While obesity is a common problem seen in dogs, we often tend to overlook the problem of underweight dogs. When a previously healthy dog begins to lose weight gradually or suddenly, it may be a sign of an underlying illness.
Sudden changes in diet can also lead to digestion problems and weight loss as a result of this. Your dog should be neither too fat nor too thin. As is the case with overweight dogs, underweight dogs can have a poor quality of life and suffer from conditions related to deficiencies. Learn how to provide your dog with the best nutrition for ideal weight.
How to Identify Underweight Dogs
The Scottish Government's Code of Practice for the Welfare of Dogs tells you how to look for indications that your dog is underweight:
The ribs and other bony parts of the body can be seen from a distance.
This may not be very evident in longhaired dogs. The muscles of the upper leg feel stringy; there is less muscle than there should be on the hips and the back; the skull bone feels very bony when you stroke the head.
Ideally you should be able to just feel the ribs and also see your dog's waist from above. If you think your dog is underweight, speak to a vet and get him or her weighed. Malnourishment can be a sign of worms and other illnesses or it may be that your dog is simply not eating or receiving a healthy diet.
If your pet is not otherwise suffering from any illness, you will need to give it a balanced diet with some foods that are good for gaining weight.
Balanced Diet for a Dog
Knowing the nutrients your dog needs at a minimum is a good place to start, before you can begin to control its weight loss. Make sure that your dog is receiving the recommended proportions of protein, fats and other nutrients in their dry or wet food.
According to the Dog and Cat Nutrient Profiles published and amended frequently by the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials), your pet should receive the following proportions of nutrients from their dry food:
22.5% protein for puppies and pregnant females, and 18% as a minimum for adults. 8.5% versus 5.5% of crude fats At least 1.2% calcium for growing puppies and 0.5% for adults. If your dog food is currently lacking the required amounts of protein check out our Puppy Platinum Formula and for dogs 1 year and older check out our Ultimate Whey Protein supplement.
In terms of calorie content, for every 1000 kcal at least 56.3 grams of crude proteins, 21.3 grams of crude fats and 3 grams of calcium are recommended.
The profiles also list the proportions of Vitamins and other Minerals that your dog's dry food should contain.
Compare the table with dog food labels to make sure that your dog is eating the recommended amount of nutrients. FDA plays an active role in the regulation of pet food along with AAFCO, and sits on the Pet Food Committee.
The American Kennel Club recommends that you feed your dog dry kibble, since it keeps your dog's teeth clean and gives his or her jaws a workout. But if your dog prefers soft food, you can try mixing in some canned food (a quarter part) with three quarter parts of kibble.
The Best Foods to Help a Dog Gain Weight
Now take a look at the requirements for underweight dogs:
If eating dry food, make sure the food contains 30% proteins, 20% fats. If eating wet food, it should contain at least 7% proteins and 5% fats.
Always remember that any changes in your dog's diet should be made gradually, over at least a week, rather than overnight. Here is a look at some of the best foods, treats and pet feed to help meet your underweight dog's dietary requirements.
High-calorie pet food: Slowly switch your dog over to a high calorie pet food designed for active or working dogs. Active dogs need anywhere between 5% to 25% more calories than less active dogs. You can either increase the amount of food that your pet already eats to meet these requirements, or give it these higher fat diets.
Only make changes by 20% per day over two to four weeks so that your dog's digestive system is able to adjust to the changes. Give 100 % meat supplements: Along with regular food, give your pet small amounts of high calorie canned supplements or products containing 100 percent meat sources.
Canned supplements of beef, pheasant, bison, turkey etc. are good examples.
These are not meant to replace regular food however. Only give these foods as supplements for weight gain. Supplement with easily digestible moist foods: If your dog doesn't enjoy the food that you give him or her, s/he may prefer some palatable moist foods that are easier to digest. Canned foods are more desirable for your dog because it contains primarily fats and proteins, and fewer carbohydrates.
If you are making homemade food, make sure that your dog also gets some fibers from moderately fermentable fibers such as rice bran, wheat bran, corn bran and beet pulp (often used in dog food). Too much fiber however is not good for a high energy dog.
Feeding Techniques to Help Your Dog Gain Weight
Some feeding techniques can also help your dog gain weight.
Free feeding (However not recommended by us): Feed several times a day rather than once or twice. Leaving out food can encourage your dog to eat if s/he prefers eating a single meal over a while rather than in one sitting. Divide the calorie requirements for the day across the several meals so that your pet gets the nutrition s/he needs.
Offer weight gain snacks: Some dogs love boiled eggs or cheese. You can urge your pet to eat by putting a little cottage cheese, a broken-up slice of cheddar cheese or a chopped hardboiled egg into their food. Remember never to feed your dog raw eggs, as it can interfere with the absorption of nutrients.
Other Good Feeding Habits for General Health
This UK Government website tells you what good pet feeding habits should be which include
No strenuous exercise just before or after eating. Fresh and clean drinking water at all times. Making sure that your dog has access to food and water always. Paying attention to changes in feeding habits. Providing dogs with special needs all their dietary requirements. Taking the advice of a vet for providing a balanced diet to your dog.
To sum up, to get your dog's weight up again, look for high quality feed that contains the required proportions of proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals from meats, vegetables, fruits and eggs. Feed your dog several times a day, and supplement with some delicious 100% meat treats. Give your dog plenty of love and affection and s/he'll be on the way to better health and a better weight soon.
And finally, if your still having trouble adding weight to your dog check out our Formula Mass Weight Gainer Supplement for Dogs.
This product, one of our top-selling products contains 26% protein and 50% healthy fat per serving that is purely designed to help increase a dog's weight.
The product comes in 2 sizes: 45 serving and 90 serving. Easy to feed and dog's love the taste. Expect to see results fast when using it consistently.
When your dog is up to a healthy weight again, you should follow the suggestions above for a balanced meal, and make sure that your dog has a healthy diet for the rest of his or her life.
Some Useful References:
If your dog is a working dog or you're grooming it to be one, you may find it worthwhile to read this study about the ideal nutrition for your dog. The ASPCA offers nutrition tips for your dog. Find out how many calories your dog needs per day.