Puppies are not that different from humans. Sometimes, especially when they are babies, it can be difficult to get them to eat. We’ve all watched one of our own children or a friend or relative’s child refuse to eat the food placed in front of them, usually for no discernable reason at all.
If you are raising a German shepherd puppy, you may encounter this same exact problem. Unlike with human children, however, you can’t just ask your puppy what they would like to eat instead.
If your German shepherd puppy is not gaining weight properly, she may start to have other health problems. Though she may catch up to her goal weight eventually, in these early stages, when nutrition is especially important, not meeting her weight goals could leave her lagging behind in other developmental milestones. If you start to notice that your puppy is underweight, there are a few things that you can do to make sure she starts gaining the weight she needs:
What to Do First
The first thing to do is to take your puppy to the vet. Your vet will likely be able to tell you why she is not eating or is not gaining weight, if the issues is a physical one. Sometimes, for example, she might have an infection, which is making it impossible to gain weight. Once the infection is treated, she will start to put on weight and return to normal. Your vet also may be able to give you some tips about how and what to feed your GSD in order to get her to gain weight.
Other signs you should be looking for would be a ragged or unhealthy coat, and dull, vapid eyes. German shepherds should have healthy, sleek coats (depending on what kind of shepherd you choose), and bright, clear eyes. These other symptoms could be an indication that your puppy is not just being picky, but actually has another issue that needs to be addressed.
The most important thing to remember is that you should not panic. German shepherds are naturally lanky dogs. You should only start to be concerned if you can see their ribs and hips through their skin. If you can just feel their ribs and hips, your dog is actually probably at a good weight.
What to Feed Your German Shepherd Puppy to Gain Weight
Your goal should not just be to get your puppy to put on pounds. You want her to be putting on muscle, with a little bit of fat. You still want her to be a thin, healthy dog. Just trying to get her to eat as many calories as possible could actually cause her to gain fat, which could cause health problems not just when she is older, but as she grows up. Do not just pick the brand with the highest calorie count. While the extra fat and fillers in the dog food may encourage a picky dog to eat, they will not actually do anything for her nutritionally, and that should be your most major concern.
If you feed your puppy kibble, look for kibble formulated specifically for German shepherd puppies. It will be easier on sensitive stomachs. Sometimes, you may find your puppy reluctant to eat because she is eating food that makes her feel sick. While trying to encourage her to eat, a high fat, high protein kibble is a good option. She will have the nutrition she needs to put on muscle and to build up her energy and protective fat layer. While she is trying to gain weight, it will be just as important for her to have fat as it is for her to have protein.
Once your puppy is at her ideal weight, switch over to a premium kibble. German shepherds, perhaps more than any other breed and certainly more than smaller breeds, are in need of a lot of protein. They are large, muscle-y dogs that will need a lot of protein in order to fuel themselves. They can eat a decent amount of fat, without storing it as fat on their bodies, but keep in mind that protein calories are the most ideal for this breed—far better than carbohydrate calories.
Premium kibble brands that are formulated specifically for the German shepherd breed are going to be your best bet when it comes to getting your puppy to gain weight. Once she is at the right weight, switch to a protein-based kibble or food to help her maintain that weight. If she simply will not eat or seems disinterested in food, be sure to take her to your vet to make sure she is not ill or does not have some other medical issue that is preventing her from eating.