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Skinny Cocker Spaniels: Why & What To Do (Vet-Approved)

Is your cocker spaniel looking skinnier than they should do? Weight issues are pretty common in this breed, with owners having a range of concerns.

The good news is that there are a handful of logical reasons and fairly simple solutions to try. So let’s get into it.

This article explains:
– How much cocker spaniels should weigh
– The reasons why your spaniel might be skinny
– Healthy ways to increase your spaniel’s weight.
– When it might be time to see a veterinarian.

skinny cocker spaniel

Is Your Cocker Spaniel Underweight?

Before you go giving your spaniel unlimited hot dogs, it’s important to ensure they’re actually underweight to begin with. After all, owners might realize after this section that their spaniel isn’t that thin after all. (by the way don’t give your spaniel hot dogs!)

You could have your spaniel examined by your vet. But there are a few ways to assess this at home yourself.

Rib check

You might be able to see the brief outline or shape of your spaniel’s ribs when they run or turn, but their ribs should not protrude obviously when still.

Yes, it is OKAY to slightly feel the ribs when you pat them down. There should feel like there’s a thin layer of fat covering the ribs. They should not feel excessively boney.

Waistline check

It’s okay for your spaniel’s waistline to slightly “tuck in” after the last rib, but it should not look like your spaniel is drastically “sucking in” their waist. It should look like a small and natural dip after the last rib.

Hip check

If your pet your cocker spaniel, you will likely feel the hip bones just about, and that’s okay. You should not however feel the hips to be very boney and without a good layer of fat on them.

Weight check

In addition to those checks it is of course important to analyze their weight.

Weight GuideMalesFemales
English cocker spaniels28-34 lbs26-33 lbs
American cocker spaniels23-30 lbs18-25 lbs

English cocker spaniels both male and females grow to be heavier than their American counterpart, so that’s worth keeping in mind.

6 Reasons Why Your Spaniel Is Underweight

Let’s run through the main reasons behind why your cocker spaniel is underweight.

1. Underfeeding

If your cocker spaniel is too thin, it could be a simply matter of underfeeding and not receiving sufficient calories to reach their optimum weight.

The amount of calories your cocker spaniel needs varies depending on their age, activity level and other factors. If their caloric intake isn’t right, then weight issues will definitely happen in either direction.

2. Excessive exercise

If your cocker spaniel is too active or receiving too much physical exercise, then they may be burning more calories than they’re consuming. This will result in weight loss.

Like above, this also to do with caloric intake. Sometimes, it doesn’t mean anything is wrong if you give your cocker spaniel extra exercise, but their caloric intake must match it.

Our veterinarian explained that some highly active dogs may need 800-1000 extra calories just to maintain their regular weight.

3. Parasites

Parasites are a common cause of unexplained and quick weight loss in dogs. Intestinal worms can contribute to malnutrition and ultimately weight loss.

What happens is the worm gets to the food before your spaniel can properly digest and absorb the nutrients.

If your spaniel is still eating their regular amount of food (if not more) yet they are still losing weight, parasites could be the problem.

4. Poor quality diet

Getting a high quality dog food is sometimes harder than it should be. If your spaniel is consuming a kibble that isn’t as nutritious as it claims to be, they may lack sufficient macronutrients to grow and maintain a healthy weight.

It could be that the kibble is low quality with little nutrition, or it could be that the macronutrient ratios (protein, fat, and carbs) are incorrect.

Spaniels thrive on high protein, medium fat, and low carb kibbles, so it’s worth checking that.

5. Age

If your cocker spaniel is under two, then there’s a chance they haven’t reached their adult weight yet.

Cocker spaniels, especially English cocker spaniels, continue to add on mass until around 2 years old (particularly the males).

So keep this in mind. If your spaniel is looking a little underweight but are still very young, this could be the reason.

Related article: Cocker spaniel growth timeline

6. Underlying health problems

Weight loss in spaniels could be caused by various underlying medical issues. These conditions can impede nutrient absorption or lead to severe metabolic issues, all of which can have a significant impact on the dog’s overall well-being.

Common canine health issues resulting in weight loss include:

  • Intestinal parasites
  • Chronic GI conditions
  • Dental disease
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease

Most health issues are accompanied but further symptoms like vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, appetite changes, and unusual behavior. So if you suspect a health issue, it’s crucial to speak to your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Why It’s Important To Gain Weight Slowly

Before giving some tips on how to help your cocker spaniel gain weight, we must explain the importance of gaining weight slowly.

It’s not as simple as doubling your spaniel’s meals or throwing in an extra 500 calories to bulk them up quickly. If we do this, most weight will be mostly fat gain and ultimately unhealthy weight gain.

Sometimes, adjusting your spaniels exercise levels (if it’s too much) will be enough to help them gain weight, without touching their diet at all.

This also highlights the importance of identifying the cause too.

Our advice is to consult your veterinarian if you’re unsure of anything. But let’s cover some ways you help your spaniel below.

Helping Your Skinny Cocker Spaniel Gain Weight

If your cocker spaniel is too thin, then check out the ways you help them gain some healthy weight. Remember it’s important not to add too many calories too soon, and only try on of these at a time and measure the results over a few weeks.

1. Rule out health problems

First and foremost, you will be doing your cocker spaniel a favor by ruling out health conditions. There’s no use in trying any of the following tips below if their weight loss is in fact caused by a health complication.

In nearly all instances, canine health issues are much better handled and dealt with the sooner they are discovered.

2. High-calorie kibble

If your spaniel’s kibble is not high enough in protein and fat, then it’s likely a low-calorie dog food.

Ensure the dog food you give your spaniel is high in protein, medium to high fat, and low carbs. This will ensure that each cup of food is ideal and contains sufficient nutrition for your spaniel.

3. Adjust activity levels

Only if your spaniel’s activity levels are abnormally high do we suggest lowering them.

If your cocker spaniel receives more than 2-3 hours of dedicated exercise or activity, then it’s best to either lower this, or add an extra half cup of food and wait to see how they respond.

Spaniels are only used to about 45-60 minutes of exercise per day.

4. Add wet dog food

Adding wet canned dog food into their kibble is a great and healthy way to add in extra calories and make the food more palatable.

Wet dog food is rich in protein, fat, and calories and is all-around more nutritious than kibble. In fact, it’s so rich, that it’s not recommended to feed only wet dog food. But mixing in a small amount to their dry kibble is definitely beneficial.

This will also have the added benefit of keeping your spaniel excited for their mealtime, thus solving fussy eating problems or food refusal.

5. Offer more treats

As long as the treats do not disrupt your cocker spaniels main appetite for their kibble, then it’s okay to give a few more throughout the day.

Of course, use these extra treats to your advantage and take this as an opportunity to train your spaniel, and make them work for the treat.

These little nibbles of extra calories might just be enough to help your spaniel gain some weight over the course of a month or two.

Never overdo it with treats and aim to purchase ones with mostly natural ingredients. Avoid fatty treats, and stay away from table scraps (our food is terrible for dogs!).

Last thoughts

If your spaniel is struggling with their weight it’s important to rule out health conditions, identify the cause and try to fix that, before adding in too many extra calories into their diet.

If you are ever unsure on how to help your cocker spaniel in any given situation, please consult your veterinarian as soon as possible. Thank you



Before making any decisions that could affect the health and/or safety of your dog, you should always consult a trained veterinarian in your local area. Even though this content may have been written/reviewed by a trained veterinarian, our advice to you is to always consult your own local veterinarian in person. Please read our full dislcaimer if you have any questions.