Your pet cannot tell you when they feel different or unwell, but by closely observing their behavior, you can often tell when they are out of sorts. Pets are creatures of habit who don’t like change, so you should be mindful of any changes in your four-legged friend’s behavior. Eating and drinking habit changes often indicate an underlying physical or behavioral problem that you should not ignore. 

You know your pet best and can usually spot significant changes, but you may be less concerned about mild changes or those that occur over time. To help you learn to recognize disease signs and understand when to seek care, our Westerville Veterinary Clinic team is sharing these five common reasons for a pet’s eating and drinking habit changes.

#1: Diabetes in pets

Diabetes is a common endocrine disease that increases a dog’s or cat’s thirst, urination, and appetite. Insulin, a pancreatic hormone, is responsible for transporting glucose from the blood into the body’s other cells, but pets with diabetes lack insulin, so blood sugar levels build up. Pets become excessively hungry and lose weight because their bodies think they are starving, urinate in large volumes because excess glucose spills into the urine, taking water molecules with it, and drink more to replace the lost water. Diabetes is manageable with diet, weight control, and daily insulin injections. 

#2: Kidney disease in pets

The kidneys filter and eliminate waste products from the blood while conserving water, electrolytes, minerals, and other essential body substances. When kidneys malfunction because of age or disease, they can no longer save water, and an affected pet begins losing large volumes as urine. As with diabetes, increased thirst is an affected pet’s response to excess water losses. Pets with chronic kidney disease or failure may also lose weight, develop bad breath, stop eating, or vomit frequently. Kidney disease is progressive, but treatment with a specific diet, supplemental fluids, and medications can slow the disease progression and improve your pet’s quality of life.

#3: Gastrointestinal disease in pets

A sudden appetite decrease can indicate an acute stomach or intestinal problem, such as a foreign body obstruction or gastroenteritis. These conditions can be severe or life-threatening, warranting prompt veterinary care, because an affected pet may require emergency surgery or overnight hospitalization with supportive care. A long-standing appetite increase or decrease may also indicate your pet has a chronic gastrointestinal (GI) condition, such as inflammatory bowel disease, which your veterinarian can manage by prescribing a special diet, probiotics, supplements, and anti-inflammatory medications.

#4: Adrenal disease in pets

The adrenal glands produce multiple hormones that influence the entire body, including cortisol (i.e., stress hormone), epinephrine (i.e., adrenaline), and sex hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. Adrenal hormone increases occur with Cushing’s syndrome and commonly result in increased thirst, urination, and appetite. The underlying cause may be a pituitary gland tumor, an adrenal gland tumor, or benign adrenal gland enlargement. Treatments include medication and supplements to suppress excess hormone production, or in some cases, surgery.

#5: Stress and pain in pets

If your pet exhibits decreased or waxing and waning appetite, they may be experiencing physical or emotional discomfort. Who hasn’t lost their appetite during a difficult time in their life, or refused to eat during a bad headache or back pain episode? Stress and pain cause your pet to have a similar response, preventing them from eating normally. Pets may become stressed over changes in their environment, a difficult relationship with other household pets, or a noise phobia. In addition, your pet may be generally prone to anxiety. Treatment usually involves behavioral modifications and anti-anxiety medications.

Pain may also cause your pet to lose their appetite. However, pets are stoic, and you may have difficulty recognizing that your furry pal is experiencing pain. Most painful pets do not cry, whimper, limp, or cringe even though they are experiencing an affliction such as a fractured tooth, oral inflammation, or arthritis. Your veterinarian will treat your pet’s underlying pain condition, but they may also prescribe medications to reduce your four-legged friend’s immediate discomfort. 

If your pet’s eating or drinking habit changes last longer than a few days or are accompanied by other illness signs, schedule a veterinary visit. Our team will perform a thorough physical examination to check for painful conditions, discuss any additional behavior changes your pet may be exhibiting, and order blood and urine tests to study your furry pal’s organ and endocrine function. 

 Rather than waiting for your pet to exhibit illness signs, you should ensure they have annual wellness blood work performed to help identify a condition before your furry pal begins showing signs. Schedule your pet’s routine wellness visit or discuss a change in their eating or drinking habits with our Westerville Veterinary Clinic team.