German shepherds usually have the problem of gaining too much weight. It’s unusual for a German shepherd to need to gain weight.
According to the American Kennel Club, German shepherds normally weigh about 65 to 90 pounds in males and 50 to 70 pounds in females.
A dog that is too skinny is usually unwell and needs a vet check-up.
How to Get My German Shepherd to Gain Weight
The first step in getting your German shepherd to gain weight is to go to the vet for a check-up to see if there is an underlying illness causing weight loss. Feeding more often and using high-protein and fat foods helps German shepherds gain weight. Change their diet gradually so as not to give the dog diarrhea or an upset stomach.
Causes of Weight Loss in German Shepherds
The main causes of a German shepherd being too skinny or losing weight are:
- Old age
Obviously, you need to take your dog to a vet in order to find out what is causing the weight loss or lack of weight gain.
Before you do, take time to note when the weight loss started or any other symptoms such as hair loss or diarrhea, or a sudden increase in thirst.
These other symptoms will help your vet diagnose your German shepherd’s underlying problem more quickly.
Feeding a Malnourished German Shepherd
Perhaps you’ve taken in a stray or a rescued German shepherd.
Or maybe your vet surprises you by saying your dog is malnourished, even though you feed your dog every day.
Whatever the reason, your dog is malnourished and needs to fatten up.
The key is doing this gradually with several small meals a day. This way, the dog will not get sick by gorging on food.
However, many malnourished dogs will only eat a small amount since their stomachs’ stretch receptors react more quickly than in healthy dogs.
So, the dog may feel full when his or her stomach isn’t full.
Feed a few large spoonfuls of puppy or growth food. Your vet may recommend a therapeutic or prescription diet based on your German shepherd’s individual needs.
Ask your veterinarian about a food supplement, since malnourished dogs are often lacking in critical nutrients.
Until you can get to your vet, try supplements with fatty acids (Omega 3 and 6). This is what many dog shelters use to help their dogs gain healthy weight.
Kinds of Illnesses that Cause Weight Loss in German Shepherds
Illnesses need to be treated before a German shepherd can put the needed weight back on. They range from tooth problems, making it difficult to chew, to cancer.
German shepherds are prone to a specific kind of pancreatitis called malabsorption syndrome or pancreatic enzyme insufficiency.
This means that the dog cannot digest its food properly since the pancreas is malfunctioning. Other symptoms besides weight loss include vomiting and diarrhea.
Another common illness that can cause weight loss is diabetes. The dog may even seem ravenous and yet loses weight.
This usually happens after a period where the dog was thirsty all of the time and then has to urinate more frequently because of drinking so much.
Your vet will want to see a stool sample from your German shepherd to make sure he or she is not suffering from internal parasites.
The good news is that most parasite infestations can be cleared up fairly quickly.
If there isn’t a physical cause for weight loss in a German shepherd, then the cause might be stress.
A dog that is highly stressed will lose any appetite. They may constantly pace or act restless, burning up calories quicker than usual.
Are there big changes in the dog’s life recently? Has a child left for college, or another household pet died, or has loud construction started in the neighborhood?
Usually, time will help deal with stress.
In the meantime, feed the dog food with higher fat and protein to help it regain a healthy weight.
Try leaving a bowl of dry food out all of the time so the dog can eat whenever he or she is hungry.
Try to keep to the same routine every day to help your German shepherd to relax. Dogs like predictability.
Imagine if you had no clue as to what the next day would bring. You would get stressed, too.
When dogs get very old, they often stop gaining weight and start losing it. Just why is not exactly known.
It could be due to loss of smell, which in turn decreases the appetite. It could be that very old dogs just can’t absorb the calories from their food as efficiently.
In this case, feed food with higher calories, such as puppy food. Foods with higher fat content tend to be tastier and tempt even poor appetites.
If you have two or more dogs, start feeding them in a separate room or they may gobble all of the old dog’s food if he or she is slow to finish it.
Many old German shepherds suffer from tooth problems.
If your dog is dropping food constantly, eating with the head tilted to one side or drooling more than usual, or has breath that smells worse than usual, then it’s time to go to the vet and get the teeth checked.
Frequently Asked Questions About How to Get My German Shepherd to Gain Weight
Should I Exercise my German Shepherd if He or She Needs to Gain Weight?
Talk to your veterinarian about a safe exercise program for your German shepherd. Keeping active helps ramp up the appetite. It also helps dogs stay limber and put on muscle and not just fat.
Do German Shepherds Need to Gain Weight?
Not all German shepherds will have the average weight described in the breed standard. Some will be too small or too large to show, so they fall outside of the breed standard weight. If the hip bones, backbones, bones at the base of the tail or ribs are showing, then the dog is too skinny.
What is the Best Food to Help My German Shepherd Gain Weight?
Foods with high protein and fat help dogs gain weight, according to PetMD. This is why puppy food has much higher protein levels than for adult dogs. Dog foods labeled “performance diets” are also high in protein and fat to help feed very active dogs or dogs used for breeding.
The Least You Need to Know
German shepherds tend to be too fat rather than too skinny.
A dog that’s losing weight needs to go to the vet to see if there is a medical issue causing the weight loss.
Dogs lose weight due to malnourishment, illnesses like diabetes, stress, or old age.
Feed food high in protein and with fat to help put weight back on. Feed little and often to avoid getting the dog sick.