Canine Diabetes Wiki

Anorexia or inappetance-totally avoiding food or not eating enough.

It is important for diabetic pets to get proper nutrition. However, sometimes they won’t eat or won’t eat as much as they need. That condition is referred to as inappetance. This article explores some of the reasons why inappetance happens and what a caretaker can do to deal with the situation.

It is important to regulation and to general health that a diabetic pet eat a consistent, balanced diet. Because the dosage and timing of insulin shots often is based on the amount and timing of feeding, you should consider the effect of inappetance on your pet’s insulin needs. A lack of feeding may cause hypoglycemia or rebound on an otherwise “safe” dose of insulin. It also may lead to ketoacidosis and other problems.

Keep in mind that even if your pet is not eating, his or her body still requires some insulin; this need does not disappear because your pet doesn't eat. [1] (See the discussion at "Getting regulated--diabetes" at the link below[2]. The advice regarding the need for a reduced insulin dose holds true for dogs as well. [3])

See also the article on fasting, which is the act of purposefully withholding food and, in some cases fluids, from a pet for a period of time.

Reasons for inappetance[]

Maybe nothing is wrong[]

Not eating in dogs

Sometimes, a temporary bout of inappetance means nothing; the pet just happens not to be hungry. A single missed meal without a history of inappetance should not cause concern that there is an underlying problem. However, you should investigate and address inappetance that continues for more than 12 hours.

New food? New formulation? Food consistency problems?[]

Many pets do not automatically accept new foods. If you are switching to a new food, you may need to introduce the new food slowly by mixing the new food with the old food in increasing proportions over time.

Some pet food manufacturers change ingredients in their foods without specific notice on the labels. If your pet is refusing a food that it previously has eaten well, you should check for ingredient changes.

Further, some pet food manufacturers have problems with consistency in the production of their products, even though they have not changed ingredients. Is there a change in the appearance or smell of the food? Check the batch numbers on the cans and go back to a can with a batch number that your pet previously has eaten. This may give you a clue whether the inappetance is caused by an unintended change in the food.

Medical problem brewing? Upset stomach?[]

Animals often become inappetant when they do not feel well. Nausea is a symptom of many other conditions, and will often lead to lack of appetite. Your pet may be brewing a urinary tract infection. If your pet is eating little and favoring one side of its mouth (or pawing at its mouth), it may need to be seen by its vet to determine whether there is a dental infection or other problem.

Some animals have medical conditions, such as pancreatitis, that cause digestive problems and the animal does not eat well because it is nauseated or has diarrhea. Is your pet vomiting? Have you noticed problems with your pet’s stool? It might be time for a vet visit.

Some medications for other conditions, such as antibiotics, can cause nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

High or Low bg's-Get Them Eating![]

Many times, the newly diagnosed canine diabetic's blood glucose levels are quite high; he/she may not be interested in food, especially if you're trying to change to a different diet because of the diabetes. Since you're not able to give the normal dose of insulin unless enough food is eaten, it's most important that the shots be given otherwise there will be no improvement in the high blood glucose levels. [4] The answer here is to let him/her eat whatever he/she will gladly eat in the interest of being able to give full doses of insulin as directed, [5] putting the diet change "on hold" for the time being.

The same is true for a dog experiencing low bg's in that he or she may not be immediately interested in food. But in order for you to be able to counteract the effects of too much insulin, you need to be able to follow up the fast-acting sugar source with food; the sugar source will quickly get the blood glucose levels up, but will not be able to keep them up. [6]

In this situation too, you need to go with whatever your dog will happily eat, whether it's considered good "diabetic" food or not; [7] it's possible to achieve regulation feeding non-prescription food. [8][6] This quote from Dr. Tony Buffington at Ohio State University says it all: [9] "Remember, it is always better for a patient to eat some of the "wrong" diet than none of the "right" diet!"

Treatments for inappetance[]

Medications and supplements[]

If your pet's inappetance is caused by a course of antibiotics, consider adding a probiotic like Culturelle, [10] which is available at vitamin stores, to the animal's food to minimize diarrhea. Nausea and vomiting caused by antibiotics also can be treated with Pepcid AC--plain famotidine, not the Pepcid Complete.

Common Appetite Stimulant Drugs-General

Valium (diazepam) [11][12][13]
Oxazepam/Serax [14]

Some drugs shown at these Merck Veterinary Manual links [12][13] are not appropriate for all species; some are also not appropriate for pets with diabetes.

“Special foods”[]

When presented with inappetance, some caregivers mix into the food low-carb treats that the pet will readily accept, such as tuna or tuna juice, boiled chicken or roasted pork,or baby food. In serious cases of inappetance, caregivers may offer higher carb food that the pet finds palatable. (With this choice, the caregiver needs to seriously consider the effect of that food on insulin dosage and timing.) I16


  1. Grooters, Amy M. (1999). Insulin is essential for many metabolic processes.
  2. Richards, Mike. Getting Regulated. Richards, Mike-Vetinfo4cats.
  3. Caninsulin-Page 15-Basal Dose Shown as 30% of Usual Dose. Intervet. Archived from the original on 2006-08-20.
  4. Cook, Audrey (2007). Latest Management Recommendations for Cats and Dogs with Nonketotic Diabetes Mellitus. DVM 360.
  5. Schall, William (2009). Diabetes Mellitus. DVM 360.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Ruchinsky, Renee, et. al. (2010). Diabetes Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats-page 9. American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "AAHA" defined multiple times with different content
  7. Vetsulin-Nutrition-Will Your Dog Eat the Food?. Intervet.
  8. Vetsulin-Nutrition-dietary control. Intervet.
  9. Buffington, Tony (2004). Food Intake in Therapy. WSAVA.
  10. Culturelle Website.
  11. Rickards, Rick. Valium-Diazepam. PetTalk.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Drugs Affecting Appetite. Merck Veterinary Manual.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Drugs Used to Stimulate Appetite. Merck Veterinary Manual.
  14. Oxazepam/Serax.

More Information[]