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There are a variety of reasons owners may need to help their adult dog gain weight with high-calorie dog food. Some may have dogs experience weight loss due to illness, while others may need to bulk up a little more for athletic or competitive reasons. Others may simply have a dog who is picky or naturally on the thin side.
But no matter the reason for needing weight gain, you’ll want to make sure that you help your dog gain weight in a balanced, healthy, and sensible manner. And this means working with your veterinarian and picking the best dog food for weight gain that includes plenty of nutrients.
However, note that you should not provide puppies with products designed to help adult dogs gain weight.
Puppies need a diet that is specifically formulated for their age to prevent the development of long-term bone and joint problems.
Unless your vet recommends otherwise, you should consider a high-calorie dog food designed for weight gain as inappropriate for immature dogs.
We’ll try to help you make the right decision below as we recommend the best dog food for weight gain and talk about the things you want to look for when picking a dog food with high calories to help your dog gain weight and muscle.
Best Dog Food for Weight Gain: Top Picks
Bully Max High-Performance Super Premium Dog Food
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Purina Pro Plan SPORT Performance 30/20 Formula Dry Dog Food
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Merrick Grain-Free Dry Dog Food Real Chicken & Sweet Potato
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Purina ONE SmartBlend True Instinct Natural Grain-Free Formula Adult Dry Dog Food
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What to Look For in Dog Foods for Weight Gain
The most important things to look for when picking a dog food for healthy weight gain and muscle include the following three criteria:
- Provide a lot of calories. Typically, this means looking for a weight gain dog food that contains at least 400 calories per cup, and – whenever possible – you’ll want to look for foods with 500 calories per cup or more.
- Be full of protein. Most of the best dog foods for weight gain recipes have a protein content of 30% or more.
- Have plenty of fat. The extra fat will not only help your dog pack on a few extra pounds, but it’ll also help make the food taste better, which will encourage him to eat more.
But these aren’t the only things to look for when seeking a good weight gain dog food. You’ll also want to make sure you select a food that provides all of the nutrition your dog needs.
Among other things, this means selecting a high-calorie dog food that satisfies the following criteria:
- Feature a whole protein at the top of the ingredient list
- Have plenty of omega-3 fatty acids to help keep your dog’s coat healthy and reduce joint inflammation
- Have plenty of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables to keep your dog’s immune system operating properly
- Be made in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand or Western Europe
- Not contain any unidentified meat meals or meat byproducts
Fortunately, most high-quality brands do satisfy these requirements – including the five we recommend below.
5 Best Dog Foods for Weight Gain
About: Bully Max High-Performance Super Premium Dog Food is designed to help your dog gain weight and muscle. To accomplish this goal, Bully Max not only provides your dog with plenty of calories, but it also features high levels of protein, which help ensure your dog has everything he needs to produce new muscle.
- Contains no corn, wheat or soy
- Provides an incredible 535 calories per cup
- Made in the USA
- Contains 30% protein and 20% fat for maximum gains
Top Ten Ingredients: Chicken meal, brown rice, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), dried plain beet pulp, ground sorghum, pearled barley, brewers dried yeast, whole ground flaxseed, menhaden fish meal, egg product.
- Crude Protein 30% min
- Crude Fat 20% min
- Crude Fiber 3.8% max
- Moisture 10% max
- Omega-6 Fatty Acids 3.85% min
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids 0.5% min
- Total Microorganisms 31 million colony-forming units per pound
Customer Reviews: Bully Max High-Performance Super Premium Dry Dog Food received very positive reviews from most owners who tried it. Most explained that their pet put on a significant amount of healthy weight in a relatively short period of time, and most dogs appear to love the meaty taste of Bully Max too. A few owners noted intestinal upset after making the switch, but you can reduce the chances of this happening by switching to this dry food gradually.
Bottom Line: We’d prefer to see a whole protein at the top of the ingredient list, but chicken meal is a healthy and nutritious protein, so it is still a reasonable choice. Aside from this, there aren’t any glaring problems with this dog food. It is an expensive product, but that’s to be expected from a recipe with such impressive protein content.
About: Purina Pro Plan SPORT is specifically designed to provide the kind of nutrition and caloric density working dogs require. However, it is also a good choice for pet dogs, who simply need help gaining weight.
- Contains 30% protein and 20% fat to ensure your dog can build new muscle and enjoy plenty of energy
- Provides 496 calories per cup of kibble
- Made in the USA
- Real chicken is the first listed ingredient
- Made with fish meal – an important source of glucosamine
Top Ten Ingredients: Chicken, Corn Gluten Meal, Brewer’s Rice, Animal Fat Preserved with Mixed-Tocopherols (Form of Vitamin E), Poultry By-Product Meal (Natural Source of Glucosamine), Whole Grain Corn, Corn Germ Meal, Fish Meal (Natural Source of Glucosamine), Animal Digest, Fish Oil.
- Crude Protein 30.0% min
- Crude Fat 20.0% min
- Crude Fiber 3.0% max
- Moisture 12.0% max
- Linoleic Acid 1.8% min
- Calcium 0.9% min
- Phosphorus 0.7% min
- Selenium 0.3 mg/kg
- Vitamin A 15,000 IU/kg min
- Vitamin E 500 IU/kg min
- Ascorbic Acid 100 mg/kg min
- Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) 0.12% min
- Eicosatetraenoic Acid (EPA) 0.12% min
- Glucosamine 500 ppm min
Customer Reviews: Purina Pro Plan SPORT received glowing reviews from most dog owners who tried it. It has proven to be a very popular option for owners of working dogs, but it will also make a great choice for pet dogs – especially those who need to bulk up a bit. A few owners noted very mild intestinal disturbances while making the switch, but sensitivities can happen anytime you switch food – just do so slowly.
Bottom Line: Purina Pro Plan SPORT is easily among the best high-calorie dog foods on the market for dogs who need to gain healthy weight. It doesn’t have some of the bells and whistles – such as probiotic supplements or antioxidant-rich fruits — that some other dry dog foods do, but it’s also a lot more affordable than most dry foods featuring these types of things are. Additionally, most dogs appear to love the taste of the recipe, which makes it easier to get them to eat more food.
About: Merrick Grain-Free is a high protein dog food recipe that is designed to provide your dog with the best nutrition possible. This means that it’ll not only help your pet put on weight, but it’ll also ensure that your pet does so in a safe and appropriate fashion.
- Contains 38% protein content
- Made in the USA
- 460 calories per cup
- Contains three high-value protein sources
- Grain free recipe
Top Ten Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Peas, Natural Flavor, Chicken Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Salmon Meal (Source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids), Apples.
- Crude Protein 38.0% min
- Crude Fat 17.0% min
- Crude Fiber 3.5% max
- Moisture 11.0% max
- Omega-6 Fatty Acid 4.8% min
- Omega-3 Fatty Acid 0.4% min
- Glucosamine 1,200 mg/kg min
- Chondroitin Sulfate 1,200 mg/kg min
Customer Reviews: Most owners who tried Merrick Grain Free Real Chicken & Sweet Potato were extremely happy with their choice. Many noticed that it helped their dog bulk up significantly, and several also reported that this dry food helped provide increase their pet’s energy level and decrease coat and skin problems (likely due to its grain-free composition).
Bottom Line: Merrick’s Grain Free Chicken & Sweet Potato recipe is an excellent option for owners seeking to help their dog gain healthy weight. It not only provides more protein than most other mainstream dog foods do, but it is also full of nutritious fruits and vegetables, including apples, blueberries, and peas. It is also fortified with four different probiotics to help ensure proper digestion.
About: Purina ONE SmartBlend is a grain-free recipe that is full of protein and made with only a handful of ingredients to avoid triggering coat or skin problems. It is made with both chicken and chicken meal to provide all of the protein your dog needs to pack on a few more pounds, and it even features beef fat to provide additional calories and flavor.
- Made in Purina’s US-based kitchens
- Grain-free recipe utilizes sweet potatoes rather than corn or wheat
- 30% protein composition will help your dog build new muscle
- No artificial flavors, colors or preservatives
- 442 calories per cup
Top Ten Ingredients: Chicken (Source of Glucosamine), Chicken Meal (Source of Glucosamine), Cassava Root Flour, Canola Meal, Pea Starch, Beef Fat Naturally Preserved with Vitamin E, Pea Protein, Dried Egg Product, Dried Yeast, Dried Beet Pulp.
- Crude Protein 30.0% min
- Crude Fat 17.0% min
- Crude Fiber 4.0% max
- Moisture 12.0% max
- Linoleic Acid 1.5% min
- Calcium 1.0% min
- Phosphorus 0.8% min
- Zinc 150 mg/kg min
- Selenium 0.35 mg/kg min
- Vitamin A 15,000 IU/kg min
- Vitamin E 460 IU/kg min
- Glucosamine 400 ppm min
- Omega-6 Fatty Acid 1.6% min
Customer Reviews: Most owners were very happy with Purina ONE SmartBlend and rated the dry food highly. Most dogs appear to love the taste, which can make it easier to get them to eat more food, and digestive issues were apparently very rare for dogs making the switch. Most owners also loved the value this food provides, as it is much more affordable than many comparable foods.
Bottom Line: While Purina ONE SmartBlend may not have as many calories as some of the other foods we recommend here, it is still deserving of serious consideration by owners. It is an especially attractive choice for owners who want a grain-free recipe, as well as those who are interested in selecting a weight gain dog food that provides great value for your dog-food dollar.
Our Top Weight Gain Dog Food Recommendation
Any of the four dog foods for weight gain detailed above should help your dog gain weight, but we’d have to recommend Bully Max High Performance Dog Food for any owners interested in helping their dog to put on healthy weight quickly.
It provides as much protein as all but one of the other dry foods for weight gain we reviewed (Merrick Grain-Free contains 8% more protein), and it also provides more calories per cup of food.
You will pay more for Bully Max than any of the other dry dog foods we reviewed, but if you are trying to maximize your dog’s gains and turn him into a hulking beast of a canine, there’s no better option.
An Alternative Approach: Weight Gain Supplements for Dogs
Dog foods that are high in calories aren’t the only way to help your dog add some additional weight and regain health – you can also use weight-gain supplements to accomplish the same thing.
There are a variety of dog weight gain supplements on the market, but few can compete with Buddy & Lola Weight Gainer for dogs.
Each serving of Buddy & Lola Weight Gainer provides your dog with an additional 40 calories and 2 grams of additional protein. The supplement is also comprised of 43% fat, which will really accelerate your dog’s gains.
Most dog owners who tried Buddy & Lola Weight Gainer reported that it helped dogs to put on a few more pounds and enjoy increased energy levels. Also, most owners noted that their dog didn’t mind the taste at all.
How Can You Tell If Your Dog Is Underweight?
You can get a general idea of whether your dog’s body weight is at the proper range by researching the typical weight range for his breed.
In other words, if your Doberman Pinscher only weighs about 50 pounds, he’s probably a bit underweight, as most members of the dog breed reach at least 60 pounds in weight.
However, average body weight ranges don’t account for your dog’s height. It may be that your dog is simply a bit shorter than most other members of his breed. He may also have an improper muscle-to-fat ratio, which causes him to weigh a little less than he should.
Accordingly, the best way to determine whether or not your dog is within the proper weight range is by determining his body condition score. You’ll essentially need to consider four components of your pet’s body to determine his score.
These components include:
- How easy is it to feel your dog’s ribs?
- Does his waist exhibit a well-defined abdominal tuck?
- Does he possess a proper level of subcutaneous fat?
- How much muscle mass is present?
It can be challenging for some owners to determine an accurate body condition score for their dog, so don’t hesitate to reach out to your vet for help if necessary.
Why Causes Weight Loss in Dogs?
There are a number of reasons why dogs can struggle to achieve and maintain proper body weight. Some of the most common reasons for weight loss in dogs include:
Poor Food Quality
Poor-quality foods will often make it difficult for dogs to enjoy proper muscle and bone development, and it can also prevent them from maintaining a proper amount of body fat.
Fortunately, this is one of the easiest problems to correct.
Just make sure to feed your dog a food that satisfies the AAFCO’s requirements (all four foods listed above do), and, if you are trying to help your dog gain weight, look for a calorie-dense, high protein dog food recipe with plenty of nutrients (again, like the four listed above).
Intestinal parasites, including roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, and others, can cause dogs to lose weight and generally fail to thrive.
Most parasites are relatively easy to eliminate – just check out our comprehensive review of the best dog wormers to get your dog on the path to recovery.
A variety of illnesses can cause a dog’s weight loss, so it is important to work closely with your vet if you aren’t able to change your dog’s body weight by switching foods.
Additionally, some of the medications used to treat a few common illnesses can make it difficult for your dog’s body to take advantage of the calories you provide him.
Most puppies will look a bit skinny for the first year or two of life before they begin to fill out.
This is especially true of many thickly built dog breeds, such as the Pit Bull, Rottweiler, Dogue de Bordeaux, English Mastiff, and Bull Mastiff.
Additionally, senior dogs (those over 7 or 8 years of age) may also struggle to maintain proper body weight.
There isn’t much that can be done about either of these age-related causes for low body weight. However, you’ll still want to do everything you can to make sure they maintain proper body weight – especially in the case of older dogs.
High Activity Levels
Dogs who work for a living, as well as those who are simply more active than the average dog, are often at risk of having a low body weight and possibly too much weight loss.
The best way to address these problems is by switching to a higher-quality food and providing more of it at mealtime.
In fact, one of the high-calorie dog foods listed above – Purina Pro Plan SPORT – is designed for exactly these types of dogs.
How to Help Your Underweight Dog Gain Weight
In addition to selecting a high-quality, calorie-dense food designed to help fatten up your dog, there are a few other ways you can help your dog put on a few more pounds.
Some of the most helpful strategies for helping your dog gain weight include:
Avoid Feeding People Food
Most authorities will caution you that feeding an excessive amount of people food can make your dog gain weight, but it can also cause the opposite problem.
This is particularly true when you feed your dog bulky, yet low-calorie recipes, including things like potatoes and vegetables.
These types of items will cause your dog to feel full, while only providing a fraction of the calories that proteins and fatty ingredients will. If you are trying to get your dog to gain weight, make sure he only eats his high-calorie dog food.
Use Toppers for Picky Pets
Picky eaters rarely consume as much food as they should, which can make it difficult for them to maintain proper body weight.
Switching to a food that your dog finds more palatable will help (and fortunately, most foods that have a lot of fat content usually taste better), but you can also use food toppers to help entice your dog to eat more of his food.
Simply mix in a portion (perhaps ¼ to 1/3) of a can in with your dog’s dry food. The fats and oils in the canned food will coat the kibble, thereby making it taste better. This will also add more calories to your dog’s dinner, further helping you achieve your goals.
Start Using a Free-Choice Feeding Strategy
One other easy way to help your dog increase his body weight is by switching to a free-choice feeding regimen. Essentially, this means leaving a full bowl of food out at all times (be sure to empty and wash it regularly).
By adopting this approach, you’ll likely find that your dog not only eats significant quantities once or twice a day, but he’s also likely to have a mouthful or two several times throughout the day.
Indeed, some dogs will even eat when they are bored. Over time, these extra portions will add up and help your dog put on a few more pounds.
Track Your Dog’s Weight
Most owners will find it very helpful to track their dog’s weight while trying to get him to bulk up. You needn’t do anything elaborate – just make a chart that records the date and your dog’s weight.
Be sure to weigh him at about the same time each week and do so while he has a relatively empty stomach.
This will help you determine which practices and strategies you employ are proving most effective, and it will also help you appreciate small victories. A
fter all, you see your dog every day, which means you aren’t likely to notice small increases in body weight. But by tracking his weight, you’ll have verifiable, black-and-white evidence demonstrating his gains.
Summing Up the Best Dog Food to Gain Weight and Muscle
It’ll take a little time to help your dog gain weight, so be patient for his body to change after switching up a diet.
If you select one of the recommended dog foods for weight gain, or the weight gainer supplement listed above and ensure that he is otherwise healthy, he’ll surely become a much strong and healthier dog before you know it.
One last bit of advice: Make sure that you work closely with your veterinarian when trying to pack a few extra pounds on your dog.
This will help ensure you avoid causing any health problems that may arise from providing additional calories. This is especially important for those who own young puppies or large dog breed adults.