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Loss of appetite in dogs or Anorexia is a decrease in appetite or refusal to take food that is often linked to emotional and mental disorders. Dogs are known for being highly food motivated, and being excited about feeding time. As such, dogs are not usually associated with having trouble eating. However, anorexia or decreased appetite occurs in dogs as well.

Loss of appetite is a sign that can be indicative of a variety of possible underlying problems. Serious indicators of an underlying illness vary from depression to cancer. Diseases of the digestive system, the kidneys, the blood, the eyes, mouth, nose, and throat, the skin, the brain, and many other organs in the body can cause a loss of appetite.

Alternatively, some animals will occasionally refuse food for reasons that are much less serious. Reasons such as dislike for new food, or behavioral reasons (new home, new animal, or new person in the household).

Regardless of the cause, loss of appetite can have a serious impact on an animal’s health if it lasts 24 hours or more. Very young animals are particularly prone to the problems brought on by the loss of appetite.

Types of Anorexia in Dogs

Anorexia is a veterinary context that simply means a loss of appetite. Dogs may also exhibit Partial Anorexia which means that they are eating, but they aren’t eating enough to get the proper nutrition their body requires.

Dogs may also exhibit something called Pseudo-Anorexia. A dog with pseudo-anorexia has the desire and appetite to eat, but they are unable to eat due to a primary cause such as rotten teeth or being in pain.

Signs of Loss of Appetite in dogs

Signs vary depending on the underlying disease. Inappetent pets may show a complete lack of interest in food, that is not approaching food that is served for them, leaving food uneaten. They may show some interest. For example, sniffing and even licking food before refusing to eat. Other signs may include but are not limited to:

  • Lesions in the oral cavity or swelling around the face or jaw
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Audible gut sounds
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss

Reasons for Loss of Appetite in Dogs

Causes for dog anorexia or Anorexia is very long. It can include anything that might cause pain, nausea, lethargy, or stress:

  • Dental disease
  • Oral pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Pancreatitis
  • Stomach upset (eating table scraps or something else they shouldn’t have, or a sudden change in food or treats)
  • Infection
  • Fever
  • Cancer
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Lung disease

These are only some examples of medical issues that can lead to a loss of appetite in dogs; there are many more possible reasons.

Behavioral and environmental reasons

Behavioral reasons are separation anxiety, your dog is used to getting lots of treats and table scraps, your dog likes to eat alone or only when there’s someone else in the room, or your pooch is used to being hand-fed.

Changes in the environment include a recent move or traveling, absence of a family member or another pet, weather changes, recent stress, or a change in the feeding schedule.

Food issues

Your family’s budget can be the cause behind anorexia in dogs. For example, if you have been feeding your dog a premium brand dog food for most of their life and suddenly financial constraints forced you to cut back and feed your pooch lesser quality food, they may react to this change poorly.

The food itself could be old, expired, stale, or spoiled. If a dog has been on the same food for a while and has always eaten it well, take a look at the expiration date on the bag or can. Also, check to make sure that it is stored in an airtight container.

Treatment of Loss of Appetite in Dogs

If your dog has canine anorexia, it’s the first key to know whether they show any interest in eating or don’t want to eat at all. Do they make attempts to eat their meal and then slink away, or do they seem repelled by it? Try making the food you feed your dog more tempting by adding fresh meat or filtered water to it. Also try warming it up in the microwave, hand feeding it to them, or feeding them different dog food.

Get your dog to the vet at that same time you’re trying to understand what’s causing their canine anorexia. Ordering blood work, an X-ray or an ultrasound for your dog may lead to their best treatment by revealing what’s truly happening.

It’s definitely troubling when your dog has canine anorexia. However, by observing them and working together with your vet, you can get your dog eating normally again soon.

If anorexia is a side effect of medication, the dose may be reduced or the medication discontinued. Never discontinue medication without seeking veterinary advice as this may be associated with complications.


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