If your German Shepherd is gaining too much weight then it’s important to figure out why and how to help them shed those excess pounds. I’ll cover everything you need to know below.
Eating too many table scraps, the wrong type of food, or not receiving enough exercise are the top reasons that cause German Shepherds to become fat or overweight. Other factors include age, genes, or underlying health issues.
Why Your German Shepherd Has Gained Weight & What To Do
Below are the most common reasons as to why your German Shepherd has gained too much weight.
After reading the major causes, there may be one that instantly stands out to you, if this is the case you’ll know where to focus first.
1. Eating Too Many Table Scraps
One of the main culprits is eating human food, tidbits, leftovers, or table scraps… whatever you prefer to call it, these must stop right away.
Human food is full of ingredients that dogs shouldn’t consume, plus it’s loaded with calories. You may be surprised to know that a single pork sausage or burger patty can be upwards of 300 calories.
For us, this may not be too bad, but for your GSD, this is very high considering their total daily calories.
And remember, it may not be you who’s secretly feeding him. Let everyone know (especially the kids!) that the leftovers and tidbits have to stop.
2. Carbohydrates Are Too High (Wrong Food)
The world of dog food is one giant confusing mess with all the brands bombarding you to buy their product. So I’ll try to keep this simple.
Keep Carbohydrates Low
Working breeds like German Shepherds thrive off a diet high in protein and fat. This means you want to use a kibble that’s low in carbs. This type of diet mimics a wild diet and just works incredibly well with their bodies.
Carbs will contribute to an unstable appetite (due to insulin spikes and crashes) and can lead to your GSD begging for more treats and tidbits throughout the day, every day. And whether you realize it or not, extra begging will work in his favor.
Carbs directly contribute to weight gain in other ways but to keep this section simple as I promised, I won’t go into that. Just know that high-carb kibbles should be avoided.
What Kind of Food Is Appropriate?
To give you an example of a kibble that is appropriate, here’s a breakdown of Orijen Premium Dry Six Fish:
- 37% Protein – Considered high
- 40% Fat – Considered high
23% Carbohydrate – Considered Low
Orijen is a premium brand that is quite expensive. Taste of The Wild has similar ratios but is much cheaper in comparison and is still rated as a premium kibble too.
3. Not Receiving Enough Exercise
German Shepherds are very energetic and in their prime need around 1-2 hours of intensive exercise per day.
This one is fairly simple, if your German Shepherd isn’t receiving enough exercise, it means he won’t be burning many calories.
If he’s eating more calories than he’s burning… You guessed it, he’ll end up gaining weight.
Many recent studies show that the majority of dog owners are not aware of how much exercise their own breed needs. Your GSD should be receiving at the very least 1 hour per day. Ideally, 2 hours if he’s in his prime and otherwise fit and healthy.
4. High-Calorie Dog Treats
Dog treats are an important part of any German Shepherd’s life. Especially when it comes to rewarding good behavior and for making training more effective and enjoyable.
However, dog treats are not made equal and some are considerably higher in calories than others.
Some of the jerky dog treats, pig ear chews, and other fatty chew sticks may contain anywhere from 100-250 calories! For dogs, this is a very large increase on top of their normal food. This can easily lead to weight gain over time.
- Opt for dog treats that are small in size and low in calories. Zukes Mini Naturals are less than 3 calories per treat, plus they are healthier than most other mainstream dog treats. That’s pretty awesome!
5. Age-Related Weight Gain
As your German Shepherd gets older, he’ll naturally be less active, and on top of that, his metabolism will slow down.
Unfortunately, this combination makes it easier to gain weight. While there isn’t anything you can do about your GSD getting older, you can try your best to keep him exercising and carefully plan his diet (with your veterinarian).
Doing what you can in his younger years to prolong his joint health and protect his bones, will allow him to remain fairly active throughout his senior years. This in turn will keep him burning calories as he should be even when he’s older.
This is a little less common, but it’s still a possible reason, so it’s being included!
Physical traits pass down to the offspring much more so than behavioral traits.
This means, your GSD will have many similar physical attributes to his parents, from overall size, facial structure, coat, and you guessed it, a lean build or a bulker build.
Bulkier doesn’t mean fatter, but it can give the appearance of a bigger than average German Shepherd.
Like I said earlier, this is the most unlikely reason, but there’s still a possibility.
8. Underlying Health Issues
There can be a range of health issues that contribute to weight gain or even just appearing bigger than normal. Let’s run through each of them.
Bloat or Water Retention ⭐
Bloat or water retention can make your German Shepherd appear much bigger, while it may not always add much weight onto the scales.
Bloat is typically caused by Cushing’s Disease. This disease is responsible for an increased level of cortisol in your German Shepherd. And although cortisol is important in the right amounts, too much often causes issues.
Cushing’s disease is also responsible for the “potbelly” look and this can certainly be mistaken for weight gain.
Signs of Cushing’s Disease include patchy skin, hair loss, poor ability to heal from wounds, and excessive urination.
German Shepherds are prone to developing hypothyroidism. This health condition can directly lead to weight gain.
Hypothyroidism happens when the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough of the thyroid hormone.
The thyroid hormone is responsible for keeping the metabolism working as it should do. When there is a lack of thyroid hormone, the metabolism will slow down and lead to weight gain as a result.
Even if you were to decrease the number of calories your German Shepherd consumes, weight gain would still happen, due to having a very slow metabolism.
The symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
● Weight loss despite without a change to appetite
● Increased thirst and water consumption
● Increased heart rate
● Heart murmur
● Congestive heart failure
● Frequent potty breaks (increased stools)
From From Small Door Vet
As you can imagine, Hypothyroidism is a serious condition that needs to be addressed asap. If you suspect your GSD may have it, please consult your veterinarian as soon as possible.
This is original content produced and published by The Puppy Mag | www.thepuppymag.com
What’s The Correct Weight For a German Shepherd
Let’s take a look at the weight averages for adult German Shepherds.
This will help you determine whether your GSD is really overweight, or is actually close to what’s considered “normal”.
And remember, these are just averages, so if your German Shepherd is outside of the following ranges don’t panic too much.
● Male: 30-40 kilograms or 65-88 pounds
● Female: 22-32 Kilograms or 48-70 pounds
These averages are for adults between 2-7 years.
Puppies usually reach their full height by around 10-12 months but will slowly continue filling out until around 2 years old, especially the males. So keep this in mind.
Why It’s Bad For Your German Shepherd To Be Overweight
In the short term, a few extra pounds will not cause much harm, but if your German Shepherd was to remain overweight for many years, it could seriously impact his health.
So yes, the simple answer is that you should resolve your GSD’s weight issue if he has one.
In the canine world, it’s even healthier to be slightly underweight than it is overweight. And dogs who are leaner, typically live a longer life.
Not to mention, as German Shepherds get older, they are notorious for developing joint problems and arthritis.
Therefore, the less stress his joints and bones have to deal with throughout his adult life will certainly impact his quality of life in his senior years.
When To Visit Your Veterinarian
The only wrong time to visit your veterinarian is too late.
Therefore, when you first realize your GSD is looking a bit overweight, a trip to the veterinarian is the right move.
Unless you have a really good idea of what’s causing it (like him receiving tidbits and human scraps every day) it’s wise to always play it safe and see your veterinarian as soon as you can.
He may be overweight due to something simple like a lack of exercise, or it could be an underlying health issue. In moments like this, your veterinarian becomes extremely helpful, and that’s what they are there for.
If your German Shepherd is overweight, it’s likely due to eating table scraps, eating the wrong type of kibble, not receiving enough exercise, eating treats that are high in calories, his age, genes, or due to an underlying health issue.
Unless you have a really good idea of what’s causing it, it’s recommended to see your veterinarian before making any further changes to his lifestyle or diet.
Be sure to check out more German Shepherd Articles on The Puppy Mag.