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Older dog losing weight.

Species: Dog
Breed: mixed
Age: 11-15 years
I have Sheppard/Lab mixed breed about 13 years old. She is a large dog and has been an indoor dog for the last 7 years. Before she started loosing weight, she was 75 to 80 pounds at her heaviest. She still gets fed the same cup and a half of Dog Chow twice a day she always has and has no problems eating. She is down to about 60 to 65 pounds now and is looking very thin, with her ribs showing prominently. The dog has had several impacted anal glands that made it difficult to have a BM in the past, but seems to have little problems with that now.

My wife, with 6 years vet assistant experience back in the 80s, thinks she is starving due to tumors in her digestive track. The dog will eat very quickly and will sometimes have foamy saliva at the corners of her mouth after eating. My wife says she eats like she is starving, but I am not sure what that would look like. The dog also won't touch the puppy's food, who free feeds. It seems if she were starving, she would eat anything she could.

Other than the loss of weight, she still gets around pretty good for her age, but is noticeably weaker with less stamina (shorter walks). She has issues from time to time with her rear legs and will limp for a bit if one of the younger dogs knock her down playing. Her confidence on stairs is getting worse as well, but she can still make it upstairs every night for bed. There are times when the limping will be prolonged (days or weeks) but canine aspirin seems to help.

I know an examine would help in letting us know if she has tumors or cancer, but money is an issue and I wanted to I want to make sure this isn't a normal pattern for older dogs. If she is suffering, we would want to know so we can make an informed decision.

Sorry for the long question. I appreciate any insight. Thanks,
David Griswold
Omaha, NE

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Thanks for your question David. While I won't be able to tell you for sure what is going on, I'll give you some of my thoughts on Griswold.

I don't like the fact that she has lost so much weight. It's good that she wants to eat, but I'm concerned that there may be a medical issue causing her to be so thin. Unfortunately there are many possibilities, and to get an answer you'd likely need to have a vet examine her and run some blood and urine tests.

Cancer is something that can cause significant weight loss. There are many types of cancers and sometimes it can be hard to get a diagnosis without doing a lot of tests.

A problem with her kidneys could cause weight loss. Dogs with kidney disease generally have an increase in thirst and urination.

Does she get aspirin every day? If so, it's possible that it is causing a stomach ulcer. Dogs with a stomach ulcer usually have very dark, tarry stools.

While parasites could cause weight loss, they are not common in a dog of her age.

Does she cough at all? Heart disease can cause significant weight loss. This also includes heartworm. Most dogs with heart disease will have a cough.

Some dogs can lose muscle mass because of arthritis and this can cause weight loss as well.

If she has soft stools at all it is possible that she has a problem with absorbing her nutrients. This can happen with certain pancreatic diseases or some intestinal diseases.

I wish I could give you a more concrete answer. Ultimately and exam and some tests would be best. But, to answer your question, no, this does not sound like a normal pattern. It does sound like there is a medical issue.

Dr. Marie.

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

Thank you for your time. She doesn't seem to have issues with frequent urination and spends up to 4 to 5 hours in the house without accidents. She does not receive aspirin everyday. We only give it to her when she shows signs of being in pain walking, such as a limp.

However, she has had a cough in the past. I don't remember the last time it has happened, but it has came and went several times. This has also been discussed as a possible diagnosis with my wife. The last time we took her for a walk, she was coughing towards the end of the walk.

She is a fighter, but I don't want her to suffer, so we will continue to monitor her and try to make sure she isn't in pain.

Thanks again,

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.