Many dogs are prone to being overweight. Dog owners are often told not to feed their dogs table scraps or give too many treats when training their pet. Free feeding is usually discouraged as it can encourage overeating. Many people worry about the amount of food their dog eats and might struggle to achieve weight loss in their pet.
Most people don’t think dogs being underweight is serious, but it can cause long-term problems. While there are many similarities between dogs of the same or similar breeds, each is unique and there are many reasons why yours might be underweight.
If. you have underweight dogs, it helps to know that there are many foods for weight gain, but you should always consult your veterinarian to make sure any underlying health issues are addressed and that Fido starts gaining weight back in a safe, healthy way.
We’re going to take a look at some of the most common reasons why dogs might be underweight and tell you some of our favorite weight gain dog food recipes.
- How do you know if your dog is underweight?
- How is being underweight bad for my dog’s health?
- What about puppies?
- How to help your dog gain weight the safe way
- What to look for in dog food for weight gain
- Wet dog food or dry dog food?
- The Best Dog Foods for Weight Gain
- The Best Dog Treats for Weight Gain
- FAQs about helping your pet gain weight
- Final Word on Diet Choices for a Dog that Needs to Gain Weight
How do you know if your dog is underweight?
There are some obvious signs to look for to determine whether your dog is overweight. These include:
- Low energy
- Dull coat
- Unhealthy coat condition
- Visible ribs, shoulders, or hips
- Bad eating habits
Because there is so much variation between breeds, these signs are not definitive. For example, some breeds have fewer fat reserves around their hips or shoulders, so visible hips and shoulders are normal. But if you notice changes or you are just concerned, it’s always a good idea to check with your veterinarian to make sure there isn’t an underlying health issue.
How is being underweight bad for my dog’s health?
Low body weight is not a health condition. It’s a symptom of something else. If your dog is underweight, it’s important to see your veterinarian to determine what is causing the issue so that it can be treated properly.
Here are some of the things that may cause dogs to be underweight:
- Anxiety. If your pup is worried or anxious about something, it is likely to lose its appetite. Weight loss from anxiety is especially common in dogs that experience separation anxiety.
- Dental problems. Dental problems are often the only thing causing weight loss in dogs. If it hurts when they eat, they likely want to stop eating. This is one reason why it’s important to see your vet. If dental problems go unchecked, it can result in tooth loss and significant infections.
- Diabetes. Diabetes can lead to rapid weight loss in dogs. If your dog has diabetes, talk to your veterinarian and get appropriate food to maintain blood sugar without restricting calories.
- Inflammatory bowel disease. Any disease that affects the gut can cause weight loss, but inflammatory bowel disease is one of the most common.
- Intestinal parasites. If you notice symptoms like vomiting and a change in bowel habits, your pet might have a parasite.
- Surgery. It doesn’t necessarily matter what type of surgery your dog may have had, recovery is difficult. Your pup may be in pain or just feel off from the sedation used for the procedure and stop eating for a few days.
- Thyroid problems. If your pup is experiencing overactive thyroid, weight loss can result. This condition is treated with medication, so make sure you see your vet.
What about puppies?
Puppies are a little different than adult dogs. It’s important to remember not to overfeed your puppy in the hopes that it will cause it to grow faster. Proper body weight is important for healthy development. Puppies should gain weight at a slow and steady pace to encourage healthy bone and muscle development.
There are plenty of dog foods tailored to puppies. If you’re not sure how much to feed your pooch, talk to your vet. If a puppy is underweight, it could be a sign of a significant health problem, leading to stunted growth or even greater health problems later in life.
How to help your dog gain weight the safe way
If you’re trying to help a dog gain weight, talk to your veterinarian and make a plan. While it might be tempting to just start to feed your dogs more, this isn’t a safe way to go about helping your dogs gain. weight.
Like healthy weight loss, healthy weight gain takes time. Your pup didn’t lose weight overnight, and it’s not going to gain it all back that quickly, either.
Ultimately, it boils down to the same concepts as weight loss, only in reverse. When trying to get your dogs to lose weight, you should make sure it burns more calories than it takes in. When trying to help. your dog, make sure it consumes more calories than it burns. (Note that this isn’t always the case if your dog has a severe medical condition. In this case, it’s best to talk to your veterinarian and follow their advice when it comes to dog food and other interventions.)
Here are a few strategies to help your dog increase its calorie intake:
- Feed your dogs more often. Instead of two or three meals a day, try four.
- Choose a dog food higher in protein and calories. Higher fat is okay, but don’t go overboard. A high amount of fat is bad for dogs, just like it’s bad for us. A high amount of protein is the key.
- Offer high-calorie treats. It’s important to keep in mind that you don’t just want your dog to eat more, you want it to eat more healthy food. Treating Fido to table scraps or other human food may help pack on the pounds, but it’s not a good strategy. Instead, offer high-quality treats packed with protein and fat. You can even try a spoonful of natural peanut butter!
- Let your dog free feed. Free feeding is something that is strongly discouraged in dogs that are overweight or prone to weight gain, but if you’re trying to help your dog gain weight, it’s a good strategy. Leave food out for your underweight dog so that it can come to its bowl and eat whenever it feels like it.
- Try puppy food. Puppy food is a good option for underweight adult dogs because it’s formulated for growth, which means it’s calorie-dense with a lot of protein.
- Be careful with homemade dog foods. Homemade dog food is fashionable and can be a healthy, nutritious meal for your dog. But for a dog with a weight problem, it’s safer to stick to something that’s properly balanced and vet-approved.
One of the most helpful things you can do to help is to keep a journal of its eating habits. Write down any changes to its diet and any treats or supplements you start using. Track your dog’s weight every week, and try to figure out what is working. A journal not only helps you figure out what is working and what isn’t, but it is also useful to share when trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
What to look for in dog food for weight gain
There are three main features to look for when choosing the best dog food for weight gain. They are:
- Calorically dense. Calorically dense dog food has a lot of calories packed into a small amount of food, which means that your dog doesn’t have to eat much to get a calorie boost. You can find this information on the label. With dry dog food, it’s given in kcal/cup. With wet dog food, it’s usually given in kcal/can. These foods are normally higher in fat than regular dog foods as fat packs a lot of calories, but this doesn’t mean that calorically dense foods have a high amount of fat. They just have more fat than average foods.
- Tastes good. If you’re trying to help your dog with weight gain, you want to give it dog food that it’s going to like. Just like us, dogs are more likely to want to eat food that tastes good. Wet dog food tends to taste better than dry dog food. Your dogs might like one animal protein better than another. Sometimes, you might have to make significant changes to find something your dog likes the taste of.
- Easy to digest. This is one of the most important features to look for. When food is highly digestible, it’s easy for the body to use. That means that less is excreted as waste and more is absorbed into the body, so your pup doesn’t have to eat as much to get the nutrition it needs to improve its body condition. There’s no real way to determine exactly how digestible the dog food is. It isn’t something you’ll find on the label. Avoid foods that are high in fiber as fiber is not digestible and is normally used to add bulk to help with stooling. You can also monitor stool. When eating highly digestible food, stools will be well-formed, firm, and small.
Wet dog food or dry dog food?
Wet food almost always tastes better than dry dog food, but wet food contains a lot of water, which means that it’s not calorically dense and not the best choice for dogs who need a recipe to gain weight. Dry food almost always has more calories than wet food and should be your main choice when choosing high-calorie dog food for weight gain. If you have a really picky eater or a pet that doesn’t like its dry food, try mixing some wet food in or using it as a topper to make the meal more palatable.
It is because of this difference in calories that we’re going to recommend only dry dog foods for weight gain. Again, wet dog food is a great topper or mix-in and can make food much more palatable, but it’s not the best option for high-calorie dog food. We recommend you stick to dry food for weight gain and add a wet food topper as needed. Of course, talk to your vet. If they recommend wet dog foods for weight gain, it’s always best to follow their advice.
The Best Dog Foods for Weight Gain
Here are some of our favorite recipes for the best dog foods for people trying to help their dog gain weight.
There are a lot of features to love about this dog food, but the most notable thing about this recipe is that it has more calories per cup than any dry dog food in the world. Each cup contains 600 calories, and the formula includes 31 percent protein and 25 percent fat. That means that your pooch doesn’t have to eat much to get the benefits, and a single bag lasts about twice as long as a regular dry dog food recipe.
Because this food is so calorie-dense, it’s an amazing weight gainer. Plus, it contains only all-natural ingredients and contains no artificial colors, flavors, colors, or preservatives, and no fillers.
One of the best dog food recipes for weight gain comes from a brand most pet owners are familiar with. Purina Pro Plan SPORT is a high-calorie recipe that contains 30 percent real animal protein and 20 percent fat. Although this food is meant for active dogs with high metabolisms, at 484 kcal/cup, it’s calorie-dense and loaded with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that are great for your pooch.
This recipe contains real chicken as the number one ingredient. It’s loaded with antioxidants to encourage a healthy immune system, amino acids to support muscle growth, glucosamine for joint health, and omega fatty acids for healthy skin and a shiny coat. There’s no corn, wheat, or soy, and Purina Pro Plan advertises that this formula is highly digestible.
At 444 kcal/cup, Crave High Protein Grain-Free dry dog food is our next option on our list of dog foods for weight loss. It’s rich in animal protein, with real chicken and chicken meal being the first two ingredients. Crave doesn’t use any poultry by product meal, soy, corn, or wheat. With 34 percent protein and other nutritious ingredients like split peas, lentils, pork meal, beat pulp, and alfalfa meal, this Crave formula is features everything you need for a diet plan to help your dog gain weight and stay healthy.
One of the main things to look for in the best dog foods for weight gain is palatability. If your dog is a picky eater and you’re at a loss, try Earthborn Holistic Coastal Catch. Most dog foods feature chicken as the main protein and chicken fat for added calories, but this recipe is a little different.
Coastal Catch uses herring meal, salmon. meal, and whitefish meal for a formula that’s packed with protein and promises to increase muscle mass. The omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids increase skin and coat health. This formula has 400 kcal/cup with 32 percent protein, 18 percent fat, and only 4 percent fiber, a great example of a balanced mix for your Labrador retriever or any breed of adult dog.
Another good diet option for people who need to help their pet with weight gain is this all-stages dog food from Maximum Bully. Not. that this isn’t a recipe that’s formulated for all breeds. It contains 481 kcal/cup and is loaded with 32 percent protein and 22 percent fat. It uses multiple protein sources, including real chicken and pork meal, and contains healthy ingredients like pumpkin, cranberry, and oatmeal to improve digestion.
Note that this Bully Max recipe isn’t meant for every breed. According to the brand, it’s meant for the following breeds: Akita, Boxer, American Bulldog, French Bulldog, English Bulldog, Nuvi Bulldog, American Staffordshire Terrier, Boston Terrier, Bull Terrier, American pit bull terrier, German Shepherd, Cane Corso, Rottweiler, Chow Chow, Bull Mastiff, Doberman Pinscher, Mastiff, and Great Dane.
Another good diet food for weight gain is Nulo Limited Ingredient. For dogs with food allergies or sensitivities on top of needing to gain weight, this recipe is a good option. With 30 percent crude protein, 18 percent crude fat, and 438 kcal/cup, this food uses only fresh natural ingredients and is balanced with Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids for skin and coat health and non-GMO canola oil to deliver healthy fats.
It doesn’t have any of the ingredients common in most dogs foods and prone to causing sensitivities and allergies, like chicken, chicken fat, eggs, pea protein, corn, wheat, soy, or tapioca. It’s also made in the USA and free of any artificial preservatives or colors and has probiotics to ensure proper digestion so your pooch absorbs all the nutrients and calories it needs to support weight gain.
The Best Dog Treats for Weight Gain
If you’re a fan of Bully Max High-Performance Super Premium Dog Food, you’ll love Bully Max muscle-building chews. This formula contains 30 percent protein and 12 percent fat, helping your dog build lean muscle and boost its immune system. It contains no soy, wheat, or corn and are approved and recommended for all breeds and dogs 12 weeks and older. Like Bully Max High-Performance dog food, your pup will love this addition to its diet.
Another great treat for increasing body weight is Weight Gaining Chews. Each chew has 60 calories, and the bag contains 60 chews for a total of 3,000 calories per bag. These weight gainer treats contain probiotics to help with digestion and use only all-natural ingredients. There’s no artificial colors or flavors, no glycerine, gluten, wheat, sugar, or animal by-products, and no trans fats.
FAQs about helping your pet gain weight
We chose to share our favorite options for dog food for weight gain, but we know that you still might have some questions. Here are some of the things that the average dog owner wonders about when it comes to food for weight gain.
Does a diet with grains help improve my dog’s body condition and weight?
Grains have a lot of carbs, and while some grains can help your pooch gain weight, many of them are fillers that have minimal nutritional value. If you want the best dog food to help your pup gain weight and you’re not interested in something grain-free, choose a recipe with carbs like sweet potatoes as opposed to rice or wheat.
What kind of protein can help my dog gain weight?
All protein is good for your pup, but red meat protein is the best for weight gain because it tends to have more fat. But that doesn’t mean you have to stick with a beef recipe to make sure your pup gets enough protein. Fish and things like salmon meal are full of protein but also deliver omega fatty acids that provide other benefits to your dogs. You should also look for food with chicken fat to add some healthy calories.
Is fat good for gaining weight?
Not necessarily. Not enough fat can lead to weight loss, but when it comes to the best dog food to gain weight, protein is more important. Fat is mostly converted into energy. That said, if your pup doesn’t have enough fat, its body will start to burn other sources of energy, which can lead to other problems. So, your dog needs both protein and fat to gain weight. But the food you choose should have more protein than fat.
Does aging cause a dog to lose weight?
As dogs age, they lose some muscle, which leads to weight loss. So, some weight loss with aging is normal. That said if you think your older adult dog has lost too much weight or they just don’t have an appetite, talk to your veterinarian. Older dogs often lose their sense of smell and taste which has a huge effect on diet. They may also have dental problems that make it more difficult to chew. You may just need to find a food that they like to eat to stop excessive weight loss from happening.
Does my dog need diet supplements?
If changing to dog food for weight gain doesn’t fix the problem, you may need to give your pet a supplement. If you don’t want to add supplements, try some of the best dog food treats that we mentioned. Talk to your veterinarian to be sure you’re giving your pet what it needs, especially if you notice weight loss continuing.
Final Word on Diet Choices for a Dog that Needs to Gain Weight
Changing your dog’s diet is stressful, so if you’re concerned or need someone to give you an example of what features to look for, talk to your vet. They would be happy to share some tips with you about the features to look for to ensure your pup gains enough weight safely.
I grew up in a household that was filled with animals. I believe that my fate as a dog-loving person was sealed in early childhood since my parents owned several dogs of varying sizes and breeds. There was no choice but to take care of and learn about dog habits and the best animal care practices — otherwise, I’d be clueless about how to go about the creatures I was surrounded by day and night.
As a life-long puppy lover, I know a thing or two about dogs and how to go about caring for them in the best way possible. Although I’m not a professionally trained dog behaviorist, trainer, or veterinarian, all of my knowledge and experience with canines comes from a place of love and a deep-rooted passion for dogs and animals in general.
Seeing as dogs kept me company throughout every stage of my life, I decided to follow a different path in my academic life and obtained a Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Marketing Management and Digital Advertising, which ultimately allowed me to combine my professional training and personal experience by creating the ultimate dog lover’s resource website! Along with my husband, Dave, I run MySweetPuppy for like-minded dog lovers who want to have a single, clear, and reliable information source about anything and everything related to dogs and their well-being.