How You Can Help Us Make a Diagnosis of Your Pet’s Problem, Part 2: Appetite • Long Beach Post

By Dr. Carl Palazzolo, DVM, Long Beach Animal Hospital

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Photo by Willee Cole.

Monitoring for any changes in appetite is the first sign in any observation of illness in a pet. The medical term for a complete lack of appetite is anorexia. If a pet is eating less than normal but is still eating something, it is called partial anorexia, or hyporexia. An excess appetite is called polyphagia or hyperphagia.

Even though in most cases it is a decrease in appetite that is usually observed when there is a problem, an increase in appetite can also alert us to a problem in select cases, so monitor for both.

The change here can be subtle initially, so close observation is crucial. If more than one person feeds your pet, you need to coordinate how much food is given each day and if all Make a chart to monitor this.

One or two days of a minor change in appetite might be the norm for your pet, but if the change is major or goes on for several days, an examination is warranted by one of our veterinarians.

During the warmer times of the year, our pets tend to eat less, especially the larger animals or those with longhair coats. Large-breed dogs feel the heat more than smaller ones, so they tend to be the ones that might eat less for one or two days. This is normal when it is hot, and if there are no other problems, there is no cause for alarm initially. If it goes on for several days or there is a complete lack of appetite, an exam is warranted.

Large-breed dogs are also stoic and can have significant disease present without showing any outward symptoms that hint that they are ill. It is hard to tell if these dogs are not eating well because of the heat or an illness, so for these pets, it is best to err on the side of caution and bring them in for an exam sooner rather than later.

The list of diseases that can cause anorexia in animals is quite long, so I will only go over the more common ones we see and give one example of each. As you will note, even though it is an abbreviated list, there is a vast array of causes of anorexia. This is why we use the diagnostic process and why we need your help in the history.

Common Causes of Anorexia

  • dental disease, e.g., tooth decay and periodontal disease
  • oral tumor, e.g., squamous cell carcinoma
  • oral foreign body, e.g., bone stuck in roof of mouth
  • poisons, e.g., antifreeze toxicity
  • internal organ disease, e.g., liver failure
  • hormonal disease, e.g., diabetes mellitus
  • cancer, e.g., lymphoma
  • trauma, e.g., broken jaw
  • Infection, e.g., pneumonia
  • anemia, e.g., low red-blood cells
  • reproductive problems, e.g., infected uterus (pyometra)
  • eye disease, e.g., corneal ulcer
  • inflammatory disease, e.g., insect-sting reaction
  • fever, e.g., inflammation somewhere in the body


In the next article, I will discuss monitoring breathing.

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