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Weight Loss in Dogs

By: Dr. Bari Spielman

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Weight loss is a physical condition that results from a negative caloric balance. This usually occurs when the body uses and/or excretes essential nutrients faster than it can consume them. Essentially more calories are being burned than are being taken in. Weight loss is considered clinically important when it exceeds 10 percent of the normal body weight and is not associated with fluid loss.

During weight loss, the appetite may be normal, increased or decreased.

What to Watch For

  • Weight loss
  • Loss of body condition
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Poor hair coat
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Regurgitation
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Coprophagia (eating one's own stool)


    There are many reasons for loss of weight. Some of these include:

  • Dietary causes
  • Lack of appetite (anorexia)
  • Disorders related to poor absorption of nutrients
  • Disorders related to poor digestion
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Excessive nutrient loss
  • Neuromuscular diseases
  • Excessive use of calories
  • Cancer
  • Heart disease


    Confirmation of weight loss is necessary. A review of the animal's former body weight(s) is essential. Once weight loss has been documented, a thorough history and physical examination, in addition to appropriate diagnostic tests are indicated to determine a cause of the weight loss. Initial diagnostic tests may include:

  • Stool examination
  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Biochemical profile
  • Urinalysis
  • Chest and abdominal X-rays


    Your veterinarian may make several recommendations for the treatment of weight loss prior to instituting a full diagnostic work up. Such treatment is usually administered on an outpatient basis.

  • Sufficient calories in the form of adequate amounts of an appropriate, high-quality diet
  • Force-feeding
  • Appetite stimulants
  • Supplementation with vitamins and minerals for severely malnourished patients
  • Parenteral (intravenous) nutrition for patients who cannot take food orally
  • Comfortable and stress-free environment, especially when eating
  • An appropriate exercise regime

    Home Care

    Administer prescribed diets and medications precisely as directed. Periodically, weigh and record your pet's weight. Contact your veterinarian if there is any change in body weight.

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