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Is your dog not finishing its meals or having to be hand fed? Maybe it is snubbing food altogether. In this blog, we go over some of the common reasons older dogs may have a decreased appetite.

A decrease in appetite in older dogs is something that should be taken seriously. It’s one of the only ways that animals have to tell us that something isn’t quite right.

So why is your older dog not eating? Well, the truth is that there are so many reasons that I can not cover them all here. But here are a few of the things I commonly see with older dogs that are not eating.

1. Pain: one common reason older dogs do not eat is because they have pain somewhere in their body. This pain could be from something such as a sore neck or back or something more serious like an illness, foreign body or blockage or more. Animals do not have a great way of telling us something hurts and contrary to what many people think- they do not often ‘yell or cry out’ when they are experiencing pain. If you suspect your animal is in pain, get them to the veterinarian right away. Do NOT waste your time giving your pet medication at home as this often delays getting them the care they need and in some cases may make things worse. I have seen many owners with good intentions prolong the pain their pet is in by trying at home treatments on the internet. Best call the vet and get your pet in there as soon as possible.

2. Cancer or other Illness: Cancer and illness is not always obvious in our dogs. I’ll never forget the day that I met Cady the chocolate lab that was full of energy yet had liver values off the charts. Cady had a very serious illness starting within her liver and the only sign the owner’s saw at home was that Cady was slower to eat her food and not eating as much. Because they brought her in and we were able to localize disease occurring underneath the surface, we were able to figure out her diagnosis while she still had good energy and come up with her treatment plan. If you suspect your dog has cancer or other illness, best bring them to the vet. Things can progress quickly and there are so many conditions that have treatments to keep them comfortable or to help manage or treat the disease.

3. Sore Teeth: diseased teeth are a source of pain for dogs that deserve their own category as to why a dog may not be eating. Have you ever had a sore tooth? It hurts! If your vet has been mentioning your dog’s teeth to you repeatedly, it’s time to consider getting that dental cleaning they recommended.

Each dog will have different degree of dental disease and rotten teeth. Diseased teeth hurt them, and they don’t have a great way of telling us that they have a painful tooth. The main way to fix this is to let your vet pull or extract these teeth under anesthesia. This is a very common procedure that majority of dogs do well for. Just changing their food to soft food does not take away the source of pain.

Some owners delay getting dentals done until the teeth become so bad that they are a terrible source of pain. If you wait until this happens, you have likely allowed your pets to live with painful mouth for years which is something nobody wants! Instead of waiting, ask your vet about prophylactic dental cleanings at their office which can help us detect bad teeth earlier and delay progression of dental disease. If you smell bad breath on your pet or suspect they have a rotten tooth, call your vet and see if they can do an exam on your pet and help figure out a way to move forward.


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