If your dog is overweight, a controlled steady weight loss will be beneficial to return them safely to a healthy weight. If you suddenly discover your dog losing weight, particularly if in conjunction with other symptoms or that continues despite the dog eating well, this could mean an underlying medical condition that requires treatment or management is present. This is also true if you have taken action to try putting weight on a dog yet they are still losing more. A dog losing weight but eating a good diet is a definite concern. A loss of more than 10% of the dog’s body weight is concerning and should result in a vet visit to identify if there is a medical issue. If a dog cannot properly digest and utilise the nutrients in their food, either because of a health condition or because the food is poor quality, they are malnourished.
Signs and symptoms of weight loss in dogs
If you weigh your dog regularly, the first sign of weight loss is likely to come from the scales.
If your dog is not weighed at frequent intervals, the first thing that you notice may be the physical signs of weight loss, with the dog losing their fat layer, over time hipbones and ribs becoming visible.
Dogs that are malnourished for some time may have dull, brittle coats and have dry, flaky skin making them prone to dandruff. Some dogs may shed hair and can end up with bald patches.
Loss of appetite can be a sign that the dog is unwell, or that they dislike the food on offer.
Lethargy can become evident, as the dog is losing weight and does not have the energy to move and play as they would when at a healthy weight and feeling well.
They may be slow moving, reluctant to go for a walk or become tired and not want to continue after a short distance.
Depression can be a sign of feeling unwell, either from an underlying problem or from having insufficient energy to behave normally.
What causes weight loss in dogs?
There is a wide range of things that can cause a dog to lose weight. The most basic of these is that the dog is not absorbing enough calories from their food to meet their energy requirements. This could be because the food that the dog is offered does not contain the right nutrients for them, or they do not like the taste of it. Some dogs are also quite fussy in what they will like to eat and can be very selective.
Intestinal parasites can divert nutrients from the dog to utilise themselves. Some worms can be present in huge numbers and severely reduce the amount of nutrition left for the dog’s body to use. Large infestations, particularly of parasites that burrow into the gastrointestinal lining, can leave behind damage that will affect the dog’s digestive capability.
A number of medical conditions can cause weight loss, because either they make the dog feel unwell and not want to eat, or because they interfere with the way the body processes and uses the food they eat. These conditions include pancreatitis, gastroenteritis, colitis, cancer, long-standing kidney disease or advanced heart disease. In the case of the last two on the list, weight loss comes after the disease has been present for some time.
Dental pain can be an issue, particularly in dogs fed dry food as attempting to crunch hard kibble with sore gums or abscesses could be extremely painful.
Dogs with sensitive stomachs or those with intolerances and allergies to ingredients in their food can have persistent gastrointestinal problems. Vomiting or diarrhoea, particularly if frequent, means that a lot of the nutritional value of food is wasted as it passes through or is ejected too quickly for the dog to benefit fully.
Other gastric conditions such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease or Irritable Bowel Syndrome can also both lead to dogs having an inability to digest food effectively as damage to the intestinal wall decreases the number of calories they can absorb.
Weight loss combined with vomiting and diarrhoea could indicate that there is a blockage in the gastrointestinal tract, such as a foreign object that has been swallowed.
Ageing can bring on conditions that will result in an old dog losing weight. Weight loss combined with increased drinking and increased appetite could be a sign of diabetes.
Weight loss in dogs treatment
Sudden unexplained or persistent weight loss or weight loss associated with symptoms of persistent vomiting, diarrhoea or abdominal pain should trigger a visit to your vet. They can identify any underlying causes and prescribe medication or management of the condition if required.
Once satisfied that there is no medical issue, or the condition has been brought under control, it is time to turn your attention to how to put weight on a dog. When selecting dog food for weight gain, choose one that is highly digestible and full of good quality ingredients. Low grade bulking agents will not help an underweight dog to put on an ounce. High-quality food for active dogs can be a great option. Look for high protein to help your dog build healthy muscle as they gain weight. Perfect weight gainer for dogs options in the Pure range are Duck Delight and Chicken Delicious.
Try feeding small meals throughout the day. If you would normally feed twice a day, split your dog’s meals into four. This can help increase the amount they eat, without overloading in one meal and making themselves sick. To encourage a fussy eater you can add something extra tempting to their bowl like one of our tasty meat toppings.
Make sure that exercise is taken into account, to help your dog gain weight as muscle and not fat. Start gently so that your dog is not burning all their calories in exercise, but up the intensity slowly as your dog gets closer to their ideal condition.
Have a look at the Success Stories part of our website to see the stories of other dogs that needed to gain some weight, and how they have fared since making the switch to Pure.
More success stories for both those needing to gain a few pounds or shed the ounces can be found on the Weight Management success stories page.