How To Get Your Older Dog To Eat

by janie knetzer

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Chances are that if you’re reading this article then you’re struggling with how to get your older dog to eat. I’ve certainly fought this battle more than once over the years and I know how upsetting it can be for the dog owner.

how to get an old dog to eat

So you want me to eat huh?

Of course it’s critical that your old dog eat in order to maintain his strength and I hope this article will help.

Confirmation Is Vital

There are several different reasons that can cause your older dog to stop eating such as disease or illness, parasites or stress and anxiety (behavioral). It’s very important that you don’t try and guess what’s causing your dog’s appetite loss. Make an appointment for your old dog with his or her veterinarian.

Although a loss of appetite can be a symptom of several issues; it’s important that your vet run tests to rule out that disease or illness may be causing the problem. Once the vet confirms that your old fur baby is definitely o.k. health wise, then you can start evaluating why the lack of interest in food.

Rose – The Finicky German Shepherd

Over the past 6 weeks, I’ve been working with a friend whose twelve year old German Shepherd suddenly developed reoccurring stool problems as well as daily accidents in the house. Rose was always a good eater up until about six months ago when her owner took her to the vet for an ear problem. Rose was diagnosed with Vestibular Disease due to an inner ear infection. Other than Vestibular Disease, the vet indicated that Rose was healthy.

Rose’s owner contacted me due to her stool problems and sudden onset of anorexia. Anorexia in dogs is when a dog has a complete loss of appetite. It’s not the same as the eating disorder Anorexia Nervosa in people. Shortly after visiting the vet, Rose’s owner decided to use a dewormer on her in the event that she may have developed worms. From this point forward, Rose’s stool and eating habits changed completely.

Since Rose wouldn’t eat, her owner decided to try boiled chicken and rice which Rose accepted with a doggy smile!

Determining Whether It’s The Food Or Something Else

Since the vet ruled out any real health concerns, my suspicions as to why Rose wasn’t eating were more behavioral than anything, especially since she was always a good eater. Although Rose was diagnosed with Vestibular Disease, she also developed certain behavioral symptoms around that time as well.

Coincidentally, Rose’s owner welcomed a new German Shepherd puppy into the home around the same time that Rose’s symptoms started to appear. This confirmed my suspicions that much of Rose’s issues were indeed behavioral. Plus, Rose was used to eating free form; having dry food available at all times and now with the new puppy, this changed her entire routine. All dogs like routine, but old dogs rely on it!

Reinforcing Rose’s Role In The Pack

I explained the importance that Rose must always be first – before the pup. Rose goes in and out of the doors first, she gets her food first, etc. Although dogs will typically work out any “pack” issues themselves, it’s a must for the owner to reinforce the older dog’s role.

I further explained the importance of a healthy diet for both dogs and further explained that boiled chicken and rice isn’t a balanced diet. This type of bland diet is typically recommended as a temporary diet for gastric upset or a diet for a recuperating pet. A diet of boiled chicken/ground beef and rice should never be your dog’s only source of food without adequate supplementation. It is void of all the nutrients your dog needs such as vitamins and MINERALS which are critical.

Since both dogs were used to eating commercial dry dog food, my recommendation for Rose and Niko was a much higher quality dog food for both dogs. Niko was also battling some dog skin problems too which a good food and a few supplements will usually take care of.

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