Tips for Putting Weight on Your Underweight Dog

Tips for Putting Weight on Your Underweight Dog

Chowabunga Staff
Dogs may be underweight for a number of reasons. Before you attempt to put weight on your dog, he should be examined by a veterinarian to make sure he doesn't have an underlying condition that needs treated. Intestinal parasites (worms) are a common reason why a dog may not be able to gain weight, even though he eats well and seems healthy otherwise. Medical conditions such as kidney failure, anemia, and pancreatitis can cause weight loss, or the dog may have eaten garbage or some non-food object that is causing a bowel obstruction. Your dog may be perfectly healthy, just naturally lean, but you may want to put weight on him so he doesn't appear to be ill-fed and neglected.

A dog at his healthiest weight will have a waistline and his abdomen will be tucked up. The ribs should not show through the skin, but you should be able to feel them when you stroke the dog's sides. A too-skinny dog should have a weight-gain program that puts weight on gradually to avoid stressing his body systems. Gradual weight gain will be more permanent that allowing your dog to put weight on quickly.

For the purposes of this article, we will assume that your dog has a clean bill of health, is free from worms, and has been treated for any underlying medical conditions that might cause his weight loss. If your dog is recovering from a medical condition, ask your veterinarian for specific advice regarding weight gain during recovery. He may recommend a high-calorie prescription diet for your dog.

The key to appropriate weight gain is to add calories to the diet, and exercise to build muscle instead of adding fat. The type of food you feed your dog plays a major role in his weight gain, and in his general good health. High-quality, high-protein dog chows are best for providing the proper nutrition for your dog. Poor quality dog chows are usually corn-based, and many dog have allergies to corn products. Cheap kibble also has more filler, and your dog will need to eat more of it to get the nutrition he needs, and he'll also leave bigger doggy piles in the yard. Investing in a high-quality chow will not be any more expensive in the long run, and will benefit your dog's health.

Canned food has more calories than dry, but may also have more fat. Whichever dog food you choose, be sure that there are no fats listed in the first four ingredients. Excess fat in your dog's diet may lead to pancreatitis. You may choose to supplement his dry chow by mixing some canned food into it at mealtimes.

Adding some high-protein 'people food' to his diet can help him put on weight, too. Meat scraps with the fat trimmed off, cheese, eggs and cooked vegetables (easier on the dog's digestive system than raw) are recommended. Not all people foods are good for dogs, though, and some may even be harmful. Avoid feeding your dog onions, garlic, grapes, chocolate, and fruit pits or seeds, among others.

Add some low-impact exercise to your dog's weight-gain program so the extra calories turn into healthy muscle instead of unhealthy fat. Swimming, walking, and playing fetch are all good choices, and a little extra exercise will be good for you as well as your dog!