How To Fatten Up A Dog

Many dog owners (and advice on the internet) is centered around pups who have gained too much weight. But some dogs have the opposite problem: they are too thin and their owners are worried about getting them back up to a healthy weight.

There’s a number of reasons that this might be the case. Your dog might be recovering from an illness, rescued from a bad situation, or they might just be a picky eater.

In any case, this blog post will cover tips for how to help them eat more and get back to a healthy weight.

Does your dog need to fatten up?

Before we get started, it’s good to know what a healthy weight is. This varies from breed to breed, and varies within the breed too.

Generally speaking, you should be able to see definition in your dog’s waist. You may also be able to see a faint outline of their ribcage. While some breeds are more boney than others, you shouldn’t be able to see their ribs (or hip bones) poking out.

Your veterinarian is a great resource for this. They can examine your dog and tell you if your dog needs to fatten up or not. They might also be able to diagnose other conditions. For example, a dog might have trouble eating the necessary amount of food if they have a tooth problem. Likewise, if you have a dog that has suddenly lost interest in eating, you should take them to the vet right away.

Higher Calorie Food Options

Keep in mind that the goal likely won’t just be gaining fat, but gaining muscle and fat at the same time. So additional food given to your dog should contain quality fat and protein, rather than being the dog equivalent of junk food (a large amount of treats with no nutritional value, for example). One way to do this is with dog food formulated for higher caloric density.

In the same way that there are weight loss and senior dog food options that offer the same volume of food with fewer calories, there are also dog food options that have higher caloric density. One such example is Miracle Vet High-Calorie Dog Food:

If your dog struggles with changing from one type of food to another, you can slowly mix the new dog food in over the course of several days or a couple weeks. This will allow them to transition to the new food without upsetting their stomach too badly.

You can also give your dog wet food. Wet food might also have higher calorie density than dry food but let’s face it, wet food is also more appealing to dogs, even the picky eaters.

If the dog food option you’ve selected for your pup doesn’t work, don’t give up just yet. A dog that turns their noise up at one option might enjoy a different brand. Some brands (and dog stores) offer small, sample size bags to make this testing process easier.

Snacking

Another technique is try feeding your dog snacks throughout the day. These additional calories can help your dog gain some weight.

You can also use them in tandem with training (such as rewarding good behavior). Peanut butter is a good snack because dogs love it, and because it’s high in fat and protein.

These snack ideas aren’t recommended to replace a balanced diet but instead to supplement it. The goal is to add nutritious calories to your dog’s diet, and not just empty calories.

Try A Different Food Schedule

In addition to feeding your dog higher-calorie food, and feeding them snacks, you can also switch up their eating schedule. This can mean a few different things.

If your dog does not want to eat at certain times of the day, and your work/life schedule allows it, you can shift meals around to see if they’re more likely to eat at certain times.

You can also increase the number of meals throughout the day (maybe in slightly smaller portions). For example, rather than giving them two meals a day, you could give them 3-4 smaller meals a day.

This can be difficult if you work a full-time job, so check out this post for more ideas on how to keep your dog fed while away.

Free-feeding

This technique, known as “free feeding” means leaving your dog with a practically unlimited amount of food for them to eat at regular intervals throughout the day. The theory is that they will know how much food they need, and naturally eat that much.

However, this technique has its drawbacks. If you have multiple dogs, this is more difficult to pull off. This is doubly true if your dog has any kind of food guarding behavior.

This method can also lead to obesity, so it is at most a short-term solution. As always consult your vet before making any drastic changes in your dog’s diet.

Talk To Your Veterinarian

Veterinarians see all shapes and sorts of dogs, and they should be your first person to consult about what is right for your specific pet. They can help estimate what a healthy range would be, and give you guidance on how quickly your dog should gain weight back.

If your dog has unexplained sudden weight loss, or sudden loss of appetite, you should talk to your vet immediately because this can be a sign of a more serious problem.

Stay Active

While we often think of exercise as helping lose weight, staying active also helps keep our muscle mass up. This is true for dogs as well. If you are trying to help a dog gain weight, couple the above food suggestions with regular (or increased) activity so that the weight gain is partially muscle gain, and not just fat.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Is My Dog So Skinny?

As stated above, there can be many reasons why your dog is underweight, including recovering from an injury or illness, or maybe they’re a picky eater. There are other reasons such as too much exercise for the amount of calories they’re consuming.

Weight loss or loss of appetite, especially if it is a sudden change,, can be a sign of something more serious happening. If this describes your dog, book a vet appointment as soon as you can. This is especially true for senior dogs.

Can I Use Eggs Be To Fatten Up My Dog?

Yes, eggs can be used to fatten up your dog. Eggs are high in protein and fatty acids, which will be of benefit to your dog’s health. This protein will help your dog to build stronger muscles.

However, you should stick to only giving your dog one egg each day, as more than this can cause them to become obese. In addition, some dogs may experience upset stomachs when they eat eggs. If this is the case, stop feeding them to your pet straight away.  

You can give your dog eggs cooked in different ways (fried, scrambled, etc), just make sure that they are plain, without dairy or other ingredients mixed in.

Final Remarks

Fattening your dog can be a lengthy process. It’s important that it’s done carefully and at a measured pace. You want your dog to gain muscle and not just fat.

As always, it doesn’t hurt to consult your vet with any questions you might have about your specific dog, and whether the plan you’ve undertaken is a good fit.

PuppyLists is written by J., who has owned, trained, volunteered with, and loved dogs for nearly three decades. When she isn't writing or researching, she's out adventuring with her 14 year old Lab mix.