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Why does my dog have no interest in any kind of food?
June 15, 2009 7:05 AM   Subscribe

Why does my dog have no interest in any kind of food?

I know YANAVet and YANMVet, but we are working with a vet we know and trust and at this point I'm just looking for additional suggestions.

We adopted our dog, a female beagle approximately 3 years old, from the SPCA in January. She had been a stray and needed a lot of TLC. She had bad ear infections in both ears and pretty severe worm infestations. The good news is that we've gotten both of those problems cleared up. However, throughout all of this she's had persistent periods of time where she just wouldn't eat.

We had been assuming the loss of appetite was a symptom of her various other problems over the past few months, but now that she's otherwise healthy, she's still not eating consistently. When this first started, she would stop eating for 2-3 days, then go back to eating normally for a couple of weeks. However, it seems to be getting progressively worse. Over the last 2 weeks she's been eating very little, just 1/2 cup of food every couple of days at best.

She's had bloodwork done twice, urinalysis done twice, and numerous fecal samples taken. All came back normal, with the exception of slightly elevated protein levels in the urine. She had one incidence of vomiting blood over a month ago, which caused the vet to assume the problem is an ulcer. We've been treating her accordingly, with doses of Pepcid every night (to control acid production) and doses of carafate (sucralfate) as needed to help sooth her stomach. At first the carafate made a dramatic difference and had her eating within 20 minutes of dosing. Now even the carafate doesn't help in getting her to eat.

We've tried a couple of different dog foods (Science Diet and a no-allergen version of Natural Balance). She gets NO people food, with the exception of a small amount of peanut butter once a day to give her the Pepcid and on occasion, when it gets really bad, I will make her boiled chicken and rice. Even that usually takes some serious cajoling and literally sticking it in her face before she will eat it. The only thing she will consistently eat is Milk Bones, and even then she sometimes saves them for a day before eating them.

She has no other symptoms, aside from maybe slight lethargy and sometimes we can hear her stomach rumbling. She'll eat grass when she really doesn't feel well. Everything is, ahem, coming out properly. She's not vomiting. She just won't eat!

Like I said earlier, we are working with a vet. We have another appointment on Friday. At this point, I'm just looking for suggestions. What else could I ask the vet about and what other tests we should look into? Have you ever had a dog do this before? Does this sound like an ulcer to you? Any idea what could be causing her to not want to eat at all? We love this stupid little dog to death and it's breaking our hearts to not be able to make her better.
posted by geeky to Pets & Animals (25 answers total)
 
X-ray her stomach? Maybe she had eaten something that is still lodged or caused her some major stomach problems. Or some kind of stomach cancer. These can all be ruled out with an x-ray, I would imagine.
posted by Vaike at 7:14 AM on June 15, 2009


I would ask the vet for an ultrasound. Many veterinary clinics will have a trained ultrasound tech come in to do this work if they don't have one in house. There is so much going on inside a dog, that it helps to get all the information that you can.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 7:22 AM on June 15, 2009


You may want to ask your vet for a referral to an Internal Medicine specialist. These kind of nagging problems can often be more rare illnesses that general practice vets are unfamiliar with, and so are not as quick to diagnose. The IM specialist will also probably be able to do endoscopy/ultrasound/specialized lab tests that your regular vet does not have easy access to.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:26 AM on June 15, 2009


I am not sure why she won't eat, but I have two suggestions of things to feed dogs that refuse food- Natural Balance dog food rolls (they're tastier to dogs than the Natural Balance kibble you tried), which can 100% replace normal food, and rotisserie chicken, which even very sick dogs will typically eat.
posted by emilyd22222 at 7:31 AM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


X-ray her stomach? Maybe she had eaten something that is still lodged or caused her some major stomach problems.

I forgot to mention she had standard x-rays done too, a couple of months ago, to rule out other problems. No foreign objects showed up on the x-ray. I guess there's a very slim chance she could have eaten something since then that got stuck, but that chance is very, very slim.
posted by geeky at 7:52 AM on June 15, 2009


I am soooo not a vet, but have you tried the old hunter's trick of putting Karo syrup on her food? I've known a number of beagles that got weird about food, and pouring the Karo syrup over their food not only made them eat it, but seemed to help them retain it as well. Again, I'm not a vet. But it might be worth a try.
posted by teleri025 at 8:20 AM on June 15, 2009


Err, why no human food? I mean, I agree you don't want to have to cook for your dog, but you could throw her a raw meaty bone or a raw chicken leg and see if she's more interested. (Dogs do not get salmonella.)

Food choices aside, this may not be a health issue you need to address with your vet, but a behavioural issue you need to address with a behaviourist, or just learn to live with. She may just be a picky eater, or she may react this way to stress, or she may fast due to seasonal changes.

Our boxer, whom we adopted at age 4, regularly goes off her food at the slightest provocation. When people come over, we know with 100% certainty she will not eat her next meal. If we travel, she'll happily race around her new destination, but won't eat - for up to 72 hours. When I travel, she won't eat - for up to 5 days.

As long as she's hydrated and otherwise behaving normally, we've stopped worrying about it.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:21 AM on June 15, 2009


Is it possible that her lack of appetite is due to nothing more than just a lack of appetite? I realize that beagles are usually quite food-driven, but individual variations are always possible.

You mentioned that she has no other symptoms and, if she isn't noticeably underweight, perhaps she's just one of those dogs who eats sporadically. I personally have never had a dog like that, but I've heard about them from people I generally consider to be trustworthy. ;)
posted by DrGail at 8:25 AM on June 15, 2009


Is she depressed? Did something change in the household, is she stressed out? Does she have "appetite fatigue"-- maybe try tastier food, dry instead of wet or vice versa? Just a thought, good luck!
posted by aquafortis at 8:34 AM on June 15, 2009


Err, why no human food?

When we first brought her home, we didn't want to create bad habits (ie. begging), and since all of this started we've tried to limit her diet to figure out what's going on with her stomach. But really she has no interest in people food. I've tried offering her occasional bits of people food but she always turns her nose up at it. We get the impression she's never been exposed to it before, so she doesn't know it's tasty and she should eat it!

She may just be a picky eater, or she may react this way to stress, or she may fast due to seasonal changes.

Is she depressed? Did something change in the household, is she stressed out?

Nothing has changed, but we have had a lot of thunderstorms lately and she is scared of storms. I have considered that this may be stress-related because she is timid and somewhat easily scared, but her case seems extreme. She's afraid of thunderstorms, so of course I don't expect her to eat during one. But to not eat a full meal in two weeks? In the past when she's been scared, she's always eaten the following day. And if it is related to thunderstorms then we're in trouble because I can't control the weather!

FWIW, she does seem to do better around other dogs, probably because of the competition factor.

Thanks, DarlingBri, it does make me feel a little better to know someone else's dog has spells of not eating. Every other dog I've owned has eaten anything they could get their teeth on, so this is really baffling for me!

I'll ask the vet about possible ultrasounds and referrals, based on kuujjuarapik's and Rock Steady's suggestions. In the meantime I'd love to hear any other ideas if you've got them!
posted by geeky at 9:03 AM on June 15, 2009


You might want to try hand feeding kibble. This works when our pup wants nothing to do with his food even though his stomach is growling, for whatever reason he loves to eat anything we give him by hand.
posted by iamabot at 9:13 AM on June 15, 2009


My dog goes off his food pretty easily. It's hard to know sometimes whether it's just his normal not-eating or if something else is wrong. Cottage cheese is what we usually give him when he won't eat his kibble. (The vet recommended cottage cheese and rice once when he had diarrhea so that is how we ended up making that his go-to food.) He will usually eat the cottage cheese for a couple of days, then I will put his regular kibble (California Natural Lamb & Rice) in his bowl and smear some cottage cheese on top for a meal or two. Usually that gets him back on track, and if it doesn't we know it's time to see the vet.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:16 AM on June 15, 2009


Another idea (inspired by iamabot): My dog is a picky eater too, and she's chronically skin and bones. Even if she's not hungry, she'll eat kibble dispensed by one of those treat-dispensing toys that she has to knock around. The particular one we have is a large blue die with a hole on one face that my vet was selling. She's especially interested in it if I mix some treats in there with the kibble.

I'm thinking that her eating behaviors may indeed be due to her past- she may have been the alpha in a pack- I've heard alphas eat less to make sure the pack gets fed, and especially if food was rare, this may just be what she got used to doing. She also may have been hurt by other dogs or by former owners when she tried to eat.

Re: eating people food- don't feel bad about that, I don't let my dog do that either except when she's ill and not eating. However, feeding her people food in her bowl shouldn't encourage her to beg.
posted by emilyd22222 at 9:21 AM on June 15, 2009


geeky: Thanks, DarlingBri, it does make me feel a little better to know someone else's dog has spells of not eating. Every other dog I've owned has eaten anything they could get their teeth on, so this is really baffling for me!

FWIW, our most trusted vet (a friend, not our actual practice vet) knows about our dog and her habit, since she's refused to eat at this woman's house as well. Her attitude was "no perfectly healthy dog has ever starved itself to death - she'll eat when she's ready" so I stopped worrying. Since I already know that a) she is perfectly healthy in other respects, and b) she does this routinely, I check her gums, I check her skin, and I look for dehydration... and other than that, I just let her get on with it.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:39 AM on June 15, 2009


Ancient Beagle owner here. Interestingly, our old girl has gone into a non-eating period, too. She'll jump at people food, though. Go figure.

Anyway...Does she happen to lick at her rear much? Beagles can be very susceptible to blocked anal glands. Our girl has to have hers expressed at least once-a-month. Blocked glands can definitely inspire lethargy and a lack of appetite. If your vet hasn't checked her glands, have them do so.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:43 AM on June 15, 2009


I have a senior German Shepherd/Great Dane mix, and for the past six months or so, he's been kind of uninterested in food. Vet says nothing physical is causing the disinterest, but at his age (12) dogs sometimes lose interest in food. He's active and drinking normally, so I work on getting whatever food I can in him and try not to sweat the rest. He does sometimes look overly thin to my paranoid eyes, but he's okay.

Since your dog is much younger, that's probably not the reason, but to keep my guy eating, I make sure that I feed him dry food (for calories) mixed very well with wet food (for taste). I start out feeding him on his food stand, but after a few bites, he often loses interest and begins to wander, which is when I take the bowl off the feeder, sit on the floor, and feed him the remainder by scooping palmfuls out at a time. He seems to eat it out of my hand better than he does out of the bowl.

I often sing to him as well, much to the endless amusement of mr. crankylex.
posted by crankylex at 10:05 AM on June 15, 2009


She may be having a problem with simple congestion after the ear infections, so that she cannot smell the food.

Our cat went through this--although the sinus infection she had was cleared up, her sense of smell was still off. You could tell she was hungry, and she would even look at her food with a puzzled look on her face before turning away.

Look for very stinky food (sorry), or try using Laxatone and actually rubbing a bit on her nose (this worked for us). She'll want to lick her face to get it off, and once she tastes it, she'll realize she is hungry and keep eating if you have food nearby.

This may also be why your dog eats better when other dogs are around--she sees the food but doesn't smell it, but when she sees that the other dogs have no problem with it anyway, she will go ahead and dig in.

Although I agree with the no bad habits in general, when animals go through periods of not eating, it's a good idea to supplement their diet with whatever they will eat until they're back on track.
posted by misha at 10:33 AM on June 15, 2009


iamabot You might want to try hand feeding kibble.

Tried, doesn't seem to make a difference to her. She'll just sniff it and turn her nose up at it.

emilyd22222 My dog is a picky eater too, and she's chronically skin and bones. Even if she's not hungry, she'll eat kibble dispensed by one of those treat-dispensing toys that she has to knock around.

That's a great idea! Except my dog doesn't play with toys. Haha. I've tried putting her dog food in her kong and sealing it with a bit of peanut butter to make it interesting. She'll just lick the peanut butter out and leave the rest.

Did I mention my dog doesn't bark either? She's WEIRD! But very sweet and cute :)

Thorzdad Thanks for the suggestion. We actually just had the vet express them on our last visit a few weeks ago. The vet was even kind enough to show us the results *gag* I guess it wouldn't hurt to ask them to check again though!

misha That's an interesting theory, but her ears have been cleared up for a while now. Her sense of smell seems OK too, because she definitely picks up the tracks of cats and rabbits in the neighborhood. She does love stinky food though (of course), so that reminds me that I can try putting some fish oil on her food. That stuff stinks of dead fish, but she LOVED it when she was eating before. Don't worry, I'll let her eat just about anything she's willing to eat at this point! We won't let her starve :)

DarlingBri Her attitude was "no perfectly healthy dog has ever starved itself to death - she'll eat when she's ready" so I stopped worrying.

I've been trying to have that attitude too, which is why we've let this go one for 2+ weeks before making an appointment. We watch her carefully to make sure she's hydrated. I guess at this point I'd just like a definitive answer from the vet that she is healthy and that there's nothing serious wrong (like cancer) so I can stop worrying about her starving to death.
posted by geeky at 11:24 AM on June 15, 2009


I might ask your vet for something like metoclopramide, which is an anti-nauseant and can increase appetite. Offer food about 20 minutes after giving it.

I suggest you try a high quality grain free food like Orijen or Wellness Core, they are more calorie-dense, so she will get more nutrition from eating less, and they are very palatable. I would also try some good canned foods, and tripe if you can get it (Tripett and Before Grains both make a canned tripe for dogs). Tripe is irresistible to most dogs and can really improve appetite.

That said, I am not convinced that there isn't something medical going on, and at this point, I might want a referral to an internist. Good luck.

(and feeding people food doesn't cause begging, rewarding begging causes begging, my dogs eat all kinds of dog-appropriate people food, and they don't beg, because they only get fed people food when they are polite)
posted by biscotti at 3:48 PM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Had this same problem with my beagle, many years ago. It turned out he had some kind of infection in his pancreas, which the vets did not catch (despite x-rays AND exploratory surgery) until after the pancreas had ruptured. He died.

Of course, your dog's problem might not be that serious, but you should definitely ask the veterinarian about it.
posted by Lobster Garden at 9:45 AM on June 16, 2009


biscotti, Thanks for the tip on the metoclopramide. If the carafate continues not helping, we can look into using that. She's already on a grain-free food and we're feeding her chicken and rice, which she loves, to entice her to eat. So far, it's working but we can try tripe in the future as well.

Had this same problem with my beagle, many years ago. It turned out he had some kind of infection in his pancreas, which the vets did not catch (despite x-rays AND exploratory surgery) until after the pancreas had ruptured. He died.

Yikes! Is there some sort of test for that? Is it something that should show up on x-rays? What signs should we be looking for?
posted by geeky at 1:01 PM on June 16, 2009


Well, my beagle's symptoms were somewhat similar to yours. He wouldn't eat anything, not even dog treats, and he was lethargic. I believe he also had a fever. This went on for a week or two. He never vomited blood however. He didn't throw up at all, actually, as far as I remember--just wouldn't eat. The first time we took him to the vet, the bloodwork and initial tests were all normal, but they did exploratory surgery since they could not get him to eat and had to insert a feeding tube. When they didn't find anything they sent him back home. Then, when the pancreas ruptured, his abdomen was very swollen and that's when we took him back to the vet.

IANAV and if the vet told us there may have been other tests they could have done to detect it, I don't remember what they were (sorry!). I do remember, however, that the vets had no idea what was wrong and when they did x-rays and the exploratory surgery, they were not specifically looking at the pancreas. So it may be helpful to ask if she could have a problem with her pancreas--sorry I can't be more specific than that. This all happened several years ago.

He was also an old dog, and that may or may not have had something to do with it. Your dog is young so hopefully it is nothing serious. Sorry I could not be of more help.
posted by Lobster Garden at 10:23 AM on June 17, 2009


Thanks for the additional info, Lobster Garden. If nothing else, I'll keep it in mind as a possibility and run it by our vet to see what they think.
posted by geeky at 11:38 AM on June 17, 2009


It wasn't as big a problem as you're having, but our adopted, traumatized dog had a lot of pickiness/refusing food issues until we figured out some things.

We went through at least 20 brands of dry and canned dog food before finding one she will eat 90% of the time: Purina One canned, for what it's worth. We rotate her favorite flavors: beef, lamb, salmon and turkey.

When she ignores it, adding cheese frequently does the trick. Personally, I think human food is a better idea than dog food, and our girl *loves* rotisserie chicken (suggested above) and nearly all kinds of cheese.
posted by Lizzle at 1:25 PM on June 17, 2009


One other thing to check with dogs that aren't eating is their teeth. We've fostered a couple of beagles that were strays for a while and they struggled with dry food because their teeth were badly damaged (I'm assuming there was some nerve damage that made chewing painful). You can either wet down dry food or try something else.

In one of the cases, the dog started happily eating dry food after a week or two. Guess she was just getting comfortable.
posted by yerfatma at 10:34 AM on May 13, 2010


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