The amount of food and water your pet consumes is a key health indicator. If their eating or drinking habits change, something may be off with your four-legged friend’s health. Read our South Shores Pet Clinic team’s guide to common health issues that cause your pet’s appetite and thirst levels to change.

Why is my pet eating more?

If your pet is eating more than usual, but you haven’t recently switched to a new, more appealing food, your four-legged friend may be unwell. If your pet has been ravenous lately, the potential causes may include:

  • Poor nutrition — To take in the nutrients they need, your pet may eat more food. Their dietary needs can change as they age or develop health conditions, which can increase nutritional and calorie requirements.
  • Stress or anxiety — When people experience stress or anxiety, they may turn to food for comfort. If your pet always has access to food, they can do the same, eating larger amounts more frequently to help soothe their frazzled nerves.
  • Endocrine or metabolic disorders — Certain metabolic and endocrine disorders can kick your pet’s appetite into high gear. Pets with hyperthyroidism, diabetes, or Cushing’s disease may display increased hunger.
  • Food malabsorption — If your pet is unable to absorb nutrients from their food, they will eat more to obtain the nutrition they need. Conditions that interfere with appropriate digestion and nutritional absorption include illness, parasites, inflammatory bowel syndrome, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, and cancer. 
  • Medications — Certain medications’ side effects can increase your pet’s appetite. Medications that can inadvertently increase your pet’s hunger include thyroid supplements, corticosteroids, and anticonvulsants.

Why is my pet eating less?

When a pet doesn’t eat as much as usual, or outright refuses to eat, the list of possible causes is lengthy and can include conditions that cause pain, nausea, or stress. Problems that lead to inappetence are categorized as follows:

  • Medical — If your pet feels unwell because they are ill, injured, or suffering from a chronic condition, their appetite may decline. Nausea caused by kidney failure, vomiting triggered by a gastrointestinal (GI) obstruction, or pain induced by arthritis or dental disease are some of the most common reasons a pet loses their appetite.
  • Behavioral — Separation anxiety and pet-on-pet bullying can cause an animal to eat less, or not eat at all unless you are present. Environmental factors and routine changes can also cause a decreased appetite, especially during the spring storm season or the weeks leading up to or immediately after July Fourth.
  • Food issues — Problems with your pet’s food can make them turn up their nose at their bowl. Expired, stale, or spoiled food can cause your furry pal to turn away, while too many table scraps and treats can make your pet shun their regular kibble.

Why is my pet drinking more?

Determining an accurate amount of water your pet typically drinks in a day can be difficult. However, if you’re suddenly filling up the water bowl more frequently, or your furry pal is having accidents in the house, they are likely drinking more than usual. Potential causes for pets’ increased thirst include:

  • Diabetes — When the body tries to eliminate excess sugar through the urine, the glucose draws water with it, increasing urination and thirst.
  • Kidney disease — Poorly functioning kidneys are unable to filter out toxins and metabolic wastes effectively, so the body’s excess water is used to push out waste products, causing dehydration, which leads to increased thirst.
  • Urinary tract issues — Many urinary tract problems cause a pet to urinate more frequently, which can spur increased drinking.
  • Vomiting or diarrhea — When a pet vomits or has diarrhea, they lose water and electrolytes, so they drink more to replace what they lost.
  • Cushing’s disease — Cushing’s disease causes an overproduction of cortisol and natural steroids, resulting in a pet’s increased thirst and urination.
  • Medications — Some medications, such as corticosteroids and diuretics, can cause your pet to drink more.

Why is my pet drinking less?

You may realize your pet is drinking less when you fill their water bowl less frequently, scoop smaller amounts from the litter box, or see their urine color change from pale to dark yellow. If you pet’s thirst has decreased, potential causes may include:

  • Food type — If you switch your pet from a dry diet to a canned one, they will get more moisture from their food, and likely drink less.
  • Water quality — Pets naturally prefer fresh, clean water, so if you haven’t freshened the water in their dish, or scrubbed the bowl clean for several days, your four-legged friend may only drink just enough water to survive.
  • Oral disease — Mouth or jaw issues, such as abscesses, ulcers, or tumors, cause your pet oral pain, and they may avoid drinking water. 
  • Nausea — When your pet feels unwell and is unable to keep anything down, including water, they will likely refuse to drink.

Any change in your pet’s eating or drinking habits can indicate a serious health concern that needs immediate treatment. If your four-legged friend’s eating and drinking habits have become abnormal, schedule an appointment with our South Shores Pet Clinic team.