How to Put Weight on a Skinny Dog

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Some dogs eat and eat and never gain weight, and that's okay as long as they're healthy and are at a weight which corresponds to their breed and size.

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But how can you tell if your dog is at the correct weight? What you have to do is feel for the rib cage of your dog. You should be able to feel the ribs right below their skin. If the ribs protrude, then the dog is in danger of being malnourished!

Setting a Goal Weight


Setting a goal weight for your dog is dependent upon your dog's breed, size and age. Checking with your local Veterinarian or breeder will aid you in determining this factor if you are unsure yourself.

Food Types & Food Quality

The type of food you feed your dog is very important. We had to switch over to a better dog food for our midsize Cockapoo who not only had a weight problem but also allergic reactions to other cheaper brands of dog food (both wet and dry.) We settled on Royal Canin Duck & Potato which worked out well for our dog. And no, this is not a paid advertisement.


A higher quality of dog food contains better ingredients and the nutrition your dog requires to either gain or maintain weight. Low quality food contains a ton of fillers and other unknown ingredients that send your dog's digestive system into overdrive in order to break the food down. So if you think you're getting a deal by buying cheap dog food, you're not - you're fueling a future vet bill. This is especially true with food manufactured in other countries like China. A friend of mine had her dog go into convulsions from this type of food and the dog never recovered. Sad.

Dry Food VS Wet Food


Our VET recommended feeding our dog dry food over wet food. One reason is dry food contains more carbohydrates than wet food and this is a big difference to consider if your dog is underweight because your dog needs more carbs taken in then he burns daily in order to put on some pounds.

But there are some benefits to wet food over dry and they are:

If your dog doesn't drink the amount of water he should be drinking, wet food may provide the hydration your dog requires.


Health conditions may make wet foods more appealing than dry foods because of the scent and flavor of the food.

If you have an older, senior dog with missing teeth or other mouth and jaw conditions, wet food may be easier for your dog to chew and digest.

The Best For Your Pet

Either wet or dry, whichever you choose, as long as they're both well balanced nutritionally and quality made, should suit your pet fine. Mixing both wet and dry is another choice but a talk with your VET is necessary for senior dogs or dogs with health problems.


Food Amounts

Increase the amount of food you give to your dog by about half, then weigh him daily. If he's not gaining weight, increase the intake more or feed your dog more smaller meals during the day along with healthy treats.

In Conclusion

Even though you've increased your dog's food intake and you want him gaining weight, do not cut out exercise. Exercising your dog, such as a simple 30 minute walk per day, keeps his heart and lungs healthy. Exercise also helps in distributing his weight proportionally and in building muscle mass.


For the severely underweight dogs like rescue dogs, this weight gaining procedure varies slightly as you do not want to overwork the dog's digestive system too much by feeding him a ton of food.

A little at a time is the key here. Every half-hour or so feed the dog until you have given him the calories required for his size and breed. A high quality dog food is highly recommended in this instance. As the dogs health improves you can gradually cut back on the small meals and feed him normally when he attains a healthy weight for his breed.

With a rescue dog or any dog underweight, a veterinarian's input is highly recommended. When the health and well being of your dog is at stake, it takes every measure to help him get and stay healthy.

By Tom Matteo

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.