How Do I Help My Skinny Dog Gain Weight?

Certain dog breeds simply have a more solid build than others.
i Dog of breed dachshund on a chain as a sentry dog image by Dzmitry Lameika from

Some dogs seem to eat and eat but never gain weight. If you have a skinny dog, you may be worried that he could develop medical problems. But don't panic -- you can in fact help your skinny dog gain weight.

Determining a Healthy Weight

To determine whether your dog needs to gain weight, perform a simple test by feeling his rib cage. In a healthy dog, you should be able to feel the ribs just below the skin. If the ribs are visibly protruding, your dog may be severely underweight. Next, set a goal weight. If you do not know the healthy weight range for the breed of dog you have, consult your veterinarian, a breeder or a rescue group for recommendations. Your veterinarian can also run tests to determine whether your dog may be suffering from a medical condition that makes it difficult for him to maintain a healthy weight.

Type of Food

The type of food you feed your dog can have a significant impact on whether he is able to gain weight. High-quality dog foods contain a higher percentage of quality ingredients that provide your dog with the nutrition he needs. Low-quality foods containing fillers steal some of the calories your dog needs just to fuel the extra work the digestive system has to go through to break those fillers down. Dry food is often recommended over wet food for dogs that need to gain weight because it contains more carbohydrate, which can stimulate weight gain.

Amount to Feed

For a dog to gain weight, he needs to take in more calories than he burns throughout the day. To determine how much to feed your dog to help him gain weight, read the instructions on the package of your dog food and feed more than the recommended amount. You may need to experiment a little bit to find out how much you need to feed your dog. Start by increasing your dog's daily food allotment by 50 percent and watch the scale. If your dog still isn't gaining weight, double his original allotment. If you find that your dog can only eat so much at one time, try giving him several small meals throughout the day or supplement his diet with healthy treats.

Additional Tips

Even if you are trying to get your dog to gain weight, it is important that he still receive a healthy amount of daily exercise. One 30-minute walk every day will help maintain your dog's healthy heart and lung function. If your dog doesn't receive enough exercise, he may gain weight disproportionately, which could lead to health problems. By exercising your dog more in conjunction with increasing his diet, you can also help him to build muscle mass.

Starved and Severely Underweight Dogs

If you find yourself caring for a starved or severely underweight dog, such as a rescue dog, you may need to follow a slightly different procedure. Do not feed the dog too much at once, because this could make him sick. Rather, start by giving the dog small quantities of food every 20 to 30 minutes. Serve a high-quality puppy food that provides the dog with the calories he needs without putting a strain on his digestive system. As the dog's health improve,s continue to feed him small meals three to four times a day until he reaches a healthy weight for his breed.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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