Weight Loss In Older Dogs: When To Worry

As our dogs grow older, we tend to focus on preventing them from gaining too much weight. However, some senior dogs may experience weight loss. Our vets at Gentle Doctor Animal Hospital are here to address this issue and help you understand when to be concerned.

Older Dog's Weight

While it is true that a large number of dogs tend to get chunkier as they age, some dogs start to lose weight. You may be asking yourself why my dog is losing weight? There are two categories that this answer can take either there is an underlying condition, and it is a symptom of a larger issue, or your dog's aging process requires a different balance in their diet.

Cause of Weight Loss In Senior Dog That Are a Problem

There are eight common issues that can cause weight loss in elderly dogs, and they include liver or gallbladder disease, dehydration, dental problems, kidney disease, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and arthritis.

If you notice weight loss in your elderly dog, it is important to take them to the vet for a proper diagnosis and treatment of the underlying issue. It is also worth noting that these issues often come with other symptoms besides weight loss.

The best thing you can do for your senior dog that is losing weight is to observe them for the other symptoms so you can inform the vet so they can diagnose your dog quicker. The symptoms that can present with each condition are as follows.

Liver/gallbladder disease

      • Lethargy
      • Increased thirst
      • Vomiting/diarrhea
      • Fever
      • Pain 
      • Pale or yellow gums
      • Yellowing of skin/eyes


      • Dry gums 
      • Lethargy 
      • Sunken eyes
      • Loss of skin elasticity
      • Less urination
      • Dark urine

Dental Issues

      • Excessive drooling
      • Difficulty eating/chewing
      • Bad breath
      • Swollen or bleeding gums

Kidney disease

      • Increased thirst
      • Excessive urination (may contain blood)
      • Vomiting
      • Loss of appetite
      • Pale gums
      • Lethargy

Heart disease

      • A chronic cough
      • Tires easily
      • Exercise intolerance
      • Excessive panting
      • Irregular heartbeat
      • Restlessness


      • Excessive thirst
      • Excessive urination
      • Increased appetite
      • Lethargy
      • Repeated urinary tract infections


      • Lethargy
      • Unusual bleeding
      • Lumps, bumps, or swelling
      • Distended abdomen
      • Limping or lameness
      • Unusual urination – frequency or amount


      • Wobbling
      • Lameness
      • Scuffing the toes
      • Incontinence

What to Do If No Underlying Medical Issues are Causing the Weight Loss

If your veterinarian cannot identify any root cause for your dog's weight loss, it may be necessary to consider modifying its diet. It is advisable to discuss your dog's current diet, including the protein, fat, and fiber content, with your vet.

In conclusion

If your senior dog is losing a significant amount of weight rapidly, go to your veterinarian as soon as possible. If you are concerned about your dog's weight in general, bring it up with your veterinarian at your senior dog's bi-annual routine exam.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your senior dog is losing weight, contact our O’Fallon vets right away to schedule an appointment for your dog.