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How to fatten up senior dog who is a "hard keeper" (UPDATE: Vet says dog is healthy)

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  • How to fatten up senior dog who is a "hard keeper" (UPDATE: Vet says dog is healthy)

    I have a 10 year old German Shepard dog. She has always been an incredibly high energy dog, and until a few years ago she was as thin as a greyhound, no matter how much I fed her. The last few years she has finally started to hold her weight and has been 85 pounds for several years (up from about 65 pounds). I have 4 other large dogs, including a 15 year old golden retriever/sheltie mix, that are all always a good weight. I free feed a good quality dry food, and they all eat when the mood strikes. This has worked well to this point, and they have not gotten overweight.

    4 months ago I purchased my 6 acre farm and returned to my rural roots. This is the German Shepard's first time living on a farm. The GSD is bright eyed, active and happy. She has also discovered the joys of eating HORSE MANURE, as have the other dogs. They are obsessed, although it has slacked off some. The GSD loves horse poop, but she is still eating her regular food well. I was petting her tonight, and I was shocked to discover that she has quickly lost a considerable amount of weight under her winter coat (the other dogs are still in good weight). She is snuggled next to me on the couch as I type, so she is NOT outside burning calories to keep warm. She is still bright eyed and active, but THIN. I've been obsessing about getting a little extra weight on the horses for this upcoming cold winter, and I can't believe I didn't notice the GSD was losing weight!

    I will schedule an appointment with the vet, but in the meantime, can anyone recommend a food or food supplement to start packing some calories back on this senior girl?
    Last edited by ToiRider; Feb. 6, 2010, 12:57 PM. Reason: Update title

  • #2
    Add oil to her food.


    • #3
      Originally posted by fourmares View Post
      Add oil to her food.
      This. My dogs seem to find fresh wild salmon oil quite tasty. (I probably wouldn't use that as the only source of fat, but a little salmon oil or a bit of bacon fat or beef drippings added to whatever else you're using will probably make it more appealing.)


      • #4
        Google for the various recipes for "Satin Balls".


        • #5
          Wait till your appointment with the vet. If there is nothing metabolically wrong then I would advise NOT trying to put a lot of weight on her. At 10 her joints will need all the help they can get to keep going, and the less weight on them the better. It's hard for us to judge our own dgos weight because as a society we are trained to see overweight pets as the norm and therefore our brain proceses it as being the appropiate thing. You're description to me doesn't sound alarmingly underweight, and if she was thin as a greyhound and healthy before and you have to pet her to feel the weight loss she's probably not as underweight as your brain is telling you she is.

          I would reccoemnd talking to your vet about a round of Panacur for deworming since they're outside hoovering up horse droppings and who knows what else along with it. And just like with the horses, it's really only beneficial to do all the dogs at the same time, or they are likely to keep spreading things around.

          Vet Tech
          You can't fix stupid.... but you can breed it!


          • #6
            Could be her teeth. If you only feed dry food and she's seeking out soft manure balls, it could be her teeth hurt. Feed her wet food or wet her dry food. Older dogs and older horses are put on this earth to make us crazy. Good luck.
            R.I.P. my sweet boy Tristan
            36 years old, but I was hoping you'd live forever


            • Original Poster

              Thanks to everyone for their replies! I think it is all good advice. I really freaked last night when I realized how much weight my GSD has lost. However, I have had the night to think about it, and it makes sense for this particular dog. She never carried any extra weight until the last couple of years, when she started to slow down. Now that she is out on the farm, her activity level has picked back up again. She is eating well (both dog food and horse poop), so it is not that she is off of her feed. I am sure that Horsegal984 is right, and that she has picked up a load of worms with the manure she is eating. All 4 dogs plus another dog I house sit sometimes have been eating fresh horse poop almost non-stop since I moved in. It was so bad for a while that they would bumrush the horses when I opened the stall door, and about knock the horse out of the way. I have two very patient horses, thank goodness!

              I am a teacher, so I have time off for Christmas. I will take all the dogs in to the vet and get fecal checks. Some are due for their shots too, and I need to get their licenses switched to this new county also. I will keep an eye on the GSD and take her in sooner if she continues to lose. Horsegal984 is probably right that she is probably a good weight for a senior dog (and my other dogs are probably overweight a little). I will also have her teeth checked - good idea.

              I will keep the recommendations about oil and Satin Balls (LOL!) in mind. I did google Satin Balls, and I am sure my dog would LOVE them. I have to be careful about what kind of oil/fat I give her though, as bacon grease and explosively loose bowels go hand in hand with her (you don't want to know how I know this ).

              Thanks everyone. Now, does anyone know when this horse poop eating obsession will wane? Its been 4 months. When I can't find my 15 year old golden mix, I just go look behind the barn and find her in the manure pile. Last night, at 10:30 at night in 20 degree weather, I couldn't find her when I was coming in. She was in the manure pile, oblivious to the cold, having dessert .... Guess what her breath always smells like!!


              • #8
                Originally posted by ToiRider View Post
                Thanks everyone. Now, does anyone know when this horse poop eating obsession will wane? Its been 4 months. When I can't find my 15 year old golden mix, I just go look behind the barn and find her in the manure pile. Last night, at 10:30 at night in 20 degree weather, I couldn't find her when I was coming in. She was in the manure pile, oblivious to the cold, having dessert .... Guess what her breath always smells like!!
                Unfortunately, i havent found a cure. Do please be careful not to let them dine for at least 3 days after giving dewormer to your horses... just as a precaution.

                The only way i know of to keep them from eating manure when you arent looking are basket (track) muzzles.
                chaque pas est fait ensemble


                • #9
                  Can you feed Forbid to horses?

                  ETA: Found this. Not sure I'd trust a random pet store though, I'd check with your vet just to be sure it should be safe for your horses!



                  • #10
                    There are probiotics for dogs. It could well be that the eating poop means all of them are trying to replenish intestinal flora. If you are not already feeding plain unsweetened yogurt to them, start. For the GSD, try something like Missing Link or Missing Link Plus and/or Ration Plus (dog formula) to see if that helps.
                    RIP Sasha, best dog ever, pictured shortly before she died, Death either by euthanasia or natural causes is only the end of the animal inhabiting its body; I believe the spirit lives on.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by My2cents View Post
                      Older dogs and older horses are put on this earth to make us crazy.
                      Amen to that. The weight fluctuations, the sudden and mysterious appearance of Highly Suspicious Bumps, the energy swings from WHEEEE to Tired Old-Timer... My nerves, man.

                      To OP - good luck with the manure habit. My dog just this year discovered deer droppings, and she now appears to think our nature hikes are treasure hunts...


                      • #12
                        If her activity level warrants it - I have my senior dog on Natural Balance A.M.P. It is high fat and high protein - formatted for service dogs/police dogs/etc. I like it because the main ingredient is MEAT - not meal, corn, etc. It is the only way I can keep good weight on him. Of course, some worry about high protein with kidney function. This is a valid concern, but my guy has been healthy so far (knock on wood) and I have blood worked pulled once or twice a year to make sure we're still on track.


                        • #13
                          The older dog at our barn steals your lunch the minute you turn your back. That seems to work for him.
                          The best views are not always the invisable views.


                          • Original Poster


                            Thank you to everyone who gave me advice on this thread. I realized I didn't update it after I took my GSD to the vet. The vet says she looks great for a 10 year old dog, and thought her weight was perfect (current weight is 79 pounds). She has lost 9 pounds since her high of 88 pounds last year, but the vet said she was chunky before (I thought she looked good then). I really questioned the vet, as I found it hard to believe that being able to feel her bones so easily was a good thing. However, the GSD got a good health report and was NOT loaded with worms. The increased activity on the farm has just made her return to her naturally thin body type. Also, the vet wasn't concerned about the horse manure eating.

                            Thank you again.


                            • #15
                              Great update!

                              Yes, many owners seem to feel like fat is better...and by fat I mean--not being able to feel ribs. But actually if you look at the BCS stuff for dogs, we WANT to feel their ribs easily, see an hour glass waist if you will, etc.

                              It's so much healthier for them to be at a good weight.

                              Glad to hear your 10YO is doing so well!
                              A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

                              Might be a reason, never an excuse...


                              • #16
                                What kind of food are you feeding now?

                                A good quality food will often help dogs gain weight. I have a GSD/Boxer mix that had always been thin in spite of trying to get her weight up. I switched from Purina One to Taste of the Wild High Prairie formula, and she gained weight and also no longer itches like crazy. It is grain free/filler free and has alternative protein sources.


                                • #17
                                  true, most people think a healthy weight dog is too skinny; but sudden weight loss in a older dog always raises the spectre of a serious disease, perhaps a hidden tumor or metabolic disorder. What did the vet do? just look at the dog?

                                  You say you "free feed". Which means you don't know how much food this dog usually consumes. And it means you do NOT know how much food the dog has been eating lately, and it means you can't increase the amount of food she gets. And it means you can't easily give this dog a different diet if she needs one. And from what you say all of your other dogs are probably overweight but you have no means to change that because you free-feed. I don't understand why anyone would even consider free-feeding. The disadvantages are so many and I mean, how hard is it to feed a mealtime instead?


                                  • Original Poster


                                    Thank you for your concern regarding my dog. I took my dog to the vet in order to rule out metabolic and hidden tumor issues. I have past experience with just those types of things, so I was concerned and took my dog to my vet.

                                    I had a German Shepard die at 7 years old from a malignant tumor on her spleen. When she began having symptoms we took her to the vet, where the tumor was discovered. She was operated on and the tumor was removed. However, her spleen ruptured in the operation and the type of cancer she had was a death sentence. We managed her until it was time to let her go. That was 10 years ago and I miss her terribly still.

                                    I also adopted and cared for an elderly Golden Retriever rescue dog (dog spent her life as a breeding bitch in a puppy mill before coming to me) who had undiagnosed Cushings Disease WHEN I adopted her. I took the Golden to the same vet who I took this GSD to because I thought she had Cushings disease, based on symptoms and body remodeling. She did, and the vet and I treated the Golden and gave her a wonderful life for two years, before she had to be PTS. This treatment included rounds of chemotherapy. I brought that Golden out of her shell, where she was terrified of people, into a happy and manageably healthy dog for her remaining years. That was 7 years ago, and I miss her terribly.

                                    I have a 15 year old sheltie golden cross that I have had since she was abandoned as a 6 week old puppy. This dog RUNS across the yard. My vet is AMAZED by her. She is not overweight, or if she is she is SLIGHTLY pudgy - not fat. I have a 7 year old Siberian Husky/GSD mix who has that hourglass figure and I can feel her and the 15 year olds ribs. What I CANNOT DO with the 15 year old and the Husky mix is feel EVERY KNOB IN THEIR BACKBONE, LIKE I CAN WITH THE 10 YEAR OLD GSD. IF MY HORSES FELT LIKE MY DOG DOES, YOU WOULD CALL THE HUMANE SOCIETY. Yet my Vet tells me that is healthy for this dog. This is just a sampling of the many healthy, happy dogs I have had in my life, ALL of which I have kept and treated well until they passed away from natural causes.

                                    I have ONE FAT dog. He in a chocolate lab that was ABANDONED by the people I bought my farm from. I have him on a healthy food, but I am not going to try to cut calories for him until winter is over, since he lives in my barn.

                                    Yes, I free feed. Does that mean that I do not keep track of my dog's eating habits or that my dogs are not healthy? No! MY GSD eats way more than the other two house dogs put together, AND SHE ALWAYS HAS. She had finally put on weight so that you could not count every bump in her spine the last few years. I could still feel ribs, and she still had that hour glass shape. She is a very long and big dog.

                                    But, thank you for your concern and your non- accusatory tone. I would hazard a guess that I have just as much or more experience with dogs and taking caring of the medical concerns of dogs as you. I got nervous one night because the new farm had taken such a large amount of my attention for a few months, and it took me by surprise that my GSD had gotten to the thin stage she had been at for the first 7 or so years of her life. She was and is bright, alert, happy, playing, running, eating like a pig, nice pink gums, not dehydrated, but just thinner. My vet, who I have great confidence in, checked her out and ran tests and declared her healthy.

                                    Oh, I free feed my horses hay too. Is that a problem?


                                    • Original Poster

                                      Originally posted by jetsmom View Post
                                      What kind of food are you feeding now?

                                      A good quality food will often help dogs gain weight. I have a GSD/Boxer mix that had always been thin in spite of trying to get her weight up. I switched from Purina One to Taste of the Wild High Prairie formula, and she gained weight and also no longer itches like crazy. It is grain free/filler free and has alternative protein sources.

                                      I feed Professional dog food. It has been recommended to me by many people. It is not extremely high end, but it is a good quality food and the dogs have done very well on it. I have just discovered Taste of the Wild food, and I have my cats on it. I am interested to hear about the reduction in itchiness, as one of my dogs tends to be a little itchy at times. I will check out that dog food. Thanks for the recommendation.


                                      • Original Poster

                                        Originally posted by BuddyRoo View Post
                                        Glad to hear your 10YO is doing so well!
                                        Thanks BuddyRoo! I was so happy to get the good news for her. Like so many of us here, the welfare of my animals is so important to me.