14 Reasons Why Your German Shepherd Is Skinny (+ 7 Tips)

Ever notice how your German Shepherd seems to be so skinny? It’s not just you; it is a common problem among many German Shepherd owners. Skinny German Shepherds are often the result of genetic or dietary factors, but there are also other reasons that could lead to an unhealthy weight for your dog. Here at TrainYourGSD, I want to give you all the information you need to take care of your skinny German Shepherd and help them maintain a healthy weight.

What’s causing this issue with my dog being so skinny? Is it something I’m doing wrong? We’ll get into what might be going on below!

why is my German Shepherd so skinny?

Why is My German Shepherd So Skinny?

Here’s the short answer to why is your German Shepherd so skinny:

Your German Shepherd is so skinny because they are suffering from a calorie deficit. This condition occurs when the amount of calories consumed from food (energy in) is less than the number of calories the body needs to maintain basic functions and do any work or exercise (energy out). There are several causes for this calorie deficit, including high energy demand, poor feeding practices, and a number of health issues.

In order to help your dog gain weight, you will need to take the time to understand what is causing their calorie deficit to ensure that you are able to fix the issue.

Listed below is an in-depth look at some of the common causes for why your German Shepherd is losing weight.

1. High Energy Demands

It’s important to make sure your German Shepherd is getting enough calories to support whatever lifestyle they are leading, whether it’s a normal active lifestyle or if they have an intense job such as search and rescue or law enforcement.

If your German Shepherd is in the middle of some intense physical activity, they will need a lot more calories than normal to perform well during that activity and feel good.

2. Poor Feeding Practices

A common way for your dog to lose weight is by simply being fed too little food each day, feeding the wrong types of food, or even feeding food that is not of high enough quality.

Your German Shepherd needs a constant source of protein and fat as well as carbohydrates to get the right balance between energy in and energy out. This will prevent your dog from being too underweight while also giving them the nutrients they need to maintain a healthy weight.

Generally, a German Shepherd puppy between 8 weeks and 6 months should be fed about 1 to 3 cups of puppy food each day. If your German Shepherd is older than this, you will want to feed them about 2 to 3 cups of food.

When picking a German Shepherd puppy food, you want to make sure that you pick a quality food formulated for your puppy’s stage of life. Look for brands such as Orijen, Taste of the Wild, Acana, and Royal Canin Breed to find good quality food made specifically for German Shepherd puppies.

A full-grown German Shepherd should be fed about 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 of a cup of food each day. You can adjust this number depending on their activity level and size.

As for the types of dog food given to your dog, I usually prefer to mix dry food and wet food to get the benefits of both.

You should also avoid feeding your dog any table scraps no matter how much they beg or plead because you do not want them filling up on things like bread and pasta that are high in carbs but low in everything else.

3. Dietary Changes

If you’ve recently changed the type of food that your German Shepherd is getting, you may notice that they are losing weight. This is because every brand of dog food has a different nutrient content, and levels of these nutrients will vary from each brand.

The longer a dog is on one food, the more their digestive system responds to it so that all of the nutrients and ingredients are broken down and absorbed easily. However, if you change your dog’s diet, they will need some time for their bodies to readjust to this new food otherwise, they may not be able to absorb and use everything they eat.

To prevent this from happening you should gradually mix in the new food with your old food. This way, there will be no drastic changes, and that will allow their bodies to adjust more easily.

You may think, but I haven’t changed my dog’s food in years! While your dog may eat the exact same brand of dog food, this doesn’t mean the company that produces it hasn’t changed the recipe or manufacturing process, which would change the nutrients and ingredients available to your dog.

It’s quite common for dog food brands to change the formula/ingredients they use in their food because it’s more cost-effective. Not suspecting that a change has been made to their food, most dog owners just continue feeding the same food to their dogs without realizing that the new formula has a lower amount of calories.

4. Dental Problems

You may not suspect this, but dental problems such as tooth decay and gum can be responsible for your German shepherd’s weight loss.

If your German Shepherd is missing teeth or if their gums are very inflamed, it can cause them to not be able to eat as well, or this will change the type of food they are able to eat.

5. Picky Eaters

Some dogs are just picky about their food. Most dog owners think this is just how their dogs are, but most often, picky eating is a result of poor feeding habits.

If you often feed your German shepherd table scraps, you may inadvertently encourage this behavior. Over time, your dog may have been conditioned only to eat what they can get from humans rather than their own food. The problem is table scraps often don’t provide your German shepherd with the same nutrients that their food provides.

If you notice your dog constantly begging for table scraps, it may be time to take a step back and re-evaluate what you are feeding them.

Another common cause of picky eating is if you change your dog’s food frequently. New dog owners often think their dogs will get bored from eating the same food over and over, so they buy a different brand every several months.

This is a huge mistake. Unlike humans, dogs don’t grow bored of their food, and switching their food often can have negative results.

By changing the type, brand, or flavor of dog food you give your German Shepherd, you risk upsetting their stomach and causing them not to want to eat as much or be picky about what they will eat.

6. Age

Your dog’s age can also be a factor in why they are losing weight. Most GSD owners will tell you that as their German shepherds get older, they lose their appetite. This is normal because as dogs get older, they can be afflicted with some health problems that can decrease their appetites, such as arthritis, dental problems, and cancer.

Senior dogs also tend to be less active as they age, which makes them eat less. While it’s normal for older dogs to lose weight, if your German shepherd is losing weight at an abnormally fast rate or they are simply not eating enough, it may be time to take them to a vet.

7. Change in Environment

A sudden change in your German shepherd’s environment, such as remodeling the house, moving to a new location, or even bringing a new baby into the family home, can cause stress and anxiety, which can decrease their appetites.

8. Worms or Parasites

Today, it is relatively rare for dogs to be infested with worms in the US, but it is still possible. If you notice your German shepherd has lost a significant amount of weight rapidly, followed by other symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal swelling, it may be time to get them checked for worms.

Even if you have diligently kept up with your German shepherd’s vaccinations and preventative medications, there are still many types of parasites that can attack your dog. Luckily, intestinal parasites are easy to diagnose and treat.

9. Diabetes

If your German shepherd loses weight but drinking and urinating excessively, it could be an indication that they are suffering from diabetes. Diabetes is often diagnosed in middle-aged or senior German shepherds who are overweight. In most cases, it is caused by a combination of genetics and other health problems such as pancreatitis, Cushing’s disease, or kidney disease.

Your vet can perform a simple test to determine if your dog has diabetes and the treatment usually involves some dietary changes and insulin injections.

10. Maldigestion and Malabsorption

If your German shepherd loses weight but seems to be eating a lot, it may be due to health problems associated with their digestive systems, such as maldigestion and malabsorption.

Maldigestion occurs when the stomach acid or other enzymes can’t break down food in the normal way because of a lack of stomach acid, a problem with the pancreas, or because another organ isn’t functioning correctly.

Malabsorption happens when your dog’s body can’t process and absorb nutrients from food properly due to an impairment in their digestive system or liver function. Inflammatory bowel disease is one of the most common causes of malabsorption in dogs.

Losing weight alone is not usually a sign that your German shepherd has maldigestion or malabsorption. However, it may be time to visit the vet if they lose weight in conjunction with other symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, loose stool, and gas.

11. Liver Disease

The liver has one very important role in your German shepherd’s body, and that is to release the nutrients from the food they eat. If your German shepherd has liver disease, their ability to absorb nutrients will be severely compromised, which can cause them to lose significant amounts of weight and look emaciated.

In most cases, the causes of liver disease can be brought on by degenerative disease, infection, fatty foods, certain medications, or exposure to toxic plants.

If you notice any of the following symptoms in your German shepherd, it may be time to visit a veterinarian for a full check-up: loss of appetite, weight loss, lethargy and fatigue, vomiting bile, jaundice (yellowing of the gums), diarrhea, or confusion.

12. Kidney Disease

As German Shepherds get older, they are more susceptible to developing chronic kidney disease. Initially, dogs with kidney disease don’t lose weight, but over time, their kidneys become less efficient at processing nutrients from the food they eat.

When kidney disease reaches this stage, your German shepherd will begin experiencing weight loss and look gaunt. So if your dog has been losing weight for a while, it may be that the disease has progressed past the initial stage.

Other common symptoms of chronic kidney disease include increased drinking and urination, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, constipation, pale gums, and depression.

Since kidney disease can be life-threatening if your German shepherd is experiencing any of these symptoms, don’t wait for them to worsen; take them to a vet as soon as possible.

13. Heart Disease

Like kidney disease, heart disease often doesn’t cause weight loss until it is at an advanced stage. Because the initial symptoms are so subtle and resemble age-related changes, most owners don’t realize that their dogs suffer heart disease until it has become severe.

When heart disease reaches the chronic stage, it’s usually accompanied by other symptoms such as swollen belly, fainting, weight loss, and change in tongue and gums color.

If your dog has a heart condition and is experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s best to take them to the vet so they can start treatment right away.

Because of the severity of this disease, it’s crucial for dog owners to recognize the initial signs of heart disease so treatment can begin quickly. The early symptoms include shortness of breath, tiredness, coughing, and restlessness.

14. Cancer

Without a doubt, cancer is one of the most common, deadly diseases for canines. Although it doesn’t always cause weight loss, there are several types of cancer that can cause dogs to lose weight.

These cancers include lymphoma, hemangiosarcoma, and osteosarcoma. All of these types of cancer are malignant and can be very difficult to treat even if they are caught early.

Don’t panic and assume the worst if your German shepherd loses weight. The best thing to do is to consult a veterinarian so he can determine whether your dog has a life-threatening illness and come up with a plan of action.

What Are The Symptoms of An Underweight German Shepherd?

A skinny dog is always going to look underweight compared to a healthy dog.

However, the real problem occurs when your dog does not have the body fat they need for normal functioning. This can cause a wide range of health problems, like a weak immune system and irregular organ function.

Now you need to know the difference between a healthy skinny and an unhealthy one.

In an unhealthy dog, their skin and coat may appear flaky or dull and may even have bald patches. There can also be a lot of wrinkles in their skin because they are losing too much fat around the face.

Skinny German Shepherds often have dark circles under their eyes, an indication that they are lacking energy. In addition, they may often urinate due to kidney problems, and their breathing may be heavier than normal.

Their hip bones and ribs may protrude because they are malnourished, and you can feel their spine when you pet them. They may also prefer to rest rather than playing with other dogs or chasing toys since they don’t have the energy to do so.

Their stomach is usually sunken in, especially if they are lacking protein. Their teeth and gums might be more yellow than usual and more prominent because of the lack of fat around the face. These dogs may also have diarrhea or constipation due to problems with their digestion.

Tips to Make Your German Shepherd Gain Weight

1. Choose The Right Food

Do not just buy any type of dog food; find one specifically designed for German shepherds – or all large breeds – because it contains more protein and fat content.

2. Pick The Right Formula for Their Age

There are different formulas for puppies, mature dogs, and senior dogs; make sure you choose the right one, so they receive all of the nutrients they need.

If they are puppies, they need puppy food, and adult active dogs may need an active formula that contains higher protein and other nutrients to help them recover after an intense workout.

Older dogs may have special dietary needs as well. For instance, senior German shepherds have weaker joints and require nutrients like calcium to make them stronger. Look for a formula that has glucosamine and chondroitin, which can help keep your dog’s joints healthy as they age.

3. Mix Dry and Wet Food

You can try mixing wet food with their dry dog food to help stimulate weight gain. Wet foods enhance the flavor of food, and so by mixing in the dry foods and wet foods, your dog may be more excited to chomp down their food.

You can also add some low-sodium chicken or beef broth to the wet food, so it mixes with the dry dog food to give your dog more liquid as well.

4. Increase Their Food Intake

You can also try adding an extra meal if you find your dog is not eating enough. As long as your dog finishes the food you give them, you don’t have to worry about giving them too much.

If you are worried about your dog gaining too much weight, keep track of their weekly weight gain with simple note-taking or a Google sheet.

5. Offer Treats Along With Their Regular Meals

Although dog treats do not contain complete nutrients, they do contain extra calories that can help your dog gain weight. Therefore, it is okay to let your dog have a few extra treats spaced throughout the day. Just make sure you do not give your dog too many, or they will not eat their regular meals.

6. Add in A Healthy Home-Made Meal

If you are not comfortable with commercial dog food or want to add in a little more substance, try adding in some healthy homemade meals. You can look up recipes online and find ones that include ground beef, chicken broth, vegetables like green beans or carrots, and even brown rice.

7. Take Your Dog to The Vet

If you find your dog is not gaining weight or even losing it, it might be a good idea to take them to the vet for a general check-up, including blood tests. This can help determine whether they are suffering from any health problems that may prevent them from gaining weight.

Related Questions

1. Is It Normal For A German Shepherd Puppy To Be Skinny?

It is normal for a German shepherd to be skinny at a younger age since they are still growing. As long as you keep track of their weekly weight gain and they don’t experience a sudden loss of weight, then there is no reason to worry.