Pet Parent Article: Diet and Eating

Monitoring the dietary trends of your pet is something most owners already do without even noticing. Did Brownie eat all his food today? Was Sheeba excited to eat her new food? Why did Cookie stop eating her dry kibble, but not her canned food? Tracking your pet’s daily food habits can provide valuable clues to the health of your dog or cat. If your normally ravenous lab refuses food or your rambunctious cat does not pounce on you while sleeping at 5 am for her morning mealtime, something is wrong. 

Eating Parameters to Track: 

Quantity
Tracking how much your pet is eating can clue you in on subtle changes in your pet’s health. The key is to measure how much you are giving your pet at each feeding. Keep a measuring cup in the pet food bag or container. For instance, if your dog receives 1 cup of dry kibble in the morning and at night, but is leaving kibble behind and not finishing her meal, something may be wrong. If not measured it can be difficult to monitor changes. If the dog aforementioned gets 1 scoop (which may hold up to 2 cups) of food twice daily, it may be perfectly normal for that dog not to finish her meal each time because she is being overfed.

Eagerness
How excited is your pet to eat? Most pets are very eager when it comes to mealtime and may even pester you until they are fed. Dogs may whine, jump, and beg; cats may be vocal, constantly at your feet, or even pounce on you in the wee hours of the morning for food. If a pet loses appetite or is not feeling well, they may not exhibit these behaviors. They may be missing at mealtime. These pets may sniff at their food, lick it, chew a few kibbles, or look at it, but not eat it. This behavior indicates inappetence, which can occur for a multitude of medical reasons.

How They are Eating
The way in which your pet eats is important to note. Are they ravenous, swallow the food whole, and complete their meal within seconds? Is your pet a slow grazer and uses the entire day to eat his meal? Does your pet chew thoroughly? Does your pet have trouble picking up food? Is kibble dropping out of their mouth while eating? Does your pet chew only on 1 side? A cat who usually is a slow eater and grazes throughout the day and has now developed a voracious appetite could indicate hyperthyroidism. A pet that normally chews kibble and eats quickly that has now slowed down and is chewing only on 1 side of her mouth and is dropping kibble while eating could have a dental issue. If your puppy stopped eating completely when just a few days ago she was eating not only her food but everything in the house (shoes, towels, children’s toys, and clothes), be looking for a possible intestinal blockage. Changes in eating habits can tell us a lot! 

Preference
Pet food comes in many formulations: canned, semi-moist, and dry kibble. What your pet likes is based on preference. If a change in preference has occurred, a medical problem might be brewing. For instance, a pet that has routinely been eating dry kibble for years is now refusing and only eating canned food may be experiencing inappetence or oral pain.  Wanting a different flavor or type of food can also indicate nausea. 

Gastric Upset
Vomiting and diarrhea are strong indicators that your pet is unwell and can be closely or directly related to their diet. While these symptoms can occur for many reasons, it is important to note when they happen, how often, and if there have been any recent or abrupt diet changes or stressors. Did your pet vomit immediately after eating breakfast or in the middle of the night? Is your pet vomiting once daily or multiple times within the day? Are they refusing to eat or still interested in food? Did you recently switch diets or introduce a new treat? Also the content of the vomit, as gross as it may sound, can provide useful information. Is there blood present? Worms or foreign material? Is there undigested food? Grass? Bile?

Changes in eating and appetite can occur for many reasons: stress, dietary indiscretion, obstruction, organ failure, toxins, pain, cancer, infectious disease, parasites, auto-immune disease, and endocrine disorders to name a few. Tracking your pet’s daily dietary habits can help you see subtle, or not-so-subtle, changes in eating trends. These changes can indicate a medical issue is occurring and veterinary care is needed. By monitoring your pet’s eating and appetite, you will pick up on changes early and be able to get him or her the care they need sooner and possibly prevent major medical problems. This information will also be hugely helpful to your veterinary professional when assessing your pet and developing a diagnostic and treatment plan. Early intervention and targeted care due to your astute observations will greatly improve your pet’s chances of a positive medical outcome. 

Patient

Pet: Louis


Pet Parent: Shirley


Signalment: 9 year old, MN, 20 lb Schnauzer


Medical History: No previous medical problems.


Louis is a grouchy boy who loves to eat and has been healthy up until now. He is currently on vaccines and receives regular parasite prevention. He prefers solitude, and quiet and occasionally allows his owner to love on him. 

Scenario A 

Louis the grump lives in a high-rise apartment in Miami with his owner Shirley. 

 

Shirley works as a news channel anchor and was often working odd hours. She employs a dog sitter to walk and care for Louis while Shirley is working. Louis uses pee pads and has an artificial grass mat in the home to use as well. 

Shirley’s dog sitter had noticed that Louis didn’t seem to be very excited about his food as he normally was and seemed to be urinating more. Shirley had noticed something similar, but with work so busy, decided to put the issue on the back burner since he seemed to be doing ok.

 

A month later, Louis was found unresponsive by the dog sitter. She rushed him to the vet who diagnosed him with DKA. Louis has been hospitalized for 1 week and hopefully will be able to return home soon.

Scenario B: Anipanion Tracking

Louis the grump lives in a high-rise apartment in Miami with his owner Shirley. 

 

Shirley works as a news channel anchor and was often working odd hours. She employs a dog sitter to walk and care for Louis while Shirley is working. Louis uses pee pads and has an artificial grass mat in the home to use as well. 

Shirley had started using Anipanion’s tracking app at the recommendation of her veterinarian. Since Louis was now a senior dog it was important to track his daily habits, such as appetite and eating. Shirley also informed the dog sitter to use this app as well. 

 

They both noticed that Louis’ appetite had decreased over the past week which concerned them both. They also noticed he was soaking through his pee pads. Shirley informed her vet who recommended he be seen the next day.

 

Diagnostics revealed that Louis had developed Diabetes, but fortunately, they caught it early. Louis did not go into DKA and did not require hospitalization. Shirley was instructed on insulin injections and diabetic care, and a CGM device was applied to track his glucose levels over the next 2 weeks. 

 

Due to Shirley and the pet sitters' astute tracking with the Anipanion app, they discovered Louis’ symptoms sooner and were able to receive early medical intervention; thus avoiding a potentially fatal side effect of diabetes, minimizing Louis’ suffering, and preventing a costly hospital stay.