Sam Shephard is an experienced German Shepherd owner and has learned throughout the years how to optimize the breed's health and wellness.
German Shepherds and Weight Gain
The two biggest factors affecting your German Shepherd’s ability to gain weight are what kind of food you are feeding him and any medical conditions that might make gaining weight impossible. No matter how often you feed him, if you are feeding him the wrong kind of food, you simply are not going to be able to get him to gain the weight he needs to be healthy.
While there are a number of different supplements that you can add to your dog’s food in order to get him to gain weight, if your dog is simply not interested in eating, you may have a more serious problem.
It Is Important to Rule-Out Medical Conditions
The first thing you should do if you have a German Shepherd that is underweight is to take him to a vet to make sure there are no medical issues standing in your way. There are some viruses and infections that will make it impossible for your dog to put on weight. Barring these, it is time to make sure that your dog is eating the right type of food. How do you know what food is best for your dog?
Great Food for German Shepherd Weight Gain
Some owners only like to feed their dogs the most natural foods they can find. Some will even resort to raw diets, believing this to be the closest a dog can get to his natural diet if he were a wild animal. Others prefer to stick to kibble, which is usually an easier alternative.
Because there are many different types of kibble that you can feed your dog, it can be impossible to know which ones will actually help your dog gain weight and which will simply continue to exacerbate the problem.
Some owners will supplement the food that they give their dogs with table scraps. While this can encourage begging at the table, if you are confident in your training and are willing to slip them a little piece of fatty steak or some other high-fat protein from the table, this might be a good option for you.
What kind of food you ultimately choose to feed your German Shepherd dog to help him gain weight will depend on your raising and training philosophy. Here are the criteria you should use to find the best food to help them gain weight:
Fat Content in Dog Food
You have probably heard that you want to feed your German Shepherd a low-fat, high-protein diet, and this is correct when your dog is at their ideal weight. A high-protein, low-fat diet is perfect for helping your dog maintain his weight, giving him the nutrients he needs to be energized and build muscle. When your shepherd is underweight, however, adding more fat to his diet is a good idea. This will provide his body with the calories it needs to start to put on weight.
This does not mean that you should just be feeding him the fattiest kibble that you can find. You still want plenty of protein in that diet, but you do not want to be feeding him just protein. If you do not want to change kibbles, you might try adding some animal fat to the food that he is already eating.
This will do two things:
- First, it will up the calorie count of that food, giving him the ability to gain weight.
- Second, it will probably make the food you are feeding him a little more enticing. If your dog is underweight because he simply is not interested in eating, putting some animal fat on his kibble could help to rectify this problem.
When humans want to lose weight quickly, they will cut the fat out of their diet and eat more protein. The body requires more calories to process protein than the protein usually provides, making it very effective at burning extra calories.
The same goes for your dogs. Protein calories should be supplemented with other types of calories (fat or carbohydrates), in order to make sure that your dog is gaining weight. That said, high-protein food is still important. Why? Because you do not want your German Shepherd to be putting on just fat.
All dogs will benefit from a thin layer of fat, but you primarily want him to be putting on muscle. In order to do this, he will need protein. If you can find a high-quality, premium kibble that is both high-protein and high-fat, this is a good place to start.
Be Careful With Your Food Selection
Stay away from any kibbles that have fillers, especially those made from corn and wheat. These are common allergies found in the German Shepherd breed and will usually do nothing to help an underweight dog put on healthy pounds. Please remember, a healthy German Shepherd is not fat. You should be able to feel his ribs, but not necessarily see them. They never should be bloated and should be very agile.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2018 Sam Shepards
Liz Westwood from UK on October 29, 2018:
I think that a lot of points you make for German shepherds can also be applied to other breeds.