Wednesday, 25th April 2012
Why is my dog’s appetite so poor?
It is a common occurrence for vets to be asked this question by worried dog owners, and there are a multitude of reasons dogs show a poor appetite for food. Many illnesses and diseases are associated with some degree of loss of appetite, and some healthy dogs are just "picky" eaters or have learned bad eating habits which mean they are not in a normal eating routine. Age is also a factor, as puppies can find it problematic to adapt to certain foods, and older dogs can also have poor appetite due to ageing, metabolic changes and reduced physical activity.
Dogs are creatures of habit, meaning they love routine and become stressed and anxious when their normal daily lives are upset in any way, e.g. moving house, new arrival to household, change in exercise routine, kenneling etc. Stress/anxiety can adversely affect appetite, and dealing with the cause can sometimes solve the problem.
Because poor appetite is related in so many cases to illness, and although it is not a definite symptom of disease, if a dog that normally has a healthy appetite becomes reluctant to eat, it would be wrong to assume the dog is "just picky" without taking him/her for a veterinary consultation. It would be impossible to deal with all the disease possibilities that can adversely affect appetite in the limited space of this article, but it ranges from dental disease, respiratory infections, pancreatic problems, intestinal parasites, cancer or any disease causing chronic pain such as arthritis, to name just a few. If poor appetite is associated with weight loss or digestive upset (e.g. vomiting, diarrhoea), I would recommend a trip to your vet to investigate the underlying cause.
If your dog is healthy and there is no disease process affecting the appetite, here are a few general guidelines which can help:
- feed small quantities on a "little and often" basis, but sticking to a "meal" format, i.e. don’t leave down food all the time
- take away uneaten food after 15 minutes, and don’t offer any more until the next appointed "meal-time"
- wetting foods can improve palatability, e.g. pre-soaking dry food
- heating food until warm (to a maximum of 37ºC) improves palatability and releases odours
- offer food at a regular time of day, at the usual location, same feeding bowl etc. to establish a routine
- if you have more than one dog, feed in a supervised group situation if possible, unless there is good reason not to, as dogs eat better in a competitive environment
- check with your vet as to how much food your dog requires daily based on weight, age, demands of exercise etc.
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