Essential Nutrients for Healthy Weight Gain in Dogs

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There are many reasons that a dog may need weight gain; many of these reasons are due to the impact of parasites, dental problems, or illness on a dog’s body.

by Guest Blogger, Olivia Harper

If a dog is not maintaining a healthy weight, the first step towards getting them to a healthy weight is to make an appointment for a veterinarian to examine them.

There are many reasons that a dog may be underweight; many of these reasons are due to the impact of parasites, dental problems, or illness on a dog’s body. If medical conditions are left untreated, it will be impossible for a dog to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

The Importance of Healthy Weight Gain

It is most healthy for underweight dogs to gain the weight they are missing slowly and steadily. This means that a carefully planned diet is followed strategically, as opposed to doubling each meal serving.

Quick weight gain may negatively impact the growth of puppies’ skeletal systems or make an underweight dog obese if they have medical issues that make exercise difficult.

Dogs who experience sudden dietary changes are also likely to suffer from unpleasant consequences such as diarrhea or vomiting, which may decrease their appetite further. Any dietary change should take place transitionally, not immediately.

Dog owners should carefully monitor their dog’s diets and weight, then make adjustments as necessary to ensure their dog healthily reaches their goal. Many dog owners find it helpful to keep a journal and take progressive photographs to track their dog’s progress.

Essential Nutrients for Healthy Weight Gain


The first step towards determining if a dog’s current food, or a potential new food, will be sufficient to gain weight is to read the label. Avoid foods that contain a significant amount of filler foods, such as soy, wheat, and corn.

Protein. Veterinarians generally recommend dog foods that are high in protein to help a dog gain weight. When considering a new higher calorie dog food, look for a food with approximately 30% protein.

Fats. People generally assume that increasing fats in a dog’s diet will guarantee that they will gain the necessary weight and often choose to increase their dog’s servings of treats to accomplish this. While it may help a dog to gain weight, that is not the healthiest method. Healthy fats should be selected, such as fish oil, flaxseed oil, and pumpkin. Including fish oil in a dog’s diet may also provide additional benefits, such as improved joint and cognitive health.

Complex carbohydrates. Dogs who need to gain weight benefit from complex carbohydrates, such as grains,  sweet potatoes, and beans.

Closing Considerations

A dog’s body condition is frequently overlooked, though healthy weight is one simple way to positively contribute to your dog’s overall health and life span. Similarly to humans, it is always more difficult for a dog to lose weight than gain weight. As dog owners begin to institute steps to help their dogs gain weight, they must regularly monitor their dog’s body condition to ensure they do not exceed their healthy weight and become obese.

The first instinct of many dog owners who have an underweight dog is to feed extra treats and generously offer table scraps. While it is doubtful that any dog would complain about these methods, feeding extra treats and table scraps can negatively impact its health. Treats and table scraps are not nutritious; they are empty calories and are ultimately ineffective for healthy weight gain.

When considering switching to different dog food, search for foods designed for active dogs or labeled as performance foods, as the calorie and protein contents will be higher. Wet foods are also higher in calories than dry foods. Adding wet food toppings can stimulate a dog’s appetite and be a good source of extra calories. However, if your dog has a sensitive stomach, feeding exclusively wet food is not recommended. Be sure to thoroughly mix wet food with dry food to prevent selective eating.

Dog owners need to consider their dog’s digestive system throughout the weight gaining process. Increasing the proteins and fats in a dog’s diet has the potential to cause digestive upset. Adding a probiotic supplement such as Purina Fortiflora may be beneficial to aiding a dog’s digestive system during their transition to a higher calorie diet.

Feeding underweight dogs four small meals rather than two large meals can also be beneficial during the journey to a healthy weight. If a dog is transitioning to a new type of food, smaller meals can assist their digestive system in adjusting to the new food, as they will have less to process at each meal.

With a good veterinarian’s guidance, dog owners can help their dogs live long, healthy and happy lives at an ideal weight.

About the author: Olivia Harper is the co-founder of the blog AvidPup. She is a reserved and passionate pet parent who loves to spend time with her Sibe, who keeps her active and social. Read more of her guides and tips by visiting the blog or following their page @AvidPup

Let’s talk dogs, or even better, let’s learn about dogs.  Gain more canine knowledge through Acme Canine’s social media:  websiteFacebookYouTubeInstagram

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