Reasons For A Lack of Appetite and What To Do

24th November 2023
By Madeleine Innocent

We all go through phases of appetite loss. Yet when children and animals stop eating, many people panic and they are unceremoniously taken to a medic.

Yet, in many cases, there is a perfectly logical explanation for the lack of appetite that the body is addressing just fine. Medical interference may not be the ideal solution.

The most common reason for a lack of appetite is a digestive issue. It could be acute from say, eating something inappropriate or harmful as you have in food poisoning. Then a healthy body will have no problem vomiting up the harmful ingesta, possibly a few times, then having a period of rest, to recover just fine.

An unhealthy being or someone very young, old or frail may need help to recover, so they would need monitoring to see how they were managing.

Eating food that is inappropriate for the species can lead into a chronic loss of appetite over time. There may be hunger, but the body senses the same old garbage and pulls away. The body gets to a point when any more will start to tip them over the edge, so stimulates nausea.

This is common in cats fed commercial cat food, Cats are highly sensitive beings and can’t tolerate the combination of inappropriate food and toxins forever. It shortens their lives.

Dogs are not quite as sensitive as cats, but will have similar problems when fed commercial dog food.

Horses can’t vomit, so when they eat somethng inappropriate, they’re liable to get colic. This is much more serious as it can be fatal. So we should be thankful we do have this ability of vomiting, unpleasant though it may be!

Children are more fortunate, at least the older ones, as they can tell you what they feel and what they think was the problem.

Vomiting repeatedly means you may become a bit dehydrated, but a healthy body will easily recover from that. And I believe you’re better off allowing that.

Those who are very young, old or frail, as well as anyone who is not in robust health, are likely to need help to recover. Dehydration can cause problems, but I suggest it isn’t as bad as the medical industry like to portray.

Nausea isn’t always accompanied by vomiting. It could just be a mild affliction.

One father told me he tried to tempt his son, who had just refused breakfast, with a sausage! Apart from the fact his son had only just gone off his food, a sausage is the LAST thing anyone wants. The meat and fat take a LOT of digestion, energy that’s needed elsewhere.

Another reason for a lack of appetite could be a sore mouth - teeth, an abscess, a foreign oject stuck, gum or mucus membrane inflammation.

This is really common in cats fed commercial cat food as the gums and/or mucus membranes become so inflammed, it’s too painful to have ANYTHING in the mouth - food, water, even saliva so there can be drooling.

Another reason could be a throat issue making swallowing painful. It could be inflammation of the larynx or the salivary glands which partially block the oesophagus.

A lifetime ago, I adopted a cat from an elderly lady who was a keen dress maker. One day, poor old Whiskers stopped eating and pawed desperately at his mouth. A vet examination showed a needle and thread stuck in his throat.

A cats tongue has spines that face backwards, encouraging food towards the throat. It would have been very difficult for Whiskers to spit out the thread, so that keep going in, followed by the needle.

It has made me extremely careful if I need to mend sonething. I count the pins and never leave anything out that has a needle or pins in.

Another reason is the ingestion of poison, such as slug or rat poison. Secondary poisoning is just as fatal if the cat or dog eats the poisoned animal. Same for small children who like to experiment by putting things in their mouth.

While horses are quite selective in what they eat, you can see them ejecting some food from their mouth as they graze, cows are not. Someone came to me after their cow stopped eating. Nothing I suggested seemed to work, so a vet was called. That didn’t work either and the cow died.

After a post mortem, a metal object was disovered in one of her stomachs. I like to do a ‘post mortem’ on why I wasn’t successful, too. I discovered that cows will eat anything so their grazing has to be very clean. Although it seems a bit extreme to eat a metal object when there was plenty of grass. But it’s worth knowing.

It made me wonder how the cows in India fare, wandering around the cities.

Severe injury can result in a lack of appetite.

Someone in a fever is not likely to have an appetite.

The whole point of this lack of appetite is that digestion takes an enormous amount of energy. That energy should be, and naturally is, directed to helping to heal the problem. The body is infinitely wise and knows what to do whatever happens. Sometimes it can manage that on its own, given time. Other times, it needs help.

Of course, those in the late stages of a chronic disease are unlikely to want to eat. They have other issues at hand, such as paving the way for their departure from this physical world. It’s an important process than needs to be respected.

The really common medical solution of anti-nausea drugs, appetite stimulants and antibiotics completely ignore the reason for the lack of appetite, the cause. The effect is not unlike taking a sledge hammer to deal with a delicate issue. Brains over brawn tends to work better. It’s also more respectful.

The homeopathic approach, for anyone, is to examine why this is happening. Everything is examined and the treatment will be aimed at the problem, not the effect.

The things we ask ourselves include:

  • - are we dealing with an acute?
  • - can the patient manage on their own?
  • - do we just need to reassure the human/parent/patient to allow time?
  • - could they have eaten poison or a poisoed animal?
  • - is this a chronic issue?
  • - if it is, what is the underlying cause?
  • - can we improve the diet? (interestingly, that alone can restore the appetite in many)
  • - is there a mouth issue or a throat problem?
  • - how does this problem affect them overall - energy, interest, activity, sleep, etc?
  • - what other problems have they had in the past? (this helps us understand their predisposition to certain ailments)
  • - how is their digestion normally?
  • - what past treatments have they had and how did they respond?

You can see that the homeopathic approach is a lot more involved, sensitive.
It also takes a lot more time to work out the appriated treament.

Healing from an acute ailment can be fast. It came on quickly, there was intensity, a lot of energy. And it can disappear just as fast either with the appropriate help or on its own.

Healing from a chronic condition is much slower. Chronic conditions take time to develop, often without any awareness. They don’t happen quickly. You don’t know they’re developing because the body always tries to do its best in the circumstances.

However, if you’re eating/feeding an inappropriate diet, if you’re not trying to avoid toxins, if you use drugs routinely (which suppress symptoms rather than cure the underlying problem), if you’re not addressing mental factors which make the patient unhappy, such as stress, then you’re creating chronic disease.

How long can we go without eating? How long should we leave another?

As already mentioned, the very young, the frail and the very elderly, as well as those whose health is not very good, are likely to need help.

For anyone else, I recommend that the patient is left alone and just monitored. The exception here is the ingestion of poison. Secondary poisoning can occur in a cat, dog or child who has eaten a poisoned snail/slug or mouse/rat. These poisons are NOT pet (or child) safe. They need immediate support either from a medic or homeopath.

We humans, with the exceptions already mentioned, can go for long periods without eating. Fasting is a normal and natural way to heal. It gives the body a chance to heal, without the burden of digestion. Fasting can help eliminate toxins. Regular fasting can be a healthy practise.

Cats and dogs can also go long periods without eating. Some years ago, one of my cats, who I was treating for something I can’t recall, went walkabout. I searched and searched to no avail. Eventually I found her, three weeks later, after I’d given up hope. She was all skin and bone, unsurprisingly.

When this happens, the digestive tract shuts down. You have to be very careful bringing it back into working order again, but it’s not a problem when you know what to do.

She made a full recovery.

On the rare occasion one of my cats stops eating and there is no other symptom, other than a desire to rest or sleep more, I don’t know what’s going on. So I leave them alone and just monitor. As my cats are in good health, they invariably recover without any help from me. It may take a few days, even a week.

Cats are carnivores. Food is not available to them without effort. It’s more natural for them to go without regular food than to have too much, as can so often happen with domestic cats. So keep that in mind.

Dogs are omnivores but at the carnivore end, so the same applies. A typical successful wild dog hunt will result in everyone in the pack having a good feast, then a good long rest. The next successful hunt may not be for another couple of weeks.

So they are more able to cope with fasting than with too much food.

This is one reason (but only one of many) why dry food left out for cats and dogs to graze on at will is one of the worst things you can do for their health.

Speaking of grazing, the herbivores need to eat 20 hours out of 24. This is especially important for the animals with a single stomach, such as horses. When they can’t, they develop stomach ulcers, Stabled horses are prime candidates for this.

This is less important in the herbivores with multiple stomachs such as cows as they regurgitate the food and ‘chew the cud’.

So with horses, the reason for the lack of appetite needs to be found and acted upon quickly. There’s less time to ponder. In addition, horses are unable to vomit. That healthy reaction to eject harmful food is denied them. It has to pass all the way through.

A few years ago, a horse lost his appetite. In addition he lay down. Lying down is a vulnerable position for a horse, a prey animal. It wasn’t the position as in RM deep sleep of lying on the side. It was more of an alert position with his front legs tucked in.

I had no idea what was going on, so just sat with him for a while to try to pick up messages or symptoms. Co-operatively, he turned his head towards me and I got a blast of putrid breath!

Immediately I suspected a tooth abscess. But who knows?

After checking for other signs and symptoms, I selected a remedy. He was happy to take the pillules from my hand. The effect was rapid. He stood up within minutes, ambled over to the other horse and started grazing.

I didn’t have to repeat the remedy as he didn’t relapse.

These are a few of the obvious reasons for a lack of appetite. I’m sure there are more.

So my message here is to know who it is who is fasting. Understand their characeristics and whether you can watch and wait or if you need quick action.

Your job is to objectively take careful note of signs and symptoms that are outside of normal for that species and in particular, that individual. Then you can have a meaningful consultation with a homeopath or homeopathic vet.

I recommend that you don’t go for the sledge hammer effet!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.