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Weight Loss In Older Dogs: When To Worry

Our beloved canine companions' health needs and physical conditions change as they age. One common issue many dog owners encounter is weight loss in older dogs. Understanding the causes, knowing when to be concerned, and learning how to manage and address this issue can help ensure your senior dog remains healthy and comfortable in their golden years.

Older Dog's Weight

While it is true that many dogs tend to gain weight as they age, some dogs start to lose weight. You may be wondering why your dog is losing weight. There are two possible reasons: it could be due to an underlying condition that needs to be addressed or a natural part of your dog's aging process, in which case their diet may need to be adjusted.

What are the causes of weight loss in older dogs?

The best approach for helping your senior dog lose weight is monitoring for additional symptoms. Some common causes include:

  • Medical conditions: Diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, and cancer can cause significant weight loss in older dogs. Additionally, dental problems can make eating painful, leading to decreased food intake.
  • Metabolic changes: As dogs age, their metabolism slows down. However, certain metabolic disorders, like hyperthyroidism, can cause increased metabolism, resulting in weight loss despite a normal or increased appetite.
  • Digestive issues: Conditions like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), parasites, or gastrointestinal infections can lead to poor nutrient absorption, which can cause weight loss.
  • Muscle mass lLoss: Known as sarcopenia, the natural loss of muscle mass with age can also contribute to weight loss. This is often seen in older dogs and can be exacerbated by reduced physical activity.
  • Diet & Appetite changes: Older dogs may experience a decrease in appetite due to changes in their senses of taste and smell, leading to less food consumption and weight loss.

When should you be concerned about an old dog losing weight?

It’s normal for dogs to experience some weight changes as they age, but significant or rapid weight loss should not be ignored. You should be concerned if:

  • Your dog loses more than 10% of their body weight without a clear reason.
  • Other symptoms like lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, or changes in urination accompany weight loss.
  • Your dog appears to be in pain or discomfort while eating or shows disinterest in previously enjoyed food.

Why is my old dog losing weight even though it's eating?

If your old dog is losing weight despite having a good appetite, underlying health issues may be at play. Some possibilities include:

  • Hyperthyroidism: This condition increases metabolism, causing weight loss even if your dog eats more.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes can lead to weight loss as the body cannot properly utilize glucose for energy.
  • Cancer: Certain cancers can cause weight loss through metabolic changes and the body’s increased energy needs to fight the disease.
  • Malabsorption syndromes: Conditions affecting the intestines can prevent proper nutrient absorption, leading to weight loss despite normal food intake.

What to feed an old dog that is losing weight?

Choosing the right diet is crucial for helping your senior dog regain lost weight. Consider the following tips:

  • High-quality protein: Ensure their diet includes high-quality, easily digestible proteins to help maintain muscle mass.
  • Healthy fats: Incorporate healthy fats, such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, to provide extra calories and support joint health.
  • Specialized senior dog foods: Look for foods specifically formulated for seniors. These foods often contain added nutrients to support aging bodies.
  • Frequent, smaller meals: Feeding smaller, more frequent meals can encourage better digestion and nutrient absorption.

How to Get Your Senior Dog to Gain Weight

To help your senior dog gain weight, you can implement the following strategies:

  • Regular veterinary check-ups: Ensure any underlying health issues are addressed with the help of your veterinarian.
  • High-calorie supplements: Consider adding high-calorie supplements or snacks to their diet to increase their calorie intake.
  • Gentle exercise: Encourage gentle exercise to maintain muscle mass without overexertion.
  • Monitor weight: Regularly monitor your dog's weight and adjust their diet to ensure they gain weight healthily.

When should you seek veterinary advice?

If your senior dog is rapidly losing weight, go to your veterinarian as soon as possible. If you are concerned about your dog's weight in general, bring it up with your veterinarian at your senior dog's bi-annual routine exam.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your senior dog is losing weight, please get in touch with our Grand Prairie vets immediately to schedule an appointment. 

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