what to feed an emaciated dog to regain his health

Here’s what to feed an emaciated dog to regain his health

Is your dog too skinny? Does he lose weight despite your efforts to keep his weight stable? It may be a sign that something is wrong. In this article we will help you figure out what to feed an emaciated dog to regain his health.

Weight is a very good indicator of a dog’s health, which is why it is natural to worry when he loses weight for no apparent reason. Stress, unbalanced diet, parasites … the factors that can explain the dog’s weight loss are numerous. Whatever the reason, a dog’s weight loss should be monitored very closely, and must be accompanied by veterinary support in order to give your dog every chance of regaining an ideal weight.

How do I know if my dog is too skinny?

It is not always easy to determine the ideal weight of the dog, because a Body Mass Index (BMI) metric does not exist for dogs. Indeed, each breed has its specificities, but we must also add physiological factors, the age of the dog, as well as the presence of possible diseases, etc.

dog is sick and skinny

With large dogs, it can sometimes be difficult to weigh the animal without going to a veterinarian, usually equipped with a more appropriate balance. This is why we generally base ourselves on the general appearance of the dog and his silhouette to determine whether he is underweight, at its “normal” weight or on the contrary in a state of obesity.

The importance of a dog’s general appearance

A dog is usually considered to be at the ideal weight when viewed from above, its size tapers slightly towards the ribs. But again, it depends on the breed of the dog. The Italian Greyhounds, for example, are lean in appearance, it is a characteristic of this breed and not a sign of leanness.

Be careful however for these lean-looking dog breeds as the “real” leanness can easily go unnoticed.

Rib palpation test

To find out if your dog is too thin, you can palpate his ribs. When the dog has an ideal weight, they should be able to feel under a thin layer of skin, and they should be able to be counted easily. However, if the ribs are clearly visible to the naked eye, this can be a sign that your dog is lacking in fatty and muscular mass. Likewise, if you notice that his flanks are widening, it is a sign that he is too thin.

how to deal with a sick and skinny dog

Causes of weight loss in dogs

If your dog is too thin and there is no obvious reason, but he still continues to eat his daily ration, this is a sign that something is wrong. The causes of weight loss can be multiple:

Insufficient energy intake

If your dog seems to be eating his usual amount of food, but still losing weight, the reason may be due to his energy intake. The ration may be enough but the food may not fulfill the dog’s nutritional needs can be a weight loss factor.

For example, if you have opted for low-end, low-nourishing industrial kibble, or for a household ration without properly calculating your dog’s needs, or you have slightly abused food supplements at the expense of a solid and reliable basic diet, this can cause a food imbalance and result in significant weight loss.

It may also be that your dog’s food is no longer suitable because his needs have changed. This is for example the case of dogs that increase their physical activity, or of pregnant females.


Certain diseases are responsible for weight loss in dogs. In these cases, the condition is generally observed without loss of appetite. This will happen if there is a presence of intestinal parasites, if there are gastrointestinal issues (in case of bacterial overgrowth of the small intestine) or in the case of exocrine pancreatic insufficiency.

what to feed a dog that lost weight

In all three cases, the disease results in poor intestinal absorption of nutrients. Significant weight loss can also be caused by some form of heart failure, cancer or chronic infectious or inflammatory disease.

In these three cases, the disease causes an increase in metabolism, which in turn leads to an increase in caloric requirements.

A change in the dog’s environment

If your dog is losing weight, and his appetite is declining, this may be a sign of emotional distress, which may be due to various reasons. Stress and anxiety are common factors that can stem from various sources:

Your dog has undergone a move and the the dog experiences trauma accompanied by a change in behavior, depression, or a change in eating habits.

Dogs are very territorial animals. If you have adopted another dog or cat, they may suddenly feel left out, or they simply may not be able to get along with their new roommate. We then observe a change in behavior and sometimes even a loss of appetite, and consequently, weight loss.

If you have noticed that your dog is losing weight and/or appetite, it is urgent to consult a nutritionist veterinarian who will put in place a suitable diet and treatment for any conditions mentioned above.

anxious dog

What should I do if my dog loses weight?

Depending on the reason that caused the weight loss, you will need (on the advice of a veterinarian), to put in place effective solutions to allow your dog to recover.

What to feed an emaciated dog to regain his health

In general, it is advisable to feed your dog with a quality menu, very digestible, palatable and adapted to its optimal weight. However, it would be better to proceed step by step if the dog is lean and that he weighs less than 20% of his normal weight so you don’t overload his digestive system.

If he has not eaten for several days (in the event of hospitalization or running away for example), you should especially not give him much to eat because he seems to be very hungry! The risk of maldigestion, diarrhea or even septicemia or death from bacteremia are significant.

dog healthy diet

A prolonged absence of food causes the reduction of digestive secretions and the abrasion of intestinal microvilli. It is even possible that the intestinal barrier has become porous and the digestive tract is no longer really functional. It will therefore be better to slowly feed your dog over several days with a few light meals spread throughout the day.

To hydrate him and make him want to eat slowly, you can give him yogurt. Half a pot for a small dog to 1 whole pot for a dog over 20kg per day with a few pieces of banana, for example. This will help stabilize the intestinal environment through the intake of pre and probiotics.


What to feed an emaciated dog to regain his health if the cause is pathological

If the cause is pathological, you will need to contact your veterinarian in order to set up an appropriate treatment, depending on the disease and its stage of advancement. For parasites, for example, we recommend a de-wormer.

Treatment of the disease should be accompanied by a healthy and balanced diet.

healthy food for my dog

What to feed an emaciated dog to regain his health, if he suffered a trauma

To remedy a possible decline in morale, or even depression, you obviously begin by determining the cause. The best solution is to call on a behaviorist veterinarian who will help you accompany your dog during this period, and allow him to go up the slope.

Certain natural remedies, such as Bach flower remedies, homeopathy or even dietary supplements are very effective. Contact your veterinarian or go to a pet store to get them.

As he gets better, his appetite should resurface too. If the dog has been malnourished for some time, it is important that the return to normal feeding be gradual.

Ultimately, know that it is essential to provide your dog with a healthy diet, adapted to his needs, and in sufficient quantity, through the course of his life, as well as to hydrate him sufficiently. This is the basis for good health in dogs, as it is for us humans.

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