As an unfortunately large number of the country’s pets are overweight, it’s rare that owners choose to opt for high-calorie dog food. However, particularly active pooches need this kind of food to really thrive. If your Dood is on the skinny side, you might try to feed them more in an attempt to get them to bulk up. However, this approach can seriously backfire.
In truth, it’s not really about the amount of food you’re giving your dog; it’s about the food’s nutritional profile. If a kibble is stuffed with unhelpful ingredients (as the cheaper brands more often are), then more of the bad stuff won’t help. Instead, switching to a high-calorie dog food could give your pup the extra energy and nutrients they need to carry on being their wonderful little selves all day long.
Table of Contents
- High-Calorie Dog Food: What Exactly Is It?
- Reasons Your Pet May Need A High-Calorie Dog Food
- High-Calorie Dog Foods: Buyer’s Guide
- High-Calorie Dog Foods: Reviews
- Creating The Right Diet Plan For Your Dog
- Feeding Your Doodle: Frequently Asked Questions
Top 8 High-Calorie Dog Foods As Preferred By Pet Parents
To save you time searching out the products, here are our best picks, along with links to where you can get them. If you’d like to learn more about how a high-calorie dog food could benefit your overly boisterous Dood, or if you need a little help choosing one from the list of top-quality options, keep reading.
Purina Pro Plan 30/20 Chicken & Rice Formula Dry Dog Food Featuring real chicken as the top ingredient and with the kind of nutritional profile designed to increase endurance while supporting health, Purina has done it again!
American Journey Salmon & Sweet Potato Recipe Grain-Free Dry Dog Food An excellent option for pups with picky stomachs, American Journey’s Salmon Food is packed with nutrient-dense ingredients, including a hefty amount of lean protein.
Instinct Original Grain-Free Recipe with Real Beef Freeze-Dried Raw Coated Dry Dog Food
Beef, fish, and chicken combine to give this excellent kibble a powerful protein punch, while the 30% of fruits, vegetables, and other wholesome ingredients support wellbeing.
Purina Pro Plan Sport High Protein Variety Pack Wet Dog Food
Our wet dog food pick, Purina’s Pro Plan Sports high-quality formula, comes in various flavors, including beef and bison, turkey and duck and quail for every active dog.
Wellness Complete Health Senior Deboned Chicken & Barley Recipe Dry Dog Food
Formulated specifically for aging dogs, Wellness Complete’s Chicken and Barley recipe provides whole-body nutritional support with premium proteins and wholesome grains.
Nature’s Logic Canine Pork Meal Feast All Life Stages Dry Dog Food
Suitable for all life stages, Nature’s Logic Pork Meal kibble is 100% natural, highly palatable, and nutrient-rich, with high-quality USA-raised pork as the first ingredient.
Solid Gold Barking at the Moon High Protein Grain-Free Beef, Eggs & Peas Dry Dog Food
With the highest protein content of every food on this list, Solid Gold’s Beef, Eggs, and Peas Food will be the one beloved by owners of working and sporting dogs everywhere.
Adirondack 30% Protein High-Fat Recipe Chicken Meal & Brown Rice Puppy & Performance Dogs Dry Dog Food
Slow-cooked to perfection in all its natural grain goodness, Adirondack’s Chicken Meal and Brown Rice kibble is a nutritionally complete and balanced recipe for energetic dogs.
High-Calorie Dog Food: What Exactly Is It?
A basic way to define calories is as units to measure the amount of energy provided by certain food, and, put simply, high-calorie dog foods are ones that have higher than average caloric content. The point of this can be somewhat confusing, though. After all, isn’t eating more food the best and most straightforward way to guarantee more calories? Obviously, that is true – more food does equal more calories, but doing just that is not without its problems.
Firstly, if you’re dealing with an underweight dog because they are simply not used to eating very much or because they are fussy with what they do eat, it might be tricky to get them to even eat more. This can be a confusing concept to those of us living with the four-legged equivalent of Mary Poppin’s bottomless bag! However, there are dogs out there that, for whatever reason, choose not to eat very much. For these pups, a high-calorie dog food is the best answer to gaining weight.
Alternatively, your pup may well be scarfing down their fill each and every meal time – and looking up at you hoping for more – and still not putting on weight. This is particularly common with younger hounds and particularly active dogs. If this is the case, you’ll likely find that however much you give your pal, they’ll still remain super skinny in part because they are not receiving the right kind of nutrients. High-calorie dog foods usually (but always) have more proteins and fats than your average kibble – this is what most dogs really need. These typically take the place of less beneficial filler ingredients that are often nutritionally subpar.
Reasons Your Pet May Need A High-Calorie Dog Food
First and foremost, the most common reason a dog will need a high-calorie dog food is that their current one isn’t helping them to sustain or gain weight. Dogs may have issues with their weight in this way for several key reasons. They may be growing puppies, have endless energy for running about, or be recovering from an illness or difficult family situation. They might be struggling to eat the same quantities of food if they are aging, or they could be working dogs with different kinds of nutritional needs.
Another common issue among pet owners is that they often fail to understand that smaller dogs actually require more calorie-dense foods than their larger counterparts. This is due to them having a faster metabolism. In this way, as with simply feeding a working dog a bit more, your pet may be receiving enough food in terms of volume but not nutrition. They will be getting full and may even leave food behind in their bowls, but you will notice they continue to get thinner. A simple way to gauge whether your pet is underweight is to check their body shape. You’ll likely be able to easily feel – or perhaps even see their ribs.
High-Calorie Dog Foods: Buyer’s Guide
Finding a high-calorie dog food is often made trickier by the fact that very few foods will be labeled this way. This simply doesn’t sound right for marketing purposes when aimed at an audience that has become accustomed to seeing calories as those evil little elves that lurk in their wardrobe and sew their clothes smaller every night! You know what we’re saying. Instead, you’ll have to have a basic knowledge of what to look for in the nutritional section of the food bag. The American Kennel Club (AKC) offers a good guide on this.
However, if you’re just after the fundamentals, here’s what to look for and why:
Calories Per Cup
The obviously all-important first number to help you identify a high-calorie dog food is the number of calories per portion (measured per cup). Here you’ll see a figure that sits somewhere between 300 and 600. Great! Except how exactly does this relate to your dog? Well, on average, dog foods tend to contain around 350 to 400 calories per cup, so anything over and above this might be considered a high-calorie food.
As we touched on above, smaller dogs need more calories (per feeding) than larger ones do. So if you’re looking for a food for your toy or mini Dood, you’ll want to opt for something in the 500 – 600 range. For a large or giant breed, you can probably keep it a little closer to the average, but just select something with a nicely high protein amount if you can. To find out roughly how many calories you should be feeding your Dood, check out our handy dog calorie calculator.
Once you’ve noted the calories per cup, you’ll need to cast your eyes down a little way to the protein, fat, and fiber amounts in the food. Expressed as a percentage, this number will be given as either a minimum amount (in the case of protein and fat) or a maximum amount (in the case of fibers) regarding what to look for here. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), an independent organization that regulates (as you might expect) animal food, provides specific guidance.
According to them, dog food needs to contain a minimum of 18% crude protein and 5.5% crude fat for standard adult dogs, and 22.5% crude protein and 8.5% crude fat for growing puppies and pregnant dogs. They also provide figures for the various vitamins and minerals, as well as a more detailed breakdown of the types of proteins and fats, which you can view here. So now you can see whether the food in question is higher or lower in protein and/or fat content, with the former usually being more calorie-dense.
High-Calorie Dog Foods: Reviews
Best For Everyone Energetic: Purina Pro Plan 30/20 Chicken & Rice Formula Dry Dog Food
Calories: 484/cup Protein: 30% min Fat: 20% min Fibers: 3% max
The Purina Pro Plan 30/20 range is an excellent selection of tasty foods specifically formulated to help every dog achieve their full athletic potential. Perfect for working animals or pups with families who enjoy an active, outdoorsy lifestyle (and love to take their pets along with them), Purina is rich in energy-giving proteins and fats. In this way, it’s great for supporting the development of lean muscle, caring for cognition, looking after more-used joints, and even for optimum coat and skin health too.
Reviewers like the quality of this excellent food for the price, with 91% of buyers saying that they would recommend the product to a friend. Purina is a much-trusted brand in the canine world – and for good reason. They consistently deliver the best products that work well for owners and their dogs alike. This is no exception. Appealing to even hard-to-tempt pups, it has one of the best nutritional profiles out there, supporting healthy yet speedy weight gain, and it comes highly recommended even by breeders.
- A trusted brand, a good food available in a range of flavors – something to suit everyone.
- Some more recent reviewers mention that they have noticed a change in the formula that their dogs don’t love.
Best For Sensitive Souls: American Journey Salmon & Sweet Potato Recipe Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
Calories: 390/cup Protein: 32% min Fat: 14% min Fibers: 5% max
The lowest calorie pick on our high-calorie list, American Journey’s offering makes the grade because of their much-higher-than average protein amount (although the fat content is on the lower side). This makes it perfect for growing and aging dogs. You can confidently feed them this healthful blend without worrying that the scales are going to tip too far in the other direction. Beyond that, the kibble is enriched with various beneficial vitamins and minerals to support immune, skin, and coat health, among other things.
“Great for skin problems” seems to be the general consensus among pet parents who have switched to this food. This tends to be the way with fish products which are naturally higher in the omega fatty acids that give both skin and hair a natural boost. It’s also good for relieving other symptoms of food intolerances, such as gut pain and gas. Despite being fish rather than meat-based, dogs seem to enjoy the flavor, which makes getting fussy pups to give it a try that much easier.
- Top-quality ingredients that are gentle even on very sensitive tummies and affordable to boot.
- Take care. If you’re trying to avoid chicken for allergy reasons, this blend contains chicken meal to pump up the protein quota.
Best For Recovering Rexes: Instinct Original Grain-Free Recipe with Real Beef Freeze-Dried Raw Coated Dry Dog Food
Calories: 508/cup Protein: 35% min Fat: 20.5% min Fibers: 3% max
If you’re looking for a kibble that will seriously help bulk up your health-challenged hound, then Instinct’s excellent dog food could well be the one. With its super amounts of protein and fats, it’s right up there in the calorie stakes. However, everything packed into this all-natural formula is going to do your pup a world of good. 70% animal ingredients top the list. Added live, natural probiotics, natural omegas, and antioxidants support digestive health and the immune system and help your dog look and feel their best.
This seems to be a great food for canines that often turn their noses up at other kibbles. One reviewer exclaims that they have “finally found the one,” referring to their three “picky, picky, picky” pups. Despite the brand being a little less known to many owners, those that have given it a go have not been disappointed, as per their comments. It also seems to work well for dogs with allergies – perhaps due to its lack of filler ingredients.
- A clean and natural kibble that contains all the necessary nutrition to support more active dogs with a very tempting aroma.
- Some owners are not fans of the “strong fishy smell,” but that doesn’t seem to be an issue for their canine companions.
Best For Pickier Pups: Purina Pro Plan Sport High Protein Variety Pack Wet Dog Food
Calories: 440/can Protein: 10% min Fat: 7% min Fibers: 1.5% max
We don’t often recommend wet dog foods as they are usually more expensive and much more difficult to store than kibbles. They also tend to be less nutritiously balanced. However, a serious benefit they offer is that they tend to be that much more appealing to dogs. So if you are struggling to get your hound to eat anything, Purina’s vitamins and nutrients-infused blend might well be your best option. Made with antioxidants, the concentrated formula supports a healthy immune system while supporting a more active lifestyle.
Reviews are all top-notch for this tasty food, especially among owners of more sports-minded pups. It provides everything their dog needs to get through the day, keeping them up and going when they need it the most. Most owners report that their pet eagerly anticipates every meal with a happily wagging tail and that the food looks and smells good (well, as much as dog food can to a human, anyway!). They are happy with the quality – and also with the price even though it’s a little on the higher side.
- This an excellent find for those with super fussy mutts who, most pet parents report, gobble this food down with great gusto.
- Not everyone is going to love the wet food option, which is harder on the wallet than kibbles while being trickier to manage for some.
Best For Mature Mutts: Wellness Complete Health Senior Deboned Chicken & Barley Recipe Dry Dog Food
Calories: 416/cup Protein: 22% min Fat: 10% min Fibers: 4.25% max
Older dogs typically have different nutritional needs than younger ones. That’s why it’s always best to opt for a senior blend when your side-kick hits their golden years and starts to slow down a bit. While this food is higher in calories to help your pup keep the weight on, it’s lower in fat to support healthier aging. It’s also rich in omega fatty acids, glucosamine, and beta carotene – all of which reduce the kind of general inflammation that can make pain and discomfort in senior arthritic joints more pronounced.
While some dogs (like some people!) take to snoozing their day away a little more as they age, others remain high-energy for life. If this describes your pet, this food will likely be a good fit. It has an excellent nutritional profile and enough protein (not to mention added nutrients) to support boisterous pups in remaining their puppy-like selves despite their advancing years. As well as that, most dogs seem to love the taste of the kibble, so you shouldn’t have any trouble switching over from your current one.
- A well-thought-out food with the best kinds of all-natural ingredients in just enough quantities to provide everything your active senior needs.
- Some reviewers mention that the kibble is a little large and tricky to chew for smaller – most notably – toy breeds.
Best For Natural Nuts: Nature’s Logic Canine Pork Meal Feast All Life Stages Dry Dog Food
Calories: 415.61/cup Protein: 36% min Fat: 15% min Fibers: 5% max
There’s a myth floating around that you shouldn’t feed pork to your dog. Rumor would have it that its high fat content causes certain kinds of illnesses in dogs. The truth is, though, that beef – a prevalent dog food ingredient – is far more fatty than pork. The real issue is that pork is harder to come by as people make use of most parts of the pig. In fact, most experts would recommend pork as a protein as it contains more calories per pound than most other meats. Nature’s Logic’s kibble is an excellent example of this.
As you can see from the nutritional profile, this food is super high in protein while remaining petty low in fat. That, combined with the manufacturer’s commitment to using only minimally processed foods and high levels of natural vitamins, minerals, and albumin and globulin proteins, likely accounts for the many positive reviews. Pet parents frequently mention that this kibble contains the kind of ingredients they can feel confident and good about feeding to their pet – not always a given when it comes to dog food.
- Something a little bit different from your everyday dog food, and uncommonly chicken free too.
- Some reviewers question the calcium and phosphorus levels of the food with regard to larger breeds. This is a question for your vet.
Best For Growing Guys & Gals: Solid Gold Barking at the Moon High Protein Grain-Free Beef, Eggs & Peas Dry Dog Food
Calories: 415/cup Protein: 41% min Fat: 18% min Fibers: 4% max
Another nicely varied protein pick, albeit one from a brand we don’t have that much experience with, Solid Gold’s Barking at the Moon range, is an interesting one for us to come across. At first glance, the nutritional profile seems excellent, and that impression sticks even when we start to dig a little deeper. The fresh, all-natural ingredients are well selected, and the addition of prebiotics and 90 million probiotics per pound to promote excellent gut health and the very best digestion is a very nice touch indeed.
Pet parents, however, already seem nicely sold on this formula, at least. For one ecstatic reviewer, it has even been a little bit of a miracle cure for their pet that has struggled with “chronic ear, paw & skin problems all his life.” Another refers to it as “amazing food, an absolute must buy,” citing that it provides the most optimal fuel in the right ratio for their sporting dogs. In that respect, it seems to do everything it claims and more besides. With such amazing reviews, this might well be a brand worth keeping an eye on.
- An excellent food that, more often than not, is loved by dogs. It even seems to be a great pick for those with sensitivities and the symptoms that typically go alongside these.
- Not all owners seem happy with the price of this food. However, that it’s more expensive than other kinds is only to be expected, though, with that much protein content.
Best For Food-Avoiding Fidos: Adirondack 30% Protein High-Fat Recipe Chicken Meal & Brown Rice Puppy & Performance Dogs Dry Dog Food
Calories: 522/cup Protein: 30% min Fat: 20% min Fibers: 3.8% max
Here we are, the highest calorie food on the list – and with a goodly amount of protein and fat, too, Adirondack’s offering might be the perfect choice if you’re trying to pack the pounds onto your underweight puppy or performance dog. Specifically cooked to preserve the most amount of goodness to promote increased stamina and energy, this fab kibble also contains substantial quantities of nutrients like omega 3 and 6 fatty acids and flaxseed for a healthy heart, improved insulin response, and shiny, beautiful coat.
Again this is not a brand that’s really been on our radar before, but we’re impressed with what we see so far. And it’s not just us either; the reviews for this kibble are strong, with one owner referring to it as “one of the best performance dog foods.” For the most finicky of eaters, it’s perfect, as not only do hounds seem to enjoy the taste, but it helps them to achieve a healthier weight fast. This is even the case with pups that struggle to keep the pounds on due to their highly active working-dog lifestyle.
- An excellent assortment of ingredients, including lean proteins, healthful fats, and top-quality carbs, make up a super nutritious blend.
- There seems to be some question about whether this food supports the growth of larger and giant-sized breeds. Another question for your vet.
Creating The Right Diet Plan For Your Dog
Designing a feeding schedule to work for your pup is about more than simply picking out the best food to meet their nutritional needs. Although that’s obviously a great place to start! Beyond that, you will need to consider the following:
- Consistent Meal Times
Depending on their age and size, most dogs should eat at least twice a day – typically in the morning, and at night, so they are not left too long without food. Keeping this constant not only gives your pet a sense of stability but it supports better digestion.
- Appropriate Portion Sizes
Again, this is highly dependent on factors such as your dog’s breed and weight. It will also depend on the nutritional makeup of the food. Generally, manufacturers will provide guidance about the qualities for their specific food right there on the back of the label.
- Suitable Training Treats
While specially designed canine snacks provide the perfect motivation for your hound to do what’s asked of them, even the smallest treats can have far more calories than you might expect. You need to carefully factor this into your pet’s daily calorie intake.
- Supplements and Extra Nutrition
Most foods you’ll find out there will be optimally balanced for your dog’s health. However, in certain circumstances, you may find adding ingredients to your pup’s diet beneficial to better support their well-being. You should always consult your vet before doing so, though.
Feeding Your Doodle: Frequently Asked Questions
While plenty of foods are high in calories, you want to be sure that you are giving your dog the right kind of calories. Luckily, these days there are plenty of foods that contain more calories per cup than most – and these are properly balanced for your pet. Avoid feeding your pal treats and snacks that could be harmful to them when eating in excess.
If you’re looking for a way to help your pet gain weight, rather than increasing the volume of their food, you should look for one that is more calorie-dense. As the best way of ensuring more calories is to up the protein and fat content of the food, you can be sure that your dog will be getting the right kinds of calories and not just filler ingredients.
As eggs are loaded with protein and calorie-rich to boot, they could potentially help your canine gain weight. Beyond that, most dogs seem to love the taste. In this way, they can be a great addition to your pooch’s diet – in moderation. However, you need to take care with how you’re preparing the eggs; scrambled, poached, and boiled are all okay.
As rice is carbohydrate-dense, it can certainly lead to weight gain, and it’s a perfectly safe foodstuff to feed your Dood. In fact, many kibbles typically contain rice, with brown rice, as you might expect, being best. That being said, dogs should eat a fairly minimal amount of carbs as part of a balanced diet, so that protein-rich foods might be a better choice.
While you might consider feeding your pet more frequently, adding an extra daily meal or two, the quickest and most effective way to see noticeable weight gain in your pooch is to switch to a high-calorie food such as the ones included in this article. With their higher protein and fat content, you can be sure this is being done in the best way too.
If you suspect your pet is underweight, for whatever reason – be it sickness or just that they are a little whirlwind of energy – it can be tough to know what to do. You’ll want to ensure they remain happy and healthy with the kind of diet that will bring out the very best in them. Switching to a high-calorie food formula might be the very right solution. However, without a degree in canine nutrition, it can be tricky to know what all those numbers mean and how to apply them to your dog. Hopefully, though, the details and recommendations provided here prove useful in helping you to pick out the very best high-calorie dog food for your loving four-legged family member.
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