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8 Reasons Australian Shepherds Get Too Skinny + 4 Tips

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It’s normal for australian shepherds to be lean, skinny dogs given they have high energy and enjoy an active lifestyle. However, when you notice your aussie getting a little too skinny it can become concerning.

Is it normal for australian shepherds to be so skinny or is something wrong?

Why Is My Australian Shepherd So Skinny:

Australian shepherds become too skinny when they’re having problems with their food intake. This could be that they’re experiencing stress or anxiety and it’s making them not hungry or that their food isn’t agreeing with them. It could also be caused by an underlying health condition.

In this post you’ll discover:

  • 8 reasons why australian shepherds become so skinny
  • In what situations should you have your aussie see a vet
  • 4 tips to help your australian shepherd not be so skinny (Tip #3 can help the most during stressful times!)
  • And much more

Let’s jump right in.

8 Reasons Why Australian Shepherds Get So Skinny

1) Unintentionally Underfed

Sometimes the reason your australian shepherd has become so skinny is a complete accident.

They aren’t unwell or unhealthy; you’ve just accidentally been feeding them less than their body needs.

This happens more when your aussie is super active on a day-to-day basis.

Because of how much activity they’re getting they need more food to refuel and may simply not be getting it.

Outside of the recommendation from your dog’s food you can also do this simple calculation.

Divide their weight by 2.2 (this gives you their weight in kilograms).

Multiply that number by 30.

Then add 70.

For example, if your australian shepherd weighs 46 lbs your calculation would look like this:

46 / 2.2 = 20.91

20.91 x 30 = 627.3

627.3 + 70 = 697.3

This calculation suggests your aussie needs roughly 700 calories each day to maintain their 46 lbs.

However, if they’re getting lots of daily exercise you may have to add more calories to their diet to make up for the extra exercise.

To get a better idea of how much more you should add it’s best to speak with your vet.

[Nothing brings peace of mind quite like speaking with a vet – click here to chat with a vet online now]

2) Recent Diet Change

Another reason your australian shepherd may be getting skinny is because of a recent diet change.

Maybe you’ve just switched to a new dog food and they’re not adjusting well to it.

Or maybe you’ve been slowly changing their diet over time but haven’t given them enough time to adjust.

If this is the case then going back to their old diet or giving them more time to adjust may be the answer.

If you’re changing your aussies diet it’s important to do so gradually.

You’ll want to slowly increase the amount of new food in their bowl and lessen the amount of old food.

For example starting at 10% new food, 90% old food.

Gradually increasing the new food percentage while decreasing the old food percentage.

It should take you 7-10 days to bring them to 100% new food.

If after this time your aussie is still not getting back to their normal weight then you may need to consider another food option.

3) Food Intolerance

Another possibility is that your australian shepherd has a food intolerance or allergy.

This is when your dog’s body can’t properly digest certain ingredients in their food.

The most common allergies are to proteins like beef, chicken, and lamb.

But dogs can also be allergic to grains like corn, wheat, and soy.

If your aussie is allergic to something in their food their body won’t be able to absorb their food’s nutrients properly.

They may also experience digestive issues like diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea.

As well as dry and itchy skin, hot spots, or excessive shedding.

If you think your australian shepherd has a food intolerance then the best thing you can do is speak with your vet.

Related Reading: Are Australian Shepherds High Maintenance? (Explained!)

4) Extreme Sadness

If your australian shepherd has been feeling extremely sad or even depressed recently it could be contributing to why they’re so skinny.

Sadness or depression in dogs can lead to a decrease in appetite which then leads to weight loss.

There are many potential causes of sadness or depression in dogs including the loss of a family member, another pet, or even just a change in routine.

A study done in 2016 found that when a dog loses an animal companion, on average, they eat 35% less food while also eating 31% slower.

If you think your australian shepherd is sad or depressed then there are some things you can do to help.

One is to increase their exposure to positive experiences.

This could include taking them for more walks, playing with them more, bringing them around other dogs more, or even just spending more time petting and talking to them.

You can also try feeding them a food that’s high in antioxidants.

These foods are said to have mood-boosting properties and can help improve your dog’s overall mood.

Some examples of foods high in antioxidants are blueberries and salmon (they should only be fed these in small amounts).

Related Reading: 7 Indicators Your Australian Shepherd Is Depressed + Tips

5) Mouth Pain

If your australian shepherd is in pain when they eat it’s normal for them not to want to eat as much.

This can be caused by a number of dental issues like gingivitis, tooth decay, tooth infection, a chipped tooth, or even just a build-up of plaque and tartar.

Dental problems are actually pretty common in dogs and can lead to a decrease in appetite.

Roughly 90% of all dogs will experience some form of periodontal (gum) disease by the age of 2.

Which is quite a shockingly high percentage.

So if you haven’t been brushing your aussies teeth several times a week or giving them dental treats, they may have a dental issue.

And it’s making eating too uncomfortable for them which is causing them to lose weight.

6) Intestinal Worm Or Parasite

Intestinal worms or parasites are another potential reason why your australian shepherd may be so skinny.

These pesky pests can invade a dog’s body and feed off their food, leading to weight loss.

There are many different types of intestinal worms or parasites that can infect dogs.

The most common ones are roundworms, whipworms, and tapeworms.

If you think your australian shepherd may have a worm or parasite infection, the best thing to do is take them to the vet for a check-up.

Your vet will be able to test your dog’s stool sample and see if there are any parasites present.

7) Big Recent Environment Change

A big recent environment change like a move, new baby, a schedule change, or adopting another pet can also cause your australian shepherd to become anxious.

And anxiety can lead to a decrease in appetite and even weight loss.

Dogs are creatures of habit and they like routines.

So if there’s been a big change to your aussie’s environment it can cause them to feel anxious or stressed.

Which has likely affected their desire to eat and if they’ve been feeling anxious for a few weeks it could be why they’re becoming so skinny.

Related Reading: Australian Shepherd Anxiety: Symptoms, Causes & Solutions

8) Underlying Health Condition

There are a number of underlying health conditions that could be the reason why your australian shepherd is so skinny.

Some examples of these health conditions include cancer, diabetes, liver/kidney/heart disease, Cushing’s disease, and thyroid problems.

If you think it’s possible your australian shepherd may have an underlying health condition, the best thing to do is take them to the vet for a check-up.

4 Tips To Help Keep Your Australian Shepherd From Being Too Skinny

1) Proper Diet & Exercise

Making sure your australian shepherd is on a proper diet and getting enough exercise is important.

It might sound counterintuitive to make sure your pup is getting enough exercise to help them not be too skinny, but hear me out.

Exercise has been proven to help with digestion and will also help create hunger in your pup.

It can also help take their mind off of what’s potentially bothering them while also releasing happy hormones like serotonin and dopamine.

Pair this with ensuring they’re getting enough daily calories from good quality dog food and your aussie is set up for success.

2) Try Another Dog Food

While australian shepherds aren’t prone to stomach problems, it’s possible your pup has a food allergy which is affecting their weight.

If their body isn’t able to properly digest and absorb their food’s nutrients they’ll lose weight.

Which is why it might be worth trying out a new dog food.

Take a look at the ingredients of their current dog food and test out another dog food with different main ingredients.

For example, if their current food’s main source of protein is chicken, try one with beef, pork or fish.

If your aussie does have a food allergy unfortunately the only way to help them is by testing different things and seeing how they react to it.

It can be a long process but it’s what’s needed to help them get back to normal.

3) Structure & Routine

If your australian shepherd has started to become anxious, stressed, or depressed, do your best to give them structure in their new environment.

Dogs thrive on routine and love predictability.

If their environment is constantly changing it can cause them a lot of anxiety which will lead to a decrease in appetite.

So try your best to create a new normal in your aussies new environment and they’ll likely start eating more again.

This may include feeding them at the same time each day, walking them at the same time each day, and/or giving them a set amount of playtime.

By having a routine it’ll help ease their anxiety and make them feel more comfortable which will lead to an increase in appetite.

4) Have a Veterinarian Look At Them

Because your australian shepherd’s weight is a big deal, it’s best to have a vet look at them before trying any of the tips above.

There could be an underlying health condition causing them to lose weight and until that’s identified they won’t be able to put on any weight.

The vet will do a series of tests including blood work, a urinalysis, and x-rays to help figure out what’s going on.

Once they have a diagnosis they can give recommendations to help your pup get back to a healthy weight.

Which may be various treatments or some of the tips we covered above.

[Nothing brings peace of mind quite like speaking with a vet – click here to chat with a vet online now]

Other posts you might find interesting:

8 Best Dog Beds for Australian Shepherds | Beds That Last

Top 8 Reasons Why Australian Shepherds Paw At You + 3 Tips

Top 9 Reasons Australian Shepherds Pant So Much + 4 Tips

9 Real Reasons Australian Shepherds Limp + Helpful Tips


Nutrition – General Feeding Guidelines for Dogs

Canine Food Allergy

Owners’ Perceptions of Their Animal’s Behavioural Response to the Loss of an Animal Companion

Periodontal (Gum) Disease in Dogs

Separation Anxiety