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What is Poor Nutrition?

Poor nutrition can lead to many serious disorders in dogs, including obesity, emaciation, rickets, increased allergies, and hair loss. These disorders are frequently caused by either the amount or quality of the food that is offered but can also be triggered by some medical disorders and infestations of parasites.

If your dog is showing signs of malnutrition, the animal’s gastrointestinal health and daily diet should be evaluated by a veterinary professional in order to craft an appropriate treatment plan.

Proper nutrition is an essential component of canine health and should be carefully evaluated and managed throughout your canine companion’s life.

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Symptoms of Poor Nutrition in Dogs

There are several things that can indicate that your pet is receiving inadequate nutrition in one way or another. Some of the signs that their diet or digestion needs to be re-evaluated can include: 

  • Bad breath
  • Body odor
  • Dandruff
  • Dull coat
  • Excessive shedding
  • Flatulence 
  • Hair loss
  • Inconsistent or unusual bowel movements        
  • Increased allergies
  • Obesity
  • Skin disorders
  • Weight loss


There are several diseases and conditions that can be impacted by nutritional imbalances. A few of the more common diseases can include:

  • Congestive heart failure - Excessive salt in the diet can severely increase your dog’s chances of developing or exacerbating congestive heart failure
  • Growth disorders - Dogs who receive too much or too little calcium during their formative stages may develop abnormal rates of bone growth  
  • Kidney disease - Kidney disease can be caused by a number of nutritional imbalances, including excessive amounts of sodium, potassium, or phosphorus and deficient hydration 
  • Obesity - Obesity can be caused by either eating too much overall or by eating food that is improperly balanced for your dog’s circumstances
  • Pancreatitis - This condition characterized by an inflamed pancreas is often triggered by excessive fats in the diet

Causes of Poor Nutrition in Dogs

  • Medical disorders - Certain disorders and diseases, such as bacterial overgrowth, intestinal tumors, or inflammatory bowel disease, can render even the best diet inadequate by preventing the absorption of the nutrients
  • Overfeeding - Poor nutrition can be attributed not just to a lack of proper nutrients, but also an overabundance and it is common knowledge that consuming more overall calories can lead to obesity; however, the overabundance of specific nutrients such as vitamin A or phosphorus can cause dangerous imbalances as well 
  • Parasites - The best known of the parasites to cause malnutrition is the tapeworm, although other parasites such as roundworms or Giardia may also interfere with the absorption of nutrients. 
  • Poor food quality - If the food that you are feeding your canine companion is deficient in certain nutrients, such as vitamin D, calcium, or even proteins, it can cause serious disorders which frequently have irreversible consequences 
  • Under feeding - Dogs that are not given enough food will lose weight, typically become weakened and susceptible to diseases and allergies, and may become lethargic; if the caloric deficiency is not addressed, it may lead to death by starvation

Diagnosis of Poor Nutrition in Dogs

Diagnostics for a dog that is experiencing the symptoms of poor nutrition will start with a physical examination including standard tests such as a urinalysis, a biochemical profile, and a complete blood count. This examination will help the veterinarian handling your case to determine if the animal is over or under weight as well as revealing the health of the liver and kidneys. A fecal float may be employed to uncover the presence of any parasites that are residing in the system and skin samples may be examined microscopically if the skin has been affected by the malnutrition. 

Once any underlying disorders or diseases have been treated or ruled out, the patient’s daily diet and activity levels will be explored. Your veterinarian will evaluate the caloric intake, the nutritional balance of the food being offered, the activity level of the animal, and the timeline of the onset of the symptoms of poor nutrition in order to develop a treatment plan specific to your dog.

Treatment of Poor Nutrition in Dogs

Dogs that are in crisis when they come into the veterinary office will be given supportive treatments, including intravenous fluids to prevent hydration and to correct imbalances. Beyond that, the treatment for a canine that is getting inappropriate nutrition will depend on the underlying cause of the deficiency. Dogs that are afflicted with parasites will be given dewormers to restore their digestive functionality, tumors or polyps in the digestive tract will be removed, and diseases like inflammatory bowel disease and bacterial overgrowth will be addressed as well.

Once all medical issues have been addressed, the information from the evaluation of the patient’s daily diet and exercise levels will be utilized to uncover if the food the dog is being offered is of poor quality or if it is inappropriate for your dog’s breed, overall health, or stage of life. In the majority of cases, changes to the dog’s diet will be recommended; changes can include steps such as changing the animal’s usual food, increasing or decreasing their activity levels, and occasionally even adding in supplemental vitamins and minerals to overcome any deficiencies that cannot be addressed by a simple change of food. 

Recovery of Poor Nutrition in Dogs

If caught early, many nutrition related illnesses can be reversed, however, there are some exceptions. Some diseases, such as diabetes, kidney diseases, and chronic pancreatitis, may require lifelong medications and treatments, and nutritional deficiencies that occur during the formative periods may cause permanent disfigurement or disability.

Nutritional deficiencies that are unaddressed frequently lead to serious disability and even death, so signs that your dog is not receiving an adequate balance of nutrients should be taken seriously, and a veterinary professional should be consulted as soon as possible. Your dog’s daily diet and exercise habits should be re-evaluated on a regular basis to take into consideration the animal’s activity levels, overall condition, and their age.

Poor Nutrition Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Australian Kelpie x Rhodesian Ridgeback?
Two Years
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Excessive Saliva
Excessive Shedding

Lately, I have notice that my dog has been experiencing excessive shedding and frequently salivating. I think her diet could not right for her, as she is a picky eater. I believe I have found food that she likes. However,The dog biscuit are meant for small dogs. So I would normal gave her a cups worth of that and less then half of a 700g tin of dog food. Also,she become more excited when it's time for breakfast and dinner.

She also gets give human food at most of the time, for instance some meat or bread.

Last time I weighed her was 30kgs and she is still highly active. Although, her excrise; such as walk or playing around, have been lacking at times as my days have been busier.

However, I also think the excessive shedding could be because it quite humid where I live as we are currently swapping between seasons; summer to autumn.

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Dogue de Bordeaux
2 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms


I have just rehomed a 2 year old female Dogue de Bordeaux she is eating very little, very slow at getting up from laying down and it appears she is almost struggling to pull her self up? She is very thin especially for the breed and I’m wondering if she could be like this due to a poor diet or lack of? I feel she is not used to continuous food and has not been fed on correct food? Would protein and vitamin tablets help to build her up and get her stronger?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations
You would be surprised but a dog (like a human or any other animal) can only process so much protein per day; if an inadequate diet is the issue, feeding a high quality dog food should allow her to gain strength and weight if there is no other medical issue. If there are issues with digestion or absorption of food, then all the protein and vitamins would just pass through her in the faeces. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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3 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

None, happy and active

Hello, I’m concerned about the eating habits of my mother’s dog. My mother has been complaining daily that her dog is not eating dog food. She has been complaining for at least two weeks. The dog has been to three vets, has had X-rays at each and nothing has been identified as the problem. Within those two weeks I have seen the dog a few times and she is always very happy, tail wagging and active. It turns out the dog is in fact eating but she is eating cheese and crackers because my mom says that is the only thing the dog will eat. She does not vomit her food and goes to the bathroom so I’m under the impression there is nothing wrong with her. I have taken the dog since this discovery, to help see if I can get her to eat dog food again since I think she has been trained essentially to prefer people food and expect it eventually. That being said, she is not very interested in dog food. I am feeding her twice a day after a long walk. I can get her to eat dog food, but VERY little. It’s only been two days so I am hoping she get the point of changing her pallet. Any suggestions on how to change her diet aside from mixing dog food with the ingredients she has been liking? And at what point/how many days do I have to decide that’s she is not receiving enough nutrition?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1611 Recommendations
It can be very challenging to change that behavior, as Jaja knows now that cheese and crackers are more delicious that dog food, but you are right, that is not a good long term diet. Most dogs will eat eventually, when they get hungry and realize that there aren't any other options. If she is eating small amounts of the dog food, that may be what she does for a few days, and giving in to her will not help the problem. You can track her weight to make sure that she isn't losing weight, and that will help you to know when you need to give in a little. She may like the canned version of the dog food that you are feeding her, and you can mix that in to transition her to her dog food, as well. Maltese can be very stubborn!

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Dachshund/ Beagle mix
8 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

short of breath
Multiple lumps on side
Licks paws
Licks floor

Hi. I’ve had this dog since I was like 11 or 12. He used to be very skinny and active. But due to everyone’s busy schedules .. he’s not been getting the excercise he needs or the nutrition . He used to eat 2-3 times a day but we assumed we were over feeding him because he was gaining weight.. so we cut it down to one time in the morning. We give him water throughout the day and he goes out three times a day. He does eat some human foods when we run out of dog food like cereal and bread and bologna. Sometimes he gets pizza crusts as well or bread crusts. Any crumbs or articles of food that drop, he’s right there to get it up. Recently , he’s been having trouble getting up the steps. He will take breaks and limp afterwards . And I’m convinced there’s some sort of discomfort because he doesn’t even wanna go out most of the time anymore unless he cant hold it. We haven’t taken him to the vet in years because we cannot afford to, and I feel like he’s suffered as a result. His nose also has turned a little pink towards the middle. And his nails haven’t been clipped in a while . I turn to you to help us diagnose what’s wrong .. (he did have fleas at one point too)

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations
If you have been relying on table scraps to feed Joey over the years there are many possible health issues which may arise due to poor nutrition; an area of the nose turning pink may be due to seasonal issues or may be a more serious problem like autoimmune disease or liver disease. Without examining Joey I cannot say for certain what may be going on, but I would recommend you reach out to a charity clinic or other organisation to assist with the cost of veterinary care and for some nutritious dog food. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Yorkshire Terrier
1 Year
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms


Is the following diet appropriate for a skinny dog?
Her name is Daisy, she is a 1 year old, Yorkshire Terrier and she weights around 5.5lbs (toy version) but the problem is that you can see that she is skinny, feel the ribs and also feel her spine pretty bad.
Our vet told us not to give her so much protein because her urea is a bit increased 13.7 mmol/l and the values are between 2.9-10.4 mmol/l

Her daily diet is
Morning - 35 grams of wet food (3.5g protein, 2.8g fat, 0.4g crude fibe, 23.5g moisture) and it has 116kcal.
Afternoon - 20g cottage cheese (1.4g fat, 0.7g carbohydrate, 3.2g protein, 28Kcal) or in another day 30g Kefir (0.54g fat, 0.76g carbohydrate, 0.72g protein, 10.8Kcal)
Evening - 5g dry food Taste of the Wild (2g protein, 1g fat, 0.5g moisture, 8Kcal) with 20g boiled beef (5.9g protein, 52.2Kcal, 3g fat) with 30g mixture of boiled potato, carrot and rice (0.68g protein, 24Kcal)
Treat: Dental treat (4g protein)
A total of his daily menu contains:
- 115g total food + treat
- 17.47% protein
- 233Kcal

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1611 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. Since Daisy has some health concerns that I do not know the full extent of, and since she seems to be under close veteirnary care, I can't comment on her nutritional status without examining her. Your veteirnarian will be able to give you a much better idea whether Mickey is getting enough nutrition, gaining weight, and doing well physically. I hope that everything goes well with Mickey.

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