Dogs are famous for their hearty appetites. They can be on the far side of the house, but as soon as they hear kibble being poured into their bowls—or if they get a whiff of wet food wafting out of a can—they come running. Watching a dog enthusiastically enjoy his meal is a wonderful sight for a dog owner.
Sometimes, however, a dog loses his appetite. Even his favorite meal fails to arouse his interest in eating. This could be a sign that something is very wrong. Two questions might come to mind: (1) Could it be anorexia?
(2) Isn’t anorexia a human disease?
What is anorexia?
It’s important to make a distinction between “anorexia” and “anorexia nervosa.” “Anorexia” (without the “nervosa”) is defined as loss of appetite. “Anorexia nervosa” is a serious psychological/eating disorder in people that results in extreme loss of body weight, excessive attempts at weight control, and even voluntary starvation.
What causes loss of appetite in dogs?
There are many potential reasons why a dog may lose his appetite, and some are more serious than others. On the probably-will-pass-quickly end of the spectrum, some dogs temporarily lose their appetites when there’s been a change in their routine. It could be that they are being boarded in a kennel or being watched by an unfamiliar dog sitter. Or, perhaps the dog is on vacation with his owner and the new location is affecting him. In cases like those, the condition may rectify itself when the dog’s normal routine resumes or he gets used to his new surroundings/circumstances.
More serious cases of anorexia can be caused by medical reasons. Illnesses of the digestive system and many other parts of the body are capable of causing a loss of appetite. These diseases include viruses and gastritis.
Psychologically traumatic events may also cause a dog to suffer from anorexia. You may, perhaps, have heard of cases where a grieving dog has lost all interest in eating. In these cases, the dog may be grieving the loss of a close family member or a canine companion. It’s understandable how this type of loss could affect senior dogs that have spent many years with a particular family member or companion dog.
Whether the cause is psychological or physical, if your dog stops eating, promptly seek the help of your veterinarian. Anorexia is a potentially life-threatening condition that needs to be taken seriously.