Most dogs don’t have a problem wolfing down whatever food you put in front of them. In fact, for most pet parents, it’s a daily struggle to keep their dogs away from food and snacks. But what to do if your pooch doesn’t want to eat regularly and is underweight?
There can be numerous reasons why your dog could benefit from gaining weight. Older dogs may need to gain more muscle mass to stay active, while nursing dogs need more calories in order to produce milk and remain healthy. The only problem is, since there are more overweight than underweight canines, many food brands are focusing on dog weight loss formulations, making weight gainers for dogs hard to find. Luckily, you came to the right place. Here, we talk about the best dog weight gain supplements, the reasons why you may want to help your furry friend gain weight, and so much more.
Best Dog Weight Gain Supplements Buying Guide & FAQ
While overweight and obese dogs are more common than underweight pets, there’s no denying there are many underweight dogs. From older canines who can no longer chew properly, to rescue dogs who are malnourished, too picky eaters with no appetite… Every dog is different and can be underweight for a variety of reasons. That’s why it’s important to take your furry friend to a vet and figure out the cause.
However, sometimes, even if you follow your vet’s advice to a T, it can be difficult to help a dog gain weight. That’s where mass gainers for dogs come in – these high-calorie supplements can easily bulk up your pet and help her regain her strength and energy. To help you find the right weight gain supplement for your dog, we’ve prepared this comprehensive buying guide. We talk about the ways you can help your pooch put on a few pounds, as well as how to tell if she is underweight in the first place. So read on, and also check out our FAQ to find the most relevant info on the health of underweight pets.
How To Tell If Your Dog Is Underweight
The best and easiest way to tell if your dog is underweight is to take him to the vet and use body conditioning scoring to objectively access his weight. If for some reason that’s not possible, the following body condition score can help you decide whether you need to boost your pooch’s daily calorie needs or not.
- Underweight: you can see and feel your dog’s ribs. You can also see tops of lumbar vertebrae and even pelvic bones. The waist is very obvious and there is no visible or palpable fat anywhere. Other signs include low energy, depression, thin coat, and red, sensitive gums.
- Healthy: you can feel your dog’s ribs but not see them. The waist is also visible when viewed from above. There is not extra abdominal fat, in fact, abdominal tuck is evident.
- Overweight: ribs are not visible and are palpable with difficulty. There are noticeable fat deposits over the lumbar area and the waist is absent.
Touch your dog on his sides and try to feel his ribs, waist and other body areas. If he’s healthy but on the thin side, you’ll definitely be able to feel his ribs. Looking from above, you should be able to see an hourglass figure. On the other hand, if your dog is underweight, you’ll not only be able to feel his ribs, you’ll also see them with your naked eye. You’ll also notice a waist indentation when looking from above.
Now that you know whether or not your pet is underweight, it’s time we talk about the benefits of helping your dog gain a few pounds.
Reasons Your Dog May Need to Gain Weight
Just like overweight dogs, underweight pets have a higher risk of multiple diseases. For one, their immune system is weaker than in healthy dogs, which can result in various health issues as well as low energy. Two, without a layer of muscle and a thin layer of fat, your dog is more prone to breaking his bones, joint and tissue injuries and even developing serious bone diseases. In some cases, severely malnourished dogs will start losing their teeth.
Besides physical problems, an underweight pet may also suffer from mental issues, including stress and depression. When a dog feels sick and fatigued most of the time, his mood suffers – his stress levels (cortisol) increase while the level of the feel-good hormone (dopamine) decreases. As a result, depression sets in.
It’s especially important to keep nursing mothers, puppies and rescue dogs healthy and at a normal weight. These dogs are either under a lot of stress or are still developing (sometimes even both!) and need to consume more calories than your average dog – every single day.
How To Help Your Dog Gain Weight
Whether you have an older dog who no longer has a good appetite, a nursing mother who needs more calories in her diet, or a skinny rescue dog who needs to put on a few pounds quickly, a quality weight gain supplement can help. However, a nutritional supplement is just that – a supplement that is meant to be used in conjunction with a regular diet. So don’t rely on a gainer only! Instead, focus on:
- Regular feeding schedule: like humans, dogs are creatures of habit. If you’ve successfully taught your dog to eat two times a day, you can easily teach him to eat three, even four times with a little bit of practice. If you normally feed your pet two times a day (once in the morning and once before bed), add a third meal and a snack. If he doesn’t want to eat his lunch at first, add a little something on top of his regular food – a tasty topper, fish oil or whatever that seems to entice him. Speaking of dog food, make sure you select a product that is higher in calories than normal – foods that are high in both protein and fat are the best way to go.
- Frequent snacks: if dealing with a particularly underweight pup who doesn’t have much appetite, frequently offer her snacks. Most dog treats are very tasty so they work great, but so do some human foods, including salty cooked eggs, cooked fish, peanut butter, etc. And of course, include weight gainers here as well. The best way to put weight on a dog is to give him tasty weight gain supplements with each meal or as a snack.
- Regular exercise: we know, we know, why should your dog exercise if weight gain is the goal? It does seem counter-intuitive at first, but if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. If your pet leads a sedentary lifestyle, she may not feel the need to eat more than usual, which is clearly too little in the first place. But if you make sure she has regular physical activity, her appetite will grow and she will slowly but surely start eating more, and as a result, start gaining weight. This can be a bit tricky if your pet is sick or very old, but even a short daily walk is better than nothing.
Best Dog Weight Gain Supplements FAQ:
Q: What are dog weight gainers?
A: A dog weight gainer is a concentrated source of calories, minerals, vitamins and other important nutrients that can help an animal:
- Put on a few pounds quickly,
- Recover after an injury/illness faster,
- Become healthier by boosting their immune system,
- Feel more energized and playful.
They’re especially useful for canines who are underweight due to illness or stress as they’re packed with fat, protein and essential nutrients that can help restore health and energy quickly and easily. Puppy weight gain is also super-easy to achieve if you feed both the mother and the puppy with a proper gainer.
Q: How often should I give my dog weight gain supplements?
A: This depends on your dog’s weight and health issues. If she’s very thin, bordering on emaciated (common in rescue dogs), you’ll definitely want to talk to your vet first. They will be able to give you the best answer as extremely thin dogs are at risk of contracting various diseases and health problems and it’s important to act fast and carefully.
Generally speaking though, you can give your pet a weight gain supplement every day, even a few times a day depending on his weight and the supplement of course. Usually, weight gainers are highly palatable so even the pickiest eaters shouldn’t have a problem with consuming them frequently. Since these supplements come in different forms, it’s not hard to find something that works best for your pet. Some dogs really like pastes or gels, others want only their regular food (hint, mix it with a powder gainer!) and some don’t like to eat pretty much anything. For such dogs, tablets are ideal – you just pop one in their mouth and you’re both done. Another plus is that they don’t require chewing of any kind – ideal for older canines.
Q: Can I give my dog whey protein?
A: If your dog could use more muscle on her body but is not getting enough protein through her food, supplementing her diet with whey protein may seem like a good idea. After all, whey protein contains all of the essential amino acids and is the most bioavailable protein there is – it must be good for dogs too, right? This is actually a tricky question. While there are definitely worse foods to give your dog, whey protein is not exactly the best choice either. According to most veterinarians, because whey protein is not found in nature but derived from coagulated milk in the production of cheese, it’s a not a suitable food for canines.
However, since many dog weight gainers already contain some whey protein, we believe that giving your pet just a little bit of this supplement is no big deal. Still, whey protein alone is far from being an ideal supplement for dogs, especially for underweight or sickly pooches who besides protein, also need lots of fat in their diet as well as various vitamins and minerals. That’s why weight gainers specifically formulated for canines are a much, much better choice than whey protein.
Q: Can exercise help my dog gain weight?
A: Regular exercise can not only help your pooch gain weight but is vital for her health. Being physically active increases your dog’s appetite, which is crucial if you want her to gain weight. However, if your pet leads mostly a sedentary lifestyle, don’t go running around the park all of a sudden – instead, gradually increase the intensity of controlled walks until your dog is used to the new exercise regime. Then, increase the load even more – besides regular walks on a leash, try some swimming too, light running, as well as various playtime activities. What’s important is that your dog has some type of physical activity every single day.
Our Top Pick
Finding and compiling the list of the best dog weight gain supplements wasn’t an easy task. As we mentioned, because there are much more overweight than underweight dogs, most brands nowadays focus on foods and supplements that promote weight loss, not weight gain. Still, there are quite a few products that if used regularly and properly can help your pooch pack on muscle and fat. The best of those are included in our Top 10 list, so whichever product you choose, we’re certain neither you or your dog will regret it. But if you’re looking for our recommendation, it is the Bully Max Muscle Builder Canine Supplement. This supplement is packed with protein and contains a seriously wide array of vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients that can help skinny, sickly and stressed dogs become healthy and energized again. Since the supplement is in a tablet form, it’s super easy to administer, which is a huge plus for picky eaters and canines who don’t like to eat a lot. As a bonus, the supplement is inexpensive and approved for all breeds and ages, including puppies over 7 weeks.