All About Marie

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Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at www.blogtalkradio.com/petplace; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 18 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of one baby boy, and pet parent of three cats, two dogs, and a cockatoo.

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Friday, January 31, 2014

Dog Won't Eat

Dear  Marie:
I just inherited my mother’s 9 year old poodle, “Misty”.  My mother moved into a senior citizens’ apartment facility and they have a strict no-pets rule.  “Misty” was very pampered by my mother and is having a difficult time adjusting to her new surroundings.  My biggest concern is that she refuses to eat.  I have tried just about everything to get her to take in food.  I kneel down next to her and pet her by her bowl.  I try to hand feed her.  I even pretend to eat the food myself to show her how good it is.  Nothing is working.  What should I do?

Angela, Fullerton

Dear Angela,
Misty is a lucky dog to have been taken in by an individual as caring as you.  She had a loving home with your mother, and is obviously going through serious separation anxiety at this point in time.  Her new surroundings are also a very nerve wracking change in her life and this combination of stress has understandably led to her loss of appetite.  However, with your love and encouragement, this will pass.

There are a few things that you should do to make this transition easier.  First, give Misty a quiet, private area in your home with her own bed.  She will need an area that is not subject to frequent disrupting activities; so make sure this is not a child’s bedroom or the corner of a busy family room.  Misty will use this area frequently at first, but as time goes on, she will feel more and more comfortable participating in family activities throughout the house. 

Next, pick out a secluded feeding area.  Dogs have a natural fear of competition for food.  They need to eat where they know they can finish a meal safely.  You should also know that your presence, no matter how benign you feel your presence is, creates a certain amount of fear or discomfort when it is associated with feeding time.  Go into another room while Misty is eating.  Let her know that she is alone so that she can dine comfortably. 

Establish a feeding schedule and stick to it.  Dogs need routines in their lives.  It makes them feel more secure, and at this point, security is the main issue for Misty.  Usually, a twice a day feeding schedule is best.  Furthermore, until Misty becomes a good eater, refrain from tasty in-between meal snacks.  As with children, this will spoil her appetite!

To re-enforce the feeding schedule, remove Misty’s food dish twenty minutes after putting it down.  Your pet will quickly learn that she is fed once in the morning and once in the evening and that if she doesn’t eat, there will be no more opportunities until the next scheduled feeding time.  If she misses one or two meals before she figures out the routine, she will be fine.  However, if she still refuses to eat, try mixing her food with 1/4 cup chicken broth.   Reduce the amount of broth each day until you no longer need it. 

If after taking these steps Misty is still not eating well, she should be seen by a veterinarian.  She may have a medical problem that is completely unrelated to the stress of coming into a new home.   Your veterinarian will be able to determine if this is the case.

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