It can be ruff if your dog is not eating, no matter how long he or she has been a member of your family. When this happens it is referred to as anorexia which is different from anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder found in humans, as it describes a complete loss of appetite in dogs.
Because a loss of appetite can indicate illness, it is important to seek veterinary care if you notice changes in your dog’s eating habits. It is especially important to respond promptly to a refusal to eat in dogs that usually eat well, puppies, small dogs, and older dogs.
Even though most dogs can go a couple of days without food without significant repercussions, it is best to address the problem as early as possible.
First thing: How are you judging your dog’s appetite? If you are comparing it to the guidelines stated on the food you purchase, remember these are only averages! Many perfectly healthy dogs eat only 60% to 70% of the amount stated on the packaging.
Reasons your dog won’t eat:
Illness. Even though a loss of appetite in dogs doesn’t necessarily indicate serious disease, prompt veterinary attention is important because it could be a sign of significant illness, including cancer, various systemic infections, dental disease, pain, liver problems, and kidney failure.
Recent vaccination. Fortunately, vaccinations are available for many serious and contagious dog diseases. Although these injections have saved the lives of millions of pets in the past 100 years, they do sometimes have adverse effects. The majority of these are minor and brief, including a temporary loss of appetite in dogs.
Travel and unfamiliar surroundings. If your dog’s appetite was fine until you went on a trip with him or moved to a new location, it may be that your dog won’t eat because of traveling or the unfamiliar surroundings. Some animals may get motion sickness, and others become nervous or uncomfortable in new places.
Pickiness or behavior issues. Some dogs are just picky, or their refusal to eat may be caused by feeding them in situations where they aren’t comfortable, such as around an aggressive dog or from a bowl at an uncomfortable height. Because a decreased appetite in dogs may be caused by illness, never assume that your dog is picky without investigating other possibilities first.
Other causes to a dogs loss in appetite: Aging, dental problems, cardiac failure, toxicities and drugs, or even a growth or mass.
The veterinarian will generally conduct a thorough medical history on your dog, including any changes in diet, environment, or routine. It will help if you have observed your dog’s eating habits and identify any problems it may have picked up, chewing or swallowing food. The veterinarian will then conduct various tests such as: Ophthalmic, dental, nasal, facial and neck examinations, a heart-worm exam, a retrovirus exam, blood analysis and urinalysis, take X-rays of the abdomen and chest, and take endoscopy and tissue and cell samples. If an underlying disease is detected, hopefully it can be cured with proper care and medicine.
Other things your vet can do:
If your pet has lost substantial weight, your veterinarian may try to stimulate it’s appetite with medication such as a mild antihistamine, a human antidepressant or an anabolic steroid. He or she may also try feeding tubes as it is the most efficient (and possible less stressful) way to feed your pet. Feeding in this way is not painful.
Prescription Diets: Pets are sometimes put on prescription diets because of a particular medical problem. Most pets accept these new diets – particularly if they are changed from their old diet gradually. But other pets never accept the new diet. If it has been suggested that your pet eat a prescription diet, it is best to purchase only a few cans or a small bag first to see if the pet will eat it. If not, try a different brand or a different style of the same brand. But under no circumstances, force your pet to eat it to the point where he or she loses significant weight. The only exception is a diet formulated for weight loss. In some cases, the only prescription diet a pet will accept is one prepared at home by the owner.
Other things you can do:
When a pet is ill and cannot or will not eat, you need to do all you can to supply it with nutrients. This is because nutrients are essential for healing. Sometimes, encouragement and feeding the pet canned food from your hand is all that is needed. It is better to use a nutritionally balanced canned dog or cat food rather than boiled chicken or beef. Try a premium or gourmet brand. There is absolutely no problem in offering cat brands to dogs and cat diets are often preferred by dogs. The reverse is not the case – some dog foods are not be nutritionally adequate for long term use in cats. Pets love to be pampered in this way, so do not continue the practice longer than necessary.
If your pet cant or wont eat when offered food in this way, it will need to be fed a liquid or liquefied diet through a syringe or turkey baster. Various liquid and semi-liquid diets are available through your veterinarian. High-caloric pastes and gels are available at pet supply stores. You can prepare these foods just as well at home if you have the time. The food needs to be blended in a blender until it is fine enough to pass through the plastic tip of a standard syringe. Talk to your vet as to what kind of food you can blend. Under no circumstance should you force feed your pet if there is a possibility that you may be bitten – even accidentally.