1. If your pet is otherwise bright, well, and toileting normally, consider offering a more palatable food (for example, skinless boiled chicken). If your pet eats this without developing further signs (such as vomiting), offer a portion of this palatable food mixed with the normal diet.
  2. If your pet has other signs of illness, such as vomiting, diarrhoea, drooling, or pain, seek immediate veterinary attention.
  3. Use your judgement when assessing your pet. If your pet is normally an indiscriminate eater with a ravenous appetite, don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian if a meal is skipped.


Inappetence, or anorexia, refers to reduction or complete loss of appetite.


Signs vary depending on the underlying disease. Inappetent pets may show complete lack of interest in food (not approaching food that is served for them, leaving food uneaten) or they may show some interest (for example, sniffing and even licking food before refusing to eat). Other signs may include but are not limited to:

  • Lesions in the oral cavity or swelling around the face or jaw
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Audible gut sounds
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss


Inappetence is a non-specific sign for which there are many causes, some of which are serious and some of which are not.
Complete loss of appetite may be due to:

  • Systemic disease (for example, liver or kidney disease, sick diabetic animals)
  • Infection or inflammation (for example, pancreatitis which is painful inflammation of the pancreas)
  • Aversion to food
  • Pain
  • Nausea (this can be due to systemic disease, inflammatory bowel disease, delayed gastrointestinal motility or vestibular disease)
  • Some medications
  • Stress (particularly if the pet is in an unfamiliar environment or the normal routine is altered).

Interest in food with reluctance to eat may be due to:

  • Pain in or around the mouth (for example dental disease, an abscess behind or around the eye, a mass in the oral cavity, salivary gland disorders, fractures of the jaw or inflammation of the muscles supporting the jaw
  • Disease in the oesophagus
  • Some medications
  • Stress (particularly if the pet is in an unfamiliar environment or the normal routine is altered).

Less serious reasons include:

  • Unpalatable food
  • Spoiled food
  • Change in diet
  • A fussy eater

If food is not spoiled, it may be worth warming in the microwave for ten seconds (allow to stand before offering to your pet) as this may increase palatability.


Veterinary care depends on the underlying cause. It is most helpful to know if the animal wants to eat. Inappetence is a sign of underlying disease so a cause must be established.

Depending on the findings of a physical examination, your veterinarian may perform blood tests, x-rays, ultrasound, endoscopy and more specific tests to confirm a diagnosis.

Treatment usually involves specific treatment for the disorder or disorders diagnosed, as well as intravenous fluid to keep the pet hydrated, electrolyte supplementation and monitoring and potentially anti-emetics and pain killers.

If inappetence is a side effect of medication, the dose may be reduced or the medication discontinued. Never discontinue medication without seeking veterinary advice as this may be associated with complications.

In some cases, exploratory surgery may be required (for example in the case of a suspect gastrointestinal foreign body or a perforated gastric ulcer).


Van der Merwe L (2009) Anorexia. . In Clinical Veterinary Advisor Dogs and Cats ed. Etienne Cote. St Louis: Mosby Elsevier, pp72-73.