How to Put Weight on a Skinny Dog

Sometimes petting and praise can encourage a dog to eat.
dog image by Mat Hayward from

If your dog is too skinny, it can be helpful to figure out the reason why. Reasons dogs are underweight include illness and parasites, as well as simple underfeeding, in which the dog is burning more calories than it is being fed. If you can see all the bones sticking out---including the head and the facial bones---and the dog seems weak and lethargic, he is emaciated and must receive immediate veterinary treatment. Whether you have just adopted your dog from a shelter, or have owned him for a while and find it difficult to make him eat, there are some techniques to promote healthy weight gain in your underweight dog.

Feeding Tips for an Underweight Dog

Step 1

Take your dog to the veterinarian for a thorough physical examination to find out if there is a physical reason he is thin, and to address health issues that may have been caused by malnutrition. In addition to the common causes of underweight, your vet may find evidence of a food intolerance, an intestinal obstruction or bad teeth. The vet may prescribe amino acids and a vitamin and mineral supplement for your underweight dog.

Step 2

Feed your dog four small meals throughout the day, at roughly six hours apart. According to the Pet Care website, you should switch your dog's diet to a high-quality puppy food or growth formula.

Step 3

Augment the puppy chow with healthy foods to encourage weight gain. Add a few spoonfuls of pasta or rice to supply complex carbohydrates, and try moistening the dog's food with low-salt chicken broth to make it more palatable. You can even buy sauces or gravy made for dogs at some pet food stores. Never use sauces or gravy that have been cooked for humans---they tend to be too salty, sugary, spicy or fatty for dogs.

Step 4

Calculate your dog's RER---Resting Energy Requirement---to help you determine her caloric needs. According to the Pet Care website, a small dog of about 10 pounds needs about 450 calories, a medium-sized dog of 45 to 70 pounds needs roughly 1200 calories, and a large dog over 85 pounds needs 1800. Very large dogs---canines that weigh in at over 130 pounds---require about 2400 calories a day.

Step 5

Weigh the dog twice a day and record the number, along with a record of what you fed him and how much he ate. This will help you and your vet evaluate the success of your feeding program

Recipe for Satin Balls for Weight Gain

Step 1

Mix a pound of raw ground beef, an 8oz package of cream cheese, a jar of all-natural peanut butter, a dozen egg yolks, a 10oz package of wheat germ and a cup of flaked oats that have been soaked in heavy cream. According to the Dog Logic website, this recipe is used to help dogs gain weight quickly after surgery. The egg yolks contain cysteine, which may have protective effects on the liver; the peanut butter is a high-calorie, nutritious food rich in calcium and iron. The ground beef supplies high-quality protein.

Step 2

Form the mixture into balls and place in the freezer.

Step 3

Feed the Satin Balls as treats or food supplements as desired to help your dog gain weight.


  • Don't offer the dog unlimited quantities of food; this can trigger a dangerous condition called Refeeding Syndrome. According to the Pet Center website, a good rule of thumb is to feed the amount of calories the dog would normally eat when at a normal weight.


  • Praise and pet the dog whenever she eats. Most dogs want to please their owners, and your approval can encourage eating.

Items You Will Need

  • High-quality commercial puppy food
  • Spoonfuls of rice and potatoes
  • Low-salt chicken broth
  • Sauces and gravy formulated for dogs
  • 1 pound of raw ground beef
  • 8oz package of cream cheese
  • 16oz jar of all-natural peanut butter
  • 12 dozen egg yolks
  • 10oz package of wheat germ
  • 1 cup of flaked oats, soaked in heavy cream