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Why is my pet not eating?

Here are a few basic things to consider when your adult dog or cat (or puppy or kitten) is not eating:

  1. Degenerative conditions such as arthritis can cause pain and discomfort, affecting the quality of your pet’s life and making eating not a high priority. In older animals, cardiac and kidney disease will greatly affect food intake.
  2. Basic management should always be addressed for issues contributing to a poor appetite. Has there been a food change or change in the time or location of regular feedings? Pets are creatures of habit so any disruption can cause them to not want to eat. Are the food and water bowls clean? Has the day-to-day routine in the household changed? Anxiety may affect the appetite. In multi-pet households, assure that all are getting access to food and water bowls.
  3. Assess the frequency and amount that your pet is drinking. Excessive drinking and urination could be indicative of a metabolic condition. Such conditions may detrimentally affect the appetite. The character of the stool should be monitored closely as diarrhea may also indicate internal factors causing your pet to not eat.
  4. In older pets, cancer can be a significant concern. Examine your animals frequently for any lumps or bumps as they may indicate a significant problem.  A swollen abdomen or increased coughing should be evaluated immediately.
  5. Often dry gums and warm-to-the-touch ears can indicate an elevated body temperature, and fevers could be a signal that your pet has an infection. A higher than normal temperature is the immune system’s way of fighting infection more effectively. As with pet owners, fever can cause less than normal food intake.
  6. Check your environment closely when your pet is not eating. Puppies and kittens especially may chew and or ingest improper items. Look for evidence of dietary indiscretion, especially if exposure to toxins is possible.

Dog not eating? Cat not eating? A good appetite is a major indication of sound physical status of your pet. Especially in younger animals, any evidence that eating and drinking is not adequate should be evaluated immediately through consultation with your veterinarian.

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