Is the Lurcher anorexic?Ruby is a very thin dog. She is refusing to eat. Her brother Bandit, on the right, who lives with the owner’s friend is how Ruby should be looking.

This is a very worrying case because Ruby is anorexic.

Why, we still don’t know. It is also very puzzling. I thought before I arrived that it would be behaviour issues, common around fussy eaters, but now I am not so sure although certain events leading up to her refusing to eat could be relevant. Last year there was a family death, followed in October by the death of their other Lurcher – her father. The owners were experiencing great grief and Ruby was experiencing loss. Possibly they were over-compensating and redirecting their feelings onto Ruby and we know that dogs pick up on the emotions and stress of their humans.

However, by nature Ruby is a calm and confident dog. It is difficult to imagine she would be so badly effected so long after the event – several months. Usually when I go to see a dog, I can see quite quickly what the problem is and what to do about it.  Not in this case. Everything points to a physical problem maybe made worse by the atmosphere of stress in her life and absence of the other dog. Either something medical, minor and passing, may have triggered off full blown anorexia, or unhappily maybe it is something chronic.

They have had extensive tests at the vet and Ruby has been on a drip to re-hydrate her a couple of weeks ago. They have discovered nothing. The last course of action will be to go to a vet hospital for observation and tests which would not help her if it is psychological. I have a fearful feeling that the gradual decline in appetite may be something sinister developing inside her as yet undiscovered.

I so hope not, and that Ruby will slowly pick up in an atmosphere of calm without fussing nor humans over-compensating for the loss of the other dog. Too much effort put into trying to get her to eat could well be having the opposite result. Her concerned owners are very emotional at the moment, understandably, and this can’t be helping.

But, driving home and gathering distance away from the situation, I felt uneasy. I noticed before I lost my Chocolate Labrador through heart disease a few months ago, that my other dogs sensed it and would lie down near her but make no demands on her at all. Even my young cocker spaniel lay still near her which was not like him at all.  When an animals feel unwell they may even take themselves off somewhere alone. We can learn from other dogs. Be near. Just be there for her.

Four hours later: I have just had a phone call. Ruby has now, as we discussed, been to a different vet and has been diagnosed with Addison’s Disease, a disease of the adrenal glands. Serious but not usually fatal although requiring lifetime medication. She is staying in for at least a night on a drip and to get her going again. Great relief all round.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.