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17 Reasons Why Your German Shepherd Is So Skinny + 11 Tips

Why is my German Shepherd so skinny?

It can be flat out dangerous when your German Shepherd is too skinny.

So it’s smart that you’re trying to find out why your pooch is so skinny.

In this article you’ll discover:

  • How dental problems can affect your German Shepherd’s weight.
  • Weird but true: Puppy food can help solve the problem (keep reading to find out how).
  • 11 effective tips to make your German Shepherd gain weight (so your pooch will never be too skinny again).
  • And more…

Why is my German Shepherd so skinny?

Your German Shepherd’s being skinny is attributed to many factors. It can be worms or parasites and poor nutrition. These lead to them being skinny no matter how much they eat. Other reasons include metabolic and gastrointestinal disorders, being picky eaters, age and stress.

Why is my German Shepherd losing weight?

Several factors contribute to your German Shepherd losing weight. It could be that you switched to a dog food that has fewer calories. If so, they can’t maintain a healthy weight. Or it could be dental problems and age, leading them to lose appetite even for tasty meals.

17 reasons why your German Shepherd is so skinny

#1: Worms or parasites

Health is wealth.

That is so true when it comes to our dogs. As dog owners, our German Shepherd’s health is a priority.

If they lose weight rapidly, they might be suffering from worms or parasites. They may have tapeworm, which lives in the dog’s intestines. 

These cases are less common today because dogs can have medicine for parasites. But sometimes it may be a lot worse for your dog.

Remember that not all products are effective in killing intestinal parasites. There may still be some worms left in your dog’s intestines.

For instance, whipworms are tough. These are not easily killed by some products.

If you want to know whether your dog has parasites, look for the following symptoms:

  • Diarrhea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Weight loss.
  • Bloody stool.
  • Decrease in appetite.
  • Itching around the anus.

#2: Poor nutrition

German Shepherd Gains Meme

When it comes to losing weight, it’s a good idea to look at the food you’re giving your dog first.

Sometimes the answers are on what kind of food they have and how much they eat.

German Shepherds can grow really big. Thus, they need the right amount of food to sustain their growth. 

In addition, they are tireless dogs. They can run, move or exercise all day. They need the right amount of food to replace the calories they burn.

But if they don’t eat healthy food in the right amount, they will lose weight. 

There are a lot of dog food choices out there. Some or most of them may have ingredients that have no nutritional value. Or the food may have a lot of filler (such as hulls and rice bran), which isn’t healthy.

#3: Changes in diet

Humans don’t eat the same food every time. If they do, they’ll get tired of the same food.

But is it the same for your German Shepherd? Could it be the reason why they refuse to eat?

Now, this is one huge misconception that many dog owners seem to fall victim to. You think they get tired of their meals so you buy them a new one. 

This is worsened when you choose a dog food that isn’t of high quality. (Admit it, sometimes you buy it based on the packaging and not exactly what’s written on the ingredients list).

And then your dog eats it with gusto so you think it solved the problem.

But here’s the truth, human:

Taste has nothing to do with it. It’s their sense of smell that is responsible. Along with their being smart and manipulative.

Think of it this way. If you keep replacing their food, without even checking if it’s the right one, you encourage their being picky. And when they don’t like their new food, you’ll buy a new one.

It’s a cycle that you, as the owner, must break.

#4: Dental problems

German Shepherd Toothache Meme

Your German Shepherd broke a tooth without you noticing. Losing weight, on the other hand, cannot go unnoticed.

Dogs will have a hard time eating if they suffer from dental problems. These can lead to them losing weight over time. Or it could get worse if you’re not aware of the root of the problem.

Dental problems can be an abscess, ulcer or sores. These also include gum problems, infections, and chipped or broken teeth. 

It pays to check your German Shepherd’s mouth from time to time. Discover problems before they get worse.

A dog suffering from advanced dental disease does not feel well over all. 

Caution: If it’s not treated immediately, oral bacteria spreads. 

It will lead to other complications such as infections in the heart and kidneys.

#5: Age

Getting old certainly brings with it a lot of unpleasant things.

For a German Shepherd, getting old means becoming less active. They eat less and less. 

It’s because as they age, they develop dental problems. And they also lose appetite. These could explain why they are skinny.

Sometimes, they are afflicted by health problems such as cancer. These health issues also play a role in them getting skinny.

#6: Pickiness

Picky German Shepherd Meme

Some German Shepherds are just like toddlers when it comes to food. They are picky.

You can’t force them to eat if they don’t like the food. There could be an underlying medical reason or they’re simply not hungry enough. 

#7: Diabetes

Your German Shepherd may be too skinny because of diabetes.

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that changes your German Shepherd’s body condition. It is the failure of the pancreas to produce insulin.

Insulin is a hormone that regulates glucose, or blood sugar. It then allows glucose to be an energy source for cells.

Sometimes, the pancreas messes up and produces an insufficient amount of insulin. It spells trouble for your dog. 

That’s because nothing helps glucose to enter the cells. Thus the body can’t use glucose normally.

Too much glucose then enters the bloodstream and gets excreted. Without an energy source, your dog’s body will find other sources of energy. 

The body will then break down fat and protein. This leads to increased urination, excessive thirst and weight loss.

One reason for developing diabetes is a genetic predisposition. Some dogs are more prone than others. 

In addition, unspayed female dogs are at a higher risk because their hormones mess with insulin production.

#8: Change in environment

Have you moved to a new house? Did you get another pet? Did a girlfriend move in with you?

These things seem small to you. But these can stress your German Shepherd for a while.

As a result, they may have problems eating properly while adjusting to new changes.

Don’t worry, though. Your German Shepherd can adapt to any lifestyle so they’ll eventually get out of their funk.

#9: Liver disease

The liver has very important roles in the body. One is to release nutrients to make the body healthy.

If the liver fails, your dog won’t get the important nutrients from the food they eat. This leads to a loss in appetite and vomiting. 

And we know this eventually leads to weight loss.

Did you know that German Shepherds are prone to liver disease? This could explain them being skinny.

#10: Cancer

Cancer takes so much from a dog. Years, health, life. It leads to weight loss because of the metabolic demands of the tumor. 

Hemangiosarcoma, lymphoma, and osteosarcoma are the types of cancer associated with weight loss. It’s because the pain and discomfort caused by cancer reduce appetite.

Cancer is more common in senior dogs. And German Shepherds are prone to a canine oral melanoma. 

It is an oral tumor that makes it painful to eat and swallow. The pain and discomfort prevent your dog from eating properly.

#11: Depression

Just like humans, dogs get depressed, too.

Depression does a lot of things in a dog’s body. When depressed, a German Shepherd loses appetite and cannot eat properly. If not treated, it can lead to weight loss.

Your German Shepherd is depressed if they show the following:

  • Lethargy.
  • Withdrawal.
  • Loss of interest in things they enjoyed before.

Major changes cause depression in dogs. It could be moving into a new house or place. Even having a new baby, spouse or another pet can cause depression.

But the biggest causes are the loss of an owner or a companion animal. In this article, the author related how her dogs went through depression after the death of another dog. 

It was as though the dogs were grieving. They refused to go on walks, refused to eat and drink, and kept hiding.

#12: Stress and anxiety

Skinny German Shepherd Stress Eating

Stress is not as common as other causes. But it can lead to your dog’s weight loss. 

That’s because stress can decrease your German Shepherd’s appetite. 

You need to be concerned about chronic stress.

Chronic stress weakens one’s immune system. Your German Shepherd becomes susceptible to infections. 

#13: Kidney disease

Do not ignore the possibility of kidney disease if your dog is skinny. This is not like other conditions where weight loss is a symptom. 

The disease may have already progressed before it is diagnosed. So when your dog is checked up, they have already lost weight. 

Only then it becomes clear that the dog has been losing weight for quite some time. The condition worsens when the dog experiences vomiting, dehydration, and loss of appetite.

No wonder the dog becomes emaciated.

#14: Advanced heart disease

In advanced heart disease, your German Shepherd won’t lose weight abruptly.

Perhaps you won’t assume it’s heart disease because your dog gains weight. Only to find out that the gain weight is actually fluid accumulation.

What you should monitor is their loss of appetite and whether it’s making them skinny. If they have lost some weight, add calories to their food. 

If they gain weight, then it should be okay.

#15: Addison’s disease

Addison’s disease is yet another medical condition that could explain your dog’s weight loss.

This is caused by a decrease in hormone production from the other part of the adrenal gland. The adrenal glands are located near the kidneys.

Dogs with Addison’s disease exhibit lethargy, vomiting, unplanned weight loss, and diarrhea.

#16: Gastrointestinal disorders

Gastrointestinal disorders lead to your dog being skinny over time.

Vomiting and diarrhea prevent their bodies from getting the nutrients from their food.

Aside from these, dogs can suffer from malabsorption or maldigestion disorders. These disorders prevent the intestine from breaking down and absorbing nutrients from the food.

German Shepherds that suffer from these disorders are skinny. No matter how much food they eat, they won’t gain weight.

#17: Thyroid problems

Humans suffer from hormonal imbalance. So do dogs.

Your German Shepherd suffers from hormonal imbalance if they have thyroid problems.

As a result, their body experiences rapid metabolism. This leads to extreme weight loss.

11 tips if your German Shepherd is (too) skinny

#1: Give them the right food

This can’t be emphasized enough. The right food is one of the first steps in helping your dog gain weight.

After your vet rules out medical conditions, look at what you’re feeding your dog. The dog food may not contain the right calories your German Shepherd needs to gain weight.

You should give them between 1,272 to 2,100 calories a day. But this depends on their activity level.

Commercial dog food has 400 calories in a cup. This means you need to feed your dog 3-5 cups a day. Divide that into 2 meals.

Aside from all that, your dog food needs to be of high quality. It won’t help them even if they eat a high amount of low-quality food. 

Also, avoid dog foods made of fillers. These have no nutritional value and may only worsen your dog’s condition.

#2: Give them food high in calories

Your German Shepherd deserves nothing but the best.

To help them gain weight, give them food with a high amount of calories. So when choosing their dog food, check the labels for calories.

As you may know, dog foods are not equal. Some may have more calories than others. Choose the one with higher calories and fat to help your pooch gain weight.

Warning: Don’t buy dog foods that are made of filler ingredients. Filler will not satisfy and make your German Shepherd healthy.

#3: Try puppy food

You can actually give your German Shepherd puppy food.


Consult with your vet first.

Why should we give our skinny dogs puppy food when they’re no longer puppies?

Simple. These foods are made with ingredients that sustain your puppy’s rapid growth. If that’s the case, then it can help your skinny German Shepherd to gain weight.

Note: Mix 50% puppy food with 50% adult food.

#4: Increase the number of meals

How you feed your dog will be your personal preference.

You can feed your German Shepherd 4 small meals a day. Or 2 big meals and one small meal.

Four small meals a day is the best choice since your dog is struggling to eat. But whatever you choose, make sure it meets your dog’s needs.

#5: Give them home-made treats

Skinny German Shepherd Home Cooked Food Meme

At some point, I may be telling you to limit treat-giving. Especially if your dog is picky and on their way to being overweight.

But we are talking about your German Shepherd being skinny. And we are looking for ways to help fatten them up.

Giving treats can aid in bringing your German Shepherd to a healthy weight.

You can easily buy from a pet store. Choose ones that are high in calories.

Or you can actually make your own home-made treats. The advantage to this is you know what goes into the treats. That way, you know that your German Shepherd gets nothing but healthy food.

There are many simple recipes for dog treats. Some only need a few ingredients from scratch. 

Just do some mixing, pop it into the oven, and in no time at all, you have home-made treats!

Here is a sample of a three-ingredient recipe:

  • Half a cup of peanut butter.
  • A cup of whole wheat flour.
  • A cup of mashed sweet potatoes.

Just mix everything and bake at 350℉ for 10 minutes.

See how easy it is? And your dog will surely love it.

#6: Mix their meals with home-made food

Make their food exciting!

Feed your German Shepherd some home-made meals. They’re going to love that. 

Dogs love having variation in their food. Introducing new food can motivate them to eat more.

Some of the food you can give them are chicken, rice, egg, and vegetables such as pumpkin.

But before doing this, consult your vet. You want to make sure you are giving the right food and the right amount.

#7: Track their progress

It’s good knowing that your German Shepherd is slowly but steadily gaining weight.

You’ll know they’re gaining weight if you track their progress. There are several ways to do that.

One is to weigh them weekly. If you can afford a dog scale, then go ahead and buy one. There are scales where your dog only needs to step on it.

Or you can take your dog to the vet for a weigh in.

Two, keep a journal for your dog. Record what they eat and how much. 

Check the recorded weight every two weeks or so. If it’s getting close to the target weight, then you know your dog’s on the right track.

#8: Give them wet food

This is a tremendous help if your German Shepherd has dental problems. 

Wet food is easier to chew. And since they can eat with less discomfort, they will be motivated to eat more.

#9: Take them to the vet

As dog owners, you’ll want to know what’s happening to your German Shepherd.

Including whether they have medical conditions that make them skinny. If this is the case, take your dog to the vet.

Your vet can recommend tests to eliminate diseases. If your dog is diagnosed with something, you can start the treatment asap.

#10: For the picky eater…

It is difficult to feed a picky eater.

If your German Shepherd is one, there are some ways to correct the behavior:

First, make them understand that the food you prepare is the only option. Second, time their mealtimes. For instance, give them 15 minutes to eat the food. 

When the time is up, remove their bowl. It doesn’t matter if the dog ate some or none of the food.

You may also consider the reason why they are picky. For instance, they eat wet food more than dry food due to dental problems.

#11: For the senior dog…

You can’t blame your senior dog for not wanting to eat. As they age, they lose interest in a lot of things.

Including their food.

In their case, limiting food options is not the right choice. The good thing to do is feed them appetizing food.

If they’ve been eating dry food all their lives, it’s time to make variations. Try adding chicken broth or canned food for variety. 

You can also give them home-made meals to encourage them to eat more.