There’s lots of info out there about helping heavy dogs lose weight — but what about those that are too thin? Some dogs, especially rescues and strays, are significantly underweight. Here are three nutritional strategies for helping a thin pup put on some pounds.
Depending on their backgrounds, a large percentage of rescue dogs are too thin if not downright skinny. Many have been neglected and starved, while others start out as strays, scavenging for food wherever they can find it. These dogs often need help putting on the pounds and regaining their health and vitality. If you’ve adopted a rescue who’s too thin, the strategies in this article will help you get him back to a normal weight.
A malnourished dog will exhibit a lack of energy. In many cases, the ribs are protruding, his coat is dull, and he’ll have digestive and skin issues. He’ll also be very susceptible to infections and other diseases. He may even have reached a stage where his body is unable to absorb the nutrients he needs.
Start by making sure you’re feeding your rescue dog a complete high quality diet, and increase his caloric intake on a gradual basis. Offer him meals three or four times a day, with no more than six hours between them. The following three nutritional strategies will further help your thin friend back to optimal health.
1. Feed him goat’s milk products
Goat’s milk products are a very healthy choice because they have some unique properties. They’re particularly good for any digestive problem. Raw goat’s milk has been referred to as the “universal milk” because it is very easy for all other mammals to digest. It contains enzymes that aid digestion, and has tremendous immune-boosting properties.
Goat’s milk is an excellent option in cases of malnutrition. This is because it contains compounds called oligosaccharides, which help reduce intestinal inflammation. Goat’s milk also has special “prebiotic” carbohydrates that nourish beneficial gut bacteria. By acting as food for the good bacteria, prebiotics rapidly improve intestinal conditions. Fermented goat’s milk provides even greater nutritional value because the fermentation process adds more prebiotics to the mix.
Offering a complete nutritional package, goat’s milk contains vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, trace elements, enzymes and protein. It actually acts as a metabolic agent because it boosts the absorption and utilization of minerals such as iron, magnesium, calcium and phosphorus; supplies vitamins A and D; and is rich in both triglycerides and fatty acids.
Hint: Start with goat’s milk yogurt of kefir, as these fermented products will be easier on your dog’s gut.
2. Add grass-fed yellow butter to his diet
Certain fats will add calories, are very healthy, and will not upset the GI system. A favorite of mine is pasteurized yellow butter. I only recommend what is called “pastured butter”, “grass-fed” or “yellow” butter because it comes from grass-fed cows. First of all, dogs love it, and grass-fed or “yellow” butter is super-duper healthy. It has a totally different effect than the pale anemic butter we more commonly purchase.
This butter is rich in the most easily absorbable form of vitamin A, as well as vitamins E, D and K. Yellow butter is also a rich source of cancer-preventing selenium, along with iodine, zinc, copper, manganese and chromium. It contains lauric acid (also found in coconut and mother’s milk), which protects against yeast and fungal infections. Additionally, yellow butter contains a compound called Activator X, which helps the body absorb minerals, and that means it’s great for dental health. Grass-fed butter is good for thyroid, gut and bone health as well. Butyric acid, a short chain saturated fat found in this butter, appears to have very promising results on general inflammation, cancer and digestive issues. Kerry Gold Butter from Ireland is a yellow butter that comes from grass-fed cows. Just compare its color to any generic brand.
Hint: Yellow butter mixed with cooked sweet potato makes a great recipe for GI health – ½ stick of butter to one medium/large sweet potato is fine. Sweet potatoes are very rich in antioxidants, have anti-inflammatory properties, and soothe the digestive tract. Add in some scrambled eggs and you have a gut-healthy high-calorie meal for your thin pup.
3. Give him a vitamin/mineral supplement
A palatable, balanced, full-spectrum vitamin/mineral/superfood supplement will provide your dog with all the tools his body needs to restructure and regenerate. Because some very important vitamins tend to oxidize and degrade upon exposure to air, it’s vital that you buy the right products. One example is Canine Everyday Essentials by Deserving Pets; all the ingredients are microencapsulated to prevent spoilage and the mix is flavored with all-natural liver for picky dogs.
Hint: What’s happening on the inside is reflected on the outside. A balanced full-spectrum vitamin and mineral supplement should result in visible coat health changes within a week. Be sure to follow label directions.
Have him checked for intestinal parasites
Intestinal parasites are all too common. In fact, it’s pretty safe to assume that stray dogs have worms. Yet the fecal flotation test results in false negative results 70% of the time. In other words, when this test is used, you’re very likely to walk away with the impression that your dog doesn’t have worms when he really does. False negative results are even more common in dogs with diarrhea, as it dilutes the number of eggs in the stool. Additionally, whipworm eggs rarely show up in fecal flotation as they shed comparatively fewer eggs. (If the last portion of the stool is routinely covered with mucus, this may be a sign of whipworms.)
DNA technology tests, although more expensive than fecal flotation, will tell you with assurance whether or not worms are present.
Conventional medications are the best bet for getting rid of parasites effectively. However, you need to get your rescue dog on a firm footing before administering these drugs. Fenbendazole wormer is available over the counter (no need for a veterinary prescription) at many online pharmacies. It’s commonly dispensed as Panacur and there are many other brands as well. Small packets, dosed by weight, are given in the food.
Unfortunately, this wormer does not kill tapeworms, which are transmitted by fleas. As strays are often covered in fleas, the likelihood of tapeworm is something to take into consideration. Importantly, tapeworms do not lay eggs, so they won’t show up in that routine fecal flotation test. Tapeworms segment into little rice-sized pieces. Sometimes you see them, sometimes you don’t. Most of the time, you don’t. Therefore, you’ll have to use a different product, such as Drontal, if you suspect tapeworms.
Begin with a Fenbendazole wormer for three days. This often generally helps with diarrhea as well. You can also use Drontal, which kills all worms, including tapeworms. However, I find this product can cause GI upset, and prefer using Fenbendazole first, and treating later for potential tapeworms with Drontal.
Rescue dogs need a lot of extra TLC at the start of their new lives, especially if they’re thin and malnourished. Understanding how to put some weight on your new friend will help ensure you end up with a healthy, energetic – and happy — companion.