How to Feed a Malnourished Bulldog

A bulldog's body shifts into starvation mode after just 24 hours without food.
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Bulldogs are the lovable gentle giants of the dog world. Large, wrinkly and amiable to human contact, the American Kennel Club, or AKC, notes that, despite their large size, these dogs want to be lap dogs. The sight of a malnourished dog is often heartbreaking and seeing a large dog diminished to skin and bones is exceptionally distressing. With the proper technique and the guidance of a qualified veterinary medical professional, it is possible to bring a starving dog back to full health, though the task requires persistence and dedication.

Step 1

Feed the bulldog a high-quality puppy food that contains extra nutrients to encourage growth, which is not essential to adult dogs that have already finished growing. Malnourished bulldogs need the extra nutrition to get their health back. Additionally, puppy foods are easier for sensitive or irritated stomachs to digest as compared to adult foods. Select a food labeled by the American Association of Feed Control Officials, or AAFCO, as a nutritionally complete meal. Look for real meat among the first one or two ingredients.

Step 2

Calculate the bulldog's daily caloric intake, according to the dog's target weight, rather than its present weight. The AKC standard weight for fully-grown bulldogs is between 40 and 50 pounds, though individual dogs may weigh more or less than the standard. Consult the dog food's feeding instructions to find the caloric content. Adult dogs need between 25 and 40 calories per pound, per day.

Step 3

Offer four to six small meals a day instead of one or two large meals. When a bulldog is malnourished, its stomach is not accustomed to food. As a result, the dog feels full even when a small amount of food is present in its stomach. Gastrointestinal upset may occur. Feeding several small meals throughout the day allows the bulldog to gradually increase its tolerance for food.

Step 4

Sit with the bulldog as it eats, if signs of food aggression are not present. Some malnourished dogs binge when presented with food after a period of starvation due to the uncertainty of when or if their next meal will come. Your proximity can act as a reassuring presence. If the dog is wary or growls when you approach the food bowl, sitting as close as the dog will allow is one of the first steps to sorting out food aggression problems.

Step 5

Stick to the dog's diet plan and resist the temptation to overfeed a malnourished bulldog. Refeeding syndrome is a potentially deadly side effect of introducing too much food to a starved or emaciated dog. The sudden increase in nutrition results in a mineral imbalance within the body. Signs of refeeding syndrome include weakness, muscle cramps, cardiac irregularities and seizures. Refeeding syndrome leads to heart damage and ruptured red blood cells with a chance of respiratory failure. As the dog puts on more weight and recovers from malnourishment the chances of refeeding syndrome lessen and it is possible to introduce extra food or treats.


  • If the malnourished bulldog refuses to eat, displays symptoms of refeeding syndrome, is severely dehydrated or unresponsive, seek immediate veterinary care. Some stomach upset is expected when feeding a malnourished dog. If diarrhea or vomiting occurs over a period of 24 hours, seek immediate medical attention.


  • Additional supplementation is unnecessary when bulldogs are fed a nutritionally complete food, unless otherwise directed by a veterinarian.

  • Offer a meal of canned food, warmed in the microwave, if the dog is reluctant to eat. The scent of wet food and the warmth may be enough to entice a timid or picky eater.

Items You Will Need

  • Puppy food
  • Food bowls