How to fatten up a skinny puppy?


You’re excited about your new puppy and you give her all the food you think she needs. You carefully follow the instructions on the food label, making sure your furry friend gets a nutritionally-balanced and healthy diet. 

You watch her eat, and she completely finishes her food. Infact, she thoroughly licks up her plate. But in spite of this, she’s still not gaining weight as she should. So this is getting you worked-up, which is okay. Yes, as a pet parent it’s okay to worry about your little cutie.  

But for starters, you should know that puppies grow at different rates. And the growth rate varies from breed to breed. However, if you’ve observed that your puppy is below the average size for her breed, then something may be wrong. 

It may be that your puppy isn’t really getting enough calories from her meals or the diet lacks some essential nutrients her body needs for proper growth and development. Lack of weight gain can also be due to some underlying health condition.

If you’re concerned that your puppy is too skinny, keep scrolling to find out what could be the cause and how to handle it.

[1] Why is my dog not gaining weight?

A dog may be living in a healthy home and eating enough food but still look too skinny. If you notice that your dog is too skinny and your fervent attempts to fatten her up by giving her food isn’t yielding fruit. Carefully evaluate the situation, observe your pet to determine why she isn’t gaining weight. Here are the two major reasons why your pup may not gain weight.

Your puppy may have an underlying illness

One of the major reasons why a well-fed dog doesn’t gain weight is due to some underlying health condition, and an obvious sign can be loss of appetite. If your dog is very skinny and doesn’t seem to have any appetite, then she needs an urgent and thorough medical check. 

Health conditions like cancer, diabetes, or diseases affecting the liver, kidney, digestive system can be very serious and their earliest signs are usually lack of appetite, low energy level and weight loss. Your puppy may also have a healthy appetite and still not gain weight, in this case the lack of weight gain may be due to parasites and worm infestation. 

If you don’t seem to understand why your puppy is overly skinny and won’t gain an ounce of fat, get her checked by a vet. Don’t make any assumptions about your puppy’s health, let the vet examine for any illness. 

Your puppy isn’t getting enough nutrients and calories

Your pup’s diet may be devoid of the appropriate amount of calories and some essential nutrients her body needs to grow properly. You may be giving her enough food, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that the food is the right one for her. 

Try changing her meal to a higher-caloric food with the right balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals. Choose your pet food from an established and trusted pet food brand, for assured quality. 

[2] How do I know if my puppy is too skinny?

Sometimes we erroneously assume that a puppy is too skinny because we’ve seen a bigger puppy of the same breed. If you think your puppy is smaller than some other puppy of the same breed, it doesn’t automatically mean that yours is too skinny or underweight. 

It could be that the other puppies are actually overweight and your pup is the ideal or average size. To avoid undue stress and worry, you can check your dog to know if she’s too skinny. Luckily, this is a simple exercise and will only take a few minutes, plus your dog will love it.  

First check your puppy’s ribs: hold your dog in a standing position, look at her sides and feel them with your hands. If you can literally make out her ribs and even count them with your fingers, (that is, the ribs are painfully obvious) then she most definitely needs more food. A puppy with too much layer of fat beneath her skin is overweight. 

Then, check her spine: again, gently run your hands over your dog’s spine. If the spine bone is very obvious with very little fat between it and the skin, the dog is underweight. But, if you can barely feel the spine bone due to too much layer of fat, then you have an overweight puppy. 

For a dog with a healthy weight, the ribs and the spine are neither too pronounced or buried beneath too much fat. 

[3] Will worms make a dog skinny?

There are many reasons why a formerly healthy dog can suddenly become too skinny. Parasites like worms are one of the most common causes of rapid weight loss in dogs. 

Despite a healthy diet, if a dog has worms like tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms, lungworms or heartworms, this will become evident through rapid weight loss. 

While some puppies get infected with worms and fleas from their environment, many others get it from their mother’s milk. Worms in dogs are not really life-threatening. So don’t panic if your dog has worms, a visit to the vet for treatment will suffice. 

Don’t take sudden or inexplicable weight loss lightly because besides parasites and worms, other causes of sudden weight loss like cancer, kidney disease, liver problems, diabetes, and heart disease, can be more severe. 

[4] How do I get my puppy to gain weight?

The easiest way to help your dog gain weight is to access her nutrient and calorie requirement, and adjust what you feed her accordingly. You can consult a vet to get a professional opinion on the adequate amount of calories your pup needs. The sufficient amount of calories will depend on the breed, age, sex and lifestyle of your puppy.

Once you know what your pup needs, you can adjust her diet to suit these needs. If it means totally changing your dog’s meals, try doing this slowly. Gradually introduce your dog to the new diet and feeding schedule in order not to overwhelm her. 

Also, giving her too much food at once may not give you the best result. Instead of one or two heavy meals a day, split her meals into smaller portions. Let her have a small meal every few hours, this way your pup will finish every meal, and you can accurately measure how much she’s eating. 

[5] What should I feed my underweight puppy?

To help your underweight puppy gain a healthy weight, here are a few tips on what to feed her

High-calorie Diet

Switch her meal to a high-quality pet food formula that’s packed full with nutrients and calories. High-quality pet food (preferably from a known brand) tends to contain more calories and all the important nutrients your pup needs. Opt for a calorie-rich formula with more proteins, at least 20% protein, as this will help your dog build muscle mass. Protein-rich food like beef, chicken and fish are also great options for your dog. The next time you select a food formula for your pet, make sure you carefully read through the list of ingredients, and calorie content. 

Homemade Meals

Homemade meals are especially great for dogs, especially because you can adjust the recipe to specially fill your dog’s needs. A popular recipe used in shelters to help malnourished and underweight dogs regain a healthy weight fast is the satin ball recipe. These balls are packed with the right nutrients and amount of calories. While your pup isn’t malnourished, she can still enjoy the nutritional benefits of this awesome homemade dog meal. 

Treats and Supplements

While commercial pet food and homemade meals are sufficient for your dog, you can add treats and supplements for a faster result. Dog treats are loaded with calories, while the food supplements will supply all the essential nutrients your pup may be lacking. Giving her treats and supplements will help tremendously, especially if she’s a picky eater.   

[6] What human food can dogs eat?

Most human foods are safe for dogs and ever since these creatures were domesticated, they’ve been fed human food. But dogs aren’t humans, they have a different digestive system so not everything we eat is safe for them. While human food can provide dogs with essential nutrients, some of them are unsafe and can be harmful to dogs. To be on the safe side, here’s a run down of human foods that are safe for dogs.

White rice

Cooked rice is a good source of carbohydrate for dogs. It’s a great soothing option for dogs with diarrhoea because it digest easily and makes stool firmer. However, dogs with diabetes shouldn’t be fed rice to avoid a spike in their blood sugar level. 

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are great for dogs because they contain vitamins and minerals like vitamins A, B, C, K, calcium, iron, magnesium, etc., which are essential for proper growth in dogs. Some fruits are also rich in fiber, antioxidants, phytochemicals and proteins, and these all promote good health in dogs. However, not all fruits and vegetables are good for dogs. Safe fruits and vegetables for your canine friend include; carrots, green beans, watermelon, blueberries, apples, bananas, and cucumbers.


Fish and shrimps are rich in proteins and dogs love them. Adding fish (especially salmon and tuna) to your dog’s meal is a good way to introduce the much-needed proteins to her diet. Fish is also a source of omega-3 fatty acids which helps your dog build a solid immune system. If you want to add fish to your dog’s diet, make sure it’s properly cooked because raw fish can contain harmful microorganisms. 


Another incredible source of proteins for dogs is meat. Dogs particularly enjoy chicken, turkey and pork. Ensure they are well cooked before giving them to your dog, especially pork, because they may contain parasites. 

Wrapping Up

Like humans, dogs have personalities and if you know your dog’s personality and understand her feeding preferences like hunger signs, favorite food and treat, you will feed her better. 

And more importantly, you’ll be able to better relate with her and know when something isn’t right. Also, if she’s a new member of the family, try to observe how she’s adjusting. This is especially important if you have other pets who may be territorial. 

Once you’ve ruled out illness as the cause of your dog’s lack of weight gain, you can focus on establishing a new feeding routine and don’t just feed her, build a relationship with her. After all, she’s your canine friend, isn’t she?