Slight fluctuations in your pet’s typical behaviors are normal, but persistent alterations in their behavior, personality, and eating and drinking habits are sure signs that something is wrong. Read our Town & Country Animal Hospital team’s guide to learn four common reasons why your four-legged friend may be exhibiting a change in their appetite and thirst.

#1: Your pet is in pain

If you’ve ever had a toothache or suffered from a sprained muscle, you know how much that pain affects your day-to-day activities. Your appetite can plummet, you may not feel like drinking your recommended daily amount of water, and you just want to curl up on the couch. Your pet feels the same way when they are experiencing pain, although they are less likely to moan and groan about it. Any disease that causes inflammation is uncomfortable and can take a toll on your pet’s hunger, thirst, energy, and happiness. Your furry pal likely feels discomfort and their appetite and thirst may be adversely affected if they have any of these common painful conditions:

  • Dental disease
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD)
  • Eye problems
  • Urinary problems
  • Skin and ear infections
  • Pancreatitis
  • Cancer

#2: Your pet has an infection

Any infection can alter a pet’s appetite and thirst. Infection typically results in pain and inflammation, so the discomfort your four-legged friend experiences will certainly reduce their appetite, in addition to making them feel generally unwell. While periodontal infections can decrease a pet’s food and water consumption, a urinary tract infection (UTI) causes excessive thirst and urination. The infected body part or system will influence your furry pal’s hunger and thirst, although the condition will most likely always cause a decreased appetite

#3: Your pet has developed a chronic health issue

Chronic health issues can take months to cause noticeable changes in your pet’s eating and drinking habits, but these signs are important clues for disease diagnosis. If your four-legged friend’s appetite or thirst has changed, our Town & Country Animal Hospital team will perform a thorough physical examination and diagnostic testing to determine your furry pal’s underlying problem. A change to your pet’s eating and drinking habits can indicate they have an illness that requires treatment such as one of these common chronic health issues:

  • Diabetes — Diabetes is known for causing the three Ps: polyphagia, polydipsia, and polyuria (i.e., excessive hunger, thirst, and urination). As your pet’s glucose level is regulated through appropriate insulin dosing and administration, and you switch them to a special diet, their appetite and thirst should return to near-normal levels.
  • Kidney disease — As the kidneys fail to function properly, they can no longer adequately eliminate toxins and metabolic wastes from the bloodstream. These waste products then accumulate, causing an affected pet to feel nausea and triggering the body to pull in additional fluid to try to flush out the metabolic byproducts. Your four-legged friend will drink and urinate more to try to make up for the fluid loss and the kidney’s inability to concentrate urine. They will also likely refuse to eat, or have a greatly decreased appetite, which is attributable to the nausea and vomiting caused by a buildup of waste products in the bloodstream.
  • Hyperthyroidism — Excessive thyroid hormone production typically occurs in cats, although the condition can develop in dogs. Affected pets demonstrate increased thirst, hunger, and activity level.
  • Cushing’s disease — An endocrine disorder, Cushing’s disease generally occurs when the adrenal gland secretes an overabundance of cortisol, the stress hormone the body naturally produces. When cortisol levels become elevated, increased thirst, urination, and hunger result.

#4: Your pet is stressed

Although you may not recognize your pet’s stress signs, anxiety can significantly impact every aspect of your furry pal’s life. Stress can change their eating and drinking habits, sleep patterns, personality, interactions with people and pets, and overall health and wellbeing. 

A pet will likely have a poor appetite if one household pet is causing them stress through negative interactions, the household routine has changed, guests are visiting, or your four-legged friend is experiencing separation anxiety. In these situations, pets often avoid their food and water bowls, as they are too stressed and anxious to eat or drink much. They will snatch mouthfuls now and then, and, once a triggering situation is resolved, their eating and drinking habits will also normalize.

If your pet’s stressed because they lack environmental enrichment and feel bored, they may eat when they are not hungry, simply for something to do. Swapping out a boring food bowl for a puzzle feeder will provide the distraction your furry pal needs to eat less and think more. Another way to help prevent your pet from focusing on food out of boredom is to add physical activities and items that encourage your pet to follow their natural behaviors such as scratching, climbing, hiding, chewing, and sniffing.

Changes in your pet’s habits can indicate they have a serious health problem. If your furry pal’s eating, drinking, sleeping, or bathroom habits have changed, schedule an appointment with our Town & Country Animal Hospital team.