Is Your Cat or Dog Not Eating? What to do When Your Pets Lose Their Appetites

Is Your Cat or Dog Not Eating?
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When a pet stops eating, that can be a sign that something is wrong. Learn how to spot--and take care of--appetite problems.

Whether your friend is big or small, canine or feline, loss of appetite is a big concern. If your cat or dog is not eating, what can you do? When your little one turns away from a meal or is barely eating, it's time to do a little investigative work and get your veterinarian involved. Some common causes for lack of appetite include a change in environment, dental problems, or parasites. Getting help quickly can mean avoiding serious complications--cats, for instance, can develop severe liver problems that can lead to death if they stop eating.

The Stress of Moving 

If you've ever moved from one home to another, you know how stressful it can be. Imagine how the process can affect your pet. Cats, in particular, become extremely attached to their domains, so a move can just about turn their world upside down. And we all know dogs are very territorial. Would you feel like eating if everything was "taken" away from you? Pets experiencing anxiety can lose their appetites.

When settling in after a major move, there are some steps you can take to help your pet adjust. It's important to get them back on track with their eating, so they can feel right at home. Dogs can be creatures of habit, so try to set out their food and water in the "same place" as the old house. If you live in a place where temperature drops below zero, invest in a thermal bowl to keep the temperature of the water in the comfortable range. That means if they ate in the kitchen before, be sure to place their bowls in the kitchen at the new house. For cats, you can provide small, frequent meals. Also, consider hiding pieces of dry food around the house to encourage their natural predatory instincts. Talk to your vet about your pet's habits and see if a visit might be needed.

Dental Issues

If you've ever experienced a toothache, you know what a pain it can be. You don't feel like doing much of anything, let alone eat, and you just want the pain to go away! If your pet is having dental issues, there are a few things you might notice. With dogs, they may drop the food they are trying to eat, or they'll eat slowly, or on one side of their mouth. They might also have bad breath (beyond normal doggie breath, that is)! Likewise, check for drooling, bleeding, or swelling deep under the gums or high up under the lips. With cats, the symptoms of dental problems and gum disease are mostly the same. Your cat may have difficulty closing his or her mouth and you might see yellow or brown spots on the teeth, down along the gumline. Get your pet to the vet for a checkup.


Another explanation for appetite loss could be parasites. If your dog is infected with parasites, treatment is usually very effective, so talk to your vet about the appropriate medicine. With an intestinal parasitic infection like roundworm, hookworm, or whipworm, your dog will often lose his or her appetite. These pests also rob your dog of important nutrients, cause vomiting and diarrhea, and can result in anemia or even death. Make sure you get the right medications right away.

Cats can also lose their appetite from a parasitic infection. In addition to the worms mentioned above, cats can also be diagnosed with a rickettsia infection. These microscopic parasites can cause a cat to experience appetite loss, weight loss, and even depression. Sometimes, jaundice is associated with this condition. Your veterinarian can determine the presence of rickettsia through examination of a series of blood samples. Giardia, a parasitic inflection transmittable through cat feces, also causes a cat to lose their appetite.

So, whenever man's best friend won't eat, or your feline sidekick suddenly turns their nose up at dinner, you'll want to investigate. Getting your little one to the vet for prompt medical treatment should have Fido or Fluffy healthy and eating again. 

More on Pet Care

Signs Your Cat Might Be Sick
The Benefits of an Active Dog
Diets to Treat Cat and Dog Stress

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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