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Greetings all,

I have a 14.5 yr old aussie (Britney), who...despite her age...was very healthy. She did get kind of finicky about eating when she hit about the 14 yr old mark, but we dealt with that okay. Then, about 17 days ago, she presented obvious symptoms of geriatric vestibular disorder, a diagnosis our vet confirmed. Fortunately, the vertigo and eye movement symptoms seem to resolve themselves after a few days, but Britney has remained kind of weak, wobbly, and lethargic.

She does seem to be improving slowly with one exceptional problem area that, if anything, is getting worse: She must still have significant nausea/gastrointestinal issues because she is refusing to eat. I am not saying she hasn't eaten for the 17 days since the episode began, but she sure hasn't eaten much and now she seems virtually unwilling to eat at all (except a couple things, like cheese). We have tried all kinds of delightful 'people' foods like rotisserie chicken and hamburger.

We have an appt with the vet late tomorrow (August 31, 2016) afternoon, where I think I will ask for a blood/urine test. But also I am wondering how long it is okay to let her starve herself in this manner? Our vet had us give her Pepcid AC to curtail any acid reflux issues, but I am thinking that we might need more serious anti-nausea drugs. I should note that she does appear to be drinking normal amounts of water. Are there any kinds of foods that dogs...even sick ones...simply go nuts for that we should try?

Thanks for any advice!

Chuck

P.S. Here is some more diagnostic info: Britney will often seem like she is hungry, for instance, she'll follow my wife around the kitchen in hopes my wife will drop some morsel of food. And also, she will sometimes take food in her mouth like she is interested (bacon tonight) then maybe spit it out, but then sniff at it, and maybe take it in her mouth again, and then drop it on the floor again. It seems like she is torn...she loves the idea of bacon, but then realizes, once it is in her mouth, that she doesn't want to eat anything. She does not, by the way, appear to have any teeth/mouth problems. In fact one thing she DOES eat are her dental chews.
 

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If a dog doesn't want to eat, it's hard to force them to do so.

Safe to assume she's drinking enough water on a daily basis?

What I've done for dogs is make a meat flavored water or a beef stock. Cut up some cheap beef into small pieces and boil it - strain, let it cool, skim off any fat and let her drink the fluid. Sometimes this can trigger the appetite but at least you're getting a little bit of nourishment into the dog. You can also use the flavored water to as a carrier to slip some vitamins and minerals into her at least. Research bone broth as well, takes a bit of time to make but it's pretty nutritious as well.

Another interesting idea that popped up on this forum a while back was boiled liver, used as a rescue solution for failing puppies. I've never used it personally, but it works.

http://www.cardicommentary.de/PDF-filer/Beefliver_remedy.pdf
 

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I just asked my vet this yesterday. She said a dog can go three to four weeks without eating before it becomes a major health problem. My dog is at about 12 days without eating more than a few bites. It's very stressful. One thing that has worked for me in the past (but unfortunately, not right now) is having the dog sit or do a trick, and feeding the food as a treat. My dog sometimes does the pick up, put down, sniff, pick up thing too. They are usually more willing to eat it if they earned it I guess. It seems like if I get him excited he will eat it before he has time to give it a second thought. Hope your dog starts eating soon!!
 

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Thanks 3crazydogs and Jagger,

The 'not eating' issue has now become a secondary story as we learned some bad (but not surprising) news from our vet visit yesterday: Britney has the beginnings of kidney failure. Yes, she also had a vestibular episode about 2.5 weeks ago, but it seems like that was just on top of her declining kidney health. The obvious vestibular-related symptoms have subsided (like vertigo), but she has stayed somewhat weak and sickly, thus the vet visit. She had a blood panel done in Feb, and also in May, and in both cases her urinalysis was good, and most of her blood indications were fine; a couple indicators were slightly above the normal range, but the panels as a whole looked...I thought...pretty good for a dog of about 14 years (and the vet agreed, which naturally is more important than my opinion). Yesterday, her urinalysis again looked fine ('concentrated'), but the bloodwork indicated some kidney trouble (I am surprised, then, that the urinalysis looked fine).

We are giving her subcutaneous fluids every day to help flush her system and some mirtazapine to stimulate appetite. She ate a hamburger last night, which is great, but obviously, given the kidney issue, we have to transition her to something more kidney-friendly.

One blood panel number I wondered about was red blood cells, which were a tad low; that suggests anemia, yes? Is there something I can give her to boost her red blood cells? We are seeing the vet for another blood panel in two weeks.

Thanks!

Chuck
 

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Tough problem. When Samantha was sick a couple of years ago and wouldn't eat, we were told to do anything we could to try to control the weight loss. Fortunately after four to six months of just picking at food, she came out of it. You mentioned anemia, which unfortunately is often part of kidney disease. As far as building red cells, I think you are probably going to have to try to interest Britney in organ meat, chicken liver, ground gizzard, lung, etc., which she may find interesting enough to eat. Wish you luck, let us know how she is doing.
 

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Wow...four to six months! Britney is just about at the three weeks mark of barely eating. We an get her to eat a burger once every two or three days. She also eats the Checkups dental chews from Costco which is surprising (they don't look too tasty to me). I think it is because she is tricked into thinking it is something to play with and chew on, and since she doesn't think of it as food, she forgets not to eat it. Does that sound possible? There are 179 kcals per bone, which is at least something. I know these dental chews are...correctly...marketed as "NOT a substitute for food," but does anyone know of any dental chews that maybe at least have some meager nutritional value? Another thing we just discovered that she will eat is peanut butter, by the way.

Thanks,
Chuck
 

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@Otherchuck, have you ever tried cooked meals? One of vets wanted to remove the minpin off raw and switch to cooked for a 6 week trial, little bugger loved it.

We simply made soup, it's fluid and a meal together. Cut up meat, bit of different organs. If she'll eat that, you can use it as a vessel for getting vitamins and such into her as well. You can try her on raw meaty bones as well, pork ribs and such.
 

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Wow...four to six months! Britney is just about at the three weeks mark of barely eating. We an get her to eat a burger once every two or three days. She also eats the Checkups dental chews from Costco which is surprising (they don't look too tasty to me). I think it is because she is tricked into thinking it is something to play with and chew on, and since she doesn't think of it as food, she forgets not to eat it. Does that sound possible? There are 179 kcals per bone, which is at least something. I know these dental chews are...correctly...marketed as "NOT a substitute for food," but does anyone know of any dental chews that maybe at least have some meager nutritional value? Another thing we just discovered that she will eat is peanut butter, by the way.

Thanks,
Chuck
I think Britney rather than refusing to eat anything, is super picky about what she eats. That's an advantage for you, and though hamburger and peanut butter have nutritional value, its not enough for a dog long term. It might be your ticket to control weight loss while she regains her appetite, which is exactly the process we went though with Samantha. She, (Samantha) by the way, had a reaction to a long lasting antibiotic, which totally screwed up her entire digestive tract, took her months to even start returning to normal, and it was probably 8 to 10 months to get back to normal. She would eat small quantities of food, but was super selective about it, and was inconsistent too. It was very difficult for all of us, but she was relatively young at the time, and she did recover, eventually.
 

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My dog Annie (18 y/o) doesn't have vestibular disease, but she does have kidney disease, as well as some other issues, and can be quite picky at times. Initially I tried to have her eat a prescription kidney diet, but she got tired of that pretty quickly, though she was still eating regular wet dog food. She's also been on Renal Essentials and Azodyl supplements for her kidneys, which seems to have helped maintain her values at high normal to slightly above normal. Currently she's also taking Lasix for respiratory congestion, which is not the most kidney friendly medication, and I think has been contributing to her extreme pickiness the last week or two. She'll be incredibly picky for weeks (eating only people food, selective even about what types of that she eats), then eat like a hog for weeks (3 cans a day! She's only 8 lbs!), then back to picky again. For a while she was eating Caesar food (not a quality diet, but she'll die from something else long before she dies from eating subpar food!), but she's currently off that and on a primarily chicken nugget diet for the last few days (again, not terribly concerned about nutritional value, just calories). Part of the issue that we have is that she's sensitive to fatty foods, so a lot of the stuff that she "likes" will cause GI upset, which makes her not want to eat. Also, toxins from the kidney disease can cause inappetence and nausea. The mirtazapine should help with that, I give it to Annie occasionally when she's being "extra" picky, and within a 1/2 hour she's usually looking for food. She's gone through probably 5 tablets in 2 years- I use it pretty rarely, and only in the morning, as it makes her a little restless (it's also an antidepressant). Her vet also suggested pepcid, but I didn't notice much help with that, we're currently using carafate when she gets picky (assuming it's because of GI upset), and that seems to help some, plus Cerenia if she seems nauseus. The carafate is a pain in the butt because it has to be given hours apart from the other meds (will reduce absorption), but in her case, it seems to help. If she's still being picky, it may be worth asking your vet about adding pepcid or another GI protectant med, particularly if she's vomiting. I always offer her dog food first, and if she eats it, great! If not, I go down the line of her preferred people foods until I find something she wants to eat, and we stick with that til she's tired of it. Some previous "likes" have been: mac & cheese, hot dogs, lunch meat, baked/boiled chicken, vienna sausages/potted meat, chicken pot pie, pizza with the sauce wiped off- lots of junk (even for people) foods, but better for her to eat something less than ideal than to eat nothing. I know numerous dogs (young, healthy dogs that are perfectly capable of eating dog food) who only eat lunch meat, or similar unhealthy diet, and they've been doing it for years with no obvious ill effects- I'm sure it's not good for them, but I doubt Annie will be around long enough to see the ill effects of poor diet- I figure she can eat whatever she wants, and any "healthy" stuff I can sneak in is a bonus.

There are some homemade diets on this page: Diet and Chronic Renal Disease
and this one: DogAware.com Health: Prescription Diets for Dogs with Kidney Disease
 
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