The truth about weight loss in older dogs is…it’s not a good thing.
Let’s backtrack for a moment. If your old dog has gotten fat because of inactivity, too much food, too many treats or you adopted a fat old dog (like I did), then helping your dog get to a healthy weight is a very good thing.
What I’m talking about here is weight loss for no apparent reason. I know you’re taking great care of your furry friend, and likely keep an eagle eye on him or her as I do. That means you’ll notice even the subtlest of changes quickly, and when you notice your dog looking a little thin, call your vet.
I know it seems I recommend that in every article, that’s because I do. The reason is simple – when you have a younger dog you can usually wait a day or two to see if an issue resolves itself, not so in an old dog with health challenges. What appears to be something minor can very quickly escalate into something major, and I’m not willing to take a chance. Are you?
For example, when my younger dog Jack decides he doesn’t feel like eating breakfast one morning, I don’t worry. If Red turns her nose up I call the vet because there is no such thing with her. She loves her food too much.
Symptoms you might notice that indicate the presence of a problem causing weight loss
- Panting, pacing
- Bad breath
- Difficulty or lack of interest in eating
- Increase in appetite
- Lumps and bumps
- Limping or lameness
- Distended abdomen
- Increase in water consumption
- Changes in amount or frequency of peeing
- Blood in the urine
- A chronic cough
- Difficulty or aversion to exercising
- Irregular heartbeat
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Yellow skin or eyes
- Pale gums
If your dog is losing weight there’s a reason behind it, so here are some possible causes.
It can be as simple as your dog becoming picky due to a decreased sense of smell. Warming up your dog’s food or adding something like chicken or the soup from the chicken you boiled may help pique his interest. Consult with your vet about the foods you can add that are suitable for your dog.
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What to do about weight loss in older dogs
There’s nothing you can do until you have been to the vet. Once there’s a reason, a plan of action can be drawn up and implemented.
In other words, get your dog to the vet PDQ and help your vet by making note of the following:
- Any changes to the diet you’re feeding your dog
- Increase or decrease in appetite
- Increase or decrease in amount of water he’s drinking
- Peeing more or less
- Coughing or wheezing
- Mobility issues
- Lethargic, restless…
- Any chance of exposure to toxins
- Any new flea, tick or heartworm medication
- How long ago you started noticing weight loss
Diagnosing the reason
Your observations will be very helpful to your vet, and in conjuction with any of the tests listed below, will lead to an explanation and even better a solution.
Types of diagnosic testing include:
- Fecal analysis to check for parasites
- Blood tests
- X rays
- Exploratory surgery
A few vets I’ve had the misfortune of knowing liked to start with the most expensive and invasive diagnostic tools known to man. Luckily they are a distant memory and most I’ve encountered are not that way. I mention this to make you aware a lot can be determined from a blood and urine test, and once there’s a starting point, you’ll know which, if any, further testing is needed.
If your vet insists on starting from the most complex, ask for a reason.
A diagnosis has been made and now treatment can begin. While the cause will be treated/managed, your vet will likely want to tackle the symptom (weight loss) immediately. That may include things like a change in diet, IV nutrients which he may want to start on the spot in the clinic, an appetite stimulant or anti nausea medication if your dog has not been interested in eating.
Living and management
Once your vet sends you home with a treatment plan, you must follow it to the letter. Your vet will probably have already scheduled a follow up appointment and may even call you to see how your dog is doing. Ask him how long it is likely to take before any improvement is evident. If that time has long come and gone, call immediately, do not wait until your appointment to speak up.
The truth about weight loss in older dogs – conclusion
I have done more than my fair share of worrying about my senior dog Red, so it’s understandable if you’re imagining the worst. I wish you didn’t though, it’s too stressful to worry before you have to.
What’s important when it comes to caring for senior dogs is to be aware of any sudden changes in behaviour, and speak to your vet, no matter how minor it seems to you. That is the best time to catch something, and increase the chances of a positive outcome.
The truth about weight loss in older dogs is that it’s an indication that he needs a check up, and for now that’s all it is.
Has your dog experienced any weight loss? What was the reason, and what kind of treatment was recommended? Sharing helps others so please tell your story in the comment section below, or on my Facebook page.