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Lab is not eating.

Species: Dog
Breed: Labrador Retriever
Age: 8-11 years
my dog is a labrador retriever and about 9 years old. he was a solid eater and never fussy for the 3 years we had him until 2 months ago when he stopped eating his dry food. I added wet food to the dry and he loved this. He ate it like it was crack. After a week he stopped eating anything other than wet food. Another week passed and he stopped eating wet food.
On occasion he would throw up thick yellow fluid with white foam but it was not often. We took him to the vet once that happened. Full blood work and fecal were done and both came back negative. He had two sets of X-Rays and there were not obstructions or signs of damage in his intestines nor his stomach.
Since his first trip to the vet to his last I would say it has been three weeks. I have bought my dog ever single form of dog diet that exists from high end wet and dry food as well as holistic diet food, raw diet food, and $50 hippie food that makes humans feel better about themselves while feeding an animal evolved to eat carrion and cat poop if need be.
He would not eat any of that. He would ignore it, turn his face from it, walk away, and look generally distressed if I tried to feed him anything that didn't seem like a treat (his Beggin' Strips which are in fact dog crack). He began only eating lunch meat because he wouldn't eat the hamburger in rice I fed him. He would not eat the rotisserie chickens nor steak. The best I could get from him is he would eat Turkey and Ham lunch meat but eventually that stopped.
If I toss it to him he watches it go up in the air then hit him in the nose before landing on the floor which he most of the times walks away from.
He no longer chews his bones like he used to (no teeth issues found).
Now we have gotten to a point where a 9 year old Labrador Retriever who is literally my best friend is beginning to cost more in medical bills than I have and the next tests such an ultrasound or endoscopy, which our vet said more than likely will not produce much if any results, each cost $500.00 I don't have.
Now my dog is throwing up at least 4 or 5 times a day. He still isn't eating and now beginning to turn away from his beggin' strips.
we had been given medications for potential esophagus issues. Ant acids. Antibiotics. Medicine to replenish enzymes and bacteria. Steroids. No help.
Now I am currently giving him Tagament Advanced because it is the only thing that seems to keep him from throwing up but he is clearly not feeling well.

He no longer wants to sleep on his bed but will sleep around it I do not know if that is connected to how he is feeling but sleeping anywhere other than his bed is very peculiar. He no longer jumps up on the couch anymore. Just lays on the linoleum or beside my wifes end of the bed (never did that before) or mine.

Today he apparently had diarrhea issues. He left the room I was working in and must have had to go to the bathroom but again, very uncharacteristically, he did not tell me he needed to go out and instead he threw up in the living room then went into the kitchen where it leads out to the back yard and he had diarrhea that did not look like I had seen before (I've had dogs my whole life and seen them sick in mostly every manner but this seemed different).

I am faced with a dog who is clearly having a lot of discomfort and isn't eating anything. I got him to try some bread which he loved but has now stopped. He is an old dog and statistically he has a year or two of life left and though I would never give him up or put him down (unless it was absolutely the only option and clearly the right thing to do) because of money but at the same time vets are expensive and they want their money before they help a dog (hypocratic oaths do not apply to dogs apparently) and there's no discussion of payment plans. Either pay up or the dog is screwed and I don't have the kind of money they are telling me I need to have in order to help him.

I'm terrified. I feel like I am one more day away from having to face up to a situation that is going to be beyond anyone's control soon. I am afraid of him starving himself as he has not taken in enough calories or nutrients and will literally go days before eating anything with any substantial nutritional value. I'm afraid I am going to lose him because my vet couldn't figure out what is making him not eat and throw up.

Should I try a new vet and hope they don't do all of the same tests which is redundant, time consuming, and expensive? Is there anything based on his symptoms that could lead you to believe there is a more likely culprit compared to a list of potential reason?

One day he was eating. The next day nothing. I am worried for my best friend. I am worried about my my wife and I not being able to afford to fix what might only fix a dog that could live another year or worse have to pay for a procedure that does nothing leading to another invasive procedure.

He has no access to trash, poison, or tampons. X-rays showed to obstruction. Just a minor build up of gas was found in the x-ray.

Have you heard of a dog having similar problems? If so what were those problems that most sound like what my dog has wrong with him? What should I expect to hear my vet tell me when I take him back this week? If you have any questions from me I will respond as soon as possible.
Thank you


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Thank you for your detailed description of what is going on with Tank.

Any time I see a lab who does not want to eat I am very concerned. In my opinion this is always a sign of something serious.

It does sound like your vet is doing all of the right things. Unfortunately, the only way to increase your chances of finding out what is going on is to do more testing which, yes, is expensive.

I have a few thoughts.

You can ask your vet if Addison's is at all a possibility. This is not a common disease but it can cause extreme lethargy and appetite issues. It is not something that shows up with the common blood tests. Your vet may consider running a cortisol test which is not very expensive, or better yet an ACTH stim test but this is a little more pricey.

When older dogs stop eating and nothing is obvious on testing then I do get worried about cancers as not all of them are easy to detect. I would likely be advising an ultrasound to try and see if we can find evidence of something like a liver cancer or intestinal cancer.

I have had a few cases though where I thought that a lab had cancer or some other serious disease and I did exploratory surgery and found an intestinal obstruction even though xrays did not show one. Not everything turns up great on xrays. Not all intestinal obstructions are complete. It could also be something that is partially blocking the stomach. I had one case where I was certain there was a large tumor in the stomach. The dog was not eating and losing a lot of weight. The owners opted for exploratory surgery and it turned out that what I thought was a tumor was actually a full teddy bear that was completely filling his stomach. Because labs have a reputation for eating things they shouldn't, I always wonder about foreign objects even if I can't see evidence on xray.

An ultrasound *could* give you more evidence of a foreign object. However, an exploratory surgery would be better. But, an exploratory surgery will cost a few thousand to do and there are no guarantees of results.

Cases like this are so hard because we can often do expensive tests and be no further ahead.

I wish I had more answers for you. I'm not sure if my answer has actually been helpful or not, but please let me know if you have more questions.

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. AskAVetQuestion.com 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.

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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.