If youíre having trouble keeping weight on your dog, youíre not alone.
Having 3 very small and very picky dogs, Iím no stranger to the stress of trying to put weight on a thin dog. It took many years, vet trips, and a lot of sleepless nights, but Iím finally at a place where Iím not constantly worried about my dogís weight. Letís go over the basics (and if you missed part I, click here).
There are a number of reasons a dog can be thin. Most importantly, itís imperative you make sure thereís not an underlying health issue which is causing weight loss or a decrease in appetite. Always consult your veterinarian to rule out any health issues.
If thereís nothing medically wrong with your dog, you should consider some other causes that may be affecting your dogís weight. If youíve changed your dogís exercise plan this could have a number of effects. For instance, a decrease in exercise can actually reduce your dogís appetite. On the contrary, if youíve increased exercise, your dogís normal sized meals may no longer be enough.
If your dog is still interested in food and eating full meals (yet still losing weight), you might want to reevaluate how much youíre feeding. Remember that feeding guidelines are suggestions and may not be right for your dog. Donít be afraid to increase portion sizes.
If your dog is not interested in food this could be a sign of stress or anxiety. Changes to your dogís routine can turn their world upside, increasing stress and minimizing their appetite. Keep in mind that just because you canít pinpoint a change or event, doesnít mean your dog hasnít already done so. Dogs are much more intuitive than most people think. Such is the case with my 7-year-old Maltese, Donnatella (Donna).
The Backstory of My Skinny Dog
Donnaís weight has been a cause for concern since the day I brought her home. Weighing in at a very small 4.5 pounds and with an even smaller appetite, keeping weight on her has been challenging. From puppyhood, she refused to eat any kind of kibble and turned her nose up to just about any treat Iíd offer her.
There was a period of time where her blood sugar would get so low, sheíd have frequent seizures and needed to be placed on medication. This was a time of desperation, and I would feed her anything she wanted, as long as sheíd eat something. Needless to say, she was not eating a balanced diet and lacked proper nutrition. Luckily, with some perseverance and guidance from my vet, we were able to come up with a plan to put weight on Donna and keep her healthy and happy. Here are some things Iíve learned along the way.
Keep Stress to a Minimum
The most important thing I can do for Donna is to keep her calm and happy. Donna is hypersensitive to her surroundings, so getting her to eat while being so tightly wound up is difficult. Itís important to remember that dogs, like most of us, are creatures of habit. This is why I keep my dogs on a strict schedule. I find my dogs are less stressed when they wake up at the same time, eat at the same time and go for walks at the same time. If this doesnít sound like your lifestyle I encourage you to give it a try. Your dog will feel safe and secure with the certainty of their routine and you might even like it too!
Dogs like Donna are aware of every detail that goes on in their worlds, and it doesnít take much for her to sense the slightest form of change, sending her into a stress-induced panic and going on hunger strikes that last for days. This could literally be anything; going to the groomer, thunder,the sight of a suitcase, you name it! Itís almost impossible to control all of these factors but control what you can.
If there are known triggers for your dogís anxiety, work with a dog trainer on minimizing the effects. Learning how to take a potentially stressful situation and turning it into a positive experience was key for Donna.