My Dog or Cat Is Losing Weight - What Could it Mean?

If your dog or cat used to be at an ideal weight and is now considered underweight, don’t assume that your pet is just being a finicky eater or that they’re not getting enough food.

There are many reasons your pet may be losing weight. Some reasons can be medical in nature, so a visit to your veterinarian so the doctor can review your pet’s health history, perform a physical exam and conduct lab tests to investigate the problem may be in order. If a medical problem is causing the weight loss, it’s best to find out sooner rather than later so it can be treated; if nothing serious is found, then you will have peace of mind.

Weight loss generally falls into two categories for pets: those that are simply not eating and those that are eating but are continuing to lose weight.

My dog or cat isn’t eating

The most common situation is that you put out the food and your pet either ignores it or eats very little of it. Here are some potential reasons why:

  • Tooth and gum disease
  • Underlying medical issues, i.e., kidney disease, diabetes, infection or heart disease
  • Difficulty eating food
  • Injury to the mouth
  • Your pet doesn’t like the food

For cats, specifically, the loss of appetite can be a sign of serious illness. Please refer to our article to learn more about why your cat may not be eating.

My dog or cat is eating, but still losing weight.

Your pet could still be losing weight even if eating well and consuming all the food in the bowl. Causes for this can include:

  • Intestinal parasites
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Malabsorption (difficulty absorbing nutrients from food)
  • Maldigestion (difficulty breaking down food)
  • Underlying medical issues, i.e., diabetes, severe heart disease, chronic infection, cancer
  • Lack of a complete diet (not enough nutrition in the diet currently being fed; seen more with homemade and raw diets rather than quality commercial foods)
  • Not feeding enough food

Treatment for weight loss

Since there are so many potential causes, the best thing you can do if you notice that your dog or cat is losing weight is to visit your veterinarian. Treatment will depend on what your veterinarian determines is the underlying cause of your pet’s weight loss.

Need more information?

For more information on feeding guidelines and eating habits, visit the nutrition section on Banfield.com.

Did you know?

All Banfield Optimum Wellness Plans offer unlimited office visits, including consultations about weight loss and other nutritional concerns.

Find the right preventive care plan for your dog, puppy, cat or kitten today.