Dogs are a lot like people when it comes to body weight – they are more likely to become overweight than underweight. Nevertheless, there are several conditions and circumstances that can leave a pup in need of some surplus calories.
Fortunately, there are a variety of dog foods and supplemental products available that can help you accomplish this goal of reaching a healthy weight!
We’ll share a few of our favorite weight gain dog food recipes below, explain some of the most important things to look for when making your choice, and explain how to put weight on a dog safely.
Just be sure that you work in conjunction with your veterinarian, to ensure you have remedied the underlying problem which caused your dog to become underweight, and that your pooch gains weight in a steady, healthy manner.
Read our full post on how to pick out food to fill out Fido, or check out our quick picks below:
Quick Picks: Best Dog Food For Weight Gain
- Bully Max High Performance Dog Food. This corn, wheat, and soy-free formula boasts a high calorie count and fat content.
- Crave Grain Free Dog Food. Crave is a protein-packed grain-free food. While lower calorie than other options listed here, it’s a high-quality option with a variety of protein sources.
How Can You Tell if Your Dog Is Underweight?
Some of the most obvious signs and symptoms associated with underweight dogs include:
- Obviously visible ribs, hips or shoulders (note that some breeds typically have low fat reserves in these areas)
- Reduced energy level
- Poor coat condition or reduced shine
- Poor eating habits
None of these signs necessarily indicate that your dog is underweight, but they should alert you to the possibility of a health issue. There’s little to be lost by being proactive, so don’t delay in addressing the problem.
Reasons Your Dog May Need to Gain Weight
Remember, low body weight is a symptom, not a disease; if your dog is underweight, there may be an underlying illness or issue at work, and you must work with your veterinarian to determine the root of the problem. Only after fixing this, will you be able to help your pooch add a little padding.
Reasons your dog may be exhibiting lower-than-normal body weight include:
- Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Intestinal parasites
- Thyroid Problems
- Liver Disease
- Dental Problems
While there are several legitimate reasons for trying to increase your dog’s body weight, trying to get your young puppy to grow more quickly is not a good idea.
Puppies should grow at a gradual, natural rate for proper skeletal development. There are many dog foods specifically designed for puppies that will help your pup gain weight in a healthy manner while supporting bone and brain growth.
Always work with your vet to establish a good daily intake for your puppy (or adult dog) and strive to keep him at his ideal weight.
Packing on the Pounds: How to Put Weight on a Dog Safely
While you may need to help your dog bulk up a bit, this doesn’t mean you should just start cramming food in his mouth at all hours of the day and night!
Just as is the case when trying to reduce a dog’s weight, you should try to help your dog gain weight gradually. He didn’t become underweight overnight, and you aren’t going to be able to get him back to his target weight overnight either.
This is especially true of dogs who’ve become extremely thin, as well as those who’ve been underweight for an extended period of time. In such cases, it is imperative that you learn how to put weight on a malnourished dog safely.
At a basic level, helping your dog to add a few pounds entails nothing more than tweaking his caloric intake and output. If your dog consumes more calories without burning any additional calories, he’ll gain weight (assuming he doesn’t have an underlying medical condition).
- Increase the frequency with which you feed Fido. You may be able to get your dog to consume more food on a daily basis by dividing meal times up.
- Select a food with more calories and protein. A little bit more fat is alright, but you don’t want to just start feeding him the dog-food equivalent of cheese fries (all this talk of fat is making me hungry).
- You can switch to an ad libitum feeding strategy. Although leaving food out for your dog at all times is often discouraged, it can be a great strategy for helping underweight dogs add some weight. In fact, ad libitum feeding may encourage your dog to eat a little when he is bored (let’s face it, humans are often guilty of this. Flying through a bag of Cheetos is much more fun than managing your monthly finances).
- Provide him with high-calorie treats or supplements. While the bulk of your dog’s additional calories should come in the form of a nutritious, balanced food, it’s OK to supplement his diet with some fat- and protein-packed treats.
- Switch to a puppy food growth formula. Puppy foods have more protein and calories per serving than many dog foods, making them a good choice for underweight dogs. You can also look for foods designed for “all life stages,” as these are essentially puppy food.
- Use caution with homemade weight gain dog food recipes. A lot of well-meaning owners devise their own dog foods to help their pooch bulk up. But unfortunately, many of these recipes are improperly balanced, and may therefore cause additional problems.
In addition to the strategies discussed above, it is also wise to keep a journal while trying to help your dog gain weight. Record any food changes you make, as well as any supplements you begin administering. It’s also important to track your dog’s weight on a weekly basis.
A journal will not only help you to determine which strategies are producing the best results, it will help when discussing the issue with your vet too.
The Best Dog Foods For Weight Gain: Five Foods That’ll Fatten Your Dog
Consider choosing one of the following five dog foods when it comes to bulking up your buddy.
1. Bully Max High Performance Super Premium Dog Food
Bully Max High Performance Super Premium Dog Food
- 535 Calories per cup
- 33% Protein / 22% Fat
- No corn, wheat or soy
There’s a lot to like about Bully Max. It is the most protein-rich food in our list, and it is also full of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and omega-3 fatty acids.
You pay for the high-quality ingredients and calorie-rich recipe of Bully Ma, as it is the second most expensive option on our list.
Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Chicken Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Dried Plain Beet Pulp...,
Ground Sorghum, Pearled Barley, Brewers Dried Yeast, Whole Ground Flaxseed, Menhaden Fish Meal, Egg Product, Menhaden Fish Oil, Potassium Chloride, Salt, L-Lysine, DL-Methionine, Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product Dehydrated, Propionic Acid, Vitamin E Supplement, Ascorbic Acid, Organic Dried Kelp, Niacin Supplement, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin A Acetate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Citric Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Iron Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Manganese Sulfate, Manganese Proteinate, Manganous Oxide, Copper Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Iodate, Natural Flavor
2. Elite K9 Maximum Bully All Stages Dog Food
Elite K9 Maximum Bully All Stages Dog Food is a chicken-and-pork dog food designed to deliver more protein and fat per bite than most other foods.
Elite K9 Maximum Bully All Stages Dog Food
- 481 Calories per cup
- Contains a variety of natural ingredients to improve the nutritional profile
- Dogs love the meaty taste
- 32% Protein / 22% Fat
The broad combination of protein sources and the relatively low carbohydrate content of Elite K9 Maximum Bully makes it a very attractive option for dogs who need to gain weight. It only becomes a more intriguing when you consider its very reasonable price point.
Elite K9 Maximum Bully contains menadione, which gives some dog owners pause.
Chicken meal, pork meal, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), white rice, whole barley...,
oatmeal, rice bran, dried plain beet pulp, millet, pea protein, spray dried egg product, yeast extract, fish meal, salt, flaxseed meal, potassium chloride, choline chloride, vitamin A supplement, vitamin D supplement, vitamin E supplement, vitamin K (menadione sodium bisulfite complex), calcium pantothenate, niacin, riboflavin, folic acid, vitamin B12 supplement, thiamine mononitrate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, (vitamin B6), zinc oxide, iron sulfate, manganous oxide, copper sulfate, sodium selenite (selenium), zinc amino acid complex, calcium carbonate, iron amino acid complex, ferrous sulfate, sodium selenite, copper amino acid complex, manganese amino acid complex, calcium iodate, pumpkin, cranberries, Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast culture, dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried Aspergillus niger fermentation extract, dried Trichoderma longibrachiatum fermentation extract, dried Bacillus subtillis fermentation extract.
NOTE: Do not confuse “Maximum Bully” with “Bully Max.” Despite their similar names, they are entirely different products.
3. Nature’s Logic Dry Dog Food (Chicken)
Nature’s Logic Chicken-Flavored Dry Dog Food is a nutritious, premium-ingredient dog food, coated in a nutrient-rich mix of digestive enzymes for bulking up your pup.
Nature’s Logic Dry Dog Food (Chicken)
- 551 Calories per cup
- Contains pro-biotic fermentation products to aid digestion
- Does not contain any synthetic vitamins or minerals
Nature’s Logic packs 417 calories into every cup and contains a litany of unusual fruits, vegetables and seeds, which help to provide a broad mix of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals.
You pay a premium for this calorie-rich kibble, but that is to be expected. Chicken is the primary protein source for this food, making it unsuitable for dogs allergic to poultry products.
Chicken Meal, Millet, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Pumpkin Seed, Yeast Culture...,
Spray Dried Chicken Liver, Dried Egg Product, Alfalfa Nutrient Concentrate, Montmorillonite Clay, Dried Kelp, Spray Dried Lamb Plasma, Dried Tomato, Almonds, Dried Chicory Root, Dried Carrot, Dried Apple, Menhaden Fish Meal, Dried Pumpkin, Dried Apricot, Dried Blueberry, Dried Spinach, Dried Broccoli, Dried Cranberry, Parsley, Dried Artichoke, Rosemary, Dried Mushroom, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Bifidobacterium bifidium Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Bacillus coagulans Fermentation Product, Dried Pineapple Extract, Dried Aspergillus niger Fermentation Extract, Dried Aspergillus oryzae Fermentation Extract, Dried Trichoderma longibrachiatum Fermentation Extract
4. Purina Pro Plan Sport Dog Food
Although it isn’t specifically formulated as a weight-gain formula, Purina Pro Plan Sport Formula is a high-calorie dog food that is packed with flavor and available at a competitive price point.
Purina Pro Plan Sport Dog Food
- 475 Calories per cup
- Contains natural sources of glucosamine
- Chicken is the first listed ingredient
- No artificial flavors, colors or preservatives
If you are looking for a reasonably priced, American-made dog food to help your dog gain weight and muscle, Purina Pro Plan Natural is worth a look. Most dogs seem to like the taste of the recipe, and it contains multiple protein sources.
While Purina Pro Plan Natural is one of the most affordable options on the list, it lacks the caloric density of some of the more expensive options. We’d also prefer if the manufacturer identified a few of the ingredients more specifically (e.g. “poultry by-product meal,” “animal digest,” etc.)
Chicken, Corn Gluten Meal, Brewer's Rice, Animal Fat Preserved with Mixed-Tocopherols (Form of Vitamin E)...,
Poultry By-Product Meal (Natural Source of Glucosamine), Whole Grain Corn, Corn Germ Meal, Fish Meal (Natural Source of Glucosamine), Animal Digest, Fish Oil, Dried Egg Product, Salt, Calcium Carbonate, Potassium Chloride, Calcium Phosphate, Vitamin E Supplement, Choline Chloride, L-Lysine Monohydrochloride, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (Source of Vitamin C), Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Niacin, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Copper Sulfate, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Garlic Oil, Folic Acid, Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Calcium Iodate, Biotin, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Source of Vitamin K Activity), Sodium Selenite. W-4461.
5. Crave Grain Free Dog Food
Crave Grain-Free Dog Food is a protein-packed dog food that may help your pup pack on a few extra pounds.
Made with several different animal-based protein sources, this food definitely deserves consideration from owners looking for a high-calorie dog food.
Crave Grain Free Dog Food
- Real salmon is the first listed ingredient
- Manufactured in the United States of America
- Grain-free formula contains no soy, corn or wheat
- Contains no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives
Crave is simply bursting with different protein sources, including real salmon, chicken meal, pork meal, lamb meal and fish meal. Several of its vegetable-based ingredients — including chickpeas and split peas — even contain an abundance of protein.
Crave provides fewer calories per cup than any of the other foods we recommend here. It did cause a few dogs to suffer from diarrhea, but this often occurs when you switch foods too quickly.
Salmon, Chicken Meal, Chickpeas, Split Peas, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols)...,
Pork Meal, Dried Potatoes, Lamb Meal, Fish Meal, Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Natural Flavor, Pea Protein, Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Choline Chloride, Potassium Chloride, DL-Methionine, Salt, Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid (preservatives), Zinc Sulfate, Niacin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Selenium Yeast, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Rosemary Extract.
Quick Reference Table
There’s a lot to wrap your head around when trying to pick out a food that’ll help your pet pack on the pounds. But don’t worry — we’ve put together the following table to help you quickly compare the calories, protein and fat contained in each of the five foods we recommend.
This should help you pick the best dog food to help your pet gain weight and muscle.
|Food||Calories per Cup||Protein Content||Fat Content|
|Purina Pro Plan SPORT||475||30||20|
|Crave Grain Free||443||34||17|
Dog Weight-Gain Supplements
It isn’t always necessary to switch foods to help your pup gain a bit of weight – you can also use supplements to help increase the caloric value and protein content of your dog’s food. Most such supplements are easy to prepare and serve, and dogs typically don’t mind the taste they impart.
We’ll discuss a few of the most effective weight-gain supplements below so you can determine which one is ideal for your pet.
1. MVP K9 Formula Mass
MVP K9 Formula Mass is a weight-gain supplement formulated with healthy fats and whey protein to help your dog add weight in a safe and gradual manner.
- Each scoop contains 50% fats and 28% protein
- Contains no fillers, salts or sugars
- Made in the USA
- Backed by the manufacturer’s 100% satisfaction guarantee
Many owners reported that MVP K9 Formula Mass helped their pup put on some additional fat, and several even mentioned that it appeared to help their dog gain muscle mass too. It appears to be helpful for dogs who are sick, malnourished, or simply finnicky about their food.
While the majority of owners who tried MVP K9 Formula Mass found it helpful, it didn’t appear to work for all dogs. Additionally, a small number of dogs who tried it experienced digestive difficulties after trying it.
Vegetable Fat, Whey Protein, Flax Seed, Creapure (brand name for creatine monohydrate)
2. Bully Max / Gorilla Max Canine Supplement Combo
When you purchase this combo package, you actually get two different weight-gain supplements for one reasonable price. Bully Max is designed to help sick, malnourished or underweight dogs put on more body weight, while Gorilla Max is specifically designed for canine athletes.
- Comes with 60-day supply of Bully Max and a 30-day supply of Gorilla Max
- Gorilla Max contains probiotics to help maintain proper intestinal function
- Taken together, the supplements provide vitamins and minerals to further support your dog’s health
- Made in the USA
Most owners who tried the Bully Max or the Bully Max / Gorilla Max combo reported great results. This not only included owners of sick or underweight dogs, but also those with working or highly active dogs.
While most dogs seemed to benefit from these supplements, a few struggled with intestinal issues after ingesting the product. Additionally, a very small number of dogs seemed put-off by the taste.
Bully Max Ingredients
Dicalcium Phosphate, Maltodextrins, Dried Whey, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Lecithin, Natural Flavoring, Non-Fat Dry Milk, Montmorillonite Clay, Brewer’s Dried Yeast, Stearic Acid, Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil, Magnesium Stearate, Vegetable Oil, Niacin Supplement, Beta Carotene, Ferrous Sulfate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Zinc Sulfate, Vitamin E Supplement, Riboflavin, Silica Aerogel, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Manganese Sulfate, Copper, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Carbonate, Potassium Iodide, Cobalt Carbonate and Vitamin B12 Supplement.
Gorilla Max Ingredients
Whey Protein Isolate, Pea Protein, Corn Syrup Solids, Vegetable Oil, Omega Fish Oil Concentrate, Proprietary Nutrient Mix (Beta Carotene, Vitamin A Palmitate, Cholecalciferol, dl-alpha-tocopheryl acetate, Biotin, Folic Acid, Niacinamide, Calcium D-Pantothenate, Thiamin HCI, Cyanocobalamin, Riboflavin, Pyridoxine HCl, Ascorbic Acid, Phytonadione, Copper Gluconate, Potassium Iodide, Ferrous Fumarate, Manganese Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Zinc Sulfate, Choline Bitartrate, Calcium Carbonate, Taurine), Digestive Enzyme Complex (Alpha Amylase, Cellulase, Lipase, Lactase, Neutral Protease), Natural Flavor, Colostrum, Probiotics (Bacillus coagulans).
3. Dyne High Calorie Animal Supplement
Dyne High-Calorie Animal Supplement is a liquid product designed to help dogs gain weight and enjoy higher energy levels. According to the manufacturer, it is even effective for pregnant, lactating, dehydrated or geriatric dogs.
- Provides 150 additional Calories per ounce
- Most dogs find the vanilla flavor tasty
- Made in the United States of America
- Fortified with vitamins
Most dog owners who tried this supplement were pleased with the product. It appears effective for a wide range of dogs, including those who are recovering from illness or malnourishment, as well as older dogs, who’ve begun to lose weight.
We’d be happier if the manufacturer used natural, rather than artificial, vanilla flavors. Additionally, a few owners complained of the way the product was packaged.
Soybean oil, sugar, water, glycerin, dried skimmed milk, polysorbate 80, dried egg whites, propylene glycol, artificial vanilla flavor, pectin citrus, gum arabic, ascorbic acid (preservative) sodium benzoate (preservative), vitamin E supplement, vitamin A supplement, niacin supplement, calcium pantothenate, riboflavin supplement, FD&C Yellow #5, pyridoxine hydrochloride, thiamine hydrochloride, folic acid, vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin B12 supplement.
4. Muscle Bully Muscle Builder
Muscle Bully Muscle Builder is designed to help promote muscle growth and muscle definition in dogs who are a little undersized. This supplement comes in a chewable tablet form, which allows for quick and easy supplementation on a daily basis.
- Veterinarian approved formula
- Natural chicken liver flavor that dogs love
- Made in the USA
- Backed by the manufacturer’s 100% money-back guarantee
Muscle Bully Muscle Builder received some of the best reviews of any weight-gain supplement we could find. Many owners reported that the supplement not only proved effective, but that it produced results in a very short amount of time. Some owners began seeing noticeable gains in as little as two weeks.
There weren’t many negative reviews from owners who actually purchased the supplement, although a few owners found it ineffective.
N,N-Dimethylglycine HCl, Methionine, L-Lysine, L-Carnitine, Creatine Monohydrate, Chromium, Brewer’s Yeast, Cellulose, Chicken Liver Flavor, Colostrum, Dicalcium Phosphate, Dried Whey, Silicon Dioxide, Stearic Acid, Whey Protein Isolate.
Is It Wise to Make a Homemade High-Calorie Dog Food?
Although some owners have begun making their own dog food recipes for their pets, it’s rarely a good idea to do so.
Balancing a custom-made dog food is extraordinarily difficult, and it is simply something the average dog owner doesn’t understand how to do properly.
The resulting food can cause a number of serious long-term problems, ranging from joint and bone malformations to nutritional deficiencies.
Consequently, we always encourage owners to avoid homemade foods and stick to commercial options instead.
However, if you are set on making a homemade food for your dog, be sure to work closely with your vet and a veterinary nutritionist.
How to Put Weight On a Dog: More Tips & Tricks
For a few extra tips to help a skinny dog put on weight:
- Let Your Dog De-Stress. Some dogs won’t eat if they’re stressed out – if those 4th of July fireworks really freaked Spot out, you might just need to let him chill the next few days before he’s ready to eat again, and that’s fine.
- Include Drool-Worthy Extras. You can also help your pet gain weight by adding foods that’ll fatten your dog with his kibble. This includes things like peanut butter, shredded chicken, yogurt, or a cooked egg.
- Moisten the Food. Some dogs may not be eating much if the food is too hard or if they have sensitive teeth. Adding some moisture and softening up the food may help.
If you’re struggling to get your dog to eat, also make sure read our article on foods that’ll fatten your dog – we cover more strategies and general mindset than recommended foods, but it’s a good read if you are having a tough time feeding Fido.
Give these five products a try if you are looking to help your pooch pack on a few extra pounds. Just remember to increase your pup’s caloric intake gradually, avoid abruptly changing to a new food and keep your vet in the loop while doing so.
Have you ever been faced with an underweight dog? What types of things worked for you? Did you stumble upon a particularly effective food?