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Anorexia in dogs

Skinny brown dog advice

One cause of anorexia in your dog can be stress.

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Just like humans, dogs can suffer from anorexia, with causes ranging from stress to chronic pain.

By Dr. Laura Harvey BVetMed GPCert (WVA&CPM) MRCVS

Published on the 11/08/2020, 15:08

Anorexia is a complete lack of appetite and not eating or wanting to eat anything at all. Pseudo-anorexia can also be seen in dogs, which is when a dog wants to eat but can’t or doesn’t eat. Both are symptoms of underlying conditions, of which there are multiple causes. It is uncommon for it to be psychological in dogs, but sometimes it can be caused by stressful situations or a change in diet to something unpalatable.

What is anorexia?

Anorexia is a complete lack of appetite and not eating or wanting to eat anything at all.

Can your dog be anorexic?

As well as there being a medical cause for the anorexia, it can also be psychological. Causes for this include stress, which can include such examples as moving house or going to stay in kennels, a bereavement or even a change in food to one that is unpalatable. 

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

What causes anorexia and pseudo-anorexia in dogs?

Anorexia can be caused by many things, including systemic disease such as a fever, liver or kidney disease, gastro-intestinal upsets, infection (including from wounds), breathing difficulties, respiratory diseases, some tumours and chronic pain. It is impossible to list all the possible causes here.

Pseudo-anorexia is when your dog is hungry and wants to eat, but can’t or doesn’t eat. Causes include pain in the mouth and throat, due to inflammation, sore teeth or tumours, as well as pain in the muscles used for chewing, trouble with the salivary glands, and also pain elsewhere in the body.

What causes loss of appetite in dogs?

Loss of appetite is caused by the same things that cause anorexia and pseudo-anorexia – there is a large variety including systemic disease such as diabetes, liver or kidney disease, pain, a high temperature, changes in environment and stressful situations.

What treatment is there for anorexia in dogs?

It depends on the underlying cause. A vet will be able to advise you on the best course of treatment for your dog, once they have taken your pet's history from you, examined your dog and performed any diagnostics required. If your dog has become dehydrated as a result of the anorexia, rehydration with intravenous fluids (your pet going on a drip) may be required.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

Can anorexia in dogs be prevented?

As anorexia has many causes, it cannot as such be directly prevented, rather the underlying causes have to be treated as required.

What is partial anorexia in dogs?

Partial anorexia is seen in dogs when they don’t want to eat their normal food, but can be tempted with their favourite foods or treats. The causes of partial anorexia are the same as for anorexia and pseudo-anorexia, although perhaps the disease process is not as severe.

How can I stimulate my dog's appetite?

A dog’s appetite will normally improve once the underlying cause is identified and treated. In rare cases, your vet may give your dog a medication to improve their appetite, but this will only be after a thorough investigation and is not suitable for all situations.

What can I give my dog to increase their appetite?

There isn’t something you can give your dog to directly increase their appetite. But it is often worth trying small amounts of their favourite food to try to tempt them to eat.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

What is anorexia in dogs with kidney failure?

The role of the kidney is to filter waste products out of the blood and into the urine, as well as to help maintain blood pressure. When the kidneys fail, they are unable to do their job properly. This leads to a build up of waste products in the blood stream. As these build up, they make the dog feel unwell. Human kidney failure patients have described the feeling as being similar to a bad hangover. Therefore because the dog feels unwell, they do not want to eat. As a result, they may eat less or only eat their favourite food, but by doing this can progress to complete anorexia as the kidney failure progresses.

What is psychological anorexia in a dog? 

Psychological anorexia is the complete lack of appetite and not eating or wanting to eat anything at all due to psychological reasons, rather than medical ones.

Causes include stress, such as moving house or going to stay in kennels, bereavement or change in food to one that is unpalatable. Sometimes the cause can be easily identified, but often further diagnostics are required to help identify the cause.

Treatment required will vary depending on the underlying cause. A vet will be able to advise you on the best course of treatment for your dog, once they have taken your pet's history from you, examined your dog and performed any diagnostics required.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

How can I manage my dog's anorexia?

Management depends on the underlying cause. Therefore if your dog is anorexic for more than 24 hours, contact a vet, who will then be able to guide you through the diagnostic and treatment steps required for your dog.

When should I see a vet?

If your dog is still well in themselves, maintaining normal activity etc, then it is usually OK to monitor your dog for 24 to 48 hours. Yet if your dog is unwell or there are other signs, including vomiting, then your pet should be seen within 24 hours. If your dog is exhibiting breathing problems, panting more than normal or coughing, please contact a vet immediately.