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Anyone got any advise for putting weight on a setter?

I've booked an appointment at the vets tomorrow as I am sick to death of people commenting on how 'skinny' she is on our walks. I even had someone, the otherday, asking for my details to pass on to the RSPCA because 'clearly she's being neglected'!


I have been taking her to the vets every 8 weeks or so, just to set my mind at rest as she has always been a slender dog but I'm starting to get panicky because of the constant comments.


She'll be 1 on the 21st January and still only weighs 17.4kgs. She does put weight but very slowly. We've increased her food - introducing lunch aagin - but the problem is, whatever goes in just gets burnt off on her run.


I've tried not letting her run for as long but when I bring her home she just harrasses me to go out again because she hasn't got rid of the extra energy.


My vet said, back in October - she weighed 16.4kgs - that ideally she would like to see another kilo on her but said we'd struggle because she's such an athletic dog. Well we've slowly got that on her but she looks no different.


She's a very healthy, bouncy dog, with a lovely glossy coat and bright eyes, so otherwise I have no concerns but I think the constant barrage of comments is making me paranoid.


Our behaviourist - she is also the head nurse at our vetinary hospital - has suggested giving her a daily dose of 'Zylkene', apparently it's a natural product containing lactium, idea being it just settles her a little as she's constantly on the go, thus not burning as many calories.


They have no worries over her at all and have assured me that if anyone does report us, they have a full record showing regular check ups to prove she is far from neglected. They said the problem is with the society we live in and the fact that so many dogs now are actually overweight so when people see a dog that is as it should be people assume it's underweight...still, doesn't make me feel any better when people can't keep their opinions to themselves - normally people who are standing there with their Labradors who are struggling to walk under the huge body!!:D


Any advise will be greatfully received, she's on the BARF diet so I like to keep things as natural as poosible.


Many thanks in advance :)


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I had a similar problem with one of my English Setters, I had to take him out of the ring after his junior classes as I was worried sick that people would think I was neglecting him, I had always been used to well bodied dogs and he was the exception to the rule, even though he was same way bred as my others. His hip bones jutted out and you could feel his ribs when he had a cuddle.

I tried all sorts of things, feeding him tripe, adding suet to his meals, nothing worked, he was a very happy boy, the vets said he was the healthiest out of the lot of mine because he weighed less, (although the others weren't overweight).

When he was 9 I had him neutered, he put on weight, had a wonderful body then, and his coat seemed even better than it had been.  I'm not saying to neuter your girl, just that I couldn't find any foods that would give him the body he ended up with.  He sadly went to the bridge in 2009 aged nearly 12.

Please don't despair, Emma - I've had very similar problems with my setter Reuben.  He's just turned 18 months old now, and his weight has very very slowly increased over the past six months - he's now 23kg (still, technically, underweight, but if he weighed the expected 28 - 32kg, he'd look fat!).  However, he weighed 18kg for a very long time, right up to about 3 or 4 months ago, and we too had comments about how skinny he was. 

The vet told us not to worry; that he was still a baby with boundless energy, and that setters are naturally slight.  Reuben is also a faddy eater, so his appetite varied from non-existent to ravenous, which made it more difficult to get the weight on. 

I took him to see his breeder (who is highly experienced, having bred setters for over 40 years), and she said that it does happen sometimes; some dogs take a while to fill out, end of story.  She really did put my mind at rest. 

Now, as I said, a few months later, the signs are there that Reuben is starting to fill out - finally!  He's eating raw meat and biscuits, twice a day, and tucks in with gusto!  He also gets regular veggie scraps from us and doggie treats too. 

Good luck! 


I had the same problem with my Shannon people would walk past and say isnt

that a lovely dog but look how skinny she is.

even at a year old she hadnt but much on .i just keep feeding her three or four times a day

she was a picky eater she is two now and looks great.

Thank you Christine...it looks like Darcey pictured! Lol! :)

I have skimmed through the replies and the question on the blog...so forgive me if I have missed something or repeat something...

My first dog had a Pancreatic Deficiency, and was extremely thin, (you could do an anatomy lesson on her), and I had to carry a letter from my vet with me, because of the comments and remarks re R.S.P.C.A.

But now I have three dogs of very good weights the two girls are around 25/26 kilos and my boy is just over 30 BUT,. all three have gone through the 'thin' stage,

I assume that the your dog is fit and healthy....no underlying problems that would make putting on weight imposable.

I personally do not like the BARF diet. I feel that it can cause a lot of problems, (that is just my opinion, I know a lot of people swear by it) I feed a dried food, (Royal Canin Junior Maxi) but with it I add minced lamb and breast of lamb (this is cut into large chunks and fed as is, and lamb seems to put weight on, for some reason, perhaps its because its fatty) I also add a biotic powder, to try and eradicate gut problems, and occasionally only give exercise on lead. perhaps one or two days a week,

This regime is how I have put/kept weight on my 'lot' Though it has to be said that my boy hasn't eaten by himself since he was three months old, he is hand fed, but this seems to work, and it only takes 5 minuets twice a day, but it keeps him fit and healthy....perhaps try this if the dog is 'picky' about eating.

Good luck with your 'kid' all the best....

I have to second Dee on the BARF diet, especially when you are dealing with weight issues. My boy loses weight at the drop of an eyelash, and both shows and does field work. In the field work in particular, he can lose a lot and it is a battle to get it back on. He is not particularly food motivated, either, so only eats as long as he's interested. I do feed a high quality, grain-free venison/bison based kibble, but I tweak it and have had some success. (( Normal caveats apply here - I am going with your assertion of regular veterinary check ups and a clean bill of health )). When he's in the field he gets added fat - suet is the cheapest solution, and he will eat it when he really needs it. In his case, its the last few "soften the edges" pounds that are the hardest to keep on. He is a very active dog, coming 2 years.

I did hit on something that worked a treat by accident. I had tried a recipe for roast duck that called for scoring the skin, then roasting the duck for several hours on low heat to render off the fat and make the skin crisp. I saved the fat as I do like to cook and well know the value of the occasional use of duck fat in some recipes. I put it into a container (about 2 cups worth!) and stuck it in the freezer for later use.

I ran out of suet when Se needed more weight and remembered the duck fat in the freezer. I scooped a tablespoonful into his kibble and stirred it around. Amazingly, it melted very quickly with the stirring, and coated the kibble -- and he stuck his nose in and DEVOURED it.

I talked to my vet about it (he has hunting dogs, and we are always talking about how to meet their nutritional needs) and he gave me a big thumbs up. "Best thing you can give him."

If you don't eat duck, you might try talking to a local butcher to see if they have trimmings from ducks or geese they sell (butchers often trim off the extra fat on birds). Render it down either in the oven or on the stovetop and just add a tablespoon or two to his food and see how that goes.

What a lot of people do not understand about very active dogs is that their bodies need fat - WE are the ones who burn carbohydrates -- dogs need fat. Finding a source of fat that is palatable (suet often isn't) is the trick. For me, the duck fat worked a charm.

Thanks for the tip, I have done this with the 'sunflower oil' that goes in the Tuna tins. but like your dog mine definitely isn't food obsessed, he doesn't seem to even like it....but will try and find some duck/goose trimmings..
I often have duck fat and certainly goose fat - yummy roast potatoes :) - but I was a little concerned about adding it to her feed, had images of bulging arteries but as you rightly say, they need the fat due to them being so athletic, I'll definitely give it a try. Do you put it in evey meal or just once a day?

When he really needs the weight, I add it twice a day; then wean him back and give it to him in the evening, then gradually wean him off of it when he's holding his weight. *I* like my yummy roast potatoes, too!

Canines don't metabolize fats the same way we do - they are, remember, genetically descendants of wolves. Their digestive system is extremely short and designed for metabolizing meat (as their molars are designed for eating meat). Omnivores and herbivores have longer digestive tracts made for breaking down vegetable matter and carbohydrates (and they have the classic flat molars for grinding). Since canids lack that ability it makes sense they have a harder time with carbs, and an even harder time with cellulose rich vegetative matter (like grains).. .and the reverse of them being more efficient and able to derive energy from fat is a hallmark of their genetic heritage.

Unfortunately, canine nutrition (and particularly setter nutrition!) is a rather under-studied area and a lot of the available information is put out there by the very people trying to sell dog food, much of which is packaged for and designed to appeal to the owners of the dogs, not the dogs themselves.


mmmm duck fat sounds like a kind of gravy.. when Oberon was a bit fussy I gave him two tablespoon of gravy, mixed  in his minced meat+rice meal.. He divored the whole bowl!


It was a kind of "handmade" gravy bought in a local farm, so not an industrial product, but still I am not sure is a good idea.. Is not something too fat for them?

Thanks Tracy, I read about pancreatitis, indeed.. Its a pity since it was my "secret" arm, but better to avoid gravy (as all other fats) :)





        Do you mind if I ask about problems associated with the BARF diet!!! I'm curious to hear all sides. I'm between minds about changing! My guy has weight issues so I'd love to hear more!





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