Why is my German Shepherd Puppy so Skinny?


This is a question that understandably concerns a lot of new GSD owners. It’s important to understand why this may be happening, and whether or not there is reason for concern.

So, why are German Shepherd puppies so skinny? It is common for German Shepherd puppies to be skinny. Generally, it is because at this stage they are not fully developed, and their bones are growing at a different rate than their muscles. However, in some cases, it may be a sign of a serious health issue.

You need to know when and when not to be concerned if your GSD puppy seems on the thin side. Read on to understand whether your puppy is experiencing normal growth, or whether you should consider taking it to the vet for a more in-depth examination.

Is Your GSD Puppy Eating Regularly?

A German Shepherd puppy between 8 – 12 weeks should be eating 3 times per day.

Some experts recommend feeding GSD puppies wet food, while others favor soaking kibble in warm water to soften it.

Whichever diet you choose to feed your puppy, it’s important that you keep the amount consistent.

At first this will be trial and error, as each puppy has individual needs when it comes to the quantity of food it’s eating. But you should be able to determine the proper amount of food to give your puppy relatively quickly.

If there is leftover food after your puppy is full, do not leave it out in your puppy’s bowl.

If you are feeding your puppy soaked kibble, be sure to discard any leftovers. And if you are feeding it wet food from a can you can cover it and store it in the refrigerator until the next meal.

For your puppy’s next meal, simply decrease the quantity by the leftover amount.

Has Your GSD Puppy Had A Recent Vaccination?

During your GSD puppy’s first year, it is recommended that it receives a number of vaccinations at different growth points. The core vaccinations include:

  • Distemper
  • DHPP
  • Rabies

There are also optional vaccinations for your puppy which include:

  • Bortadella
  • Coronavirus
  • Leptospirosis
  • Lyme Disease

Each of the listed vaccinations are given to puppies at different times during their first year. Along with each of these vaccinations comes the potential side effect of your puppy experiencing a temporary loss of appetite.

Your puppy may lose its appetite beginning an hour or two after a vaccination. This is common and not a cause for concern.

However, if this lasts for more than a day or two, or your puppy is consistently not eating to the point of losing weight, it is very important that you contact your veterinarian at that time and explain the issue.

Is Your GSD Puppy Showing Other Signs Of Illness?

If your puppy is not eating to the point where it is getting skinny, be on the lookout for other signs accompanying its loss of appetite.

Observe whether your puppy is also experiencing any of the following symptoms at the same time as eating less than normal on a consistent basis:

  • Diarrhea
  • Extreme thirst or frequent and excessive urination
  • Difficulty while urinating
  • Swollen or red-colored gums
  • Itchy or flaky skin
  • Runny nose
  • Glazed eyes
  • Vomiting
  • Coughing

If you feel that your puppy is too skinny and it is also experiencing or exhibiting any of the above symptoms, it may be a sign of something more serious.

Do not let these symptoms continue unchecked. Contact your veterinarian and take your puppy to be checked out. If it is something serious, it is likely treatable and prompt veterinary care can restore your puppy’s appetite and weight.

Worms

Worms are internal parasites that are common in dogs. Worms survive by essentally stealing your puppy’s nutrition. So even if your puppy is eating regularly, if it has worms it can lead to weight loss.

Some signs to look for to determine if your puppy has worms:

  • Weakness
  • Increased appetite
  • Bloated stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Visible worms or tiny worm eggs in its feces
  • Vomit with worms visible in it
  • Scratching its rear against objects or dragging it on the ground

It’s important to know that worms may also be asymptomatic, meaning that there sometimes are no symptoms at all other than your puppy being too skinny.

Your veterinarian can check for worms with a stool sample. Certain types of worms (such as roundworms) can be fatal in puppies if left untreated, so it is crucial that you take your puppy for regular checkups.

Has your Puppy Been Traveling Regularly?

If you feel that your GSD puppy is too skinny, consider if you have been taking it along for car rides on a consistent basis.

Many puppies experience motion sickness. This does not necessarily mean that they will vomit or have an upset stomach only.

Some puppies will do neither, and instead, decrease their eating to the point of losing weight. If this is the case, limit the amount of time your puppy spends traveling in a car.

If you are unable to do this, consider the following to make your puppy’s car rides more comfortable:

  • Allow your puppy to ride next to you in the front passenger’s seat. This will allow your puppy to have you as a reference point and a distraction.
  • Provide a small puppy bed on the seat. This will allow for your puppy to be cradled and supported and will limit how much it shifts around due to the car’s movement.
  • Make sure that the temperature in the car is neither too hot or cold.
  • Pay attention to how you drive. Often times we take our driving for granted without considering the comfort of our passengers. Puppies can be especially sensitive during car rides, so be sure to take turns gently, and do not brake or accelerate suddenly.

Has Your Puppy Experienced A Change In It’s Environment?

A change in the environment is a common cause of a longer-term loss of appetite and weight loss in puppies.

A change in environment for your puppy does not just mean that it has moved from one physical location to another. The following circumstances should also be considered a change in environment for your puppy:

  • Changes to your schedule – when you leave and when you arrive
  • Changes in your puppy’s walking schedule
  • Changes in your puppy’s feeding schedule
  • Someone new moving into your home
  • Someone moving out of your home
  • A new animal brought into your home
  • Regular arguments within your home
  • The arrival of a new baby
  • Being cared for by a sitter or taken to a doggy daycare

It is important that your GSD puppy’s day to day life is structured and consistent. They learn and function well with routine.

When something occurs which disrupts a puppy’s routine long-term, they may begin to feel anxious and stressed. This can sometimes result in a long term lack of appetite and weight loss.

You may likely find that if one or more of the above changes are addressed, that your puppy will resume a normal eating schedule and quickly bounce back from being underweight.

Are You Feeding Your Puppy The Best Quality Food?

Your GSD puppy needs adequate nutrients in its diet for growth and to maintain a healthy weight.

GSDs are considered medium to large-sized dogs, and they need to be fed the appropriate breed-formulated dog food, especially as puppies.

At 1 year, your GSD puppy will weigh 95% of its full adult weight. If you are not feeding it the right formulation for its breed size, this can result in undernourishment and a skinny puppy.

Also, GSD puppies have a higher capacity for nutrient absorption than small breeds, so it’s important that you feed your GSD puppy a quality large-breed puppy food with the proper nutrients.

Above all else, make sure that your puppy’s food contains the following core components:

  • Protein sources
  • Carbohydrate sources
  • Essential fatty acid sources
  • Antioxidants
  • Minerals
  • Vitamins
  • Probiotics

Your GSD puppy needs these nutrients in order to support the development of their internal, muscular, and skeletal systems.

In addition to the proper nutrients, your growing GSD puppy needs to be consuming an adequate amount of calories. The amount of calories that your puppy needs will vary.

As a general rule, your GSD puppy needs to be consuming at least 500 calories per day. Speak with your veterinarian about the specific caloric requirements for your specific GSD puppy.

Is Your GSD Puppy A Picky Eater?

Sometimes a GSD puppy will be a picky eater. We often think that this is just how our puppy is – part of its personality.

The truth is that this is simply not the case. In most instances, a puppy that is picky about the food it eats is due to poor feeding habits by its owner.

The primary culprits are treats and table scraps. The more you feed these to your puppy, the more it will expect them. This can lead to your puppy neglecting its regular food in favor of food that if finds tastes better.

This can be detrimental to your puppy’s weight since treats and table scraps do not contain the nutrients needed for healthy growth. A puppy that is accustomed to eating food that’s not intended as a part of its regular diet can be underweight because of malnourishment.

If your puppy falls into this category, there are a few things that you can do to remedy this:

  • Gradually stop feeding your puppy treats and scraps. Doing this all at once can stress your puppy out. Too much stress can lead to a loss of appetite.
  • Leave your puppy’s food bowl out for specific amounts of time. After the time has passed, if your puppy has still not eaten, then remove the bowl and do the same thing at its next feeding time.

It is very important to be consistent and hold your ground. Do not give in to your puppy’s demands. The goal here is to teach your puppy that there is no other option for food.

Your puppy will get the message and should return to its normal diet. Many of us think that our puppies need variety in their diet. But the fact is that your puppy is actually perfectly happy to eat the same thing every day for its entire life.

Sometimes, however, picky eating is not due to treats and table scraps being fed to a puppy. Some puppies are picky eaters because of something related to the environment in which it is being fed.

If you feel this may be the case, try the following:

  • Change the location of the food bowl
  • Change the food bowl itself
  • Allow your puppy to eat alone, without the presence of other people or animals
  • Change the food that you are feeding your puppy. But do this only after you have ruled other causes.

Visibly And Physically Check Your GSD Puppy To Determine If It Is In Fact Too Skinny

Sometimes we think that our GSD puppies are too skinny when they are actually right where they need to be in terms of weight.

Your GSD puppy’s ribs should not be visibly noticeable, but they should be easy to feel.

Take a look at your puppy from above. It should resemble an hourglass shape behind its rib cage.

Remember that your puppy is still growing, so it is normal for it to be on the thinner side. Use your common sense as it applies to your puppy. If its ribs and hip bones are sticking out, then take it to be checked out by your veterinarian.

Hunter Reed

I've owned and trained German Shepherds for over 18 years now. I'm originally from Indiana, though I've lived in many different states and traveled extensively. The places change, my dogs don't. German Shepherds have been my constant companions. I love every aspect of training them and simply just having them around. I also enjoy sharing my knowledge about German Shepherds with the world, and I encourage all future dog owners to consider one as a companion as well. Read my story here.

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