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What do you feed a senior dog with no appetite?

 Decreased appetite (anorexia) or complete absence of appetite (anorexia) is a clinical sign that can appear relatively frequently in older dogs. The causes can be multiple and include pathological causes to behavioral changes. Regardless of origin, it is important to follow appropriate strategies to correct a lack of appetite in these animals.

If you are wondering why your elderly dog does not want to eat and what to do about it, in the article dog57 we talk about the causes of lack of appetite in older dogs and what to do in each case.





Pathological causes of lack of appetite in older dogs

There are a variety of diseases that can cause total (anorexia) or partial (anorexia) anorexia. However, some of them are especially common in older dogs:

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD): Dogs with chronic kidney disease, also known as chronic kidney failure, often experience loss of appetite as a result of polyuria (accumulation of uremic toxins in the blood) and anemia. This should be one of the first differential diagnoses to consider in older dogs with poor appetite.

Tumors - Cancer is a disease of old age that is particularly prevalent in dogs between the ages of 7 and 12 years. Some tumors can produce nonspecific signs such as loss of appetite and weight loss, so one of the differential diagnoses to consider in the face of thinness in older dogs who additionally, have a lack of appetite, are neoplasms.

Gastrointestinal disease: Any disease of the digestive system can reduce appetite. In the case of older dogs, one of the main causes of loss of appetite or lack of appetite is changes in the oral cavity, especially periodontal disease, gingivitis, and tooth loss.

Biliary liver disease: The first signs seen in liver disease, such as chronic hepatitis, are nonspecific signs such as anorexia.

Endocrine diseases: In elderly dogs, hyperthyroidism is one of the most common endocrine diseases that lead to decreased appetite.

In addition to these reasons, it should be borne in mind that any process that causes pain or discomfort can cause loss of appetite in elderly dogs. For this reason, in elderly dogs that lack appetite, it is especially important to assess the presence of painful processes, especially those affecting the joints, spine, or musculoskeletal system.

Pharmacological causes of decreased appetite in elderly dogs
It is common for elderly dogs to present with chronic illnesses that require drug treatments. Some, such as NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), amiodarone, methimazole, or urinary stimulants, can cause loss of appetite as a side effect.

Within this group, we should also consider chemotherapy. Antineoplastic drugs act not only against cancer cells but also against healthy cells in the active reproduction of body tissues, such as the epithelium of the gastrointestinal tract. This causes the chemotherapy drugs to poison the digestive system and cause loss of appetite.

Disorders that cause anorexia in older dogs

External or environmental causes can cause disturbances in a dog's eating several habits, especially as they grow up. The most common causes are:
Feelings of loneliness or separation from their caregivers.
Loss of peers or guardians.

Routine changes, including changes to schedule or accommodations.
New animals in the home cause changes in the social structure.



What do I do if my elderly dog does not have an appetite?

Sometimes caregivers of older dogs come into the vet's office wondering why their older dog is not eating or why he doesn't want to eat anymore. As we explained in the previous section, the causes of decreased appetite in older dogs, both a lack of appetite and anorexia, are multiple and range from pathological causes to causes external that causes disturbances in eating habits. Therefore, when you discover a decrease in appetite in your dog, you must go to the vet so that they can establish a diagnostic protocol and discover the cause of the problem.

Depending on the cause that is causing the lack of appetite or loss of appetite, different strategies can be followed to try to improve the appetite of elderly dogs:

When the cause of decreased appetite or anorexia is pathological, it will be necessary to establish a specific treatment against the primary diseases causing the lack of appetite.

When there are external or environmental causes that alter eating habits, behavior therapy should be undertaken to try to correct the animal's behavioral changes. Among other things, the meal schedule must be respected, the food must be associated with a pleasant moment (for example, after a walk or when the guards come home) and the animal must be rewarded with caresses and kind words when it eats well to achieve this - positive reinforcement. However, in these cases, the best strategy is prevention. Avoiding in his routine, and trying to make the changes gradually and with sufficient time, will be the best alternative for the animal to adapt to the new situation without sudden imbalances in its eating habits.

How does it stimulate appetite in older dogs?

Regardless of the cause of the loss of appetite, other strategies can be used in a complementary manner to try to improve the appetite of older dogs:

Offer wet or semi-moist food: This type of food is easier to chew because it is soft, plus it tends to give off a much more aromatic than, for example, feed. They are called “wet food jars” or “jars”, and we also find them manufactured for elderly dogs, so if you are looking for jars for elderly dogs, you should pay attention to specifying the age, as well as ensuring the ingredients used. are of quality and natural. If you feed your dog dry food, you can moisten the food with water or chicken, meat, or vegetable broth (always without salt). Although it is a good alternative in all dogs with a lack of appetite, it will be especially effective in animals with changes at the level of the oral cavity.

Serve hot: If you usually serve a local portion, you can try serving it hot. If using a dry forage-based diet, you can choose to moisten it with water or hot broth.

Feeding elderly dogs: in the market there is food specially formulated for elderly dogs, which not only adapts to their nutritional needs but also has high palatability, stimulating their appetite. Likewise, today we find other types of food that are also designed for elderly dogs, such as dried food and even homemade and vacuum-packed food.



Keys to adapting the diet of the elderly dog and stimulating its appetite

The age at which dogs reach old age varies between breeds. As a rule, large and giant breeds reach it at the age of 6-7 years, medium at 8-10, and small at 11-13. At this point in their lives, dogs have special needs, which makes it necessary to adapt their diet to their new requirements.

If you feed your dog commercial feed, it is recommended that when he reaches old age, you begin to introduce large feed, that is, feed designed specifically for elderly dogs. In these cases, you must change the diet gradually to avoid changes at the level of the digestive system.

On the contrary, if you usually feed your dog homemade rations, you must adopt his diet taking into account a series of factors. Next, we explain the main factors to consider when designing a diet for elderly dogs:

Decreased energy concentration: Older dogs reduce their physical activity and produce less growth hormone. This leads to a decrease in muscle mass, body weight, and base metabolism, which requires a reduced energy concentration in your diet. It is important not to confuse reducing the concentration of energy in food with reducing the amount of food. The amount of food to be provided is the same, but it should have a lower energy density.

More palatable diets: With age, sensitivity to smell and taste tends to decrease, so it is important to make up particularly tasty and palatable portions to stimulate appetite.

Texture: In dogs with changes in the oral cavity, it may be necessary to change the dry feed to wet, semi-moist, or homemade foods. In this way, we will be able to facilitate the compression and chewing of food and reduce the pain associated with chewing dry and hard food.

Increasing Intake: In older dogs, it is recommended to provide several meals per day, although the total volume of food is not increased. In other words, it is appropriate to distribute the total amount of food in several meals per day to avoid overloading the digestive system. For example, if you usually divide the daily ratio into two doses, it is recommended that when your dog is older you divide it into three doses.

Maintain moderate levels of protein: The level of protein in the diet should be moderate, but they must be proteins of high biological value and high digestibility because these animals have poor use of nutrients.

An adequate supply of essential fatty acids: at this point, it is especially important to ensure a good supply of essential fatty acids, since elderly dogs have a lower ability to saturated fatty acids.

Increased Fiber Levels: An elderly dog's diet should contain higher levels of fiber for two reasons. On the other hand, it allows reducing energy intake without reducing the portion size and, therefore, without reducing the feeling of satiety from the portion. On the other hand, because elderly dogs have a greater tendency to constipation, soluble fiber levels must be increased to promote intestinal transit.

Vitamin supplements: With age, the efficiency of the immune system decreases. For this reason, it is advised to include supplements containing vitamin E, beta-carotene, and lutein, to boost the animal's immune system.

In any case, whenever you decide to feed your dog homemade food, we recommend that you first consult a veterinarian who specializes in animal nutrition. This way, you can ensure that the food you give your dog is always adapted to its physiological needs.

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