Save My Life, Help Me Fatten Up My Dog

Honey the Golden Retriever sits in her life jacket.

I don’t feel too skinny. But if you want to feed me more, I don’t mind.

I need help.

If I don’t fatten up my dog, I’m going to worry myself to death.

I’m looking for high calorie snack ideas. And Koly’s 18 calorie zucchini chips aren’t going to cut it.

The Skinny Dog

Two people who met Honey recently told me she looked thin.

I couldn’t tell. After all, I see her every day.

But I’ve been running my hands over her frame and I looked forward to her annual vet visit to weigh her.

The results are in: Honey has lost almost 5 pounds since her vet exam last year.

The vet wasn’t too worried. Honey’s coat is beautiful. Her ears are clean. Her gums look healthy. She has no bumps or lumps. She’s a happy little girl.

The vet told me to increase her food but everything else looked good.

And so the insanity begins.

The Worrying Person

If you’ve read Something Wagging This Way Comes since the beginning, you might think I’m an optimist. I even wrote about the good side of having a bad dog.

But all that “looking for the bright side crap?” It’s just me trying to retrain my brain from the very dark path it usually takes.

I’ve been worried sick since I left the vet yesterday.

Where does all the food we give Honey go?

I feed her the recommended amount of her food. I take training treats on our walks. I slip her a snack in the middle of the day. I even feed her morsels from my plate.

Of course I immediately think my healthy, beautiful dog must be riddled with cancer. And I start looking for signs that Honey’s not as healthy as she seems.

Honey the Golden Retriever is very skinny.

Before my squeaky-ectomy, I got pretty skinny. But I feel much better now.

Shouldn’t she be interrupting my writing to beg for a walk? Did she greet that dog less enthusiastically than before? Is she sleeping more than usual?

Worrying doesn’t help anything. So I’ve devised a plan.

Fattening Up the Dog

I’m devoting June to feeding Honey.

On July 3, I’ll go back to the vet to weigh her. If she hasn’t picked up some weight, I’ll talk to the vet about a more in-depth exam.

I’ll be trolling Tasty Tuesday looking for high calorie recipes. But so many people are worried about their dogs being fat that I despair.

So I’m also asking you. What high calorie treats should I make Honey?

And think carefully. The life you save may be my own.

Your Turn: Have you ever had to help your dog gain weight?

Something Swagging This Way Comes

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  1. goldenrescue says:

    Satin balls. More info at
    Satin Balls:
    10 pounds raw ground beef, 70%-85% lean
    18 ounces Total Multi-grain cereal (or other vitamin-fortified, unsweetened cereal
    2 pounds oatmeal, uncooked regular or quick oats (not instant oats)
    20 ounces wheat germ
    1 ¼ cup canola oil
    1 ¼ cup unsulfured molasses
    10 hard-boiled eggs and shells, crushed and minced
    10 envelopes unflavored gelatin
    ¼ teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon minced garlic

    Combine all ingredients and mix well. Divide into freezer bags in daily ration portions (some divide into 10 equal portions, others 14, and I divide it into one-pound packs). Flatten out the filled bags to expel air and completely fill the bags, and to reduce freezing/thawing times. Seal and place the bags in the freezer in a single layer. Once frozen, the bags can be stacked. For travel, the frozen bags can be placed in a cooler and used to chill other items until needed. Break thawed meat mixture into chunks or roll into meatballs. Feed raw as a meal or supplement.

    Yield: approx. 17 pounds @ 1275 calories/pound.

    About the Ingredients

    Beef: If the goal is to improve the coat, then use leaner ground beef. If the goal is to put weight on, quickly, then use ground beef with higher fat content.

    Cereal: The original recipe calls for Total cereal, but another fortified, unsweetened cereal could be used. Some competing recipes discourage the use of Total cereal “due to its high sugar content”, but since it is unsweetened, the sugar content is low. Total was chosen for the original recipe because of its vitamin content.

    Molasses: Some recipes criticize the use of sugar (molasses) in the recipe, however the molasses contributes minerals and calories. If the Satin Balls were being fed on a regular basis, long-term, then one might want to omit the molasses.

    Eggs: The original recipe for Satin Balls calls for 10 raw eggs. Apart from concerns about salmonella, raw egg white contains avitin which blocks the use of the B vitamin, biotin. While there is a lot of biotin in the egg yolk, to offset the avitin in the egg white, dogs do not digest raw eggs as well as they do cooked. Cooking neutralizes the avitin, allowing full use of the biotin. Cooked eggs are more nutritious and easier to digest, with more usable calories per egg, so our recipe calls for hard-boiled eggs. The shells are included for their calcium.

    Gelatin: Some recipes call for unflavored joint health supplement gelatin.

  2. First, I will say that when I saw Honey at BlogPaws, I thought she looked very healthy. In this country, with 52% of our dogs being obese, no wonder people thought Honey looks thin. Think about what they’re comparing her to. People tell me often that Bunny and Blue are too thin, but they’re perfectly fit for Greyhounds. Just some food for thought.

    If you’re looking for something to put weight on quickly, try Satin Balls.
    When Hawk and Lilac got older, they both lost weight as time went on. Hawk had several bouts of getting really sick where he lost a lot of weight and the Satin Balls are good for putting weight back on a dog who’s been ill. Just use them with caution! They do work! You can tinker with the recipe a little, too, based on what you have on hand.

  3. Oh boy, I totally relate to this one. Our Golden Moses has not been eating well lately. He doesn’t finish all his meals. When we took him to the vet for his yearly exam, he had lost 10 lbs. I am trying not to panic. Like Honey, the vet felt he seemed very healthy otherwise and that he was even at a good weight….he had probably been a bit overweight a year ago. So we are trying to add things to his food to encourage him to eat more, and will also be taking him back to weigh him again to be sure he hasn’t lost more. I do have a friend who has a female Golden who is very slim like Honey, but she is healthy otherwise. Like people, I would imagine that some dogs just tend to be more slender than others? I’m sure Honey isn’t going to mind additional treats, so good luck with fattening her up!

  4. My sister was very active when she was young and she did not like to eat much so mom’s vet had her eating puppy chow until she was almost 3 yrs old. It was nutritious and high calorie. The premium pet food brands also have specific food types for active dogs like sled dogs, etc that are higher calorie. We eat premium kibble, not raw or homemade (except for homemade snacks), so for us that is a great way to bulk up a bit if we need to with something healthy and not just snacks.

  5. Well, this has to be a first, a Golden Retriever that needs more food 😀 I’m sure Honey will appreciate this month – a lot! No idea on high calorie diets. All my dogs seem to have been normal, healthy weights. I’ve never had to worry either way.

  6. I suspect you and Honey are just very active, and probably becoming more so now that the snow has melted.

    What is the fat profile of her food? Silas *loves* a little pure fat added to his dinner, although I don’t do it often now that he’s able to eat things besides turkey. A spoonful of coconut oil or olive oil is easy to incorporate into meals and easy to discontinue when the dog gets to a good weight. Just build up slowly. If you aren’t squeamish about it, you can also give her a raw egg with her dinner. Another much beloved “real food” treat around here is for us to share a can of sardines packed in olive oil.

    If her food comes in different protein varieties, compare the labels and buy the most calorie-dense one. Silas lost a lot of weight (for a dog his size) when we went to a turkey-based diet, because turkey is so lean compared to beef or lamb. It took us a while to realize what was going on, because it was the same amount of food.

  7. Pamela, my Welsh Springer is not highly food motivated but is very energetic and active. I have started adding Wellness 95% Salmon as a food topper/mix-in. Wellness also has 95% Chicken, Beef, Lamb, and Turkey. This seems to have done the trick for Lily–her coat looks good, her weight is good and she eats her dog food!

  8. I got the same issue. I lost lots of weight 13.7 (we shared it on one of our dog heath post). Trying to gain 5 pounds since I Feb but my weight remains at 45.5. In a way its good as I am a Senior dog. The vet recommends I can gain 5lbs. I used to eat lots of Peanut Butter in my Kong and its going on a year that I have not given PB. Mom plants to give me some and it might just do the trick.
    You can’t tell that I am 45.5 because I got lots of Golden Furs just like Honey. Mom says she thinks Honey is just fine. Goldens are known for having lots of issues and we believe “weight” is main cause. Maintaining a good weight and fun activity is very important. Happy Tasty Tuesday. Lots of Golden Woofs, Sugar

  9. Looks like good advice from so many. Peanut butter for us. Peeps treats Pip with it as she is old and needed a little more fat on her after she was ill last time. Have a terrific Tuesday.
    Best wishes Molly

  10. Looks like you have some great suggestions in the comments here Pamela, since I have larger dogs I’m always looking to cut calories from their diets, so I’m sure I’m not much help. :-) You hide your worry well, I’m not so good at it.

  11. I have had this issue, with two dogs. They just had/have high metabolisms and are very active. What food are you feeding Honey? Do you feed once a day or twice? I would suggest giving her another 1/4 cup of food a day, it’s what helped us.

  12. Sue at The Golden Life says:

    Lots of great advice for Honey. Now, for you: Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but gets you nowhere. From the pix I’ve seen, Honey looks perfectly healthy — weight-wise included — but if you & the vet want to “fatten her up”, do it slowly. I saw that one person suggested raw eggs. Be careful with those — I had been giving Callie, Shadow, and Ducky a raw egg each on Sunday mornings, but after a few weeks I noticed that their poops were a bit too soft. When I stopped feeding them the eggs, the poops started going back to normal. And they were so-called “organic” eggs from supposedly free-range chickens, not your standard Publix-brand ultrapasteurized antibiotic-overdosed type.

  13. I have the opposite problem with Roxy. Now that she is older I have to be so careful that she doesn’t get fat.

  14. Oh Honey, Koly is so darn jealous!

    With our nutritional clients we always discourage adding fatty snacks as a way to put on weight for a couple of reasons: A: it’s unsustainable weight, yes, you may get her to put on a few with a high calorie punch of fatty meat, a handful of carbs and a whomp of sugar, but it’s the doggy equivalent of saying you’d like to bulk up and look like the boys from Jersey Shore and then trying to do it by eating Kit Kats.

    My first look would be at her food and its breakdown. Is it high enough fat? Is there a higher protein product she could have and most importantly, is she getting the right amount in the first place? Once you know that, then I would start looking at snacks etc. the best/easiest solution is to start feeding her more of her daily nosh.

  15. Our Maggie lost a good 5 lbs or so after we got Hurley. I bet certain foster puppies might have contributed to Honey’s weight loss. Maggie is officially on the low end of her weight but she’s not unhealthy. She looks much like Honey shape-wise. And I would rather keep her at where she is then have her where Sadie is, which is 3-5 lbs overweight & starting to have joint issues.

    Also, never listen to what “people” say. 95% of ’em would misidentify an overweight dog as completely healthy. When people make comments about Maggie (who has always been petite & slim), I say to myself, yeah, well your dog’s fat. Then to them, I just smile. And say something like “she’s very athletic & the picture of health”

  16. You know what I’m going to say – Jones Natural Chews. Specifically Pig Ears. Or The Other Ear, a pig chin. One a day. Start with a partial ear. If you roll over the items, you’ll see the ingredients and nutrition info. The Pig Ear Snax might be a good choice.

  17. I also thought that Honey looked a healthy weight when I saw her. The thing is, overweight dogs are the new norm and a lot of people see a healthy weight dog and think they are too skinny. We get this all the time at the vet.

    We had an issue with Leroy a few years back where we needed to put some weight on him. The satin balls worked really well for us and we also used Biljack frozen food as a topper to his regular kibble. Keep us updated!

  18. I am totally a worrier. And having 2 dogs die from cancer – one at the mere age of 30 months, I’m now even MORE of a worrier with anything to do with the dog. So, this would worry me too. I think a more thorough exam next month if she hasn’t put on a little weight would not go amiss.

    As for weight gain, yes, our last dog (the one who died at 30 months) was VERY thin. That was her body type, and she just wasn’t a chow hound. She would barely eat her breakfast (even before she got sick). Some days I ended up throwing it out. Of course, having cancer for half her life didn’t help the situation any. The oncologist encouraged us to keep as much weight on her as we could, so that when the s**t really started to come down at the end, she’d have a little meat on her bones. We used peanut butter and full fat cream cheese to give her her supplements, and that really seemed to help her maintain her weight. She really did maintain her (albeit thin) weight, right up until the end.

    Boy, that was a cheery response. Could have just written “try cream cheese”. Sorry!

  19. I adore cheese and they’re always telling me I mustn’t have too much, so if Honey likes cheese perhaps she can indulge a little!
    My weight stays fairly constant. I lose a few pounds in the summer and put it back on as soon as the weather cools – that’s probably just hair!!

  20. The Satin Balls recipe has been around rescue groups for ever (as in I remember seeing it 20 years ago) and it works…You could also try adding some healthy fat (like coconut oil) to her kibble

  21. I’m sure Honey is just fine, maybe she just has a high metabolism.
    I think I’ve heard some people revert to puppy food when trying to help their dogs gain weight but sounds like you have lots of good suggetsions already

  22. Perhaps Honey has a high metabolism, like my husband who can eat and eat and eat and not gain a pound. There is nothing wrong with having a high metabolism. In fact, it can be pretty great because it means Honey gets to eat more delicious food!

    For the most part, I work on maintaining Maya and Pierson’s weight. But there was a time when I had to help Pierson gain weight. I found him living as a stray. His hair made it difficult to tell, but I could feel how skinny he was. To gain weight, he ate an extra portion of high calorie food every day and got lots of treats. After some months of this routine, a vet visit confirmed he had gained 5 pounds and did not need to gain any more.

  23. Fattening snacks? I dunno, you could make her some burgers! I’m sure she’d like that 😉

  24. Mike Webster says:

    From the Husband:
    Should I tell Pam about our regular 3:00 AM bathroom & liposuction breaks?

  25. Honestly, she doesn’t look bad to me, at all. It’s better to be a little too thin than a little too fat. Most dogs are so overweight, it’s hard to see what a normal dog should look like.
    That being said, Nola was underweight a couple months ago. I added an extra meal to her food, gave lots of jack pot rewards during training, scraps, ect. You could give 1-2 peanut butter filled Kongs a day, that always bulks my dogs up!
    Nola’s mom

  26. She looks beautiful to us. Our dog is supposed to lose a couple more pounds; so we actually have experience putting (excess) pounds on a pooch. Not in a completely junkie way either. You might try:
    *One extra meal per day, with a little extra yum to help it go down. Olive oil, scrambled egg, the oil from a tin of anchovies for omega-3’s, store-bought organic chicken or veg broth are all favorite toppings of Toby’s
    *If you live near a frozen yogurt place some of them sell doggie portions (Skinny Dip sells it with a few tiny dog biscuits for $1.)
    * Table scraps. If you are eating wholesome food, a little leftover rice or soup might be very tempting
    * You can’t fail with peanut butter. Certainly puts pounds on me!!! Good Luck! :)

  27. How old is Honey? Honey may be losing weight because she’s getting older. Getting Honey fatter is on the agenda. In the meantime, you will be a nervous wreck until July. I’m surprised that the vet didn’t do a routine blood test or a strip test for her urine for diabetes. Pamela, why wait a month? What I would do first, is bring her to your vet or another vet to do the test. It can be done in the office with results immediately.

    I have a cat sitting service (I switched to dogs 13 years ago.). But to the point, I took care of someone’s cat and the cat looked very thin. The owner, like you, saw her every day and didn’t notice. The routine blood test revealed she had diabetes. A short time with insulin shots and the cat gained weight and was fine. My cat lived for 8 years with diabetes and died at over 17.

    As for weight BJ loves ice cream. That could put on some weight.

    Good luck and send updates.

  28. Cooper is a very thin dog. He’s lean and athletic, and his little hips jut out a bit. People frequently tell me he’s too thin, though the vet says he’s just really fit. Because he gets so much exercise, I load him up with healthy fatty treats: Greek yogurt (the super creamy 2% kind) is the absolute best. I stir some into his food or mix it with a bit of peanut butter and freeze for a healthy iced treat.

  29. Hmmm….I’m always trying to feed less fattening treats since Toby puts on weight too easily. And the girls seem to be able to naturally maintain (wish I could say the same for myself).

    But I do empathize with you worrying. I would too…even though I bet it’s nothing. :-)

    Here are some thoughts…Has your food changed it’s formula? Mine did a while back and I had to change the amounts I fed. Also, might she be getting more exercise in this warm weather…or maybe lost weight playing with your recent string of fosters???

  30. My mother recently sent me an email asking if it was normal to see ribs on a golden. I said probably not – you want to have an hour glass shape – but knowing how active my mother’s golden is I know why she is trim.

  31. I don’t suppose Honey is just eating a bit less as the weather warms up? Which wouldn’t explain why she is 5 lbs lighter than this time last year. I can also recommend the Satin Balls. Just make a whole heap up and freeze them and give her a few a day. If Honey had cancer I’m sure there would be other signs apart from her looking a very healthily thin Golden Retriever. It’s normal to worry and I’m sure you will get to the bottom of Honey’s weightloss.

  32. oh I wish we had this problem – actually, Hannah used to be pretty skinny when she was younger, then she levelled out when she was about 3. I used to worry myself sick for her, and we kept giving her treats, and more food, none of it made a huge amount of difference until she got older. I think Honey looks really fit and good, don’t put on the weight too fast, because, as we’re finding out, it’s very hard to get it off.

  33. Firstly take a deep breath!! Now my two cents for what it’s worth..

    I can’t comment exactly about the food you feed but I can give you the same advice we would give anyone who was concerned when feeding Harringtons. On our packaging we have a feeding guide but at the end of the day the key word is guide! Some people (typist sister) can eat an entire ice-cream Sundae every day of the week and still remain a size 6 other people (typist) looks at food and it hits her hips! Dogs are very similar they each have their own unique metabolism and as such will all need to be fed a slightly different amount. Knowing that you and Honey have an active lifestyle I don’t think it would harm to up her food slightly and see how she gets on, maybe look to feeding a few smaller meals throughout the day.

    I think the key thing is to look adding the weight, to find out exactly which quantities work for Honey so that she can maintain her ideal weight.

    You are going back to the Vets in a month so if feeding slightly more doesn’t seem to have helped with Honeys weight gain you can discuss this further with them, and if you are still concerned about the weight loss they will be able to look into this with you.

  34. Sorry you feel like you have to worry. I agree with Basil – some people can eat sandwiches for lunch every day and have no problem . .I get chubby. Cali used to eat 1 1/4 cups of food twice a day and it was all we could do to keep her at 75 pounds. A few extra treats? She put on weight. My friends golden at 2 cups in the morning and 2 cups at night and was skinny – go figure! I think I would try increasing her food until you find the sweet spot – and I’m sure she wouldn’t mind a few extra treats :)

    Good luck, try not to let worrying get the best of you!!

  35. We can use our App to give you a good idea of how many calories Honey should have each day and THEN you can work backwards from there and create a feeding plan.

    You can also use the slimdoggy widget for an estimate. It is available at on the sidebar.

    Next, see how many calories are in the food and treats you use and you will notice if there is a deficit and by how much to adjust!

    Let us know if you would like us to walk you through the process!

  36. I love the Honest Kitchen’s little cookbook for all kinds of tasty and healthy snacks for the boys! Also, I’ve been giving Buster a can of sardines with each meal for a while now – only the ones packed in water – as a natural source of fish oil to help with any dry skin and make is coat glossy. He loves them, and they’re good for him too.

  37. How about giving her 2 or 3 Kongs a day stuffed with peanut butter? I know that was starting to fatten Gretel up :)