The media is full of reports about the increasing obesity problem in pet dogs. So, if your dog is losing weight, you should be pleased, right? If you have cut back on his food intake and increased his exercise, then you can certainly expect him to weigh less. However, if there has been no change to his diet and lifestyle, a sudden loss of weight may be a cause for concern.
There are three main reasons for such weight loss in dogs, and we will have a look at each one in turn.
1. Your dog may have difficulty absorbing food, so he’s not actually getting enough nutrients to maintain his body condition. This can stem from a deficiency of digestive enzymes, so that his food can’t be broken down enough for his intestines to absorb it. Alternatively, the problem can be with his intestinal wall, and nutrients may not actually be able to pass into his bloodstream.
2. If the nutrients in your dog’s food are absorbed normally, there may be something wrong with how his body uses these nutrients. A good example is diabetes – a diabetic dog doesn’t produce enough of the hormone insulin, so he doesn’t metabolise glucose properly. One of the symptoms of diabetes in dogs is weight loss.
3. Lastly, your dog may be using up nutrients faster than he can take them in. This is sometimes normal, for example a bitch feeding her pups – making milk uses up a lot of energy and nutrients. However, it can also occur in conditions such as cancer, where the growth of tumors can increase the body’s metabolic rate.
What do you do if you are concerned about your dog’s weight loss? Here are some guidelines, but do keep in mind that if you are in any doubt about your dog’s health, make an appointment with your vet straight away.
If your dog is bright and alert, and otherwise appears perfectly healthy, you may want to play the waiting game for a little while. Feed him a little more at dinnertime, or change his kibble to one with a higher fat content. Make sure you treat him for intestinal worms, just in case they are contributing to the problem. If his body condition doesn’t improve or he continues to lose weight, it’s time to investigate.
Look for other symptoms that can give you a clue about what’s happening inside your dog’s body. For example, if he is a diabetic, he will drink lots of water, and urinate frequently. A problem with absorption of his food will often lead to diarrhea. As mentioned in “Why Does My Dog Have Diarrhea – Dog Diarrhea Causes and Treatment” there are also other reasons your dog may develop diarrhea. If your dog is showing any abnormal behavior in association with his weight loss, he needs to be seen by a vet.
You can expect that your vet will want to perform blood tests and to examine your dog’s stool. They may recommend x-rays or an ultrasound examination to check for tumors on the inside. Treatment depends on the diagnosis, but may include regular insulin injections to manage diabetes or the addition of digestive enzymes to your dog’s food. Excessive drinking may not mean your dog has diabetes. My next article in this series, “Why Is My Dog Drinking Alot? Excessive Drinking In Dogs,” discusses the reasons behind excessive drinking and urination in dogs.
Our dogs are like family to us and so naturally it’s very upsetting when they become sick. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you knew how to give your dog a check-up, so you could spot a problem early? Before it became truly serious or even life threatening?
Well, now you can!