What If WednesdayWhat do you do if you are pet sitting a dog and suddenly he decides that he is not interested in eating?  In the past 5 years I have had plenty of case studies of dogs with no appetite.  I’ve usually coaxed them to eat one way or another – some ways easier and safer than others!

When I searched the internet for “dogs that won’t eat” I got a huge number of forum postings come up written by anxious pet owners – worried that their pup had suddenly lost interest in their food. It’s a common problem and it can have many causes.  It can be a symptom of a serious health problem – so never take it lightly when caring for your clients pets.

One of the most common reasons that pets in the care of a pet sitter won’t eat is stress or anxiety. Dogs suffering from separation anxiety because their owners have left often will not eat their food. However, I find that usually they will eat treats! Eating treats is a good sign.  If they won’t even eat their favorite snacks then this can be a sign of a more serious problem.  Typically if a dog suffers from loss of appetite when an owner is away – the owner will warn you at the pre-sitting interview.  I have had many owners let me know that last time Max was left with a sitter or friend that he didn’t eat.  Sometimes they tell me to mix a little wet food into their food to tempt them, and other owners just tell me to let him eat when he’s hungry.

I have had dogs that will eat when I add a little grated cheese, peanut butter, or chicken broth to their dry food – BUT don’t add things to a dogs food to tempt him to eat unless you have the OK from the dogs owner as many dogs suffer from food allergies.

Some other reasons that dogs may lose their appetite include:

1) Hot weather.  Make sure the dog has plenty of water and somewhere to get out of the sun.

2) Male dogs often won’t eat if there is a female dog in heat around

3) An injury to the mouth or a gum condition such as an abcessed tooth that makes it painful to chew

4) Parasites such as intestinal worms. Other symptoms of worms include lethargy, weakness, and bloated abdomen

5) Puppies that are teething. For small dogs this usually occurs between ages of 4-8 months. For larger dog breeds between 6-10 months.

Loss of appetite can also be a symptom of a serious medical condition such as cancer, thyroid disease, heart disease, or pulmonary disease – especially in older dogs.  If a dog does not eat for more than 2 days you should immediately take them to a vet and have them perform a full check up.

A dog should also be given immediate vet care if you see any of the following symptoms as well as loss of appetite:

1) Vomitting

2) Diarhea or constipation

3) Stools with traces of blood

4) Stools with remains of worms

5) Lethargy

If you have a dog that does not want to eat then do your detective work to try and identify any of these symptoms early.  Don’t panic – if these symptoms are not present then the dog will probably eat when it gets hungry, so give him a couple of visits and see what he does.  If a dog hasn’t eaten any food or treats for two days then contact the owner and/or take them to be checked by a veterinarian.  It’s always better to be safe than sorry!