Do Older Dogs Eat Less? (or more?)

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Do older dogs eat less? Many changes take place as your dog ages. One of these changes may be his appetite and how much he is eating. After all, he should be gobbling up the best senior dog food that you’re feeding him, right? Of course, anytime your dog stops eating as much or seems to lose interest in his food can be alarming. Perhaps even more so when you’re dealing with an elderly dog. But is it always a cause for concern, or can this be a normal change?

So, do older dogs eat less? Yes. Older dogs have a tendency to eat less than when they were adults because they are simply not as active as they used to be. Metabolisms also slow down, which can be a contributing factor. But while eating less can be normal in older dogs, there are also some minor and major medical conditions that can cause an older dog to eat less.

If you are worried about your dog’s change in appetite, you’re not alone. This can be a very scary thing, and you’re right to wonder whether or not this is a ‘normal’ occurrence or not. We are going to discuss when it’s normal for your dog to eat less, and when something else may be standing in the way of your older dog and a delicious meal.

What Causes Older Dogs to Eat Less?

There are actually several reasons why your older dog is eating less. For the most part, eating less is a normal part of the aging process. However, sometimes it can be linked to something more serious that should be checked out by a veterinarian. So how can you tell the difference between a dog who is simply getting older or one that is in pain or suffering?

The most important thing to keep in mind is whether or not he stopped eating his food abruptly, or if he simply doesn’t seem as hungry anymore.

Any dog- old or not- that seems to eat fairly well one day and refuses his food the next should be checked out for possible medical conditions that are making it impossible or unappealing to eat his food.

Also, keep in mind that appetites fluctuate, and that is normal.

Sometimes your dog may eat more on Monday, a little less on Tuesday and Wednesday, and jump back up to his regular appetite on Thursday and Friday. You need to keep an eye on your dog’s eating habits, especially as he gets older.

Now that we know when and what to look for when it comes to older dogs eating food, here are some of the most common reasons why your dog isn’t eating as much as he used to.

1. He’s Getting Old

Yes, it’s true- eating less can simply be a part of the aging process and it is nothing to worry about. As your dog becomes older, his metabolism slows down generously from that of when he was a puppy and an adult.

This means that he won’t require a whole lot of food to keep him going and will stay fuller for an extended period of time.

Another reason why old age has an impact on hunger and eating is simply due to the fact that your older dog isn’t exercising as much, which means he isn’t burning as many calories.

To put it simply, if he is not burning calories, he won’t feel as hungry.

It’s the same way it works for humans- if we don’t exercise or burn enough calories throughout the day, we won’t feel as hungry as if we had run a marathon in the morning.

Your older dog is going to be more fond of napping than ever. Of course, this only adds to the fact that he is less active than ever before, so he won’t require as many calories throughout the day. So let your elderly doggie enjoy his rest and eat when he wants to. It is all a natural part of him getting older.

2. He is Having Dental Problems

How does it feel to try and eat when you have a toothache?

Not very good, and the same holds true for your dog as well.

A lot of older dogs will end up with dental problems, such as broken teeth or cavities. This can lead to a mass amount of pain that will certainly cause your dog to not want to eat as much.

If you notice your dog has suddenly stopped eating as much and doesn’t want his food dish, then you might want to consider doing a visual check of his mouth. Sometimes you can virtually see the broken pieces of cavities, and these are painful, especially if they have become infected in any way. Get him checked out ASAP.

3. He is Suffering From a Physical Health Condition

Last but not least, there are a few health conditions that can cause your dog not to be interested in his food as much.

Some of the minor health problems that can affect your dog’s appetite include allergies, food sensitivities, digestive problems, or depression. He may also be suffering from a loss of scent and smell, which will make his food less appetizing.

More serious health conditions associated with a dog who is not eating include Addisons Disease, Kidney Disease, Cancer, and Heart Problems.

If you think any of these major health conditions may be to blame, check for these other signs as well as a lack of desire to eat:

  • Sudden weight gain or weight loss
  • Seems to be excessively thirsty
  • Whines, paces, and pants more often
  • Digestive troubles, such as vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation

It is important to have your dog checked out for any of these issues. A vet can rule out these medical conditions or find treatment for your poor dog. The sooner you get help for your dog, the easier time it will be finding the proper treatment and bringing him back to health.

Tips for Getting an Older Dog to Eat

If he is simply getting older and you are worried about his caloric intake, then consider one of these quick and easy tips:

  • Enhance his food so it tastes better. consider trying chicken broth or melted peanut butter. 
  • Consider switching to wet dog food. It may be more appealing and easier to consume.
  • Decrease the amount, but increase the regularity. Consider opting for 5 small meals a day, rather than 2 big ones. 
  • Exercise your dog more regularly. Try and increase his activity levels ever so slightly. Just make sure it’s not too strenuous for his age.
  • Consider an elevated dish. These will make it easier and more comfortable for your elderly dog to munch. 

Related Questions

How do I know when my dog is dying?

Some signs of your elderly dog reaching the end of his days include:

– A loss of coordination and appetite 
– No interest in water
– Does not enjoy or desire to move around or play games
– Increasingly more tired
– Vomiting and incontinence
– Muscles beginning to twitch
– Overall confusion
– Slower respiration

What age is a senior dog?

Smaller breeds, such as a toy Poodle or a Chihuahua, will not be considered an elderly dog until they are around 10 to 12 years old. Larger breeds, on the other hand, can be senior citizens by the time they are 5 or 6. However, most vets will consider a dog to be in his elderly stage at around 8 years old.

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