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Treating the underweight, high energy pooch.

Updated: Nov 13, 2023

underweight, high energy

A nutritional approach to treating an underweight, high energy working Shepard. The dog eats his food too fast and gulps without chewing. His guardian does not give him any raw meaty bones like chicken necks or frames as he is known to burp and vomit them up after he has eaten them, due to the gulping of air and not chewing properly. He only gets large raw beef bones now. His guardian is worried that he is not getting enough nutrients as his coat is not as soft as normal for the last few months.

The current nutrition Client/Owner concerns

Gulping down food whilst inhaling large amounts of air results in a large mass of food and gas hitting the stomach which is unprepared for the mass, it’s not surprising that the body would respond to this onslaught by expelling the mass. Modifying the diet to avoid this exuberant ingestion often results in nutritional deficiencies as the owner avoids certain foods for example, chicken frames, and replaces them with others, such as large

recreational bones, which are eaten more slowly.

Management of the condition, nutritionally.

Modifications to the way we feed different items can enable even the pro ‘inhaler’ to eat a range of items which form a balanced diet. With those adjustments, deficiencies that have developed, for example the rough coat, can be rectified. Initially feeding smaller amounts more often is recommended, although dogs can do well on one meal a day, providing multiple smaller meals will reduce the hunger between meals and the pressure on the gut to digest large amounts at a time.

A species appropriate diet for a dog comprises 20% muscle meat, 40% meaty bones, 10% Offal and 20% plant matter and 10% supplements. Transitioning a pet to a species appropriate raw diet would normally take around 12 days, however, if the dog is already on a raw meaty bone based diet the transition period would be based around providing balance and the acceptance of additional foods.

A. Meat protein: Expanding on the beef already provided is recommended with a variety of protein sources such as lamb, pork, venison etc to give a balance of nutrients[1]. Mince provides a good medium to slow eating as it can be made ‘sloppy’ with other dietary ingredients, it can also be added to a Kong © or other slow feeder to slow eating. Meat chunks are a good option for outdoor eating with a little ‘hide & seek’ across the lawn.

B. Meaty bones: feeding meaty bones such as chicken frames ensures the appropriate mineral requirements are being met. A meat mallet can be very handy, a few simple pounds on a chicken frame will provide a very soft pliable digestible bone meal, the large soft mess becomes more challenging for them to handle whilst the bones are ‘pre-crushed’ to aid digestion. Smaller items such as chicken necks can also be ‘pounded’ and then blended with the meat or vegetable portion of the diet. Large, soft pork bones can often be sourced with a good quantity of meat on them, these would be too large to swallow and require chewing down making them a good option for the inhaler. As the dog learns to chew his food other options such as lamb shanks could be added to expand the variety[2].

C. Organs: A selection of offal meats such as liver, kidney, brains and green tripe are essential components of any balanced diet; Raw Liver is a good first offal meat packed with valuable B12 whilst raw green tripe is naturally high in enzymes and probiotic bacteria whilst being low in fat making it an ideal dietary choice. If the family has trouble not treating the dog throughout the day, the offal component could be partially provided for in the form of dehydrated raw liver treats. These can be made at home to save cost and ensure quality if the family is willing.

D. Plant matter: Fruits and vegetables provide much needed fibre to the diet together with a whole host of other valuable nutrients. Carrots are a great energy source for those needing to replenish body condition, blending or juicing releases the valuable nutrients for the pet. Dark leafy greens such as spinach are an excellent source of fibre which aid in slowing digestion as well as providing Vitamin C and other much needed antioxidants, enzymes and other nutrients to the diet, as it’s a ‘watery’ food it blends well with carrots which have a much more fibrous texture. Cooked, mashed pumpkin is also a great energy source with the advantage of working well with Kongs © and slow feeder mats.

E. Supplements: With the pet nicely transitioned onto a raw balanced diet other additives may be provided to further support healthy eating habits, enhance the nutrient profile of the diet and address any deficiencies that have built up for the pet.

  1. Bone broth - Can be beneficial as it provides the body with collagen and other essential nutrients to reduce inflammation and support healing of the intestinal barrier, damage of which may be contributing to the weight loss and vomiting[3].

  2. Eggs - are a great liquid option which take time to ‘lap up’ but are gentle on the stomach, they are an excellent source of the highest quality protein available suitable for dogs of all ages containing all of the vitamins, minerals, amino and fatty acids dogs need for good health which makes them an ideal addition to a balanced diet [2].

  3. Natural unsweetened Greek yoghurt - easily smeared over the inside of a bowl or onto a licky mat to give a tasty time consuming treat. It provides highly digestible protein , vitamins, enzymes and other nutrients [2] including lactic acid bacteria such as bifido bacteria, a known probiotic which promotes digestion and bowel health[4].

  4. A good quality, cold pressed flaxseed oil adds valuable omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids to the diet which are often lacking in the pets fed a commercial product. EFA’s are key to maintaining and supporting all aspects of our pets’ health as they are components of cell membranes, supporting the flow of molecules into and out of cells as well as supporting enzyme and membrane receptor function[5]. An appropriate Vitamin E source should also be provided to protect the pet against the oil becoming rancid in their body [2].

  5. Brewer’s yeast, as a rich source of vitamins B-complex, antioxidants and assorted minerals, and is a useful dietary supplement for pets not sensitive to yeast[6].

  6. Kelp, among the many minerals found in kelp there are iodine and selenium, both of which are lacking in New Zealand soils and can be provided in the diet safely, without fear of toxicity, by the inclusion of kelp[2].

With the dog successfully transitioned to a raw balanced diet incorporating a variety of species appropriate foods, it’s useful to ensure a family can maintain the diet long term.

A meat patty ‘recipe’ incorporating the meat, offal, plant matter and supplements whilst providing a family wiht guidance as to interchangeable items to further add variety and cope with seasonal availability is provided. Pets on a raw diet don’t tend to have weight issues, it is important however to consider changing energy requirements as the dogs’ lifestyle changes with the size of meals adjusted appropriate over time whilst maintaining balance.


[1] Syme, B. 2011. Scientific Guide to Natural Nutrition. Southbank, Australia: Vets All Natural Pty Ltd. [2] Billinghurst, I. 1993. Give Your Dog a Bone. Bathurst, New South Wales: Warrigal Publishing. [3] Johnson, J. 2020. What are the benefits of bone broth? Retrieved October 22nd, 2020, from Medical news today web site: [4] West, H. n.d.. Lactose Intolerance 101 - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment. Retrieved October 10th, 2020, from Healthline web site: [5] Patel, A. 2017. Essential Fatty Acids In Veterinary Dermatology: Do They Have A Place? Retrieved May 10th, 2020, from [6] Elfenbein, H. 2017. Brewer's Yeast for Dogs: Understanding the Benefits and Risks. Retrieved October 22nd, 2020, from Pet MD web site:


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