If you are worried your dog is underweight, you are in the right place. Keeping your dog in the optimum weight range has many health benefits. Having an underweight dog can have just as many negative health impacts as being overweight, so it’s important to get the balance right when choosing a dog food brand and amounts to feed. Quality of food matters, as we are aiming to add muscle mass, rather than just layers of fat to your dog.
Sometimes knowing if your dog is a bit skinny or underweight is tricky. Veterinarians have created this easy-to-use body condition score chart.
Use this chart to help you assign a body score out of 5 that describes your dog’s body condition. An underweight dog will have easily visible or palpable ribs, spine, and pelvis. You may notice your dog has no extra fat stores on its body, or be able to see bony protrusions on the head. These are indicators your dog is underweight.
Body condition scoring is useful for tracking progress after you start a feeding plan. Whilst there are standard weight brackets most pure-bred dogs fall into, a body condition score is a more accurate assessment of your dog’s individual needs and progress.
There are a few reasons why your dog may not be putting on the weight that you would like them to or losing weight even though you are feeding a high-quality diet.
The first place to start is with a health check with your veterinarian, especially if you have a dog under two years or over eight years old. There are many medical causes of weight loss like parasitism (worms), dental disease, and conditions such as diabetes or cancer. If there is a medical condition going on, this needs to be treated. Your veterinarian can perform tests such as bloodwork to identify any problems and recommend treatments which may also include a prescription diet to aid in weight gain through illness. Often, the weight loss problem will fix itself naturally after treatment is started.
Do you have a hyper dog? One that’s always on the go? These dogs can naturally be lean, even when you are feeding the recommended portions on the dog food bag. High energy requirements are a common reason that dogs can be underweight, and there are specific ways to manage this, discussed below.
A dog who is experiencing high levels of stress or anxiety may go off their food completely and lose weight rapidly. This can be more common in certain breeds such as the Husky.
What you put into your dog, affects how they look. Nutrition affects not just their weight, but also things like coat and nail condition, eyesight, and internal organ health. If your dog is fed the wrong food type for their weight, activity level, and age this can affect their body condition.
The most basic way to naturally bulk up a dog is to increase the amount of food they are eating. Look for a high-quality, balanced, premium diet that meets AAFCO standards and feed to the weight you want your dog to be (ask a veterinarian if unsure). Feeding smaller, more frequent meals can help increase the absorption of nutrition in the gut and helps keep your dog fuller for longer. Avoid supermarket brand foods as they tend to be higher in fats and fillers rather than premium proteins and supplements beneficial for growth.
If you have taken on a rescue case, or have a severely emaciated dog, it’s crucial to work with a veterinarian to come up with a feeding plan. This is to avoid a condition called Refeeding syndrome. Dogs who are severely malnourished can become very ill if suddenly allowed to eat as much food as they want.
It may sound counterintuitive, but actually adding in some low-intensity exercise like lead walks can help stimulate the body to develop muscle mass, and therefore body condition. Start slow and gradually build up each day what your dog can do, and watch the results creep in.
If you have an anxious dog, using pheromone diffusers around the home can help hugely. Give your dog a private space away from other animals and people to eat at their own pace. Offering food many times in the day can give your dog plenty of opportunities to start eating again.
Palatability can play a huge part in food intake and adding new flavors in the form of broths, gravies, or pieces of treats can be enough to encourage your dog to eat.
Weight gain in dogs should be a gradual process, but a successful one. Finding the right diet both in terms of nutritional value and taste will help your dog to gain weight at a faster pace. Finally using treats or portions of meat as rewards for good behavior is another easy way of adding extra calories to your dog’s diet to increase their weight gain.
A quick and easy way to add extra calories to your dog’s diet is to feed a puppy diet for a few weeks. This should not be used long-term, instead talk to a veterinarian to create a healthy weight gain diet.
Muscle gains are a combination of diet and exercise. You need both to gain weight. Feeding a diet with increased protein levels such as meat-based diets or adding meat toppers will give your dog the building blocks to create muscle mass.
Yes, eggs are an excellent source of proteins and healthy fats so help weight gain in healthy dogs. Too many eggs can cause an upset tummy so limit egg consumption to one cooked egg a day. Avoid adding extra salt to the egg when cooking.