dbd banner

Pet Caregiver Support Blog…

Four Ways to Feed Older or Sick Pets

By Sandra Lewis

It can be hard to feed older or sick pets. Very often, age-related issues or battling chronic or terminal illness makes food less interesting to them, just as it does to some people!

You may need to be creative to feed older or sick pets.

It can be a challenge to feed older or sick pets.

But our pets need to continue eating while they are ill or have a chronic condition. You know your pet must continue to eat to keep his strength up, particularly if he’s going through treatment or being managed for a chronic illness. Here are four ways you can try to boost your pet’s eating.

Suggestion #1: Warm Up Food for Sick or Older Pets


Sometimes a pet’s sense of smell decreases with age or are sick and have a stuffy nose. Warming the food before serving it brings out odors you may not like but can make it more appealing to your pet! Animals rely heavily on their sense of smell so if they don’t smell something, they don’t want to eat.

For example, imagine when you have a cold and you cannot taste your food. You probably don’t want to eat, either!

Obviously, warming wet food gets more scent to your pet. If your pet only eats dry food, add some warm water to it to get the odor out. Just make sure it isn’t hot and won’t burn a sensitive nose or mouth.


Suggestion #2: Feed Older or Sick Pets Watered-Down or Wet Food


Watered-down food is very important for a pet suffering from mouth pain from dental disease or cancer.

Your veterinarian can provide wet prescription pet foods your veterinarian that have textures that are easier for some pets to eat. This can make a big difference.

If you notice your otherwise healthy pet is drinking but not eating, try adding some water to his food. Then, take him to the vet to have his mouth, gums, and teeth checked out. An infection can be behind his mouth sensitivity.

Suggestion #3: Check Out Your Veterinarian’s Food Aisle


Veterinarians sell special foods that are used to encourage sick or older pets to eat. Some are available only with a prescription while others are specialty foods that may not be available in your usual grocery store.

Hills a/d, Royal Canin Recovery Diet, and Purina CN are wet pet foods formulated for high nutrition and protein. Their soft texture and strong small encourage older or sick pets to eat.

Complete liquid diets like CatSure, DogSure, Clinicare, and Rebound can be served alone or mixed into pet food.

Nutrition gels are not quite as popular as the other options but are worth mentioning because some animals do like them. Or you can try gel supplements for pets such as Nutri-cal, GNC High Calorie Booster, Enercal, and Nutri-vet.

Your veterinarian can discuss these options with you. Ask for samples to try on y0ur older or sick pet before you invest in these foods or supplements.

Suggestion #4: Consider New Approaches to Feed Older or Sick Pets

Sometimes food is just boring to older pets, while sick ones have lost interest in eating. Don’t give up! Here are more ideas that may get your animal eating again or increase his appetite.

  • Pet Food Toppers. Many pet food brands make food toppers. Stella and Chewy’s, Instinct, Smiling Dog, Whole Life, and Vital Essentials are a few popular ones. They can be sprinkled on top of the wet or dry food or mixed in with it.
  • Probiotics. Fortiflora is an animal probiotic made by Purina that many pets find very tasty. It’s a powder can be sprinkled right on top of the food or mixed in. Many pet caregivers report that adding Fortiflora increases their pet’s intake of food.
  • Baby Food. Baby food is actually a very good pet food supplement for older or sick pets and many like it. It’s soft, easy to digest, and mixes well with water. Plus, it can be heated, too, to get that yummy (again, to your pet) odor in the air.
  • Safe Table Food. Many pets enjoy the foods we like, even those trained not to beg. Mix in a little of these foods to their diets:
    • Deli meat
    • Cheese
    • Yogurt
    • Ice cream
    • Tuna
    • Sardines
    • Salmon
    • Boiled chicken
    • Steak
    • Turkey
    • Broth/gravy
    • Hamburger
    • Sweet potato
    • Pumpkin


What ways have you been able to get pets to eat when they’re sick, going through treatment, or just disinterested in food?


Day By Day does not dispense veterinary advice. These are only suggestions for you to consider. Be sure to speak with your veterinary team before changing the way you feed a sick or older pet, and discuss any health issues that involve not eating or decreased appetite.


Sandra Lewis brings over 10 years experience as a veterinary nurse at Just For Cats Veterinary Hospital. She currently facilitates support circles at Windcrest Animal Hospital and Saint Francis Veterinary Center and expects to complete her BSW in 2016.

Comments are closed.



Make a donation to Day By Day Pet Caregiver Support so that we can continue to be a resource to other pet parents and families.

Blog Home