When Senior Dogs Start Eating Less

Is your dog eating less? By: chriswsn

Is your older dog eating less? By: chriswsn

Many pet owners worry that their senior dog isn’t eating enough.

This is a problem — especially if the dog has been losing weight over time. As you know, it’s important to get proper nutrition. Older pets especially need necessary nutrition, or they will begin to show signs of failing health.

Here are some things we would consider when wondering why your dog isn’t heading to the food bowl as often as in the past:


Possible Dental Problems

As in humans, older dogs have dental issues that can cause discomfort while eating. Have your veterinarian check the teeth. The dog may need extractions, and this is not uncommon for an older animal.

Feeding a quality canned food may solve the problem. Chicken or beef broth added to dry food will also help a senior dog chew food more readily.

Splitting a meal into two smaller meals may entice your pet to eat more. Elderly pets’ stomachs seem to get upset easier, so several smaller meals throughout the day may help. Food designed specifically for older canines is available — it can work wonders. Ask your vet for advice.

Watch for Problems Eliminating

Your dog may be having problems evacuating his bowels. Watch him closely on walks: If he is straining and having difficulty pooping, you’ve likely found the problem.

Weight Loss = Problem

Activity levels decrease as pets age. By: Michelle Tribe

As a dog gets older, his or her level of activity decreases.

You may have noticed that your once-active buddy sleeps a lot more now. He no longer chases a ball with the voracity that he once did. Older pets don’t expend the energy that they did when they were younger, and they usually reduce their food intake to reflect that decline.

If your pet is just eating less but not losing weight, he’ll probably be fine. However, any weight loss in a senior dog is concerning because there could be an underlying medical problem. In this situation, you should definitely seek veterinary care.

Sense of Smell May Be Off

The sense of smell might also diminish as a dog ages.

Food items that once drove your pet crazy will often be passed over now. A trick that we have found to be useful is to rub a little tuna oil on the inside and edges of the food bowl.

At your pet’s next veterinary visit, ask if your dog is at a good weight. Many people worry that their senior dog is not eating enough — but the best judge of that is your veterinarian.

book-cover-smallest1Has your senior dog started eating less? Tell us about it in the comments below. If you enjoyed this article, you’ll love Pets Adviser’s email newsletter. It’s free to sign up, and you’ll be among the first to get alerts about major pet food recalls. New subscribers also get instant access to our 40-page ebook — which has “secrets every cat and dog lover should know.” Learn more here.

From Around the Web

  • Mark Hansen

    My sweet Xena is an Australian Shepherd. She came to me back in 2005 from a rescuer in Georgia. She was estimated to be 4 to 5 years old at the time, which would make her at least 14 now. Xena, over about the past couple of months, has gradually eaten less & less until at this point, is only eating an occasional doggie treat. She will not even eat sliced ham, one of her all-time favorites! I’ve taken her to the vet, and they have run all the possible tests they could think of and found absolutely nothing physically wrong with her! They also x-rayed her and saw only what they described asa “thickening” of her stomach wall. She is still drinking, peeing, & pooping (when she has anything to poop). The only thing that seems to help at all is famotidine (Pepsid AC acid reducer). I have been crushing one tablet daily and mixing it with peanut butter and then smearing the mixture onto the roof of her mouth – she has no choice but to injest it, otherwise she would just spit that out as well. She will usually eat a couple of Pedigree dog treats sometime during the day afterwards, but that’s about it. I’ve tried nearly everything – chicken, ham, wieners, turkey, chicken, multitudes of different gourmet dog foods, etc. No luck! She is beginning to lose weight and I’m afraid that she may starve to death if she doesn’t start eating soon. Our vet office has several doctors, and none of them seem to be able to diagnose Xena’s problem. I am afraid that I will have to have her euthanized, and as we all know, that’s about the hardest thing any dog lover has to do! I am so very sad, as Xena is my “little white Angel” and I don’t want to lose her if there’s anything that could be done to save her. All of her “organ function tests” show that everything is supposedly working just fine, but yet she still will not eat! If I knew what was wrong, it would be so much easier to make the hard decision to end her life, but since we have virtually no idea what is wrong, I’m afraid to do it in the event that she may just start back eating normally. What else can I do at this point – I’m at a total loss!

  • Renee

    Hi, Mark, I found your post because I’m in the same situation with my 14 or more year old german shepherd. I had some luck with white rice and raw egg (with a sprinkle of sugar) for a few days, now he won’t even eat that. Tomorrow I’m going to try canned salmon and white rice. He is definitely on his last legs, but still, I want him to keep some calories in his system. I hope your sweet Xena is doing better. Good luck