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Do Older Dogs Eat Less?

Senior dog staring at full bowl of dog food

So, do older dogs eat less? Yes. Sadly, it is completely natural and part of the aging process. However, if a younger dog won’t eat, that’s a problem which may require immediate medical attention from a veterinarian.

Many dog owners may notice their older dogs eating less, and this can be very worrisome. An older dog might start eating less for a variety of reasons. Stress, a new environment, a change in dog food or lifestyle, the addition of another dog or pet and the last one is age.

Reasons for Lack of Appetite in Dogs

Age

As dogs age, they lose senses just like we do. Their sense of taste and smell deteriorate as time goes by, causing food they may have enjoyed in the past, to lose its appeal greatly. A gradual change in a once ferocious appetite in your furry friend should be given immediate attention by a veterinarian, while a gradual decrease in appetite over a long period of time is perfectly normal.

Not growing anymore

Senior dog laying in grass
Senior dog laying on Golden retriever

Growing dogs are naturally younger and more active than their senior counterparts. They need a lot of nutrition for this process, so naturally they eat twice as much as senior dogs. Therefore, it is not abnormal for senior dogs to eat less due to their lack of exercise and growth needs.

Senior canine dental issues

Senior dog outdoors with mouth open

An older dog eating slower or less may be suffering senior canine dental issues. As dogs age, so do their teeth, making it hard for them to eat. Especially if they are eating dry dog food. Since they are not really good at telling us exactly how they are feeling, their only response can and will be to eat less. They may also be suffering from other canine dental issues, so it is a good idea to visit your veterinarian and try switching to a softer dog food.

Many may say an older dog not eating but acting normal is not a sign of illness. And this may be true, however I think it is cause for concern and should be checked out by a veterinarian immediately. Even though they are not growing anymore, they still need a lot of nutrition or they will lose weight. An old dog eating slower or less or suddenly not at all or an old dog eating normally, but still losing weight are also troubling signs which owners should not ignore.

 An old dog not eating and sleeping a lot is quite common in the last stages of a dog’s life. But there are things you can do to get them active and eating more.

Do you have an old dog not eating and sleeping a lot?

Old dog sleeping on brick floor

If so, please don’t worry. It’s to be expected. But I am sure you still would like your dog to be a healthier weight. Naturally you have questions like . . .

  1. How do you put weight on an old dog?
  2. What to feed an old dog that won’t eat?
  3. What do you do with a senior dog that’s never hungry?
  4. Are there any tricks to get dogs to eat?

There are many tricks to get your dog to eat. However, always consult your vet before making any changes to your dog’s dietary habits. Besides that, I have a list below which may help.

Try adding canned dog food

Top view of canned dog food with spilled kibble

Canned dog food is a great idea because . . .

  1. It is softer than normal dry kibble, so it is much easier on the teeth.
  2. It hydrates your dog far better than dry kibble.
  3. Appeals to their sense of smell far better than dry kibble does.

Now, don’t throw out the dry kibble just yet. There is a drawback. Dry kibble is more nutritious than canned dog food, therefore mixing canned dog food with dry kibble is better than switching to a can dog food only diet. WikiHow says you can also try making their meals more appealing by adding chicken broth to their meals.

Switch dog foods

Sometimes dogs get bored with the food they have been eating for years, like I pointed out earlier, due to age. So, try something new. If you are switching to a senior dog food, it is a good idea to not do so suddenly. Try phasing in the senior dog food by adding a little bit to his normal food every day.

Raise the food and water bowls

Dog Feeding Station

As dog’s age past their primes, their bones and muscles grow weaker making it difficult for them to bend down to eat. The solution is to raise their food and water bowls off the floor onto a small platform which is about shoulder height.

Feed them less and more often

Just like humans, dogs lose their appetite for big meals as well. Most people may feed their dogs once or twice a day which may be too much for a senior dog. One of the best ways to make sure that your dog gets the nutrition it needs is to feed them less at each time, but more often. 

Limit dog treats

Hand offering Jack Russell Terrier a treat

Dog treats tend to be tasty but lower in nutrition than normal dog food. So, instead of letting them fill up on snacks, cut them and focus on meals. Doing so will make them hungrier, which means they are less likely to shun their meals. If you are going to give them treats, make sure they are few and far between and very, very healthy ones.

Increase their activity level

Dogs kind of lead boring lives after a certain age. Most have a common schedule of waking up, cleaning themselves, having a meal, taking a walk and then coming back home where they plop down for most of the day to sleep. A stranger may ring the doorbell in the middle of the day which provides them with some mental and physical stimulation, but that is about it for most of the day. So, what can you do?

  1. Take them for shorter walks throughout the day. Especially right before mealtime.
  2. Teach them a new trick.
  3. Interactive dog toy.
  4. Hide something they love and make them look for it. (My Yogi loved this game even in very last days.)
  5. Instead of coming home and turning on the TV, do something, anything with them.

Physical and mental stimulation can do wonders for their appetites, so never miss a chance to engage one or both of them.

Separate your dog from others during mealtime

If you are trying to fatten up your senior dog, it might be a great idea to feed them separately from other pets, especially younger more playful ones like puppies. Stress is a major reason for dogs refusing to eat, so this may help relax them enough to want to eat.

The Bottom Line

Do older dogs eat less? Sure, they do. But there are ways to make sure they get the nutrition they need. Be creative but also be careful and always ask your veterinarian before making any radical changes to their diets.

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