Having an underweight dog can be a concerning issue for many dog owners. So, if this is something you’re going through right now with your pooch, then we’ve got some helpful tips.
If your dog becomes underweight it can be quite stressful particularly as you know they’re not getting all the adequate nutrition they need. Not to mention, others owners can be judgy about this.
A Few Things To Remember
- Your dog’s weight ought to remain in a ‘normal zone’ according to something like a body condition score (BCS) chart. While some dogs of the same breed can remain larger or smaller, their weight shouldn’t fluctuate a great deal.
- If you’ve adopted a rescue dog for example, they may have experienced stress or trauma, making it difficult for them to eat. So, it’s not a case of turning their nose up, but rather something more “emotional” going on.
- There are several reasons your dog could be struggling to maintain a healthy weight - it’s not always one thing, perhaps they’re picky, perhaps they have digestive issues, perhaps they’re unwell in other ways or maybe they’re stressed.
- If you’ve been concerned about this issue for some time and haven’t yet contacted your vet... this is always the recommended place to start to rule out serious causes.
How Do You Know If Your Dog’s A Healthy Weight?
Of course, your vet is the best place to start since they can guide you through what your dog’s breed ought to look like from a “normal” or “healthy” perspective.
As a rough guide, you should be able to see a slight narrowing around your dog’s waist - and in certain breeds, a faint outline of their ribcage. Consulting a body condition score chart is an effective way of determining if your dog is fit, or over- or underweight. There are two recognised BCS scales, one ranging from 1 to 9, and another from 1 to 5. For both, the middle of the scale is considered “normal”.
Helping Your Dog Eat More
The first step to encouraging your dog to eat is to ensure they are being offered their food in a relaxed and calm environment. If they are feeling pressured by other dogs, or constantly worried about movement around them, their anxiety may decrease their appetite.
Sometimes, dogs need a bit of encouragement though. There are several methods to make dog food more appealing. Warming food up is usually very effective, as it increases the aromas being given off. Failing this, irresistible food toppers may be the way to go. This could be a teaspoon of wet food, boiled chicken, or cooked mince. Alternatively, a small drizzle of bone or low sodium broth can make food more enticing.
Even though there are methods which can make food more attractive to dogs, it’s not always the case that a dog can eat. Nausea and digestive discomfort are often a major turn-off, and so it’s important to ensure that your dog does not have any digestive illness. If they need digestive support, consider daily probiotics to feed and balance-out their gut environment with healthy bacteria.
Dental disease is often another cause of poor food intake, due to the discomfort associated with chewing. This can be addressed by your vet with a dental procedure, where all teeth are examined and diseased teeth extracted.
Finally, if your dog appears to be eating enough, yet is not putting on weight, it may be the case that they have a calorie deficit. This might mean they burn more calories than an average dog, such as if they are a working dog or pregnant. Alternatively, it might mean there is an underlying illness resulting in food not being absorbed from the intestines appropriately or being used in the body as expected.
If you are worried about your dog’s weight, the best person to turn to is your local veterinarian. Your vet will be able to provide your dog with a health check, as well as recommend suitable foods for their situation.