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The Struggle To Get A Senior To Eat....

Guest kaotic1

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Guest kaotic1

Hello, All,


I am having some trouble with my boy Sam. Sam just turned 11 on June 20th! A week before his birthday he started shying away from his food. He would eat 5 or 6 bites then walk away. I would then grab his food and hold a piece of kibble in front of his nose and he would eventually eat that and after 5 or 6 bites of kibble he would go back to eat the rest. This is a complete 180 for Sam. He has always been a total chow hound. He usually doesn't care what he eats as long as it's vaguely food like.


So... he immediately went to the Vet and they tested his blood. Liver, kidney values good... no signs of infection. He was a bit sore in his neck when they examined him and in his abdomen. Vet sent me home with a increased dosage of his pain meds and an appointment for an ultrasound. After a couple of days on his increased pain meds he came downstairs a new Sam... eating fine and with increased energy (interestingly this was on his 11th Birthday... Happy Birthday to ME!) I still took him for the ultrasound and they saw nothing on the ultrasound (except his liver was "smaller than the Vet liked").


So things were going good for a week or so and now he seems to be back sliding a little. He is not wanting breakfast (seems fine with dinner), but he eats 1/2 to 3/4 MOST days without much effort. Today he wouldn't come down AT ALL. I had to go upstairs to get him and he acted like I was marching him to his doom. I chased him around upstairs then had to grab his collar to walk him downstairs. THEN when I fed him he took off for the hills again and I had to run upstairs and feed him there (where he eventually ate everything). I am at a loss to understand this. I have a few thoughts on what might be causing this... but I am not sure what action to take.


1. Could this be some food aversion issue? We used to hide his pills in hotdogs or cheese and I know he bit into that a couple of times... maybe he associates his food with his meds? (Solution: I now pill him directly... Maybe I should do that well before his meal so he doesn't associate that with food?)


2. Puppy drama? We recently adopted a puppy so feeding times are a bit more chaotic but she is fed in her crate so she doesn't bother anyone at feeding time.


3. Doesn't like his kibble? I only want to change food as a last resort since it might mask a problem.


4. Heat? We are having a pretty long heat spell in the Great NW... could that affect his appetite? Although wouldn't that affect him in the afternoon not morning?


4. Something medical we haven't considered??? Any thoughts?


5. Generic aging for a GH? He is the first guy I have had at this ripe old age... Does food become an issue as they age?



He actually hasn't lost weight from this and he had gained a few pounds from loss of activity so he has some padding...


Really worried about him...



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Lots of us go through this with aging dogs. Some ideas.


Smaller meals more often. I was up to 4 meals a day for my angel Sam because he was taking meds with his meals. He seemed more willing to tackle smaller meals, plus he was more hungry at his next mealtime.


Add-ins. Add yummy/smelly stuff. Sardines. Yogurt. Ensure. Scrambled eggs. When my boy started eating just the add-ins, I worried about whether he'd get balanced nutrition. I started grinding his kibble in the food processor, then mixing the ground kibble with the add-ins so he'd have to eat the kibble. He was getting 3 cups of kibble a day, plus whatever add-ins he ate. Often, the add-ins were nothing special--rice or oatmeal--but I think that partly he was tired of food that crunched (his teeth were fine--we checked), so he'd eat even boring rice or oatmeal (with kibble crumbs in it--ground up, it's the texture of Grapenuts cereal). I'd just grind 3 cups of kibble every morning, then add a scoop of the crumbs to whatever add-ins I had handy at each meal. If there wasn't time to cook up some rice or oatmeal, I'd use some of the vanilla Ensure (it's very sweet.) After a few months on the ground kibble, he was willing to go back to the whole pieces; the special add-ins continued.

If you are feeding dry kibble, try adding some water. My 10-year-old girl has started losing interest in her kibble, even though she knows the boy will eat it if she doesn't. This means I can't let it sit there until she decides to eat. She had a dental about a month ago, and she may be struggling with no longer having teeth in "the right place" for easy kibble munching. For her, though, I think it's mostly a warm-weather thing (she was eating well until last week, even with fewer teeth, and she hasn't lost her appetite for treats), but if I add water, she'll drink the water, then sort of "accidentally" continue with the kibble.

P.S. Try to keep pills after meals. Otherwise, you risk having him turn down food, so that pills are sitting on an empty stomach, which can cause real problems.

Edited by KF_in_Georgia

Kathy and Q (CRT Qadeer from Fuzzy's Cannon and CRT Bonnie) and
Jane (WW's Aunt Jane from Trent Lee and Aunt M); photos to come.

Missing Silver (5.19.2005-10.27.2016), Tigger (4.5.2007-3.18.2016),
darling Sam (5.10.2000-8.8.2013), Jacey-Kasey (5.19.2003-8.22.2011), and Oreo (1997-3.30.2006)

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Did your vet check his teeth?


Freshy (Droopys Fresh), NoAh the podenco orito, Howie the portuguese podengo maneto
Angels: Rita the podenco maneta, Lila, the podenco, Mr X aka Denali, Lulu the podenco andaluz, Hada the podenco maneta, Georgie Girl (UMR Cordella),  Charlie the iggy,  Mazy (CBR Crazy Girl), Potato, my mystery ibizan girl, Allen (M's Pretty Boy), Percy (Fast But True), Mikey (Doray's Patuti), Pudge le mutt, Tessa the iggy, Possum (Apostle), Gracie (Dusty Lady), Harold (Slatex Harold), "Cousin" Simon our step-iggy, Little Dude the iggy ,Bandit (Bb Blue Jay), Niña the galgo, Wally (Allen Hogg), Thane (Pog Mo Thoine), Oliver (JJ Special Agent), Comet, & Rosie our original mutt.

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When Rex my colitis dog wouldn't eat and he had grumbly tummy I'd just tempt him with bites of something...problem was it was never the same thing. Freeze dried liver, braunswager, cheese, tuna, sardines, a scrambled egg...I spent many a 4 a.m. on the futon trying to "prime his pump". He just needed a bite of whatever struck his fancy then he'd go on to canned and then progress to kibble.


When Cody came he was a very picky eater and chicken broth on his kibble did the trick.

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Could be any or all of the things you mentioned. Some thoughts:


The seniors I've had have all sort of "self-selected" themselves out of breakfast. Whether that's to slowing down or being too sleepy or what. Sometimes they would end up eating (normally) a little later in the morning, sometimes they wouldn't eat until dinner (where I would try and make-up some of what was missed in the morning). Just like with older people, they often don't feel hungry or feel like eating early in the day. If it was possible, I just let them eat when they wanted.


Since you need to give him meds, it's important to get something in his stomach first. It doesn't need to be a lot - just enough to cushion his stomach lining from the pills. A piece of bread with peanut butter. Some oatmeal. Some canned food. Whatever. Then pills. Then, if he's hungry later, feed him a more normal breakfast.


I also agree with the above who said smaller meals more frequently. Though I'm on the fence about whether they should be "smelly" foods or not. If he's nauseaus, then a strong smell might make him more upset. If he's just less interested, then more smell would be good. It depends on the individual dog. I know with my pickiest eater, having *less* food in the bowl was better than having the whole meal. Often she would eat everything as long as I only put it in her bowl one or two spoons at a time. Yes, very time consuming. But she also was eating. Five extra minutes was worth it to have her eating for me.

Chris - Mom to: Felicity (DeLand), and Andi (Braska Pandora)

52592535884_69debcd9b4.jpgsiggy by Chris Harper, on Flickr

Angels: Libby (Everlast), Dorie (Dog Gone Holly), Dude (TNJ VooDoo), Copper (Kid's Copper), Cash (GSI Payncash), Toni (LPH Cry Baby), Whiskey (KT's Phys Ed), Atom, Lilly

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Guest Lizard_King1503

I dont have much experience with old dogs but i wouldnt feed any dog kibble as a main diet (breakfast and dinner) because its not natural they should be eating liquified veges, natural yoghurt, egg, porridge, rice or oats and cheese for breakfast and chicken (backs, necks, pieces, liver), offal (sheep heart, sheep brains), fresh sardines, brisket and sometimes kangaroo meat or lamb or beef for dinner, with bones (lamb, beef, pork), pigs ears, turkey necks and kangaroo tails as a snack 2-4 times a week. Breakfast supplemented with coconut oil, kelp powder and fish oil (only if they dont get fresh sardines for dinner) once or twice a week.

and a peanut butter and biscuit filled kong if you go out and little pieces of dog biscuits (kibble) as treats for training or going out (its the only time you should feed kibble)

Edited by Lizard_King1503
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I've posted this before, but I can't say enough about our use of Evanger's Organic Cooked Chicken canned food. It's my "go to" when Rocket is sick or has a grumbly tummy, or turns his nose up at food. Like your boy, Rocket is a chow hound. If he turns down food, I go straight to the canned Evanger's chicken to jump start his eating. Sometimes he just doesn't want his kibble (mostly in the morning BTW) and I will give him half a can of the chicken. A few hours later he will chow down on his kibble and anything else we put in the bowl.


The food is only cooked chicken and nothing else, so it's not intended for a full feeding. It seems to have an irresistible flavor to Rocket and he will eat anything I mix with it. I also use it as a substitute for home cooked chicken when feeding a bland diet.


If there is some other canned food your hound is crazy over, I would try mixing in a few spoons of it, or like I do above, give him that first to get something in his tummy and see if he will eat his regualar meal a little later.


Camp Broodie. The current home of Mark Kay Mark Jack and Gracie Kiowa Safe Joan.  Always missing my boy Rocket Hi Noon Rocket,  Allie  Phoenix Dynamite, Kate Miss Kate, Starz Under Da Starz, Petunia MW Neptunia, Diva Astar Dashindiva, and LaVida I've Got Life


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Guest Lizard_King1503

Raw chicken is better than canned. I would try soaking a chicken back or a sheeps heart or something in water for a while and the water will be filled with blood then tip the bloody water into his food

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Guest Lizard_King1503

Raw chicken is better than cooked. I would try soaking a chicken back or a sheeps heart or something in water for a while and the water will be filled with blood then tip the bloody water into his food

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Guest Amber

Could be start of dementia (both my oldies got that old age confusion ). Also try not to chase him round the house to get him to eat, or grab his collar or any of that forceful stuff.


with my Petra she was a fussy eater and when she got geriatric she wouldn't eat. For the last 6 months dog food was impossible, even the nice wet food. So i cooked her whatever she would eat, burgers and chicken mostly. And hand fed her for the last few months.


if possible and you can afford it, i would not make him eat dry kibble but try a natural wet food. Old people (dogs and human old folk) often become poor eaters, it's just what can happen in old age. So i would offer him something that he will like.


If you see other behaviour that seems strange, confusion, toileting in the house, he may need meds for dementia.


edit to say i would avoid switching a senior onto raw food. Cooked chicken would be great. I like raw for young dogs who have the vigour to cope with it and any nasty bugs in raw meat, but not sure i would like that for a frail senior.

Edited by Amber
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With my seniors, their sense of smell would often fade which meant that noms were just not as interesting, which lead primarily to Seamie's pantry list that I have pasted below. Zeke-aroni became a terribly picky eater, which was the beginning of his health issues. Sam may simply be at that "picky senior" stage, but I would be vigilant and stay in touch with your vet about doing periodic bloodwork, and consider xrays and/or ultrasound of Sam's belly and as far left and right as you can afford to be sure that all is well internally.



Noms I might enjoy today. But KNOT tomorrow.

But perhaps again another time (pick a day …)

Compiled by: A senior hound

Kibble: pulverized; wet with chicken broth or water

Chicken: ground; breast or thigh nuked and cut into pieces; rotisserie

Turkey: ditto

Beef: ground; cheezberger plane

Sardine Saturday

Peanut butter: plane or on anything!

Scrambled eggs; plane or add cheese (cottage; cheddar, American, spray, shakey)

Scrambled eggs with ground turkey or chicken (add cheese?)

Pasta, any shape

Egg noodles, plane or with: butter, peanut butter, ground chicken, turkey, or beef

Waffles, with butter; peanut butter; syrup (small amount)

Pancakes: ditto

Oatmeal: ditto

TEXAS Toast, with butter or peanut butter

Ensure (vanilla or strawberry)

Vanilla ice cream or yogurt


Liverwurst, sparingly

Hot dogs, chicken, turkey, beef; boiled; sliced small & nuked til crisp; use as meal/topper.

Shakey cheese

Any cheese!

Assorted canned noms: Merrick’s Grandma’s ChickenPotPie, 95% Tripe, any flavor!;

Purina One chicken; whatever flavors they’ll eat: Alpo or Pedigree

Natural Balance (or other) rolls

Canned puppy food to keep weight on old bones

Crockpot Stew:

water, broccoli, canned (real) pumpkin, white rice, chicken breast, water

Lemon Loaf

Peanut Better Biscuits

Cereal: Chex Mix, Cheerios, Kellogg’s Corn Pops, Apple Jacks

Bananas, Apples

Green Beans


Sweet potato: nuked or baked; plane or with butter

Instant potatoes

Vanilla Oreos

White bread, with seedless strawberry jam (PB&J!)

Quinoa, with or without butter and/or shredded or shaky cheese


Old Dogs are the Best Dogs. :heartThank you, campers. Current enrollees:  Punkin. AnnIE Oooh M

Angels: Pal :heart. Segugio. Sorella (TPGIT). LadyBug. Zeke-aroni. MiMi Sizzle Pants. Gracie. Seamie :heart:brokenheart. (Foster)Sweet. Andy. PaddyALVIN!Mayhem. Bosco. Bruno. Dottie B. Trevor Double-Heart. Bea. Cletus, KLTO. Aiden 1-4.

:paw Upon reflection, our lives are often referenced in parts defined by the all-too-short lives of our dogs.

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LOL at Seamies list. and the leftovers! A lot of those were on Rex's too but you never knew what would strike his fancy any given night.

I have always been a big fan of the RAUOL diet. Coined it myself - Reasonably Appropriate Use Of Leftovers.

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Just wanted to add, if he's having trouble keeping weight on, or you're worried about his nutrition, you can also try canned food for puppies. There's more calories and more protein, but it's smoother and not as smelly.

Chris - Mom to: Felicity (DeLand), and Andi (Braska Pandora)

52592535884_69debcd9b4.jpgsiggy by Chris Harper, on Flickr

Angels: Libby (Everlast), Dorie (Dog Gone Holly), Dude (TNJ VooDoo), Copper (Kid's Copper), Cash (GSI Payncash), Toni (LPH Cry Baby), Whiskey (KT's Phys Ed), Atom, Lilly

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That sounds like a Seamie letter. :beatheart


Kasey has had off and on appetite all his life so I know what you are battling. He's now 12 and going through cancer and chemo and all that nasty stuff that is completely turning him off of anything going into his mouth.


You mention new puppy in the house. That's interesting. Could be that, even though puppy is fed in crate. How do they get along? Sam might be just completely changing his 'tude.


I'm newly trying an appetite stimulant but I can't say anything about it yet since I just started yesterday. I had to move Kasey from raw to kibble for his chemo duration, but when he used to be on kibble he very often lost interest and I'd always put scraps in there to sweeten the deal. He was also free fed (when we was the only hound in the house at the time) and he changed his feeding schedule on his own to before bed and noon instead of typical brekkie/dinner times. :dunno He loved the raw switch - (we did it when we was about 8 or 9 years old) and gained weight, perked up, the whole nine yards. Now years later he's losing interest in that now. I'd suggest giving raw a try, but if you don't want to do that, the list above of people food will help entice him to eat. On the flip side you might start battling upset stomach because of foods he's not used to eating. I also keep a few bottles of Ensure or Boost at home - he NEVER turns his nose up on that.


Also, what pain meds is he on and for what? Have you thought of giving him Pepcid 15 mins before a meal? Might have a slight acid problem and that's discouraging him from eating, and could be tied in with the meds he's getting. Wouldn't hurt to try.

Edited by XTRAWLD

Proudly owned by:
10 year old "Ryder" CR Redman Gotcha May 2010
12.5 year old Angel "Kasey" Goodbye Kasey Gotcha July 2005-Aug 1, 2015

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My Riley's had a fussy tummy since I got him, and he prefers to eat dinner and a midnight snack rather than a big breakfast. Since I frequently have food-assertive visitors, making sure that my hounds get at least SOME food in their tummy twice a day is important. BTW, I feed a partially raw diet (Riley made it very clear that beef can be raw, but chicken M.U.S.T. be cooked - I've learned that boneless/skinless chicken baked with a light spread of coconut milk has been deemed suitable by his majesty).


Now that both of mine are nearly 12, I'm also having to use more tricks to get them to eat (Riley moreso than Baby). I'm now hitting the picky eater syndrome a couple times a week.


If the issue is a gurgly tummy, I test Riley's health with a Marrow Bone treat (Riley's version of a saltine cracker), and then give a gas-x if his tummy is wonky (Riley gets paint-peeling gas after a round of tummy gurgles, and the gas-x allows us to stay in the same house while he recovers. Vet approves, btw). I don't worry if he doesn't eat for a few hours - he'll make up for it at dinner (if I put his food away, I might give him an extra few ounces of food at dinner, but not a double-meal). If it seems to be picky-puppy-syndrome, I use the dregs in the bags of Stella & Chewy's dehydrated chicken patties (which are balanced meals, but have been used as treats from day 1 with my hounds). We call them "sprinkles" or "bribes",


good luck with finding the magic combination for your own senior menu!

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My girl has always been a picky eater. She is 12-1/2 and now is in the beginning stages of kidney disease and has high blood pressure. She stopped eating kibble over a month ago and nothing I could do would entice her, even putting high valued food mixed in with it. The only thing she will now eat is canned food with gravy. Will no longer eat the canned food without gravy. I just keep giving her whatever she likes so that she will eat and not lose any more weight. She gets lots of extra treats when the others get theirs and she's happy. Just have to go with the flow.


Mom to Melly and Dani

Greyhound Bridge Angels - Jessie, Brittne, Buddy,

Red, Chica, Ford and Dodge.

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  • 1 year later...

Plain McDonalds cheeseburgers work too. One year in Abilene the lady at the drive through cracked up when she saw Buck...said 70% of plain cheeseburgers over the weekend were for dogs....Of course the go to live bait trap staple is McD's dry filet 'O fish...Buck and I went to Corsicana many years ago to search for Gus in the woods. Buck was on point and led me not to Gus but to the live trap with the fish sandwich inside. :lol

Edited by Hubcitypam
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