Because your pet can’t tell you when they are feeling ill, you must look for subtle changes in their appearance or behavior to identify potential health problems. Your pet’s eating and drinking habits are key health status indicators. If you’re not sure why your pet’s appetite or thirst has plummeted or spiked, take a look at our Wales Animal Clinic team’s list of common conditions that cause such changes in your furry pal’s behavior. 

#1: Dental disease in pets

Up to 90% of pets have some degree of dental disease by age 3, and tooth and gum pain may cause your four-legged friend to avoid eating. Keep in mind that your pet may not exhibit eating and drinking changes until their diseased teeth and gums are causing significant pain. The first dental disease signs your pet may exhibit include:

  • Bad breath
  • Plaque and tartar accumulation
  • Swollen, inflamed gums

#2: Liver disease in pets

The liver is the body’s second largest organ and helps with digestion and blood clotting, removing toxins. One of the earliest liver disease signs is a decreased interest in eating, along with vomiting and diarrhea. Pets with liver disease often require a special diet to ensure they are consuming essential nutrients and calories. Dogs’ intermediate to advanced liver disease signs include: 

  • Weight loss
  • Increased drinking and urination
  • Yellow gums
  • Distended abdomen
  • Seizures or disorientation

#3: Intestinal parasites in pets

Intestinal parasites are parasitic worms that primarily inhabit the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The most common intestinal parasites are roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, and whipworms. If your pet eats an infected flea or the feces of an infected rodent or pet, they can contract roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms. Parasites rob your pet of important nutrients. Depending on the infection type, a pet’s signs will vary, but weight loss is common, along with diarrhea, bloody stool, and anemia. The only way your veterinarian can diagnose whether your pet has a parasitic disease is by performing fecal testing for larvae.  

#4: Kidney disease in pets

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a progressive condition that inhibits the kidneys’ proper functioning. CKD is prevalent in pets, especially seniors. Many pets don’t exhibit CKD signs until the condition is in the advanced stages. As CKD progresses, increased urination and decreased appetite are common, along with:

  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Foul breath
  • Weight loss

Screening tests are important to detect kidney disease in the early stages. Your veterinarian can test for CKD during your pet’s annual wellness exam. Regular screenings help ensure your veterinarian can diagnose CKD early and manage the condition appropriately. 

#5: Intestinal obstruction in pets

Intestinal obstruction—a complete or partial blockage of the small intestine—can occur if your pet ingests a foreign object, such as a toy, rock, or bone, that cannot be passed through the intestines, becoming lodged. Foreign objects can also perforate your pet’s stomach and intestines. Along with a loss of appetite, intestinal obstruction signs can include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Straining during bowel movements
  • Tarry stools
  • Lethargy
  • Excessive drooling
  • Abdominal bloating

If your pet has an intestinal blockage, they may need surgery to remove the foreign object. To help your pet avoid dehydration after surgery, you will need to help your pet replenish their lost fluids. In addition, keep in mind that your furry pal’s appetite may not improve until several days after surgery.

#6: Pancreatitis in pets

If your pet has pancreatitis, they experience pancreatic inflammation that occurs when the digestive enzymes that the organ produces—normally inactive until they reach the small intestine—are activated too early. These harsh digestive enzymes damage the pancreatic tissue, releasing inflammatory cells and toxins. To diagnose pancreatitis and provide your pet with appropriate treatment, your veterinarian must perform a physical exam and diagnostic testing. Pancreatitis can be acute (i.e., sudden) or chronic (i.e., recurring). Pets who eat large amounts of rich, fatty foods have an increased pancreatitis risk. The signs—including dehydration and a decreased appetite—can range in severity and may also include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy 
  • Fever
  • Hunched posture (i.e., a severe abdominal pain sign) 

#7: Cancer in pets

Pets of all ages can develop a wide range of cancers. While many pet owners feel helpless against this disease, early detection and treatment can improve a pet’s prognosis. Certain cancers, such as lymphoma and osteosarcoma, can interfere with a pet’s appetite and thirst, and subtle habit changes such as these are often other cancer types’ first signs. Pets with cancer often feel so poorly that they lose their appetite, and you may need to encourage your furry pal to eat and drink.

Keep an eye on your pet’s eating and drinking habits so you can recognize when they may be experiencing a health condition. While your pet’s habit changes may not indicate a health emergency, you should schedule an appointment with our Wales Animal Clinic team as soon as possible.