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Help, My GSD won't gain weight.

Posted by animallover

I have an interesting case for any DVM that would like to help me. My story is long so I hope you have a moment to read this. I would appreciate any and all input.

I have a 6 year old GSD I got from the SPCA when he was ~9 months old. He has Pannus and I give him Dexamethasone ophthalmic drops twice a day to help control it. He also has allergies which I am trying to get under control with hyposensitization injections. I had a friend board him for about a year who overfed him so he became overweight. When I got him back I put him on a diet and got him to an ideal weigt. After a while he seemed to be losing weight. I increased his food but all he did was defecate more. I then had blood work done. They did a CBC/Chem and found that his liver enzymes were elevated and his leukocytes were a little low. I put him on milk thistle and repeated his chemistry panel about a month later and found his liver enzymes were normal. I then had an ultrasound done and found nothing. I've switched him to California Natural L&R Puppy formula and he is still not gaining weight. I also did an ACTH Stim test and found nothing (the ultrasound showed that his adrenal glands were on the smaller side but still normal). His appetite is normal, he doesn't vomit and he doesn't have diarrhea. I am completely stumped, I really want to know why my dog can't gain weight. I want to help him I feel like I am failing him.

Thank you for reading this and I appreciate any feedback.

Answers (3)
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Because of my interest in the interaction between the animal's health, behavior, and relationship with the people in his/her household, I'd be thinking about stress in your dog. As I'm sure I don't have to tell you, GSDs are very intelligent animals who don't miss much. If they're involved in relationships in which the owners inadvertently communicate that the dog is responsible for protecting them and all of their belongings and the dog lacks the temperament to handle this--as many do because, after all, we've bred dogs for thousands of years to take their cues from us, not vice versa--the resultant increased production of stress hormones can affect thyroid and adrenal glands, pancreas and digestive track, among other. In the latter case, bouts of stress can speed up the gut so that it doesn't have time to absorb nutrients. Add the pancrateic effect and this could be part of the problem.  Feeding smaller amounts more frequently is an option but would only be treating symptom rather than cause. I'm not sure about the higher protein in a puppy formula for a dog whose had pancreatic problems. I'd discuss this with your vet if you haven't already. 

On the strictly behavioral front, while some stressed dogs (like stressed people) will over-eat, others will eat only the bare minimum so they don't need to deal with excess weight inhibiting their ability to protect themselves and their owners. Another stress hormone, cortisol, undermines the immune response and that can set the dog up for a wide range of medical problems, too, including allergies.

Thank you for responding to my question.

My dog does have seperation anxiety. He's had it since I got him from the SPCA, but has only become thin since about 7 months ago. I was fostering a puppy at the time of the weight loss which could have contributed to it. The puppy has been gone now for about 3 months but he is still not gaining weight, although he has stopped losing.

He doesn't have pancreatic problems, it was actually the vet who suggested putting him on a puppy formula. My dog weighs about 29.5kg and his ideal is about 33-34kg. I feed him about 1500-1750 calories a day (I was feeding him about 2000 a day but it didn't make a difference) split into two meals. He is not a hyper dog he is mostly a couch potato unless I take him to the dog park or a walk. I do have a another dog that he loves to play with. Other then being thin he is his regular old self, he doesn't act sick.

I hope with more information you can give me more insight into what may be going on with my boy.

Thank you again.

The separation anxiety can be an issue but there are so many different forms of that it's impossible to cover them all. The fact that he displays such behaviors with another dog in the house suggests that he may feel a protective responsibility that exceeds his ability to fulfill it. In that case, he may spend so much time on duty in your absense that the resultant stress is undermining his ability to properly digest his food. His couch potato status would then result from the fact that now he can finally get some rest.  I'd definitely skip the dog parks and be very careful re: walks, because both of these activities can be far more stressful than relaxing for some animals and create situations that increase their stress at home. If the dog eliminates during the walk, that can increase the stress potential even more.

If you'd like to set up a consultation to work the bond and behavioral side of this problem in more detail, I'd be happy to arrange it. If so, please contact me at  Or you can find additional information on this interaction at my website,

NOTICE: The information provided on this site is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your physician or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on Wellsphere. If you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.
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