There are many potential causes of an altered or absent appetite in dogs. Chronic or systemic conditions may include chronic kidney disease (CKD), cancer, infectious disease, or aging. Acute conditions may include pain, nausea, dehydration, fever, and postoperative ileus.2 Early recognition of inappetence and implementing appropriate nutrition is essential as a long-term poor nutritional state may result in weakness, muscle loss, decreased ability to heal, and overall increased patient morbidity.3
A pet that is unwilling to eat or no longer seems excited to eat is a major concern for clients; clients may also perceive an inappetent pet to have a diminished quality of life, particularly if concurrent weight loss and lethargy are present.3 Necessary medications may be challenging to administer if the patient does not readily accept them in food, and all benefits of a prescription diet are lost if the patient is not eating or consuming enough to meet its daily energy needs, or metabolic energy requirement (MER).4
Practitioners should be diligent in educating the team and clients to recognize inappetence and understand the nutritional requirements of each patient. Key indicators of inappetence are frequently overlooked in a patient’s history because they are considered by the owner as variations of normal. In order to avoid missing vital information, every appointment should obtain the following information to ensure a full nutritional assessment.