Weight loss is generally viewed positively by owners and vets. In fact, most owners find themselves seeking out low-calorie dog foods to promote weight loss when their older dogs start packing on extra pounds.
Below, well discuss some of the reasons older dogs suffer from weight loss and explain some of the most common signs and symptoms that should have you making an appointment with your vet. Some of the most common ailments associated with weight loss include dental problems, canine cognitive dysfunction, and kidney disease.
Ultimately, the most important thing is to treat any underlying illnesses causing the weight loss, but you may also want to employ some husbandry or management solutions, such as simply moistening your dogs food to make it easier to chew. Accordingly, it is important to visit your vet anytime your dog loses a significant amount of weight usually defined as 10% of their normal body mass. Many cancers produce visible lumps or sores, but plenty of others dont, which further illustrates the need to visit the vet when your dog loses weight quickly.
Heart disease often causes a chronic cough, as well as lethargy and excessive sleepiness, so be especially vigilant about observing your dogs behavior as he ages. If your dogs weight loss is the result of anxiety, depression or another mental ailment, youll need to take steps to help him feel a little better. You may be able to accomplish this by simply spending a little more time with him, but if that doesnt improve his mood, a consultation with an animal behavior therapist may be necessary.
Is it normal for a senior dog to get skinny?
It’s not unusual for even healthy senior dogs to lose weight slowly as they age. Things which can cause this type of weight loss include: Loss of muscle mass. Reduced appetite.
Why is my senior dog suddenly losing weight?
Unexplained weight loss can be a sign for conditions like diabetes mellitus and hypoadrenocorticism a.k.a. Addison’s disease. Parasites. Pests like Giardia and various intestinal worms like hookworms can cause weight loss and require help to diagnose and treat. Stress and anxiety.
How can I get my senior dog to gain weight?
Canned, fresh, or raw foods are often more palatable than dry foods to picky dogs (of any age) due to the extra moisture inside. Adding a little water to kibble is also an option. Pick an energy-dense food. They are usually higher in fat and therefore more palatable for many dogs.
What are signs of your dog dying?
Loss of coordination..Loss of appetite..No longer drinking water..Lack of desire to move or a lack of enjoyment in things they once enjoyed..Extreme fatigue..Vomiting or incontinence..Muscle twitching..Confusion.
Older dogs, like older people, have an easier time getting around if they arent overweight. Losing weight can be a challenge for dogs at any age, but more so as dogs grow older. Still, weight loss for dogs is worth the effort. Slender dogs not only get around more easily, but also actually live longer. A 14-year study showed that dogs fed 25 percent fewer calories than their free-fed littermates lived nearly two years longer, showed fewer visible signs of aging, and enjoyed an extra three years of pain-free mobility before developing canine arthritis. These weight loss tips for senior dogs can help them live a longer, healthier, happier life!
If you feed a homemade diet, use lean meats, low-fat dairy, and green vegetables in place of most grains and starches, Straus suggests. Theres a common misconception that replacing a large portion of the diet with green beans will help your dog not feel hungry, she adds.
Replacing too much food with green beans can also lead to a protein deficiency, causing the loss of lean muscle rather than fat. Recent human and canine studies show that the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA from fish oil promote weight loss and help dieters feel more satisfied. Straus recommends giving fish oil that provides 1 to 1.5 mg combined EPA and DHA per pound of body weight daily for healthy dogs, or up to 3 mg for dogs with health problems (such as heart disease, kidney disease, cancer, arthritis, allergies, and other conditions causing inflammation or affecting the immune system).
Instead of making drastic changes all at once, cut your dogs food back by about five percent and feed that slightly smaller amount for a week or two. This strategy helps because reducing the amount of food too suddenly will change your dogs metabolism, making it harder to lose weight and easier to gain it back. Feeding a small dinner wont help if Fido is getting breakfast leftovers, afternoon snacks, and training treats all day.
Most dogs respond well to short visits that include treats, eagerly hopping on the scale, and sitting or standing still for a minute before going home.
Weight loss in a dog of any age is always a cause for concern, but if it happens in senior dogs owners are often specially worried. Is it a sign of a more serious underlying disease? Is loss of appetite a normal occurrence in aging dogs? How to get the dog to eat again? What can you do to help your senior dog gain weight? Does this impact my senior dogs quality of life?
Avoid feeding your dog high-fiber foods.
Increased fiber, the indigestible part of carbohydrates, will not help your dog feel satisfied, and too much can interfere with nutrient absorption. Grains are a common source of fiber, and many grain-free foods are high in protein and low in carbs, which can make them effective foods for weight loss (as long as they don’t contain too much fat).
Make your dog’s food.
Another option is to make your own high-protein, moderate-fat, low-carbohydrate diet (see “Easy Home-Prepared Dog Food,” WDJ July 2012, for guidelines).“If you feed a homemade diet, use lean meats, low-fat dairy, and green vegetables in place of most grains and starches,” Straus suggests. “Remove the skin from poultry (except for breasts) and remove separable fat from meats. Avoid fatty meats such as lamb, pork, and high-fat beef, or cook them to remove most of the fat. It’s okay to include eggs in moderate amounts. You can also use these foods to replace up to 25 percent of a commercial pet food, which will increase the total amount of protein and decrease carbohydrates in the diet.“There’s a common misconception that replacing a large portion of the diet with green beans will help your dog not feel hungry,” she adds. “While there’s no harm in adding some green beans or other non-starchy veggies to your dog’s diet, the extra bulk won’t help your dog feel satisfied if you’re feeding too few calories or too little fat. It is fat that most helps to satiate your dog; just adding bulk isn’t enough. Replacing too much food with green beans can also lead to a protein deficiency, causing the loss of lean muscle rather than fat.”
Feed your dog the right fats.
Recent human and canine studies show that the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA from fish oil promote weight loss and help dieters feel more satisfied. Straus recommends giving fish oil that provides 1 to 1.5 mg combined EPA and DHA per pound of body weight daily for healthy dogs, or up to 3 mg for dogs with health problems (such as heart disease, kidney disease, cancer, arthritis, allergies, and other conditions causing inflammation or affecting the immune system). Some cod liver oils, such as Carlson Norwegian Cod Liver Oil with Omega 3s, provide vitamins D and A for additional health benefits (see “Vitamin D for Dogs,” WDJ July 2016).When adding oils to your dog’s diet, keep in mind that oils are pure fat, adding more than 40 calories per teaspoon. Label directions for many liquid fish-oil products are higher than they should be, adding too many calories to your dog’s diet. If your dog needs high doses of EPA and DHA, look for more concentrated softgels. Other oils, such as coconut and olive oil, should be carefully measured to be sure you’re not adding too much fat.
Reduce your dog’s food portion size.
Instead of making drastic changes all at once, cut your dog’s food back by about five percent and feed that slightly smaller amount for a week or two. This reduction is about 1 ounce per pound or 1/8 cup per two cups of food. Weigh your dog today and again in one or two weeks. If she doesn’t lose weight, reduce the food by another five percent and continue at that amount for one to two weeks. Keep gradually reducing the amount of food until your dog begins to lose weight, then continue feeding that amount.This strategy helps because reducing the amount of food too suddenly will change your dog’s metabolism, making it harder to lose weight and easier to gain it back. Slow, steady weight loss is more likely to result in long-term success.If you switch to a food that’s considerably higher in protein and fat than your current food, cut the quantity by up to one-third, as foods that are more nutrient dense will provide more calories in smaller portions. Even though the total amount your dog receives is less than before, he may be more satisfied.Feeding smaller portions more often will help your dog feel less hungry. Replace some dry food with canned or fresh, high-protein food so he thinks he’s getting something special. Put his meals in a Kong, Buster Cube, or other food-dispensing toy so he has to work for them, leaving him feeling more satisfied. Freeze his wet food, or dry food mixed with nonfat yogurt, in a Kong toy to make a meal last even longer.
Measure everything your dog eats.
“It’s critical to accurately measure your dog’s food,” says Straus. “I learned the hard way that when I try to eyeball my dogs’ food, they gain weight. The only way I’ve found to achieve consistent weight control is by using an electronic scale to weigh everything I feed. You can find scales at office and kitchen supply stores and online. Most handle up to five pounds with accuracy to one tenth of an ounce, and they can switch to grams for very small measurements.”
Weigh your dog.
If your dog is small, you can weigh her on a baby scale or a postal scale designed for packages. Your veterinary clinic has a walk-on scale that accommodates dogs of all sizes, so if your large dog is willing, take her there every one or two weeks. If your dog associates the clinic with unpleasant experiences, use low-calorie, high-value treats to help change her attitude. Most dogs respond well to short visits that include treats, eagerly hopping on the scale, and sitting or standing still for a minute before going home.“Aim for weight loss of three to five percent of body weight per month, or one percent per week,” says Straus. “A 50-pound dog should lose about half a pound per week, or two pounds per month. Once your dog begins losing weight steadily, you can go longer between weigh-ins, but recheck monthly to make sure you’re still on track. It’s easy to slip back into giving too much food and not notice until your dog has gained back a lot of weight. Caloric needs can also change over time as your dog ages, after neutering, or if his activity level varies seasonally. If you’re weighing your dog regularly, you’ll be able to catch and correct any weight gain before you have a bigger problem.”
Rethink the treats you feed.
When Ella, her Norwich Terrier, gained weight even with reduced meals, Straus realized that she had to consider the calories Ella received from training treats. “I fed her cooked chicken breast to counter-condition her shyness around strangers that we met on our walks,” Straus says. “I put treats in a Kong toy when I had to leave her alone to reduce any anxiety she might feel about my leaving, and I used clicker training to improve my communication with Ella. Altogether, those treats were adding up to a lot of calories.”Fortunately, dogs care more about the number of treats they receive than the size of each treat, so it’s more rewarding for a dog to receive several small treats than one big one. For a dog Ella’s size, Straus switched to really tiny treats. “I now use treats for nose work training, where I need high-value treats. I cut slices of turkey bacon (17.5 calories per slice) into 35 pieces that are just half a calorie each. Zukes Lil’ Links (16 calories each) are cut into 16 pieces, one calorie each. Happy Howie’s beef and turkey rolls have 52-60 calories per ounce and can be cut into small cubes of no more than one calorie each (note the lamb variety is much higher in calories). Slice treats in half or quarters lengthwise before dicing to create lots of small pieces.”Treats that are high in fat and calories, such as hot dogs and peanut butter, can pack on the pounds. Instead, try raw baby carrots, zucchini slices, other crunchy vegetables, or small slices of apple, banana, or melon. Make your own treats out of low-fat organ meats like heart or liver. Grapes, raisins, and anything containing xylitol (a sugar substitute) should not be used, as they can be toxic to dogs.Another strategy is to feed some of your dog’s dinner as treats during the day. Just be sure to reduce her meal size accordingly.
All aging dogs eventually develop dental problems. These can cause their mouth to smell, but also make eating difficult and painful. Especially if you own other dogs, it could be that your elderly dog appears to be eating the same amount, but in fact he is just nibbling and his siblings eat the majority of his food.He could also take pieces of kibble in his mouth and spit them out again.If your aging dog has not recently seen a vet, take him for a checkup and have his teeth looked at. Some dental work can quickly bring his eating habits back to normal, and his weight will go up.
Pains and aches
We think of diabetes as a human disease, but dogs can suffer from it as well!Especially early on these dogs actually will have a big appetite and eat more than before, while losing weight. The reason behind this is that their pancreas stops producing enough insulin which is necessary for the body to absorb blood sugar. Your dog is essentially starving as he is eating.Other symptoms of diabetes in aging dogs include:Diabetes is not a condition that resolves itself or can be cured. Your diabetic dog will need you to inject insulin so that he can continue living a happy and healthy life.Fortunately, diabetes can be well-managed in dogs with treatment. It is crucial that you see a vet if you suspect that your dog may suffer from diabetes as delayed treatment can be dangerous.
As dogs (and humans) age, their organ function can deteriorate. Kidney disease is common in aging dogs and can lead to weight loss. Other common symptoms are increased thirst and increased urination. If you suspect kidney disease in your senior dog, take him to the vet to get him checked! With the right medications this condition can be managed well.(Another symptom for kidney disease can be excessive consumption of water. You should
Sadly, one explanation for your dog’s sudden weight loss could be cancer. Canine cancer rates are on the rise and it is becoming more and more common for dogs to eventually suffer from this disease.The good news is that this is actually a sign of improving health among the canine population.Cancer is a disease that usually inflicts old animals that have been lucky enough to not suffer from any other diseases. The older an animal (or human) gets, the higher the chance for cancer gets.Many cancers in dogs are hard to diagnose. Dogs may show signs that are hard to recognize, such as only subtle changes in their behavior or daily routine. The first physical symptom often is weight loss.If you rule out any other possible causes, your vet might suggest an ultrasound or x-ray to check for possible tumors. The good news is that if diagnosed early, cancer can often be treated successfully and allow your senior dog to live for several more years!
Most elderly dogs love wet food. On the one hand it is tasty (nearly all dogs prefer wet food to dry food) and on the other hand it is easy to chew. Especially if your pup’s weight loss has been caused by dental problems, eating soft wet food will make recovery extra easy.When choosing the right wet food for your pup, do not go for bottom of the line food. While it may be cheaper, it is full of fillers and often does not contain a lot of actual meat.
Soak his kibble
You can soak your older dog’s kibble to make it softer and more tasty. Use a low-sodium broth specifically formulated for dogs. The extra flavor makes many dogs enjoy their food a lot more and gets them to really dig in again.In addition, soaking it makes the dry food softer and easier to chew for your pup. Once more, if dental problems caused his weight loss, feeding soft food is a perfect solution.This broth is infused with Glucosamine and Chondroitin – which makes it not only tasty, but alsoIts
Treats in between
Just like people, dogs can get a lot of extra calories from snacking! Offer plenty of treats in between meals to your dog. This is especially important for older dogs that cannot eat big meals at once anymore. Having multiple snacks and treats throughout the day will add a lot of extra calories, which will help them gain weight quickly!