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How to Help Dogs Gain Weight: Tips, Food, and Supplements

If you have a dog, you probably want him to be healthy and happy. One of the indicators of your dog’s health is his weight and body condition. While some dogs may struggle with obesity, others may have the opposite problem: being underweight.

An underweight dog may look skinny, weak, and dull. He may have low energy, poor appetite, and a lack of interest in his surroundings. He may also be more prone to infections, injuries, and diseases.

There are many reasons why a dog may be underweight, such as illness, stress, picky eating, parasites, or genetics. Some dogs may simply have a fast metabolism or a high activity level that burns more calories than they consume.

Whatever the cause, an underweight dog needs some extra care and nutrition to help him gain weight safely and effectively. In this article, BestForPets will provide you with a complete guide on how to help dogs gain weight with tips, food, and supplements.

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Deborah R. Fletcher (DVM)

Veterinarian

The information provided is current and up-to-date, in line with the latest research conducted in the field of veterinary medicine.

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Tips on How to Help Dogs Gain Weight

How to Help Dogs Gain Weight Tips

The first step in helping your dog gain weight is to increase his food intake. However, this is easier said than done. Some dogs may be picky eaters who refuse their food bowls. Others may have a decreased appetite due to stress, illness, or pain. Some may simply dislike the taste or texture of their meals.

Here are some ways to make your dog’s mealtimes more enjoyable and rewarding:

  • Serve smaller portions more frequently throughout the day. This can prevent your dog from becoming too full or overwhelmed by a large amount of food at once. Additionally, it can stabilize his blood sugar and energy levels throughout the day.
  • Add wet or canned food to dry kibble to enhance its flavor and moisture content. Wet or canned food can improve the taste and appeal of dry kibble for your dog. Additionally, it can provide calories and nutrients that may be lacking in his diet. Choose a moist or canned food that is specially formulated for weight gain or one that matches the formulation of his dry food.
  • Switch to a dog food formula that is more palatable and digestible. Sometimes, your dog may not enjoy the flavor or smell of his current food, or he may have difficulty digesting it. In this case, you can try a different dog food formula designed for weight gain or one with a different protein source, grain variety, or taste.
  • Avoid overfeeding and free-feeding, as these practices can lead to digestive upset and obesity. While you want your dog to eat more, you do not want him to do so excessively or constantly. Overfeeding can cause digestive issues, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation. Obesity can contribute to other health problems, such as diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease.

Regular and appropriate exercise is also necessary to help your dog gain weight. Exercise can boost your dog’s metabolism, promote muscle growth, and improve his appetite and mood. However, you should not overdo it or exhaust your dog, as this can cause him to burn fewer calories than he consumes.

The following exercises and activities can help your dog gain weight:

  • Playing interactive games such as fetch, tug-of-war, and other games. These activities can help your dog expend excess energy while having fun with you. Additionally, they can strengthen his muscles, bones, and bond with you.
  • Walking, hiking, or swimming. These activities can provide moderate exercise for your dog, which can improve his cardiovascular health and endurance. Additionally, they can expose him to a variety of sights, scents, and sounds to enhance his mental stimulation.
  • Enrolling in agility, obedience, or other training classes. These classes can challenge your dog’s physical and mental abilities while teaching him new behaviors and skills. They can also provide him with opportunities to socialize with other dogs and humans.
  • Providing your dog with toys, puzzles, or chew treats that keep him mentally and physically active. These items can help alleviate your dog’s boredom and stress while satisfying his natural tendencies to chew, seek, and solve problems. Additionally, they can prevent him from developing destructive behaviors such as chewing on furniture or shoes.

Food for Dogs to Gain Weight

The second step in helping your dog gain weight is to feed him a high-quality, calorie- and nutrient-dense dog food. The best dog food for weight gain will be complete and balanced for his life stage, as well as rich in essential nutrients such as:

  • High-quality protein for muscle repair and development. Protein is the primary structural component of your dog’s muscles, organs, skin, fur, and nails. Additionally, it boosts his immune system and hormone production. Your dog’s diet should contain at least 18% protein, but more if he is underweight or very active.
  • Healthy fats for energy and skin health. Fats are your dog’s most concentrated source of energy, providing 9 calories per gram. Additionally, they support the health of his skin and coat, as well as his brain and nervous system. Your dog’s diet should contain at least 5% fat, but more if he is underweight or very active.
  • Complex carbohydrates for sustained energy and fiber. Carbohydrates provide an additional source of energy for your dog, with 4 calories per gram. Additionally, they regulate his blood sugar and contribute fiber to his digestive health. Carbohydrates are not required in your dog’s diet, but they should come from healthy sources such as brown rice, oatmeal, or sweet potatoes.
  • Minerals and vitamins for immune system and overall health. Vitamins and minerals are crucial to your dog’s health because they support his immune system, metabolism, bone health, and vision, among other functions. Your dog’s diet should contain a variety of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron, zinc, and others.

There are many dog food formulas on the market that are designed for weight gain or have high levels of protein, fat, and calories. For some examples of dog food formulas that are suitable for weight gain, check out our article on the Best Dog Foods for Weight Gain.

Why Does My Dog Eat a Lot and Still Not Gain Weight?

Some dogs may have a seemingly strong appetite but still struggle to gain or lose weight. This can be frustrating and concerning for dog owners as it may indicate a serious health issue. If your dog eats a lot but is not gaining weight, you should take him to the veterinarian for a thorough examination.

There are several potential reasons why your dog eats a lot but does not gain weight, including:

  • Poor diet. Your dog may be consuming a large amount of food but not receiving enough calories or nutrients. This can occur if you feed him low-quality food, unbalanced prepared food, or food that is inappropriate for his age, size, or level of activity. Consult your veterinarian for the best diet for your dog and follow the feeding instructions on the package or label.
  • Endocrine problems. Your dog’s metabolism and appetite may be affected by a hormonal imbalance. For example, he may have hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones. This can result in low energy, poor coat quality, and weight loss despite increased feeding. Another example is diabetes, a condition in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin. This can result in high blood sugar levels, increased thirst and urination, and weight loss despite eating more. Your veterinarian will need to perform blood tests and prescribe medication or insulin injections to diagnose and treat these conditions.
  • Parasitic infestation. Worms or other parasites may be depriving your dog of nutrients and causing him to lose weight. Common symptoms of parasitic infestation include scooting, vomiting, diarrhea, bloating, a dull coat, and visible worms in the excrement or vomit. To prevent and treat parasitic infestation, you should regularly deworm your dog with products recommended by your veterinarian and maintain a clean, hygienic environment for him.
  • Dog breed. Your dog may be a member of a breed with a naturally slender build or fast metabolism. Greyhounds, whippets, salukis, and other sighthounds, for instance, are known for their slender frames and swift velocities. They may eat a lot of food but still appear thin because they expend a great deal of calories through exercise. To help them maintain a healthy weight, you should provide them with high-quality, protein- and fat-rich food and regularly assess their physical condition.
  • Intestinal malabsorption syndrome. Your dog may have a condition that impairs his ability to absorb nutrients from his diet. This can be caused by inflammation, infection, cancer, or other conditions that damage the intestinal mucosa. Intestinal malabsorption syndrome is characterized by persistent diarrhea, weight loss, gas, abdominal discomfort, and foul-smelling feces. To diagnose and treat this condition, your veterinarian will need to perform blood tests, fecal tests, x-rays, ultrasound, endoscopy, or a biopsy, as well as prescribe medication or surgery based on the underlying cause.

If your dog eats a lot but is not gaining weight, you should not ignore the situation or try to force him to gain weight. You should consult your veterinarian as soon as possible to determine the underlying cause and receive the appropriate treatment. By doing so, you can help your dog achieve a healthy weight and improve his quality of life.

Conclusion

BestForPets has provided you with a comprehensive guide on how to help your dog gain weight using food, supplements, and helpful hints in this article. We hope you found this information beneficial for the health and happiness of your dog.

Before making any adjustments to your dog’s diet or lifestyle, it is essential that you consult with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian can help you determine the safest and most effective means to help your dog gain weight.

If you have any comments or concerns, please share them in the comments section below. We would greatly appreciate hearing from you and your furry companion. Thank you for reading!

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Dr. Heidi Bigham

Dr. Heidi H. Bigham, DVM is an expert in small animal veterinary care, specializing in emergency medicine, geriatric pet health, and internal medicine. She has five years of expertise as a general practitioner of small animal medicine in facilities that provide preventative care, surgery, and 24-hour emergency treatment. 

Veterinarian (DVM) Dr. Heidi Bigham

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