How To Help Your Dog Gain Weight

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?


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

    • 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

  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.

  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.

  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?


  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™‚

  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!

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