Dogs are usually known to have a ravenous appetite and devour any food you give them. That's why you might have heard someone tell you that "you eat like a dog" when you gobble up a big fat juicy burger in a matter of seconds, leaving nothing but trickles of burger sauce on your face. But what happens when your actual dog stops eating like one? There are times when dogs lose their appetite, and it worries their dog owners. There are various reasons why your canine might experience a loss in appetite, and we'll tell you what they could be.
A temporary loss of appetite in your dog is not something to become immediately concerned about. Just like us, dogs are sometimes not hungry, or else some stress in their day has caused them to lose interest in food. However, a more prolonged loss of appetite in your dog is a serious sign that something is wrong. What things contribute to a poor appetite? The desire to eat is regulated by an interaction between the digestive tract, adipose tissue, and the brain.
- Lifestyle and lack of exercise
Two chief hormones affected by exercise also control appetite, but in different directions. Ghrelin stimulates appetite, causing hunger, while peptide YY suppresses appetite.
The sedentary lifestyle of most urban populations and the pets that share their homes have undoubtedly contributed to the reduced utilization of metabolic calorie intake. When coupled with a lack of regular exercise, caloric utilization is further stagnated.
- Dietary issues and indiscretion
A transient "sugar high" results from foods with a high glycemic index, such as sugars, flour, rice, white potatoes, and bread. This is followed by feelings of hunger, which promote a craving for more food. Furthermore, well-intentioned people may share unsuitable foods with their "hungry" pets to stop them begging, such as bacon, burgers, or fries, which just aggravates the situation.
- The gut microbiome
Gut bacteria can affect how different foods are digested and produce chemicals that produce a feeling of satiety. People and pets that eat food high in fiber generally have lower weight, likely due to the role of gut bacteria in digesting fiber. These bacteria also digest certain antioxidants, known as flavonoids, found in plants; this helps prevent weight gain. Lastly, gut bacteria can influence how dietary fats are absorbed in the intestines, affecting how body fat is stored.
Gut microbiota regulate the brain-gut axis. While the hypothalamus and brain stem are the primary central sites of appetite regulation, the gut microbiome can stimulate peripheral sensory neurons (cells that transmit nerve impulses). The vagus nerve is the major nervous system pathway involved and conveys information from the gastrointestinal contents to the brain: it also modulates gastrointestinal motility and feeding behavior.
1. Your Dog Is Experiencing Stress or Hormonal Changes
Dogs are sensitive creatures, and they like their environment a certain way. When there's a disruption to that sense of order they have, it can be a very stressful situation for your pup, and that might cause him to stop eating. Tons of stressors can cause a hormonal imbalance in your dog. For example, moving to a new home, being away from their pet parents, introducing a new household member, leaving their litter, losing a fur friend, or being left in a kennel or someone else's care.
There are cases when a dog might have severe separation anxiety inasmuch as he wouldn't eat his meal while his owners are away. If your dog is depressed from losing someone dear to him, he might not eat for days. It could also be that your dog is pregnant, and all the hormonal changes going on in her body is causing her to lose her appetite. However, loss of appetite in pregnant dogs is normal, and you shouldn't be too worried about it as it will only last for the first few days of her pregnancy.
2. Your Dog Doesn't Like Gross Food or Prescription Diets
Sometimes people say that dogs like to eat anything, but that's not necessarily true. Since dogs have a more sensitive nose than humans, they can smell if the food in their bowl has gone bad. Make sure to read the label of any dog food you're giving your pet to make sure it hasn't expired. If you're feeding your dog fresh food, make sure nothing is rotten or growing molds or has been left out in the open for too long.
If your dog is on a prescription diet, there's a big chance that he won't like the new food being presented to him and refuse it. Choosing a hydrated, natural diet like Volhard gives your dog whole food ingredients, no synthetics, and makes your dog feel good when they eat.
3. Your Dog is Overfed
Many dogs today are overfed and overweight. A lot of that is due to the feeding guidelines written on the back of commercial dog food. Some guidelines would tell you to serve 4-5 cups of food to your pup, but not all dogs can finish that recommended amount. Forcing your dogs to eat more than they need can cause digestive problems and lethargy, which will lead to more appetite loss. It is about understanding calories- just like you do with your food. If the dog is taking in more calories than expending them- then you will get a dog that is obese or not eating when food is presented.
Additionally, giving them too many doggy treats to reward them for good behavior or just to show them some extra love can lead to overfeeding. Remember that treats should be no more than 10 percent of their daily calorie intake. As tempting as it is to give your dog all the doggy treats he wants, don't. Your dog will only end up relying on those treats as their sustenance instead of the real food they should be eating.
4. Your dog simply does not like to eat a lot
Some canines just don't have a big appetite, and you shouldn't worry about that. There is nothing wrong with them. They were just born that way, and it's in their genetics. For example, thousands of years ago, Huskies were bred to run and carry sleds all day. Their bodies have adapted to working all day and not stopping for any lunch breaks, so their metabolism is highly efficient, and they can go on happily about their day even with just a tiny amount of food in their system.
Moreover, your hound has descended from long ancestors that hunt in the wild and can only eat when they find food. That means that dogs' bodies are fully adapted to living a life of fasting and gorging. Their bodies are masters of storing energy, and once it's depleted, your dog will eat on its own.
5. Your dog is spoiled
We know that it's easy to get carried away with spoiling our beloved fur children. We want them to have all the finer things in life and live like kings and queens of the household. However, spoiling your dog with too many grub options can create a tiny fur monster. This is especially true for the smaller, furry dog breeds like Shih Tzus. They are as picky as they are cute. One day you might switch out their regular dog food for something else and notice that they're not eating it, so you give them a nice juicy steak instead. If you keep dressing up your puppy's food with something more mouthwatering, your dog will develop an attention-seeking mindset of, "If I don't eat this, my owner will give me something better."
Giving them treats before their meal times will also cause them to lose their appetite. That's why you never give dessert before dinner. Try not to be swayed by their puppy-dog eyes when they ask for a better dish. Dogs will never starve themselves to death, and they will eat when they are hungry.
6. Your dog is ill
The most probable reason why your dog has lost his appetite is that he is sick. When you look up different symptoms for dog illnesses, you will see that loss of appetite is the most common. Whether it be bacterial or viral infections, dental issues, or more severe illnesses, dogs will not even want to think about eating when they can feel something wrong going on inside their body. As soon as you see that your dog's loss of appetite is accompanied by other symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, bloody stools, and other concerning signs, take them straight to the vet so you can diagnose and treat them as quickly as possible.
7. Your dog has kidney problems
As your dog ages, it starts to develop more chronic diseases. If you see a drastic change in your dog's eating, drinking, and urinating patterns, then your dog might be exhibiting symptoms of kidney disease. Kidney failure in dogs can present with several gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, increased thirst, and a loss of appetite. This is because the kidneys are not filtering the toxins out of the system, causing damage to the digestive tract. This means that your dog may feel pain or nausea when eating and blame the food, therefore refusing to eat any more as it causes such discomfort.
Changes in diet are often used to treat kidney disease, and changes are made depending on the stage and severity of the disease, so check with your vet before altering the food you give your dog.
Dogs will experience a loss of their healthy appetite at some point in their lives, and as dog parents, you will always be concerned whenever they do. However, being aware of the different reasons for their decreased eating habits can help you solve the problem faster and get them back to eating well. You know your dog best, so trust your instincts and pay attention when your dog expresses any change in his eating patterns.