With the growing rate of dogs that are overweight or obese, more dog parents are buying low-calorie and weight-loss dog foods.
But although extra weight can cause health and mobility problems and shorten their lifespans, underweight pups can also suffer from serious issues.
Overall, any dog needs to reach and maintain a healthy weight and receive the calories and nutrients it needs in order to thrive and be active and healthy.
If your veterinarian has recommended that your furbaby needs to gain weight or eat high-calorie food for one reason or another, you may be wondering which type of food will be the most suitable for your needs.
Read on for more information about choosing the most appropriate high-calorie dog food and some reasons for weight loss in canines. We have also included practical tips for helping your four-legged friend gain some weight, as well as our top picks for the best high-calorie dog foods on the market.
9 Best High-Calorie Dog Foods in 2022
- The first five ingredients are: Beef, ocean fish meal, pea protein, potatoes, and dried eggs
- Caloric content: 415 kcal per cup
- Guaranteed analysis: crude protein 41% min, crude fat 18% min, crude fiber 4% max
- Carbohydrates: 27%
- Type of food: dry dog food, high calorie, high protein, grain-free, no soy, corn, wheat, or gluten
- Lifestage and breed: adult, all dog breeds
This dry dog food by Solid Gold is the overall best high-calorie dog food for adult pups of all breeds and sizes.
It is specially formulated to provide enough calories, proteins, and fuel for dogs with high energy needs and those that need to gain weight.
With a minimum of 41% crude protein from high-quality sources like beef, eggs, and ocean fish meal plus added plant-based protein sources like peas, your pup will receive the protein it needs for strong and lean muscles.
The chicken fat and other healthy omega fatty acid sources in the kibble will ensure that your furry friend has a shiny coat, healthy skin, and a robust immune system.
It is made of real, unprocessed superfood ingredients such as blueberries, pumpkin, cranberries, and carrots, which are natural sources of the healthy vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber your pet needs. The food also contains millions of living probiotics for gut health and immune support.
This food has no grains or gluten, making it perfect for sensitive or allergic dogs. You can buy it in convenient bags of 4 or 24 lbs.
Its caloric content is 415 kcal per cup, and the dry food has an estimated carb content of 27%, which makes it a perfect choice for adult dogs that need to gain weight or have high-calorie needs.
- The first five ingredients are: chicken, corn gluten meal, rice, beef fat, and poultry by-product meal
- Caloric Content: 484 kcal per cup
- Carbohydrates: 35%
- Guaranteed analysis: crude protein 30% min, crude fat 20% min, and crude fiber 3% max
- Type of food: dry dog food, high protein, high energy for sporting dogs, with grain, for immune, joint, and dental health, and support
- Lifestage: all life stages, dogs of all breeds and sizes
This high-calorie dry dog food by Purina Pro Plan has a special 30/20 Performance formula designed for highly active sporting dogs. 30/20 is the ratio of protein to fat in this kibble. Healthy fat comes from natural sources such as beef fat and fish oil. The protein comes from real chicken as the first ingredient. The chicken meat and other protein sources will ensure the strength and recovery of the muscles of your active four-legged companion.
There are 484 calories per cup, ensuring that your pup receives more calories with smaller amounts of food. The high protein and high-fat food is also packed with 35% carbohydrates.
This makes it an excellent choice for highly active working or sporting dogs of all ages, breeds, and sizes. You can also give it to pups who are not as active but who need to consume more calories or gain weight.
It contains the glucosamine needed to keep the cartilage in your furbaby’s joints healthy and pain-free. There are also all the healthy omega fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals your pet needs to thrive and be healthy, well, and active.
Overall, the company made dog food that gives active dogs the energy and strength they need, as well as a complete and balanced diet for their overall health.
This high-quality dog food is offered in numerous other flavors, including Beef and bison, Beef and rice, Salmon and cod, Salmon and rice, as well as Turkey, duck, and quail.
- The first five ingredients are: white fish, chicken meal, lentils, split peas, and chicken fat
- Caloric Content: 422 kcal per cup
- Carbohydrates: 31%
- Guaranteed Analysis: 34% min crude protein, 17% min crude fat, and 3.5% max fiber
- Type of food: dry dog food, high-protein, grain-free, no soy, corn, or wheat
- Lifestage: adult dogs of all breeds and sizes
This high-calorie dry dog food by Crave was developed to mimic the natural diet of your dog’s ancestors.
It relies on real white fish, chicken meal, and peas as primary protein sources.
The other real natural ingredients are excellent sources of essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, omega fatty acids, and other essential nutrients that your furry friend needs to be healthy, active, and happy.
Thanks to its high carb, fat, and calorie content, it is perfect for canines that need to gain weight or require more calories per day.
The premium-quality food doesn’t contain grains or fillers, so there are no unhealthy additives or empty calories in it.
Keep in mind that it can be too dense in calories for some dogs, especially those from larger breeds, but it is suitable for most adult dogs of all sizes. Plus, you can feed it to pups with allergies or intolerances to grains.
The high-protein kibble is also sold in Beef, Chicken, and Lamb flavors and is available in bags of 4, 12, 22, and 30 lbs.
- The first five ingredients are: Chicken, chicken meal, peas, chicken fat, and tapioca
- Caloric Content: 518 kcal per cup
- Carbohydrates: 30%
- Guaranteed analysis: crude protein 37% min, crude fat 20% min, and crude fiber 3% max
- Type of food: premium dry dog food, high-protein, grain-free, natural, no gluten, corn, wheat, or soy
- Lifestage: All Life Stages of all dog breeds and sizes except for large-breed puppies
This premium dog food by Instinct is the editor’s choice for the best high-calorie dog food because of its high-quality ingredients, balanced nutrient formula, and palatability.
The kibble is made with real chicken as the main protein source and number one ingredient, and each morsel is freeze-dried raw coated for added tastiness and nutrition.
It is one of the foods with the highest calorie and protein content of all on this list. With 518 kcal per cup, 37% protein, and 20% fat, your pup will start gaining weight right away or will maintain a healthy weight and have enough energy and endurance if it is a highly active dog.
The recipe contains all-natural ingredients, with 70% of them coming from real animals and 30% from natural veggies, fruits, and other plants.
There are no added fillers, grains, soy, potatoes, wheat, corn, meat by-products, or other unnecessary and unhealthy ingredients.
Your dog will receive all of the vital vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, omega fatty acids, fiber, and other micronutrients it needs, as well as the high calories it needs, with much less food than usual.
It also contains a guaranteed amount of probiotics for the dog’s gut health.
Thanks to its formula, and the freeze-dry coated design of the kibble, it will be tasty even for the pickiest eaters. So it is a suitable choice if your furry friend is a fussy eater and needs to gain weight.
Although it is suitable for dogs of all breeds and all life stages, it may not be the best option for puppies from large or giant breeds due to its high caloric content.
The Instinct Original dog food can also be bought in real beef, real rabbit, and real salmon flavor options and in bags of 4, 20, and 22.5 lbs.
Best For Puppies
- The first five ingredients are: deboned beef, chicken meal, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and peas
- Caloric Content: 398 kcal per cup
- Carbohydrates: 41.5%
- Guaranteed analysis: crude protein 28% min, crude fat 15% min, and crude fiber 4.5% max
- Type of food: dry dog food, grain-free, high calorie
- Lifestage: puppies of small and medium breeds
This is the best high-calorie dry dog food for puppies of small and medium breeds that require more calories than average.
The small-sized kibble is suitable for young furbabies and contains 28% protein, 41% carbs, and nearly 400 calories per cup.
It has really deboned Texas beef as its primary protein source and as its first ingredient, which is an excellent source of amino acids essential for your puppy’s muscle development.
The kibble contains only real animal and plant-based ingredients, which will provide your growing furball with all the nutrients it needs to grow healthy, happy, and well. It is grain-free and gluten-free, making it suitable for puppies that have sensitivities or allergies to these ingredients.
Since it is formulated for growing puppies, the dry dog food by Merrick also contains essential minerals and vitamins such as iron and the right ratio of calcium and phosphorus, which are crucial for the bone and tooth development of the growing furbaby.
It contains healthy levels of fatty acids and DHA for a healthy coat and skin, as well as for brain and eye development. There is also glucosamine and chondroitin for proper joint and skeletal health and growth in young dogs.
This premium-quality dog food is also available in a real chicken and sweet potato recipe.
Best For Senior Dogs
- The first five ingredients are: chicken, turkey, flounder, whole mackerel, and turkey giblets
- Caloric Content: 417 kcal per cup
- Carbohydrates: 21.6%
- Guaranteed Analysis: 38% min crude protein, 15% crude fat, and 8% max crude fiber
- Type of food: dry food, high calorie, high protein, gluten-free, weight control, digestive and hip and joint support for senior dogs
- Lifestage: senior dogs of all breeds
If your dog has entered its golden years and needs to gain weight or eat more calories for another reason, then this dry dog food by Origen is one of the best options on the market.
This premium dog food has five different real, fresh, or raw animal-based ingredients for its first 5 ingredients, and 85% of all ingredients used are from animal meat or WholePray nutrient-rich organs and bones.
The formula is created to provide older dogs with the essential nutrients from natural sources that they need to maintain a healthy weight, lean muscles, mobility, and well-being.
It has glucosamine, chondroitin, and taurine to support your four-legged friend’s joint health, mobility, and heart health as it ages.
The vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fatty acids from natural plants and animal products help provide a complete and balanced diet for your beloved pup.
The morsels are coated with freeze-dried liver, which makes them especially palatable even for the pickiest pups.
The food by Origen is made in the USA and is sold in bags of 4.5, 13, and 25 lbs.
Best For Large Breeds
- The first five ingredients are: chicken meal, potatoes, lentils, peas, and dried ground potatoes
- Caloric Content: 388 kcal per cup
- Carbohydrates: 48%
- Guaranteed Analysis: 26% min crude protein, 12% min crude fat, and 5% crude fiber
- Type of food: dry dog food, grain-free, gluten-free, natural, high-energy, digestive health, and hip and joint support for large and giant dog breeds
- Lifestage: adults, large and giant breeds
Large and giant dogs need more calories and specific dietary needs.
This dog food by Holistic Select is the best option if you are looking for a suitable high-calorie dog food for your large or giant pup.
It contains 388 kcal per cup but has moderate quantities of protein so that your pup is healthy without gaining excessive bulk, which can cause unwanted weight gain and bone, joint, and mobility problems.
The food contains natural sources of glucosamine and chondroitin, which are essential for the health of your big dog’s bone cartilage and joints, which is a common issue among large canines.
It is also formulated to be easily digestible and has added probiotics to promote gut health and prevent common health problems in large and giant dog breeds, such as bloat or other digestive issues.
The kibble is sized and textured to encourage chewing even in the largest of dogs, which is also crucial for preventing choking and bloat.
It is grain- and gluten-free, so you can safely feed it to your four-legged companion even if it has sensitivities to these common ingredients.
You can buy this excellent dry dog food in 24 lbs. bags.
Best For Small Breeds
- The first five ingredients are: venison, lamb meal, garbanzo beans, peas, and lentils
- Caloric Content: 422 kcal per cup
- Carbohydrates: 36%
- Guaranteed Analysis: 32% min crude protein, 18% min crude fat, and 4% max fiber
- Type of food: dry dog food, high calorie, digestive, immune, skin and coat health and support for toy and small breeds
- Lifestage: Adult for small and toy dog breeds
Toy and small pups require more calories because of their fast metabolisms than some larger dogs do.
This dry dog food by Taste of the Wild contains 370 kcal per cup and has a high 32% protein content from high-quality real animal-based proteins such as pasture-raised venison, lamb meal, and duck meal.
One of the pros of choosing less-popular protein sources is that the kibble is suitable for pups that have allergies to the more common ones, such as beef, chicken, pork, and others.
Thanks to the high protein content, your tiny pup will have strong muscles, which will allow them to be active and also be able to store the glycogen that small and toy dogs need to prevent hypoglycemia.
Peas are the main source of carbohydrates, but they also contain plant-based protein.
This food formulated for toy and small dog breeds has a high fat content with enough healthy omega fatty acids from natural sources such as ocean fish meal and canola oil that your small pup needs.
It also has added probiotic strains to promote your pup’s healthy gut, digestion, and immune system.
The Appalachian Valley dog food is sold in bags of 5, 14, and 28 lbs.
Best For Dogs With Food Sensitivities
- The first five ingredients are: venison, venison meal, chickpeas, peas, and chickpea flour
- Caloric Content: 385 kcal per cup
- Guaranteed Analysis: 28% min crude protein, 13.5% crude fat, and 5% max fiber
- Type of food: dry dog food, limited ingredient formula, high calorie, grain-free, gluten-free, no chicken, corn, wheat, or soy, low glycemic
- Lifestage: Adults; all dog breeds and sizes
Zignature has created this limited-ingredient dry dog food from venison imported from trusted farmlands in New Zealand. It doesn’t contain any chicken, grains, or gluten, which are some of the most common triggers of food allergies and sensitivities in dogs.
Venison is an excellent source of protein and amino acids, as well as vital nutrients like iron, vitamin B complex, and healthy fats. Other recipes include: real and healthy, wholesome peas, flaxseed, chickpeas, and others.
This premium dry dog food contains 385 kcal per cup. It has a high protein content of 28%, so your pup can gain weight or maintain its healthy weight despite its intolerances, allergies, or other digestive sensitivities.
It is made of a limited number of recognizable ingredients that provide all essential nutrients for a complete and balanced diet, with a low glycemic carb index, powerful antioxidants, and fibers.
There is a wide choice of flavor options from this superb Zignature Limited Ingredient Formula, including Catfish, Duck, Goat, Kangaroo, Pork, Lamb, Salmon Trout and salmon, Whitefish, and Turkey.
It is sold in 4, 12.5, and 25 lbs. bags.
High-Calorie Dog Food Buying Guide
No matter whether your dog needs to gain weight or needs to intake more calories due to an active lifestyle or other reasons, it is essential to select the most suitable high-calorie dog food for its specific breed, age, metabolism, activity level, and taste.
Here are some tips for buying the best high-calorie dog food, the most common reasons for weight loss in dogs, and ways to boost weight gain.
Reasons for Weight Loss in Dogs
If your dog is underweight, you should speak to your veterinarian about the potential causes and the recommended actions and treatment.
Some health issues causing unwanted weight loss in dogs can be serious and include conditions such as cancer or diabetes. Or they can be as mundane as having a fussy eater at home.
But here are the more common ones, which are easier to overcome and treat.
Anxiety can cause severe weight loss in nervous pups. Numerous factors can cause it, and the other signs to look for include continuous howling, barking, chewing, or digging. The best way to treat anxiety is to determine its cause and start treating the dog.
Malnourishment can be caused by a low-calorie or scarce diet without all the essential nutrients the dog needs. This usually occurs among stray or mistreated dogs but could happen for other reasons too. The signs that a pup is malnourished are unintentional weight loss, bad teeth, dull coat, lack of energy, and more.
If your pup has not been eating, it may suffer from some sort of dental issue causing it pain. This is why you should check its teeth and gums or go for a checkup at the vet.
A dog that is infested by parasites, such as tapeworms, can lose weight drastically. The reason is that the internal parasites use up the nutrients from the food themselves. Plus, many parasite infestations cause diarrhea, which too can lead to weight loss.
Factors to Consider When Purchasing High-Calorie Dog Food
Not all high-calorie dog foods are equal when it comes to the quality of the ingredients and the nutritional balance. The calories are a measure of the energy provided rather than the quality of the nutrients.
Here are some of the factors to keep in mind when buying the best high-calorie food for your four-legged friend.
Calories per Cup
The first thing to look for is the calorie count of the food per cup and per serving. If you need to feed your furbaby high-calorie dog food, look for one that contains at least 300 kcal per cup.
Your dog needs enough protein from high-quality animal sources in order to build up its muscles. A high-protein diet is especially essential for highly active working or sporting dogs.
Weak and underweight pups, too, should eat high-protein and high-calorie dog food in order to gain weight and muscle mass instead of gaining weight by storing fat.
So, you should choose a calorie-dense dog food with a high protein content because most of the calories will be used to build that necessary muscle mass rather than being stored as fat.
Look at the dog food’s ingredient list, and make sure that the first ingredients and protein sources come from real meat or fish rather than by-product meals.
Quality Over Quantity
As a dog parent, you probably want the best for your furbaby. So, make sure to select high-calorie dog food that is of higher quality. This means that it is made of whole, real, and clean animal and plant-based ingredients with no or minimum fillers and no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives.
Look for a food that has real meat and real fruits and veggies listed as its first ingredients.
The naturally sourced nutrients from these high-quality natural ingredients are much better than artificially added synthetic ones.
Tips For Helping An Underweight Dog Gain Weight
If you are having problems with your underweight pup, here are some ideas for helping it reach a healthy weight as soon as possible and in a healthy and safe manner.
Feed it High-Calorie Food
Switch to high-calorie dog food, which not only contains more calories but also has more proteins, fats, and carbs than regular dog food.
Check the calorie content per serving to ensure that your four-legged pal is receiving all of the calories it needs to gain weight.
Try Free Feeding
While free feeding is generally considered a no-no for healthy adult dogs, it can be a good way to help your underweight dog eat more and gain weight.
Free feeding means leaving dog food available to your pup at all times instead of feeding it in limited portions only at set times.
Offer Frequent Snacks
You can spoil your underweight furbaby with some extra treats and snacks to promote weight gain.
But remember to feed it only healthy and safe dog snacks and treats rather than potentially toxic and harmful human food leftovers.
Use Wet And Healthy Foods
Wet dog food is usually more palatable, making it suitable for fussy eaters. It usually contains more calories than dry dog food, so switching to or mixing some wet food into your dog’s diet can help improve its appetite and boost its weight gain.
Feed Them Their Favorite Snacks
Feed your furry friend its favorite dog-safe treats and snacks in order to promote faster weight gain.
What Is High-Calorie Dog Food?
This dog food contains more calories per cup or can than the average dog food. Usually, dog food that has at least 300 calories per cup is considered high-calorie.
Why Do You Want To Feed High-Calorie Food To Your Dogs?
A high-calorie food is suitable for highly energetic and active dogs. It is also ideal for most growing, active puppies, except for large and giant breed puppies.
Malnourished or sick dogs may need to eat more calories, and so do dogs that need to gain weight.
Does Your Dog Need To Gain Weight?
In some cases, an underweight dog is easy to recognize, but some other signs that your pup may need to gain some weight or that it may be malnourished include a dull coat, a bony face or visible upper ribs, lethargy, and sleepiness.
Make sure to take your furbaby to the veterinarian for a checkup if you suspect that it is malnourished or underweight for another underlying reason.
Does Your Dog Need High-Calorie Dog Foods?
This depends on its age, breed, activity level, metabolism, and health.
Speak to your vet before switching to higher-calorie dog food or picking the best diet for your pup.