dog won't eat
May 17, 2020 7:43 PM   Subscribe

My dog Ronnie (who was born shortly after Reagan died, so we thought the world was was safer with him reborn as a dog) stopped eating over two weeks ago. He's 16, mostly miniature poodle about 15lb when well, and has had a happy life. He's still drinking but refuses all food so he's fading away. He seems in no pain but is obviously getting frail and wobbly. So I'm wondering what comes next.

Our kind, caring vet tried metronidazole then azithromycin but neither made any difference. Ronnie's had a couple of IV fluid+B12 infusions, after which he perked up for a day but still won't eat. The vet suggested that it may be endogenous: cancer or some metabolic failure perhaps, something along those lines. I don't want to go in for "heroic measures", he's old and deserves a decent death. If he shows signs of suffering I'll ask the vet for euthanasia.

Is there anything else worth trying, without going to extremes?

posted by anadem to Pets & Animals (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Have you tried an appetite stimulant? I was prescribed Valium for my cat in a similar case and it jump started her eating long enough to keep her with us for a while longer.
posted by frumiousb at 7:58 PM on May 17 [1 favorite]

Just a checkin, from the cat world: consult with the doggie dentist?
Had a cat with a similar situation, vet pulled a couple of bad teeth and she was years younger next afternoon and eating again. Pretty good, for non-heroic measures.
posted by bartleby at 9:33 PM on May 17 [5 favorites]

I’d say that if he’s refusing food and medication isn’t changing it, might just be his time. I had a cat with a chronic illness, and when he got to the “I’m done” stage, the change in his behavior was pretty dramatic.

I’d suggest spoiling the shit out of him with whatever favorite treats he ever liked in his life, and maybe try a can or two of the unhealthy garbage Doritos-equivalent canned food (Fancy Feast for cats, dunno what the equivalent for dogs would be) to see if it entices him. One thing I do because my cats are weird and actually like it, is to mix a can of pate canned food (as opposed to flakes or chunks) with water to make a soup. If he’s having digestive problems, then that might be an easily digested alternative.
posted by Autumnheart at 9:36 PM on May 17 [2 favorites]

If you are looking for something to tempt your dog, the one thing that ours liked best at the end was rotisserie chicken from the grocery store.

Also, our dog was very stoic - even at the very very end he wasn't complaining or showing outward signs of pain even thought it was very clear that it was the end. So, just saying you may not get clear signals of pain.

I'm sorry - I hope maybe you find something that will give Ronnie more good days.
posted by metahawk at 10:08 PM on May 17 [1 favorite]

I'm so sorry. I asked a similar question years ago and cooked turkey and boiled sweet potatoes did it. Maybe you will find some other things to try in there. Wishing Ronnie some more good days.
posted by quiet coyote at 10:09 PM on May 17 [1 favorite]

Another cat person here--baby food was what I used to get a sick cat to eat a little.
In fact, i knew that one of them was really sick when he refused even that. The stuff I got just had meat & water. You could DIY with a food processor if you're so inclined.
posted by luckynerd at 10:19 PM on May 17

Oh, this is hard and I’ve been there. I’m really sorry. Near the end of my dog’s life the conversations I had with vets about what to watch for to indicate our time together was growing short all came with the advice that lack of appetite was a sign to watch out for.

In our case this timing seemed hard to figure out because there were foods she would still reliably eat — I started buying’s “Human Grade” Tylee’s brand food that she really liked, which I’m pretty sure is because it was already cooked (easy for her to digest), soft, and had a strong enough smell to entice her. She would also eat pumpkin purée, chicken baby food, and freeze dried chicken treats. Plain yogurt and olive oil were two food toppings that would sometimes get her interested if she wasn’t digging in right away.

So, those are all foods that most senior dogs will eat when their appetite decreases due to fading sense of smell, pain, or illness, and Ronnie may enjoy them too. But the more precise advice that I was told too late: a good marker of quality of life isn’t when a dog will eat the really delicious foods. It’s when a reasonably non-picky dog stops eating their normal food that quality of life might be significantly impaired. This was relayed to us from the in-home vet that offered euthanasia while she was examining my dog to determine if it was the right time for her services. I told her the things above she was still eating and she told me that most dogs will eat high value foods up until the very end. I felt guilty that I didn’t know that because for some reason I kept telling myself if she was eating something then it wasn’t time.

In my case hindsight shows me that I waited too long and wish I had erred on the side of saying goodbye a little too soon. I know a lot of other factors go into the decision and you’re carefully considering them, I hope you get more meaningful time with Ronnie and that he feels up to eating something soon!
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 10:49 PM on May 17 [3 favorites]

he's old and deserves a decent death. If he shows signs of suffering I'll ask the vet for euthanasia.

As gently as possible, Ronnie is euthanizing himself. Starvation to the point of heart failure isn't a great way to go. I would discuss with your vet again, this time about the options for palliative care and euthanasia. We are so lucky to be able to do this for the pets who depend on us to give them the end they deserve.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:03 AM on May 18 [3 favorites]

ugh. I'm sorry you are going through this! We have struggled with this with our old dog, trying just about every tasty tidbit we could think of: Steak! Ground beef! Pork necks! She would hardly touch it, and if I mixed it with any rice / veg, she wouldn't eat at all, was becoming scary-skinny, and on top of everything else was getting to the point that she couldn't poop what she did eat, because no fiber.

Without addressing whether your dog should be euthanized, since I have no expertise to opine on that, what unlocked the puzzle for us was cooking chicken leg/thigh parts with rice and frozen mixed vegetables in the pressure cooker. In the pressure cooker is important, because it totally infuses the rice and veg with the flavor of the chicken. And again, it's important that it's this fattier chicken, rather than, say, chicken breast. We don't include all the skin in her food, but we do cook it with the skin on.

I use about 70 grams (around 4 tablespoons) of short grain rice and a couple of handfuls of frozen veg (with peas and chopped green beans, red bell pepper, carrots, potatoes; if it's the kind with corn, she won't eat it; if we can't find this kind, we just use frozen green beans), 2 large leg-thigh pieces (frozen is okay), and 1 to 1.5 cups water. Cook in pressure cooker at high for 35 minutes, and natural release. We pull the meat out, debone and chop into very small bits (chewing problems) and mix with the rest, which makes a very tasty sludge, and lasts for at least a couple of days, maybe as many as four. (I just go with the flow, if she's willing to eat more, I keep dishing it out). She hasn't refused to eat since I've been making this, though she will not eat it if it's just cooked chicken + cooked rice and veg, non-pressure cooker method. She no longer likes sweet potato, or yogurt, or sardines. She will eat some "digestive" type cookies (broken into bits) pretty enthusiastically, (but if trying, be careful not to use any with artificial sweetener). Won't touch any dog food or dog treats we've offered.

Obviously, different dogs under different conditions are different, so this is only a suggestion of something that may be worth trying, not that I think it's some magical all-dogs recipe. Good luck, and hugs to you and your pup.
posted by taz at 1:44 AM on May 18

Dogs are stoics. They don't show pain unless it is very bad. Does he wince when you rub him in certain areas?

A cold scrambled egg enticed our dogs at the end for a couple of days but they stopped eating that, too.

My husband of 44 years has just died. He dwindled over a year. I wish I could have euthanized him. He was going to die soon, no question. His doctor had withdrawn active treatment and referred us to hospice so I'm not talking through my non-doctor-trained hat when I write that there was no way he could recover. Why not make his death easier?

I couldn't give him that gift but you could give your dog that gift. It is fast and painless. For the dog: you'll feel something I'm sure.
posted by tmdonahue at 4:50 AM on May 18 [5 favorites]

Refusing to eat is a classic sign of the time being there. 2 days of no eating is pretty sure sign. I had a pup die last year (cancer).. he was doing well, but then suddenly stopped eating, and the vet said that would be the main sign.

There are in-home euthanasia services, which we have used twice now (aformentioned cancer, and prior to that, a 17 1/2 year old dalmatian/lab), and it's such a better experience that packing them up and all the stress of the car and vet's office..

Sorry for your loss.
posted by rich at 6:10 AM on May 18

Check your dog for signs of nausea, a nauseous dog will not want to eat. Look for excessive licking of lips this usually indicates low level nausea. Is your dog dehydrated, a dehydrated dog will not want to eat. Google the pinch test if you're not sure how to do a home check for this.

Have you had a blood test to rule out kidney/liver problems? Both often cause nausea & in some cases can be treated. With treatment our senior dog has been happily living with a liver tumor that caused similar symptoms for almost a year now.

To answer your question. If he's mostly happy & pain free except for the not eating you may need to tempt him with foods, older dogs often have a fading sense of smell (just like people) and so food doesn't smell tempting to them. You want soft, foods, smelly foods. Serve the foods warm this makes them more tempting & makes them smell more. Look at feeding cooked chicken (no skin or bones), baby foods can work but check ingredients are dog safe or make your own purees. Tinned pumpkin is often popular and is tinned tuna as it's nice & smelly.

To answer the other question I found this sheet a year ago when I thought we'd have to euthanase our dog, it was very helpful.
posted by wwax at 7:28 AM on May 18

It's been drilled into me time and time again by friends and family who are vets and vet techs: When your beloved pet is showing signs of suffering, it is too late and you should have considered euthanasia the week before that.

For most dogs, their "best day ever" consists of eating as much of whatever they want. If Ronnie isn't up for eating, his window into best day ever has likely closed - he definitely already had it, sometime in the past. But he can't remember it, because dogs live in the now and cannot contemplate their existences in the ways we can and do. They do not wonder what will happen tomorrow, and also don't think about how yesterday might have been better or worse. Those calculations are ours and ours alone as the caretaker of these magnificent creatures.

I'm holding you and Ronnie in my heart. Thanks for being such a good dog custodian all these years, the world is better for it.
posted by juniperesque at 8:41 AM on May 18

You know the dog; can you see pain and departure in Ronnie's eyes? I think you are coming to that point quite rapidly. Ask the vet bluntly; they will be honest about too soon or it's time. Then take the day and make some broth, jarred chicken gravy is good, maybe some pureed liver, overcooked soft rice, cake, whatever the dog would like a little of. Sit and talk most of the day on the couch or in a favorite spot. Take a couple pictures. Say goodbye. I'm so happy you had each other. Gonna throw the ball for my dog and think of you two. My dog thanks you.
posted by theora55 at 1:38 PM on May 18

Coming in to suggest an appetite stimulant like Entyce or mirtazipine. Also nthing serve the food warm, and try different things to see what he likes (if anything).
posted by bananacabana at 10:25 PM on May 18

« Older Picnic area half-way between Boston area and...   |   Where can I fiind this table? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments