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Q&A: Help! My dog is losing weight

Expert advice from Baileys’ nutritionist on feeding an underweight Golden Retriever

Q: My Golden Retriever is four- years-old and very active and friendly. I have beenfeeding complete dry food for the past couple of years and he looks very well on this.

However, in the past couple of months I have noticed that he has dropped quite a bit of weight.

I had him checked out by the vet who could find nothing wrong with him, but I am still concerned. I also add some natural yoghurt to his feed on a daily basis do you have any advice for us?

Nutritionist Liz Bulbrook: There could be a number of reasons as to why your dog has started loosing weight, many of which I am sure you have already considered.

Physiological changes, changes in feeding management, trauma & stress, diseases and theriatrogenic causes (medication, supplements, drug use etc) can all be underlying causes of weight loss.

Make sure that your dog is regularly wormed as parasites can easily compromise gut function and how well even the most premium of diets can be utilised by your dog.

Adding yoghurt can aid general gut health but will not be that significant in terms of nutritional contribution.

You do not say in your dog lives inside or out in a kennel. If outside then despite having the shelter of a warm kennel the drop in winter temperatures, increased exposure to cold and wind canall lead to increased energy requirements for maintenance.

Similarly as you mention that your dog is very lively, have you perhaps gradually increased the length or types of walks you have been going on so that the dog is expending more calories in exercise?

With gradual changes in routine then we tend not to notice that the energy utilised by the dog is changing. In these cases a simple increase in the quantity of the complete food can be offered if your dog has the appetite for more.

You do not mention what ingredients or nutritional value your present dog food contains, but you could consider changing to a more energy dense dog food that provides higher protein and fat levels and is very digestible containing premium quality ingredients that your dog can utilise.

Moving from a 20% protein, 10% fat type of product to a 26-28% protein 15-18% fat (i.e. Buckeye Professional Kennel Formula) would allow you to increase the energy density of the diet without having to increase the quantity fed per day.

Check that if you have changed brands over the last few months you are feeding the manufacturer’s recommendations as although both products are dry dog foods they may have differing energy levels per kg.

If despite considering all the obvious and less obvious reasons for the weight loss and making adjustments with the diet, you find your Golden Retriever is still giving you cause for concern with his weight then seek further veterinary advice.

Your vet will probably then perform more extensive tests to establish if your dog could be suffering from any underlying diseases whose symptoms include weight loss (endocrine disorders, liver, heart, pancreas problems, malabsorption, parasites, etc.)

As your dog is so alert and looking well I am sure this is unlikely however I am sure you would agree it is better to investigate all avenues.

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