Suggestions for Putting Weight on a Skinny Dog – Part II

If you’re having trouble keeping weight on your dog, you’re not alone.

Having 3 very small and very picky dogs, I’m no stranger to the stress of trying to put weight on a thin dog. It took many years, vet trips, and a lot of sleepless nights, but I’m finally at a place where I’m not constantly worried about my dog’s weight. Let’s go over the basics (and if you missed part I, click here).


There are a number of reasons a dog can be thin. Most importantly, it’s imperative you make sure there’s not an underlying health issue which is causing weight loss or a decrease in appetite. Always consult your veterinarian to rule out any health issues.

If there’s nothing medically wrong with your dog, you should consider some other causes that may be affecting your dog’s weight. If you’ve changed your dog’s exercise plan this could have a number of effects. For instance, a decrease in exercise can actually reduce your dog’s appetite. On the contrary, if you’ve increased exercise, your dog’s normal sized meals may no longer be enough.

If your dog is still interested in food and eating full meals (yet still losing weight), you might want to reevaluate how much you’re feeding. Remember that feeding guidelines are suggestions and may not be right for your dog. Don’t be afraid to increase portion sizes.

If your dog is not interested in food this could be a sign of stress or anxiety. Changes to your dog’s routine can turn their world upside, increasing stress and minimizing their appetite. Keep in mind that just because you can’t pinpoint a change or event, doesn’t mean your dog hasn’t already done so. Dogs are much more intuitive than most people think. Such is the case with my 7-year-old Maltese, Donnatella (Donna).

The Backstory of My Skinny Dog

Donna’s weight has been a cause for concern since the day I brought her home. Weighing in at a very small 4.5 pounds and with an even smaller appetite, keeping weight on her has been challenging. From puppyhood, she refused to eat any kind of kibble and turned her nose up to just about any treat I’d offer her.


©South Bark Dog Wash

There was a period of time where her blood sugar would get so low, she’d have frequent seizures and needed to be placed on medication. This was a time of desperation, and I would feed her anything she wanted, as long as she’d eat something. Needless to say, she was not eating a balanced diet and lacked proper nutrition. Luckily, with some perseverance and guidance from my vet, we were able to come up with a plan to put weight on Donna and keep her healthy and happy. Here are some things I’ve learned along the way.

Keep Stress to a Minimum

The most important thing I can do for Donna is to keep her calm and happy. Donna is hypersensitive to her surroundings, so getting her to eat while being so tightly wound up is difficult. It’s important to remember that dogs, like most of us, are creatures of habit. This is why I keep my dogs on a strict schedule. I find my dogs are less stressed when they wake up at the same time, eat at the same time and go for walks at the same time. If this doesn’t sound like your lifestyle I encourage you to give it a try. Your dog will feel safe and secure with the certainty of their routine and you might even like it too!

Dogs like Donna are aware of every detail that goes on in their worlds, and it doesn’t take much for her to sense the slightest form of change, sending her into a stress-induced panic and going on hunger strikes that last for days. This could literally be anything; going to the groomer, thunder, the sight of a suitcase, you name it! It’s almost impossible to control all of these factors but control what you can.

If there are known triggers for your dog’s anxiety, work with a dog trainer on minimizing the effects. Learning how to take a potentially stressful situation and turning it into a positive experience was key for Donna.

Don’t Fear Exercise

I used to be hesitant about exercising Donna because I didn’t want her to burn off more calories than she was consuming. I quickly realized this was not sound logic, especially because Donna loves being outside. When we go on long walks or go off leash at the beach her appetite is increased, she’s not stressed and she’s happier. Exercise has proven to be a significant factor in keeping weight on her.

What to Feed

It may seem obvious but if you haven’t tried other foods your dog might not be eating because they don’t like what you’re feeding them. It’s important to not only find something your dog likes but also to make sure they’re getting high quality food with all the essential nutrients. Every dog is different so if you have more than one dog, you need to find what works for each dog, rather than what works for your pack as a whole. It might seem like more work but I promise you it will be worth it to see each dog thrive on a food they really enjoy.

For Donna, I’ve found that The Honest Kitchen’s Fruit & Veggie Base Mix with raw or cooked turkey or beef seems to be the most palatable option. She’s also quite fond of Proper Toppers, and I frequently offer them as a snack in between meals. I’ve noticed that Donna does best with small frequent snacks, contrary to the two meals a day I feed my other two dogs. But again, it’s all about finding what works best for each dog.
Thanks to finding a food Donna loves and working to combat her anxiety, I’m happy to report it’s been two years since she’s had any seizures or health problems. The difference in her appearance and personality are undeniable and no one can believe how far she’s come.

Gradual Changes for Success

Remember that the first step in getting your dog to gain weight is to identify the reason your dog is thin. Work with your vet on developing a plan to get your dog into an appropriate weight zone. Be patient and consistent. Gradual changes to your dog’s diet and exercise routine are recommended; your dog won’t, and shouldn’t, gain weight overnight.

Meet the Author: Brandy Vachal

Brandy Vachal Moore is a dog mom to three pint-sized dogs: Donnatella the Maltese, Ernie the Yorkie-Maltese mix and Rico the Chihuahua. When she’s not defending her personal space from three dogs who know no boundaries. Brandy enjoys anything fitness related, traveling, hiking, and being outdoors in the San Diego sunshine. She loves all things social media and journalism and has worked for The Honest Kitchen for the past 5 years.

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