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- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
It’s estimated that 30% of the canine population in North America is obese, a dangerous but entirely preventable condition. What may be less apparent is that unhealthy weight loss is just as dangerous as excess weight, though the problem may be more difficult to remedy.
Weight loss in dogs can be the result of normal or abnormal conditions. For example, it is normal for high-energy breeds to have trouble keeping on weight but abnormal for a healthy dog to lose a significant amount of weight.
Before getting into our top picks for the best dog food for weight gain, let’s talk about the causes of weight loss in dogs and what they mean.
What Causes Weight Loss in Dogs?
Weight loss in dogs becomes clinically significant when it exceeds 10% of the dog’s normal body weight. For example, it might take a loss of seven to eight pounds in an adult Labrador Retriever for a vet to become worried while a loss of even one pound might be considered dangerous for a Yorkshire Terrier.
Technically speaking, weight loss occurs when the dog’s caloric intake is lower than his daily calorie burn. This is why highly active and working breeds require high-calorie diets, as do growing puppies and lactating female dogs. Unhealthy weight loss, however, may be caused by the following:
- Inadequate or low-quality diet
- Low food intake due to dental problems
- Malabsorption or poor digestion of nutrients
- Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures
- Acute conditions causing diarrhea or vomiting
- Increase in stress, resulting in anorexia
Though it takes a 10% loss of body weight for weight loss to be a clinical concern, any change in your dog’s eating habits or body condition should be cause for alarm and should be addressed with your veterinarian. Your vet will be able to determine the underlying cause for your dog’s weight loss as well as the proper course of treatment.
Tips for Helping an Underweight Dog Gain Weight
If your veterinarian is able to diagnose the underlying cause of your dog’s weight loss, they will also be able to tell you how to treat it. In addition to medical treatment, however, many dogs can benefit from a high-calorie diet to support weight gain as well as other changes to their diet and lifestyle.
Here are some additional tips to help an underweight dog gain weight:
- Improve the quality of your dog’s diet to increase digestibility and nutrient absorption.
- Feed your dog small meals three or four times a day instead of larger meals twice a day.
- Encourage your dog to exercise as much as is safe—it will help him build muscle and strength while also increasing his appetite.
- Switch to a wet food formula or use a meal topper to make your dog’s food more appealing.
- Feed your dog small amounts of high-calorie snacks such as cooked beef (or other meat) and cooked eggs throughout the day.
Helping your dog gain weight may involve more than simply increasing the amount of food you give him. His diet still needs to be nutritionally balanced and formulated to help him gain lean muscle instead of just fat.
Keep reading to see our top picks for the best dog foods for weight gain.
10 Best Dog Foods for Weight Gain
To help your dog gain weight, look for a high-quality dog food that is rich in protein, fat, and calories. Aim for a minimum of 30% protein and about 20% fat and include high-calorie snacks to make up 10% to 15% of your dog’s daily diet.
Here are our top picks for the best dog food for weight gain:
Adirondack 30% High-Fat Puppy & Performance Recipe
Formulated both for growing puppies and high-performance adult dogs, this recipe features 30% crude protein and 20% fat with 522 calories per cup.Buy Now on Chewy
Ziwi Peak New Zealand Beef Recipe Canned Food
Loaded with moisture, protein, and healthy fats, this canned food recipe features premium New Zealand beef with green lipped mussels as a natural source of glucosamine and chondroitin.Buy Now on Chewy
Bully Max High-Performance Super Premium Dry Food
This high-performance, meat-based dry food contains 30% protein and 20% fat and provides a whopping 535 calories per cup, making it a great formula for weight gain.Buy Now on Amazon
Solid Gold Barking at the Moon High-Protein Grain-Free Dry Food
Made with wholesome, natural ingredients in a holistic dry food formula, this dog food provides 41% protein and 20% fat with 345 calories per cup.Buy Now on Chewy
Crave Grain-Free Adult Dry Dog Food
With real salmon as the first ingredient, this nutrient-dense dry food is full of premium animal protein and an excellent source of omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat.Buy Now on Chewy
Nature’s Logic Canine Beef Feast All Life Stages Canned Dog Food
Packed with protein from fresh beef and beef liver, this formula is supplemented with whole-food ingredients rather than synthetic supplements. Each can contains 549 calories.Buy Now on Chewy
Nature’s Variety Instinct Ultimate Protein Grain-Free Duck Recipe Dry Food
Not only is this recipe packed with premium animal protein, but it’s also rich in omega fatty acids, fiber, and calories at nearly 500 calories per cup.Buy Now on Chewy
Wellness CORE Grain-Free 95% Chicken With Broccoli Canned Food
If you’re looking for a protein-rich recipe to entice your dog to eat, this formula is made with 95% premium animal protein with real veggies for nutritional balance.Buy Now on Chewy
Nulo Freestyle Limited+ Salmon Recipe Grain-Free Dry Food
Formulated for both adult dogs and puppies, this limited ingredient diet features fresh salmon and salmon meal as concentrated sources of protein, delivering 30% protein and 438 calories per cup.Buy Now on Chewy
Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused Great Plains Red Recipe Dry Food
High-protein kibble infused with freeze-dried raw bites, this recipe is packed with premium protein, healthy fats, and calories to help your dog gain weight.Buy Now on Chewy
If you’re looking for healthy treats to incorporate into your dog’s diet but are worried about food allergies, check out our guide to the best hypoallergenic dog treats. When in doubt, you can always make homemade dog treats catered to your dog’s nutritional needs and preferences.