Loss of Appetite in Dogs

PetMD Editorial
Aug 14, 2008
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Anorexia in Dogs

Anorexia, as it applies to humans, has been in the news so much that most of us are aware of it on some level. Anorexia is a very serious condition causing an animal to refuse to eat totally and its food intake to decrease so much that it leads to drastic weight loss. Dog owners should consult a veterinarian immediately to identify the cause.

The condition or disease described in this medical article can affect both dogs and cats. If you would like to learn more about how this disease affects cats, please visit this page in the PetMD health library.


  • Fever
  • Pallor
  • Jaundice
  • Pain
  • Changes in organ size
  • Changes in the eyes
  • Distention of the abdomen
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart and lung sounds are diminished


There are many potential causes which can be attributed to a dog not eating. For example, most diseases (including infectious, autoimmune, respiratory, gastrointestinal, bone, endocrine and neurological diseases) will cause a dog to avoid eating because of pain, obstruction, or other factors. Anorexia can also be due to a psychological problem, such as stress or changes in routine, environment or diet. Other causes include:

  • Aging
  • Cardiac failure
  • Toxicities and drugs
  • A growth (mass)


The veterinarian will generally conduct a thorough medical history on your dog, including any changes in diet, environment, or routine. It will help if you have observed your dog's eating habits and identify any problems it may have picked up, chewing or swallowing food. The veterinarian will then conduct various tests including:

  • Ophthalmic, dental, nasal, facial and neck examinations
  • Heart-worm exam
  • Retrovirus exam
  • Blood analysis
  • Urinalysis
  • X-rays of the abdomen and chest
  • Endoscopy and tissue and cell samples


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