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Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Veterinarian
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Experience:  Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
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My dog has a sudden loss of appetite. She is 12 years old.

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My dog has a sudden loss of appetite. She is 12 years old. Border Collie. Her name is***** She is drinking water, but no food at all..

Hello, I'm Dr. Kara. I have over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian and I'd like to help. Please give me a moment to review your concerns.

I am sorry to hear that Daisy Mae isn't feeling herself, with a sudden decrease in appetite. I am pleased to hear that she is continuing to drink water.

How long has this been going on?

Any vomiting or diarrhea?

Possible causes of her symptoms include a quick change in diet, dietary sensitivities or allergies, or eating things that they should not like too many fatty table scraps or garbage, bones etc., or a systemic infection. Metabolic organ failures (kidney or liver disease), Addison's disease (hypoadrenocortisim), pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, an abdominal mass putting pressure on her gastrointestinal tract making her feel full, or even infiltrative cancers are other possible causes.

Ideally if this has persisted for several days I would recommend an examination and checking basic blood tests on her including a complete blood count, biochemistry panel and a blood test for pancreatitis called can spec PL (canine specific pancreatic lipase) which is highly specific for pancreatitis. If her electrolyte levels seem unbalanced (high potassium and low sodium) then testing for Addison's disease with a test called an ACTH response test.
If those things are normal then the next step diagnostically would be an abdominal ultrasound and endoscopy to collect intestinal biopsies.

Has she been fed anything different or gotten into anything different that you know of?

In the meantime to help with gastrointestinal upset and reflux you can give either:

1) Pepcid ac (famotidine) at a dose of one 10mg tablet per 20 to 40 pounds of body weight every 12 hours
2) Prilosec (omeprazole) at a dose of one 20mg tablet per 40 to 80 pounds of body weight every 24 hours
These are acid reducers and should help her feel more comfortable. They are quite safe and can be used for a few days if needed. In some cases dogs remain on them long term if this is a repeated problem.

In a couple hours offer her low beef or chicken broth to drink but make sure it is in small amounts only. If she drinks too much too quickly that can lead to nausea and vomiting. To get some electrolytes in you can also offer her a 50:50 mix of pedialyte and water.

If she seems to feel better a couple hours later offer a bland diet mix of 1/3 boiled, minced, white, skinless chicken or boiled, lean hamburger and 2/3 boiled, plain, white rice or pasta mixed with some low salt chicken or beef broth to make it easy to lap up and swallow as well as increase her fluid intake. If she refuses that you can offer a little meat baby food. Probiotics such as Fortiflora, Proviable, or Benebac can help replace appropriate bacteria. You can add those to the bland diet mix.

If things go well and she does eat and doesn't vomit feed her the bland diet for 2 to 3 days then slowly start to mix back in her regular food, a little more at each meal. It should take about 5 to 7 days to slowly convert her back to her regular diet.

If she continues to refuse to eat, begins to vomit, runs a fever (more than 103F rectally), has a tense painful belly then she is not a candidate for home therapy and must see a veterinarian for an examination, diagnostics, injectable anti-nausea drugs intravenous fluids and supportive care.

Please let me know if you have any further questions.

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
She has had this problem for at least a week.
Took her to doctor and had blood work done (senior dog check up). Blood work came back normal. Cannot afford an ultra sound right now because it costs $350.00 which is out of our budget - we just spend $500 for the tests. They found a shadow up toward her upper legs. I just want to get her to eat and then will work on holistic remedies. Too old for chemo. I will try your recommendations. Thanks so much for your help Molly

I understand, that is tough because although her blood tests look good something is driving her drop in appetite.

If surgery and chemo are out of the question, which is reasonable given her age and your financial restrictions, then ask your veterinarian about using steroids to stimulate her appetite and/or an appetite stimulant called mirtazapine. In the meantime no harm in trying an acid reducer and the bland diet mix.

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
Will try all you recommended. If I join this website will I be guaranteed to have you as my consultant?

No, there's no guarantee. All of us come online when we have time. I'm not sure anyone has a regular schedule.

But if you can wait for them and you'd prefer a particular expert you can put "For Dr Kara (or whomever)" at the front of the question and your requested expert will answer when they come back online.

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
okay good - I just hand fed Daisy some warm chicken - boneless no skin - and rice and broth. Got about 1/2 cup down her and then she refused. I put a little broth on the side and she did not touch it. Is 1/2 cup sufficient. Perhaps several times per day?

I think it's a great start.

She may feel more like eating once the acid reducer has time to work too.

If she's not eating better ask your veterinarian to prescribe and appetite stimulant, such as mirtazapine.

Dr. Kara and 2 other Dog Veterinary Specialists are ready to help you
I'm just following up on our conversation about your pet. How is everything going?
Dr. Kara