Does My Senior Dog Need an Appetite Stimulant?

As your dog ages and becomes more senior, their needs change. After many joyful years with your fur-covered member of the family, you’ve probably done everything in your power to give your dog a healthy and happy life.

And one of the big changes is a sudden lack of appetite. 

In this article, I want to focus on appetite stimulants. What are they and should you use them?

Although it’s not uncommon, it can be very worrying to discover your dog isn’t eating their food, especially if this continues to the point where they start to lose a bunch of weight and begin to lose the energy to take on the day.

Well in some cases, your dog’s lack of appetite is perfectly normal and shouldn’t be something to worry about. However, it can be a symptom of something far worse.

But first, let’s talk about appetite stimulants. 

What you need to know about appetite stimulants

First off, you want to be sure that an appetite stimulant is actually the right choice for your ageing hound. As well as underlying medical conditions, diet preference, and possible side effects of medication, stress can also be a contributory element behind your dog’s aversion to their food. Consider if there have been any major environmental changes that could be affecting your dog’s psychological state.

All things considered, if your furry friend is still struggling to eat then there are some methods you can use that may help to increase their appetite. An FDA approved appetite stimulant for dogs that is currently available is Entyce. This orally delivered prescription medicine contains capromorelin, a ghrelin receptor agonist medication made by Pfizer which operates like a growth hormone typically present during puberty. It targets specific regions of the dog’s brain which are associated with their desire for food. This can help make their meals seem a lot more appealing to them. Another medication to consider is Mirtazapine. It was originally made for human use to combat depression but it was discovered to act as an appetite stimulant in pets. It is a prescription medicine that can be used for both cats and dogs.

There are of course other potential solutions to stimulate your canine’s appetite without the use of commercial pharmaceuticals. Acupuncture has been proven to assist with pain, nausea, and inflammation. If your dog suffers from health conditions such as diabetes or renal failure, he or she could see significant improvement through acupuncture treatment.

Depending on where you live, CBD oil can also be a useful option as it is known to reduce pain, improve general mentality on a daily basis, and increase appetite. Just to be clear, CBD (cannabidiol) is a compound found in hemp and is not the same as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). The health benefits from CBD products are vast and the applications extend beyond human usage. If it is legal in your area, CBD treatment could be a viable option to help your dog regain an interest in their food.

Reasons why your dog might have a loss of appetite

There are a number of reasons why your dog may have lost his or her appetite, with some causes being a bit more serious than others. You might have noticed that your pooch is not eating as much as they normally would or perhaps they’re not eating anything at all. They may even be avoiding the special treats you try to bribe them with. If this goes on for too long, your dog will begin to lose weight, they will display a distinct lack of energy, and they might begin throwing up now and again.

One of the usual causes of inappetence is medication. Some medicines can have an undesirable effect on your dog’s digestive system resulting in the disinterest or inability to eat. Liver disease, heart disease, or a viral infection could also be the reason behind your four-legged friend’s eating problems. One of the most troubling possibilities is cancer, which can severely affect the way your pooch metabolises food and can lead to a suppressed apetite. They could also be suffering from kidney problems which can create a range of gastrointestinal issues including diarrhoea, vomiting, constipation, as well as a disturbance in their regular appetite. Especially with older dogs, high protein content can be difficult for the kidneys to process and you may want to consider adjusting their diet.

Among the other reasons why your canine buddy might have a lack of interest in their food, a tedious diet can also be a common factor. At some point your dog is likely to get tired of having the same meal again and again, day after day. Older dogs in particular often become fussy about their food. Not only are they fed up with the boring food that they’ve been eating for the majority of their life, but their teeth and digestive systems become a lot more sensitive, making it more challenging for them to consume their regular meals. Be sure to take your pet to the veterinarian to rule out any serious issues that could be contributing to your dog’s difficult situation.

What should you be feeding your senior dog?

If you’ve identified that there aren’t any more dire conditions creating your pooch’s lack of appetite, that means it probably comes down to their diet. There are different life-stage dog foods for a reason, although many brands don’t take everything into consideration and simply market a “senior” dog food in a specific way solely so they can charge more for the product.

Small dogs reach old age at a much slower pace than bigger dogs, so you’ll need to identify the point when you need to switch to senior dog food according to the breed of your beloved fur ball. As a general rule, you’ll want to provide your dog with a food source that is lower in protein and higher in fibre. Adding fruits and vegetables (be sure to research which plant foods your dog’s digestive system can handle) into your dog’s diet can bring the much needed fibre they deserve, as well as an abundance of vitamins and minerals that will promote a healthier immune system, healthier joints, and healthier skin. You’ll also want to contact your veterinarian to check if your dog is in need of any specific dietary requirements. Your vet should be able to point you in the right direction of a commercial dog food that is appropriate for what your pet needs.

Another tool at your disposal is to simply add moisture to your dog’s meals. They may be opposed to the struggle of chewing through the same old dry dog pellets, so adding a bit of warm water can help make their meal more palatable. Including nutrient rich, moist canned food or perhaps some chicken and rice can make their meals more exciting too, and this might hopefully encourage them to eat more regularly. Healthy treats can also encourage your dog to eat more food, and a suitable treat could also serve as a tool to strengthen your dog’s teeth. If you’ve tried all this already but your dog still refuses to eat, you might be considering turning to an appetite stimulant. But what stimulants can you use and how do you know if this is the right move for your dog?

Closing Thoughts

Try to see your dog’s lack of appetite as a relatively benign indicator that your dog is in need of assistance. The chances are that the situation isn’t particularly urgent but it can be an alert that can help you to prevent or treat a more serious condition that could be developing. Be sure to visit your vet as soon as you start to notice a consistent shift in your pooch’s habits. Talking to a professional should help to eliminate unnecessary worries and direct your focus towards the likely causes of your dog’s condition.

Also make sure that there is always an abundant and easily accessible source of water available for your dog at any given point in the day. Water restrictions at night while your dog is sleeping is perfectly fine, but you need to make sure that they have plenty of fresh, clean water the rest of the time, as dehydration can also lead to your dog’s loss of appetite.