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Keeping your dog at a healthy weight is a priority for all canine owners. A lot of time and attention is spent on ensuring they have high-quality food that meets their specific nutritional needs based on breed, size, and life stage. A big concern is ensuring that dogs do not gain too much weight and become overweight, which leads to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. On the other side of the issue, there are some dogs that are underweight and need to gain some pounds. For them, simply eating more dog food or more calories is not going to solve the problem. Finding the best foods for weight gain is tricky, and owners must ensure they are making the top choice for their pup’s long-term health.
Knowing what to feed a dog to gain weight is challenging. Owners want to pick beneficial, wholesome, tasty food that dogs want to eat, and that will help them reach a healthy weight. We have done our research and are happy to share with you our findings about the best dog foods for weight gain and what to feed a pup to gain weight. We’ve researched hundreds of dog food brands and formulas and have determined Raised Right, CRAVE, Bully Max, and The Farmer’s Dog to be among the best dog food options for weight gain. However, there are factors to consider, including your dog’s age and health status, so read below to determine which food is best for your dog. We must point out that it is important to incorporate regular veterinary visits and consultation with your veterinarian regarding any dietary changes that you make. It is especially important for dogs who are underweight, as often the cause is underlying disease. Never make any significant changes to your pet’s diet without first speaking with your veterinarian.
At A Glance: A Few Of Our Top Picks
|The Farmer’s Dog
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Why Would A Dog Need To Gain Weight?
There are a variety of reasons why a canine could be underweight or have trouble putting on and keeping weight on their body. Weight loss can occur for many reasons, including disease, infection, low-quality food, dental disease, gastrointestinal dysfunction, and even serious illnesses like cancer. While most owners are concerned with their pups putting on too many pounds, having an underweight pup can be very scary and cause emotional distress both to the animal and the owner.
5 Common Reasons Dogs Are Underweight
- Younger canines are very active and can have difficulty maintaining a healthy weight due to their constant activity level. They burn a large number of calories during their day and require more to support their fast level of growth. If their diet does not support energy use, dogs may not be able to keep enough pounds on.
- Oftentimes, the cause of an underweight canine is a poor diet. This can be due to poor quality food, a calorie-deficient diet, or being a picky eater and refusing food. In some cases, owners may put their pets on a special diet when they are sick or not feeling well to encourage eating and then forget or have resistance to switch them off that diet fully. I, for example, had a Chihuahua who got sick and ate chicken and rice while she was not feeling well. Once she was better, she did not want her regular food and would only eat chicken and rice. This led to some gastrointestinal upset and even blood in her stool.
- Stress or anxiety can also cause a dog to be underweight. For example, a pet suffering from separation anxiety may refuse to eat. Other times, events like moving or a new pet may trigger the same response.
- Mouth pain can also cause canines to refuse to eat, leading to a loss of pounds. Canine dental disease can be very painful and very serious. It is estimated that most canines have some form of dental disease by the time they reach three years old.
- The stage of life a canine is in can also impact their weight. If your pup is losing pounds as they age, their diet will need to be adjusted periodically to ensure they are getting enough fat, protein, and calories.
What To Feed A Dog To Gain Weight?
When selecting food to help a dog gain weight, it is important to consider the animals’ specific and unique medical needs. For canines that are mild to moderately underweight, a higher fat, higher protein diet is helpful. it does not mean they should eat the highest fat in protein content possible. You still want your pup to be healthy.
Look for foods that have about 18% fat and between 28 to 30% or more protein. Pups who may be having trouble eating and need to gain weight may do better on wet or fresh meals. While they should have healthy kibble incorporated into their diet, make sure to integrate wet food either as a standalone meal or mixed in with dry kibble. Canned foods tend to be higher in fats. Human-grade meals, fresh or freeze-dried, also have high levels of healthy fat and protein.
Along with wholesome, natural animal proteins like beef, fish, turkey, chicken, lamb, bison, duck, and more, owners also want to look for recipes that contain healthy fruits and vegetables. Some, like pumpkins, potatoes, and sweet potatoes, can be helpful in gaining healthy weight.
While some owners and veterinarians will recommend a grain-free diet for underweight canines, grain-free is not a good idea. Food for weight gain should include carbohydrates, such as rice. Other wholesome grains like barley, oatmeal, quinoa, and more are also beneficial.
Best High-Fat Dog Food
Raised Right Beef Review
Raised Right is a company that makes human-grade, fresh canine food. Recipes are gently cooked in human-grade USDA facilities. All recipes include natural animal proteins, including organ meat. Raised Right uses no high-carb fillers, corn, wheat, gluten, or soy. They also avoid any dairy, making their meals very flavorsome and easy to digest. Recipes have only ten ingredients.
For gaining bulk and high fat, we like the beef recipe. According to dry matter analysis, the beef recipe contains 61% protein and 24% fat, along with 8% carbs. It is made from beef, beef hearts, carrots, beef liver, cranberries, organic spearmint, flaxseed oil, egg shell powder cod liver oil, and organic kelp. Raised Right makes other recipes, but beef has the highest fat and protein. We also like the puppy growth formula in beef flavor. Because it is grain-free, owners will want to add plain rice or oats to add some carbs and fiber.
Fussy eaters will enjoy the fresh flavors and will benefit from the high-quality ingredients. Because it tastes great and has no fillers or artificial additives, raised Right is healthy, with plenty of good fat and protein. The beef formula has 409 kcal/cup. Owners can customize their subscription plans and order a starter pack to try things out without committing to a subscription.
- Starting at $10.99 per bag
Open Farm Gently Cooked Beef Review
Open Farm gently cooked is another top pick for higher-fat dog food. Meals are fresh and lightly cooked. Ingredients are carefully sourced and are all human-grade quality. Open Farm uses only ethically and sustainably sourced ingredients. For dogs that need to put on a few pounds, Open Farm’s gently cooked, highly flavorful recipes have a lot to offer.
The grass-fed beef and brown rice recipe is a top pick for underweight dogs. Ingredients are slow-cooked using a sous vide method. Ingredients are 100& traceable and contain no corn, potatoes, or legumes.
Open Farm’s gently cooked beef with grains contains animal welfare-certified beef, brown rice, carrots, beef liver, kale, flaxseed, sunflower oil, salmon oil, coconut oil, and chia seeds, as well as other vitamins and nutrients. Open Farm makes several other recipes, including dry kibble with freeze-dried bits. These are all suitable picks for canines that are underweight.
- Starting at $89.99 for 8 lbs.
Instinct Original Grain-Free Recipe Real Salmon Freeze-Dried Raw Coated Review
Instinct Original makes high-quality, grain-free kibble that is high in protein and fat. The recipe is made with wild-caught salmon and is coated with freeze-dried meat. Instinct’s high-protein kibble promotes digestion, healthy skin and coat, healthy muscles, and immune system health. It contains live natural probiotics, natural Omega fatty acids, and antioxidants.
Instinct’s recipe starts with salmon, white fish meal, peas, menhaden fish meal, canola oil, herring meal, chickpeas, pea protein, carrots, apples, cranberries, as well as other vitamins and minerals, and freeze-dried cod. Kibble has 523 kcal/cup, 37.5% crude protein (min), 20% crude fat (min), and 3.5% max fiber.
Dogs get the satisfying crunch of kibble with the taste and benefit of real meat and raw nutrition. Kibble contains no grains, potatoes, wheat, corn, soy, byproduct meal, or artificial colors and preservatives. There are other flavors available, including duck, beef, rabbit, and chicken, as well as salmon. Though each recipe has a varying degree of fat and protein, all use high-quality protein and healthy fat, making them a healthy and reliable selection for underweight pups.
- Starting at
Best High Protein Food For Weight Gain
CRAVE High Protein Beef Review
Crave makes several high-protein formulas that are good for gaining bulk. Crave focuses on protein and uses no grains. Beef kibble has 34% crude protein and 17% crude fat and uses vegetables to provide healthy carbohydrates and fiber. The recipe uses no corn, chicken by-product meals, soy, or wheat. There are a few flavor choices other than beef, including lamb, chicken, and fish.
The beef kibble formula includes beef, chicken meal, split peas, lentils, pork meal, chicken fat, pea starch, fish meal, dried chicken, dried plain beet pulp, and added vitamins and minerals. Beef kibble packs 459 kcal/cup. The recipe is developed to support healthy digestion and whole-body wellness. Regardless of flavor, all Crave kibble starts with real protein. It is best for adults and is suitable for all breeds.
- Starting at for 22 lb. bag
Acana Highest Protein Grasslands Lamb & Duck Review
Acana makes high-protein kibble that features lamb and duck, among other animal proteins. The recipe is grain-free, using no corn, wheat, soy, or gluten. It uses 70% animal ingredients and 30% vegetables and fruits. Dogs get a burst of raw nutrition from the freeze-dried coating.
Wholesome ingredients include lamb, duck, eggs, lamb meal, goat meal, catfish meal, whole red lentils, whole pinto beans, chicken fat, whole green lentils, whole chickpeas, lentil fiber, pea starch, quail, rainbow trout, duck meal, fish oil, natural lamb flavor, whole green peas, whole yellow peas, lamb liver, duck liver, lamb tripe, lamb kidney, collard greens, salt, dried kelp, zinc proteinate, whole pumpkin, whole butternut squash, whole carrots, whole apples, whole pears and more. Also includes freeze-dried lamb and duck.
Acana Highest Protein grasslands recipe boasts 33% crude protein (min) and 17% crude fat (min) and has 388 kcal/cup. Acana’s high protein formula also comes in Appalachian Ranch (beef), Meadowlands (chicken and freshwater fish), and Wild Atlantic (mackerel, herring, and redfish).
- Starts at for 25 lb. bag.
Best Dog Food To Gain Weight And Muscle
Bully Max Muscle Gain Review
Bully Max is designed specifically to help canines gain fat and muscle. The formulas are meat-based, with 31% protein (min) and 25% fat (min). They feature 19 essential vitamins and minerals. Bully Max is very calorie-dense and contains 600 calories per cup. The higher calorie count means Bully Max is very good for underweight pups. Every bite they eat will pack a powerful punch of nutrients and energy. Because of the high color content, it is important to ensure dogs do not overeat, which can lead to too much weight gain too fast, which is also unhealthy.
Bully Max’s formula is developed to be easy to digest and provide maximum energy and support for dogs. Protein comes from chicken meal and chicken fat. The recipe also contains rice flour egg product, whitefish meal, dried beet pulp, tapioca starch, flaxseed, and organic dried kelp, with a vitamin and supplement blend. While these ingredients are not as fresh as some other offerings, the Bully Max formula is designed for canines to gain bulk. It is a great pick for dry kibble for underweight pups and can be used in combination with fresh or high-quality canned meals.
Bully Max makes several different high-calorie formulas. The kibble is safe for both puppies and adults and can be used at any life stage. They do make puppy-specific products, as well as choose supplements and wet food designed to help dogs gain pounds and increase muscle mass.
- Starting at for 16 lb. bag
Diamond Natural Extreme Athlete Review
Diamond Natural Extreme Athlete is made to support the needs of highly active dogs, so it has high levels of protein and fat. The dry kibble formula contains superfoods and probiotics that support development, digestion, and overall health support. The recipe contains cage-free chicken, as well as fruits and vegetables. Kibble also contains species-specific canine strain proprietary probiotics as well as antioxidants and prebiotics. Recipes contain no corn, wheat, soy, artificial flavors, or colors.
Diamond’s recipe starts with chicken meal, chicken, ground white rice, chicken fat, cracked pearled barley, egg product, ground miscanthus grass, dried beet pulp, and contains other healthy elements like flaxseed, dry chicory root, L carnitine, glucosamine, kale, chia seed, pumpkins, blueberries, oranges, canola, dried kelp, coconut, spinach, carrots, papaya, and more. Kibble is full of flavor, as well as packed with healthy protein and fat to support weight gain and maintenance. It is a good pick for budget-conscious owners who still want to give their dogs high-quality nutrition to support a healthy weight.
- Starting at for a 40 lb. bag.
Best Puppy Food For Weight Gain
The Farmer’s Dog Beef Review
The Farmer’s Dog is a subscription pet food delivery company that makes fresh, human-grade meals prepared specifically for canines. We recommend The Farmer’s Dog for canines of all ages. However, it can be a very good pick for a puppy that is reluctant to eat or having trouble gaining weight. The ingredients are wholesome, all-natural, and human-grade. Recipes are simple, use limited ingredients, and are prepared freshly. They are then flash-frozen and shipped directly to your door. The high quality of the food, fresh flavor, and easy digestibility make The Farmer’s Dog a top pick for any pup that needs to gain weight.
Board-certified American College of Veterinary Nutrition experts develop all recipes. Males are complete and balanced, meeting the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) standards. Ingredients are all locally sourced. Dog owners are able to set up a customized subscription based specifically on their pet’s health. The dog profile takes 15 different health issues into account, and a subscription is created for each specific pup. All recipes are grain-free, but owners can mix in some plain white or brown rice to add healthy grains and fiber.
For puppies, we recommend the beef recipe as it contains the highest protein. Other protein choices include chicken, turkey, and pork. The beef recipe contains USDA beef, sweet potato, lentils, carrots, USDA beef liver, kale, sunflower seeds, salmon oil, and the farmer’s dog nutrient blend. Beef contains 11% crude protein (min) and 8% crude fat (min). Calories will depend on how much your puppy eats.
- Prices vary based on your pup’s age, weight, and specific subscription choices. Smaller dogs start at $2.00 a day.
Miracle Vet Weight Gain Review
Miracle Vet High-Calorie Dog Food is formulated by a highly qualified veterinarian specifically to provide a balanced formula to support healthy weight gain. Each cup contains 600 calories, making it a calorie and nutrient-dense choice. Technically, the kibble is suitable for dogs and puppies over four weeks of age, so it is a good pick for young and old alike. Kibble is formulated for underweight canines to have extra energy and gain pounds quickly. The recipe is free from lactose, gluten, antibiotics, corn, soy, wheat, or hormone additives. It is easy to digest and palatable.
Kibble contains white fish meal, duck meal, chickpeas, field peas, chicken fat, lentils, tapioca starch, carrots, celery, beets, parsley, lettuce, watercress, spinach, whole ground flax seed, natural flavor, dried kelp, and a blend of vitamins and minerals. It contains glucosamine chondroitin, and healthy omega-3, and 6 fatty acids. Miracle Vet kibble contains 30% crude protein minimum, 16% crude fat minimum, and 4.9% crude fiber.
Remember that the kibble is nutrient and calorie-dense. That means that even if dogs do not eat that much of it, they are getting a whole lot of nutritional and caloric value in each bite. The higher value is especially helpful for highly active dogs, like growing puppies, as well as those who are having trouble eating enough. Kibble uses 100% natural ingredients and is suitable for all breeds older than four weeks. It is even a great pick for pregnant or nursing mamas.
- Starting at for 20 lb. bag
How Can I Tell If My Dog Is Underweight?
It can sometimes be tricky to tell if a dog is underweight, depending on breed and body type. For healthy canines, you should be able to see their waist behind their ribs. However, if outlines of individual ribs and bones are clearly visible, that means a pup is likely underweight. A healthy weight on a dog can be very hard to discern for some owners, so a good tip is to look at other areas of the body and see if their bones seem to be poking out or are highly visible in other places. Is the spine visible when you look at your pup from above? Does the base of the tail stick out or seem more prominent?
A dog may be underweight if owners can see ribs, pelvic bones, prominent bones, or lumbar vertebrae poking out from the body out of visible distance. These dogs have a loss of muscle mass and no noticeable body fat. When you pet the animal, if there is no fat felt covering the ribs or bones, that means they are underweight.
The best thing to do if you think your dog might be underweight is to take them to the vet to have an examination and a body condition score. A body condition score is an assessment a veterinarian or nutritionist can do on your pup to determine the amount of fat being carried on the body. The body condition score will involve checking different areas of the dog’s body to ensure they are neither over nor underweight.
The body condition scoring uses a scale from 1 to 9.
- 1 means a canine is extremely underweight, and nine means very overweight.
- Canines that are at the lower end of the scale, around 1 and 2, will be very thin and noticeably underweight.
- A score of 3 to 4 means a dog is thin and somewhat underweight.
- 5 is an ideal weight,
- 6 and 7 are slightly overweight and markedly overweight.
- 8 and 9 are obese and clinically obese.
If your dog is determined to be underweight, it is best to consult with a veterinary nutritionist to ensure you feed your dog a healthy balance of food that will support overall health, energy, growth, development, and healthy weight.
Ways To Help Dogs Gain Weight
Along with taking your dog to the vet to rule out any underlying medical conditions, determine dietary needs, and ensure they are getting a well-balanced, healthy diet, there are a few other things that owners can do to encourage their pups to gain weight.
More Frequent Meals
In some cases, eating more frequent, smaller meals may be beneficial to weight gain. It is especially true for dogs who are not interested in eating large meals, are larger breeds, older, or puppies. Owners can also leave food bowls out for a longer period of time to allow dogs to take a bite or two as they pass by.
Calm And Warm Environment
Keeping your pup’s environment calm, comfortable, and warm is very important. Canines who are underweight do not have enough body fat to keep themselves warm enough. Temperatures in the home should be kept a little warmer. Dogs should have plenty of warm spots to curl up in and get comfortable.
Proper Veterinary Care
Keeping up with regular and preventative veterinary care is key to keeping your dog healthy. It is especially true for any dogs suffering from poor nutrition or who are underweight. It is important to ensure that there are no underlying diseases or conditions affecting their appetite, interest in eating, and ability to digest and use nutrients. Once these conditions are ruled out, it is important to stay in touch regularly and have checkups to ensure weight management and gain are being done in a healthy manner.
Switching to better quality nutrition made from fresh, all-natural ingredients will help encourage dogs to eat. Higher-calorie food may be helpful. Additionally, in some cases, offering a mixture of wet and canned as well as dry kibble can be beneficial. For dogs who are picky eaters, adding wet or bone broth toppers or gravy and mixing fresh, human-grade meals with kibble may increase the interest a pup has in the aroma and flavor.
Fresh, human-grade nutrition is very good for dogs who need to gain weight. In part, the benefits are due to the high amount of natural flavor and palatability these foods contain. We have covered a couple of companies here, but there are several other high-quality options to consider. These include Spot & Tango, which makes both fresh dehydrated meal options, as well as Ollie and Nom Nom. JustFoodForDogs makes a human-grade shelf-stable line that is very high quality. Depending on your pup’s specific needs, unique tastes, and budget, there are plenty of options out there that include raw, human-grade, and freeze-dried elements in their food, all of which taste great and can encourage dogs who are underweight to eat.
Dogs that are having trouble eating, malnourished, or underweight can benefit from eating a healthy breakfast. Breakfast is a very important meal, as it sets the tone for the day. For dogs who are underweight, breakfast should be full of healthy protein, flavor, and fat. Some owners may want to give canned food first thing in the morning to encourage eating. Mix in some high-calorie kibble for that extra boost of nutrition and energy.
Dogs who are underweight and on a special diet to gain pounds must get enough physical exercise. Simply taking on extra calories and lying around is not going to constitute healthy weight gain. It does not mean that dogs need to play high-impact sports or run marathons with their owners. Regular daily walks and gentle playtime are the perfect amount. You want to be careful not to overexert your dog’s body, especially when they are underweight, as it can put them at risk of overexertion and injury. As your dog starts to eat more and increase weight, you can increase the exercise.
Track Food Intake And Gradually Increase
Anytime you are dealing with a dog that is experiencing weight issues, whether overweight or underweight, it is advisable to keep track of how much they are eating. With dogs who are underweight, this is an especially important task. Monitor how much your dog eats every day. Slowly and gradually increase the amount they eat until they are eating a normally expected amount for their size and age.
What About Supplements?
If your dog is suffering from a medical condition or pain or, in this case, is underweight, it is normal to think that perhaps supplements might be helpful. There are plenty of supplements to choose from, including allergy, bone health, vitamins, and more. However, for dogs who are underweight, it is always best to discuss the use of any supplements with your veterinarian first. The same also goes for dogs who are on medication. Because dogs who are underweight are often older or have extenuating medical concerns, owners must work closely with their veterinarians when adding or taking anything away from their diet.Tagged With: Comparison, Food Delivery