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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 20627
Experience:  Hello, I am a small animal veterinarian and am happy to discuss any concerns & questions you have on any species.
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My dog has lethargy and is not eating which came on in the

Customer Question

My dog has lethargy and is not eating which came on in the last 2 days and I do not know why.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 2 years ago.

Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with your wee one today.

Has he had any vomiting, retching, gagging, or lip licking?

Does he seem keen to eat but then turn away? Or does he have no appetite?

Is he drinking? Can he keep water down?

Are his gums pink or pale/white? Moist or sticky?

If you press on his belly, does he have any discomfort, tenderness, or tensing?

Could he have eaten something he should not have (ie bones, toys, rocks, plants, chemicals, etc)?

Has he had any diarrhea?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

no vomiting, no appetite. He is drinking. Gums pink.No belly pain. Some diarrhea. Has not eaten for 2 days.

Expert:  Dr. B. replied 2 years ago.

Thank you, Patricia.

First, I am glad to see that he has nice pink gums and no signs of belly pain, as that does rule out some of our more worrisome and GI traumatic issues. Now those aside, as I am sure you can appreciate, if we have a dog that has been anorexic over the past few days, we do have some serious concerns. This is because this is a vague clinical signs that can occur with a range of conditions. Specifically, we can see anorexia related to conditions of the GI but also conditions that affect the body as a whole. This includes bacterial infection, viral disease, parasitic infestations, metabolic conditions, organ disease (ie liver or kidney troubles), inflammatory GI disease (ie IBD), cancer (less likely here), toxin and/or foreign material ingestion.

Now if foreign bodies and toxins are less likely here, then we can start some supportive care to see if we can break his fast. First off, to address any nausea inducing his anorexia, we can start by treating with an antacid. There are a number of antacids that are available over the counter and pet friendly. I would advise only treating with one, but the two I tend to recommend are Pepcid (More Info/Dose) or Zantac (More Info/Dose). This medication of course shouldn’t be given without consulting your vet if he does have any pre-existing conditions or is on any other medications. Ideally, it should be given about 30 minutes before food to ease his upset stomach.

Once that is on board, you will want to try and see if you can get him eating (as you have). If he hasn’t been keen to have his favourites, then I would advise also trying to tempt him with a light/easily digestible diet. Examples of this would be boiled chicken, boiled white fish, scrambled eggs (made with water and not milk), meat baby food (do avoid the ones with garlic powder in the ingredients) or there are also veterinary prescription diets that can be used in cases of gastroenteritis, notable Hill’s I/D or Royal Canin’s sensitivity.

Further to this, if he cannot be tempted but isn't vomiting, then we do have to consider initiating syringe feeds to get food in. In that case, you may want to try Hill's A/D (LINK) from your local vet. This is a critical care diet that is comes as a soft, palatable pate. It is calorically dense, so a little goes a long way nutrition-wise and this could just help get some more calories into him even if we can’t get a huge volume of food in. As well, for syringing food, you can use the animal version of Ensure (balanced for animals dietary requirements) called Clinicare Canine/Feline Liquid Diet . It is actually by the same people who make Ensure, but is formulated to meet out pet's dietary needs. Your vet should be able to order it for you but it is available without a prescription. Furthermore, as a short term option, you can also try feeding (or watering down to syringe) wet puppy food. This way it would a means of getting food/fluids in, staving off dehydration and weight loss, and buying you time to uncover the reason for his poor appetite.

On top off all of this, you do need to keep an eye on his water intake and hydration status. If possible, you do want to check his hydration now. To check this and make sure he is not becoming dehydrated there are a few things we can test at home. One is whether the eyes appear sunken, if the gums are tacky instead of wet/moist, and whether he has a "skin tent" when you lift the skin. To see how to check these parameters for dehydration, you can find a wee video on this HERE. If you are seeing any signs of dehydration already, then you do want to have your lad seen by the vet before this gets any further out of control.

If he isn't drinking as well as we need him to, then you can try to encourage him to drink low-sodium chicken broth. As well, wet foods (as mentioned above) are 35% water, so getting him to eat will help us deal with water intake as well. Or another option would be to syringe unflavored pedialyte. While we cannot do this if they are vomiting, it may be an option for this situation. A typical maintenance rate for hydration in an animal 48mls per kilogram of weight a day. If you do give syringe pedialyte, this should obviously be divided up into multiple offerings through the day rather then all at once. This value will give you the total he needs for the day and is a good starting point to give you an idea of his daily requirement. If he does vomits if you give pedialyte, I would discontinue this as a therapy. (since we don’t want him vomiting because of our intervention).

Overall, when a dog won't eat, then this is a sign of something seriously amiss. The challenge is that it can mean a wide range of underlying issues. If your lad has already been off his food for this long, then we do want to see if we can get him back on his food as soon as possible. Therefore, I would advise the above. If you initiate these treatments and do not see improvement over the next 12-24 hours (sooner if he does appear very bloated or has any of those other signs of discomfort I mentioned), then it would be best to take him to the vet so that they can make sure there is nothing sinister afoot. With his being a middle aged lad and anorexia can be signs of so many conditions, it would be worth considering having your vet check a blood sample (to make sure his organs are working as they should). Depending on their findings, the vet will be able to cover him with antibiotics and anti-nausea/vomiting medication and appetite stimulating medications by injection to help settle his stomach and get him back on track as quick as possible.

I hope this information is helpful.

If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!

All the best,

Dr. B.


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