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Anorexia (Loss of Appetite) in Dogs

By: Dr. Etienne Cote

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Home Care

Home care is concerned with observing your dog for possible reasons for his anorexia and helping him to eat.

  • Note whether any recent change has occurred in the home environment, such as a recent move to a new home, a new person in the home or the addition of a new pet? These may contribute to the loss of appetite and should be mentioned to your veterinarian.

  • Note whether any other symptoms are present. The presence of symptoms in addition to loss of appetite should prompt a veterinary examination sooner, rather than later.

  • To combat dehydration, some animals can benefit from being given oral rehydration supplements such as Pedialyte®. Ask your veterinarian whether this is appropriate and how much should be given.

  • Additional feeding techniques. If an animal is unwilling or unable to eat, feeding may be enhanced with certain techniques such as warming the food so it is easier for the dog to smell it, mixing in certain home-cooked ingredients specifically suggested by your veterinarian, or offering the food by hand or with an oral syringe. Any warmed food should be checked to make sure it is not too hot, which could scald the mouth or digestive system. This is particularly a concern when the food is warmed (unevenly) by microwave.

  • New foods. When therapeutic diets are prescribed for a certain medical condition, a dog may not eat that diet immediately. Mixing with the previous diet and gradually decreasing the amount of the prior diet over several days can be tried in order to avoid cutting the appetite completely.

  • Young animals (6 months or less) are particularly fragile when not eating, and loss of appetite for even 12 hours in a puppy of 1-6 weeks of age can be life threatening. Regular milk (i.e. cow's milk) is poorly balanced for dogs, soft drinks (soda pop) and sport drinks are usually much too sweet and are deficient in electrolytes, and soup (e.g. chicken soup) is usually too salty and does not provide enough nutrients for energy. These infant animals may need to be fed a milk replacer by syringe if they have not yet been weaned; balanced milk replacers for dogs are available. Oral rehydration solutions made for children are less well-balanced, but are still better alternatives than soda pop, chicken soup, etc. It is essential that you consult with your veterinarian to determine what to feed and to determine how much to give.

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