How Can I Get my Collie to Fatten Up?

How Can I Get my Collie to Fatten Up?

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Your Collie's thick coat may actually be hiding the fact that they're underweight. Learn here how to gauge and adjust your Collie's weight to get them happy and healthy.

Collies of the full-coated variety, also known as Rough Collies, are famed for their abundant double coats. These large coats can give the dog's owner a false sense of the dog's condition, making it difficult to tell at a glance whether the dog is overweight or underweight. To judge your Collie's condition, put your hands on the dog and feel the areas of the ribs and spine. If you can easily feel these bones protruding through your dog's skin with no fat covering them, or if your Collie is of the smooth-coated variety and you can see the outline of the bones through the coat, your Collie needs to gain weight to maintain good health. If your fingers cannot discern ribs without probing through a covering of fat, the dog needs to lose weight.

Caloric Requirements

Collies typically weigh between 50 and 75 pounds. Underweight dogs can be disqualified by the American Kennel Club for show purposes and may develop health issues as a result of their poor nutrition. Adult Collies need between 989 and 1,272 calories per day of a nutritionally complete and balanced dog food if they are inactive, and between 1,353 and 1,740 calories if they are active, according to the National Research Council of the National Academies. Show Collies should be fed more calories while on the show circuit, as the activity can increase their energy needs by 20 percent, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Weight Loss

Before starting a new diet or adding supplements to your dog's existing diet, consult with your veterinarian to determine whether a medical condition is behind your Collie's failure to gain weight. Collies can suffer from painful orthopedic conditions such as arthritis and hip dysplasia, which may affect your dog's appetite. Other diseases, such as cancer or colitis, can also affect this breed, according to the Collie Health Foundation, and these problems can cause a decrease in appetite or loose stools. Collies are particularly sensitive to certain medications, including Ivermectin, which is used in dogs as a heartworm preventative, as well as many chemotherapy drugs and Loperamide, an anti-diarrheal drug.

Fattening Your Dog

Once a medical problem is ruled out as a cause of the weight loss, increase your dog's daily ration to help your Collie put on weight. Increasing the amount of food you feed your Collie can help the dog gain a few pounds. For more serious cases, where your dog needs to gain more than a few pounds or seems to lack an appetite for their current diet, look for a high-calorie canned food to add to the ration.

You can heat canned foods for a few seconds in the microwave to enhance the aroma and tempt your dog to eat the food more readily. You can also mix high-calorie supplement gels into the food or feed them directly to your dog according to your veterinarian's and the manufacturer's directions. Canned puppy formulas contain far more calories than adult foods do, and can be fed to your Collie for a short time, until the dog reaches his proper weight.


Collies are susceptible to bloat, also known as gastric torsion-volvulus, a potentially fatal condition in which the stomach expands with gases and then becomes twisted, cutting off blood flow and the normal escape routes for gases. This is a medical emergency that requires immediate medical care if the dog is to be saved. Among the risk factors identified for bloat are the rapid eating of a large meal and giving a meal within an hour before or after vigorous exercise. To avoid this issue, especially in a Collie who needs to gain weight, divide the daily ration into several meals per day. Do not free-feed your Collie, but rather measure the food carefully for each meal. Keep an eye on the dog's weight, and make adjustments in the amount of food as needed to maintain the dog in proper condition.

Dietary Change

If you need to change your Collie's diet to raise the calorie intake, rather than just feeding more of the dog's usual food, make the change over one to two weeks. Gradually mix increasing quantities of the new food in with the existing diet during the transition period. Collies have sensitive stomachs; a gradual transition to the new food can help to prevent gastric upset, vomiting and loose stools, all of which would defeat the purpose of the new diet.

Healthy Diet for a Border Collie

Border Collies are a highly energetic working breed, so their nutrient requirements are typically high. Of course, every dog is different, and a Border Collie who spends a lot of time actively working or playing will need a higher-calorie diet than a dog who favors rest and relaxation. Understanding the basic nutritional needs of a Border Collie while keeping your individual dog's characteristics in mind can help you decide what kind of diet will work best for your Border Collie.

Maintenance Diet

A maintenance diet for a Border Collie should take into account not only the breed, but also the activity level, individual biology, and current weight of the dog. Even the outdoor conditions where your Border Collie spends time can affect the dog's dietary needs. Most complete and balanced, brand-name commercial dog foods will provide the proper nutrition for a moderately active pet Border Collie, but trying out a few different types may let you hone in on one that best suits your individual dog. Choose a brand that lists a meat as the primary ingredient, instead of grains. A meat-based maintenance diet can improve your dog's stamina, energy level, coat and skin condition. For some dogs, a diet based on lamb or chicken may be easier to digest.

Raw Food Diets

Some pet owners and breeders opt to feed their Border Collies a raw food diet. You can choose a commercial raw food diet or create meals for your pet in your own kitchen. Do not feed your Border Collie raw meat without consulting with your veterinarian first. If you choose to go this route, it is important to work with a veterinarian or pet nutritionist to determine the exact ratio of protein, fat, organ meats, and other ingredients you will include to create a nutritionally complete and balanced diet for your dog. Always choose high-quality meats. Do not rely on freezing raw meats to kill bacteria and parasites. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says freezing of raw meats at sub-zero temperatures inactivates bacteria, but when the meat thaws the bacteria are activated and begin to proliferate again. Freezing may kill parasites, but must not be relied upon to do so, the USDA says. Only thorough cooking can be relied on to destroy bacteria and parasites. Always practice food safety when handling raw meat. Wash your hands, kitchen utensils and preparations surfaces thoroughly to avoid bacterial contamination, and always keep raw meat away from ready-to-eat foods.

Active Dogs and Active Days

An extremely active Border Collie needs food with more protein and fat than a less active dog. Similarly, if you participate in agility or herding competitions, your Border Collie may require a different type of food for active days compared to rest days. However, don't simply increase the total amount of your dog's regular food to handle increased activity. Instead, focus on the total nutritional content of the food. Commercial performance dog foods may work for your dog, or you might opt to try offering puppy food, which typically has more fat and protein than adult dog foods. Choosing a dog food with at least 25 percent protein and 15 percent fat can give your dog a nutritional boost on a long-term or short-term basis.

Weight and Health Issues

Your Border Collie's weight and overall health are the best ways to determine whether the diet you have chosen is the best one for your dog. An underweight dog may need a high-performance diet with added fat and protein even on less active days. An overweight dog might need a calorie-restricted dog food, but first try solving the problem by increasing your dog's activity level instead of switching foods. Keep an eye on your dog's coat as well, since a dull coat can signal a lack of fat or nutrients in the diet.

More on Dog Nutrition

Building Your Dog's Diet With Strong Nutrients
Wet Or Dry Dog Food: Which Is Better?
Your Dog Food Questions Answered

References & Resources

VetInfo: How to Make Your Dog Gain Weight
National Research Council of the National Academies: Your Dog's Nutritional Needs
American Kennel Club: AKC Meet the Breeds: Collie
Collie Health Foundation: Survey Results
Collie Health Foundation: The Ivermectin Story
Silverado Collies: Bloat
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Feeding Your Adult Dog
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Bloat

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by,your veterinarian. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard or delay seeking professional advice due to what you may have read on our website.

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