Why Is My German Shepherd So Skinny? (& How To Fatten Them Up)

Having a skinny german shepherd can be a little scary. It can be difficult to tell whether it’s just a minor issue or if it’s something more serious. Oftentimes you’ll be left scratching your head asking yourself “Why is my german shepherd so skinny?” Well if this sounds like you then keep reading to find out how to fatten up a german shepherd!

What Are The Symptoms Of An Underweight German Shepherd

A skinny dog is almost always underweight. However, as well as being skinny there are also other symptoms you’re german shepherd will be showing. So as well as checking for a loss of weight you should also look for the following.

Lethargy/Lack Of Energy

If your german shepherd is skinny and underweight the chances are that he’s also going to lack energy. This is because their body isn’t getting enough nutrients which of course means they’re not going to have as much energy.

Dull, Lifeless Coat

A dull lifeless coat is also another sign of an underweight german shepherd. Once again without the proper nutrients in their diet, their body will begin to suffer. In a lot of cases, the quality of their fur will suffer first.

Deteriorating Muscles

If they don’t have enough nutrients in their diet your german shepherd isn’t going to be able to get the energy he needs to keep his muscles growing. On top of this, when the body gets too starved of energy it will begin to eat itself. And muscles are the first thing to go.

Loss Of Appetite/Vomiting/Diarrhea

Another very common sign is digestion troubles. This might show itself in a loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea. While this isn’t a direct symptom of a skinny german shepherd it can often be a cause. And it can also be a sign of a serious health issue.

Ribcage Showing

In extreme cases, an underweight german shepherds ribcage will show. You should never allow your dog to get to this point, however, if you do then you need to take them to the vets immediately.

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How To Spot Weight Loss In German Shepherd

It can be harder to spot weight loss in your german shepherd. If you’re on this article then you probably realize there’s a problem with your german shepherds’ weight. However, to make sure that your german shepherd doesn’t become overweight again, here are some easy rules to follow.

Looking Down At Them

When your german shepherd is standing up, stand over them and look down. They should look bulky and full. Slimming at the waist is to be expected as well.

Learn The: 9 SECRET Tips You Can Use To Train ANY Dog Successfully!

However, if you notice your german shepherd’s body looks more hourglass then triangular in shape, then they may be underweight.

Feeling Their Ribs

Another great test is to run your hands along their ribs. In a healthy dog, you should be able to feel their ribs ever so slightly under a small amount of fat and muscle. However, if your german shepherd is underweight his ribs will feel like skin and bone. (If your german shepherd is overweight you won’t be able to feel his ribs at all.)

Why Is Your German Shepherd Losing Weight/So Skinny?

If you think that your german shepherd is too skinny, or losing weight then you should take a trip to the vet to make sure everything’s okay.

However, you don’t need to worry too much, there are lots of different reasons your german shepherd could be skinnier than normal!

Poor Nutrition/Underfeeding

Are you sure what you’re feeding your german shepherd is high in nutrients? And if it is, are you feeding them enough?

This problem occurs a lot with german shepherds who aren’t fed set meals a day. I know people who feed their dog’s leftovers or don’t have a set amount they feed them every day.

The problem with this is you can’t measure the right amount of food you’re giving them consistently. Some days they’ll get enough, and other days they may not.

On top of this food also has different calories. While you think you’re giving your german shepherd enough, you may not be.

(Check out the best food for german shepherd puppies.)

Parasites, Disease & Illness

Your german shepherd could be suffering from parasites or disease. While a lot of the time it’s going to be something harmless that they’re suffering from such as worms, in other cases it can be something a lot worse.

To make sure it’s not anything more serious you should check for lumps too.

This is one of the reasons you need to take your dog for frequent check-ups at the vets!

Dental Problems

A lot of the times dogs have dental problems that you may not even be aware of. For example, one of my labradors had a tooth that chipped and went rotten.

We didn’t notice it for a long time and fortunately, it wasn’t affecting her eating. However, if it was, it would have only been spotted by accident.

As well as having a broken tooth there are also other dental problems that may be causing your german shepherd to stop eating.

To make sure there isn’t anything wrong with your dog’s teeth you should also check for other dental problems such as ulcers, sores, and recoiling when you touch their mouth.

(If your german shepherd has smelly breath, then it’s often a sign of dental problems.)


One symptom of diabetes in dogs is weight loss. However, as well as weight loss you may also notice symptoms such as excessive thirst, urination, and urinary tract infections. (Source)

They’re Picky Eaters

Some german shepherds are also picky eaters. If they’re not eating there’s a possibility they really don’t like the food you’re feeding them. As well as this, they may not feel comfortable eating when you’re around.

If you think this is the case then you can try changing their food and leaving them to eat by themselves.

You Have An Old Pup!

As your german shepherd enters their senior years they may begin to eat less and less. Sometimes this is just the natural way of things, however, other times it’s because of a problem with their health.

Once again, your best option is to take them to the vets and see if there’s anything wrong.

A Change In Their Environment

If there’s been a big change in your dogs’ environment lately, such as a house change or a new pet, then they may be stressed which can often result in them not eating.

And it doesn’t necessarily have to be a big change. Things that seem small to you could be stressful to your german shepherd, and their weight loss could be caused by this.

(Find out more common reasons your german shepherd may not be eating.)

How To Fatten Up A German Shepherd

When you notice your german shepherd is underweight then your best choice is to consult a vet and make sure nothing is wrong with them. However, if your vet has given them the all-clear, then here are some great ways you can help your german shepherd gain weight.

Give Them Food With A Higher Amount Of Calories

Not all dog food is created equal. The type of food you’re giving your german shepherd at the moment may not have enough calories in it to help them gain weight.

If this is the case, then you should consider swapping to a different type of food. You should look for foods that are high in protein and fat. Also, make sure they’re not full of filler ingredients.

Arguably the best food you can give your german shepherd to help them gain weight is Bully Max High Performance Super Premium Dog Food.

With 525 calories per cup, you should notice an increase in your german shepherd’s weight over time.

(Check out the 5 best foods you can feed a skinny german shepherd.)

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Try Puppy Food

As well as using high-calorie dog food you could also give your german shepherd food made for puppies.

This type of food is designed to sustain a puppy when their growing. Just think, if it can support a puppy going from something so small to so big, it’s going to be able to help your german shepherd gain weight as well!

If you’re going to use puppy food, you shouldn’t swap completely. Mix 50% puppy food with 50% adult food.

If you do plan on feeding your german shepherd puppy food make sure you consult your vet first.

Increase The Number Of Meals You Give Them

Some people recommend feeding your dog four smaller meals a day or two big meals and one small meal. It’s all down to your personal preference.

Two big meals and one small meal have the added benefit of already being similar to the routine they have now. However, four small meals throughout the day are more manageable to a dog that’s struggling to eat lots.

Whatever, you choose just make sure you tailor it towards your dog’s needs.

Let Your German Shepherd Eat When They Want

If you can’t feed your german shepherd multiple meals a day then you could try leaving their food out and letting them eat whenever they want.

This is a great choice if you’re too busy, however, it does have it’s downsides too.

First of all, you’ll need to make sure you’re leaving out dry food for your german shepherd as wet food is a lot more likely to go bad quickly.

Secondly, if your German shepherd realizes they can eat whenever they want, they may end up eating even less than before. They’ll think that there’s no hurry for them to eat.

Give Them More Treats Throughout The Day

Another great idea is to give your german shepherd lots more treats throughout the day. They’ll love it and you’ll also be increasing the number of calories they’re eating!

Just remember stick to treats that are healthy and don’t overdo it. If you feed your german shepherd to many treats then they may end up being too full to eat their regular meals.

As a rule of thumb, 10-15% of their diet should be treats and make sure you’re picking ones high in protein and fat.

Apples, bananas, peanut butter, eggs, and strawberries are all great choices!

Try Making Home-Made Treats

If you don’t want to spend lots of money on dog treats you can also give your german shepherd homemade treats as well. Giving them peanut butter and cheese is a great way to introduce excess calories (in small amounts).

However, when giving your german shepherd home-made treats remember there are some foods that are fine for humans but not for dogs. Stay away from chocolate and grapes and make sure you check before introducing anything new to their diet.

Add Home-Made Food To Their Meals

Chicken and rice is a staple for my dog whenever they have an upset stomach, however, it can also be used as an addition to their regular dog food.

As well as chicken and rice you could also try adding egg and pumpkin. Not only will your german shepherd be getting more calories with every mouthful, but they’ll also be more intrigued by their food.

Journal Their Meals & Weigh Them Weekly

This sounds like a lot of hassle, but try journalling everything you feed your dog and weigh them weekly. This way you’ll get a good understanding of what’s happening when your dogs losing weight, or when they’re gaining it.

By doing this you’re going to see what’s working and not working, what you should carry on doing and what you should avoid doing.

Being organized is going to help massively, and is one of the best things you can do for your german shepherd’s weight gain.

Consider Wet Food

If your German shepherd can’t eat due to dental issues then you may need to switch to wet food. Wet food is going to be a lot easier for them to eat, and once they can eat easily they should start gaining weight again!


As you can see there are plenty of things you can do to help your german shepherd gain weight. There are also plenty of things that may be causing them to lose weight.

When your German shepherd is losing weight you should take them to a vet to see what’s going on. If the vet gives them the all-clear then here’s a quick recap of the different ways you can help them gain weight.

  • Use high-calorie food with lots of protein and fat in it such as Bully Max High Performance Super Premium Dog Food.
  • Give them puppy food as it supports growth.
  • Try feeding them more meals a day or letting them free feed.
  • Give them more treats and try making homemade treats.
  • Add homemade food to their meals such as rice and chicken, peanut butter and pumpkin.
  • Lastly, journal their meals and weigh them regularly.

If you liked this article or have any more questions leave them in the comments below, otherwise have a great day!

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