How to Help an Underweight Dog Gain Weight


An underweight dog means it is below its ideal or optimum weight. This happens when it loses between 10% and 20% of its ideal weight.

In this article, we will focus on the signs of underweight dogs and how to increase the weight of an underweight dog. 

Signs your dog is underweight

Certain signs of an underweight dog are easy to recognise. Here are the common symptoms that dog owners should pay attention to:

Dog weight chart

A dog weight chart is commonly known to veterinarians, dog experts and dog owners as a tool for estimating the ‘weight’ of a dog.

This chart serves as a quick visual guide on what to look for when examining a dog’s body or condition. It contains five pairs of images; each pair depicting the overhead and side views of dogs.

These images help the layman to gauge whether a dog is considered ‘very thin’, ‘underweight’, ‘ideal’ (denoting an ideal weight), ‘overweight’ or ‘obese’.

The guide is accompanied by brief notes which explain each of the five conditions above. A dog owner can easily refer to this weight chart for a casual assessment of his or her pet dog.

dog weight chart is commonly known to veterinarians, dog experts and dog owners

Based on this chart, an underweight dog’s ribs, spine and hip are visible or prominent and can be easily felt. From an overhead view, the dog has a marked hourglass frame. From its side view, there is also a marked abdominal tuck.

Another clue given by the chart is to examine the base of the dog’s tail. If the tail bones are raised with minimal tissue between the skin and bones, the dog is deemed underweight.

Although this chart is but a rough guide, it helps to give, at the very least, dog owners an idea of a dog’s condition.  

Losing weight fast or suddenly 

Weight loss in a dog is normal, but to lose weight suddenly, rapidly or inexplicably is worrying. Such weight loss can affect dogs of any age and breed, and may be a result of various reasons.

Common health-related reasons are diseases (cancer, kidney disease, heart disease, dental disease) and disorders (gastrointestinal disorder).   

Other reasons are parasites or intestinal worms and anxiety, stress or depression in dogs — all of which can cause a loss of appetite and, consequently, weight loss.  

To better understand these causes, read Dog Losing Weight: What you should know

Losing weight, but is eating and drinking 

A dog with gastrointestinal disorder may fall in this category — some dogs still eat regularly despite having this problem. However, because of the disorder, the dog’s body is unable to absorb the nutrients it needs from the food it consumes.

Apart from a lack of nutrients and weight loss, the dog may also exhibit the following symptoms: 

  • Decreased appetite
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Depression
  • Increased appetite (and stool)
  • Soft or greasy stool

Helping your dog to gain weight

The underweight dog needs help getting back to its ideal weight, before its condition worsens and develops into other health issues or complications. Here are some recommendations.

Seek veterinary advice

Dog owners who are conscientious will agree that the best approach to helping an underweight dog is as follows:

Step 1: Determining the cause(s) for weight loss

Step 2: Consulting a veterinarian

The underweight dog could be suffering from a single factor, or varied ones, that causes its weight loss. The right remedy for improving the dog’s condition can be prescribed after knowing the exact cause or causes.

Seek for veterinary advice
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

Thus, dog owners should identify the actual cause(s) for the dog’s weight loss, and this can be done with the help of a veterinarian.

Be mindful of homemade diets 

Some dog owners may opt to prepare a homemade diet for their pet dogs. However, if this diet is not planned correctly, these well-meaning meals may lack the nutrition needed. 

Being non-veterinarians, the homemade meals or recipes that dog owners prepare may provide inadequate nutrients, such as zinc, copper and calcium.

Thus, the best option is to work with a certified veterinary nutritionist should dog owners choose to feed their dogs a homemade diet.   

Use reliable weight gain recipes

Feeding an underweight dog has to be done properly and conscientiously, in view of the dog’s vulnerable condition in some cases.

jelp an underweight dog to gain weight
Photo by Gratisography from Pexels 

Weight gain recipes commonly have higher calories (more proteins and fats, less carbohydrates), and essential vitamins and minerals.     

Add high-calorie snacks or treats

Adding healthy high-calorie dog snacks and treats help to boost the calorie intake that the dog gets from nutritious and balanced meals. Petcubes Kangaroo Steak makes for a suitable high-calorie choice of snack, as it contains 100% kangaroo meat and 81.8% protein. 

Add probiotics and weight gain supplements

Probiotics and weight gain supplements help to increase the weight of an underweight dog healthily. 

Probiotics restore a regular digestive function, while supplements for weight gain support the dog’s nutritional needs — providing the essential vitamins, minerals (particularly magnesium, potassium and phosphate) and omega-3 fatty acids. 

You may want to try Petcubes Wholistic Digest-All Plus — a supplement which aims to aid in healthy digestion and nutrient absorption — or Petcubes Wholistic Canine Complete probiotics supplement. Both supplements can be taken by dogs of all ages. 

Final words 

Ultimately, dog owners have to go about helping their underweight dogs gain weight the right way. Knowing how and what to feed their underweight dogs is important and it is best to observe and be mindful of your dog’s weight loss in order to help it.