How To Help a Dog Gain Weight


All dog owners want their furball tipping the scales at a healthy weight, but not all dogs eat their food unfailingly, and sometimes other issues cause canines to become underweight.

In today’s concise guide, we’ll answer this thorny question while also giving you some pointers on picking up on weight issues in your bundle of joy.

Note: If you suspect your dog is underweight, your first plan of attack should not be overloading him with food. Instead, schedule a vet’s appointment so you can get a clinical diagnosis and the help you need to restore Rover’s weight.

I. Why Are Some Dogs Underweight?

There’s no boilerplate reason why dogs might be underweight. That said, there are several common causes, including:

  • Stress
  • Sickness
  • Pickiness with food
  • Too much exercise
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Feeding phobias


Dogs, just like humans, can react to stressful situations by passing up on food.

Analyze whether there is anything obvious like a recent move or traumatic event that’s stressing your dog.


If your dog is ill, has any kind of pain, or suffers from stomach sensitivities, you may find his eating habits change and he starts consuming less food.

Getting your hound checked up by the vet will hopefully rule out any underlying health conditions triggering these dietary changes. If there is anything amiss, you’ll have the added advantage of finding out about it early and getting Rover back into great health.

Pickiness with food

Being picky with food is one way that dogs are like kids. Sometimes, your stubborn furball might be prepared to hold out and go hungry in the hope you’ll give him some different food. If this pickiness continues, it could result in his weight dipping.

Too much exercise

While dogs need lots of exercise, if your pup overdoes it, he could be burning more calories than he takes onboard. This calorie deficit can easily lead to weight loss.

Intestinal parasites

Get your mutt wormed on the regular. Parasites like tapeworms and roundworms can cause canine weight loss, but this only normally occurs in long-term cases of worms.

Feeding phobias

If your dog was spooked at mealtimes, or something happened in the place he eats that disturbed him, these issues could create problems with this eating habits.

Sometimes, if a dog has been seriously ill, he will take a dislike to the food he was eating at the time, a food he associated with feeling unwell.

So far, so good. How can you go about fixing the situation if your hound is overweight and needs to pack on some size?

Luckily, it’s not that hard!

II. How To Help Your Dog Gain Weight

As with all aspects of pet ownership, be prepared to experiment a little to find out what works best for your dog if he needs to get heavier.

Try the following strategies:

  • Switch to high-calorie dog food
  • Feed Fido more frequently
  • Load his diet with treats
  • Throw on some toppers
  • Cut back on walkies

Switch to high-calorie dog food

There are many dog foods for weight gain. These are typically high in protein and also high in fat.

If you buy the right type of specialty food, you can safely introduce a calorie surplus so he piles on the pounds safely and sustainably.

Even if you switch your dog’s food up in order to normalize his weight, you should still identify the root cause of the initial weight loss.

When you transition your dog to new food, do so over the course of a week. Start with a mix of 80% old food to 20% new. Gradually increase the ratio of new to old food until he’s eating all-new high-calorie dog food by the end of the week.

Feed Fido more frequently

Does your dog eat twice daily? Does he sometimes fail to finish his meals?

If you answered yes to both of these questions, you could increase the frequency of feeding.

Give your dog his daily allowance of food split into three or four smaller portions.

Alternatively, try ad libitum feeding. Here, you leave out enough dry food for the whole day and your dog grazes when he’s feeling peckish. Don’t try this strategy with wet food, though, as it more easily spoils.

Load his diet with treats

If your dog consumes more calories than he expends, he’ll put on weight.

Add some tasty, calorie-rich treats like carrots smothered with peanut butter, a canine favorite.

When you attempt this approach, use a light touch. You don’t want to spoil his appetite when it’s time for his main meal. Limit treats to one or two a day, even if you have weight gain for your dog in mind.

Throw on some toppers

If your furball is a fussy eater, liven up his dull dry food with some delicious wet food toppers. These will not only add valuable moisture, but you’ll introduce a few more calories to Fido, too.

Cut back on walkies

As a last resort, you could trim Rover’s exercise regime back. Weight management is a simple equation: calories in vs calories out. If your dog is burning off too many calories relative to his consumption, he’ll lose weight. If you’re not having an luck changing his food, try manipulating the energy he burns.

III. Conclusion

Well, if you arrived here at BarkVA today with no clue how to help a dog gain weight, you should now be clear on how to go about that.

Always consult with your vet first, and establish what caused the weight loss in the first place. With any underlying health concerns ruled out, you can roll out our strategies for canine weight gain immediately. Your furball should be back in the rudest of health in no time!

Bookmark our blog before you go, and we’ll see you very soon.

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Jesse Hopping, CCDT

Jesse is a natural-born dog-lover certified dog trainer (CCDT), dog foster, and former volunteer at Richmond SPCA and surrounding dog shelters for over 10 years. Her pack includes a Bernedoodle and 3 Boston Terriers. She’s sipping caramel coffee and watching her pack play in the sun when she’s not writing blogs. Jesse has her Certified Dog Trainer designation from CATCH Canine Trainers Academy since 2018 and and majored in English from the University of Virginia.

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