Pets are creatures of habit and like to stick to a routine, but as your pet ages or they develop health problems, their habits will change. An increase or decrease in the amount your pet eats or drinks are extremely common disease signs, and you should bring these to the attention of our Valley Center Veterinary Clinic team. The sooner our team can address your pet’s problem, the more likely your furry pal will have a full recovery. Learn about the most common habit changes and potential causes for these fluctuations.

#1: Increased thirst and urination in pets

Increased thirst and urination are the most common habit changes our team sees, because many different diseases can affect fluid intake and elimination. Most diseases that affect thirst occur in older pets, but can develop at any age, and include:

  • Endocrine diseases — Hormones play a major role in water conservation. Diabetes mellitus (i.e., sugar diabetes) occurs in dogs and cats and is the leading cause of increased thirst and urination. Hyperthyroidism in cats and Cushing’s disease in dogs are also major players. Another less common diabetes type, diabetes insipidus, causes changes in thirst and urination without sugar dysregulation.
  • Kidney disease — Kidney disease is common in aging cats and dogs, and leads to reduced water conservation ability, resulting in increased thirst and urination.
  • Behavioral issues — Some pets, especially puppies, simply enjoy drinking water, or do so because of stress or anxiety.

#2: Decreased appetite in pets

Decreased appetite is another common problem our Valley Center Veterinary Clinic team often treats. Because nearly anything that makes your pet feel unwell can make them lose their appetite, the causes can vary immensely, and include:

  • Gastrointestinal (GI) problems — Inflammation or GI tract infection that causes vomiting or diarrhea can also lead to nausea and decreased appetite. A pet who eats food that doesn’t agree with them or ingests a foreign body can develop appetite loss.
  • Pancreatitis — Fatty food ingestion sometimes leads to pancreatic inflammation, which causes stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and poor appetite.
  • Pain — Do you feel like eating when you are in excruciating pain? Pain from any source, especially dental disease, may reduce your pet’s appetite.
  • Other chronic diseases — Many long-term disease processes can make your pet feel unwell and less likely to eat. Liver, heart, and joint conditions are a few possibilities.

#3: Increased appetite in pets

Increased appetite is less common than appetite loss and generally occurs only in a few select conditions. Conditions that may cause a pet’s appetite to increase include:

  • Cushing’s syndrome — Tumors on the abdomen’s adrenal glands or on the brain’s pituitary gland lead to increased cortisol production, causing a host of signs, including increased appetite. 
  • Diabetes — Diabetes results in insulin deficiency, which impairs cells’ glucose absorption. Pets cannot use the energy they consume, so their appetite increases to compensate.
  • Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency — Pets born with or who develop a pancreatic digestive enzyme deficiency cannot digest their food, so they lose weight rapidly and become ravenously hungry as their body starves.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease — This condition is similar to Crohn’s disease in humans and may result in decreased or increased appetite, depending on where along the intestinal tract inflammation and damage occur.

#4: Decreased thirst in pets

Decreased thirst is unlikely to develop as a single sign, and usually decreased thirst occurs in tandem with decreased appetite. GI problems are the most likely culprit, along with pain, pancreatitis, or other diseases. Occasionally, a pet who has received intravenous (IV) fluids may not feel the need to drink for a few hours after coming home from the hospital.

Diagnosing habit changes in pets

If your pet’s eating or drinking habits have changed, the first stop on their recovery journey should be a visit with our Valley Center Veterinary Clinic team. We can determine the cause and treat the underlying problem. Treatments will vary widely depending on your pet’s underlying disease process. We will refer your pet to a local veterinary behaviorist or trainer if we suspect a behavioral issue. Diagnosing your pet’s eating or drinking habit changes may include the following screenings:

  • Basic blood work
  • Urinalysis
  • Specialized hormone blood tests
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Blood pressure test

Your pet’s habits are important clues to their overall wellbeing. If your pet’s eating or drinking habits have changed, contact our Valley Center Veterinary Clinic team as soon as possible.