Underweight Great Dane (How Do I Fatten My Dog Up Safely?)

undereight great dane

“Scooby Dooby Doo!” The one dog that always has me glued to the TV screen for hours just enjoying Scooby and his gang solving mysterious cases.

Scooby and me have something in common, which is an appetite that can’t be stopped. Scooby loves to eat and his robust frame shows for it. But there are many Great Dane owners out there who have Great Danes that are not at a healthy weight.

What should you do if you have an underweight Great Dane? Many Great Danes are underweight because their owners tend to underestimate the amount of food that this dog breed needs. This can cause the dog to lose weight quickly given its enormous size. Adequate nutrition needs to be given to a Great Dane to ensure that it has sufficient nourishment, especially as puppies.

In this article, we will be helping Great Dane owners understand the difference between a lean and underweight Great Dane. And what you can do if your dog is underweight.

What Is A Great Dane?

great dane on grass

If you have yet to see a fully grown Great Dane in person, you are missing out on experiencing crossing paths with a gentle giant.

Great Danes aren’t just big dogs, they are categorized as a giant breed which makes the Great Dane one of the sixteen giant dog breeds that are recognized by the American Kennel Club.

It is easy to recognize a Great Dane from its long and floppy jowls. Such dogs tend to drip water everywhere when they drink due to a lot of water being trapped in between the skin.

Great Danes are known as gentle giants for a good reason. Fully grown, a Great Dane can grow as tall as 32 inches and weigh as much as 175 lbs.

That is a lot of dog.

Despite their huge sizes, Great Danes can still be playful dogs that love spending time with their families.

The one downside about owning this dog breed is their short life spans, often 6-8 years. Their sizes put them at risk of certain canine health problems.

How Do I Know If My Great Dane Is Underweight?

Given the size and frame of the Great Dane, it can be rather difficult for some owners to know for sure if their dog is too skinny or at a healthy weight.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a Great Dane that is overweight.

There are a couple of visible signs that you should look out for.

Does Your Great Dane Have A Waist?

Stand on a chair and look at your Great Dane from above. The flanks of your dog should start to gently curve in after the rib cage to form a nice tuck into the hind legs.

If your dog has an exaggerated waistline which makes it look like it is wearing a corset, your dog is too thin. A visible backbone and hip bone are also signs that your Great Dane needs to eat more.

Does Your Great Dane Have Visible Ribs?

When looking at the rib cage of your dog, your should be able to just barely see the last rib bone.

When gently running your fingers over your dog’s rib cage, you should be able to feel a layer of fat and flesh protecting it.

It should not feel like you are playing a harp with your bare hands.

Does Your Great Dane Have A Tummy?

We are not looking for a bulging tummy here but a Great Dane at a healthy weight should have a bit of a tummy dangling down between its rib cage and hip bone.

If your dog has a very sharp tummy tuck, that is also a sign that it needs to gain some weight.

Is It Normal For Great Danes To Look Skinny?

skinny great dane

It is normal for Great Danes to look lean and muscular but not skinny. Your dog’s body composition would also depend on its family history.

But one thing’s for sure, a skinny-looking Great Dane looks like it has been abused by its owners.

You don’t wish for your neighbors to think that you are not feeding your dog right when they see a big emaciated dog in your yard.

Great Danes are lanky dogs so putting on 10 lbs would look very different if your Corgi gained that same amount of weight. There is just a lot of dog to fill out.

It might take your dog about three years to reach full maturity size so you can expect your dog to look on the slim side in its growing years.

How Much Food Does A Great Dane Need?

On average, a dog needs about 25-30 calories worth of food for every pound of body weight each day.

Most Great Dane owners will feed their fully grown dogs about 2500-3000 Kcals of food daily.

This number may vary depending on the activity level and age of your dog.

A Great Dane puppy will definitely need more food intake per pound of body weight due to the amount of nourishment to fuel its growth.

Great Dane puppies only weigh 1-2 lbs when they are born but can double or triple their weight gain every few weeks.

If you got your dog from a proper breeder, they should not release the Great Dane puppy to you before 8 -12 weeks for age.

This is a crucial time for dogs to learn proper behavior before being weaned off their mothers.

Puppies pretty much need round-the-clock feeding, almost once every few hours to fuel their growth.

As they get older, the frequency will drop and most adult dogs will be ok with 2-3 feedings a day.

One thing I always tell puppy owners is that the more frequent their dog’s food intake is, the more it has to use the toilet.

The rule of thumb is for every month of age your dog is, it can hold its pee or pee for an hour. The majority of adult dogs are fine holding it in for 8-10 hours.

How Can I Fatten Up My Skinny Great Dane?

great dane

If you have gone through the visual checks and it does seem that your dog is a tad too skinny, there are some ways to help fatten it up to a healthy weight.

Firstly, we need to determine the age of your Great Dane. If you happen to have a dog that is still dependent on milk, you need to get a specialized milk formula for growing puppies.

I would strongly advise you to get it from your vet and not feed any other types of animal milk.

Even though Great Dane Puppies can handle milk, cow’s or goat’s milk has too much lactose and lack sufficient nutrients.

If you have a dog that has already weaned off its mother, stop feeding it dry food or kibble. High-quality dog food is essential for your Dane’s formative years.

Think quality as well, not just quantity.

Switch your dog to good canned food or even raw food. These types of diets are way higher in protein which is what your dog needs.

Once you figure out the amount of calories per serving, you can come up with a suitable feeding schedule for your dog.

Break up your dog’s daily food intake into smaller meals for better digestion and absorption.

You might be tempted to feed your puppy dog food that is labeled as ‘puppy food’.

I don’t really see this as necessary as they tend to contain a lot of carbs and are priced a lot higher than normal dog food.

I’ve always been feeding my dog a diet of 90% protein and 10% carbs. Dogs are carnivores and get the majority of their nutrients from animal protein.

Satin Balls

Satin balls might sound rather kinky but they are actually an old go-to recipe for trying to get a skinny dog to gain weight.

Many dog owners I know swear by it as it doubles up as a rather tasty treat as well. I’ve tried it a few times based on my own recipe and my dog goes nuts for it.

The usual ingredients in a satin ball include:

  • Ground meat of your choice (beef or lamb is preferred for the higher fat content)
  • Raw eggs
  • Oatmeal
  • Virgin coconut oil or olive oil

For every pound of ground meat, I will mix in one cup of oatmeal, 2 eggs and 2-3 tablespoons of coconut oil. I use some oil as it helps with a dog’s coat plus it contains healthy fats to help it gain weight.

Mix everything well and roll the mixture into balls the size of a squash ball.

Here’s something important to note.

If you plan on feeding your dog raw satin balls, do not use raw eggs as the risk of foodborne diseases like salmonella is a lot higher than raw meat.

You can omit the eggs or boil the eggs first, mash them up and then mix them in.

If your dog doesn’t like raw, you can bake the satin balls until the beef is cooked before feeding.

There isn’t a hard or fast rule as to the number of satin balls to feed your dog. If your dog is still a puppy that is less than 20 lbs, one satin ball a day would suffice.

As it gets heavier, anything between 2-4 would do.

Remember that satin balls are just to be used as a dietary supplement. You still need to be feeding your Great Dane a high-quality diet in sufficient amounts.

Why You Should Not Overfeed Your Great Dane?

Even though your Grea Dane needs to gain weight, you should not start to overfeed your dog due to the health implications.

Stomach Bloat

Stomach bloat is one of the biggest health problems for giant dog breeds like Great Danes.

When a dog eats too much too quickly, the stomach can become bloated with food. This can cause the stomach to fold onto itself and cause serious digestive issues.

This problem also applies to puppies who are really active and can start running and playing after a full meal which can also lead to canine bloat.

Symptoms include:

  • Distended abdomen
  • Restlessness
  • Retching
  • Excess drooling
  • Panting

If you suspect that your dog has stomach bloat, do not wait and bring it to the vet IMMEDIATELY!

This condition can be fatal for Great Danes.


If you are overfeeding your dog every day, there is a chance of your dog getting bad diarrhea or soft stools.

Your dog’s body can only digest and absorb so much food at one time and if your dog keeps stuffing itself silly with food, this will tax the digestive system too much.

When that happens, your dog’s body will go into defense mode and just expel the excess food in a not-so-nice way.

So if you don’t wish for your dog to be leaking poo all over the house, make sure to not overfeed your dog.

Joint Problems

No offence to if you have a Great Dane but some can look like a giant sack of rice on chopsticks.

Great Danes are lanky dogs which means that they have very long lean limbs that have to bear the weight of their bodies.

If your Great Dane starts to put on too much weight from being overfed, it can put unnecessary stress on its hip bones and legs.

It is common for Great Danes to suffer from hip dysplasia which is a degenerative problem of the hip bone.

Carrying around excess weight can make this problem worse and cause pain and discomfort when your dog moves around.

Why Is My Great Dane Losing Weight?

If you have been feeding your Great Dane more than enough food and it is still having trouble gaining weight, here are some possible reasons that might be causing it.

Intestinal Parasites

intestinal parasites

Our dogs are prone to getting intestinal parasites like tapeworms, hookworms and roundworms. They can get these parasites from ingesting contained food, water or soil.

These parasites will set up a home in your dog’s intestinal system and start to reproduce into the hundreds.

They will leech off the food that your dog has been eating.

So even if you have been feeding your dog enough, these darn parasites will cause a deficit in your dog’s calorie intake.

The best way to check for worms is to take a stool sample for the vet to examine. You can also take a look at your dog’s stool and anus to see if there are any moving white specks.

The most effective way of killing these parasites is with a dewormer.

Your vet will give you a dewormer tablet that you will need to feed your dog once a month till all the parasites are gone.

Dental Disease

Not many of us have the habit of brushing our dog’s teeth and gums which is bad.

Dogs like humans can develop plaque and tartar on their teeth. More so if they are on a diet that is high in sugar and carbs.

Chewing on a bone doesn’t help much as it only cleans the top part of your dog’s tooth. You will need to develop a brushing routine for your dog.

If you notice that your dog’s mouth has a metallic smell or it reeks like a garbage can, that’s a sign that your dog could be having dental problems which makes eating painful.

Canine Diabetes

Canine diabetes is a health condition whereby your dog cannot produce enough insulin to break down the glucose in its body.

When your dog is unable to metabolize glucose for energy, it will start breaking down the protein and fats in its body which will cause it to lose weight.

Dogs that are overweight are at higher risk of contracting diabetes.


As dog owners, we are responsible for our dog’s health and we should always make it a point to feed them a high-quality diet.

In the event that your dog has problems gaining weight even after increasing its food intake, you need to take your dog to the vet to get tested.

There are many health issues that can cause your dog to lose weight and it is best to get it treated as soon as possible.

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