How To Help Your Dog Gain Weight
DepositPhotos|Hannamariah

This isn’t the most common problem, but definitely something that many dog owners face. Your dog could have a small appetite, burn a lot of energy, or be thin from neglect or shelter life.

Our first dog, Kaeto, came from the shelter and was very underweight. He also didn’t eat very much, regardless of the food he was on. Mauja is very similar. She gets plenty of high-quality food, but she never seems to want very much. I certainly can’t force them to eat. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to help your underweight dog reach an ideal weight.

  1. The first step is to take your dog to the vet. Make sure there isn’t any underlying reason that your dog is underweight. If he/she is healthy, you can try some of these options.
  2. Increase the amount of meal times. If your dog is typically feed twice a day, bump it up to three times. Many dogs fill up quickly so adding an extra meal can help them eat a little extra food.
  3. Feed puppy food. Puppy food typically has higher calories than adult food to ensure that puppies will grow adequately. Even though your dog won’t be eating any more, the increased calories can help him/her gain some weight.
  4. Add a topping to their food. Sometimes adding a little something special, like a Caru stew, wet food, or salmon oilย can entice your dog to eat more. I occasionally mix in a few spoonfuls of wet food to the fluffies’ food and they always clean their bowls.
  5. For a severely emaciated dog, you can try the recipe for “Satin Balls“. I believe this should only be done in extreme circumstances as the recipe is very high calorie/fat.ย It is highly palatable and will usually coax a dog to eat.

Have you ever had an underweight dog? How did you help him/her gain weight?

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73 comments on “How to Help Your Dog Gain Weight”

      • we have a 1/2 english lab and 1/2 golden and he is not interested in eating… he’ll take a bite and move son. We’ve tried mixing 1/2 dry with wet food… again… few bites then leaves it. Treats- he can take them or leave them. He is healthy and active just could care less about eating. IS there a food that has more calories? He also typically has loose stools so I have to be careful with changing /adding foods. Thanks

        • That’s my dog – super skinny GSD. Not interested in food. Very loose stools. Royal Canin Ultamino firms the stools and helps the ear infections but keeping weight on her is impossible. Satin Balls aren’t doing it. Suggestions?

    • My dogs have been on chicken and vegetables, occasionally cottage cheese & yogurt also, no dry or wet dog food, for the last 8 years and maintained their weight. They were all a little chunky but not extremely overweight. When my husband and I started juicing about 4 months ago, we drank the juice but kept all the remnants of the vegetables and started adding them to the dogs chicken instead of the usual green beans, sweet potatoes, carrots etc. I also bake them homemade treats using the remnants from our juicing. All 3 dogs have lost weight and are at a good weight for their size. Not to mention my husband lost 40 pounds juicing and myself 26 pounds. The juicing consists of granny smith apples, celery, carrots, cucumbers, kale, ginger, and turmeric. As I said, the treats I make consist of the remnants from the juicing, and whatever else might be in the house. Sweet potatoes, oatmeal, chicken hearts & gizzards, apples, peanut butter, bananas, I use different ingredients every time. I food process what needs to be pureed then add everything in a large mixing bowl then bake for 30 minutes or so on 350 degrees. They LOVE the treats I make. I mainly started making homemade treats because my Aussie came down with this really bad cough where it sounded like he was congested, it was that deep of a cough. A few weeks after I stopped giving him milkbones and only gave him the treats I baked, his cough stopped completely. He used to always cough after drinking his water, that stopped also. Not sure if the bones were too rough on his throat or what. I am just happy to have 3 happy, healthy dogs who love what I cook for them every Saturday morning. Hope this helps someone with their chunky furbabies.

      • Thank you for your comment about dogs and juicing. May i please have your juicing recipe that helped you lose weight? Thank you

    • My friend rescued a female Chihuahuas six-month-old about very under way to the point where you can see her spine she does eat dry food and wet food that’s not a problem I’ve had her almost a month and poor thing is not gained any weight even though she eats she’s also a very fast runner I’m not sure how to help her gain weight

      • They commented that 3 years ago so unlikely you’ll get a reply. I too am intrigued. Maybe they literally mean NASA space food lol. Which is obviously extremely calorie dense for very necessary practical reasons. Or maybe and more likely space food is nothing to do with space?! I tried googling space food for dogs and it came up with very little.

      • Ok maybe I didn’t try hard enough first time. After a second search it’s quite likely they could literally mean NASA space food. As I said soar food is extremely nutrient dense and convenient for obvious reasons. After reading about the first dog sent into space I learned it was taught to feed itself a specially designed gel which was nutrient dense, contained everything needed by the dogs body, and the practicality of a thick gel when in zero gravity makes clear sense. Imagine a dog flying round trying to catch pieces of rice! Then searching the internet and finding space foods for people and for pets are commercially available then maybe that’s exactly what this poster meant. After all a gel is easily administered to a finicky or ineellnoet and has the benefit of containing a wide range of nutrients and easily meeting calorific needs without needing to consume large amounts. Would be interesting to hear from the original poster if this is indeed what they was referring to.

  1. Great ideas! When Haley was younger, she would rather play than eat and it was hard to keep weight on her. Now, she’s 7 years old and slowing down a little and we have the opposite problem, haha!

  2. We haven’t had an underweight dog ourselves, but this sounds like great advice. We are constantly monitoring our dogs’ weights and food intake, so I thing paying attention to their weight is very important, no matter which way it goes!

  3. Those are fabulous tips. Yes we have had underweight dogs now and again. When Thunder was growing, he would go off his food now and again. There was nothing medically wrong with him. But we were concerned so we put him on a super high calorie canned food we got from the vet. A little was a lot of calories. He liked it well enough. He has not gone off his food since he has been full grown (at about 4). I guess it was a growing thing, but it had us really concerned when it was happening.

      • This isn’t entirely uncommon. Dogs achieve balance over time. In a healthy dog with no problems it is advised to feed 6 days a week and skip tebother day. Fasting has tremendous benefits for dogs that are already well, mostly protective/preventative. They’re are many issues associated with allergies, liver disease, GI tract issues, stomach inflammation, leaky gut, pancreatic etc. Pancreatitis is a good example of how fasting is proven to be highly beneficial, with no underlying conditions accute pancreatitis can be deadly very quickly progressing but the common treatment involves a minimum of 24 hours fast to allow the pancreas and stomach to rest. Fluid therapy may be necessary if the pet is otherwise unwell or dehydrated. You do give them water as usual yourself during the fast but if other possible complications due to the dogs health and age status are of concern then iv fluids at the vet may be needed. But ther than keeping them hydrated and some love and care, a 24 hour fast is usually all that’s needed to turn the problem back around and then just to slowly introduce fat back into the diet starting from the very bland to the correct amount of fat for your pets type age and health etc. Any vet that wants to give drugs for pancreatitis maybe isn’t the vet you should be going to. Occasionally antibiotics as a preventative incase if secondary infection but much more evidence points to the further disruption to the GI tract is detrimental to the dogs recovery. Pancreatic can kill in as little as 24-48 hours, a simple 24 hour restriction of food and the dog should rapidly recover. Over 24 hours fast is no longer reccomneded due to further strain in the digestive system. My point was, although your conventional vet will argue otherwise, a fast for a healthy vigorous pet can do a world of good for their digestive system and as that’s where most of the innnune system lies it can have an overall huge impact on your dogs health and longevity – positive impacts of course. If you have a good hollistic vet they will advise you if this. Our conventional vet maybe not so much. But that’s why I made the example of how even a conventional vet will prescribe a 24 hours fast from all oral food (senior or ill pets may need nutritional support via IV especially if it’s at a stage where it really can’t afford to loose more weight). So although your conventional vet may say fasting 1 day a week is bad, ask them what research they’ve done into it and see their answer. The evidence is undeniable. It’s how they detox from all the rubbish they ingest and keeps things like GI inflammation and pancreatitis at bay. Then ask yourself how a simple practice can save a dog with severe acute pancreatitis where medicine can’t offer much and ask yourself how can something that can do that and also generally makes sense can be so bad. If you’re lucky to have a good hollistic vet they will tell you all you need to know instead of reading comments like mine and thinking that sounds good but I’m worried to try, to be discouraged by your conventional vet and miss out on a great health enhancing practice that dogs would of done regularly in the wild. Seen results first hand. Gi inflammation is the start of many chronic illnesses we see in pets ranging from the basic itchy skin to fatal disease. An unhappy GI tract cannot assimilate nutrients efficiently and cannot sustain healthy gut flora balance – which if the bad bacteria takes over all sorts of big threats to your pets wellbeing arise. Read the endless free information Dr Peter Dobias DVM publishes on his natural healing website. You can’t fault the guy, he does often refer to some products he’s developed but only because he knows they are the best. Once you get to know him and his relationship with his dog Skai – who was a healthy 16 year old with near perfect health, got hit on the head with a suitcase by a baggage handler at the airport and suffered a serious cervical disc injury and sadly he had to out him down himself. But don’t be put off by the often mentioned supplements, they are priceless in the long run, but you don’t have to buy them that’s your choice, just people say I liked him and everything he says makes perfect sense but I am out off by pushing his products all the time. He doesn’t push them but stresses the point they are very good – they are and he’s put a lot into creating them! But yes read some of his stuff as a resource of information he is priceless and when you get to know him more you will know he is extremely honest and genuine beyond any doubt. He likes to reccomneded his products because they are getting amazing verified results. He has to make a living st the end of the day so why not do it in such an honest and meaningful way. I wish I lived closer to him as my dogs would be seeing him for everything! Which is next to nothing. Once you follow the principles in his longevity course your animal never goes to the vet if only very occasionally for unavoidable and minor issues i.e. bee stings. The point if my lengthy answer is not to worry about a dog that eats intermittently asking as it is healthy and not loosing weight.

  4. BOL! I have the opposite problem. I have been on strict calorie control since I was 2 years old and the vet said I should stop gaining weight. Even on half rations & limited treats, I don’t lose weight, but at least I don’t gain it either. I think most small dogs gain weight easily, (except for the teeny tiny ones who are prone to low blood sugar). Most of the dogs I know who have trouble gaining weight are very active large dogs, or fresh from the shelter.
    Hugs,
    Pepper

  5. Great tips. I talk a lot about preventing obesity in my dog group but I have a senior dog who got too skinny and I found myself dealing with the opposite problem. He is a 10 lb Dachshund (not a healthy 12 lbs) and I was not seeing weight gain even though I was feeding him almost twice what I was feeding my other 10 lb Doxie. I know that rapid weight gain can be as bad as rapid weight loss for pets so I stuck with it and eventually it worked. Switching to puppy food was not an option since I feed raw but both double the food and the same amount of puppy food accomplish the same thing – more calories in.

    • I often wonder if there’s a different level of difficulty in putting weight on small versus large dogs. A two pound weight gain would be peanuts to my two, but a huge difference on your doxie.

  6. What kid of food do you feed your dogs? My husband and I just got a Pyrenees puppy and we started her on Blue Buffalo. However, her stomach didn’t like it very much so we’re looking for a new brand. What would you suggest?

    • Congrats on your new addition! Enjoy the little days; they wont last long ๐Ÿ™‚ Our pyrs didn’t do too well with Blue either. I think it was too rich for them. They love Wellness and it seems to suit them pyrfectly!

    • Pure balance is a great dog food
      No fillers and no corn or wheat.Its fish pork chicken or lamb with rice and veggies.we get ours at walmart about 10.00 for 5.5 lb.bag.good luck.

  7. I have a very picky, underweight Chihuahua with a liver issue. I have found that rotating what I offer her helps, because she doesn’t suddenly decide she doesn’t like it anymore and her liver seems to process the variety better. I aim for lower protein and higher fat for her due to her liver, so I was wondering if you know the protein content to your Satin Balls recipe? Thanks!

    • I never considered dogs with liver issues. That’s interesting that mixing it up helps in processing. I actually don’t know the protein content of the Satin Balls as it’s not my recipe : / I’m sure if you commented on that blog post, the author could answer your question!

    • Hi Kama!

      I see you have an underweight chihuahua with liver problems. I also have an underweight chihuahua with liver problems, she’s extremely bony and very fussy with her food. At the moment I feed her on webbox natural food which has no wheat gluten with a tiny topping of ham. I used to feed her on butchers choice before I realised what rubbish it was and she was having far too many seizures. She still does, but touch wood, not as many and a frequent. Does your little chihuahua have seizures or decide some days she won’t eat at all? I do have 6 other chihuahuas, but it’s a first with a little bony one with liver problems. What foods do you avoid giving yours?

      Thanks!

  8. It’s not very often that dogs need help gaining weight. It is much more common that they need to lose some, or a whole bunch. For those who do need to put on a bit, these are good tips.

  9. These are great tips!

    When Jewel was losing weight due to CRF, we tried many things to help her keep her weight up. We added some high calorie paste to her wet food. We fed her a/d occasionally. We always tried to pick food she would like and fed her often. All of these things helped her maintain her weight for a long while. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • I have tried several dog brands but my chihuahua is a very skimpy eater and isn’t gaining weight I sometimes think she is anorexic. Can u help?

        • Bone broth and coconut oil, plus as much fresh high quality protein you can get. Homemade broth , organic if you can, apple cider vinegar to draw more minerals from the bone. This alone will entice most picky eaters and a good way to get sneaky extra protein in for a dog that won’t chew food happily for whatever reason, beating in a raw egg is perfect. If you did a chicken broth, take the meat out when it’s just cooked, summer the broth at least 24 hours and add parsley right at the end for the minerals. The meat you pulled off can be out back in and blended to a soup. This can be used to add to your pets normal food if being fussy is the problem or if they won’t eat at all then it’s as good as you can do that’s easy for a dog to slurp when it is hesitant to chew food. If your pet is at higher risk of pancreatitis or ha a history of stomach upset then skin the chicken fat but not all. Replace it with coconut oil which does not cause the inflammatory issues associated with other fats and is highly reccomneded for underweight pets where too much fat and further stomach upset is of concern. My dog when she stopped eating all together had just as I described and the meat went back in after being blended like soup. I added raw hemp protein and raw eggs to each serving before giving her it. This with a natural vitamin and mineral supplement I use and probiotics sustained her weight against all odds – the vets odds. I myself was very confident. Glad I didn’t follow vets advice to euthanise as I got another 2 years and my dog regained her usual weight and went back to her organic/wild raw diet once well and her appetite cane back. The broth with the suggestions to increase protein (vital as she was severely underweight) and reduce fat (vital as she had history of pancreatic inflammation and just recently had a sever digestive upset) but replace it with coconut oil to replace the calories I skimmed away (vital as she needs the calories as matter of urgency but on the flip side was one more digestive upset from going over the line for severe and fatal weight loss) but that don’t cause digestive/pancreatic inflammation due to the way they MCT’s in coconut oil are easy to be absorbed and used for fuel without the need for processing like other fats. This with the vitamins and minerals sourced from 100% organic whole foods (synthetic vitamins waste of time) provided her a well balanced diet that any dog would do well on with some tweaks and mixing it up. Although purely used until she started accepting her raw food again, of its ongoing then those steps will get most dogs interested and ensure they are getting adequate nutrition.

  10. Our little girl Katie isn’t underweight, but she does have a higher metabolism. Usually she is feed 4 times a day. This is by her choosing. We feed breakfast to everyone, she’ll eat half. Then around 1 or 2 she’ll eat the rest, 6pm dinner and the other half of dinner around 9pm… it helps her maintain her weight well. We do add her favorite toppings, which are green beans ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. We had this problem with Ike when we first adopted him. He was 8 yrs old and very underweight. We researched and found a good quality, high calorie food. At first we had to give him 4 cups a day but now he’s down to 2 1/2 and doing great.

    • I rescued my Dalmatian at 8 years old as well and he was emaciated . I tried every dog food under the sun and he wouldn’t eat more than 1 bowl of food a day. I decided to start cooking for him , and his appetite has increased since. I feed him atleast 3 times a day and that got him to a healthy weight , but now he’s 10 and can no longer keep the weight on him ๐Ÿ™ , what food did you feed your dog ?? I need help ๐Ÿ™

  12. We have had this problem with one of our dogs – she was a rescue from a backyard breeder, super nervous and could not maintain a healthy weight. So momma gave her a sweet potato with sardines for lunch – every day; and it made her skin/hair glossy and got her weight healthy! (and stinky fishy breath – but you do, watcha gotta do!)

  13. I usually look at the type of kibble being fed first. Some dogs will pack on the pounds when they move to a higher protein kibble. I also like to look at if the serving they are getting is actually appropriate for their size. SO MANY of the bag guidelines don’t actually work in practice, so sometimes doing a little math can help.

    • So true. I never go by the bag guidelines because they never seem to be accurate. Mauja can easily maintain on 3 cups of food a day and the bag says she needs 5-6. Atka isn’t much bigger than her and I can barely keep weight on him with 6 cups a day.

  14. My Willy is young, extremely energetic, and a picky eater. I’ve never had a dog that doesn’t gobble his/her food. So it is new to me to be concerned that he gain weight rather than be concerned about over-eating. Thanks for the information. Some of the things I’ve already started to do (i.e. more than just two meals). I’m going to go follow those links now.

  15. Davinia was an itty bitty little thing when she came to live with me. It was actually why the breeder decided she would do better in a home environment. She really had no desire to eat. Nothing really worked that was until Indiana came along and the first thing she did was eat Davinia’s entire bowl of food in about 60 seconds flat. From tha day on Davinia learned that she needed to eat or the food wouldn’t be there when she came back. We also eventually changed food and now as long as Davinia approves we can have that food at our house. It was about a 2 lb weight gain and people still think she is little. We weigh on the baby scale at the vet.

  16. I have seen other pet owners experience this issue. For example, my mom’s Chihuahua won’t eat unless she is standing right there, so he has to be encouraged. But I don’t think I will ever have this issue with Rooney ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. I have 3 boxers all healthy two at good weight and one that won’t gain she’s 3 and her daughter will b 2 and she’s a butter ball eats dainty and slow her momma eats like it’s going out of style I’m feeding them dog chow at the moment what can I do for her to put weight on ty

  18. hey i just want to ask you i have an English pointer he’s 6 months old and he is skinny he loves hes food and his so agile do you recommend to feed him puppies food ? and increase his meals ?

  19. My 20 month old male German Shepherd Nyx was thin when I got him, we think from having been starved and we have yet to be able to get him to gain weight. We have tried satin balls and he is fed 3xs a day plus has access to food when he is out side as we have a 12’x 24’x6′ foot run attached to our garage and have two 25 pound feeders hanging in the garage kept full of food for both Nyx and our other German Shepherd. The other shepherd is fine and has weighed 45 pounds since we got her at 4 months she is now a little over a year old but Nyx looks starved.

  20. Not everyone has this problem on their dogs but this is very helpful for the few pet owners out there. It’s also good to be aware, in case somebody may need this. Thanks for sharing!

  21. I have a dog that has separation anxiety when I leave and a high metabolism I free feed my dogs but my boy seems to not put in any weight he according the vet he js healthy and at a good weight 41.8pounds for a border collie mix mutt yet people are saying is to skinny how do I put weight on him so he doesn’t look skinny

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