Is My Great Dane Too Skinny? 5 Things You NEED to Know!

4 mins read

“Is my Great Dane too skinny”, I recently asked a friend.

This was me asking, as somebody who knows that growing Great Danes can be perfectly healthy and still look like walking skeletons! It’s normal to worry, we love our dogs!

Many people wonder if their Great Dane puppy looks skinny. Or, ask the same question, “Why is my Great Dane so skinny?”

I thought it would be helpful to share some photos of dogs that are emaciated, thin and overweight so that you can make some real-life comparisons about whether or not your Great Dane is too skinny or not.

Always, always consult your veterinarian if you are unsure either way. Dogs can gain and lose weight quickly and may have underlying health problems, including parasites and diabetes.

Is My Great Dane Too Skinny?
A 17 month old male Great Dane, lean and with muscle.

1. Is My Great Dane Too Skinny? GREAT DANE HEALTH

Great Danes are a lean breed.

Overweight dogs have shorter lives and are more likely to suffer from heart problems, cancer, arthritis and diabetes. They are at higher risk during surgical procedures and are also more prone to issues involving kidney and liver function.

Even dogs labeled as ‘Euro’ should not be heavy.

Most of the time, people are concerned that their dog is underweight. Unfortunately, being overweight is a much, much more serious health concern.

Lean is best for Great Danes.

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A lean 16 month old female Great Dane

Growing puppies can look positively gangly at times. This is normal and healthy, so long as the dog is showing signs of robust health: shiny coat, bright eyes, muscles, energy, tight feet, properly growing bones, and free of parasites, skin conditions and gut health issues (vomiting, loose stools, etc.).

Don’t mistake ‘filling out’ with getting fat. Filling out involves developing breadth of chest and hips, in addition to muscle mass. A dog that gets fat following spay/neuter around age 2 is not filling out, it’s just becoming heavy and overweight.


The following images are of Great Danes that are at a healthy weight. Click on any image to view larger and in full.

Notice the defined waist, tuck in the abdomen, muscle, and even the presence of a rib or two. These dogs all appear to be offered plenty of free exploration time on varied terrain (which helps develop strength in feet, hips and abs!). They enjoy running, playing and being active.

You may feel that some of these dogs are underweight! Unfortunately, overweight dogs skew our perception of what is healthy in Great Danes.

Chances are, if you think your dog is too skinny, you may find that your dog actually belongs in this group!

Many times, lean dogs actually need more muscle development, not more fat. Keep that in mind; if your Dane is active and moving, they will develop muscle and can fill out in a healthy and strong way. Do not overfeed your Great Dane!


An underweight Great Dane is malnourished. These are dogs that are either neglected or have underlying health problems (cancer, megaesophagus, parasites, etc.) that require veterinary care.

A dog that is underweight may show the following signs: spine and/or hip bones jutting out, temples sunken in, prominent ‘knowledge bump’ on top of the head, low energy, no muscle tone, muscle wasting.

You might find the following Great Dane feeding chart by weight and age helpful.

Puppies under 12 weeksFree-feed2-4 cups/day
Puppies 12-24 weeks old3x/day3-6 cups/day
Puppies 24 + weeks (6 months) or older2x/day5-10 cups/day
Puppies 12-18 months2x/day6-12 cups/day

An otherwise energetic and bright Great Dane puppy that is a little ‘ribby’ during a growth spurt is NOT an underweight or malnourished Great Dane. 


If you see early signs of hips and spine showing in a previously healthy dog, chat with your veterinarian. If you are concerned about the amount of spine / ribs / hips showing your veterinarian can help you with safe ways to help your Great Dane gain weight. The best food for a Great Dane to gain weight can be recommended to you by a professional.


Overweight Great Danes carry excess and unnecessary weight that will affect their quality of life. Lean dogs live, on average 2 years longer than overweight dogs so if that matters to you, read on!

Many people believe that because a dog is ‘Euro’ it should look and be heavy. This is not true. Even a ‘Euro’ dog should have a defined waist. Do NOT overfeed your dog because it’s ‘Euro’ and you think it should weigh 200lbs!

Others, in pursuit of having the ‘biggest’ dog focus on the number on the scale. There is nothing to be proud of if your Great Dane is tipping the scales. An average, healthy-weight, well-muscled and properly structured male Great Dane may weigh quite a bit; however, a solid majority of people claiming to have 175+lb dogs actually have overweight dogs.

Extra pressure on the joints, heart and lungs are a problem for dogs that are allowed to become heavy like this. As above, do not mistake ‘filling out’ with getting fat!

We’ve seen even worse than the dogs presented in the gallery below. Some dogs suffer from thyroid disease and autoimmune disorders that lead to excess weight; chat with your veterinarian for help.

These dogs are all overweight. Notice how many of them look uncomfortable and are panting, compared to the healthy weight dogs in the previous gallery. These dogs are all overfed and likely under exercised. Because some of them are out of standard ‘Euro’ type, people believe they should be bulkier and heavier and thus, allow and encourage them to become this way. The dogs are the ones who suffer because of this.


Many veterinarians use body condition scores to assess whether a dog is at a healthy weight or not.

Your veterinarian might never really tell you that your dog is overweight! Keep in mind that your Veterinarian is first operating a business, and that includes not upsetting clients by saying things about their dog that may be perceived as judgmental.

People become very defensive and are often in disbelief. It’s a losing battle for Veterinarians. If you’ve ever wondered ‘why is my Great Dane so skinny’, you are not alone. But, we hope this information helps!

We encourage you to bring the subject up to your veterinarian, mention your concerns and show that you are an educated owner willing to learn!

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The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only. We do our best to present the most up-to-date research, however it is up to the reader to make decisions regarding the health and well-being of their dog. We make no claims here to prevent or treat bloat or any other condition related to Great Danes. Find a veterinarian with GIANT breed experience, and chat with them. 

Some of the products we list on our website contain affiliate links. If you choose to make a purchase, we may receive a small commission for referring you. We only recommend products that we truly believe in. This commission does not affect the price of the product and is used to fund our content and expenses related to operating this website. 

Hello Danes

Dane lover and believer in ethical breeding, training and rescue practices. Positive + Balanced trainer, owner of rescue dogs and dogs from breeders. Love the dog in front of you.


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