Although The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, found over 53.9% of dogs in 2016 to be overweight, there are a lot of underweight dogs. It can be dangerous for their overall health and life span. Before learning the best ways to put weight on your dog, it is important to correctly determine and figure out why your dog might be underweight.
1. How can I determine if my dog is underweight?
- Body Condition Scoring Tool
This is an excellent tool to help you determine if your dog has the correct amount of body fat by looking at the ribs, spine and bone structure of the dog.
- If your dog is underweight, their ribs can easily be seen and felt. The waistline will also curve more to one side.
- The ribs and spine on a healthy dog cannot be easily seen. The dog will have a muscular appearance, and the waistline will not be curved.
2. Why is my dog underweight?
Dogs can be underweight for several reasons. It is important to figure out what is causing your dog’s lack of weight and how you can address the issue promptly.
Here is a detailed list of possible causes on why a dog could be underweight:
- Allergies (Check our Hypoallergic Food for Dogs Article)
- Liver Disease
- Kidney Disease
- Heart Disease
- Addison’s Disease
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Dental Problems
Poor Quality Dog Food
Once you have decided if and why your dog is underweight, check out our eight healthy ways to fatten up a dog.
- High-Quality Dog Food
- Consistent Feeding Schedule
- Feeding Tips
- Preventative Care
- Basic Health Awareness
- Seeking Professional Advice
Healthy Ways to Fatten up a Dog
1. High-Quality Dog Food
The type of food you choose to feed your pup is an integral factor in the overall health for your dog. Providing high-quality food will help them gain body fat and obtain the correct nutrition they require. Focusing more on the nutritional value of the food instead of some calories will help them healthily gain weight.
Poor quality dog food does not have enough minerals, vitamins, and dietary fiber to help a dog receive the correct amount of nutrients. Unlike higher quality food, poor quality dog food consists of artificial fillers that are said to cause several health issues for dogs. Artificial fillers are used as a cost effective way to increase the amount of dog food produced because they are cheaper compared to more nutritional and natural ingredients.
SIDE NOTE: You should never give a large amount of human food to dogs. Giving a dog table scraps or large amounts of human food will harm their digestive system and possibly cause problems, such as pancreatitis. Below are several resources that explain which foods can be beneficial and which can be harmful:
2. Feeding Schedule
Creating a meal schedule that includes 3-4 small meals throughout the day will help your dog digest the food easier. You should also try to feed them every four hours, but not exceed over 6 hours between feedings. Smaller meals allow them to digest food faster, which in turns creates a faster metabolism.
Having a consistent feeding schedule will allow the pup adjust to a new meal plan. It will also allow you, the owner, keep track of the amount of food they consume. Regulating a new feeding schedule takes time, so patience is key.
Also, remember that every dog is different, so you might have to offer food in various forms or at different times, depending on when your pup is hungry and how it reacts to a new routine. Remember to slowly integrate the new food with its old food over a period, so it doesn’t upset their stomach.
3. Additional Feeding Tips
Just like humans, dogs enjoy and deserve special treats from time to time. It is important not to give too many treats to a dog because it could lead to other behavioral or health concerns. Implementing treats gradually will also allow your dog’s digestive system to adjust and create a nice balance of nutrition and treats.
Check out some awesome ways to help your dog get excited for meal time or special snacks below:
- High-Calorie Snacks (Can add to dry food)
- Cottage Cheese
- Chicken Liver
- Raw Meat
- Sweet Potatoes
- Salmon Oil
- Peanut Butter
Dog supplements can aid a well-balanced diet for your dog depending on what type of food and diet they are on.Your veterinarian should determine if they are a prime candidate for supplements before beginning any supplement routine.
An excessive amount of vitamins and minerals could be toxic to their system. Dehydration, joint pain, diarrhea, and blood issues are just some of the symptoms that could occur. If supplements are not suitable for you pup, vitamin B rich foods are a great alternative to supplements.
Why should I exercise my dog if I’m trying to fatten it up?
Underweight dogs need to exercise so they can build more muscle and increase their appetite. Remember to introduce exercise into their routine gradually, so they don’t end up with an injury. Make exercise fun for both you and your pup by checking out some fun tips to get them moving!
Fun Ways to Get Active With Your Pup!
- Neighborhood walk
- Visit a local dog park: Click HERE To Find A Local Dog Park
- Join an agility group or class
- Game of catch – Check out some awesome fetch toys like Chuckit! Launcher
- Playdate with another dog
- Take a hike either walking or running
- Go to swimming with your furry friend
- Create an obstacle course
6. Preventive Care
There is a strong correlation between parasites and underweight dogs, so making sure they are on a prescribed dewormer from your veterinarian is a must. When a pup has parasites, it attacks the food and nutrients in your dog’s digestive tracts. Drs. Foster and Smith have a helpful graph for owners on the best prescription de-wormers for dogs.
Side Note: I have always had great results with Heartgard Plus. You can purchase it at your veterinary, 1-800-PetMeds, or on Drs. Foster & Smith. I have four dogs ranging from 4 pounds to 28 pounds, and they all do great on it.
Poor dental care can contribute to your dog being underweight, so it is important to make sure they have healthy teeth. The American Veterinary Dental College has an excellent article on dental hygiene home care that I follow and love. Brushing your dog’s teeth at least three times a week and following a regular dental hygiene routine is a sure way to ensure proper preventative dental care.
When purchasing dental care items, make sure the toothbrush and toothpaste are specifically made for a dog. There is also oral rinses and gels that consist of an antiplaque antiseptic that can also be beneficial.
Rawhide chews and other chew toys are excellent choices to keep your dog’s teeth healthy as well. When purchasing rawhide chews make sure they are suitable for their breed and size. They can be a choking hazard if not supervised properly.
When looking for chew toys consider rubber toys, dental treats, and bully sticks. Other chew toys such as animal chews or tennis balls can cause other problems and be dangerous.
You should definitely check out our Woof Dog article on how to fill a KONG chew toy and how to implement one into your pet’s daily routine: How to Fill a Stuffed KONG Toy for Ultimate Doggie Chewing Fun + Bonus Tip. KONG toys are an excellent choice for a safe chewing toy.
7. Basic Health Awareness
When you have a good understanding of what your dog’s normal behaviors are, it is easier to detect if something is wrong. Observing them on a daily basis for any behavioral changes will help you learn more about your dog. Keeping a journal is an excellent way to keep track of notes you have on their behaviors and an easy way to inform your veterinarian of any changes you may see.
I would also suggest buying or borrow a reference book on your dog’s breed. There is a ton of resources that explain certain physical, emotional, and behavioral characteristics common or not common with the dog’s specific type of breed.
8. Seek Professional Advice
Overall, it is important to communicate with your veterinarian before making drastic changes to your dog’s diet and lifestyle. Scheduling regular visits to your veterinarian, keeping up with preventative care and vaccinations is a must. Seeking professional advice will not only ease your mind but will make sure their best interest is taken care of first.