Shiloh and the food bowl mystery

So this is a post about my dog but, if you’d like to keep your reading confined to issues of intelligence analysis and critical thinking there’s plenty of hypothesis generation and testing in here to keep you satisfied.  If canine medical mysteries aren’t your cup of tea, feel free to give this one a miss.

Having just turned 15, I am coming to the conclusion that Shiloh is approaching his end times .  While a lifetime of proper care and regular exercise had kept him in good shape, one can’t fight genetics.

Beginning approximately two weeks ago, Shiloh began to approach his food with less gusto than was his custom.  It soon became so pronounced that it could take him hours to eat his food.

My initial hypothesis was that the food (being hard kibble) was causing discomfort while chewing.  He had lyme disease several years ago and one of the symptoms was pain in joints (particularly the jaw) which resulted in a reluctance to eat.  The behavior didn’t present in the same way so I wasn’t totally convinced but it was the first thing that came to mind.  So,  I began adding some water to the food in order to soften it.

Things improved slightly but within a couple days we were back to the starting point.  I began to go back through Shiloh’s medical history to see if there was another clue there.

A few months ago, he had some blood work done and his kidney levels were elevated.  In short, it appears his kidneys are not able to filter his blood efficiently.  While the problem isn’t yet severe, the vet recommended a special prescription diet.  Shiloh, however, was having none of that and refused to eat the new food.  So, I transitioned back to his old food figuring that, like that old stubborn octogenarian who refuses to give up his cigarettes or beer, this was a battle simply not worth fighting.

But…a quick search of symptoms of canine kidney problems reveals that a common symptom is nausea which can lead to a reluctance to eat.

Aha!  So, question answered, right?

Not so fast.  On Friday night while picking up Shiloh’s uneaten food, I accidentally spilled some of the kibble on the ground and he quickly ate them up.  I put more of the food on the floor and, again, he ate it up without hesitation.  Now, if it was nausea I would assume he wouldn’t be interested in food at all and it shouldn’t matter if it was in his bowl or on the floor.

I did consider the possibility that food on the floor might be triggering some other behavior that overrides the nausea and sought to control for that by feeding him off of a plate (instead of his regular dog bowl) in his regular feeding place.  Again, while not fully enthusiastic about eating, the food went down nonetheless. I began to consider that Shiloh was, for some reason, averse to eating out of his traditional bowls.

Another control that I used (making a virtue out of necessity) was that I was able to test this hypothesis by feeding him both at home at at the TwShiloh Fortress of Solitude ™.  He has regular bowls and feeding locations in both places and in both places he expressed a real resistance to eating out of bowls and less resistance to eating off of a plate.

So, I think I’m looking at nausea combined with some of aversion to eating out of a bowl .  The question now is where this new behavior is coming from.  For that I have two hypotheses:

  • the nausea has been occurring for so long that he has come to associate the bowls with the sensation.  If that is true and I can’t stem the nausea I would expect a similar reaction to develop through any eating method over time.
  • Shiloh also suffers from glaucoma which has degraded his vision markedly over the past few months.  Perhaps the act of putting his face in the dog bowl freaks him out in someway.

We shall see.


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