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Weight Loss In Older Dogs: When To Worry

Most owners will inevitably observe changes in their dogs as they enter their senior years. While some of these changes are typical, others may raise concerns, such as abrupt weight loss. In this article, our veterinarians in Santa Rosa will address weight loss in older dogs and when it warrants concern.

When Your Older Dog is Losing Weight

Weight gain in older dogs is more common than weight loss, but this is not always the case. When your senior dog experiences sudden or gradual weight loss, it can cause concern. Generally, two main factors contribute to a dog losing weight and muscle mass as they enter their golden years.

  1. Your dog has an underlying health condition, and weight loss is a symptom of it.
  2. Your dog requires a new diet at their age.

When is Weight Loss in Older Dogs a Concern?

When older dogs experience weight loss often indicates an underlying health condition. These conditions encompass liver/gallbladder disease, dehydration, dental problems, kidney disease, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and arthritis.

Your veterinarian should diagnose and address each of these issues. Most of these root causes manifest alongside other symptoms alongside weight loss.

To best support your senior dog with excess weight loss, document all their symptoms and schedule a vet examination in Santa Rosa.

Below, you'll find the potential issues that can affect your pet, leading to weight loss, along with the common symptoms associated with each condition:

Liver/gallbladder disease

      • Lethargy
      • Increased thirst
      • Vomiting/diarrhea
      • Fever
      • Pain 
      • Pale or yellow gums
      • Yellowing of skin/eyes


      • Dry gums 
      • Lethargy 
      • Sunken eyes
      • Loss of skin elasticity
      • Less urination
      • Dark urine

Dental Issues

      • Excessive drooling
      • Difficulty eating/chewing
      • Bad breath
      • Swollen or bleeding gums

Kidney disease

      • Increased thirst
      • Excessive urination (may contain blood)
      • Vomiting
      • Loss of appetite
      • Pale gums
      • Lethargy

Heart disease

      • A chronic cough
      • Tires easily
      • Exercise intolerance
      • Excessive panting
      • Irregular heartbeat
      • Restlessness


      • Excessive thirst
      • Excessive urination
      • Increased appetite
      • Lethargy
      • Repeated urinary tract infections


      • Lethargy
      • Unusual bleeding
      • Lumps, bumps, or swelling
      • Distended abdomen
      • Limping or lameness
      • Unique urination – frequency or amount


      • Wobbling
      • Lameness
      • Scuffing the toes
      • Incontinence

What to Feed an Old Dog That is Losing Weight

If your veterinarian does not have a medical diagnosis for your dog's weight loss, ask them about your dog's current diet and the amount of protein, fat, and fiber they are getting. Your vet may be able to suggest a new diet/meal plan to get your pup back on track to a healthy weight.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your senior dog is noticeably losing weight, contact our Santa Rosa vets immediately to schedule an examination.

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