Most of the information you can find about keeping dogs at a healthy weight is written from a point of preventing your dog from gaining weight or becoming obese. While this is very important, what about if your pup is underweight? Obviously feeding a dog more will help them put on weight, but how do you do this safely and effectively? If your pup needs to gain a few pounds, read on for tips and tricks to help them do this safely and effectively.
4 Tips for helping your dog gain weight
1. Choose a higher calorie food
Select a food that is higher in calories and protein like what you would offer a canine athlete. These dogs also need more calories to simply maintain their weight. For a dog that is only moderately active or sedentary, this kind of food will help them put on some much-needed weight.
2. Feed small meals throughout the day or consider free feeding
This will give your pup the opportunity to eat throughout the day and consume more calories. While free-feeding is generally not recommended because it can lead to weight gain since that is our goal in this situation it is okay to free feed your dog.
3. Supplement meals with snacks
Consider adding some supplemental food made with meat sources like bison that are high in fat and protein. These foods, usually canned will be labeled for supplemental feeding only. They should not replace a balanced formula for your dog. You may also want to talk with your vet about adding vitamins or other supplements to help keep your pup healthy.
4. Use wet or fresh foods
These may just be more appealing for your pup as they have a stronger scent than dry food. If kibble is not appealing to your pup you may want to consider an alternative. One note on food safety: If you have elected to free feed, follow any food safety guidelines to make sure your pup’s food doesn’t spoil. Most wet or fresh foods need to be refrigerated after opening at the very least. Fresh food like Ollie is shipped frozen and thawed in the refrigerator. It must be kept cold until it is time to serve it. If your pup isn’t digging cold food, consider a formula they can eat warm like a bowl of stew.
Why might a dog be underweight or undernourished:
If your pup is a picky eater, it may be hard to get them to eat enough to maintain a healthy weight. If you are feeding your dog dry food you might want to try topping the kibble with wet or fresh food. Consider trying a few of Ollie’s recipes to see if there is one your pup enjoys. Some pups prefer beef, while others like turkey or lamb. For sensitive stomachs, the chicken formula might work best. To enhance the flavor of whichever food you pick, you can always add some homemade bone broth to the mix.
Like in people who are chronically stressed, dogs who deal with chronic stressors may lose a lot of weight. To help correct this, you will want to help your pup manage their stress. This might be easier said than done. The first step is to figure out what is stressing out your pup. It could be a change in schedule, too many people around or even something outside that is bothering them like a squirrel, bird or construction they see and hear. If you are using punitive training methods like sharp corrections or an e-collar that could be another reason your pup is feeling stressed. Consider working with your vet or a trainer to help you help your pup with their stress.
Weight loss or loss of appetite can be symptoms (or side effects) of many illnesses including cancer. If your pup has a tumor in their esophagus, lungs or stomach, they may have trouble eating or keeping weight on. While there are other, less serious medical conditions that can result in a lack of appetite, you will want to get your pup to the vet ASAP if you notice your pup is losing weight or doesn’t want to eat. This is especially true if the lack of appetite and weight loss is accompanied by other symptoms like fever or vomiting.
Even if your pup is not sick, age-related issues could prevent your pup from putting on much-needed weight. If your pup is having trouble chewing due to oral pain or tooth decay it may be harder for them to eat enough to gain weight. You may wish to consider giving them food that is wet, fresh or specially formulated for older pups to help them maintain their weight and get adequate nutrition.
Found as a stray or rescued from cruelty
If you have recently rescued a pup through a shelter or rescue group and your new dog was found as a stray or removed from abuse or neglect, your dog may be severely underweight or malnourished. You will want to get as much information as you can from any doctors who worked with your pup before you adopted. Then you will want to work with your vet to set up a plan to get your pup back to good health. It may take time and patience.
It is important that you get your dog to a healthy weight. Being overweight or underweight can cause health issues or even make your dog sick. Also, dogs who aren’t well nourished may lack the energy to lead a happy and healthy life. A dog who enjoys a healthy diet will have the energy to run, play and bring joy to all around them.
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.