When you think of a malnourished dog, what image comes to mind? If you’re anything like me, you’re probably thinking about a stray dog off the streets who hasn’t had a meal in days.
Although stray dogs are often malnourished, dogs in a loving home can be malnourished as well. Whether you’ve just found a dog off the streets or you’re worried about your own dog, this article will show you how to fatten up a malnourished dog without ruining their gut.
Before we get started, it’s important to figure out why the dog is malnourished in the first place. If they’re a stray, the answer is simple…they probably haven’t had a full meal in a couple of days.
But what if it’s your own dog? What if you’ve been feeding them well-balanced meals a couple times per day, but they still look malnourished? If you’re feeding them a proper diet, but they’re still losing weight or don’t look healthy, there could be something else going on, such as a parasite or a kidney disease.
You may want to take your pup to the vet just to see if there are any health concerns before following the advice in this article.
A Quick Note on Emaciated Dogs
There’s a big difference between a malnourished dog and an emaciated dog. This article is about malnourished dogs. If you’ve found an emaciated dog, take them to the vet ASAP and follow the vet’s advice.
Just to get you in the proper mindset, it will likely involve feeding the dog small amounts of puppy food up to six times per day.
It’s Not Just About The Fat
When trying to fatten up a skinny dog, it’s essential to keep in mind that it’s not just about the weight gain process.
There are two concepts to understand when it comes to nutrition:
Macronutrients contain calories that will add weight to your dog. Micronutrients don’t contain calories but contain essential vitamins and minerals. You want to make sure you’re feeding your dog food that is high in both macronutrients and micronutrients.
Weight Gain is About Calories in Vs. Calories Out
The other thing to keep in mind is that weight gain is a simple matter of calories in vs. calories out. There is no magical food or formula that will cause your dog to gain weight. The metabolic process of dogs is the same as humans. If your dog consumes more calories than they burn, they’ll gain weight. If they burn more calories than they consume, they’ll lose weight.
That’s why tracking calories is important when trying to add some weight to your dog. You don’t want them to gain too much weight too quickly. This is unhealthy for the body and they’ll feel horrible.
Food Strategies To Add Weight to Your Dog
There are two ways to add weight to your dog.
- Using Food Only
- Using Food + Supplements
Before using supplements, you’ll want to see if you can fatten your dog up with food alone.
Here are the top four food only methods.
Two Regular Meals Per Day
If you’re only feeding your dog one meal per day, you need to up it to two. This doesn’t mean you need to feed them two huge meals per day. Take what you would typically give them in the one meal, split it in half, then add a tiny bit more to increase the calories.
It’s easier for the body to digest all the nutrients in smaller amounts. Plus, by adding a tiny bit more to each meal, their overall daily calorie intake will be higher.
Add Puppy Food Between Meals
In addition to the two meals, it’s a good idea to add puppy food for lunch. Puppy food is high in protein which will aid muscle growth. In fact, puppy food up to six times per day is what most vets recommend for emaciated dogs. We aren’t telling you to feed your dog puppy food six times per day, though! Once will work just fine.
Use High-Calorie Dog Food
High-calorie dog food is a great way to help your dog put on some fat. However, make sure it has the same source of meat and carbs. The last thing you want to do is upset your dog’s stomach. This can cause diarrhea or vomiting, which will lead to even more malnourishment.
You also want to make sure the food isn’t full of fillers. A lot of dog food companies will increase the calories of food by adding unhealthy fillers. There’s a reason high-quality dog food isn’t cheap!
Use Human Food
Instead of buying high-calorie dog food, you can stick to the regular food and give them some human food on the side. You can add two hard-boiled eggs to their meals or even do a tablespoon of peanut butter (if you do that, make sure they have plenty of water!)
If you don’t mind putting in a little extra work, you can even replace the puppy food with homemade chicken and white rice. High in protein and carbs! Your dog will LOVE this meal. It doesn’t have to happen all the time, but it could be a nice little treat every once in a while.
Using Supplements to Add Weight to Your Dog
For most people, the strategies above using food alone should be enough to add plenty of weight to their dog. But if your dog still isn’t gaining weight, you can use supplements in addition to the food.
These are typically high in fat, vitamins, and minerals. They’re also great for joint support because of the omega 3’s. Since they’re usually high in fat, your dog will LOVE it. Just pour some over the top of their food. Be careful not to do too much. Overconsumption of fat can cause serious digestive issues.
These are typically high in protein, which will help build muscle and improve the skin and coat. A great option is Collagen Powder. This helps prevent both muscle loss and bone deterioration. If your dog suffers from arthritis or osteoporosis, Collagen powder is an excellent choice.
Although pills won’t help your dog gain weight because they don’t contain many (if any) calories, they are full of micronutrients that your dog needs for overall health…especially when eating more food.
Not all dogs will take pills, so you have to be sneaky with it by hiding the pill in a piece of bread or hot dog.
Probiotics won’t directly help your dog put on weight, but they can indirectly help increase weight. Your dog might be malnourished because their gut isn’t functioning correctly. Using a probiotic supplement can help the stomach get back to proper function. A proper functioning gut means the nutrients will go where they need to go.
The Importance of Exercise
Now that we’ve talked about the two primary ways to add weight to your dog’s frame (food and supplements) let’s talk about the importance of exercise.
This might sound counterintuitive, but exercise is crucial when trying to put weight on your dog. Exercise can actually help your dog gain weight in two different ways.
- Builds muscle
- Stimulate the appetite
When fattening up your dog, the last thing you want is for your dog to gain fat with no muscle. If you’ve increased your dog’s daily calorie intake without providing them with plenty of exercise, all the weight gained is going to be fat. Remember, it’s not just about weight, it’s about health. Adding fat without additional muscle can put too much stress on the joints.
The other reason exercise is important is because it stimulates the appetite. Some dogs are malnourished because they simply won’t eat. The best way to get a dog to eat is to increase their appetite through exercise.
When a dog burns calories, the body will “want those calories back,” and will do so by stimulating the dog’s appetite. The dog will then typically eat more calories than they burned, resulting in weight gain.
Common sense might tell you to prevent your dog from running around when trying to fatten them up, but science tells us to make sure they get plenty of time to run around in the yard each day…just make sure you’re ready to feed them right after.
Making Sure You’re Getting Results
When trying to fatten up your dog, one of three things will happen.
- Your dog will gain weight at a proper rate
- Your dog will gain weight too fast
- Your dog won’t gain any weight
- The only way to know which of the three is happening is if you weigh your dog at least twice per month.
The easiest way to weigh your dog is to step on the scale yourself without your dog and see how much you weigh. Then pick up your dog and step on the scale again. Subtract that number from your weight, and you’ll have your dog’s weight.
For example, let’s say you weigh 150 pounds by yourself and 172 when holding your dog.
172-150= 22 pounds.
Every two weeks, you’d want to see that number go up by 0.5-1 pound.
If the number isn’t going up (or is going down), continue increasing the calories until the scale starts moving in the right direction.
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Bryan Harkins is an avid dog lover and the proud owner of dogdorable.com, a website dedicated to all things canine. With years of experience working with dogs, Bryan is passionate about providing valuable information, tips, and resources to help pet owners provide the best possible care for their furry companions.