We are all familiar with the overweight epidemic among domesticated dogs. But what if you are one of those whose pet has the opposite problem?
No matter how much you feed your dog, he absolutely will not gain weight. He doesn’t have worms or any kind of terminal illness. Yet you must endure the pitying looks during your walks because his ribs stick out and he always acts like he is starving. Are you at your wit’s end trying to find the best dog food for weight gain?
Quick Picks: The 5 Top-Rated Weight Gain Dog Food
Last update on 2020-11-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Check our best pick above, or keep reading for product reviews and buying guide!
How to help a dog gain weight?
Underweight dogs can pose just as much of a challenge as obese ones. In some cases, you have to resort to weight gain supplements for dogs and even weight gain aids and powders. However, you can address many problems with an overactive metabolism by choosing high-quality foods intended to help dogs gain weight.
We will address some health concerns to rule out in underweight dogs and which factors to focus on to achieve weight gain in healthy canines. We will follow with reviews of five specific dog foods that will help your dog gain weight.
What illnesses should you rule out in an underweight dog?
Before attributing any weight loss or failure to maintain or gain weight to deficiencies in diet, make sure you have your pet assessed by a veterinarian. There are multiple causes of weight loss and failure to thrive that have nothing to do with caloric intake.
A heavy parasite load is a common cause of unthriftiness in young dogs and newly-adopted strays. Hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms are easy to diagnose and treat. Protozoal parasites like Coccidia and Giardia are more difficult to diagnose, but persistence easily rids your pet of them.
Make sure your pet is adjusting well to his new environment if you just adopted him. Be aware of the effect major changes may have on your pet. If your eldest child has just left for college or you just married into a new household, your best four-legged friend could be emotionally suffering the effects.
All dog food is not made the same. Some dogs are “easy-keepers,” and nutritional value makes no difference to them. Other canines derive nothing from poor-quality dog food and cannot thrive on a grocery store brand, for example.
Diabetes is a leading undiagnosed cause of weight loss in middle-aged dogs. A quick blood test can rule this out.
Pancreatic insufficiency, whereby the pancreas does not produce enough enzymes to properly digest food, can cause a dog to remain severely underweight. Similarly, malabsorption problems of the small intestine cause the same degree of lack of body mass. Both these problems require extensive diagnostics to confirm. Luckily, they are not common causes of weight issues.
What qualities of food are important for underweight dogs?
You should always focus on certain nutrients when choosing what to feed your dog. With underweight dogs, however, the quality of food will have an even more profound impact than normal.
Underweight dogs have a greater requirement for high-quality protein. With them, it becomes more vital than usual that the protein comes from a meat source that is easy for them to digest. Not only do they need to absorb as many nutrients as possible form their food, but they will not benefit from any extra energy expended on poor digestion.
Be wary of feeding your underweight dog grains. You may not necessarily be concerned about wheat allergies, but dogs usually do not process wheat or corn efficiently. He will easily fall behind in his caloric needs if he must extract all of his proteins from complex carbohydrates.
Excellent protein source examples you can look for in the first five ingredients of your dog’s food are chicken and chicken meal, duck, lamb, beef meal, and venison meal. If he really needs to, your dog can utilize proteins for fuel.
The primary role of dietary proteins is the growth and development of muscle and other tissues and maintenance of daily functions.
Many people focus on proteins when trying to put weight on dogs. Protein is important, but calories from fat are what will provide the power for your pet’s ramped up metabolism. Underweight dogs require moderately high fat dog food as well as quality protein.
High-quality fats again will ideally come from meat, egg, fish, or seafood sources. Look for fish or salmon meal, fish oil, and mussels. The one plant exception your dog may benefit from is coconut oil. It has medium-chain triglycerides that are easily absorbed by many species, including dogs.
Keep in mind, the lower your dogs’ dietary carbohydrates, the higher the fat he can consume.
Limit carbohydrates as much as you reasonably can for any dog that is struggling to gain weight. Dogs are better equipped to process fats for their fuel needs than carbohydrates. At the same time, some fruits and vegetables do provide antioxidants like no other foods. These are important for a healthy metabolism.
Probiotic cultures are exceedingly important to balance your dog’s intestinal bacteria or flora and thereby make digestion and nutrient absorption easy. Digestive balance also reduces weight-loss effects that can come from diarrhea.
Many nutritionists now also proclaim the benefits of prebiotic in canine diets.
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins and minerals ensure your dog is functioning optimally on a cellular level to optimize nutrient absorption and metabolism for muscle mass.
What is the 5 best dog food for weight gain?
We based our top five picks of dog foods for underweight dogs based on the likely effectiveness of ingredients. We looked at their quality and their effect on fat and protein percentages.
Ziwi Peak is comprised of a high volume of organ meat along with native green mussels rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and Chondroitin. It is relatively high in both protein and fats, and like many canned foods, grain-free. Beef in each can is from the same source.
Canned food is one of the richest sources of proteins for dogs. Its high moisture and meat content make it enticing for even finicky eaters. Each can of food provides about 420 calories. Wet foods can be advantageous for senior dogs with poor dental health or diabetics who need to gain weight but don’t need carbohydrates.
Ziwi Peak canned diets promote building up lean muscle mass. This is beneficial for underweight dogs where our goal is not to have them pack on extra pounds in the form of fat.
Another great feature of feeding canned food for your underweight dog is it discourages gulping food. Moreover, the lack of carbohydrates in the Ziki foods lessens the chance of gas build-up and air-swallowing that can lead to the severe conditions of bloat and stomach rotation.
- Pasture-raised sustainable beef
- New Zealand green mussels as a natural source of Glucosamine and Chondroitin
- No grains, rendered products, or sugars
- Not many ingredients
- Vitamins and minerals itemized – uses sea salt
- Canned diets are expensive for large dogs
Nature’s Variety started in Lincoln, Nebraska, and are one of the industry leaders in raw diets and holistic foods for dogs. By freeze-drying their food, they preserve many natural ingredients that might be lost by heat processing. This leads to better nutritional value for your dog.
Nature’s Variety Senior Recipe is one of the rare formulations that use coconut oil. With its unique structure, coconut oil benefits the skin and coat and improves digestion, which is crucial for underweight dogs.
Eggs product provides a natural source of DHA, an important Omega-3 fatty acid, and chicken is a healthy source of Chondroitin.
This dog food supplies 60 million colony-forming units of live probiotics. This is great for efficient digestion. It also contains about 35 percent protein and 16 percent fats, supportive values for healthy weight gain and body mass management.
Although formulated for seniors, this diet provides good nutritional support for any dog struggling with low weight.
- Sourced from cage-free chickens
- Incorporates benefits of a raw diet
- High palatability
- No grains and no potatoes
- Formula focusses on metabolism with L-Carnitine
- Dogs may pick out the freeze-dried bits
- Largest consumer complaint was expense
Taste of the Wild has minimal caloric values or dry content of 29 percent protein and 39 percent fats. While actually almost a reversal of the fat and protein content of the dog’s primal relatives, Taste of the Wild does focus on metabolic health.
Carbohydrates are maximally at 33 percent of caloric value, so many proponents of canine nutrition see this as a well-balanced diet. A balanced diet is not the same, however, for dogs and humans.
Taste of the Wild will actually point out that their number represents the maximum carbohydrates that could be present. They also correctly cite that this number is low for dry dog food. It is difficult to make kibble without a certain amount of carbohydrates.
Their probiotic blend places a great deal of emphasis on the canine digestive tract and the immune system that lives there. Taste of the Wild recognizes that Immune and endocrine systems often play more significant roles in weight management than even digestive factors.
The premium status of Taste of the Wild among dog foods is illustrated by the top three ingredients, which are all high-quality meat sources of protein: buffalo, lamb meal, and chicken meal.
Caloric density is above average at 370 calories per cup.
- Uses fruits and vegetables as superfoods – antioxidants
- Species-specific proprietary probiotic blend
- Easy to chew without having crumbling issues in the b
- Grain free
- Small and large dog varieties
- Fair amount of digestive problems reported – vomiting and diarrhea
Turkey and chicken are the primary protein sources in this dog food. It also features wholesome ingredients like chicken liver and flaxseed oil, both know to help animals gain weight. Your dog likely can absorb some Omega-3 fatty acids from the flaxseed, but there are also chicken fat and salmon oil that are more species-appropriate.
Wellness Core is similar to Natures Variety in that freeze-dried meat is mixed with the kibble to try to provide the best of both worlds: raw nutrition and convenient kibble. Superfood oxidation options come in the form of sweet potatoes, blueberries, and broccoli. Although it is unknown how much dogs are able to absorb nutrients from potatoes and yams, they appear to gain weight from the extra calories.
This dog food has 80 million live colony-forming units of probiotics. It also has at least 36 percent protein and 16 percent fat. There are 423 kilocalories per cup of Wellness Core.
- No grains
- Rich in antioxidants – bits added
- High palatability
- Raw pieces are 100% meat
- Chicken-sourced Glucosamine and Chondroitin
- Uses a lot of potato – questionable nutritional value to dogs
Founded in 1894 and once renowned for its Dog Chow, Purina has come a long way in animal feed. Pro Plan, with meat as its first ingredient, was first formulated in 1986. Pro Plan SPORT specifically features chicken as the No. 1 ingredient.
Chicken serves as a natural source of Glucosamine, and omega-3 fatty acids come from fish meal. It has a substantial amount of corn, but its effectiveness in weight gain and performance for dogs is evident. At 500 calories per cup, it is difficult to beat in terms of energy.
- Formula maximizes oxygen metabolism
- Optimal performance composition of 20 percent fat/30 percent protein
- A very high-calorie food
- Formulate for all life stages
- Effective for weight gain and building muscle mass
- Strong corn component
- May cause excessive weight gain in some dogs
Ziwi Peak Beef Recipe was our top pick among the five dog foods we reviewed. It uses top-quality meat ingredients and has the closest resemblance to ancestral diets in protein and fat content. Humans use low-carbohydrate diets to lose weight. For dogs, though, decreasing carbohydrates encourages a more natural means of consuming calories for them. Sometimes nothing else works to get them to their ideal weight.
Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost Senior Recipe is an excellent second choice if you don’t want to feed a wet diet. We included Purina despite the amount of corn because it is so high in calories. It is effective for active dogs and backed by Purina’s extensive scientific studies.