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Discussion Starter #1
We adopted a 1 year old male GSD a month ago, 11/24. He had been a stray picked up by animal control and was reportedly severely emaciated when picked up in Sept. Animal control turned him over to a private rescue shortly after receiving him since they didn't have resources to rehab him. We adopted him from the private rescue, and he was still underweight when we got him, but no longer emaciated Our vet says he seems healthy except for needing to put on weight. I've no experience with this kind of medical problem. We're feeding him as directed by our vet, but I'm worried that he's not putting weight on fast enough. We took him for a weigh in a week ago and he was 71 lbs. I can still see his ribs, although he has filled in a little there in the last month. He seems to get tired fairly easily too. Anyone have experience with this? How long should it take to get to a normal weight? Is the stamina issue related to his having been emaciated or could there be another underlying medical issue? Just worried about his health.
 

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I wouldn’t rush weight gain...2lbs per week is sufficient. What are you feeding? What rate is he currently gaining? What area are you in, has he been tested for heartworm?
 

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I'm with Fodder: SLOW, steady weight gain is essential! Fast weight gain after emaciation can actually lead to very serious problems. We have our fosters do weekly vet weigh ins during rehab when we have a dog like this -- the rescue's vet monitors the gain really closely.

Has your vet run a fecal test on him? Intestinal parasites can play a BIG role in weight loss (and difficulty recovering from it). We usually run these dogs through with Panacur for 3-5 days as nearly all of them in our area seem to have hookworms and whipworms.

Also, what about the heartworm test? And full bloodwork? (Both of those are "essential care" for these dogs, IMHO. Our rescue's vet would run bloodwork the first day she starts treating emaciated dogs, and probably re-run it a few weeks later, as there's often a bit of a mess in it.)

We sometimes run a set of abdominal x-rays too, depending on our vet's feel for the case. She's rehabilitated so many of these dogs for the many rescues she has as clients -- we trust her to tell us when she wants to see inside the dog. We've found rocks and other junk inside them when they've been starved, as they sometimes try to eat anything to make the pain in the tummy stop. Partial blockages are the risk.

If this were my dog, I would be sure the dog is on a probiotic and fish oil -- and probably some digestive enzymes (like Prozyme) -- while you are rebuilding it.


My rule of thumb is that it takes at least $500 and at least 3 months to rehabilitate severely emaciated dogs. That's the minimum any rescue should have set aside before committing to the dog. As someone who handles rescue vetting, and pays the bills, it drives me bonkers when well-meaning-but-clueless rescues take on dogs like this and dump them on adopters, still sick. It's not the right way to do things. You're a good egg for taking this on! Thanks you!!!
 

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This is the worst emaciation case I ever saw -- fostered by a friend. There's a picture in the video of the dog's xray with rocks in her tummy. It's an old video:



Here's the dog's happy ending:
 

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Yes, he's been tested for heartworm and had fecal testing and all was well. We're feeding him IAMS large breed, 2 cups morning, 1 cup afternoon, 2 cups evening. Vet said to feed as though he already weighs 80lbs. I think I'm probably giving 1 cup more than directions on bag says. Foster mom was giving him satin balls too, and I made some and gave first two weeks, but vet said it's not really necessary. I'm not sure about blood work, and know he's had no x-rays. Vet didn't work ndicate we needed blood work. We had records from rescue where he had been neutered and had heartworm testing etc. Our vet did the fecal testing.
 

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Magwart, thanks for sharing those videos. Phoenix is beautiful! It's just heartbreaking what she went through. So glad she had a happy ending! I don't know what Freddie looked like when animal control took him in, but his foster mom described him as severely emaciated. Shocking that he may have had that level of starvation. Amazingly, he has not lost his love of people or zest for life. He is so sweet and loving. Here is a picture of him now. It's hard to see, but his ribs are still visible to some degree. Our last GSD, we lost in July to cancer, but he was a 100lb dog. I'm just worried that Freddie might have some underlying condition, especially because of the fatigue. Probably just worried because the boy we lost in July, the cancer dx was such a surprise. He was only 8 years. He was so healthy until...he wasn't.
 

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Food could and should be upgraded... that’d be the best thing you could do for him!

If he lacks proper muscle tone (generally as a result of emaciation), that could explain the fatigue.
 
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If he was emaciated then he probably lacks muscle which would cause fatigue. Is there anywhere to swim him? How about buying a treadmill to build muscle or fitpaws programs?
 

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I am no expert, can only relay my experience with 1 dog. FWIW:

I once adopted a stray female GSD at ~1 year who was emaciated. She weighed 29 pounds at intake, skin and bones. If I remember right it took 2-3 months for her to reach ~50 lbs, and maybe another month to reliably weigh in at more than 50, and longer still to weigh reliably 53-57, which turned out to be her healthy adult weight range. She had 2 kinds of mange and tons of worms and bacterial infections when they found her. She needed to be wormed multiple times, especially the hookworms just would not go away, but once they did she gained steadily. It took a total of 4-5 months for a smallish female at that age to reach a healthy adult weight and maybe the first 3 months with me to regain her energy and relax a little. She was estimated to be ~1.5 years old at the point she looked energetic and physically normal, though for the next year or so she would almost frantically eat anything remotely food-like, including soap or poop, if within her reach.

When I met her she presented as a quiet, fearful little thing. At around 3 months later her true self had emerged - she was a very noisy, high energy, curious, outgoing girl!

It makes sense that your big male might take longer to put on weight and show more energy - males take longer to mature physically than females do, at 1 year he’s still doing a lot of normal growing as well as catching up to whatever his ‘normal’ muscle would’ve been at this age had he not been starved. If he’s been thoroughly checked out and nothing’s wrong, parasites are truly gone, just keep doing what you’re doing, exercise him as he wants and give him more time.
 

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He's absolutely handsome! One of the reasons I haven't stopped rescuing, even when I get exhausted, is the capacity these dogs show to forgive and continue to love humans, even after horrific ordeals.



Our vet usually has us use a large-breed puppy food for weight gain on dogs like this -- it's not unusual for adolescents that are his age to get another late growth spurt that comes very suddenly once they get good nutrition, and panosteitis is very, very common in them.



I think that would definitely as the vet about running a wellness panel of bloodwork, if it's not been done -- I run it annually in all my dogs, and certainly upon adoption as a baseline. Our rescue's vet says that it reveals a lot about what's going on with these dogs in recovery (low albumin is pretty common when they're fighting to recover). If everything is in the normal range, you'll know you're likely just dealing with weight and conditioning.


If you're in a high-heartworm area, re-run the heartworm test in 6 months too (as false negatives are quite common, due to the life-cycle of the worms and how the antigens show up). Also, we keep these dogs on Advantage Multi (not Heartguard) for a year (2 clear tests) before changing prevention brands, as Multi is the only one that actually kills juvenile/young adult HWs that might be in there and too young to show up on a test, but too old to kill with Heartguard.
 

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Thanks for all the advice! I'm definitely going to set up an appt to get the blood work and re-test for heartworm. Any recommendations for a higher quality food. Rescue was feeding Nature's Domain, but I've had a hard time finding that. We always fed our other dog IAMS and vet thought it was fine.
 

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Nature's Domain is from Costco. It's made by Diamond, and Taste of the Wild is probably a close match for it.


If he was doing okay on a Diamond-made food, Diamond Naturals Large Breed Puppy would be an economical choice for a pretty decent food. We have feed a lot of that one in the rescue -- it's available on Chewy.com (add a bag of treats to get up to $49 for free shipping...):

https://www.chewy.com/diamond-naturals-large-breed-puppy/dp/34917



Fromm Large Breed Puppy (with grain -- not grain free) would be a step up from there. It's available through PetFlow.com:
https://www.petflow.com/product/fro...breed-puppy-dry-dog-food?trk_search_product=1
 

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Make sure they ran a test for whipworms, too. They can be hard to spot in the fecal. I adopted a stray GSD who was very skinny when I got her, and I wormed her when I got her (panacur) she'd have bouts of serious bloody diarrhea, and the vet couldn't find any worms, but we finally nailed whipworm, and after treatment, she filled out beautifully and was healthy for the rest of her life.

OP- I'd also recommend Diamond Naturals (buy at Tractor Supply or online) and Canidae All Life Stages. I feed Canidae to my high energy working dogs and they do very well on it. Compared to other dry dog foods, Canidae can have 100 (plus) more calories per cup.
 
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