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Refusing to Eat

Yorkie Lack of Appetite | Refusal to Eat

In this section we are going to discuss all of the various degrees of lack of appetite that can develop with the Yorkshire Terrier breed. Since this tiny toy dog normally weighs between 4- 7 pounds as an adult. (1.81 - 3.17 kg), there is not much room for weight loss due to not eating… any amount of weight lost will show and affect health and well being of the Yorkie. This type of issue will affect Yorkies of all ages:

Puppies - Weight loss or even weight stall during the puppy stage - which is normally one of rapid gain - both in weight and height - can become quite a problem.

Adults - Normally active adults with a lack of appetite will often show behavioral issues as well. Whether this is nervousness, retreating, aggression or other, refusal to eat can upset normal routines and without intervention will affect overall health.

Seniors - Older Yorkie dogs (8 years and older) can be very affected by a loss of appetite. This is a time that a dog needs a healthy diet along with additional nutrients and supplements for an aging body… therefore when an older, senior Yorkie refuses to eat this can quickly spiral into other issues, even affecting the immune system.

Let's look at all of the details of this topic, including:

- Flat out refusal to eat dog food
- Eating, but with a decreased appetite
- Finicky, picky eating
- Sudden refusal to eat all foods (including those tempting table scraps or homemade food)
- Explanation of medical issues the Yorkshire Terrier is prone to that include Loss of Appetite
 Yorkie Refuses to Eat Dog Food

Many owners will assume that their Yorkie is a picky eater or a finicky eater, however there may be reasons other than being fickle. Some puppies and dogs will appear to slowly develop a dislike for dry kibble or another type of commercial food and with others, it can seem to happen overnight without explanation. A once beloved food and now not tempting at all… and whether this develops slowly or seems to happen abruptly, this can leave owners frustrated and worried. After all, you carefully chose a brand for optimal health, and with a refusal to eat, another option must be implement almost immediately.  

 When a Yorkie refuses to eat his or her dog food or nibbles at it a bit but does not seem that interested in it, there are a few things that an owner should look at…

1- Have you just switched brands? With is very common with owners who have just gotten new puppies, although a conscientious owner may change dog food brands at any time if they learn their current one is not providing necessary nutrient or has a negative element such as fillers, artificial coloring or a high level of preservatives. But here is the thing… owners switch to offering a healthy option, but the Yorkie refused to eat it, negating the purpose of changing meal plans.

What you need to know is that the Yorkshire Terrier breed can be very sensitive to food changes. If a brand - or even flavors of the same brand - is changed too quickly, this can lead to stomach upset. Even if a Yorkie is not vomiting or developing diarrhea, a refusal to eat may have nothing to do with the taste and everything to do with a stomach and digestive system that cannot handle a rapid change. 

No matter what the age of your Yorkie, it is best to take 3 to 4 weeks to complete a change in food. You'll want to mix the current type with the new, allowing for a gradual adjustment (do be sure to blend them together very well):

Week 1: 3/4 old, 1/4 new
Week 2: 1/2 and 1/2
Week 3: 3/4 new, 1/4 old
Week 4: Your Yorkie can now be fed only the new variety
2- Is Your Yorkie Technically Eating, but is Nibbling and Picking Instead of Gobbling the Food? Some dogs do have selective eating patterns. It is not uncommon or a Yorkie to thoroughly investigate his dog food, particularly after a change in brand, though it can be a habit that develops even with a favorite product. This is more common with dry kibbles that offer a mix of many different ingredients and flavors. For example, dogs may carefully pick out the chicken flavor bits and leave the beef or vegetable ones behind. 
Yorkie eating a meal
If you know that you have chosen a high quality and nutritious brand and have done the changeover slowly, you may want to mix a small amount of a low salt chicken or beef broth - whichever one your puppy or dog seems to prefer- into the kibble and mix well. This usually prevents the picking and sorting of any one particular bit or nugget.

3- Is There a Flat Out Refusal to Eat Dog Food? Keeping in mind the above advice regarding quick changeovers, methods to prevent selective eating, without red flags of a health issue (more ahead), this may simply be a matter of preference. As puppies grow into adolescents and adolescents grow into adults, there can be a change in perceived taste. Science already knows that human taste buds change over time, and there is no reason to believe that this cannot happen to canines as well.

Reevaluating what you are feeding your Yorkie and looking at not just flavors, but the preferred texture of a food may result in a needed change.
In regard to texture, keep in mind that teething puppies have sore gums and a combination of loose teeth and erupting teeth which can lead to refusal to eat hard kibble as it simply causes too much discomfort. Older, senior dogs - especially those that have had some tooth loss, may need to be switched to a softer diet. 

3- Has Your Yorkie Been Exposed to Table Scraps? Before you answer this question, check with all members of the family. While you may have strict rules about this, you child or your husband may be giving in to those puppy dog eyes when you're not around. Or may you even give in sometimes yourself. The element here to keep in mind is that dogs do have taste buds, they enjoy different textures… and when allowed to consume human food, just about any dog is going to crave that instead of their dog food. Humans have 9000 taste buds and canines have 1706; yet even with this buffered palate, they can enjoy all sorts of flavors including foods that are sour, salty and sweet. Fat will taste good to a dog as well. 

In addition, since canines have exponentially better sense of smell than humans, and smell plays a huge role in the interpretation of food, this will cause a Yorkie to desire human food much more than dog food if given the choice.

All new owners are encouraged to never offer table scraps. It can lead to a Yorkie refusing to eat his or her own dog food. It also can be the starting point for begging behavior. 

If your Yorkie has been eating human food and refuses his own food to the point of losing weight, you may wish to switch to home cooking that incorporates that positive, healthy ingredients and leaves out any overly fatty, salty or otherwise unhealthy ingredients.  
Decreased Appetite

The Weather - If Your Yorkie is eating his/her food, but has a decreased appetite, this can be dependent on the weather. Studies have shown that canines will consume 10 to 20% less food during spells of hot weather. In some cases, this can be attributed to a decrease in activity. As long as your Yorkie is still drinking enough water and does not have any signs of health issues, this is often a temporary phase. It is suggested to keep up with your daily routine of walking your dog, best done in the early morning before temperatures rise or later in the evening as the sun readies to set. Be sure to take breaks in the shade, offer a cool environment in the home and do offer healthy treats if your Yorkie is eating less at meal time.

Correct Amounts of Food - In some cases, owners may worry that their Yorkie is not eating enough, when in fact the dog is eating exactly enough to maintain his weight. Keep in mind that the Yorkshire Terrier is a very small toy sized breed and does not require a lot of food. You may fill your dog's bowl with a tasty food, expecting him to gobble it down, but many dogs will stop when full, leaving the remainder behind. 

How much food should a Yorkie be fed? While owners want a concrete answer, the fact is that there is a huge range. If you look at homemade food VS commercial, high quality VS low, the activity level of the dog, the age of the dog (puppies sometimes have growth spurts spikes - high and lows that greatly affect require calories and senior will have a gradual decrease due to decline in activity), and base metabolic rate that is individual to each Yorkie, the exact amount of food that each puppy and dog requires is very different. 

The best approach is to keep regular veterinarian visits to determine if your puppy is growing as expected and if your adult or senior is maintaining as expected. See Also: Yorkie Growth Chart
Comfortable Eating Environment - If your Yorkie is not eating enough or refuses to eat full meals, for some this may be a matter of tweaking the food station. Some dogs prefer raised bowls, which lends to a more comfortable position and easy access to the food. In other cases, if bowls are places in a high traffic or high noise area, this can cause a dog to shy away from eating. Be sure to choose an area that allows for privacy - dogs of all ages have an inner canine instinct to want to feel safe with their food - if people are walking by or voices are too loud, this can cause anxiety and in turn, refusal to eat under stress.
Red Flags of A Medical Condition

There are many issues that can cause decreased appetite. These range from tooth infection… to injury to disease. Look for the following signs:
  • Weight Loss - Since the Yorkie is a tiny dog breed, even a 1/2 pound loss (.22 kg) is a sign that something is wrong.
  • Weakness - If your puppy or dog has no enthusiasm to run around or play as usual.
  • Dizziness - Stumbling, walking into walks, etc.
  • Sleepiness - Unusual sleep patterns, taking a lot more naps than normal, not wanting to rouse in the morning.
  • Not drinking water - This can very quickly lead to dangerous dehydration.
  • Vomiting - This is never normal, under any circumstances
  •  Diarrhea - as with throwing up, this is not normal and is a red flag. Dehydration can set in quickly.
  • Pain - Look for physical signs - limping, not wanting to be touched, sudden intolerance to being groomed or picked up. Look for behavioral signs - retreating to a quiet place, sudden aggression (injured or ill canines feel vulnerable and may snap at, nip, and/or bark at their humans). 
If you suspect that your Yorkie does have a medical concern, schedule a veterinarian visit. There may be no outward signs of internal injuries and being able to spot disease or illness is difficult without proper testing equipment. The #1 sign of a hidden health issue is refusal to eat or sudden decreased appetite.  
Medical Issues the Yorkshire Terrier is Prone to that Involve Lack of Appetite

Pancreatitis - The pancreas, when functioning normally, secretes digestive juices into the small intestine to aid in the breakup of food. When Pancreatitis develops, this is an inflammation of the pancreas which triggers enzymes to digest the organ itself. The exact cause of this condition is unknown, however it may include reaction to certain medications (corticosteroids are the most likely culprit), ingestion of toxins and/or a buildup of excess fat in the bloodstream. It is believed that this occurs more often with overweight dogs or those that ingest a diet too high in fat. With Yorkies that are predisposed to this or on the brink of a pancreatic attack, it may occur right after eating a fatty meal.

The 2 main symptoms are pain and loss of appetite. Since our dogs, of course, cannot tell us when they are in pain, you would notice behavioral issues… A Yorkie may retreat to a quiet area, not want to be touched - particularly on or around the stomach area, snap when someone tries to pick him up or move him, etc.
With some dogs, there may also be some diarrhea and/or vomiting which can quickly lead to dehydration.

If you suspect that your Yorkie's refusal to eat may be associated with this issue, immediately schedule a checkup. While rare, there is a form of very severe pancreatitis that can send a dog into shock and can be fatal if not treated. Most cases are mild and will require a physical exam and blood tests for diagnosis. A newer test is the Canine Pancreatitis Lipase Immuninol Reactivity which works well for diagnostic purposes. An ultrasound may also be performed.

Treatment - Depending on the severity, a Yorkie may need to be kept several nights. While some will need to be treated for shock and/or dehydration, most will be put on IV solutions in order to allow the pancreas to rest (no solid food is given). Antibiotics are given as well as medication to control pain or discomfort. If the attack has affected the dog's heart functioning (cardiac arrhythmias), anti-arrhythmic medication will be given as well.

Most dogs do respond, however those who do not will require surgery to drain the organ of those excessive digestive juices.

All Yorkies that experience a bout of Pancreatitis will be must more prone to developing it again, though the severity may change (a previous severe attack may lead to a mild one and visa-versa). For this reason, there should be careful monitoring of food intake. Zero table scraps will be allowed (though this is never recommended to begin with). Meals should be spaced apart - for example 1 meal in the evening will change to 3 smaller meals throughout the day. For most Yorkies, a lower fat diet will be suggested. In some cases, a dog will need to be given enzymes or insulin as supplementation to this treatment.
Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis (HGE)- This problem will be mentioned, however the main symptoms is severe diarrhea; though loss of appetite will occur as well. While some larger dogs can get thought a bout of HGE without complications, the tiny toy Yorkshire Terrier can quickly become dangerously dehydrated.
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