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How to Get a German Shepherd to Gain Weight (5 Easy Ways!)

Last Updated: February 6, 2024

Are you worried that your German Shepherd is too skinny? Well, your dog might have health issues affecting his feeding and nutrition, or you could be underfeeding your dog. Whichever is the case, your GSD will be low on energy, and that’s a red flag for your dog’s well-being. So, how do you fatten up a German Shepherd?

To get a German Shepherd to gain weight, the first step is a thorough medical checkup to rule out any health issues. If there are no medical issues, increase your dog’s daily caloric intake with extra food and treats, or go for high-calorie dog foods. Vet-approved supplements are also an option.

These methods of getting your German Shepherd to gain weight mean more than they sound. So, in the rest of the article, I’ll explain each in detail to help you safely apply them and fatten up your German Shepherd.

Let’s get started!

How To Get German Shepherd To Gain Weight.

Is Your German Shepherd Underweight?

German Shepherds are large active dogs. Maintaining their ideal body weight and meeting their energy requirements requires maintaining a regular feeding schedule with appropriate foods.

But how do you tell if your dog is too skinny?

One of the most obvious signs that your German Shepherd may be underweight is visible ribs or a pronounced spine. You may also notice that their hip bones or shoulder blades are more prominent than usual. An underweight German Shepherd may also have a sunken or visibly smaller abdomen, a dull coat, and a lack of energy or enthusiasm for physical activity.

To determine if your German Shepherd is underweight, you can perform a body condition score (BCS) assessment. This involves feeling their ribcage, spine, and hips to assess the amount of body fat and muscle mass.

You can use a BCS chart or consult with a veterinarian to determine your dog’s ideal body condition score and make any necessary dietary or lifestyle changes.

How to Get a German Shepherd to Gain Weight

Signs that your German Shepherd is underweight include visible ribs, prominent hip bones, lack of muscle definition, low energy levels, and a poor coat condition.

My German Shepherd, Willow, went through a phase of being super skinny as a young adult. As a breed known for its athletic and muscular build, I got a little concerned and knew I had to fatten her up for optimal health.

If you have a puppy, don’t worry, as they only reach adulthood at the 18-month mark, and their growth doesn’t stop until three years old.

However, if you notice any of these signs and are concerned about your dog’s weight, you should follow the below steps to get your German Shepherd to gain weight.

1. Take Your German Shepherd for a Thorough Medical Checkup

Before you start pumping your underweight German Shepherd with calorie-rich food to make him gain weight, it is important to establish why your furry friend is underweight in the first place. 

The best way to know why your GSD is too skinny is to schedule a thorough vet checkup to rule out any physical or health issues. 

Several medical conditions can cause your German Shepherd to be underweight. Here are the most notorious:

  • Gastrointestinal parasites: Worms and other intestinal parasites live on your dog’s nutrients and are a common cause of dog weight loss. These are a risk if you’ve skipped your dog’s routine testing for intestinal parasites or his trimonthly worm medication.
  • Dental and oral problems: These make chewing painful, causing your German Shepherd to keep off food or eat less than he needs to.
  • Gastrointestinal Disorders (GIDs): These include issues like food allergies, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and partial blockages in the intestines. They can alter the functioning of your GSD’s digestive system and reduce his appetite, disrupt digestion, or slow down nutrient absorption.
  • Diabetes mellitus: Dogs with diabetes have poor food conversation into energy and can manifest reduced weight, even when you feed them correctly. 
  • Heart disease (Cardiac cachexia): Although experts can’t explain why yet, heart disease causes weight loss as it progresses.
  • Cancer: Cancer cells need energy to multiply and can consume the energy your GSD needs to live, causing him to lose weight. Besides, cancer also disrupts your dog’s appetite and food digestion.
  • Others: Other health issues that can make your GSD lose weight include stress, prolonged diarrhea and vomiting, hyperthyroidism, liver and kidney disease, Addison’s disease, and exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, among several others.

If your dog has any of these medical issues, your vet will prescribe a medical regimen to resolve it. That way, your best friend can get back to normal weight.

If, instead, your German Shepherd gets a clean bill of health, the next most likely thing is that your dog is not getting adequate nutrition to fuel his daily activities. So, your next move is to ensure better nutrition for your dog, which is what the rest of the methods are about.

German Shepherd Eating Kibble With Tuna Topping

2. Increase Your German Shepherd’s Daily Caloric Intake

Calories are energy units that your dog gets from his daily food intake. They fuel your dog’s body functions during rest (Resting Energy Requirement [RER]) and sustain his energy when active.

If your German Shepherd does not get enough calories to sustain his energy needs from his food intake, his body will use up all the stored energy. The long-term outcome of that is weight loss. As such, you should feed your GSD enough food to supply his daily caloric needs. 

Vets can tell your GSD’s daily caloric needs. They do this by multiplying your dog’s RER with an assigned value for other factors related to the dog’s daily energy needs, like activity level and growth stage.

To obtain the RER, you multiply your dog’s body weight in kilograms raised to the power of ¾ by 70 (70*[Weight in Kg] ¾).

So, if your GSD has a 57lb (26kg) body weight (a small dog), his RER will be 70(26) ¾, = 806 calories per day. Then, from the other factors, a German Shepherd would fit among active, working dogs. This category is assigned a 2-5 value.

So, assuming your German Shepherd has an average activity level, your 57lb GSD’s final daily caloric need is 829*3 = 2,418 calories.

But if you don’t have a mathematical mind like me, here’s a helpful dog calorie calculator to make it easier. Just add your dog’s weight and type/activity:

Dog Calorie Calculator

Now, let’s check how much you’ll need to feed your 57lb (26kg) German Shepherd. We’ll assume you feed your dog with one of my favorite brands, the Royal Canin German Shepherd Adult Dry Dog Food, which has 275kcal in each 8-oz cup.

Note that feeding experts use calories and kilocalories (kcal) interchangeably.

Going by the feeding guidelines on this brand, your 57lb German Shepherd with an average activity level should eat 4+3/8 cups divided into two for the morning and evening portions. That’s about 1203kcal.

If we go by our calculated daily caloric intake for an average activity 57lb German Shepherd, your dog is missing almost half (1,215 kcal) of the required daily caloric intake.

Consider also that in the National Research Council guide on dog nutrition, 57lb falls almost midway between 50lb and 70lb, and the indicated daily caloric intake for these categories is 1,353 kcal and 1,740 kcal, respectively. So, a 57lb GSD would be around 1469 kcal.

We’ll assume again that a vet has established that your 57lb GSD is underweight. So, increasing your dog’s food intake will provide the missing calories and make your dog gain weight. 

You can decide to give the additional food at midday or add it to the morning and evening portions. Just talk to your vet about it before you proceed.

German Shepherds Eating Salmon with kibble

3. Go for High-calorie Dog Food Options

High-calorie dog food options will accomplish the same purpose as increasing your GSD’s food portion to increase daily calorie intake. They have high nutrient and calorie concentrations beyond AAFCO’s minimum recommendations.

For example, one of the highest-calorie dog foods is Miracle Vet 8-in-1 High Calorie Weight Gain Dog Food, which has up to 600 kcal per cup and contains 31% protein. This food is endorsed by vets and is suitable for all life stages.

High-calorie dog food options can achieve the unintended purpose. In other words, they can cause your GSD to put on extra weight. For that reason, you should give them only after consultation with your vet.

4. Give Your German Shepherd Nutritious Treats

We always say you should factor in the amount of treats you give your dog in the daily food requirement. 

However, if your German Shepherd is skinny, you might want to bypass that rule. Talk to your vet about giving additional treats to your GSD between the morning and evening meals to help him gain a few pounds.

You can use homemade recipes for weight gain or simple protein-rich options like chicken meat pieces, steak, or salmon. It could also be something your German Shepherd really loves to eat, say some cooked eggs or a piece of cheese.

Alternatively, you can give high-quality commercial dog treats like the Milk-Bone Original Dog Biscuits. These treats will not only excite your GSD’s taste buds, but they are also protein-rich. Besides, the 12 minerals and vitamins in the ingredients will boost your dog’s nutrition. The treats are great for GSDs at any age.

Nutritious toppings on your dog’s food are also a great option. It could be some tuna, natural yogurt, or organic peanut butter.  

German Shepherd with some Dog Treats.

5. Give your German Shepherd Food Supplements

You should take this method of making your German Shepherd gain weight with a pinch of salt.

Generally, dogs fed with commercial brands do not need additional supplements. That’s because manufacturers must prepare the food with all the nutrients a dog requires.

However, a vet may prescribe a food supplement if:

  • Your GSD has health or genetic causes for poor nutrient absorption.
  • You feed your dog with homemade food.

It does not hurt to repeat that although weight gain supplements for dogs are plentiful on online markets, you should NEVER give them without a vet’s prescription. Supplements can be harmful to your dog if taken unnecessarily.


Why is My German Shepherd so Skinny?

There are several reasons why your German Shepherd might be skinny. These include insufficient calories or a low-quality diet, worms or parasites, cancer, genetics, poor nutrition, and underlying health issues. If you’re concerned about your dog’s weight, you should consult with a veterinarian to determine the underlying cause.

How Much Should I Feed My German Shepherd?

The amount of food a German Shepherd needs depends on several factors, such as age, weight, activity level, and overall health. On average, an adult German Shepherd should eat between 1,300 to 2,100 calories per day. To determine the exact amount of food to feed your German Shepherd, you can use a feeding chart or calorie calculator.

How Long Does it Take for a German Shepherd to Gain Weight?

Generally, it can take several weeks to a few months for a German Shepherd to gain weight in a healthy and sustainable way. It’s important to make dietary changes gradually and monitor your dog’s weight regularly to ensure they are gaining weight at a healthy rate.

Final Thoughts

If you are worried about how to get your German Shepherd to gain weight, it is easy to pump your dog with additional food portions. 

However, unplanned German Shepherd weight gain options can cause more harm than good. So, only opt for vet-approved weight gain strategies. 

The methods in this article are a good place to start, but first, discuss them with your vet to know how to apply them to your dog’s case. 

As a final tip, prioritize the slow and steady weight gain methods. They are better dog weight management options. 

Sharon Waddington
Sharon Waddington is the founder of World of Dogz. With over 30 years of experience working with dogs, this former Police Officer has seen it all. But it’s her trusty German Shepherd, Willow, who steals the show as the inspiration behind this website. As Sharon’s constant companion Willow has played a pivotal role in shaping her passion for dogs. Recently, Sharon has become deeply passionate about the plight of rescue dogs and is an active advocate for dog rescue, striving to make a difference in the lives of dogs in need.

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