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Dr. Deb
Dr. Deb, Dog Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 8911
Experience:  I have been a practicing veterinarian for over 30 years.
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My 10 year old dogs behavior has suddenly changed. She is

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My 10 year old dog's behavior has suddenly changed. She is not eating, but hovers her face over her bowl and growls if I or my other dog approach. If I send my other dog out of the room, she just sits at the bowl, but will not eat. My first thought was that the dry food was hurting her teeth. I tried mixing it with a little water, and then with some gravy, but neither worked. I tried changing the food, thinking she just didn't like it, and that didn't work. I broke down today and bought canned food, which she never passes up, but has been off for some months now due to pancreatitis. She wouldn't eat it. It seems the only thing she will eat with gusto are the "greenies" for her breath.

The only other change in behavior I have noticed is that this morning she went outside, but did not urinate. Then she ran back to the door looking all excited. I told her to go and she did, then ran to the door like she was ready to eat. But when I placed the bowl down, I got the same weird behavior. She NEVER once in ten years has gone outside and not urinated. In addition, we have noticed that she is sometimes urinating on our tile floor. We expected this as she aged, and have added an additional time for her to go outside. She also seems to be having worsening cataracts, but doesn't seem to have any trouble getting around.

In all other respects, Sadie seems happy and normal. She does have bowel movements and seems otherwise "normal." (She's a rescue dog and has never actually been normal!)

My concern is physical versus behavioral. I'm actually worried she's getting "senile" or having a bit of dementia. Am I jumping the gun here, or should I be taking her to the vet?

Thank you in advance for any help you can give me.

Hi Kelly, I'm Dr. Deb. I will do my best to assist you today.
I'm sorry for these concerns about Sadie.

I don't think you're jumping the gum about having her seen since I think there may be a possible underlying medical explanation for her disinterest in food. I suspect that she may also have early signs of dementia since she's urinating in the house, but these dogs are usually still eating.

My concern would be that she might have problems or issues with her kidneys or liver; possibly an auto-immune disease. I am sad to say that I always worry about cancer when older dogs start to show less interest in food.
When dogs start to act in odd ways (possibly in addition to physical signs), I also worry about a brain mass, unfortunately.

It's also possible that she has a urinary tract infection which might explain her urinating in the house but then I'd expect her to urinate when she went outside. So while this doesn't entirely fit, I'd want a urine evaluated as well as blood work done.

Some dogs will definitely lose their sense of smell and taste as they age but ten is a little young for this to be happening for a dog her size. And, usually these dogs can be tempted with people food or something different.
You might offer her some boiled chicken or even human baby food (avoid those with onion or garlic in them) to see if she really likes it.
I have seen dogs become tired of what they're eating but she should have eaten the canned food that you gave her if this were the case.

So, at this point, I'd want to run blood work and a urinalysis to rule out a medical problem as an explanation for her disinterest in eating. This doesn't sound like just a behavior problem to me...although I wish it did.

I hope this helps. Deb

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Dear Dr. Deb,


Thank you for your assistance. I think I needed to see it in black and white to help me get ready for the worst-case possibility. I didn't think of a brain mass, though. That's an interesting thought. The liver, kidneys or auto-immune disease fits very well, though. In the event that is the case, what possible treatments are there? Or is this also a "worst-case scenario"?


When she had the pancreatitis, I had to withhold water and food for 30 hours. I don't relish doing that again. But with a liver or kidney problem, are you suggesting she has a temporary problem or that she is in liver or kidney failure?

You're more than welcome.

I don't really think she has a brain mass either but I like to cover as many possibilities as I can so there are no surprises.

Withholding food from her is not something that would be advised if she has an underlying medical problem. We want these dogs to eat to keep up their nutrition and to not become you don't have to worry about this.

As to treatments, much depends on the underlying problem, of course, since the approach is different for whatever she might have.

I know you want to be prepared, but if values are elevated in her blood work implicating one particular organ system or another, then it's more productive to address that specific problem and additional diagnostics and possible treatment options, rather than to speculate at this point.
In other words, once you have more information, then I can be more helpful in providing options...whether they be what additional testing could be done or what treatments might be suggested, if this makes sense.

I'm not suggesting either a permanent or a temporary problem since either one is possible. I don't have enough information to make this kind of judgment.

There are degrees of diseases in many cases (mild, moderate, severe) and the approach is often dictated by the severity.

There are just too many unknowns and variables at this point to discuss specifics.
But once blood work is done and if you'd like to discuss the results, I would be more than happy to do so. Even after you've rated (if you do, of course), we can stay in touch and continue to communicate as we have been.


Unfortunately, I have to step away from my computer for a little while to help a neighbor with health issues but I'd be happy to discuss this with you further when I log back on later.

Dr. Deb and 2 other Dog Veterinary Specialists are ready to help you


I just wanted to thank you for the rating; it's greatly appreciated.


I'll also look forward to chatting with you next week. I'll send you a follow up email to which you can respond when you have the time to do so.


Good luck with Sadie; I'll be hoping that the blood work doesn't indicate anything too serious....I'm sure this is your hope as well. Deb

I'm just following up on our conversation about Sadie. How is she doing? Deb
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hi, Deb,


My vet agreed with your assessment that she may have a brain tumor or some kind of cognitive dysfunction, such as dementia. Her blood work was actually perfect, even her glucose levels. Her blindness is more profound that I first thought, but she's not completely sightless.


She stayed overnight with the vet and would not eat at all. He had tried a shot to take care of any swelling that might be going on, but it did not help. When I went to pick her up (after a discussion about euthanasia and when it might be appropriate), he decided to try a vitamin B shot to stimulate her appetite.


Well, that did the trick! I mean, in less than an hour, she was eating like a horse! She has since eaten every meal, although I am seeing the symptoms slowly beginning to manifest again. But it will give us and her buddy, Gus, a little more time with her.


My biggest concern is that she not literally starve to death. That is a painful way to die, I understand. So I'm watching her carefully and snuggling with her every chance I get. The vet says to feed her anything she'll eat, so she's gotten a little steak and part of a plain McDonald's hamburg! Otherwise, regular dog food is working.


He also suggested I get children's vitamins to feed her. I could only find gummy vitamins, and Sadie does not like them. I'm off tomorrow to try to find a liquid or something else she'll take.


So thank you for your concern and taking the time to answer me so thoroughly, given the constraints of this medium. You actually did ease my fears somewhat, but also gave me information which I could use to talk to my vet and understand what was going on with Sadie. I appreciate it very much.


Best regards,



Thanks so much for taking the time to send me an update about Sadie; I really appreciate it;)
I'm glad her blood work was normal but in some ways I wish that it wasn't so that it pointed in one specific direction which could account for her symptoms.

How absolutely wonderful that the Vitamin B injection worked as well as it did. I've not personally had a great deal of success with it as an appetite stimulant on those occasions that I've used it but I'm glad that she was responsive. The good news is that it can be given once weekly so it may continue to help her.

I'm glad that I've been able to help you ....and Sadie, of course. I'll continue to wish her the best and hope that she continues to eat for you:) Take care, Deb

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