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My Older Dog Won’t Eat! Should I Worry?

There are some challenges that go along with having an older dog.

You are happy to have every day you can with your dog, but some of those days are not always good if you have a senior dog.

Nutrition is essential for a dog, no matter their age.

It can be upsetting when your older dog is not eating.

There could be many reasons why your dog is not eating. 

Why Isn’t My Dog Eating?

It is essential that you understand if your dog has stopped eating or is just eating less than typical.

It is normal as your dog ages; they may have a decrease in appetite.

It may even fluctuate from time to time, just like your appetite does.

As a dog ages, they may become pickier or have no desire to eat.

If your dog has a decreased appetite but is able to maintain weight, that is less problematic than a dog that is not eating and losing weight. 

Dental Problems

Your dog’s teeth are aging just as it is.

Humans tend to get fillings and crowns when their teeth start to break down.

Unfortunately, your dog does not have that luxury, and so, when their teeth begin to decay and bother them, they may not want to eat.

You can soak their food in a broth made for dogs or give them softer food to eat.

Yogurt and pumpkin purée is safe for dogs and will also soften food making it easier to eat. 

Joint Problems

Just about every senior dog experiences some amount of arthritis and joint pain, particularly in the knees and hips.

As your dog is more uncomfortable due to the pain they are feeling, the less likely they are to eat.

Supplements may help your dog be more comfortable and be more willing to eat.

Also, the height of your dog’s food bowls may be too low.

They may not be able to bend down to get to the bowl.

Elevating your dog’s bowls may help them eat more comfortably.

You may also notice your dog pacing.

If this begins, and you have not started grinding your dog’s nails, you should start.

When their nails become overgrown, it can lead to pain.

This pain may be another reason why your dog refuses to eat. 

Less Activity

As your dog ages, it is less active.

When a dog is not getting as much exercise as in the past, they need fewer calories.

When your dog does not need as many calories, they may begin to eat less food. 

Confusion and Anxiety

As dogs age, they can exhibit cognitive decline just like a human does.

When dogs have this type of dementia, it impacts them physically, as well.

In addition to refusing to eat, your dog may become restless, often vomit, howl or whine.

You may also notice your dog is needier and will not leave your side.

These are all signs that they may have some cognitive decline.

Changes at Home

Dogs, in general, may feel stress when there is a change at home.

Older dogs may feel even more stress and anxiety when there are changes.

These changes could include a new puppy, a new baby, or a change in routine.

If someone in the house has a new job or activity that changes the routine of the house, your senior dog notices.

This may cause your dog to refuse to eat.

You will have to help your dog feel less anxious about whatever changes are happening in the house. 

How Long Can My Old Dog Go Without Eating?

It depends on the size, health, and movement of your dog as to how long they can go without food.

In general terms, they can go five days to about three weeks without food.

The older the dog is, the less time they can go without eating.

For some senior dogs that are feeling sick, not eating may be a temporary fix to help them feel better.

It will only last for a short period.

However, if the dog is suffering from a problem with their gastrointestinal tract, not eating for a few days may help them get better.

In this case, as your dog starts to feel healthier, they should begin eating again.

However, if a senior dog goes more than a couple of days without food, it can negatively impact the body and make their deteriorating health worse.

A dog will not typically starve himself to death.

There is no substantial evidence to prove that a dog understands not eating will lead to death. 

When Should My Dog See The Vet If He’s Not Eating?

There are some signs that indicate that you should take your dog to the vet immediately.

One of those reasons is if your dog stops eating altogether, especially if it is a sign that your pup is not feeling well.

There are some other indicators that you should take your dog to the vet.

They include repeated vomiting, including throwing up water.

In addition, if your dog’s water intake increases or decreases drastically or panting and drooling excessively, you should consider taking your older dog to the vet. 

In Conclusion

Any time you notice a considerable change in your dog, you should consider taking them to the vet.

Older dogs are more likely to have joint problems, confusion, and a lack of desire to eat.

If you do not visit the vet, you may miss an opportunity to catch a medical problem or help you make your dog feel better. 

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National Canine Research Association of America