Dobermans are naturally lean with an athletic build, but there’s a fine line between being lean and being skinny.
If your Dobie looks a little on the skinny side, this article will explain the likely reasons and what you can do about it to help them gain some healthy weight.
I’ve handled this problem hundreds of times with owners over the years, so rest assured the following tips will help.
The reasons why your Doberman may be too skinny include overexercise, dietary issues, bad eating habits, or a range of health conditions. If your Doberman has experienced dramatic and sudden weight loss you must seek veterinary help as soon as possible.
Table of Contents
Is My Doberman Too Skinny? How To Tell
Before we start, it’s important to know what is considered skinny and what isn’t, after all, you could be worrying about your Dobie when there’s really no need! So let’s cover that first.
Should you be able to see a Doberman’s ribs?
This is a great place to start. Generally speaking, you should be able to see the faint outline of your Dobie’s ribs, particularly when he walks, turns, and moves.
But they should not be protruding out excessively. If you can clearly see all of his/her ribs with definition, then this would be considered underweight.
Here’s a helpful diagram that explains how to analyze your Dobie’s weight just by looking and feeling.
Check the scales.
A healthy average weight range for an adult male Doberman is 75-100 lbs and for a female, it’s around 60-90lbs. If your Dobie is well under the lower weight ranges then it suggests he’s underweight.
Please keep in mind that these are adult averages. Puppy averages are significantly harder to gauge, as all grow at slightly different rates to each other. I will explain puppy weight further below.
Psst. A quick update on Doberman training! Brain Training For Dogs could be the best training approach we’ve seen for Dobie pups. Results show improvement in obedience and behavior quicker than we thought possible! Check it out.
5 Reasons Why Your Doberman Is Skinny
Let’s run through the common reasons why your Dobie is on the skinny side:
1. Too Much Exercise
2. Dietary Issues
3. Bad Eating Habits
4. Still growing
5. Health Concerns
1. Too Much Exercise
As you probably already know, Dobies require a lot of exercise, preferably around 2 hours per day. Dobermans quite literally need exercise to remain healthy, strong, and well-behaved.
But there is still such a thing as too much exercise. As Dobies have a reputation for needing a lot of exercise, it’s easy to get carried away with it. If you take your Dobie out for very long runs for several miles or go out hiking for the entire day it could actually be too much for him.
Weight comes down to a simple rule, calories in VS calories out. His diet may be spot on, but if he is receiving much more exercise than what’s “normal” for a Dobie, he may just be burning an excessive amount of calories, causing him to lose weight.
2. Dietary Issues
This one covers a wider range of potential issues. Apart from bad eating habits which I will cover in the next section, it could be that the food is not appropriate for your Dobie. Let’s cover the range of issues that could be happening with his diet.
Low-quality food. If his food is lacking in quality, the culprit could be malnourishment. The world of dog food varies immensely ranging from awfully bad, to dog food that even we could eat. Yep, it exists!
The issue with low-quality kibble is that it’s pumped up with crappy ingredients that lack substantial nutrition. Cheap fillers and carbohydrates (which are pretty much useless for dogs) are heavily used in order to “bulk up” the food but keep costs low.
What you end up with is a lot of physical food, but with very little nutrients contained. So your Dobie may be eating a full 2 cups, but the nutrition inside is half of that of a quality kibble. I will cover high-quality kibble further below.
Portion size / Incorrect calories. As I mentioned above, his weight comes down to calories in versus calories out. If your Dobie isn’t eating enough food, or the calories aren’t quite correct, it could lead to weight loss.
Knowing how many calories your Doberman needs per day is not straightforward to calculate. Many different factors like his activity levels to even things like the climate where you live can affect this.
Here’s an average calorie breakdown for working/service dogs (based on a husky)
|Overall Daily Activity Level||Calories Needed To Maintain Weight|
|Normal Resting Level||1000-1200|
|Moderate Activity Level |
(2 hours per day)
|Very Extreme Activity Level |
(several hours intense)
But from this, you can see just how dramatically the calories need to be increased depending on whether he’s receiving his usual amount of exercise, or he’s receiving an extreme amount of exercise.
To figure out his ideal amount of calories, it’s first important to check the food you are using, as 1 cup of food from different brands will have different calories.
You can start by following the guidelines on the packaging and seeing how the calories compare to the above standards. 1400-1800 is correct for most active Dobermans, so that’s where to start.
3. Bad Eating Habits
Having the correct food in the correct amount is one thing, but bad eating habits is another!
“Fussy eater” or “picky eater” is a term thrown around in Dobie forums almost every day. It’s a very real issue that owners face.
I’ve even heard reports of a Doberman deliberately hiding his food just so he didn’t need to eat it. And I’m sure that’s happened more than just once!
If your Dobie is refusing his food, not finishing all of it, or hiding it, then he won’t be receiving the correct amount of calories that his body needs.
What makes a fussy eater?
The No.1 reason why dogs become fussy is due to receiving too many treats or table scraps throughout the day. If he’s receiving a lot of tasty table scraps, it’s going to make his own food seem less appealing, and less essential. He’ll very quickly learn to wait for leftovers and treats.
Secondly, it could be that he’s not totally comfortable or agreeing with his food, which is a completely legitimate reason to refuse it. He may eventually eat it, but his initial hesitancy could be because that particular food isn’t good for him.
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4. Still Growing
We have a lot of concerned doberman puppy owners messaging about their puppy’s weight. The truth is, doberman pups can be fairly skinny, yet normal.
In most cases, it’s nothing to worry about and your Doberman simply hasn’t finished building muscle and adding on mass.
If you’ve analyzed your pups weight and they’re under target for their age, then it’s most likely down to insufficient calories vs how active they are.
The best advice when it comes to puppies is to contact your veterinarian to get tailored advice. (and to receive a health check of the pup)
5. Underlying Health Concerns
There is a wide range of health concerns that can cause dogs to lose weight and become skinny. Sometimes these health concerns go undetected for a long time, and others can develop suddenly and quickly.
● Gastrointestinal disorders
● Chronic renal failure
● Megaesophagus (malabsorption of nutrients)
● Liver disease
● Kidney disease
● Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI)
As you can see, there are many health concerns that could be the cause of weight loss.
Many of these issues will be accompanied by other symptoms aside from weight loss such as fatigue, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and temperament changes.
If you notice your Dobie has additional symptoms, or that weight loss has happened quickly and suddenly, you should contact your local veterinarian for further assistance as soon as possible.
This is another reason why routine check-ups with your veterinarian are invaluable. Seeing your vet 2-3 times per year for routine exams can spot issues before they become big issues. Plus, your vet will be able to consistently check your Dobie against the previous examination and monitor the changes.
Has Your Doberman Suddenly Lost Weight?
Another important question that helps significantly in determining the cause is how long your Dobie has been skinny?
Has your Dobie always been skinny, for as long as you can remember? Or is this a new issue that has happened suddenly and quickly?
Many sudden weight loss situations usually involve a health concern whereas gradual weight loss tends to be related to lifestyle, dietary, or behavioral issues more times than not.
So how long has your Doberman been skinny? And can you relate it to any obvious changes in his lifestyle, activity levels, food changes, or is it completely out of thin air?
The less you can pinpoint a potential cause, the more important it becomes to consult your veterinarian. This leads me to the next point: the importance of ruling out health conditions with your vet.
Ruling Out Health Concerns With Your Veterinarian
Many owners try to refrain from visiting the vets for as long as they can, and I understand why. After all, it’s not necessary to respond to every little issue your Dobie faces with a trip to the vets.
However, with things like weight loss, it becomes very difficult to really know the cause without professional help. And considering that weight loss could be the result of many serious health issues, it’s best to rule them out as soon as you can.
An owner once mentioned something that really resonated with me, and that was “there’s no wrong time to visit a veterinarian, other than too late” and it’s totally true.
- Ruling out health conditions is a precautionary measure that hopefully most of the time results in nothing, but when you catch an issue early, the timing makes ALL the difference.
Helping Your Doberman Gain Weight
Assuming your Dobie is in full health, consider the following tips that all aim to help your Dobie gain weight.
1. Rethink Activity Levels
The first and easiest thing to do is rethink your Doberman’s current activity levels. If he’s sticking to the typical 2 hours per day, great.
But if he’s joining you on extremely long hikes or running for several miles every day, it may be time to cut down on that.
Alternatively, if lowering your Dobermans extreme activity levels isn’t an option, consider how you can increase his portion size to compensate but I would consult with your veterinarian about this first.
2. Stop All Table Scraps
Table scraps and leftovers are not the correct way to go when it comes to weight gain. People-food is nearly always bad for dogs (unless it’s a raw food diet).
In the ideal scenario, your Dobie should only need his own kibble to maintain a healthy, lean, and muscular physic. Adding in table scraps can skew his calories, take away from his own appetite, and are typically not healthy additions anyway.
3. Use High Quality Kibble
Opting for a premium kibble is a must, and typically, this means paying a little more. Premium brands are more expensive because they use better ingredients like whole meats, whole vegetables, less processing, and better overall macronutrient breakdowns.
The quality of the ingredients is just as important as what the ingredients actually are. Overall calories and nutrients in the same 1 cup of dog food can drastically change depending on the quality. Opt for a brand like Orijen, Acana, Merricks, or Taste of The Wild.
4. Protein & Fats Over Carbs
On the topic of food still, it’s incredibly important to ensure your Doberman is consuming a high protein, medium-high fat, and low carbohydrate diet.
This kind of macronutrient breakdown best mimics that of a wild canine diet and facilitates their muscle growth and development as it would in the wild. If the kibble you are using has a high ratio of carbohydrates, it may not be providing your Doberman with sufficient nutrients.
As the National Research Council concluded: “No carbs are considered essential to sustain a healthy canine diet. Dog’s do not need corn, wheat, barley, rice, or potatoes either. Zero carbohydrates are nutritionally required for a dog to sustain life.”
5. Follow The 80% Dry Food 20% Wet Food Split
Often recommended by veterinarians is to follow a split between dry kibble and wet dog food. Specifically, 80% to 20% respectively.
Wet dog food has many added benefits including higher calories, higher protein, and fat content, it contains fewer preservatives, additives, and chemicals plus it’s far more palatable and extremely tasty.
Adding this small amount of wet dog food gives your Dobies kibble quite literally a boost of nutrition and calories. Depending on what kibble you are using, you may be able to find the exact same food, but in the wet form.
6. Add Plain Cooked Meat To His Kibble
Although you must be careful about adding too many calories, your Dobie would likely benefit from a small amount of extra meat in his food. Plain-cooked meat like chicken, or preferably turkey (as turkey is not a common allergen) will add protein and calories.
The protein will help his body rebuild muscle fibers that have been broken from exercise, resulting in muscle growth, and the calories help sustain his normal weight anyway. Try adding a small amount once per day, and monitor his weight over a couple of weeks.
7. Rethink Portion Sizes
You may already be using an awesome kibble, and he may be receiving appropriate exercise, he just needs a slightly bigger portion! Portion sizes are admittedly hard to get right, and it involves a balance of following the guidelines and testing it out for yourself.
As I mentioned earlier the correct range for an active Dobie is around 1400-1800 calories per day. Take a look at how many calories his current portion size offers and raise it up to the upper end of that range nearer to 1800.
Monitor his weight over the course of 2-4 weeks. If he starts gaining weight that’s awesome, but weight gain should be steady and not too fast.
What About Doberman Puppies?
When it comes to your Doberman puppy’s weight, it’s harder to determine whether they are skinny or not.
Puppies, after all, are still growing. Some grow faster than others, and in general, as long as some progress is being made in the right direction he or she usually going to be perfectly okay.
During the puppy stage, your Dobie hasn’t had the time to develop the muscle and overall mass that they will have when they are an adult. Dobermans actually continue to build muscle and overall mass until around 2 years old, and even until 3 years old for some naturally large males.
Here’s an average Doberman Puppy Growth Chart Timeline:
|Age In Months||Male Low – High Range (lbs)||Female Low – High Range (lbs)|
As you can see, growth is fast in the beginning and slows down dramatically as your Dobie ages, but it does usually continue on, slowly and steadily.
Best practices for puppy diet and growth:
● Use a premium kibble formulated for large breed puppies (avoid all life stages)
● Allow your pup maximum time rest and recovery
● Avoid over exercise with a puppy
● Ensure his caloric needs are appropriate as he ages (consult your vet)
● Record his growth every 2-4 weeks and ensure he is making progress
● Visit your veterinarian if growth suddenly halts or dramatically slows
Thank You for reading! I really hope I have answered your questions on this topic and have given you some actionable tips to try today. If I have missed anything you were expecting to see, please let me know. I am always happy to add relevant sections to help future readers!
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