Cats and dogs are generally creatures of habit, and the smallest change in their daily routine can be distressing. As a pet owner, you must be aware of your pet’s seemingly infinitesimal changes, as subtle abnormalities can indicate a major problem. 

Some of the most noticeable clues indicating your pet has an underlying health issue are altered eating and drinking habits. Whether the changes are small and gradual, or abrupt and alarming, they typically indicate your pet needs veterinary care. Here are 10 possible reasons behind your pet’s changed eating and drinking habits.

#1: Your pet has dental disease

Periodontal problems, such as gingivitis, diseased, damaged, or loose teeth, and tooth-root abscesses, can make crunching dry food and treats difficult, and cause your pet severe pain. If your pet is not eating or drinking as much as usual, and their mouth has a foul odor, they likely have dental disease.

#2: Your pet is in pain

While many pets try their best to hide pain, any discomfort can take a toll on their appetite and thirst. Despite no obvious signs, like limping or crying out, a decrease in your pet’s food and water intake may mean they are in pain. Osteoarthritis, intervertebral disc disease, and other joint and muscular conditions are some of the most common pain causes in pets.

#3: Your pet is nauseous

When your furry pal is nauseous, they certainly won’t feel like eating or drinking. They may attempt to nibble on their kibble, or take a few gulps of water, but if their stomach contents come right back up, they may not try again until their nausea is under control.

#4: Your pet is ill

Your pet can feel so ill with skin, ear, urinary, or systemic infections that they do not want to eat or drink. Fever, lethargy, and other illness signs are also typically seen with decreased thirst and appetite.

#5: Your pet has a chronic disease

Pets with chronic conditions can alter their eating and drinking habits, depending on how their body is affected. Common chronic diseases in pets include:

  • Diabetes — Unregulated diabetes creates excessive hunger, thirst, and urination.
  • Kidney disease — Kidney disease and other urinary conditions generally cause increased thirst and urination. Your pet’s appetite may also decrease because of nausea induced by metabolic waste and toxin buildup in the bloodstream.
  • Cushing’s disease — In pets with Cushing’s disease, the adrenal gland produces too much cortisol, the natural steroid hormone that triggers increased appetite, thirst, and urination.
  • Hyperthyroidism — Excessive thyroid hormone production, which is more likely to occur in cats than in dogs, can result in excessive thirst and urination, and increased appetite. 

The medication used to treat the condition, as well as the actual disease, may cause changes in your pet’s appetite and thirst. For example, a pet who receives a diuretic for congestive heart failure will urinate and drink more than usual.

#6: Your pet’s life stage has changed

As a puppy or kitten, your pet’s caloric needs are enormous compared with their adult life stage. Your young pet may seem ravenous, while your older pet’s appetite and thirst will likely decrease.

#7: Your pet is stressed

Stress and anxiety can significantly affect your pet’s appetite, since unsettled pets often fail to eat as much as they should. Stress can be triggered by sudden schedule changes, environmental differences, or family structure changes. Your pet may also be a victim of another household pet’s bullying, causing them to avoid their food and water bowls.

#8: Your pet’s diet has changed

A change in your pet’s diet, whether you changed the formula or switched foods, can make your furry pal turn up their nose at their food bowl. Different flavors, textures, and odors can be difficult for your pet to figuratively and literally swallow, because they are used to their diet, and may be suspicious of a new one.

#9: Your pet is experiencing extreme weather

Extreme weather conditions often cause a drop in your pet’s appetite, while hot temperatures lead to increased water intake.

#10: Your pet doesn’t like their water

Be honest. How often do you scrub your pet’s water bowl? If you simply rinse and refill it, a biofilm layer of food debris, saliva, and other “junk” likely exists. This can adversely flavor the water, and your pet may shun their water bowl in favor of the toilet bowl or running faucet.

Any changes in your pet’s normal habits can indicate a health issue that should be addressed. If your furry pal’s appetite and thirst have changed, schedule an appointment with our Tidmore Veterinary Hospital team.