Weight Loss in Dogs


Overview of Canine Weight Loss 

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)
  • Causes for Dogs to Loose Weight

    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
  • Diagnosis of Weight Loss in Dogs

    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
  • Treatment of Weight Loss in Dogs

    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.

    In-depth Information on Weight Loss in Dogs

    Weight loss is a physical condition that results from a negative caloric balance, as when metabolic utilization and excretion of essential nutrients exceed the caloric intake. Weight loss is considered clinically important when it exceeds 10 percent of the normal body weight and is not associated with fluid loss.

    Weight loss can result from many different mechanisms that share the common feature of insufficient caloric intake or availability to meet metabolic needs. Causes vary markedly from intentional restriction of calories in order to reduce weight in an obese patient, to weight loss associated with life threatening illness.

    Historical information is very important, especially regarding type of diet, duration and environment of storage of diet, the patient’s daily activity and, environment, the presence of pregnancy, appetite, signs of gastrointestinal disease (vomiting, diarrhea, regurgitation), or signs of any specific illness.

    Causes of Weight Loss in Dogs

    There are several disorders or situations that need to be considered when evaluating patients for weight loss. These include:

    Dietary Causes

  • Insufficient quantity of food – not enough calories
  • Poor or inadequate quality of food
  • Decreased palatability (taste) of food
  • Spoiled food
  • Prolonged storage of food with deterioration of nutrients
  • Anorexia – This is often seen with many disorders and diseases.
  •  Malabsorptive Disorders (poor intestinal absorption)

  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a microscopic accumulation of inflammatory cells into the intestinal wall. The cause is unknown, although it is thought to have an immune basis. Diarrhea and weight loss are commonly seen with the disorder.
  • Lymphangiectasia is a chronic protein-losing intestinal disorder that arises from congestion and dysfunction of lymph-carrying structures in the intestines.
  • Intestinal parasitism is most common in younger animals or animals that are housed in crowded and/or unsanitary conditions. It may involve roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, coccidiosis, and giardiasis.
  • Chronic infections of the bowel may lead to malabsorption. Examples include fungal infections and bacterial overgrowth.
  • Infiltrative tumors of the intestine may affect the intake of calories.
  • Gastrointestinal obstructions can prevent adequate absorption of nutrients and result in nutrient loss from vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Surgical resection of large segments of bowel can greatly decrease the overall absorptive surface of the intestines.
  • Maldigestive Disorders (inadequate break down/processing of food)

  • Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) is a condition where the pancreas does not produce sufficient enzymes to break down food.
  • A lack of bile salts due to liver or gall bladder disease affects digestion and absorption.
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