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Weight Loss in Older Dogs: When to Worry

Weight Loss in Older Dogs: When to Worry

While we are normally concerned with our dogs becoming overweight, as they become older senior dogs, some dogs will start to lose weight. Today, Our Everett vets discuss weight loss in senior dogs and when you should be concerned.

Older Dog's Weight

While it is true that a large number of dogs tend to get chunkier as they age, some dogs start to lose 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.

Cause of Weight Loss in Senior Dog That Are a Problem

There are commonly eight causes that lead to weight loss in older dogs. 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, skin, or eyes


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

Kidney Disease

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

Dental Issues

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

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 Older Dog That is Losing Weight

Keep in mind that older dogs, particularly very old dogs, require a diet dense with calories so they won't need to consume as much to reach their caloric requirements. 

Animals with normally functioning kidneys will need high-quality, easily digestible protein sources. While a dog's diet should contain moderate fat content in their earlier senior years, as the dog ages into their geriatric years, adding high-quality fats to the mix can improve protein efficiency and increase the calorie content.

Plus, picky eaters may be more inclined to eat. Fiber can be used to alleviate constipation issues for aging dogs and help them feel satisfied and "full" while they consume fewer calories. That said, truly geriatric dogs will often need lower amounts of fiber, more easily digestible food, and higher density in calories. 

Look for premium dog food and ask your vet how much exercise is appropriate for your dog's specific needs. 

If your old dog is losing weight and muscle mass, your vet may run blood glucose tests and a urinalysis to check whether your dog has diabetes.

Other symptoms of diabetes include excessive thirst and urination, increased appetite, cloudy eyes, and chronic or recurring urinary infections. After a diagnosis is confirmed, treatment will include a specialized diet and insulin shots. 

In conclusion

If your senior dog is losing a significant amount of weight rapidly, go to your veterinarian 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 routine wellness 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.

Is your senior dog losing weight significantly? Contact our Everett vets right away to schedule an appointment for your dog. 

New Patients Always Welcome!

Looking for a vet in Everett? Whether your pet needs routine wellness exams, surgery, geriatric care or emergency care, we look forward to welcoming you to our family at Broadway Animal Hospital located in Everett. 

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