How to Help Your Dog Gain Weight

Is Your Dog Underweight?

How do you know if your dog is underweight? The easiest way to tell is to take a look at how prominent his bones are. Are your dog’s spine, ribs, and pelvic bones visible with no trace of fat? Is your dog lethargic all the time? Has its coat lost its luster? If yes is the answer to these questions, then your dog may be underweight and require additional nourishment. You should take your dog to the vet to rule out any underlying medical reasons for his low weight, such as hyperthyroidism

Why Won’t My Dog Gain Weight?

There are various reasons why your dog might not be gaining weight when it should be. Here are some of the ones to take a look at:

Maybe They’re a Picky Eater

Some pups are simply picky eaters, and that makes it more difficult to keep them at a healthy weight. If this is the cause of their weight issues, you can try adding a little bit of wet food into the mix or try using dog food toppers to entice them into eating more than usual. Dog food toppers have the added benefit of giving them the nourishment they might not be getting from their ordinary food, which can affect their weight as well. Pumpkin toppers are excellent for dogs with sensitive stomachs who need to gain some weight.

Or They’re Stressed

Dogs, like people, tend to lose weight when they’re feeling stressed. If this is the reason your dog isn’t putting on weight, you’ll have to find the cause and help them manage their stress. Things that could stress out your dog include a schedule change, getting too much interaction, or it could be from something they see or hear outside, like construction noise or an increase in the presence of other animals.

unitive training methods also tend to make dogs feel stressed. Your vet or a trainer can help you find the cause of their stress and help you work on fixing the issue.

They Might Be Sick

If your dog is losing weight or their appetite, it could be a symptom or side-effect of various illnesses. If their weight loss seems sudden, especially if it comes with other symptoms like vomiting or a fever, you’ll want to get them to your vet ASAP. While not every illness that could cause them to lose weight can be life-threatening, it’s better to get them treatment right away to combat their sickness.

Older dogs often lose more weight than they should. Sometimes it’s due to things like tooth decay or oral pain that makes it challenging for them to chew their food -- this makes it hard for them to eat enough food to maintain a healthy weight. Wet, fresh, or food specifically formulated for older dogs can make it more comfortable for them to eat and gain weight while making sure that they’re getting the nutrition they need to stay healthy and happy.

Recent Rescues

It’s not uncommon for dogs that were recently rescued, whether from a shelter or as a stray, to be underweight. If this is the case, you’ll want to get as much info as you can from the shelter and the dog’s previous vet (if you know who it was) to start working on the problem immediately. If they start losing weight after adoption, it could be due to stress from the change in environment.

Related: Should You Start Giving Your Dog A Joint Supplement?

Tips to Help Your Dog Gain Weight

Below we discuss some tips and tricks to help your dog gain weight. For optimal health, it’s critical to have a good balance of diet and exercise. Here’s how to fatten up your dog (the right way):

Higher Protein Or Higher Fat Food

Anybody who has ever raised a puppy will know how essential higher fat and protein foods are. Fat and protein help young dogs grow and develop and are crucial for puppies to advance into adulthood healthily. While these foods can be more expensive than regular dog food, every bite is worth it! High protein and fat foods are great for dogs who need to gain weight.

Feeding your dog a diet higher in fat and protein, which will help your dog gain weight steadily over time. Foods high in protein and fat will help your dog healthily put on weight, and you should notice a weight increase in just a couple of weeks. If you can find a dog food with a higher protein percentage, you can add it in right away to the meat protein you feed your dog.

If you need to switch meat proteins for a higher nutrient food, first experiment with a little bit of the new food in your dog’s original diet to prevent an upset stomach. 

Begin with 90% old food and 10% new food, and keep increasing the proportion of fresh food every day until you reach 100% new food. It may take 10-14 days to transition, and your dog may still have an upset stomach for a few weeks. A certain amount of stomach upset is expected during a transitory period, but if you have any concerns, make sure to check with the vet.

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New Feeding Schedule

Food is processed and metabolized slightly differently by dogs than humans, but the two animals are quite similar. People who eat within a few hours before bed, for example, have a higher likelihood of gaining weight. Eating right before bed encourages your body to store the nutrients as fat. With this theory, you can assist your dog in gaining some needed pounds.

If your dog eats twice a day, like most dogs, think about giving him a smaller portion of food in the morning and a more considerable amount in the evening before his bedtime. This will help his body to store fat when sleeping rather than burning it off. 

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Another method for weight gain is to feed your dog small meals frequently. By spreading your dog’s daily doses of food over three or four meals, your dog will be receiving nutrients throughout the day and helping him put on weight. It’s important to remember your dog shouldn’t be too active right after eating.

Try and wait at least half an hour after a meal before exercising your dog.

Sweet Potato And Pumpkin

Sweet potatoes and pumpkin are fantastic ways to help your dog put on weight in a healthy way. To avoid excessive protein in your dog’s diet while helping him gain weight, consider adding sweet potato and pumpkin to his food.

Boosting their diet with fat and fiber will help your dog’s digestion along with weight gain. You can buy canned sweet potato and canned pumpkin from your local grocery store. Make sure to keep an eye on your dog the first few days you put these additions in their diet to make sure their bowel movements aren’t irregular.

More Exercise

Most people associate exercise with weight loss, but it’s important to remember that the goal of your dog’s weight gain should be to put on more muscle! Regularly exercising your dog is the best way for it to maintain a healthy weight. In conjunction with a high protein and fat diet, your dog should be fit and muscular in no time!

Try Wet Or Fresh Foods

Wet or fresh foods may be more appealing for your dog because they will hold a stronger scent than dry kibble. It may be that your pooch is just a finicky eater and dry food doesn’t appeal to it. If that’s the case, then you may want to think about an alternative.

If you’re choosing to feed your dog fresh food like meat and vegetables, make sure that its food doesn’t spoil. At the very least, wet or fresh foods have to be immediately opened after opening. If your puppy has trouble with cold food out of the fridge, think about something warm for their tummy, like a bowl of sodium-free meat stew.

Related: Best High Fiber Foods For Dogs

How to Fatten Up a Dog: Common Questions

Can Peanut Butter Help My Dog Gain Weight?

Yes! The odds are that your dog already loves peanut butter (we know ours do!), and its high-fat content is excellent for helping them gain weight. Peanut butter is even healthier than many dog treats you’ll find at the store -- it’s a win for everyone! Try feeding them all-natural peanut butter as a treat, and combine it with a vegetable like carrots to reduce the chances of them getting an upset stomach.

Can Eggs Make My Dog Gain Weight?

That’s another yes! Eggs are loaded with healthy fat and protein to help your dog gain weight. They also provide the amino acids that your pup needs but can’t produce naturally. The fatty acids found in eggs also benefit your dog’s skin and coat. Eggs are a nutritious, easily-digestible snack that can help your dog gain weight.

Does Rice Help a Dog Gain Weight?

Rice is full of carbs and will certainly help your dog gain weight if you add it to its feeding schedule. You can add other healthy proteins to it, and rice can even help settle your dog’s stomach if they’re prone to tummy issues. Rice doesn’t provide enough nutrition, protein, or fat to be the main component of their meal, but you can add it to their other foods to help them gain weight faster.

My Dog Is Eating, But Not Gaining Weight -- Why?

If your dog seems to be eating normally, but they’re still underweight and not gaining anything, there’s usually one of two things happening: you aren’t feeding them enough, or there’s an underlying issue not letting them gain weight. You can try feeding them more at mealtime, but if they seem to not gain weight no matter what you do, you’ll want to take your pup to the vet to make sure nothing else is causing their weight issues.

What Else Can I Add to My Dog’s Food to Help Them Gain Weight?

Other than peanut butter, eggs, and rice, are there other human foods you can feed your pup to help them gain weight? Fatten up your dog and share these treats with them (they’re sure to gobble up all of the human food you have to offer!):

  • Cottage cheese -- full fat
  • Lean meat -- raw or cooked depending on your dog’s regular diet
  • Quinoa -- it provides usable energy and contains amino acids for muscle building

Other Tips to Fatten Up Your Dog

  1. Talk to your vet before you make drastic changes to your dog’s eating habits.
  2. Create a journal and keep track of their meals, treats, exercise, and weight changes.
  3. Weigh your dog weekly to keep an eye on their weight changes and how your new routine is working.
  4. Try feeding them smaller meals more frequently throughout the day.
  5. Proper exercise is still important even when you’re trying to fatten up your dog.
  6. High-quality food and treats and adequate amounts of playtime are some of the most important things to keep your dog happy and at a healthy weight.

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