What is Malnourishment in Dogs?

What is Malnourishment in Dogs?


Dogs can become malnourished faster and easier than we’d expect. Attentive care and feeding may not be enough to keep dogsOpens in a new tab. from this plight, as other underlying issues can sap precious nutrients.

Malnourishment begins when your dog is not receiving the number of nutrients and food fuels its body requires.

This can happen as a direct result of a condition or as a symptom of something unrelated to what and how much your dog eats.

In any case, malnourishment can become dangerous for your dog. Fortunately, many cases of malnourishment are treatable and reversible.

Sing of Malnourishment in dogs

If you suspect your dog may be suffering from malnourishment, you’ll want to keep an eye out for these symptoms:

  • Weight Loss

This symptom is arguably one of the most noticeable and common when it comes to malnutrition. It makes sense that a loss in nutrients and fuel would lead to weight loss.

You may notice bones protruding beneath your dog’s skin, commonly rib bones and bones in the spine. Dogs suffering from severe weight loss will have an emaciated look–frail and skinny.

Sudden, unexplainable drops in weight may also signal a gut health issueOpens in a new tab., like a parasite or inflammatory disease.

To check your dogs’ health status or their DNA checks, please visit the Embark vetOpens in a new tab. website for all the help you may needs.

Malnourishment in Dogs
  • Skin Irritation


A lack of nutrients greatly reduces the overall health of your dog’s largest organ, just like it does in humans. In dogs, malnourishment affects much more than just their weight.

If they are improperly nourished, dogs commonly experience irritation to their skin. You may notice skin that’s red, inflamed, and dry in appearance. Your dog may have a higher tendency to scratch and lick, especially if the irritated area becomes itchy.

  • Hair Loss

Poor skin health will in turn affect the health and density of your dog’s fur. You may notice bald patches, likely under their collar or near their rump.

Normally these areas wouldn’t experience such fur loss, but as skin loses health, its other systems suffer in turn. Keep an eye out for excessive shedding, bald patches, and thinning fur.

  • Dandruff


Like humans, dogs also become flaky when their skin dries out. In cases of malnourishment, dry skin and dandruff appear as a result of poor health.

Dogs typically don’t suffer from dandruff-like we do, especially not as often. If you notice white flecks in their fur, it may be time to consider their nutritional health.


Once again in the vein of skin health, your dog’s coat healthOpens in a new tab. will also suffer because of malnourishment. Their glistening coat may rapidly deteriorate into one that is brittle and dull.

And, as previously mentioned, their coat will thin as their hair falls out, giving them a mangy appearance. You may also notice that their coat has lost its softness, a sign that something is lacking in their nutrient balance.

  • Digestive Issues


Malnourished dogs will often experience issues with their gut healthOpens in a new tab.. You’ll likely notice inconsistent bowel movements and excessive flatulence.

Or, on the flip side, your dog may instead experience bouts of diarrhea. In either case, your dog’s discomfort should be noted to begin proper treatment.

  • Stinky Breath

We’ll never be able to get our dog’s oral stench to be completely perfect. A slight odor is common and normal–nothing you would want around your face for too long, but normal.

However, especially pungent smells often indicate something sinister. Your dog may have an infection or other issue with its gut. This means that they are unable to retain and extract valuable nutrients, leading to malnourishment.

  • Lethargy

As weight drops and nutrients fade, your dog will become tired and lethargic. They will be less excited about going outside, playing, and even eating.

They may not want to do it at all. This symptom can be a concerning one, especially if your dog is usually active and playful. As such, you’ll likely notice this symptom early on, making it easier and faster to treat their condition.

 Sing of Malnourishment in dogs

Causes Of Malnourishment In Dogs

The causes of malnourishment vary in their source and treatability. In most cases, poor diet and food quality are the leading factors in your dog’s malnourishment.

For others, an underlying health issueOpens in a new tab. or parasite may be present. In these cases, getting help from a veterinarian is highly recommended.

  • Not Enough Food


Understandably, underfeeding your dog will lead to weight loss and malnourishment. Check with a vet or use the suggested portion sizes on the back of dog food bags to ensure you are feeding your dog as much as they require.

Underfeeding almost always occurs without harmful intent, usually a product of bad advice or low knowledge of your dog’s breed. You’ll want to be especially diligent in adjusting food amounts as your dog grows.

  • Unhealthy Diet


Many cheap brands of dog food don’t offer enough nutrients to keep your dog healthy. Even some of the more expensive brands fall into this poor-quality category.

If you’re unsure about what’s actually in the kibbles your dog eats, check the ingredient list on the back. You’ll want to look for ingredients you recognize.

Food full of strange chemicals and grain generally will not provide a healthy variety of vital nutrients. Too much human food may also be the culprit of malnourishment, especially if your dog gets fatty or high-carb scraps.

  • Parasites


Parasitic organisms may be sapping many of the nutrients and food fuels your dog needs to stay healthy. Though we don’t often know exactly how or where our pets picked up a parasite, treating them generally follows the same path.

Dogs with parasites will often show signs of poor gut health, like vomiting, diarrhea, and difficult poops. If you suspect parasitic activity, check your dog’s excrements and monitor their gut and activity habits.

Causes Of Malnourishment In Dogs

Preexisting Health Conditions


Conditions like autoimmune diseases Opens in a new tab.have a powerful effect on a dog’s digestive system. These underlying conditions are often the perpetrators in malnourishment cases with no obvious cause.

Researching the potential risks your particular dog has regarding autoimmune diseases and other similar conditions will educate you on their risks and the signs of these conditions.

Underlying health conditions usually present themselves with other unique symptoms beyond malnourishment. Having an idea of what these might be will help you determine a cause and move on to treatment.


Treating Malnourishment In Dogs


So, how to fatten up a malnourished dog? The answer isn’t always simple. Treatment depends largely on the cause of their symptoms, which will vary on an individual basis.

In most cases, you’ll need to up their food intake and swap out your dog’s current diet for one that is nutrient-dense.

This change takes place over the course of a couple of weeks, and you’ll likely see improvements in a short amount of time. Here are all of the steps you can take:

  • Diet Change


As previously mentioned, far too many dog food brands aren’t designed to have much nutritional value. There may be too many empty carbohydrates, as in food that is grain-dense.

You’ll want to find a dog food that is rich in nutrients and protein, i.e., something similar to a dog’s natural carnivorous diet.

Check the ingredients of dog food with this in mind–ideally, you’ll be able to recognize and pronounce a majority of the ingredients.

  • More Food

Like you’d expect, underfed dogs will fare much better once they are fed more. This is especially true for rescue dogs and shelter dogs, who may have spent a majority of their life without proper nutrition.

Beginning a nourishing food plan right away will reap results quickly. Your dog will notice the changes even faster, and they’ll love it.

  • Deworming, Parasite Medications

If your dog is being plagued by parasites, you’ll need the help of a professional. Though some forms of parasite medications are available for purchase, it’s still recommended to get a veterinarian’s opinion and treatment plan.

We don’t often know the exact type of parasite living in our pets, making willy-nilly treatment inadvisable and potentially dangerous. Thankfully for our pets, a plethora of effective parasite treatments are available to remedy the condition quickly.

It’s also advisable to make deworming and antiparasite efforts regularly like you would keep ticks and fleas from feasting on your dog. Your veterinarian will be able to recommend products that will keep your dog safe from common parasites.

Treating Malnourishment In Dogs
  • Nutrient And Vitamin Supplements


Dogs also benefit from supplemental pills and mix to correct nutritional deficiencies and even add weight. While this form of treatment isn’t recommended for the long term, dogs who are experiencing moderate to severe cases of malnourishment will benefit beautifully from this noninvasive treatment.

Special foods and pills are used to help dogs put on weight, often much faster than regular feeding would allow. In cases of a nutrient deficit, you can look for supplements targeting a particular nutrient, like iron or protein.

  • Take A Trip to The Vet


The ultimate piece of advice for owners with sick dogs is to bring them to their vet. No amount of love or attention can substitute for the training and knowledge veterinarians have, though we may try.

Your vet will best determine what your dog needs to get back to its healthiest self in the least amount of time, something you may not be able to do on your own.

Recent Posts