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Why Unexplained Weight Loss Is So Dangerous For Your Dog
Why is weight loss the sign of a dangerous problem?
If you are one of those people feeding a very low quality food, unless your dog has access to other food sources you may be starving him without even realizing it. Some dogs will even stop eating a cheap food that does not taste good.
Unlike cats, they will not starve themselves to death, but they can become thin and weak if the food is very bad.
The solution? Switch your dog to a better diet right away. I recommend feeding a raw diet, a natural whole food like nature intended. Feeding a paleo diet is not expensive if you do not buy the “prepackaged” commercial raw foods sold in plastic.
There are a lot of benefits to a natural whole diet and dogs enjoy the taste.
It is also possible that your dog is not getting enough food, even if it is good quality. Watch the dog when he eats. Does he have at least 15 minutes to eat his food? Is there another dog in the household taking over the bowl before he even finishes?
If the food is okay, and you are sure he is getting enough to eat every day, the first thing to do is check his teeth. Are there any broken teeth, swelling in the gums, or a pus discharge when you press down on his gums? If your dog has any of these dental problems, he is probably in pain and needs to see his vet right away.
The most common causes of losing weight, then, are:
- Feeding a low quality food, even if it is only missing one vital nutrient
- Not getting enough food
- Dental problems that make it hard for him to eat
Common causes of weight loss when the dog is eating enough food
Protein losing diseases
Elevated metabolic rate
1. Chronic infection: A chronic infection can be something as simple and easy to treat as worms, something more serious like heartworms or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, or even something like a chronic skin infection that your dog is using all of his energy to combat.
Sometimes a dog with a chronic infection will appear normal. Like most of the diseases that cause weight loss, your dog will need to be diagnosed through simple blood work before he can be treated. An elevated white blood cell count will tell the vet that your dog has an infection, even if it is not obvious at the first examination. A stool sample might be checked for worms, and even his skin might need to be scraped and examined under a microscope to check for mange.
2. Diabetes: Besides losing weight, one of the common symptoms of diabetes in dogs is excessive thirst. With excessive thirst, of course, the dog will have to urinate excessively, and it is unlikely that he will be able to hold his urine all night. If your dog is having “accidents”, even after being housetrained, the first thing to do is have a physical exam and blood work.
Diabetes is only one of the problems that can cause excessive thirst and urination.
Diabetes is most frequently diagnosed in older dogs, and usually in females. If your dog is losing weight and having accidents, be sure to get her in to your vet for a physical exam and blood test today.
3. Kidney disease: One of the ways in which chronic kidney disease causes weight loss is called “protein losing nephropathy”. The kidneys leak, and protein molecules spill out into the urine. No matter how much a dog eats, he cannot keep enough protein in his system to remain healthy, and without proper treatment he will waste away.
Some other internal organs can also cause weight loss when they fail. The heart is one example of this, so all dogs with weight loss will have their chests examined to rule out “cardiac cachexia”.
All of these diseases can be discovered by a simple physical exam and blood work.
4. Cancer: This disease can strike in many different ways, but one thing you can watch out for is weight loss. The tumor or tumors starts drawing away the nutrients that the dog needs to keep the rest of his body healthy.
Diagnosing cancer can be difficult, but when it is found early the chances of treatment are a lot better. By the time your dog is losing weight, it may have already spread, so get your dog checked out right away.
5. Maldigestion/Malabsorption: Several different diseases can cause a dog to lose weight despite a healthy, even voracious, appetite. Dogs will have diarrhea and light yellow stools several times per day. Sometimes it will smell especially foul, like when dogs are suffering from Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth.
When the pancreas is destroyed, no enzymes are released into your dog´s GI tract and he can suffer from maldigestion/malabsorption. All of the important nutrients that your dog eats every day pass right through his GI tract and are never absorbed. Some dogs can also be sensitive to gluten and the little “fingers” (villi) in the small intestine die off and no longer absorb the nutrients passing through the GI tract.
Although dogs with maldigestion and malabsorption can have diarrhea and light yellow stools, that symptom alone is not enough to diagnose the problem. Like many other diseases that cause weight loss, he will need to have a physical exam from your vet and when the problem is recognized his stool can be looked at under a microscope and his blood tested for digestive enzymes. Some dogs even need a biopsy of the intestine before this problem can be diagnosed.
Source: Ettinger and Feldman: Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 6th edition, St. Louis, 2005, Saunders
The best way to treat weight loss in a dog is:
More About Your Dog´s Health
- Do It Yourself At Home Physical Exam for Your Dog
Find out how to perform a simple physical at home before wasting your time and money taking the dog in to the vet.
- Sick Dog Symptoms : What To Look For Before It Is To Late
More details on what to look for if you think your dog is getting sick.
What can I do at home?
There is not a lot you can do at home until you have learned what is causing your dog´s weight loss.
If your dog is healthy, think about the quality of the food you are giving him.
But how do you know your dog is healthy? If he is urinating excessively, having loose stools when you take him out, is straining when he does need to go or having accidents in the house, there is something abnormal going on.
If you own a dog but cannot provide him with medical care even after he starts having diarrhea, you can try feeding him plain yogurt to change the flora of the GI tract.
Many other medical problems will respond to a diet change, but cannot be treated at home until you know what is wrong. If your dog is gluten sensitive, and you change him to a high fiber diet with a lot of gluten, do you think he is going to get better?
If you have any doubts, go ahead and take him in to your vet for a physical exam and blood work.
You can see from this list that there are a lot of reasons for why your dog is losing weight. None of them can really be dealt with at home until you find out what is going on. Even if you can tell what is going on, unless you have a specific diagnosis you are not helping him out by trying alternative treatments.
There are several different methods to treat your dog´s weight loss naturally. In order to start any treatment plan at home, however, you need to find out what is wrong.
If your dog is losing weight, do something about it now.
© 2014 Dr Mark