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What is Quiet and Not Eating?

Missing a meal now and again is not something to be overly concerned with, but if you notice your dog is eating less or not at all during regular meal times, you may have cause for concern. Similarly, weight loss is a red flag. A number of medical and emotional reasons may be the cause of your dog’s refusal to eat as well as his quiet demeanour but do not rule out the simple causes, like dissatisfaction.  Just like people, dogs may not like and may turn away from food that is not appetizing.  If you haven’t drastically changed your dog’s meal times or switched to a new food recently, your dog may be suffering from a medical or emotional condition such as:

  • Depression
  • Infectious disease
  • Diabetes
  • Addison’s disease
  • A source of pain such as dental disease

While not eating and becoming more lethargic and quiet might not seem like serious symptoms, the underlying causes of your dog’s loss of appetite could be life threatening.  It is important to determine the cause of your dog’s change in behavior to prevent escalating medical conditions.

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Why Quiet and Not Eating Occurs in Dogs

The two leading causes of a loss of appetite, emotionally or medically related reasons, are also closely tied as some diseases can cause your dog to develop depression and anxiety, leading to not eating and becoming quieter over time.

Depression

If you notice changes in your once active dog’s behavior, including a lack of appetite, sleeping more, and a lack of interest in you or playing, your dog may be depressed. Depression can be emotionally driven or be a sign of a medical condition.  Separation anxiety and developed phobias may lead to depression whereas diseases, such as parvovirus, coronavirus, or lyme disease can cause medically related depression.  

Infectious Disease

Many times, fever and vomiting accompany a loss of appetite and lethargic behaviors.  These additional symptoms are usually associated with an infectious disease caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasitic infestations.  Some infectious disease, like the parvovirus, are life-threatening and require immediate medical attention.  

Diabetes

Diabetes can affect any dog at any age though it is seen more often in aging, overweight dogs, and unspayed females.  While the early signs of diabetes include an increased appetite and weight loss, advanced symptoms may be a decrease in appetite as well as depression. Dogs have an insatiable thirst and will urinate more. Weight loss is common in advanced diabetes. Unfortunately, there is no cure for diabetes, but with proper care, you can manage your dog’s disease.    

Addison’s Disease

Addison’s disease is the failure of the adrenal glands to produce the necessary hormones the body needs to sustain healthy organ and system functions.  The causes of this disease are largely unknown but may result from a metastatic tumor or drugs that inhibit adrenal enzymes.  Addison’s disease may affect any breed at any age, but breeds such as Standard Poodles, West Highland Terriers, Great Danes, Bearded Collies, Portuguese Water Dogs, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers, and Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers are predisposed to developing the disease. Signs can wax and wane and can be quite subtle. You may also notice your dog has infrequent vomiting, shaking and diarrhoea.

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What to do if your Dog is Quiet and Not Eating

You should never ignore a loss of appetite and quiet or lethargic behavior in your dog.  If you notice repeated behavior changes and any other symptoms of pain or suffering you need to seek immediate medical attention.  Your vet will perform a full physical examination and ask you medical history questions, including reviewing vaccination records.  

Infectious diseases, such as parvovirus and coronavirus, which usually affect younger dogs and dogs that are around multiple other dogs, are diagnosed by performing a physical examination and confirmed with a fecal test.  Infectious diseases are highly contagious, so you will have to isolate your ill dog from others.  Your dog will also need access to fresh water and clean bedding.  Dehydration is a serious condition that may manifest with infectious disease and providing ample fresh water and food containing moisture (such as canned food) is important. 

If your dog’s loss of appetite and lethargic behaviors are due to advanced diabetes, you can manage your dog’s symptoms and reduce the adverse side effects associated with the disease. If at the point of refusing food, your dog will need to be hospitalised and stabilised. With the help of your veterinarian, you can develop a diet that will support living with diabetes.  Consistent exercise, though at a moderate level, is also critical for the care of a dog with diabetes, once recovered from their acute event.  Most dogs will require daily insulin injections.  Monitoring your dog’s health and making regular visits to your veterinarian will ensure your dog’s health plan is optimized for his condition.

Other diseases, such as Addison’s disease, may be diagnosed during an acute crisis.  During an emergency event, your dog may be experiencing shock, and it critical for you get to him to the veterinarian’s office for stabilization.  Your vet will perform a blood count and biochemistry test to determine the levels of potassium as well as any changes in other mineral and chemical levels.  If your veterinarian suspects Addison’s disease, he will order an adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) stimulation test to measure the cortisol levels before and after the test to determine if the adrenal glands are functioning properly. 

Once diagnosed, your veterinarian will develop a hormonal replacement plan for your dog, customized to suit your dog’s needs.  It is important that you do not change the dosages or drugs without consulting your vet and you must monitor any changes during the preliminary development of your dog’s health plan.  Once your veterinarian has determined the proper dosage of medication, you can expect to bring your dog to the veterinarian’s office once a month for hormonal injections.

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Prevention of Quiet and Not Eating

Any time you purchase or adopt a dog; you should vaccinate him as well.  Many viral diseases can be prevented through vaccinations but not exposing your dog to cramped living or boarding situations is also essential in preventing diseases caused by any infectious agent.  

As your dog ages, you want to help him maintain a healthy weight and balanced lifestyle.  Sometimes, you cannot prevent diabetes from developing, but through a regular, healthy diet and moderate, consistent exercise, you can help push back the early onset of diabetes and manage early signs.  Additionally, spaying females at early ages can help reduce the chances of developing diabetes later in life as unspayed females are twice as likely as male dogs to develop diabetes.

Certain medications such as Mitotane of Trilostane, which is used to treat Cushing’s disease, can trigger an Addisonian crisis. Signs of Addison's can be vague at first, so always request a check up if your dog is not right. In some cases, you will not know your dog has Addison’s disease until a crisis occurs, but your veterinarian can perform testing if you or he believes your dog is at risk. 

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Cost of Quiet and Not Eating

Treating a loss of appetite and quiet behaviors will depend on the underlying medical condition.  For example, it can cost around $3,000 to treat your dog if he is not eating due to advancied diabetes and ketoacidosis.  If an infectious disease is diagnosed, treatment can cost between $1,000 and $5,500, depending on the type of infection.

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Quiet and Not Eating Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Ruby

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British Red Labrador Retriever

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7 Years

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Moderate severity

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4 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargic, No Appetite, Isolation,

I'm concerned that my dog is either sick or pregnant. She is very quiet, turns away from food, and is not herself at all. She will still continue to play ball, nothing stops her from playing fetch. She went into heat around Easter time and we do have other dogs in the home and neighborhood but they are either females or neutered males. Our neutered male and her were quite active in the sexual department, it was pretty non-stop. Is there even a possibility a neutered male could impregnate her? Would her lack of activity (outside of playing ball), lack of interest in food, and general isolation be a possible symptom of a pregnancy or are we looking at something more serious.

May 22, 2018

Ruby's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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4 Recommendations

It would be very unusual for your neutered male to have gotten Ruby pregnant. It sounds like something else might be going on, and her not eating and being quiet is a little concerning. It would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine her, determine what might be happening, and recommend any testing or treatment that she might need. I hope that she is okay.

May 22, 2018

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