Understanding Common Nutritional Problems in Dogs

November 10, 2023by Nicole Tengco0

Responsible pet parents must always ensure that their pets are happy and healthy. Providing proper nutrition is one of the biggest ways you can ensure your furry pal’s overall health and well-being. However, what happens when you don’t meet these needs? Is it really that bad?

Here, we will discuss canine nutrition and explore some of the most common nutritional problems in dogs. Gaining a deeper understanding of these issues can equip you with the knowledge to ensure your dog receives the right nutrition. Let’s dig in!


Sometimes, pet parents aren’t giving enough food for their dogs making it one of the common nutritional problems for dogs. Underfeeding means the dogs don’t get the nutrition and calories they need . Now, how can this harm your furry pal?

Malnutrition and Emaciation

Underfeeding often leads to malnutrition in dogs. Our barking buddies need proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and minerals daily to thrive. However, when consistently underfed, they may not get all of these. This can lead to a whole bunch of problems down the line.

For instance, underfed dogs can lose an unhealthy amount of weight. They may look thin and bony and lack proper muscle mass. This can weaken them significantly, and they’ll lack the energy to engage in their usual activities.

Weakened Immune Systems

Aside from not having the energy to move about, underfed and malnourished dogs also have weaker immune systems. Their bodies are constantly in survival mode, which can take a toll on how well their cells can fight off diseases. As such, underfeeding dogs can lead to them being sick more frequently and more severely. They’ll also have a more challenging time recovering from injuries due to the lack of nutrition.

Behavioral Issues

Underfeeding doesn’t just affect the physical aspects either. Underfed dogs may show behavioral abnormalities and experience mental distress. They may display irritability, anxiety, and aggression. They’ll also be much harder to train because they’ll experience difficulty learning. These issues can strain your bond with them significantly.

Stunted Growth in Puppies

Of course, puppies are more vulnerable to the dangers of underfeeding. They require certain nutrients and calories to grow properly. Underfeeding during this critical stage can lead to stunted growth and impaired organ functions. The young pups may not reach their full potential in size, strength, and overall health.


Overfeeding and Obesity

Overfeeding is another common nutritional problem in dogs and is the number one reason why dogs become obese. When pups chow down on way too much food, their bodies stash all that extra energy as fat. Then, they start gaining weight and end up putting on a lot of extra pounds. 

Although it may look cute to many doting pet parents, obesity in dogs can harm their health. Like underweight pooches, obese dogs also have higher chances of dealing with health and behavioral issues. These may include:

Over-stressed Joints and Mobility Issues

Our four-legged pals can struggle with over-stressed joints if they’re overweight. Their bones will need to carry too much weight, and that extra pressure takes a toll on their joints. This makes it tough for them to move around. 

It’s not just some minor inconvenience; it can be excruciating and uncomfortable for them because they can develop conditions like hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis

Tummy Troubles

Unsurprisingly, feeding dogs more food than necessary can also strain their digestive systems. Overfeeding can cause indigestion, diarrhea, gas, bloating, and vomiting. These digestive problems can be uncomfortable for the dog and lead to nutrient malabsorption, further harming their health.

Heart Problems

Obesity due to overfeeding can also make it harder for your dog’s heart to pump out blood efficiently. This can lead to multiple heart problems, which, as many of us already know, can be severe. 

If you suspect you may be overfeeding your dog, it’s best to hold back on the treats and consult a vet to ensure you’re giving the right portions to your pup.

Photo by Mathew Coulton

Food Sensitivities

Dogs are just like us in many ways, and some individual pups can also develop nasty reactions to certain foods. Let’s discuss both of these issues below:

Food Intolerances

When a dog has a food intolerance, their digestive system has difficulty processing certain food items. Some common food intolerances in dogs involve dairy, soy, wheat, and specific protein sources, such as beef or chicken.

A food intolerance is different from an allergy as it doesn’t involve the pup’s immune system. It just means their guts can’t break down certain types of food. Here are some symptoms of food intolerances in dogs:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea or soft stools
  • Gas and bloating

Food Allergies

Food allergies are often more serious than intolerances, involving the dog’s immune system. What happens here is that the pup’s immune system views specific proteins as foreign invaders and triggers an inflammatory response to “fight” them off. This can affect many of the dog’s organs, typically requiring urgent vet care.

Some common dog food allergies involve proteins from dairy, beef, chicken, eggs, and certain grains. Here are some typical symptoms of canine food allergies:

  • Digestive issues (vomiting, diarrhea)
  • Inflamed skin
  • Ear infections
  • Excessive itching and scratching, especially around the ears, belly, and paws

If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above, you must consult a veterinarian immediately. They can recommend a specific elimination diet or allergy testing to determine the ingredients causing food sensitivities in your dog.

Once your vet has pinpointed the problematic ingredient, they may recommend a special diet that can reduce these issues. It’s best to monitor your dog’s food to keep them safe from allergens.

Dental Problems

Dental issues, such as plaque, tartar, periodontal disease, and tooth fractures, can all impact a dog’s health. These conditions can cause significant discomfort and may affect how they eat.

Because dental problems are painful, dogs with these issues may not get the nutrition they need to live healthy lives. As such, they often need soft foods that are easy for them to chow down on, like wet food.

Your vet can also recommend ways to address dental issues, such as:

  • Regular brushing
  • Dental cleanings
  • Dental chews and toys

So, it’s crucial to let a veterinarian assess your dog’s oral health.

The Takeaway

Dogs need proper nutrition to keep wagging their tails for a long time. However, it’s not always easy to meet their needs. Hopefully, you’ve learned something or two about some common nutritional issues dogs can encounter. With this knowledge and the help of your vet, you can keep your furry pal happy and healthy!

If you’re looking for a veterinarian, you’re in the right place. PetPal lets you connect to a vet easily and conveniently. Schedule a home vet visit or get an online vet consultation with us today!

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