Pets are creatures of habit. Your pet likely awakens, eats, plays, exercises, and goes to sleep around the same time each day. When your pet’s habits change, including if their hunger or thirst increases or decreases, your furry pal likely has an underlying medical problem that our Columbia Pike Animal Hospital team should treat. Changes in your pet’s hunger or thirst level can indicate they have a disease. When you seek prompt veterinary care for your furry pal, our team can treat most diseases effectively. If your pet’s eating and drinking habits change, consider the conditions we discuss here.

#1: Diabetes in dogs and cats

Diabetes is a lack of insulin normally secreted by the pancreas, or a resistance to insulin’s effects. Dogs and cats with this disease experience high blood sugar and myriad related problems. Without insulin, pets can’t use energy from the food they eat, and that energy (i.e., glucose) builds up in their bloodstream. Untreated diabetes can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis, a condition that requires emergency care and hospitalization. Pets’ most common and recognizable diabetes signs include weight loss, increased thirst and urination, and a ravenous appetite. Treatment includes a special diet and insulin injections.

#2: Thyroid disease in dogs and cats

Thyroid disease is a common reason for a pet’s eating and drinking habit changes. Cats who develop an overactive thyroid (i.e., hyperthyroidism) lose weight, become hungrier, and may drink or urinate more frequently. Dogs with an underactive thyroid (i.e., hypothyroidism) may lose their appetite but gain weight and lack energy. Our Columbia Pike Animal Hospital team can easily treat thyroid diseases in dogs by prescribing medication that replaces the missing thyroid hormones. However, cats’ thyroid treatment is more complex. They may require a procedure, special diet, or medications to control their disease.

#3: Gastrointestinal disease in dogs and cats

Gastrointestinal (GI) tract issues can cause pets to feel increased or decreased hunger, depending on their specific problem. Inflammatory conditions, infections, parasites, or cancer may cause vomiting or diarrhea, leading a pet to eat less over time. Sudden appetite changes combined with other GI signs can indicate a serious problem such as an intestinal blockage. Conditions such as exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, which results in poor nutrient absorption and chronic diarrhea, may make pets seem hungry all the time. A pet’s GI treatments depend on their specific disease. However, they most often involve short- or long-term medications and diet therapy.

#4: Cushing’s syndrome in dogs

Cushing’s syndrome is a common problem in older dogs. The disease occurs because of abnormalities in the brain’s pituitary gland or in the adrenal glands, which are near the kidneys. The abnormal tissue causes excess stress hormones (i.e., cortisol), which leads to a pot-bellied appearance, skin problems, increased thirst and urination, increased appetite, and weight gain. Cushing’s syndrome treatment is most often medical, because surgery for this condition is risky and appropriate only in certain cases.

#5: Kidney failure in dogs and cats

Chronic kidney failure (CKD) has a high prevalence in cats older than 10 years of age. However, dogs also develop CKD. CKD’s hallmark signs are increased thirst and urination. Because the kidneys can no longer concentrate the urine and release an overabundance of water, an affected pet feels thirsty all the time. A pet who has CKD may also vomit, have bad breath, and lose weight. CKD is a progressive disease that can cause an affected pet to develop complications, including high blood pressure. Treatments, including a special diet, supplemental fluids, and medications, cannot reverse CKD but can alleviate signs and slow disease progression.

Sudden versus gradual eating or drinking habit changes in pets

The suddenness of your pet’s eating and drinking habit changes can help our Columbia Pike Animal Hospital team determine their condition’s severity. Gradual habit changes typically point to a chronic disease process. However, sudden changes in your pet’s hunger or thirst level could be caused by an acute or emergency condition, such as toxin ingestion, foreign body intestinal obstruction, or a severe infection, and require immediate veterinary care.

A number of conditions can cause your pet’s eating or drinking habits to change, but the issues discussed here are the most common. Schedule an appointment with our Columbia Pike Animal Hospital team if you have concerns about gradual changes to your pet’s eating or drinking habits. However, if your pets habits change suddenly, call our emergency care service.