How to Fatten Up a German Shepherd (15 Healthy Tips)

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Do you want to know how to fatten up a German Shepherd to make them gain weight in a healthy way?

Are you worried that your German Shepherd is thin and underweight and need tips for safe weight-gain?

Don’t let your dog stay too skinny any longer—use these beneficial tips to get your dog to their ideal weight.

Is Your German Shepherd Underweight?

is your german shepherd underweight

Depending on your Shepherd’s size and age, they can eat from 15 to 25 pounds of dry kibble in a week!

They are large breed dogs with fast metabolisms that are active and energetic in their daily lives. It’s necessary to keep a consistent feeding schedule with suitable foods that maintain their ideal body weight and sustain their energy needs.

Fit German Shepherds may at first seem slightly underweight. They have a body shape that tucks in at the waist and their ribs aren’t visible. They are lean, athletic dogs with a strong, firm figure.

But if you see their ribs protruding or their hip bones raised and easily felt when petting, this is a sign of being underweight. You should first check with your vet for possible medical issues.

Keep Track of Weight Gain and Loss

keep track of weight gain or loss

Begin a schedule of weekly “weigh-ins” to keep track of your German Shepherd’s weight. You want to know if they are gaining weight, losing weight, or remaining the same.

This helps you to decide if your weight gain plan is working – or if you need to adjust your plan. If your dog continues losing weight or if you see a lack of progress, take your dog back to your veterinarian.

1. Choose Foods with a Higher Protein and Fat Content

food with higher protein and fat

If your German Shepherd eats normally but isn’t gaining weight, you may need to switch to different food. Look for foods that have a higher percentage of fat and protein than your current food.

Adults and seniors should be eating about 20 to 25 percent of their daily calories from protein and 25 to 50 percent from fats. The rest of the calories should come from carbohydrates.

Your puppy should be kept on a puppy-formulated food until they’ve reached 80% of their adult weight. This is anywhere from 8 months to a year or longer.

2. Change to Puppy or High-Performance Food

puppy and high performance foods

Some adult and senior dogs’ benefit from a puppy or high-performance food. Both puppy and high-performance (also known as a working breed) food is higher in calories to support complex energy needs and sustained growth.

Test out a mixture of half of your dog’s regular food combined with half of the puppy or high-performance food to help with weight gain. Puppy foods generally have added nutrients to support puppy growth which can help your underweight German Shepherd.

Mixing regular adult and puppy or high-performance food helps your GSD gain weight in a regulated manner. But dogs with certain kidney problems shouldn’t eat a high protein diet – which is why it’s best to check with your vet first.

3. For More Calories Feed Dry Kibble

dry dog kibble food

Dry kibble is denser and contains more calories than wet food because the moisture has been removed from dry foods. Therefore, dry food has up to 4 times the number of calories as the same amount of wet food – dry kibble is a weight gaining powerhouse!

If your dog is currently eating wet meals, then try mixing in some dry food with their wet food to help stimulate weight gain. Wet foods may taste better to your dog, so mixing in the dry foods with the wet still encourages your dog to eat in order to not lose more weight.

Look for dry food with higher protein and fats to encourage weight gain in a healthy manner.

4. Offer an Extra Meal to Their Normal Routine

offer an extra meal

Begin by feeding your dog a bit more of their current food spread out over one more meal per day. Add a quarter to half a cup of extra food per meal.

You can also take their regular feeding and the additional food and increase their feeding schedule to four times per day, splitting the food equally at each feeding.

This routine allows your dog to space out their food more evenly, so they don’t fill up too quickly and then ignore their later meals. It’s also gentler on their stomachs and makes digestion easier since there’s less food sitting in their belly at one time.  

5. Let Your Dog Eat When They Want

let your german shepherd free feed

If your German Shepherd is picky about when they eat, then it may help to leave food out for them all the time. This is called free feeding.

Dogs who can free feed tend to gain more weight than dogs fed on a schedule. Free feeding allows your dog the chance to eat a little whenever they are hungry or bored.

This type of feeding may help them eat more overall. But only use free feeding with dry food, since wet foods spoil when left out for more than a couple hours.

6. Sit with Your Dog While They Eat

sit with your dog while they eat

Some dogs simply don’t like to eat alone. They may follow you around rather than eat when you offer their food bowl – this may be especially true of Shepherds since they tend to get fixated on their caretaker.

But, just keeping your dog company while they eat may stimulate their appetite. Find a comfortable spot to sit and wait on your dog while they eat. Bring a book or do a quiet activity while they eat close to you.

7. Offer Treats Along with Their Regular Meals

Most treats aren’t complete in their nutrition, but some contain extra calories with healthy ingredients that can help your German Shepherd gain weight.

Don’t feed your dog only treats but do give your dog a few extra treats throughout the day. Keep the treats handy and offer them to help get extra calories into your dog.

Look for high fat treats and keep them to around ten percent of your dog’s daily calories.

8. Add in Healthy, Natural Foods

add in healthy snacks

It’s safe to give your dog small amounts of cooked chicken or turkey mixed with steamed sliced carrots, unflavored Greek yogurt, or canned plain pumpkin every day in addition to their normal food.

Adding these foods into their regular kibble may also entice them to eat more of their regular food, which can help an underweight puppy or adult.

They also add extra calories which are healthy and nutritious.

9. Sprinkle on Tasty Toppers

add in a healthy topper

To get your dog more interested in their food, try sprinkling on a topping to their usual meals.

Toppers make your dog’s food smell more appealing and can stimulate a dog’s senses to encourage them to eat more. They’re also healthy and natural.

You can even buy healthy toppers that are easy to add. They come pre-packaged and make sprinkling them on top of your dog’s food easy and inexpensive.

10. Ensure Your Dog is Eating the Right Food for Their Age

ensure your german shepherd is eating the right food

Depending on your dog’s age you may need to switch foods. Seniors, adults, and puppies all have various nutritional concerns.

Most commercial and pre-made dog foods specify their intended age range on the packaging and state what groups the food is aimed at feeding. If you’re feeding your senior Shepherd adult food, you may consider changing to a more age-appropriate food with the correct nutrition.

11. Make Sure You’re Feeding the Right Amount

the right dog food amount

Underfeeding a German Shepherd puts your dog at a serious health risk. You need to make sure they get enough food for their age and energy needs.

This amount varies depending on the activities your dog does each day, the quality and type of food you’re feeding, and how sedentary your dog is. Puppies generally eat almost double the number of calories an adult dog needs, so be sure to check out this post on what amount to feed a German Shepherd puppy to keep them healthy.  

While a senior GSD may eat significantly fewer calories, if they are losing weight and a vet has been consulted, they may need extra feedings or food to help them gain the weight back.

12. Stick with a Regular Exercise Program

german shepherd exercise for health

Walking and swimming are activities that build muscle and are lower impact and less intense. They can be done every day to keep your dog active and help them to maintain their muscle mass.

It’s important to consider if your dog is healthy enough for longer walks or swimming. But these two exercises can be performed at a lower intensity so that even older dogs and puppies can enjoy their benefits.

Keeping muscle mass is important to prevent wasting and help maintain their health and mobility. Don’t use intense exercises when your Shepherd is losing weight, as this can make matters worse!

Try walking up hills to improve muscle growth or a gentle game of tug using a spring pole in which your dog can start and stop on their own. Learn what to include in your German Shepherd’s exercise workout for healthy ideas.

13. Use Appetite Stimulating Herbs

appetite stimulating herbs

Some of the herbs used to increase human appetite are also safe for use in dogs. For dogs that are underweight try dandelion–the same yellow flower sprouting all over lawns and fields.

Dandelion is available in a capsule form from health food stores or online retailers. You can open the capsule and mix with wet dog food or wrap the capsule in a small bit of cheese for a soft treat.

Chamomile, celery seed, and milk thistle may also help to stimulate appetite in your dog. Be sure to check with your vet before giving herbs to a sick dog.

14. Include B Vitamins

include b vitamins

B vitamins are natural appetite stimulants and are readily available over the counter and online. Brewer’s yeast is a great source of B vitamins that not only helps increase appetite but also gives more energy to an underweight dog.

Offer your dog a Brewer’s yeast tablet following the manufacturer’s instructions for dosing. Brewer’s yeast also helps with skin and coat health, which may be lacking in an underweight dog.

Here are even more ideas to improve your German Shepherd’s skin and coat that are healthy and may add additional calories for weight increase.

15. Visit Your Vet Regularly

visit your vet

Regular vet appointments are especially important for your underweight German Shepherd. Be sure to make good notes regarding what your feeding plan is and how your dog’s weight fluctuates.

Your vet will use your notes to help make medical adjustments, as necessary. If your home treatments don’t work, then visit a vet immediately as your vet may need to run some tests to see if a disease or medical problem is the cause of your dog not gaining weight.

Helping Your German Shepherd Gain Weight

Knowing how to fatten up a German Shepherd can help you and your dog achieve their ideal weight and maintain this healthy condition.

There are many reasons why your dog or puppy may not be gaining weight.

But there are also ways to help your dog at home to become healthier and have more energy. Buy the highest quality food for your dog to keep them from losing any more weight and adjust your feeding plan by keeping track of your dog’s weight loss and gain.

Seek vet treatment if your dog doesn’t gain weight or their condition worsens. Find out more at Shepherd Sense to help your dog grow strong and fit.

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