Eating used to be your dog's favorite hobby, but lately you've noticed that your old friend has lost his appetite and seems to be getting too thin. Is this normal?

It's important to realize that loss of appetite and slight weight loss can be normal in older dogs. Like humans, a dog's senses of taste and smell decrease as it gets older, so food becomes less appetizing. However, sudden or significant weight loss should be reported to your veterinarian immediately. This could be an indication of a more serious health problem.

Factors that contribute to weight loss in older dogs

If you feel your dog is getting too thin, the first thing you need to do is determine whether he has an underlying health problem. Is your dog taking medication? If so, discuss the side effects with your vet. Sometimes weight loss can be a side effect of certain drugs.

Also, look to see if your dog seems to be avoiding crunchy food, or looks uncomfortable while chewing. Your older dog is more likely to develop a tooth/gum condition, and if chewing is painful, he may let food drop out of his mouth or even refuse to eat. If you suspect your dog may have an oral health issue, be sure to have his mouth checked thoroughly by your veterinarian.

How to help your dog gain weight

If your veterinarian has determined that there are no underlying health issues contributing to your dog's lower weight, there are a few ways you can whet his appetite.

• An easy way to increase the taste appeal of your dog's food is to warm it. Ensure that it's not too hot as it could burn the tender tissues in his mouth.
• If your dog usually eats dry food, you can try to make his meals more appealing by adding canned food to his kibble. When introducing new food to his diet be sure to take it slow to prevent digestive problems.
• Older dogs can get very set in their routines, and may stop eating to protest changes in their environment. By maintaining a consistent routine and eliminating stress that might affect your dog, you can help keep his appetite on a normal level.
• If, after following these tips, your dog still seems uninterested in his food or unable to put on weight, be sure to speak with your vet.