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If you’re having trouble keeping weight on your dog, you’re not alone.

Having 3 very small and very picky dogs, I’m 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 I’m finally at a place where I’m not constantly worried about my dog’s weight. Let’s 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, it’s imperative you make sure there’s 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 there’s nothing medically wrong with your dog, you should consider some other causes that may be affecting your dog’s weight. If you’ve changed your dog’s exercise plan this could have a number of effects. For instance, a decrease in exercise can actually reduce your dog’s appetite. On the contrary, if you’ve increased exercise, your dog’s 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 you’re feeding. Remember that feeding guidelines are suggestions and may not be right for your dog. Don’t 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 dog’s routine can turn their world upside, increasing stress and minimizing their appetite. Keep in mind that just because you can’t pinpoint a change or event, doesn’t mean your dog hasn’t 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

Donna’s 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 I’d offer her.

There was a period of time where her blood sugar would get so low, she’d 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 she’d 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 I’ve 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. It’s 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 doesn’t 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 doesn’t 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! It’s almost impossible to control all of these factors but control what you can.

If there are known triggers for your dog’s 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.

Read more at The Honest Kitchen blog
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