How to Fatten Up a Dog? Safely, And Healthily (Explained)

How To Fatten Up A Dog? Photo of a fat dog.

While some pet parents might be dealing with an overweight dog, you could be dealing with an underweight one. Here’s what you’ll want to know about how to fatten up a dog safely and healthily!

The fastest and best way to help fatten up your dog is by giving him plenty of lean protein and healthy fat in his food. These will encourage your dog to gain weight and muscle but still keep their health in mind.

If your dog has difficulty holding its weight. In that case, you might also want to consider a vet check-up to see if there is potentially an underlying issue. More on that, and additional diet choices, below!

What is the fastest way to fatten up a dog?

When you focus on healthy additions to their diet, weight gain should be visible in just a few weeks. Therefore, the fastest way to fatten up your dog will also be the healthiest way. This comes down to the two mentioned additions of lean protein and healthy fat.

Lean protein

If you’re familiar with lean protein, you know that it will be a dedicated source of protein without the fat. But isn’t the fat from protein a good thing? When it comes to your dog’s weight gain, yes. However, it isn’t healthy for your dog. Since the goal is to keep your dog healthy and at a higher, healthier weight, lean protein is your best choice.

Protein helps your dog gain muscle mass and strengthens the body as far as its energy levels. This allows your dog to feel better and move easier. The protein content will also help your dog’s development, including transitioning to a healthy weight. 

Healthy fat

This is where you’ll want to focus your attempts as far as fat! Healthy fats are going to be mostly omega-3 fats. Your dog needs these to help fuel their bodies with fat that is beneficial for their joints, muscle development, and healthy and necessary weight gain. Healthy (aka good) fat supports proper filling out of your dog and a natural energy boost. They are loaded with nutrients as well as heart-healthy fats that will support your dog’s natural weight gain.

On the other hand, going with unhealthy fat can leave them lacking in energy and can cause concerns such as joint degradation and even building up plaque in arteries. Not all fat is made equal and healthy fat is the recommended fat for your dog’s weight gain.

Going with a two-pronged approach in your dog’s diet will help them add a few pounds and hold a healthy weight long-term. You can find great high-quality food choices within premium lines of dog food. Or, you can look at the idea of at-home choices to supplement their regular food.

What can I give my dog at home to gain weight?

There are plenty of pantry options that you can give to your dog in addition to their regular food. These make it easy for you to keep your dog on the diet they love but still help them gain a few pounds. Common options include:

  • Sweet potato
  • Pumpkin
  • Peanut butter
  • Eggs
  • Rice
  • Cottage cheese
  • Quinoa 

When you are giving any or all of these to your dog, you’ll want to make sure that you portion in responsibly. Feeding your dog excessive amounts of pumpkin and/or cottage cheese isn’t actually healthy. You can add small amounts to their kibble, or giving it to them as an afternoon snack is excellent.

The other thing to remember with any and all of these suggestions is to check the ingredients list for any additives that could be toxic. There are some peanut butter blends, for example, that will use xylitol in place of sugar. While this is harmless for humans, it is poisonous for dogs. Make sure that these are all dog-safe! Skip the seasonings, too. Your dog won’t miss them, and they won’t add to their health profile at all.

What is the best dog food to fatten up a dog?

This depends on what you want to focus on as a pet parent. If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed with the idea, the best choice is to get a high-calorie food for dogs. You can find kibble and wet food (more on that later) that will prioritize healthy fats and protein for you. Your vet can offer great recommendations for a brand that will help your dog healthily gain weight. 

However, as you can probably guess, this specialized food will have a higher price tag than your average options out there. Also, some dogs don’t enjoy nutritious food and won’t eat it.

In either situation, the at-home choices can offer great results. They are affordable, and they often appeal to your dog as far as their appetite and preferences. They’re also simple to add to the diet that they already enjoy, which is a perk for those fussy dogs!

How do at-home pantry staples help my dog gain weight?

It sounds strange that cottage cheese or eggs can help a dog gain weight. After all, aren’t human foods bad for dogs? In large quantities, yes. You shouldn’t replace your dog’s regular diet with human foods. But these are simple staples that you can add to their diet to help boost their weight carefully and naturally.

These examples are loaded with healthy fats and lean protein, both of which we’ve already talked about. They’re also an excellent choice for us humans that want to help make healthier choices in those categories! If you’re concerned about their use long-term, you can talk to your vet for a more personalized approach, too.

How do I get my skinny dog to gain weight?

First off, you’ll need to ensure that you are dealing with the correct information. A dog may sometimes look underweight but be considered healthy. For example, dogs going through their teenaged growth spurts often appear underweight but aren’t. Signs of being underweight include:

  • Visible ribs and vertebrae
  • No fat anywhere (aka skin and bones)
  • Concave skulls
  • Dull and dry coats
  • Low energy

If you notice these symptoms combined with a dog who visibly looks thin, you’ll want to talk to your vet about your dog’s weight. A vet will be the best person to diagnose your dog as being underweight since they’ll have a personalized approach to your dog’s medical history. 

Sometimes an underweight dog is dealing with a health problem rather than malnourishment. This is why a vet will be the best equipped to diagnose your dog’s health issue.

Helping a skinny dog gain weight is about making sure they eat a balanced, complete diet (especially in fat and protein) and that they are eating the recommended amount per day. Over time, this will help fatten up your dog.

Photo of a fat labrador dog looking up.

How to fatten up a malnourished dog

A malnourished dog is different than a simply underweight dog. Malnourishment will require your vet to take a close look at your dog’s overall health and see where they are lacking in their nutrient profile. Once they do this, they’ll be able to suggest a dog food or an at-home addition to their diet to help them enjoy a strong and complete nutrient profile.

In some cases, vets will recommend supplements in a specific vitamin or mineral to help boost your dog’s needs until you can balance in their classic diet on a regular basis.

Your dog will not be healthy if they don’t have a balanced, complete diet. This is why proper choices in food are going to be so important!

How long does it take for an underweight dog to gain weight?

As mentioned above, most dogs will gain weight in a few weeks. You’ll be able to notice this through a fuller face and body. Some dogs may always have visible bones, but healthy dogs of a healthy weight will look strong and have fat on them that you’ll be able to feel, rather than frail and feeble dogs that are just skin and bones.

How long does it take for a malnourished dog to gain weight?

A malnourished dog can take longer to gain weight, depending on how long it takes for a dog’s system to regulate itself and how malnourished they were to begin with. It can take 1-2 months, and it might be visible or invisible. You’ll most likely notice that your dog simply looks “better” as far as their actual appearance and their energy levels. From there on, you’ll notice a slight weight gain, too.

In both cases of malnourishment and underweight, it’s essential to only make changes after a vet’s had a look at your dog. Firstly, changing your dog’s diet without your vet’s approval can be dangerous. Secondly, being underweight for no apparent reason can be a symptom of health problems that will require a diagnosis.

Tips to help your dog gain weight

If you want to have some general tips to help your dog gain some weight, it’s going to be as much about your routines as it is about their food choices. Here are some tips to help you out!

  • Change their eating schedule/routine
  • Add in wet foods
  • Change up the treats
  • Keep up with exercise

Change their eating schedule/routine

Most pet parents will give their dogs 2-3 meals a day, and they often will time them with human meals for obvious reasons. However, dogs aren’t necessarily built to eat that way. Natural foragers, many will have digestive systems that respond better to smaller and more frequent meals.

If you notice that your dog doesn’t eat all of their food at mealtime, or they seem uninterested in it, try lessening the portions and feeding them more often. This schedule change might make them more comfortable with their food and allow them to digest more comfortably.

Add in wet foods

Many dogs love the taste of wet food. While you don’t necessarily want to substitute their kibble for wet food, you can mash some wet food into their kibble. This often will incentivize dogs to eat more, too, which can be helpful for those fussy eaters! You’ll want to choose healthy wet food, of course. Since they all tend to “taste the same” (for your dog), you might find that they’ll be inclined to eat their kibble mixed with healthy wet food, even if they usually wouldn’t eat healthy food!

Change up the treats

If you want to keep your dog’s diet as it is, you can look at changing out their dog treats! Most treats aren’t healthy for dogs at all. Changing them out for lean protein and healthy fat choices can be an excellent substitution for their diet and help them earn those needed pounds. Most dogs will enjoy these as much as their other treats since they taste the same!

Keep up with exercise

Wait, what? This seems counterintuitive. If you want your dog to gain weight, shouldn’t you keep them from burning calories? The thing is, staying active is essential for your dog’s health. They’ll gain a healthy weight as they exercise. More energy to exercise will come from their balanced diet, especially one loaded with protein. Your vet will recommend how much exercise their dog should be getting, which is vital for making sure that they get enough, but not too much.

In Short

Techniques for fattening up your dog will focus on high protein and healthy fats, as well as a proper understanding of why your dog is underweight.

You can help them gain weight by feeding them special high-calories diets and/or relying on human pantry items to help give them a boost.

You can also take a look at techniques such as changing their feeding schedule and taking their taste preferences into account.

Helping your dog gain weight will be about addressing their diet, understanding the top nutrients to focus on, and helping them enjoy eating more than they are currently.

Know someone who has a dog who needs a little extra help? Consider sharing this with them! 

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Sara Santos

Writer, Editor and member of the Council, I am a dog person and I thrive to get the answers that will help you provide the best care a dog can have. You can also find me on my personal blog here.