How to Help Your Dog Gain Weight: Tips and Strategies for Underweight Dogs

How to Help Your Dog Gain Weight: Tips and Strategies for Underweight Dogs

Abbie Drinkwater

Did you know that monitoring your dog’s weight is one of the leading contributors to a healthy dog? Throughout their life, your dog’s weight can be an indicator of their health and something all pet owners should keep an eye on throughout every stage of their development. During their puppy years, weight is vital for indicating if your puppy is getting the right nutrition to ensure their systems are set up for the later years of their life. Similarly, as your dog reaches the senior stages of their life checking for symptoms of weight loss can help eradicate any risk of disease or illness they may have developed. 

With weight being such an important factor in our dog’s life, we thought it necessary to create an article about how to support our dogs who we may believe need a little extra TLC in the weight and nutrition department. Despite the worry around obesity in dogs, malnutrition and problems arising from those who are underweight are just as significant. So, read below to find out all the ways you can support your dog and check their weight is exactly as it should be. 

Assessing Your Dog’s Weight

When it comes to establishing your dog’s weight there are numerous ways in which you can check that your dog is not underweight. Visual checks are some of the best ways before travelling to your vet to get them weighed. The Body Condition score test is a visual way of assessing if your dog’s weight is where it needs to be or whether or not you need to consult your vet to establish reasons why your dog is underweight. 


A score of 1-3 would indicate your dog is underweight. As you can see from the first images in the chart, the dog’s ribs and hips are extremely visible. At this stage, you may notice your dog is lethargic and unmotivated to play and exercise. Just some simple changes like increasing their food measurements or quantities can help alleviate this and get them to normal weight. 

Another method for establishing your dog’s correct weight is to have a conversation with your vet and have them weighed regularly. Different breeds, sizes and even genders of dogs have varying weight ideals, so it is best to chat with your vet to see what the ideal weight for your specific dog is. However, from a guideline point of view, ideal weights can be as follows:

  • Small breeds: Ideal weight under 10kg
  • Medium breeds: Between 10-25kg 
  • Large breeds: 25kg
  • However, as mentioned, this is a rough guideline, and you should always speak to your vet about the ideal weight for your own dog.

    Factors Contributing to Underweight Dogs

    There are a plethora of reasons why a dog may be underweight. There is no one size fits all approach to your dog’s weight as many factors can contribute to why your dog might be losing weight. Firstly, health issues such as gastrointestinal problems, diabetes or even the preliminary stages of some cancers can all be causes of why your dog is losing weight. If you notice any changes in your dog’s weight and their routine has not changed, it is vital to speak to your vet who can rule out any underlying issues. 

    Secondly, behavioural issues can also be a reason your dog is suffering from weight loss. Just like us humans, mental health has a massive impact on our digestion, appetite and metabolism. Anxious dogs who may be shunning food are at risk of weight loss and malnutrition. Sometimes this may be caused by the placement of the food bowl (in a room that is too noisy, not private or around other dominating animals). Ensure their food bowl is placed in a quiet and relaxed atmosphere where they can eat in peace.

    Finally, another reason your dog may be losing weight is their diet and routine. The food you may be giving your pet may not be fully supporting their nutritional needs. Diet is a fundamental factor in maintaining your dog’s weight – too much fibre or lack of high-quality ingredients can lead to digestive upset causing issues such as loose stools and diarrhoea leading to weight loss.

    Strategies For Helping Dogs to Gain Weight

    Feed the Correct Amount

    Do you notice your dog requesting more food hours after finishing their own? Well, this could be a little sign that they are not eating the required amount of food. Ensure you are also feeding your dog enough food at regular times throughout the day. Dogs should be fed, in their adult life, between 2-3 meals per day and enough food to coat the bowl so the bottom is no longer visible. However, don’t be fooled by a clever pooch – if you know you have fed your dog the correct amount of food (you can often find this information of feeding guidelines on the back of your dog’s food) don’t succumb to needy behaviours of your dog’s asking for more food – this will only encourage bad behaviour which can lead to excessive weight gain. 

    Choose the Right Food

    Finding the correct food for your dog is vital in maintaining a happy and healthy pooch. Medium and large breed dogs, especially if you have active breeds like retrievers, huskies and spaniels, require at least a 50-60% protein content in their food to support their active lifestyle so it’s vital to ensure the food you give your dog is exactly what they need.

    Supplement with Treats

    If you want to give your dog a little extra nutritional TLC then healthy and wholesome treats can be beneficial to your dog’s daily diet. Adding a few extra treats to your dog’s routine, that are high quality and nutritionally dense can help add some extra pounds so your four-legged friend can reach that ideal weight in no time.

    Exercise Correctly

    For owners with furry friends who are a little under their ideal weight, deciding on how to exercise your dog may be a struggle. However, light and non-intensive exercise is the perfect way of giving your pooch a breath of fresh air, stretching their paws and easing digestion in a gentle and calm way. Instead of intensive exercise like running or fetch, a simple 20–30-minute stroll per day (this can even be split into two 15-minute walks) will give your dog the exercise they need without the worry of burning off those extra calories you have tried so hard to give them.

    Monitoring Your Dog’s Progress

    Wondering how you can see if your hard work is paying off? The body condition score test is one of the best ways of establishing if your dog has gained weight. If you notice a little bit of furry cuddliness around their hips and ribs, then your dog has successfully gained weight. Their ribs should no longer be visible, and you may notice their behaviour of whining, barking or scratching for food has stopped.

    What is the most important thing to remember when dealing with your dog’s weight is that any noticeable changes in their body condition, eating habits or even digestion are discussed with your vet to rule out any underlying conditions. Prevention is always better than cure and you know your dog better than anyone so consult a vet if you become worried or concerned about your dog’s weight. Ultimately, with some evaluation of their diet, feeding times and changes in exercise routine, your four-legged friend should put on that extra puppy fat in the blink of an eye!

    Read More: How to Help your Dog Gain Weight

    Add a comment

    * Comments must be approved before being displayed.