How to Fatten Up a Dog Safely

Last Updated: November 5, 2023

This post contains affiliate links and we will be compensated if you buy after clicking on our links.

hand feeding a dog to fatten him up

While obesity is the primary concern for most dog owners, there are many instances in which a dog would need to gain weight. Many neglected dogs that end up in a shelter need to pack on the pounds.

In other cases, health conditions and unhappiness may cause your dog get thin. Underweight dogs are susceptible to many issues.

If a dog isn't getting the calories and nutritional content they need, their bodies will slowly deteriorate. 

This can eventually lead to bone issues, muscular atrophy, and organ failure.

Promoting weight gain may seem like an easy task, but it's important that you do it right. Healthy weight gain requires much more than just providing your dog with fatty foods. In fact, too much fatty foods will only lead to excessive weight gain The key is to find a healthy balance between muscle mass and fat.

Before you start any diet change, it's important that you speak with a qualified veterinarian. They'll be able to tell you if weight gain is the best option and give you valuable tips on how to do it right.

Identifying the Problem

The first step in the recovery process is to identify why your dog is underweight in the first place. This information can help you create a strategy that's beneficial.

If you've just adopted your dog, the most likely culprit is malnourishment. However, healthy dogs can drop the pounds over time due to a number of reasons.


Dogs will stop eating if their stomachs aren't feeling great. In most cases, this issue will subside after a day or two. However, if your dog has lost a noticeable amount of weight, the problem may be more serious than it seems.

underweight dog

One common issue that causes dramatic weight loss is a parasite infestation. Worms can be spread through fecal matter, water, and much more. Your dog may be suffering from worms without you ever realizing it.

Most worms can take months to manifest themselves in your dog's poop. Meanwhile, they're in your pup's gastrointestinal tract wreaking havoc.

They can absorb a lot of the nutrients your dog needs to live, leaving them with only a fraction of what they consumed. This results in weight loss.

If you suspect that illness is the issue, take your dog to the vet. They'll get a proper diagnosis and provide you with treatment options that can turn your dog's appetite around.

Inferior Food

Your dog's kibble plays a huge role in their overall health. It's important that you supply your pup with a high-quality food that gives them all the nutritional content they need. Cheaper foods use substandard ingredients that can do more harm than good in the long run.

Unhealthy ingredients like corn and soy aren't great for dogs. They're used in cheap foods in lieu of pure protein. While your dog may be eating all the food you provide, it might not be able to support your dog adequately.

Behavioral Problems

If your dog stops eating altogether, you may want to monitor their behavior. Some dogs are incredibly picky eaters. They can get bored of their standard kibble or dislike certain ingredients. If that's the case, you'll want to switch up foods until you find something that works. Alternatively, you can add a supplementary gravy to make the recipe more appealing.

Another issue that may be affecting your pup's appetite is depression or anxiety. Canine companions can experience a range of emotions much like humans. These emotions can cause extreme lethargy and a loss of appetite.

This is very common with dogs that are placed in new homes or those that just experienced a traumatic event.

Set a Goal and Plan Accordingly

weighing a dog on a scale

Before you start the plumping process, you need to figure out your goal weight. A healthy weight for your pup will depend on their breed. From there, you should create a plan and stick to it. 

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to approach the task without a plan. Switching methods halfway through may confuse your dog and derail their progress. Dogs are creatures of routine, so you need to be firm about how you're getting it done.

Increasing Your Dog's Caloric Intake

The easiest way to pack on pounds is to adjust the number of calories you give your dog. Over the course of the next few weeks and months, you'll see your dog gain weight. Even a small change can make a huge difference over time.

Start off Slow

To ensure that your dog gains weight in a healthy way, you need to start the process slowly. Providing your dog with too much food can lead to many problems. One of the most common is refeeding syndrome. This occurs when a malnourished dog is provided with large quantities of food too suddenly. Their bodies can't handle that change. They'll experience electrolyte and hormonal fluctuations.

Start off by examining their current caloric intake and add 10%. Stick with this additional 10% boost for at least a week. In the meantime, monitor your dog's progress and behavior. Make sure that they're handling the food alright.

Also, take a look at their stool to ensure that it's healthy. After about a week, you can add another 10%. You can repeat this on a weekly basis until they've reached a healthy calorie amount.

Calorie-Dense Food

If your dog is already used to eating a sizable portion of food each day, you may want to consider switching to a formula that's packed with calories. High-quality foods contain more nutritional content per piece of kibble than cheaper options.

Go with foods that have more protein. Not only that, but opt for wholesome protein sources like beef, chicken, lamb, or fish. Real meat sources have more amino acids than byproducts or meals.

Aim for a dog food that has 20% or more protein content. You can also supply foods with slightly higher fat contents than the roughly 10% average, but do so sparingly. It's always best to go with more protein that will lead to muscle mass. When you're choosing a calorie-rich formula, take a peek at the ingredients list and choose something that has a higher kilocalorie amount.

Food Supplements

You can also add supplements to their food to increase their calorie intake and ensure that they're getting the nutrients they need. This is a great option for dogs that are picky eaters.

Mixing some wet food or dog-approved gravy with their dry kibble is a popular option. It's a quick way to add calories and enhance the taste.

Alternatively, you can add some chunks of real food. Cooked beef or chicken add a nice calorie boost. Foods that are rich in Vitamin B are ideal. Vitamin B helps to break down the foods that your dog ate and turn them into usable energy.

Some examples of Vitamin B-rich foods include eggs and liver. Like with any diet change, it's important to add these ingredients slowly so that your pooch doesn't experience gastrointestinal upsets.

Provide a Homemade Meal

While commercially-available dog food is great, nothing beats the nutritional content of raw homemade meals. With a homemade meal, you can alter the recipe to suit your dog's unique needs. One of the most popular recipes around is for Satin Balls.

The Satin Ball recipe is commonly used for dogs that need to gain weight in a relatively short amount of time. It's used by shelters to help emaciated dogs recovered. They're loaded with calories and don't have any of the unsavory stuff that you'd find in cheaper kibble.

The balls are fairly easy to make and can be stored in the fridge for future consumption. Best of all, dogs love the taste!

To make this calorie-dense meal, you'll need:

  • 10 pounds of ground beef
  • 1 container of 4% fat cottage cheese
  • 500 grams of cream cheese
  • 1 and a quarter cups of olive oil
  • 1 and a half cups of unsulphured molasses
  • 10 raw eggs
  • 10 packs of unflavored gelatin
  • 1 pinch of salt

Making these balls couldn't be any easier. All you have to do is combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Make sure to leave the shells of the eggs in as they contain some much-needed calcium.

Mix the creation so that everything is evenly distributed. Then, simply create 1-inch balls and toss them in the freezer. When it's time for a meal, simply thaw them out and give them to your pup raw.

Split Up Meals

Splitting up your dog's calories into multiple smaller meals each day can make a big difference, especially if you're dealing with a dog that has a low appetite. Smaller meals will ultimately increase your dog's metabolism and energy levels throughout the day.

Not only that, but your dog will be more excited to eat come meal time. It's not uncommon for picky dogs to view their food as unappetizing after it's been sitting out for more than a few hours.

When you split up their meals, make sure that you stick with the same times every day. This will train them to stick with your routine. They'll start to feel hungry when meal time gets closer, which will help to ensure that they eat every last bit.


dog exercise for building muscle mass

To stay healthy, your dog will need to get enough exercise each day. While gaining weight certainly starts with increased food consumption, that extra food should be accompanied by muscle growth.

Emaciated dogs tend to have underdeveloped muscles, so you'll need to get your dog moving so that they can get stronger. If you've also increased their calorie and protein intake, they have all the fuel they need.

In addition to muscle growth, exercise can do wonders to their overall demeanor. Unhappy dogs won't eat. Providing them with plenty of opportunities to run and play around is a great way to keep stress and anxiety at bay. Have fun with your dog and create a loving environment that they can enjoy.

Maintaining Results

Once your furry friend has reached their goal weight, it's important that you provide them with the tools they need to maintain it. At this point, you can return their caloric intake to normal and start developing a more normal routine.

You'll need to find a high-quality food that's chock full of protein, minerals, and vitamins. Pair that food with regular exercise and your dog is well on their way to living a long and healthy life.

Here's a video on how to check if your dog is at it's ideal weight

Over to You

Fattening up your dog doesn't have to be a difficult process. It's all about being vigilant and patient. They won't reach their goal weight overnight, so it's imperative that you stick with it so that your dog can recover and thrive

Also Read:


Related Posts

About the author 


Steve is a writer with over 10 years of experience in dog training and nutritiion.

His goal is to educate dog owners about the ins and outs of canine behavior as well as keeping up with the latest scientific research in the field.