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Akita Not Gaining Weight | Too Thin | Lack of Appetite

One of the more common concerns in regard to food and feeding of this breed is the element of a puppy that has stalled in regard to weight gain or an older dog (1, 2 or even 3 years old) that seems to have stopped growing and gaining weight but appears to be underweight and too thin.

In some cases, owners will immediately notice a difference in their Akita's eating patterns, even before there are any physical changes.  Others will only take note once the dog appears to have stalled in his/her gains and for some Akita, a lack of appetite will eventually show as the body thins out.  When ribs can be seen, this does point to an issue.  Healthy weight dictates that ribs should be able to be felt - under a reasonably thin layer of fat, muscle and tissue - but not visibly seen to the eye.

For Akita puppies with a loss of appetite, while there can be other causes that we will dive into momentarily, the first one that comes to mind is worms.  If there is a sudden loss of appetite that continues for more than 24 hours, it is highly suggested to collect a stool sample and make an immediate appointment with the veterinarian.   While even a normal looking sample will not tell you if worms are indeed the issue, signs of worm infestation are loose, sloppy stools.  And of course, diarrhea is an obvious sign that your Akita needs to have a full medical checkup.

With this said, there are some issues - medical and non-medical- that can cause an Akita to stop eating as normal, wanting less food and have a much lower appetite than usual. For those that are growing, this will result in a weight gain stall… and for those that are full grown, this can result in a weight loss.

Top 7 Reasons:

1- Hot Weather.  

In general, canines - not just the Akita breed - eat roughly 75% of their normal food intake during very hot weather [85 degrees Fahrenheit or higher (29 C)].  Not only can the strain of coping with the heat cause lack of appetite which results in weight loss or stall, but of course exposure to high temperatures either for long periods of time or on consecutive days can lead to heat stress which affects the entire body and can actually be fatal if there is no intervention.

Even with the only sign being loss of appetite, if the weather is hot, do take steps to help your Akita cope with this element.   Staying indoors during peak temps with the A/C to cool rooms is suggested. If you do not have adequate air conditioning, allowing for air movement can be helpful - open both front and back doors and run fans.   Keep shades closed.   Encourage your Akita to rest, play in a room with good air circulation. 

Bring your Akita for his daily walk in the early morning or later in the evening after things have cooled down.

Encourage small, healthy snacks throughout the day.

2- Changes to the Household. 

The Akita - being so territorial and dominant- can have trouble accepting changes to the household.  This includes both the introduction of a new pet or human OR the departure of a pet or human.  This disruption in the pattern that he is comfortable with can cause eating problems, including upset stomach and lack of appetite.  If a change such as this has already occurred and is irreversible, only time will allow things to balance back out.  However, if you know in advance that there will be a change, working to make that a gradual change will benefit an Akita puppy or older dog. 

Note: The addition of another animal should NEVER be done in an Akita household with proper testing beforehand to see if the Akita will be accepting and even then, a very close eye must be kept.

3- Food Change

You may have decided to switch foods to start feeding your Akita an even healthier kibble than before…you may have opted for an adult formula as your pup quickly grew… Or maybe you thought it would be best to choose a new brand for your senior.  In any case, changing brands overnight can most certainly cause eating problems and a lack of appetite for the Akita breed.   Some owners legitimately become confused… If I switched to a healthier option, why is my Akita not growing?"  or "Why is he becoming thin!"

The factor is NOT the switch… It is the speed at which the switch is done.  The Akita needs a good 4 solid weeks to become used to a new food.  Here is how one should do this:
  • Week one:  Mix of 1/4 new kibble, 3/4 old
  • Week two:  Blend of 1/2 and 1/2
  • Week three:  3/4 new to 1/4 old
  • Week four:  Full changeover to new food, but no changes to added fresh ingredients until it is established that the Akita is maintaining his normal appetite.
NOTE:  For recommendation regarding brands of kibble and fresh ingredients, see: Best Food for Akitas

4- Emotional Stress

While we have touched on the subject of how a change in household members (humans and animal) can affect an Akita puppy or older dog's appetite, other changes can throw an Akita's enthusiasm for food out of whack as well.   Examples are if an Akita had an attachment to a neighborhood dog (male to female "romance") and the family of that dog has moved away.  Other stresses can be a move to a new house.  There will be a noticeable  time of adjustment in which an Akita will need to "regroup" and during this time, he may eat less than normal.

5- Tooth Issues

A loose or infected tooth - or gum issues - can account for many cases of an Akita eating less than normal, which in turn means a weight loss or a stall for growing puppies.  While this breed is known for having a high pain tolerance, tooth pain or a loose tooth can put a screeching halt to a dog's appetite.  As each mouthful produces major discomfort, many dogs will opt to stay pain free even as their favorite dish is being served.

At home dental care (brushings) and once a year professional checkups are a must.  It is so sad to see older, senior dogs with missing teeth due to neglect during their younger years.  Even puppies can have tooth problems - an adult tooth may erupt before a milk tooth falls out - which can cause many issues including misalignment.  Therefore, no matter the age of your Akita, if he has a lack of appetite and is either stalling in weight gain or losing weight, please have his teeth checked.

6- Medication Side Effects

A wide range of medications can cause loss of appetite. Therefore,  if your Akita is taking a prescription medication and there are eating issues or weight issues, do bring this to the attention of the veterinarian.

7- Thyroid Issues

Loss of appetite is one of the many signs of thyroid issues, a disease that this breed is prone to.  Other signs are weakness, skin changes, coat issues, weight gain and intolerance to cold, among others.  Read More: Akita Thyroid Problems

More Help

1- If you have gone through this list and these elements do not apply to your Akita, you may want to take another look at what you are feeding him.   With this breed, both the kibble AND the fresh food that is added to that combine together for optimal health, nutrition and weight.   You may wish to refer to the Food section for more details.

2- Growing pups may need a bit of a boost; a few weeks of adding chucks of rotisserie chicken along with the fatty skin (found pre-cooked at many supermarkets) can give an Akita pup that little boost that is needed for a gradual weight increase. 

3- NEVER try to prompt a fast gain!  When trying to encourage more of an appetite, you will want to be VERY aware of the dangers of overeating - or fast ingestion and bloat.

4- Make sure that you are not expecting too much.  The Akita IS a large breed dog, however is certainly not the largest of breeds… and other dogs can appear bigger than the Akita.  Read More: Size

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