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Weight Loss In Older Dogs: When To Worry

Weight Loss In Older Dogs: When To Worry

Weight fluctuations happen in our canine companions, but as they age they may begin to noticeably lose weight. Here, our Nashville vets talk about weight loss in older dogs and when you should reach out to your vet for an examination.

Is your old dog losing weight?

While we commonly see weight concerns in dogs, the typical issue is weight gain. As a dog begins to age that may turn to weight loss and you may find it difficult to help your dog maintain a healthy weight. The question you may be asking yourself is why is my dog losing weight? There are two categories that this answer can take either there is an underlying condition and it is a symptom of a larger issue or your dog’s aging process requires a different balance in their diet.

Reasons Why Your Old Dog is Losing Weight

Eight issues are commonly the root problem in elderly dogs where weight loss is a symptom. These issues are liver/gallbladder disease, dehydration, dental issues, kidney disease, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and arthritis. Each one of these issues needs to be diagnosed and addressed by your vet. Most of these root causes will present with other symptoms that accompany weight loss.

The best thing you can do for your senior dog that is losing weight is to observe them for the other symptoms so you can inform the vet so they can diagnose your dog quicker. The symptoms that can present with each condition are as follows.

Liver/gallbladder disease

      • Lethargy
      • Increased thirst
      • Vomiting/diarrhea
      • Fever
      • Pain 
      • Pale or yellow gums
      • Yellowing of skin/eyes


      • Dry gums 
      • Lethargy 
      • Sunken eyes
      • Loss of skin elasticity
      • Less urination
      • Dark urine

Dental Issues

      • Excessive drooling
      • Difficulty eating/chewing
      • Bad breath
      • Swollen or bleeding gums

Kidney disease

      • Increased thirst
      • Excessive urination (may contain blood)
      • Vomiting
      • Loss of appetite
      • Pale gums
      • Lethargy

Heart disease

      • A chronic cough
      • Tires easily
      • Exercise intolerance
      • Excessive panting
      • Irregular heartbeat
      • Restlessness


      • Excessive thirst
      • Excessive urination
      • Increased appetite
      • Lethargy
      • Repeated urinary tract infections


      • Lethargy
      • Unusual bleeding
      • Lumps, bumps, or swelling
      • Distended abdomen
      • Limping or lameness
      • Unusual urination – frequency or amount


      • Wobbling
      • Lameness
      • Scuffing the toes
      • Incontinence

What to Feed an Old Dog That is Losing Weight

If your vet can’t find any underlying cause for the weight loss it might be time to change your dog's diet. Consult with your veterinarian about their current diet and the amount of protein, fat, and fiber they are getting.

Feed Your Old Dog High-Quality Food

Once your dog is a senior they will need a diet with increased protein and calories. This helps keep them energized and retain muscle mass. When it comes to choosing a food, try to find one that offers 30% protein and 400 kcal per cup in order to have a noticeable effect on their health.

Offer Smaller Meals, More Often

If you would like to help keep your dog's appetite up and prevent the occurrence of bloating then you may want to consider frequent and small meals. You can also try adding warm broth to their food to help make digestion easier as well as making it more appetizing for your old pup.

Final Thoughts

If your old dog is losing weight and muscle mass but still eating then you should reach out to your vet as soon as possible. If you are concerned about your dog's weight in general, bring it up with your veterinarian at your senior dog's bi-annual routine exam.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Would you like to learn more about how to meet the nutritional needs of your senior dog? Contact our Nashville vets to schedule a visit today.

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