Obesity is a growing problem in the United States among both people and pets. In fact, nearly 50% of dogs are overweight with up to 30% of them being classified as obese. Unhealthy weight gain is a serious issue that should not be ignored, but what about the opposite?


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Dr. Tim’s Highly Athletic Momentum

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In the same way that many dogs struggle with unhealthy weight gain, many dogs struggle to keep weight on. Weight loss can be just as dangerous for dogs as weight gain, especially when it is caused by an underlying medical condition.

In this article, we’ll explore the subject of unhealthy weight loss in dogs and provide you with tips for how to put weight on a dog safely. You’ll also learn what to look for in a good weight gain food for dogs and see our top 10 picks.

Why Do Some Dogs Lose Weight?

Unexpected losing weight is a dream for many people, but not so for your dog. If your dog loses a significant amount of weight for no apparent reason, it could be a sign of an underlying health problem. Ask yourself whether your dog has been eating less lately or if he’s been more active than usual. If neither of these things is the case, talk to your veterinarian sooner rather than later.

Here are some of the things that might cause a dog to lose weight:

  • Intestinal parasites
  • Kidney disease or heart disease
  • Dental disease (trouble chewing)
  • Certain types of cancer
  • Changes to the diet, lower calorie intake
  • Increased activity level
  • Chronic stress
  • Gastrointestinal obstruction
  • Canine diabetes

Now that you have a better understanding of what might be causing your dog’s weight loss, how do you deal with it? Helping your dog get back to a healthy body weight is very important but it is not something you want to rush. Keep reading to learn some simple tips.

Tips for Helping an Underdog Gain Weight

If your dog loses a pound or two, it may not seem like a big deal. However, if your dog loses 10% of his body weight, it is considered significant and has the potential to be dangerous. Keep in mind that 10% of body weight differs depending on your dog’s size, so a Golden Retriever could lose 7 or 8 pounds before it becomes significant while the loss of even a few ounces could be dangerous for a Chihuahua.

When it comes to helping your dog gain weight, you need to do so in a slow and healthy way. Here are some additional tips for how to put weight on a dog safely:

  • Improve the quality of your dog’s diet so he can digest it more easily and absorb the calories and nutrients from it to gain weight.
  • Feed your dog several small meals throughout the day instead of two larger meals.
  • Add some wet food or a high calorie dog food supplement to your dog’s current diet to increase his calorie intake and help him put on weight.
  • Encourage your dog to exercise as much as it is safe for him to do – it will help restore his strength and build his muscle as well as his appetite.
  • Try to include high-calorie snacks as 10% to 15% of your dog’s daily diet – make them as meaty and delicious as possible to encourage him to eat them.
If your dog is underweight, it’s not something you should ignore. Take a closer look at his behavior and any other changes to determine whether it’s merely an issue of not feeding him enough or if something else might be going on. If you suspect that something might be going on, talk to your veterinarian.

What to Look for in a Dog Food for Weight Gain

When shopping for the best dog food to gain weight and muscle, you need to pay attention to more than just the calorie content. Your dog’s food is his primary source of nutrition, so it needs to be properly balanced to meet his nutritional needs. As long as those needs are met, you have the freedom to choose whatever high-fat, high-calorie diet you like.

Here are some things to look for in a good dog food for weight gain:

  • High-quality, natural ingredients. Whole-food ingredients are more nutritious and more digestible than by-products and fillers, so real ingredients should be the foundation of your dog’s diet. Look for real animal protein, healthy fats, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Concentrated source of calories. The average adult dog food contains about 400 calories per cup, so look for a recipe that offers a more concentrated source of calories – ideally 430 to 450 calories per cup or more.
  • Premium animal proteins. Protein is the foundation of a healthy diet for any dogs and is particularly important for dogs who need to gain weight. When helping an underweight dog gain weight, protein is essential to build strong muscle and maintain lean mass, so look for a recipe that contains at least 30% high-quality animal protein like poultry, meat, or seafood.
  • Moderate-to-high fat content. Fat is a concentrated source of calories at 9 calories per gram (compared to 4 for protein and carbs), so it should make up about 18% to 20% of your dog’s diet if he needs to gain weight. Just remember that most of it should come from animal sources.
  • Digestible carbohydrates. Limited carbohydrate content is recommended for dogs, and the digestibility of those carbohydrates is very important. Some dogs can tolerate whole grains but, if your dog can’t, look for other options like legumes, peas, and starchy vegetables.
  • Complete and nutritionally balanced. Complete and balanced nutrition is essential for all dogs, but especially for dogs who are suffering from an underlying medical condition. Check for the AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy on the label and look for quality natural ingredients.

If you’re still not quite sure where to look for the best dog food to gain weight and muscle, don’t worry – we’ve assembled a list of our top picks, so keep reading!

The 10 Best Dog Foods (High Calorie) for Weight Gain

When it comes to choosing the best dog food to gain weight, remember that quality and digestibility are of the utmost importance. Your dog needs more calories than he’s currently getting, but his diet still needs to be nutritionally balanced, so look for whole-food ingredients including premium animal proteins, healthy fats, digestible carbohydrates, and essential nutrients.

Here’s our top pick for the best dog food for weight gain:

NomNomNow Fresh Food Delivery

Overall Best Dog Food for Weight Gain: Simply increasing the amount you feed your dog is not necessarily the best approach to weight gain. You want to make sure your dog gains muscle instead of just fat, and his diet needs to still be nutritionally balanced while being higher in calories. Pet experts agree that fresh food is best for dogs and NomNomNow is our top choice for dogs who need to gain weight. This service delivers freshly prepared dog food right to your door in convenient monthly deliveries. Simply put in your dog’s information and choose from the available recipes then work with a company representative to adjust your dog’s caloric intake to help him gain weight. The shipments you receive will be perfectly portioned according to your dog’s needs, so all you need to do is serve it.

  • Pros: Fresh food delivered to your door, several recipe options, customizable calorie content per portion, fresh natural ingredients, cooked in small batches
  • Cons: Expensive to feed as a staple diet

Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free Canned Food

Most Popular Dog Food for Weight Gain: The Taste of the Wild brand is easily one of the most popular pet food brands on the market, and for good reason. This company uses high-quality ingredients including premium roasted meats, digestible grain-free carbohydrates, and beneficial supplements in all of their recipes. Their dry food recipes don’t meet the qualifications for being a high-fat or high-calorie recipe, but their wet food formulas are a great option if you’re looking for a high calorie dog food supplement to add to your dog’s current diet. This High Prairie Canine recipe features fresh beef and bison as well as roasted lamb and roasted venison for a protein-rich and flavorful wet food option. You’ll also be glad to know that it is complete and balanced, so you don’t have to worry about putting your dog’s nutrition at risk.

  • Pros: Nutritionally complete and balanced, premium roasted meats, digestible grain-free carbohydrates, rich in protein and fat, chelated minerals, fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Cons: Best for supplementation (may not be high enough in calories for staple diet)

Crave Chicken Recipe Adult Dog Food

Most Affordable Dog Food for Weight Gain: High-quality dog food can get pretty expensive, but your dog’s long-term health and wellness is worth spending a little extra. Just because you want to give your dog a healthy and balanced diet doesn’t mean, however, that you have to break the bank. This Crave Chicken Recipe Adult Dog Food is a moderately priced recipe that provides a nutritious blend of fresh chicken and chicken meal with supplemental proteins from pork and lamb. It provides a whopping 34% protein with 17% fat and contains over 460 calories per cup. Plus, it is supplemented with fiber for healthy digestion and contains chelated minerals to ensure optimal nutrient absorption.

  • Pros: Moderately priced, high-quality ingredients, several premium animal proteins, digestible carbohydrates, rich in protein and calories, chelated minerals
  • Cons: Could be higher in fat content, contains some plant protein (pea protein)

Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost Senior Recipe with Real Chicken Dry Food

Best Senior Dog Food for Weight Gain: Many senior dogs have trouble keeping weight on, but they have additional challenges associated with their age as well. For aging dogs, joint support is essential, and protein is even more important for maintaining healthy body weight and lean muscle. Our top pick for the best senior dog food for weight gain is Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost Senior Recipe with Real Chicken Dry Food. This recipe contains 35.5% protein and nearly 500 calories per cup. It consists of high-protein kibble infused with freeze-dried raw pieces, giving your dog the nutritional benefits of raw food without sacrificing the convenience of dry food. It is supplemented with glucosamine and chondroitin for joint support and contains digestible grain-free carbohydrates for energy and fiber. It also contains chelated minerals to ensure optimal nutrient absorption with a blend of omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat.

  • Pros: High-protein kibble and freeze-dried raw bites, high in protein and calories, digestible grain-free carbohydrates, blend of omega fatty acids, probiotics and chelated minerals
  • Cons: Expensive to feed as a staple diet, could be higher in fat content (16%)

Nulo Freestyle Limited + Salmon Recipe Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Best Dog Food for Sensitive Stomach and Weight Gain: If your dog has trouble digesting certain ingredients, it can lead to a whole host of problems ranging from recurrent ear infections and skin issues to digestive upset. When your dog can’t properly digest his food, he can’t absorb the nutrients and it can lead to unhealthy weight loss. The best thing you can do for a dog in this situation is choose a high-quality recipe made with natural ingredients (ideally a limited number) to ensure digestibility and nutrient absorption. Our top pick is Nulo Freestyle Limited + Salmon Recipe Grain-Free Dry Dog Food. This recipe contains a limited number of ingredients with real salmon as the first ingredient and a single source of novel protein. It features grain-free carbohydrates, a blend of omega fatty acids, and a unique blend of probiotics for healthy and regular digestion.  You’ll also be glad to know that it contains a whopping 30% protein with 17% fat and over 430 calories per cup.

  • Pros: High protein and calories, limited number of ingredients, salmon as single source protein, blend of omega fatty acids, probiotic supplements, chelated minerals
  • Cons: Expensive to feed as a staple diet

5 More Top-Rated Dog Foods for Weight Gain

If the dog foods listed above don’t seem quite right for your underweight dog, you’ll be relieved to know that there are plenty of other options out there. Here are five more top-rated options in the best weight gain food for dogs.

Dr. Tim’s Highly Athletic Momentum Formula Dry Dog Food

If your dog needs to start gaining weight immediately, a high-protein, high-calorie recipe like this Dr. Tim’s Highly Athletic Momentum Formula Dry Dog Food may be the way to go. This formula features 92% animal protein from quality sources like chicken meal and ocean herring meal for a total of 35% protein. With nutritious sources of essential fatty acids like chicken fat and menhaden fish oil, this recipe provides 25% fat in a blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. It contains chelated minerals to ensure balanced nutrition as well as optimal nutrient absorption as well as necessary vitamins. Overall, it is a nutritious, high-protein source of calories to help your dog gain weight.

  • Pros: High in protein and fat, contains over 500 calories per cup, real animal proteins, digestible whole grains, blend of omega fatty acids, chelated mineral supplements
  • Cons: Expensive to feed as a staple diet

Ziwi Peak New Zealand Beef Recipe Canned Food

If your dog loves the flavor of beef, this Ziwi Peak New Zealand Beef Recipe Canned Food is a great option. It features fresh beef as the main ingredient with beef organs for additional protein and essential nutrients. This recipe is naturally grain-free and made with a very limited number of main ingredients. It contains chickpeas for digestible grain-free carbohydrates with vitamins and chelated mineral supplements to ensure complete and balanced nutrition. You’ll also be glad to know that this recipe contains New Zealand green-lipped mussels which provide a natural source of glucosamine and chondroitin for joint support.

  • Pros: Real beef first ingredient, packed with protein and nutrients, digestible grain-free carbohydrates, chelated minerals, complete and nutritionally balanced
  • Cons: Some dogs may be sensitive to beef

Castor & Pollux Organix Grain-Free Chicken & Vegetable Recipe Canned Food

Rich in animal ingredients and moisture, this Castor & Pollux Organix Grain-Free Chicken & Vegetable Recipe Canned Food is a great option for dogs who need to gain weight because it contains a whopping 425 calories per 12.7-ounce can. This recipe features organic chicken as the first ingredient with other organic ingredients including organic peas, potatoes, coconut flour, and flaxseed. This recipe also contains fresh fruits and vegetables to provide natural sources for key nutrients with vitamins and chelated minerals for nutritional balance. It is packed with protein and healthy fats to make sure your dog gets the nutrition he needs, and it is loaded with natural flavor to make it more appealing.

  • Pros: Organic natural ingredients, increased calorie content, organic chicken first ingredient, fresh fruits and vegetables, chelated mineral supplements, plenty of omega fatty acids
  • Cons: Expensive to feed as a staple diet

Nature’s Logic Canine Chicken Meal Feast Dry Food

This recipe is made from 100% natural ingredients, so you can rest easily knowing that it will provide your dog with a high-quality source of premium nutrition. This Nature’s Logic Canine Chicken Meal Feast Dry Food features chicken meal as a concentrated source of protein for the main ingredient with gluten-free carbohydrates like millet and pumpkin seed. It also contains dried fruits and vegetables which provide a natural source of key nutrients with probiotics for digestive support. This recipe contains nearly 420 calories per cup and contains 36% protein. It only contains 15% fat, but the higher calorie content and rich protein content should be enough to help your dog gain weight with proper feeding.

  • Pros: Made with 100% natural ingredients, concentrated source of animal protein, dried fruits and veggies provide balanced nutrition, 36% protein and 5% fiber, probiotic supplements
  • Cons: Could be higher in fat, expensive to feed as a staple diet

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Duck Recipe Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Premium animal protein is the best foundation for a healthy diet in dogs and it will help your underweight dog put on some pounds. This Blue Buffalo Wilderness Duck Recipe Grain-Free Dry Dog Food is a great option because it features high-quality animal proteins like fresh duck, chicken meal, and turkey meal to provide a total of 34% protein. This recipe contains 416 calories per cup and is a balanced source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat. It contains digestible grain-free carbohydrates as well as probiotics to help ensure healthy digestion. It is supplemented with chelated minerals for optimal nutrient absorption as well.

  • Pros: High in protein, quality animal ingredients, 34% protein and 416 calories per cup, blend of omega fatty acids, rich in fiber, probiotics for healthy digestion
  • Cons: Contains some plant protein (pea protein), could be higher in fat

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What can I feed my dog to help her gain weight? – If your dog needs to gain weight, you could try just increasing his daily portion by a little bit at each meal. As discussed earlier, however, many dogs are underweight due to a medical condition that also leads to low appetite. If you want your dog to gain weight, you should switch to a commercial dog food with higher fat and calorie content but may also want to supplement the dog’s diet with high-calorie treats or a commercial high calorie dog food supplement. Things like cooked chicken liver or cooked fish are good options, or you can add some commercial wet food to your dog’s dry diet because it is usually higher in calories and fat.
  • Does high protein dog food cause weight gain? – Protein is an essential nutrient for dogs and, generally speaking, more protein is always a good thing. When it comes to the issue of high protein dog food and weight gain, it has more to do with the calorie content of the product than the protein content specifically. Protein actually helps your dog maintain lean muscle mass so if he is gaining weight on a high-protein diet, you may want to check the calorie and fat content because these things are more likely to be the problem.
  • Why is my dog fat all of a sudden? – If you look down at your dog and suddenly realize that he’s fat, you probably haven’t been paying much attention over the past few weeks. Dogs can gain weight quickly, but it is a matter of weeks more than days. In many cases, rapid weight gain is due to an excess of calories, so ask yourself whether you’ve been giving your dog more food and treats than usual or if he’s been less active than he normally is. You may also want to take him to the veterinarian for a checkup.
  • How can you tell if your dog is too skinny? – Weighing your dog may not be enough to tell whether he is underweight or overweight because each breed has a weight range, and there are always dogs that fall outside that range. The best way to tell if your dog is too skinny is to check his body condition score. Look at your dog from the side and from the top to judge what you see. When viewing your dog from the side, you should be able to see a defined tuck behind the ribs and, when touching the dog, you should be able to feel the ribs under the skin – if you can clearly see the ribs, your dog may be underweight. When viewing the dog from above, you should see a clearly defined waist, but if it is too narrow your dog might be too skinny.
  • How many calories should my dog have a day? – The exact number of calories any dog needs differs depending on numerous factors. Puppies and lactating females need a higher number of calories than the average adult dog because they are burning calories at a higher rate – the same is true for active and working breeds. The average adult dog needs between 20 and 30 calories per pound of body weight to maintain a healthy body weight. For small-breed dogs (under 20 pounds), the metabolism is very fast so a higher concentration of calories between 30 and 40 per pound is recommended. For large-breed dogs and inactive breeds, calories should be restricted instead to prevent overgrowth and canine obesity – aim for 20 to 25 calories per pound.

Weight gain is a cause for concern in both people and pets, but the opposite can be a problem as well. Certain health problems can lead to unhealthy weight loss in dogs and can actually put your dog at risk. If you’re worried about your dog’s weight loss, talk to your veterinarian to determine the underlying cause and to discuss the best form of treatment for your dog.

Making changes to your dog’s diet is likely to be a part of his treatment plan for gaining weight. If you’re not sure where to look for the best dog food for weight gain, try one of our top picks reviewed above!

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