why is my german shepherd so skinny

Why Is My German Shepherd So Skinny?

Your German Shepherd could be skinny due to a variety of reasons. For one, if your German Shepherd’s young, it could be that it’s still developing and hasn’t grown into its body yet. Oftentimes however, you’ll find that it’s caused by improper diet or health issues.

The latter of course, is quite concerning. And so as a German Shepherd owner, you must periodically check on your dog’s weight and ascertain that it’s healthy.

But how are you supposed to quantify being healthy? How do you even tell if a German Shepherd is skinny in the first place?

Well, in this article, I’ll try to provide you with all the information you need as we discuss the following:

  • How to tell if your German Shepherd is unhealthily thin.
  • The possible causes of your German Shepherd’s weight loss.
  • How you can get your dog back into proper and healthy shape.

So, if you’re asking yourself, “why is my German Shepherd so skinny?”, do read on as this article is for you.

How To Tell If Your German Shepherd Is Skinny

Before we get into the causes and the solutions, we must first learn how to identify an underweight dog.

Now, you might think it obvious that a dog is skinny just by looking at it alone. However, people often mistake lean dogs as thin due to a skewed mental picture of what constitutes a healthy dog. So to be sure, it’s best that you check via the following methods:

Look Down Toward Your German Shepherd’s Body

For the first method, simply stand behind your German Shepherd and look down on its body. A healthy one will have its waist gradually curving from the rib cage. In contrast, an underweight German Shepherd will have an abnormally thin and an exaggerated hourglass figure.

Inspect The Appearance Of The Dog’s Abdomen

For this one, move to your German Shepherd’s side and check its abdomen. A healthy one will have an abdomen gradually sloping upward from the rib cage. In contrast, a skinny one would have its abdomen sharply tucked in.

The Feel Test

There are two ways to do this, but they follow the same principle.

The first one is to touch and feel your German Shepherd’s spine and pelvic bone. If these bones are prominent, and you feel as if there’s no padding between the dog’s bones and skin, then your dog is indeed underweight and skinny.

The second method is to place your hands on the side of your dog’s body and try to feel for its ribs. For a healthy German Shepherd, you would be able to feel each rib, but you won’t be able to see them. If you can, then that would indicate that your dog is underweight.

Other Symptoms

Aside with the physical manifestations, your German Shepherd may also exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Loss Of Appetite
  • Gastrointestinal Distress
  • Lethargy

What’s Causing Your German Shepherd To Be So Skinny?

why is my german shepherd so skinny
Image by Tom Farmer from Pixabay

Again, there are a variety of reasons why your German Shepherd could be skinny. The most common of which being either dietary problems or possible medical conditions.

Diet and Poor Nutrition

The first thing you have to consider is if you’re feeding your German Shepherd with enough nutritious food.

According to PetCareRx, German Shepherds typically have a daily caloric requirement ranging from 1,272 calories to 2,100 calories depending on the dog’s activity level.

So, the question is, are you feeding your German Shepherd enough to fulfill its caloric requirements? If not, that you might just have your answer.

Health Issues

Your German Shepherd may also be skinny due to the following medical conditions:


Parasites like tapeworms live in your German Shepherd’s intestines and consume the food it intakes. They deprive your dog of the nutrients it should be getting.

To tell if your German Shepherd is infected by parasites, look for the following symptoms:

  • Increase in appetite
  • Abdominal enlargement and discomfort
  • Diarrhea
  • Blood in stool
  • Irritation around the anus

Diabetes Mellitus

German Shepherds have an above-average incidence rate of diabetes mellitus. This disease is characterized by the failure of the pancreas to produce insulin, a hormone that regulates and allows glucose to serve as an energy source for cells.

Without an adequate amount of insulin, glucose cannot get into the dog’s cells, and would eventually end up excreted. Due to the lack of an energy source, the dog’s body will start to look into alternative sources of energy, breaking down fat and protein instead. When this happens, your German Shepherd will lose weight even if it eats more than usual.

Other than weight loss, symptoms for diabetes mellitus are as follows:

  • Increased water consumption
  • Increase urination
  • Increase in appetite

Liver Disease

German Shepherds are also prone to liver disease, another disease known to cause weight loss in dogs. 

The liver has a lot of functions, including controlling the release of nutrients into the body. So, if your dog’s liver fails to work, your dog will lose out on nutrients and eventually lose weight.

Other signs of liver disease are as follows:

  • Loss in appetite
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Increased water consumption
  • Increased urination
  • Jaundice
  • Weakness
  • Blood in urine or stool
  • Seizures


Dogs with cancer will often experience weight loss due to the metabolic demands of the disease or the pain and discomfort that it causes.

German Shepherds are, for example, prone to a canine oral melanoma, an oral tumor. This type of cancer may cause an inability to eat due to pain when swallowing, and thus will eventually cause weight loss.

Dental Problems

Dental issues may cause your German Shepherd to lose weight because it causes your dog discomfort and pain when eating. That pain and discomfort may lead to a reluctance to eat and eventually weight loss.


As with humans, a depressed German Shepherd may experience loss in appetite, So if depression persists, it will eventually lead to weight loss.

To tell if your German Shepherd is depressed, look for the following signs:

  • Withdrawal
  • Lethargy
  • General loss of interest

Other Causes

Senior Dogs

Older dogs tend to have smaller appetites and a general lack of interest in eating. This is often caused by underlying health problems, so the best course of action would be to consult with a veterinarian.

Picky Eaters

Sometimes your German Shepherd just won’t eat because it doesn’t like the food being served. This usually happens when a dog is used to being fed table scraps or treats and it loses interest in plain dog food.

Stress And Anxiety

In some cases, your dog won’t eat because of stress. Changes in the environment or a new pet or person may induce stress and cause a decrease in your dog’s appetite.

How To Bulk Up Your German Shepherd

Now that you know the possible causes for your German Shepherd’s weight loss, let’s now look into what you can do about it.

Check For Any Medical Conditions

Should you verify that your German Shepherd is indeed unhealthily skinny, your first course of action should be to take the dog to a veterinarian. 

Doing so will give you a better idea of what’s happening to your dog. Also, if there is an underlying condition that’s causing the weight loss, the vet will be able to provide you with an actionable plan to get your dog fit and healthy.

Feed Your Dog Right

If all’s clear with the medical conditions, you should then check your German Shepherd’s nutrition.

Again, you would have to feed your German Shepherd at least 1,272 calories to 2,100 calories daily depending on its activity level. Generally speaking, that’s about 3 to 5 cups of commercial dog food per day, divided into two different meals.

Do note however, that the calories per cup may vary depending on the brand of dog food, and thus you would have to adjust the calculations based on the actual numbers provided on the packaging.

Aside from the amount, be sure to also consider the quality of the food. While feeding your German Shepherd a high amount of low-quality dog food will prevent it from being skinny, it will eventually lead to other issues such as skin disorders and lethargy. 

Finally, if you ever get confused about your German Shepherd’s nutrition, don’t hesitate to consult your veterinarian. Your vet will be able to recommend a diet plan to help get your dog back into healthy shape.

Address Other Issues

In The Case Of Picky Eaters

If your dog’s a picky eater, you would need to correct its behavior. To do that, you have to make your dog understand that there are no other food options.

According to Hill’s Pet, a way to do this would be by timing your dog’s mealtimes. Meaning, you only set out food for a limited amount of time, and whether or not the food was eaten, you take it away after the time has passed.

What this does is make it clear to your dog that there are no other options. Eventually, your dog will get used to it and will learn to appreciate what’s served with no issues.

In The Case Of Senior Dogs

Opposite to the case of picky eaters, you may want to add more appetizing options for senior dogs.

Old dogs tend to lose interest in dry food so your best option would be to add chicken broth or canned food to make meals more appealing. In some cases, you may also have to make your old dog home-cooked meals just so your dog would find mealtimes more enjoyable.

If all else fails, you can get your dog medication and appetite stimulants to help it eat.

In The Case Of Stressed And Anxious Dogs

As for a stressed out and anxious German Shepherd, your job would be to try and calm your dog down.

You can do this in a variety of ways such as by providing your German Shepherd with enough physical and mental stimulation, providing a calm and relaxing environment free of loud noises, or by identifying and removing the stressor.

Why Is My German Shepherd So Skinny?

To summarize. Your German Shepherd may be skinny due to following reasons:

  • Poor diet and nutrition
  • Health issues
  • Stress
  • Age

The usual culprit though would be the first two. And so, if your German Shepherd is unnecessarily skinny, your best course of action would be to take it to the vet.

Final Thoughts

I wish that this article has helped you understand how to handle and help your skinny German Shepherd. I also hope that it serves as a guide to help you get your dog back into healthy shape.

That said, if your German Shepherd ever does have issues, be it being underweight or any other medical condition, do consult with a veterinarian. A professional’s advice should always take priority over what’s written in this article.

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