and intestines cannot digest these objects in an efficient manner. This leads to an upset stomach. In an effort to relieve the discomfort and pain associated with stomach upsets, the dog will refuse to eat anything.
Anorexia, in this case, often presents with other signs and symptoms. You may see your pet trying to vomit whatever it consumed. Other pets may show watery stools. It is wise to correlate the dog’s loss of appetite with these other manifestations.
- Dental or Oral Disease
One of the most often overlooked causes of canine anorexia is a problem in the mouth. Your dog may have tooth decay that is causing acute pain as it tries to chew on its food. It may also have inflamed and swollen gums that can be very painful if dog kibbles rub against the gums.
It is understandable why dogs with oral and dental health problems will refuse to eat. Since they rely on the structures of their mouth to begin the process of digestion, any problem here can affect their ability to eat. Mouth sores and gum infections can make chewing painful. This is more pronounced in dogs that eat dry dog food.
As such, if your dog loses its appetite all of a sudden, then you may want to check its oral cavity. Check for any sign of inflammation of the gums. You may also want to assess its teeth. If there are rotten teeth, this could help explain why your dog doesn’t want to eat.
As usual, it is important to correlate the loss of appetite with other findings. This is the only way you can establish the exact cause of your pet’s anorexia.
- Recent Vaccination
Vaccines contain parts of a microorganism that will stimulate the dog’s immune system to produce antibodies. This is the basic premise in vaccines regardless of their type. In simple words, vaccines can produce the very same infection that it is supposed to protect the dog against. This is also the reason why some folks do not want their dogs vaccinated.
Vaccines are not 100% perfect. There will always be issues of side effects such as loss of appetite in dogs. This can appear a few hours after having the injection and can last for several hours more. The good thing is that, as the dog’s immune system is processing the vaccine, these side effects will begin to disappear.
If your dog’s loss of appetite coincided with a recent vaccination, then it is possible that this anorexia is due to the vaccine. However, this should never dissuade you from having your dog fully-vaccinated against highly-preventable canine diseases. Millions of pets every year get saved from diseases because of these vaccines.
- Behavioral Issues
There are some dogs that can be as finicky as a toddler. If it doesn’t like the food that’s offered to it, then it will not eat. There are also pets that can grow bored of their dog food. It’s like getting served the same food over and over for the rest of its life.
It is also possible that your pet is too anxious to eat its meal, regardless of how delicious it can be. This can happen if you place your dog’s food bowl in an area known to be the territory of an aggressive dog. There are also dogs that are not comfortable eating in an elevated food bowl.
Before you jump to the conclusion that your dog’s anorexia is due to a behavioral problem, make sure to have it checked for illness first. It is important to establish the presence of an illness as a possible cause of anorexia. This is more objective than having to rely on behavioral cues. These are open to interpretation since they are more subjective.
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- Change of Surroundings
There are dogs that can lose their appetite right after a change in its surroundings. For instance, there are dogs that are eating fine. However, everything changes after bringing it in one of your travels. It may have had a very unpleasant experience during the travel and it is now manifesting as loss of appetite.
There are also dogs that grow anxious whenever they are in an unfamiliar environment. This is almost similar to some individuals who may have difficulty sleeping in a place other than their home.
Possible Solutions to Improve Dog’s Appetite
It is important to establish the exact cause of the loss of appetite in your dog. This is to provide the basis for its management. Since the majority of the cases of canine anorexia is secondary to a disease process, treating the medical condition can help address the dog’s loss of appetite. While the vet is treating the underlying medical condition, he may also recommend any of the following.
- Appetite Stimulants
These are medications that act on the part of the brain that regulates hunger sensation. It stimulates the increased activity of this brain region to help improve appetite. The problem with such an approach is that these medications often come with side effects. Your dog may get its appetite back but at the expense of having other health problems.
If your dog is not eating, it risks getting malnourished. Acid and electrolyte imbalances can also occur because of anorexia. To help combat this, the vet may prescribe a liquid diet that you can give to your dog via a syringe. You push the liquid diet through the dog’s mouth. This is perfect for dogs with dental problems as they no longer need to chew their food. It’s also ideal for dogs with a medical condition.
In severe cases of canine anorexia, tube-feeding is often necessary. This is often ordered in situations where the dog has a decreased level of consciousness. If there is a blockage in its throat, then tube feeding is a must. In this solution, the vet inserts a feeding tube through the dog’s mouth and terminates inside its stomach. This allows for the passing of a special formulation of a liquid diet right into the dog’s stomach.
If the cause of the loss of appetite in the dog is behavioral or non-medical-related, then you can try the following solutions.
- Change its Dog Food
Sometimes, changing your dog’s food can help bring back its healthy appetite. If your dog subsists on kibbles, maybe it’s time to give it wet dog food. If you’re not ready to commit to an exclusive wet dog food diet for your pet, then you can use canned dog food as a topper for the kibbles. This can enhance the palatability of the dog food.
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- Make its Mealtimes Fun Times
Mealtimes don’t have to be very boring. Instead of the usual food-in-a-bowl approach to dog feeding, why not make it more interesting? There are food-dispensing toys in the market that you can fill with dog food. Your dog can then play with these toys while at the same time getting its chow. You are engaging the dog by capitalizing on two of the most important aspects of its life – food, and playtime.
- Modify its Feeding Situation
Try to feed your dog alone or farther from the area where an aggressive dog feeds on. Try switching its food bowl and give it something more interesting to eat from. You can also try adjusting the height of its food bowl to see which level will be most enticing for your dog.
- Cut Back on Dog Treats
This is an issue among pet parents who do not observe the 10 percent rule. The rule requires limiting treats to no more than 10 percent of the dog’s daily calorie requirement. If the dog needs 500 calories per day, then it should not receive more than 50 calories from treats. The sad thing is that many of the yummy dog treats today are calorie-dense.
If your dog is not eating, it usually means it is sick. It can also be because of a non-medical-related cause. To determine the best possible solution, it is best to have a vet check your dog.