Your Dog’s Eating Changes Could Be Telling You Something

What does decreased eating mean and what can you do about it?
By Aratana Therapeutics Inc, April 2019

Who says dogs can’t talk?

As a pet owner, you know that mealtime is a simple everyday ritual. You may find yourself anticipating your dog’s happy dance or turbo-charged tail wag at the sound of food hitting their bowl.

On the other hand, if your dog picks at their food or walks away, they may be telling you something is wrong.

Decreased appetite: a red flag


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Decreased eating can be a warning sign or red flag that something may be wrong. Many times reduced eating is the first sign – and may be the only sign – that a dog is sick.

Changes in eating can vary from dog to dog. The most obvious is when a dog completely refuses to eat. Some dogs, however, may eat less than normal, take more time to eat or start picking at their food. To evaluate your dog’s appetite, answer these 5 simple questions.

What causes changes in eating behavior?

There are many potential causes for changes in eating behavior:

  • Aging, infection or pain
  • Stress or changes in environment, routine or diet
  • Medication side effects
  • Chronic medical conditions, such as kidney disease, heart disease, gastrointestinal disease and cancer

Whatever the cause, it’s important to take action since decreased eating can lead to serious nutritional issues and impact your dog’s quality of life.

Why appetite is important

When a dog won’t eat their regular food, it’s only natural to try coaxing them to eat, offering treats or human foods. After all, it’s a relief to see your dog eat and know at least there’s something in their stomach. However, treats and human food don’t usually provide the balanced nutrition your dog needs.

It’s especially important to watch for eating changes in dogs who are aging, stressed or living with a medical condition. Even small changes in food consumption can deprive them of nutrition that is essential for healing, keeping muscles strong and defending the body against illness and infection. It also provides energy to help dogs stay active and enjoy life.

Answer these 5 questions now to rate your dog’s eating routine. You may wish to share the results with your veterinarian and use the tool periodically to monitor your dog’s eating changes over time.