I have a ten-year-old Maltese/Shih Tzu mix, in relatively good health. About a year ago, my veterinarian put him on a senior diet because of a slightly raised creatine level, which now is back to normal. He was not pleased with the new food, and I had to try eight different brands. He has always been a little bit of a fussy eater, but now every day is torture getting him to eat. He doesn’t like food at all. It has gotten so bad that it takes me almost two hours of coaxing to get him to eat. The vet wants to see him put on a little weight.
Last year, he had his four front teeth extracted due to decay. This year when they were cleaned, everything looked good. Do you think I should request any further testing from my vet? I am at a loss for what to do.
— Karen, Brookhaven Hamlet, Long Island
While it’s not unusual for older dogs to eat less or change their eating habits as they get older, you should absolutely rule out other health problems with your veterinarian first. Dogs sometimes associate any pain or discomfort they feel with the food they are eating, and will avoid it if they think it’s the cause of the problem.
Of course, the food may be part of the problem if he has an intolerance for some of the ingredients. If your vet approves, maybe you can switch proteins, from chicken or beef to salmon or bison. Or maybe you can feed him a limited-ingredient diet that will have fewer things that could trouble his stomach if that is what’s causing the issue.
Lastly, ask your veterinarian if you can add something to make his food more enticing, like boiled chicken, canned pumpkin (without the sugars), or Forti-Flora, which is a probiotic made by Purina Pro Plan that can help restore intestinal health and, because it’s tasty, may improve his appetite.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal