Let’s be honest, most dogs need no encouragement to eat. The merest sniff of food and they’ll be by your side, fluttering those big brown eyes.
But not all dogs are like that.
Some don’t eat anywhere near enough to sustain growth and activity. Like humans, some dogs have atypical relationships with food.
As loving pet parents, it’s our job to make sure our precious pals get the right amount of energy and nutrition so they can live their best life.
So, if your dog isn’t eating as much as it should, here are some tips to encourage weight gain in dogs.
How to tell if your dog is underweight
There are a couple of signs your pooch is underweight. One is physical; the other is behavioural.
If your pet is underweight, you might notice their spine, ribs and hips are more prominent than before.
You should feel a thick layer of skin over the hips and ribs and not really be able to see them except in certain breeds.
You may also notice that your dog isn’t as playful or as willing to run around as much as they used to.
If that’s a one-off, no problem (we all have *those* days!). But if it becomes a habit, there may be more going on.
Common causes of weight loss in dogs
If you do notice your doggo isn’t their usual self or seems to be losing weight, it’s always worth consulting a vet. There could be many causes, including:
Our dogs deserve the best quality food we can afford.
Cheaper dog food will have lower-quality ingredients, more fillers and not as many nutrients. It therefore goes without saying that it shouldn’t be a long-term option for your canine companion.
Despite drinking from puddles, dogs can actually be picky about what they eat and drink.
They’ll usually tell you when they don’t like their food. They won’t eat it, they will pick it up, spit it on the floor or nudge their food bowl over with their nose. They’re good like that!
If you have a puppy or a high-energy dog – firstly, how much fun is that? Secondly, are you feeding them enough?
The easiest way to encourage weight gain in dogs is to make sure you’re feeding them enough. Check average portion sizes on the food and adjust according to your dog.
Some dogs just bounce around or run more and will require more than the average portion size recommended.
Some illnesses like diabetes, heart conditions, tooth conditions, parasites, cancer, abdominal illnesses and others can all impact how much a dog eats.
If eating is uncomfortable or doesn’t feel good, your dog isn’t going to do it. It’s as simple as that.
If you notice these behaviours in your pooch, we recommend getting a professional opinion from your vet.
Some medications can suppress appetite or cause mild nausea. Both of which are going to cause your dog to eat less.
This shouldn’t have too much of an impact over the short term, but if those medications are longer term, it’s time to consult with your vet.
It doesn’t matter whether you have two legs or four, we all tend to eat less as we age. That’s partly down to moving less, but it’s also down to illness and medication.
How to encourage safe weight gain in dogs
As long as the causes aren’t medical, there are some simple, safe ways to encourage weight gain in dogs.
Offer more frequent meals
Feeding more is a simple way to put weight on a dog. If you’re feeding them good-quality food and don’t go too overboard, it can be very effective at encouraging weight gain.
Increase protein intake
Dogs require protein to help maintain muscles and give them the energy to run, play and live their best lives.
Some dog foods are naturally high in protein, some are not. Check the average RDA for the age and breed and feed them accordingly.
Supplement the diet with good-quality treats
Dogs will do anything for a tasty morsel, so this is an excellent way to treat your dog, while also getting them to eat more.
Make sure you feed them quality treats though. Better still, make your own.
Treats could be the perfect weight-gaining food for dogs with sensitive stomachs or those who don’t eat enough at mealtimes.
Plus, it’s a great way to train and bond!
Switch up mealtimes
How to fatten up a dog the easy way? Switch up their dinnertime.
If your dog grazes throughout the day, switch them to set mealtimes.
You may get protests at first, but your dog will soon adapt, and they’ll no doubt be waiting eagerly by their bowl one minute before dinnertime!
If you’re not home during the day, use an automatic dog feeder. Portion their dinner before you leave, set the timer and you’re good to go.
If you have multiple dogs, use the MiBowl microchip pet feeder instead. This is ideal for smaller dogs and households with multiple pets as it only allows the dog with the correct microchip access to the food.
This solves the age-old dinner raiding problem some households must contend with. It also means you can monitor how much your dog is eating, or not.
Some dogs simply cannot be contained and need to run, otherwise they’ll burst. Others are content to be by your side whether they exercise or not.
If your canine companion is in the latter camp, reducing the amount they exercise can help them gain weight. As long as their calorie intake remains the same, burning fewer calories can help weight gain in dogs.
How to put weight on a dog the easy way
We all want the best for our loyal companions and that begins with their diet. If you find your dog or puppy is underweight, it can be as simple as feeding them more.
Or it could be more nuanced – changing to a better-quality food, making your own treats or even exercising them less.
Switching up mealtimes can also be very effective, and using automated feeders can be too.
Try one method, try them all – there’s sure to be a way to help feed up your dog here!