You are an expert at recognizing your pet’s normal habits. By monitoring your furry pal’s behavior and habits you can keep track of their health, because changes often indicate an underlying problem. To find out the reasons behind a sudden or gradual change in your four-legged friend’s appetite or thirst, read our Island Animal Hospital team’s top reasons for these alterations, why early intervention is important, and how to address the issue.
Common reasons for eating or drinking habit changes in pets
Various diseases and conditions can cause a pet’s eating or drinking habits to change. Most problems are chronic, having a gradual onset, but some may start acutely. If your furry pal’s eating and drinking habits have changed, they could have one of these possible ailments:
- Diabetes — Pets with diabetes fail to produce insulin, or their body becomes resistant to insulin’s effects. Insulin is a hormone that helps transport glucose molecules from the bloodstream into body cells for fuel. Glucose builds up in the blood and spills over into the urine, carrying water with it. The result is weight loss, increased appetite, and increased thirst and urine output.
- Chronic kidney disease — The kidneys filter the blood’s waste products and help regulate fluids, proteins, and minerals, and the electrolyte balance. Middle-aged and older pets who develop chronic kidney disease (CKD) cannot conserve fluids, lose excess water in their urine, and drink more to compensate. They may also lose their appetite and lose weight. A kidney problem occurs acutely usually because a pet has ingested a toxin.
- Cushing’s syndrome — Older dogs develop this disorder when their adrenal glands produce too much cortisol (i.e., the stress hormone). The excess steroid hormone causes increased thirst, urination, and appetite, a pot-bellied appearance, and skin problems.
- Stomach or intestinal issues — Inflammatory bowel disease and intestinal cancers cause inflammation inside the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and may increase or decrease a pet’s appetite, depending on where the inflammation is located in their body and whether nutrient absorption is affected. If your four-legged friend’s appetite suddenly decreases and they are vomiting or have diarrhea, they may have a foreign body obstruction, contracted parasites, or developed an infection.
- Thyroid disease — The thyroid gland controls metabolism, so in most cases, an overactive thyroid in cats increases their hunger, and an underactive thyroid in dogs decreases their hunger, although sometimes the reverse occurs
- Dental disease — Dental disease commonly causes a pet to have painful or loose teeth, which alters their eating habits. Pets may chew on one side of their mouth, drop food, refuse to eat crunchy foods, or stop eating entirely.
- Pain or other illness — Any condition or illness that causes stress, anxiety, pain, lethargy, fever, or general discomfort can temporarily reduce a pet’s appetite.
Diagnosis and treatment of eating or drinking habit changes in pets
The first step to diagnosing the underlying cause of your furry pal’s habit change is to schedule a visit with our Island Animal Hospital team. We will perform a full physical examination and then recommend the appropriate diagnostic tests to determine the underlying cause of your pet’s problem. Our team may perform the following diagnostic tests:
- Complete blood count (CBC) and blood chemistry with electrolytes
- Thyroid hormone level (T4)
- Complete urinalysis
- Blood pressure test
- Abdominal X-rays or ultrasound
Additional testing may be required in some cases. For example, if our team suspects your pet has Cushing’s disease, we will perform several specialized blood tests that measure cortisol in response to certain conditions. To confirm whether your four-legged friend has dental disease, we will perform a dental examination and cleaning, which requires your pet to be anesthetized. We treat your pet’s problem based on the diagnosed underlying cause for the change in their eating or drinking habits. In most cases, we provide medical therapies. However, in some cases, we must perform surgery.
Using wellness diagnostics to get ahead of common issues in pets
Many of the conditions we have discussed here can be detected before your pet exhibits illness signs at home. During your furry pal’s annual wellness examination, our Island Animal Hospital team performs a thorough physical exam and will recommend diagnostic testing, including blood work and urinalysis. Depending on your pet’s health status, you can make changes to their lifestyle, nutrition, or supplements to reverse concerning test results. If your pet has developed a disease, you can significantly slow a progressive condition and maximize your pet’s life span and quality of life.
Preventive and wellness care is the foundation to pets’ overall wellness, which can add healthy years to your furry pal’s life. To get ahead of chronic disease, schedule your pet’s annual wellness visit, which should include a thorough exam along with blood and urine testing, with our Island Animal Hospital team. While you’re at our hospital, ask about our exclusive VIP membership options, which can help you save money on your pet’s wellness care.
If your pet’s eating or drinking habits change, or if they are exhibiting other concerning illness signs, use our online scheduler to book a routine sick visit or call us for a same-day urgent care appointment, so our Island Animal Hospital team can put your pet on the path to a quick recovery.