When a dog starts to lose weight without an obvious explanation, or seems to have lost interest in their food, it could be cause for concern.
Maybe you’ve noticed your dog’s bowl isn’t empty after dinner like it usually would be, or your furry friend is looking too slim around the ribs. An unexplained loss of appetite or weight, whether it’s overnight or gradual, may be a sign your dog has an underlying health issue.
Why is your dog losing weight?
Here are some possible reasons as to why your dog could be losing weight:
- Picky eater – some dogs can have food preferences that need to be catered to, and they may even need some encouragement to eat.
- Life stage – some breeds are naturally leaner than others, and as dogs age, they become less active and can start to eat less as their metabolism slows down.
- Insufficient diet – they might lack the right amount of calories and nutrients from their diet to keep their body at an optimum weight.
- Health issues – almost any underlying health issue and subsequent medication can impact a dog’s eating habits.
- Pain – they simply could find the act of eating painful, especially if they have a health issue relating to their mouth or digestion.
- Stress – stress is very much a universal cause behind a potential decrease in appetite, and your dog could be experiencing it. This could be due to changes in their environment.
It’s important to seek your vet’s advice if you think any of the above reasons could be causing your dog’s loss of weight before assessing how to put the weight back on.
What to look for in an underweight dog
A loss of energy and a dull coat may be a sign that your dog is underweight. Another guide is to examine your dog’s weight and size by paying close attention to their:
- Side profile – sit on the ground beside your dog, so their body is at your eye level. Their abdomen should be higher up than their ribcage. A severe tuck suggests they’re underweight.
- Ribs and spine – place both your thumbs on your dog's spine and open your hands over their ribcage. You should be able to feel their ribs under their coat and skin, but they shouldn’t be protruding. Do the same test on their spine by running your hands along it gently.
Birds-eye profile – stand just in front of your dog’s face and look down on them. Ideally their shape will resemble a subtle hourglass (their waist tucked in only slightly behind the ribs). If their waist is extremely narrow, they’re likely underweight.
*Please note that every dog breed is different, and some dogs are naturally slim. It’s best to consult with your dog’s vet to ensure you can best measure their ideal weight.
Use the below dog weight chart to see how close your dog is to their ideal body shape:
How to get your dog back to a healthy weight
Pet foods rich in high-quality, meat-based fats can help to support healthy weight gain. Dogs can easily metabolize animal-based fats and convert them into energy, so they need nutrient-dense, meat-rich and high-calorie food to get them on the path to an ideal weight.
You can also try changing their food habits – try feeding them four slightly smaller meals each day, rather than just one or two.
Growing puppies also need more calories than adult dogs, as they use their energy to grow at a rapid pace, alongside all the playing, sniffing and licking they do. Check that you are feeding your pup the correct amount for their weight and age before considering increasing their daily intake to ensure they are getting enough calories to get them through the day.
If you think your dog’s loss of weight could be due to a health issue, it’s best you consult your vet on how to get them back to their optimum weight.
What’s the best dog food for weight gain?
ZIWI Peak is well-suited for underweight dogs, as each recipe contains the right level of natural fats that appeal to your carnivore’s characteristics and biology.
- For the picky eater, try switching up their menu with any of ZIWI Peak’s air-dried recipes and top with ZIWI Peak’s wet dog food to entice them with something new.
- For the dog with food sensitivities, try any of ZIWI Peak’s recipes with green tripe, which naturally assists their digestion, or try a novel protein recipe such as ZIWI Peak air-dried Venison recipe if you are concerned the sensitivity is caused by a protein allergy.
To figure out how much to feed your dog, especially since ZIWI products contain more nutrients than your usual kibble, use ZIWI’s food calculator for a general guide. Be sure to enter the healthy weight you want your dog to be, not the weight they are. Specifically for weight gain, you may wish to add 10% more than the recommended feeding amount until they reach their optimum weight.
It’s important to note that our feeding calculator is a helpful tool, but you’ll also need to consider your dog’s breed, activity levels, and individual metabolism. You can learn more about calculating your dog’s food intake here.