There are a few things that you have to take into consideration when trying to determine why your older dog won’t eat.
Chances are that if you’re reading this article then you’re struggling with what to do when your senior fur baby shows no interest in his or her meals. We’ve certainly fought this battle more than once over the years and know how upsetting it can be.
There are many reasons that can cause an older dog to stop eating:
- Disease or illness.
- Dental – If you don’t clean your dog’s teeth regularly, your dog could be in a great deal of pain due to periodontal problems (learn to clean your dogs teeth without brushing here).
- Emotional – dogs DO get depressed. Consider including a CBD Oil to help with nervousness or anxiety.
- Poor, unhealthy food choices.
DON’T Get Upset – Your Dog WILL Pick Up on These Feelings
As silly as you may think this sounds, your dog knows what you’re feeling. So, if you get stressed or panicked because he or she’s not eating, it can often make the situation worse. (we’ve been there). If your dog senses your nervousness, the chances are better that he’ll walk away from the food.
You have to find a way to stay calm and relaxed at meal time even if the dog doesn’t eat right away. The key is to learn to entice your dog with the food via smell, before you even place the food down. This is a vital step and here’s why.
If you place the food down and the dog doesn’t eat it; then you pick it back up and add something to it, put the bowl back down; the dog will often walk away at that point. Then you begin to panic trying to figure out what to do. Don’t play games putting the bowl down, picking it up and putting it back down.
Rule Out Disease
There are several different reasons that can cause your dog to stop eating such as disease or illness, parasites, stress and anxiety (behavioral).
It’s very important that you don’t try and guess what’s causing your older dog’s appetite loss. Make an appointment for your dog with his or her holistic veterinarian.
Although a loss of appetite can be a symptom of several issues; it’s important that your vet run tests to rule out that disease or illness may be causing the problem.
Once the vet confirms that your old fur baby is definitely okay health wise, then you can start evaluating why the lack of interest in food.
Rose’s Story – Suddenly a Finicky German Shepherd
At one point, I had been working with a friend whose twelve year old German Shepherd suddenly developed reoccurring stool problems as well as daily accidents in the house.
Rose was always a good eater up until about six months ago when her owner took her to the vet for an ear problem. Rose was diagnosed with Vestibular Disease due to an inner ear infection. Other than Vestibular Disease, the vet indicated that Rose was healthy.
Rose’s owner contacted me due to her stool problems and sudden onset of anorexia. Anorexia in dogs is when a dog has a complete loss of appetite. It’s not the same as the eating disorder Anorexia Nervosa in people. Shortly after visiting the vet, Rose’s owner decided to use a dewormer on her in the event that she may have developed worms.
From this point forward, Rose’s stool and eating habits changed completely. Since Rose wouldn’t eat, her owner decided to try boiled chicken and rice which Rose accepted with a doggy smile!
Determining The Problem
Since the vet ruled out any real health concerns, my suspicions as to why Rose wasn’t eating were more behavioral than anything, especially since she was always a good eater. Although Rose was diagnosed with Vestibular Disease, she also developed certain behavioral symptoms around that time as well.
Coincidentally, Rose’s owner welcomed a new German Shepherd puppy into the home around the same time that Rose’s symptoms started to appear. This confirmed my suspicions that much of Rose’s issues were indeed behavioral. Plus, Rose was used to eating free form; having dry food available at all times and now with the new puppy, this changed her entire routine.
All dogs like routine, but old dogs rely on it!
Adding Another Dog to the Family and Reinforcing Your Alfa Dog’s Role
I explained the importance that Rose must always be first – before the pup. Rose goes in and out of the doors first, she gets her food first, etc. Although dogs will typically work out any “pack” issues themselves, it’s a must for the owner to reinforce the older dog’s role.
I further explained the importance of a healthy diet for both dogs and further explained that boiled chicken and rice isn’t a balanced diet. This type of bland diet is typically recommended as a temporary diet for gastric upset or a diet for a recuperating pet. A diet of boiled chicken/ground beef and rice should never be your dog’s only source of food without adequate supplementation. It is void of all the nutrients your dog needs such as vitamins and MINERALS which are critical.
Since both dogs were used to eating commercial dry dog food, my recommendation for Rose and Niko was a much higher quality dog food for both dogs. Niko was also battling some skin problems too which a good food and a few supplements will usually take care of.
We changed the dogs to a higher quality commercial food and added some much needed supplements as well. Probiotics to build and keep Rose’s immune system strong. Digestive Enzymes to help Rose break down and absorb the nutrients in the food and Omega 3 Fatty Acids for healthy skin and organs.
Immediately after changing the foods and adding the supplements, Rose’s stool and accidents were better. However, Rose wasn’t quite 100% yet. She’ll still often go without eating and rush to eat her food when she knew “Niko” was coming. Again, her behavior confirms that much of how she was reacting, was due to the stress of lifestyle change.
Rose’s weight wasn’t nearly where it should be for a German Shepherd and it was important that she gain a little weight.
How to Get Your Older Dog to Eat
The first thing you have to do is to evaluate any changes made in your own life that directly or indirectly affect your older dog.
Also, start cooking for your dog and preparing something homemade and healthy. Our cookbook can help with this. See the banner above for more information.
*Important – when you home cook for your dog, you MUST add supplementation either by adding each of the individual supplements or by providing your old dog a multivitamin daily (follow the dosage instructions on the bottle according to your dog’s weight). Calcium MUST also be added. Our cookbook shares calcium dosages and recommended supplements.
Get creative with these other ideas:
- Include greens such as spinach (drained of water), kale, broccoli. These green veggies are especially helpful for dogs with kidney issues that have toxins in the blood and stop eating. Read more here
- Sardines in water (drained)
- Fresh meat lightly cooked and still pink and rotate it often.
- Include lightly cooked organ meat.
- Include Whey Protein if your dog won’t put weight on.
- Include Gelatin Protein for pain. See our article here.
Dogs Love This Stinky Alternative
Another alternative that most dog’s LOVE is adding green tripe to their diet. Beware – it’s stinky! Tripe is the stomach of ruminating animals such as cattle, sheep, bison, deer, etc. You always want green tripe which means it has been untouched (never bleached).
Be Prepared That the End May Be Near
We realize that this is very hard to hear. But, like people, when disease takes hold and gets the best of us, we stop eating. The same applies for dogs. Sadly, the body starts to shut down.
It often depends how advanced the disease is and if the appetite can be stimulated enough again to get your dog to eat at this point and all too often, it’s no longer enough.