When it comes to weight, it's not always about keeping the pounds off. Being underweight can be just as dangerous for dogs as obesity can. Emaciated pups need to gain weight quickly to stay in good health, but it's not a simple matter of feeding them a ton of food.
If you find yourself caring for a starving dog, give him a small amount of puppy food to get his digestive tract moving. Wait about a half-hour before giving him another small snack. Long periods of malnutrition shrink the stomach significantly; so allowing him to eat what you'd consider a small portion could rupture the organ.
After a few small meals, take the dog to a vet as soon as possible. Emaciation in dogs is often accompanied by parasites, diseases and other health problems that need to be addressed. Discuss dietary therapy with the vet and write down his instructions. If the dog does not belong to you or if you lack the time or resources to commit to his recovery, consider taking him to a local no-kill animal shelter where he can receive regular care from professionals. Home recovery is an option if the dog already belongs to you or if you wish to adopt him.
Adhere to your vet's recommendations regarding meal size and frequency. Puppy food has higher fat content than adult formulations, so it's often an appropriate choice for starving adults until they are closer to ideal weight. Lower-quality meals require more energy to digest, which is undesirable for dangerously underweight pups. Commercial dog foods contain balanced proportions of all the dietary essentials your dog's body needs, according to Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. If your pup seems uninterested in his food after a few bites, tempt him with wet food or by pouring beef broth over a bowl of kibble.
Satin balls are a trick of the trade among show dog owners who need to get a pet up to a target weight on short notice. Satin balls are basically lumps of compressed meat, fat and carbohydrates that help dogs gain pounds. They can be a temporary solution to bulk up an underweight pup or a permanent dietary fixture for dogs who have trouble keeping their weight at healthy levels. Standard ingredients include raw ground beef, cereal, egg and oil, according to the German Shepherd Search and Rescue Dog Association of Illinois. The balls contains several potential allergens, including wheat and beef, so check with your vet before packing one together for your dog. You can find a detailed recipe for satin balls as well as other homemade canine meals on the Greyhound Pets of America website.