Whether your pet is a champion food bowl cleaner or a nibbler who grazes throughout the day, a change in their eating or drinking habits can indicate a serious problem. While an occasional appetite and thirst fluctuation is normal, a persistent increase or decrease likely indicates an underlying medical issue. Read our Staples Mill Animal Hospital team’s five possible reasons for a pet’s eating and drinking habits to change.

#1: Your pet is experiencing health issues

One of the primary reasons for your furry pal’s eating and drinking habits to fluctuate is a health problem. Many diseases can cause pain, nausea, or lethargy, leading to inappetence or a decreased interest in water. Conversely, just as many health conditions can increase appetite or thirst. Your four-legged friend’s appetite and thirst habits may have changed because they have developed one of these common health issues:

  • Dental disease — Periodontal problems are pets’ most commonly diagnosed issues, and the pain caused by swollen gums, diseased teeth, or oral masses leads to decreased food and water intake.
  • Endocrine disorders — Hormones have a significant impact on your pet’s overall health and wellness, and imbalances can alter their appetite and thirst. For example, a cat with hyperthyroidism typically develops a ravenous appetite. Diabetes leads to increased thirst and hunger.
  • Organ dysfunction — Whether an acute or chronic condition affects their organ function, your furry pal can experience eating and drinking habit changes. Kidney disease often induces excessive thirst and urination, while the nausea it causes squelches an affected pet’s appetite.
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) upset — If your pet is vomiting or constipated, they likely don’t feel like eating or drinking. GI upset can be caused by many conditions, or it can be the primary health issue. To provide appropriate treatment, our Staple Mill Animal Hospital team must accurately diagnose your four-legged friend’s GI problem.
  • Arthritis — Joint disease is one of the most common conditions that affects pets, and the discomfort this condition creates can suppress a pet’s appetite and thirst.
  • Infections — Any infection can lead to a fever, lethargy, and inflammation, all of which will make your pet feel crummy and unlikely to eat or drink as usual.
  • Cancer — Cancer and occasionally its treatments can decrease your furry pal’s appetite because they feel so unwell.

#2: Your pet is aging

Puppies and kittens generally have much more voracious appetites than their older counterparts, while senior pets’ eating and drinking habits can frequently fluctuate. An older pet may have a reduced interest in food because of a slower metabolism, dental pain, or other health conditions. To compensate for the dehydration organ dysfunction often causes, a senior pet may drink an excessive amount of water. 

If your senior pet seems disinterested in eating and drinking, despite having their health issues managed, consider switching them to soft, canned food. Not only will this diet be more palatable, the food will be easier for your elderly pet to eat, and the moisture will boost their fluid intake.

#3: Your pet is influenced by their emotions

Pets experience many of the same emotions people do, and they can be highly sensitive to inner turmoil. If your pet is going through a stressful change in their routine or environment, or has recently experienced the loss of a family member, they will likely eat and drink less. Minimizing disruption in your furry pal’s daily routine goes a long way toward alleviating their stress and anxiety, as can providing them with plenty of environmental enrichment to ward off stress-inducing boredom.

#4: Your pet is affected by their environment

Environmental factors can cause your pet’s food and water intake to change. Typically, hot weather causes a reduced appetite and increased thirst, but extremely cold temperatures can also cause variations in your pet’s eating and drinking habits.

In addition, the location of your pet’s food and water bowls can influence their appetite and thirst. If you place your four-legged friend’s resources in a loud, busy spot in your home, or your pet cannot easily access them, your furry pal may not eat or drink as much as they should.

#5: Your pet is taking medication that causes side effects

Medications can alter your furry pal’s appetite and thirst. Some cause pets’ hunger and thirst to increase. Other drugs can lead to nausea or cause other GI upset, making your pet less likely to eat. If your pet’s eating and drinking habits change while they are taking medication, talk to our Staple Mills Animal Hospital veterinarian about switching to a different drug or adjusting your four-legged friend’s dose.

While a minor difference in your pet’s appetite or thirst over the course of a day or two likely isn’t a problem, a persistent change can indicate that your four-legged friend has a serious health issue. If your furry pal’s appetite and thirst have decreased or increased, schedule an appointment with our Staples Mill Animal Hospital team.