How to Get a Dog to Gain Weight



About 54% of dogs in the United States are obese, many of them suffering from lifelong health issues. However, just because a dog isn't overweight doesn't mean that it is healthy. Underweight dogs can suffer from severe health issues as well. How to get a dog to gain weight without making them obese can be a challenge for dog owners, but it doesn't have to be.


To help dogs live long, healthy lives, they must have an ideal weight that resides in that proverbial sweet spot between underweight and overweight. But how can a skinny dog achieve this? Come with us as we determine if you have an underweight dog, why your dog might have trouble gaining weight, and how to get your dog to gain weight naturally!



How to Get a Dog to Gain Weight

There are many ways to get a dog to gain weight. However, there are a few things every dog owner should know before they change their dog's diet to help them gain weight.


Consult A Veterinarian

It's important to always consult a veterinarian before any changes to a dog's diet. This is especially true if the diet is used to get a dog to gain weight. A dog's veterinarian can help to formulate a proper diet plan to help a dog bulk up.


A dog's thin disposition might also be a sign of an underlying health issue not yet diagnosed. Through frequent check-ups, dog owners can help maintain their dog's fitness and stay one step ahead of any health problems.


Change a Dog's Feeding Schedule

Every dog owner should understand their dog's eating patterns. How much and how often a dog eats can determine how much more they need to eat to gain weight. Changing up a dog's feeding schedule by offering more small meals per day can help to increase a dog's weight.


Dog owners should always follow the nutrition guidelines established by their dog's vet and the feeding guidelines of the dog food they are using. Giving a dog high-quality dog treats and high-quality dog food can help make their weight gain journey successful.


Keeping Track of a Dog's Weight

Weigh your dog at least once a week. If your dog is underweight and losing weight rather than gaining it, then it might be a sign of an underlying problem.


If you have a small dog, a basic bathroom scale at home will be sufficient enough to weigh your dog. However, if you have a larger dog, you might want to use a walk-on dog scale. These scales are a staple of veterinary offices and are typically located in your veterinarian's waiting room.


Most vets allow dog owners to stop by for a quick weigh-in for their dogs. If your dog is registered at that clinic, the staff can update your dog's file with their current weight.


Giving a Dog Proper Exercise

Regular exercise throughout a dog's weight gain journey is the best way for a dog to maintain a healthy weight. Dog owners shouldn't confuse exercise with weight loss. Proper exercise combined with a high protein and fat diet will keep a dog in shape and help it gain weight more efficiently.



white dog on a scale



Is Your Dog Underweight?

Dogs come in many shapes, sizes, and breeds. To determine if your dog is underweight, you have to consider several factors unique to your dog.


Determining Your Dog's Ideal Weight

There is a two-step method to determine your dog's ideal weight. By comparing your dog's ideal weight to its current weight, you can determine whether or not you have an underweight dog or not.





STEP 1: Calculating Your Dog's Body Condition Score (BCS)

The BCS is a score that uses a 9-point scale to estimate the amount of body fat on your dog. A visual and physical examination of your dog's ribs, stomach, and overall body composition determines your dog's BCS score.

You can determine your dog's BCS at home or choose to have your dog's veterinarian do it for you. A dog's BCS is evaluated on a scale of 1-9:


  • Underweight Dogs (BCS of 1-3): You have an underweight dog. A BCS of 1 means you have a very thin dog.
  • Healthy Weight Dogs (BCS of 4-5): Your dog is at a healthy weight. These dogs have body fat between 15-25%.
  • Overweight Dogs (BCS of 6-9): Your dog is overweight. These dogs have body fat above 30%. A BCS of 9 means your dog is severely obese.


STEP 2: Calculating Your Dog's Ideal Weight

Once you determine your dog's BCS, you can use it to determine its optimal weight. Here's an easy-to-follow example of how to determine your dog's target weight.


We will use the example of a 40-pound dog with a BCS of 8 to determine its ideal weight in five simple steps:


  1. Take your dog's BCS and subtract 5. (BCS of 8 - 5 = 3)
  2. Multiply the previous result by 10. (3 x 10 = 30)
  3. Add 100 to the previous result. (30 + 100 = 130)
  4. Divide the previous result into 100 and round to 3 digits. (100 / 130 = 0.769)
  5. Multiply the previous result by your dog's current weight to determine your dog's ideal weight (0.769 x 40 pounds = 30.76 pounds)


By knowing your dog's optimal weight, you can determine if it is underweight or overweight. This can help you adjust your dog's diet and help your dog gain or lose weight.



man running with his two dogs



Why Won't My Dog Gain Weight?

Despite regular feeding routines and ample dog food, you might find it worrisome why your dog isn't gaining weight. However, there are several reasons for this. Here are some of the main reasons why your dog isn't gaining weight.


Picky Eater

Just like humans, dogs can be picky eaters, too. A dog's pickiness can be what is limiting its ability to gain weight. Always feed your dog high-quality food.


But before you change out your dog food for other foods, you can experiment by adding toppers like canned pumpkin or sweet potato to their food.


Many dogs prefer to eat wet food over dry food. Make your dog's dry food more saturated to ease their pickiness.



Dogs can have trouble eating when they are under stress. This stress is often related to certain circumstances like the presence of strangers or other animals, a sudden change in environment, or a new feeding routine. Prolonged stress can indicate a bigger problem that only a vet can diagnose and help solve.



If a dog has sudden weight loss or is regularly losing weight, it could be a side-effect of an illness. If your dog's weight loss is accompanied by fever, vomiting, or difficulty breathing, then you will want to rush your dog to the vet immediately.


Old Age

Older dogs tend to lose more weight than younger dogs due to age-related issues impacting their appetite and nutrition. Issues afflicting older dogs such as tooth decay can make eating food a challenging task. Avoid dry food and use wet food and dog foods formulated for older dogs that are easy to chew and ingest.


Peanut Butter

If you're still perplexed about why your dog won't gain weight, then it might be time to add a little bit of all-natural peanut butter to your dog's diet. Peanut butter has high-fat content that will help your dog gain weight.


Mix a little bit of peanut butter with your dog's food to give it an added treat with its meal. It's best to combine peanut butter with appropriate human food like vegetables to prevent an upset stomach.



Help Your Dog Gain Weight Naturally

There's no need to go to GNC to get the latest mass builder to get your dog to bulk up. No, your dog's weight gain journey is not accomplished by a steady diet of protein shakes and supplements. Your dog's weight gain journey is best when done naturally and with your help!


Here are some easy ways to get your dog to gain weight naturally:


  • Increase your dog's caloric intake by feeding them more meat protein, and high-fat foods.
  • Give your dog smaller meals throughout the day.
  • Enhance your dog's meals with whole food treats.
  • Always use fresh foods to satisfy your dog's palate and appetite.





Tips to Help Your Dog Gain Weight

In order for your dog to gain an optimal amount of weight, you will have to give them the perfect balance of diet, exercise, and nourishment. Here are some tips to help your dog gain weight. For more information on what dogs can and can't eat click here.


Higher Protein Or Higher Fat Food

Foods rich in protein and fat content are great ways to help your dog gain weight steadily over time. Be creative with your dog's high protein and fat diet. Switch meat proteins often and use a combination of wet and dry food to give your dog variety in their meals and prevent them from becoming repetitive.


It can take time for your dog to adjust to its new protein and fat-rich diet. You will want to start slow by offering your dog 10% new food with 90% of its old dog food. Gradually increase the amount of new food until you reach 100% new food. Transitioning your dog to a new diet can take anywhere from 10 to 14 days and can be accompanied by a slight amount of stomach upset.


New Feeding Schedule

Adjusting a dog's feeding schedule can help them gain weight. There are two methods you can utilize when giving your dog a new feeding routine.


The first method is to feed your dog several small meals throughout the day. These smaller meals will provide your dog with a constant intake of nutrients throughout the day and help your dog gain weight.


The second method is to feed your dog closer to bedtime to help them store fat. Like humans, dogs that eat before bedtime store nutrients as fat.


Pumpkin and Sweet Potato

Instead of relying on fat and protein to help your dog gain weight, add fiber to your dog's diet via pumpkins and sweet potatoes. By adding pumpkin and sweet potato to your dog's meals, you can boost your dog's overall nutrition as well as aid their digestion. You can buy plain canned pumpkin and sweet potato at your local grocery store.



Like their human food counterparts in Instacart and Amazon Fresh, Kabo is a Canadian company that delivers fresh dog food straight to your door. Kabo uses high-quality fresh ingredients sourced from local farms throughout Canada to make the best dog foods. Their dry and wet dog food contains meat protein like chicken and ground beef and various fruits and vegetables like sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, and cranberries.


All of Kabo's dog foods meet the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) standards. You can rest assured knowing that your dog will be getting the best dog food Canada has to offer.


Unfortunately, Kabo might not be available for everyone. Use this helpful tool to find out if Kabo delivers to you.


Peanut Butter and Extra Whole Food Treats

Many dog treats come packed with artificial ingredients that do not provide adequate nutrition for your dog. Instead of processed dog treats, use whole foods as treats to get your dog to pack on the pounds as well as get additional nutrition.


Here are some delicious, whole foods that you can include in your dog's diet:


  • Vegetables: Sweet potatoes, broccoli, green beans, kale, and spinach.
  • Fruits: Pumpkins, apples, bananas, coconut, and strawberries.
  • Meats: Chicken, turkey, lamb, beef, and fish.


It might be hard for your dog to find these whole foods appetizing, especially raw vegetables and fruits. An easy way to make them more appealing is to add a little bit of peanut butter to them to get your dog to eat them.


Giving your dog human foods as a healthy treat can be convenient for you and nourishing for your dog. However, you should always remember to avoid human foods that can cause your dog to get an upset stomach or, worse, be toxic to them.



small dog eating out of bowl



More Exercise

It's important to exercise your dog regularly to have them maintain a healthy weight. Always remember that the goal of your dog's exercise routine shouldn't focus on losing weight but on gaining weight by packing on muscle. A good exercise routine will help make your dog fit instead of fat.


Related: How Often Do You Walk Your Dog



Final Thoughts

A thin dog isn't necessarily a poster dog for good health. A skinny dog can weigh less than its normal weight and suffer from a range of health issues as a result. To have your dog live a long and healthy life, it must be at its ideal weight. Once you determine if your dog is underweight, you can put it on a diet and exercise routine to have them reach a healthy weight.


Transitioning to a new diet can be hard for your dog, but it doesn't have to be. There are many ways to naturally help your dog gain weight and reach its goal weight. If you find that your dog still has difficulty gaining weight, it might result from several issues ranging from picky eating habits to more serious health problems. Your dog's health is critical, and it starts with them getting proper nourishment, exercising regularly, and always being at their optimal weight.



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