Your dog has always had a good appetite, so you’ve never really worried about him, but lately, you’ve started looking at other dogs his size and noticed that he seems quite skinny in spite of the fact that he eats like a horse. You can’t help but turn it over and over in your mind, and you’ve decided it’s time to figure out the “why” of the matter because you adore your canine pal and want to keep him around for a very long time.
Just like people, some dogs tend to be skinnier than others, but when is skinny “too skinny”? Why is your dog skinny when he eats plenty? Read on and find out.
Why is my dog skinny but eats a lot?
Yes, some dogs are just naturally skinny and others heavy, but there is a line you should never cross in both cases which is the difference between your dog being naturally “just the way he is” and being unhealthy. Dogs that are overweight or underweight can face medical health issues that are, in some cases, severe.
We, as dog owners, are responsible to keep our dogs in the very best of health, so if they are too heavy “fat” or too skinny, we need to figure out why and do something about it. Let’s examine some reasons why your dog may be eating plenty but still be too skinny.
It could be that a change in his diet is not agreeing with him.
Have you made any changes to your dog’s diet recently? It could be something simple that you don’t even remember, or it could even be that you haven’t changed a thing, and the manufacturer of his dog food has messed with the formula of the dog food you have fed him for years.
The new formula could have a different ratio of nutrients (not enough of what he needs), too few calories, or a new ingredient that he’s allergic to. Have you noticed him having any diarrhea or vomiting? Maybe, on the other hand, a change in diet is exactly what he needs, and you should try a new, more appetizing food.
They sell fresh dog food now with ingredients fresh from the garden — ingredients like chicken, beef, turkey, salmon, ocean whitefish, carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, cranberries, blueberries, and much more. PetPlate, The Farmer’s Dog, and Bezzie are only a few of the vendors who ship delicious fresh dog food right to your door.
Your dog may simply be plagued with severe dental issues.
Many dogs, especially older dogs and those that eat “people” foods, suffer from dental disease. Your dog could be dealing with cavities, broken teeth, gingivitis, infections, and abscesses that make it very painful for him to eat his food. In some cases, it becomes so painful, in fact, that dogs will lose interest in eating, and this is one reason for weight loss from dental issues.
The other is the inability to chew their food properly from issues like broken teeth. Some common signs of dental disease are terrible breath, problems with chewing and maneuvering food in their mouths, bleeding or swollen gums, and excessive drooling.
Your dog’s dental disease is more serious than you might think. It’s not just about teeth, but oral bacteria can spread from your mouth throughout your dog’s body to the kidneys, heart, and liver. You should start brushing your dog’s teeth when he is a pup, make sure he gets all his vital nutrients, avoid feeding him sugars, and see his vet immediately about any dental issues as soon as you spot them.
He could be dealing with an anxiety issue over something that’s bothering him.
What’s been happening in his world? Have you moved? Have you gotten married or let your significant other move in? Did you have a baby? Did a new dog move in next door? Did he find a field mouse in his food bowl? Maybe you simply rearranged the furniture.
It could be any of a host of things, and I know that doesn’t help a lot, but sometimes, it is this simple. So, try paying attention to factors like this, and see if anxiety may be the problem. In such a case, just consult your vet about the best way to help him past that particular issue.
Why is my dog losing weight but eating?
If your dog is eating plenty, but he is still losing weight, there may be something more serious going on. Unexplained weight loss usually has an explanation; you just have to find it. Here are some reasons your dog may be eating well but still shedding pounds.
He may be starting to show the first signs of canine diabetes.
Is your dog drinking tons of water, urinating it right back out, eating plenty, and still losing weight? It may be time for a visit to your veterinarian to check for canine diabetes. Though any dog can be plagued with diabetes, it is most often a diagnosis found in senior dogs, and even more so in females.
When diabetes really goes to work in a dog’s system, he will begin to lose weight rapidly due to the fact that his body is unable to derive the energy it needs from glucose. It will instead try to convert protein and fat into energy, so he will also begin to lose muscle mass.
Other common symptoms of canine diabetes are increased appetite, cloudy eyes, and chronic UTIs (urinary tract infections). If your dog shows these signs, you need to get him to the vet immediately, as your vet will want to check his blood glucose numbers and do a urinalysis. If it is determined that your dog has diabetes, he will have to take insulin shots and begin eating a diabetic (low carbohydrate) diet.
He may be suffering from EPI (Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency).
Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) is also known as Chronic Pancreatic Insufficiency. It’s a maldigestion disorder in which the pancreas fails to produce the enzymes needed for a dog’s body to properly process food into nutrients his body can use. The result is that the essential nutrients your dog ingests each day simply run through his digestive tract without being absorbed by his body, meaning that his body is unable to benefit from them.
Dogs with EPI will eat normally but will not gain weight. On the contrary, they will eventually begin to lose weight. However, weight loss may not be the only sign you see, as EPI often comes with diarrhea, gas, and a loose, yellow stool. Still, you will need to schedule a visit with your veterinarian before diagnosing your dog with EPI.
He may have SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) and IMS (Intestinal Malabsorption Syndrome).
SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) is just what it sounds like — too many “bad” (or bowel) bacteria in the small intestine. If your dog has SIBO, the bacteria damage the inside surface of the bowel, affecting its ability to absorb digested food. The result is the same as in IMS.
IMS (Intestinal Malabsorption Syndrome) occurs when a dog’s body is unable to absorb certain fats, sugars, proteins, and vitamins, or it can be an inability to absorb food altogether. The most common cause for IMS is small intestine issues like Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, or damage from radiation treatments.
Other causes include EPI, AIDS, HIV, chronic liver disease, milk protein intolerances, certain medications, and more. If your dog has IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), chronic diarrhea, bulky stools, or steatorrhea (fatty stools), he may have IMS, and you should take him to his vet immediately for treatment.
She may prescribe a high-calorie diet containing tons of carbs and plenty of proteins and fats, as such a diet will ensure sufficient vital vitamins and minerals. If that doesn’t do the trick, there are other ways to supplement his nutritional absorption levels.
It may even be that he has picked up an intestinal parasite.
The reason intestinal parasites are so dangerous for your dog is that they consume every bit of food your dog takes in, leaving him deficient in vital nutrients. Intestinal parasites can surely be a reason why your dog would be eating plenty but still skinny and losing even more weight. Other symptoms of an intestinal parasite are vomiting, diarrhea, gas, dehydration, and abdominal swelling.
There are several types of worms, and deworming treatments are not all the same. Almost any deworming treatment will kill heartworms, but not all of them will kill roundworms. The key is to communicate with your veterinarian on a regular basis, as she can advise you on the best treatments and latest research. Never take deworming for granted, as your dog can get, say, roundworms easily from contaminated water.
One of his vital organs could be under attack.
Your dog could be losing weight because one or more of his vital organs is being attacked. When a dog’s vital organs start to fail, it’s not always a fast process. Sometimes, it happens very slowly and many symptoms accompany it, one of which is often weight loss, even though a dog still has a healthy appetite.
Liver disease can also cause your dog to lose weight, and it is quite common in dogs. Most symptoms of liver disease mimic those of other vital organ diseases, and oftentimes, the result is that it goes undiagnosed until it’s too far gone for treatment. Most oft, liver disease is just another symptom of aging, but there are certainly other things that can cause liver disease.
These causes include fatty foods, infections, medications, and certain plants. Aside from weight loss, dogs with liver problems can show signs like diarrhea, vomiting, increased thirst, an unsteady gait, confusion, and jaundice. While older dogs are more apt to get liver disease, any dog can be its victim.
If you suspect your dog may have liver disease, get him in to see a vet immediately, as this is a deadly disease, and he will need care (the sooner, the better). There is good news, though. The liver is quite resilient and can regenerate itself like a champ in most cases with early treatment.
Chronic kidney disease can be hereditary, or it can be a symptom of another illness. It can even be the result of neglected dental disease. It doesn’t usually cause weight loss until a dog is in the advanced stages of the disease. Besides weight loss, some common signs of kidney disease, whether acute or chronic, are excessive urination, increased thirst, pale gums, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and depression.
If you think your dog may have kidney disease, it’s vital that you seek the help of a veterinarian immediately. The kidneys can sometimes heal themselves, but it is a more complicated process than with the liver. It happens way less often because there are many more factors involved. Kidney disease is a life-threatening illness, so take it very seriously.
Just as with other vital organ diseases, dogs plagued with heart disease don’t usually begin to lose weight straight away. As a matter of fact, heart disease in people is called the “silent killer”, and it works the same way in dogs. You should be careful not to simply write every symptom your dog displays off to normalcy of aging, as it could cause you to lose your dog.
One complication of heart disease is congestive heart failure, which is deadly. Following are some common symptoms you should be keenly aware of and watch closely for, especially in combinations: of course, weight loss (in the mid to late stages), fatigue, coughing, excessive panting, inability to exert himself, and restlessness, and also in the mid to late stages, you may see stomach swelling (fluid buildup), a change in the color of his gums and tongue, and he may even start fainting.
It is vital that you grasp the seriousness of heart disease. This mortal illness can steal your dog from you at a moment’s notice, but when diagnosed early on, it can be treated. Then, if your dog is cared for properly, and you communicate with your veterinarian on a regular basis, and stay updated with all his shots, deworming, and checkups, he can still be by your side for a long time.
He may have some form of malignant cancer.
You may need to consider whether your dog has cancer if he is eating but still losing weight. There are various types of cancer in dogs, too many to list, and many show no signs at all until they begin to spread. While cancer is certainly more common in older dogs, any dog is susceptible to it.
The difference between benign and malignant tumors is that benign tumors don’t spread, or spread extremely slowly, and aren’t cancerous, while malignant tumors grow quickly, take over, and devour normal tissues, as they spread throughout the dog’s body. A benign tumor usually won’t cause weight loss unless it is large enough to press on your stomach or another nearby organ, causing nausea and causing the victim to be unable to eat normally.
Your dog can easily lose weight if he has malignant cancer like lymphoma or osteosarcoma, as these types of tumors can make demands on your dog’s metabolic system. They can also cause lots of pain, which would also curb your dog’s appetite. Only your vet can diagnose cancer, so if you think your dog is very sick, take him to see his vet immediately for an evaluation.
What to do about my dog being skinny?
What can you do about your skinny dog? Well, that all depends on what the cause is, but here are some suggestions about what to do if your dog is too thin.
Ensure he is getting a diet with sufficient nutrients that’s also appetizing.
While all dog foods must meet a standard, some meet the bare minimum, others rise above, and yet others aim for the sky. You want to buy from the manufacturers who aim for the sky. At this juncture, your dog needs tons of vitamins and minerals.
You also want him to eat a lot of food, so you want to make sure his food is over-the-top appetizing. Nom Nom, Just Food for Dogs, and the Portland Pet Food Company are three more (see “It could be that a change in his diet is not agreeing with him.” above) manufacturers of fresh dog foods that deliver right to your door. These delicious foods are chosen from the “people foods” that are all right for dogs to eat and prepared the way it’s all right for dogs to eat them, and they come to you ready to serve. How can you beat that for fattening up your skinny dog?
Help him move past his anxiety.
Whatever the issue may be, if he has an anxiety issue, the vet will give you advice on how to handle it. It may be simply to reassure him, or it may be serious enough to put your dog on anti-anxiety medication (benzodiazepines). Your vet is the professional, and she will know what to do.
Ensure that his dental health is good.
Just as in people, it is hard for dogs to eat once they no longer have a full, well-functioning set of teeth. This alone is enough to make him start losing weight, so keep up his dental health, and at the first sign of trouble, get him to his vet.
Most importantly, schedule a visit with his veterinarian.
Your dog’s vet has all the right education, equipment, and testing supplies needed to diagnose your dog properly, so the very first piece of advice I would give you is to consult her as soon as possible and seek her advice about whether your dog is too skinny and what to do about it, and the following advice is of utmost importance.
If your dog shows any symptoms of one of the serious illnesses listed above or is extremely ill in any fashion, especially with a combination of symptoms, please take him to his vet as soon as you can get him there, as hasty treatment may be all that saves his life in extreme cases.
How skinny is too skinny for a dog?
You have company, and they’re swearing your dog looks fine. You’re sure they’re just being nice, though, because you just know that he is underweight.
How thin is too thin for your dog? Well, his ribs should not be perfectly visible. There should be a fat layer between the ribs and the skin. His shoulder bones, hip bones, and spinal cord should not be very easily felt beneath the skin, and those bones at the tail’s base should not protrude.
From the side, does he look oval-shaped or rotund? Does he have a swinging stomach or a sagging waist? Does he move about awkwardly or have trouble walking, and does he have trouble breathing? If your dog shows these signs, he is probably overweight or even obese.
Your vet can do an overall assessment of your dog much like your physician can measure your body mass index. A healthy dog will score a 4-5 on a scale going from 1 to 9 or a 3 on a 1 to 5 scale. Dogs scoring these numbers look lean. Their abdomens are firm and don’t sag down.