[From Tufts June 2010 Issue]
Q: I have a 20-month-old Siberian husky who is the sweetest dog. Over the past few months, Harrison has become sick or just finicky about his food. He’s a small guy, and sometimes he’ll eat only a cup of food in a day.
I mix kibble with a tablespoon of sweet potato, a tablespoon of wet food and boiled chicken breast with rice. Sometimes he laps it up. At other times he’ll pick out the chicken then leave the rest. Yesterday he had diarrhea. I usually warm the cold and wet food but didn’t. Is he just fussy, or could there be something wrong with his intestines?
It can be normal to see periods of reduced appetite, especially in some Northern dog breeds, such as Siberian huskies. However, a reduced appetite can also be a sign of an underlying illness. It is non-specific sign, meaning that it can be seen with a variety of illnesses ranging from fever and infection to gastrointestinal or even liver or kidney disease.
Because of this, it is always a good idea to see your veterinarian when a sudden decrease in appetite occurs. This is especially true if it is coupled with any other signs, such as lethargy, weight loss, vomiting or diarrhea.
Owners often like to spice up the diet by adding home-cooked foods, such as the sweet potato, chicken breast and rice, as you are doing. It is important to remember that commercial dog foods are generally complete and balanced, providing all of the pet’s essential nutrients in the appropriate proportions.
Home-cooked foods are not complete and balanced; therefore, if a significant amount is added to the daily diet, there is a risk of a nutritional deficiency or imbalance. The rule of thumb is that unbalanced foods and treats should be limited to no more than 10 percent of the daily calories. If you go above this amount, then it would be recommended to consult with your veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist to determine if additional vitamin, mineral or fatty acid supplementation is needed.
It is unlikely that the temperature of the food caused the diarrhea, but anytime you change or add ingredients to the diet, you can see changes in stool consistency. A trip to your veterinarian would be advised to evaluate your dog’s decreased appetite and diarrhea, and to rule out any underlying conditions that may be present.
DVM, MS, DACVN