Active dogs need a lot of energy to maintain their high level of activity. calories are the units of energy that all food contains. Therefore, high-calorie dog food is a food that contains a higher amount of calories than a standard or average food.
This study demonstrated that active dogs such as sled or exercise require dog food that is high in fat and sourcing 50% of its energy from fats was most ideal for them. Fat has a high-calorie density and is a great source of energy for dogs. The study also found that 30% of the energy in a high-calorie diet should be sourced from high-protein diets in order to prevent high-activity-induced anemia.
Calculate your dog’s Resting Energy Requirement (RER) which can be done by multiplying your dog’s body weight in kilograms by 30 and adding 70 for medium-sized dogs;
- 30 x (body weight in kilograms) + 70 = RER for medium-sized dogs and cats
For a 15kg dog, the formula would be;
- 30 x 15 + 70 = 470
- 470 is the RER for a 15kg dog.
Use the following formula to calculate your dog’s total Minimum energy requirements(MER);
- MER = RER x Signalment Factor x Activity Level Factor x Body Condition Score (BCS)
A dog with an RER of 470 would require the following amount of calories per day;
- 470 x 1.8 (Intact adult dog – Signalment Factor) x 1.6 (Vet high – Activity Level Factor) x 1 (Ideal – Body Condition Score) = 1353.6
- 1,353.6 is the total MER for a 15kg dog that requires a high-calorie diet.
Below is how you can use the table above to decide if your dog needs a high-calorie diet. First find the RER then use the multiples above to determine the exact high-calorie diet for weight gain;
- 30 x (body weight in kilograms) + 70 = RER for medium-sized dogs and cats
If your dog has 35 pounds, convert the body weight to kg by dividing by 2.2 pounds = 15.9 kg;
- Using the formula above, your dog’s Resting Energy Requirements(RER): 35*15.9+70=626.5
Use the RER tables in the chart above to come up with the daily energy requirement for high-energy dogs. The chart above shows that you can use 4 to 8 multiple.
The range of daily canine intake for a high-calorie diet is 2506 kcal/day to 5012 kcal/day but some recognize 3759 kcal/day which is a 6x RER multiple[6-8*RER].
The table below shows the calorie to feed your dog to achieve the ideal weight;
Factors to Consider when choosing the best high-calorie dog food:
- High-fat diet: Fat has a score of 9 on the Kcal/g scale making it one of the most calorie-dense nutrients. Fats are a great source of energy for dogs and should make up 50% of the calories in a high-calorie diet. Fat is easy to oxidize and is compared to other sources such as protein which has a score of 4 on the Kcal/g scale.
- High-protein diet: Protein has a score of 5 on the Kcal/g scale making it a less calorie-dense nutrient than fat. Protein should make up 30% of the calories in a high-calorie diet. However, as the study described above highlighted, it is important to have a balance as protein is the main source of the 10 essential amino acids that dogs need to get them from their diet.
- Ingredients quality: Another factor to consider when choosing a high-calorie diet is the quality of the ingredients. The best high-calorie dog foods will have quality protein sources such as chicken, turkey, or fish meal as the first ingredient followed by quality fats such as chicken fat or flaxseed oil. The carbohydrates in the food should be complex rather than simple. Some good complex carbohydrates for dogs include sweet potatoes, peas, and brown rice.
- Avoid fillers: Fillers are ingredients that have little to no nutritional value such as corn, wheat, and soy. These ingredients are used to bulk up the food and make it cheaper to produce. Dogs do not digest fillers very well and they can actually cause health problems such as allergies and digestive issues.
- Choose a food that is right for your dog’s life stage: Puppies, adult dogs, and senior dogs all have different nutritional needs. Puppies need more calories than adult dogs because they are growing and their metabolism is faster with some breeds needing up to 5 times the calories needed by their adult parents. Senior dogs need fewer calories than adult dogs because they are less active and their metabolism has slowed down.
- Check the label: The label on pet food can be very confusing but there are certain key things you should look for. First, check the guaranteed analysis which must show the minimum percentage of crude protein and fat and the maximum percentage of crude fiber and moisture. Next, look at the ingredient list and make sure the first ingredient is a quality protein source followed by quality fats. Finally, check the food for any red flags such as fillers, artificial ingredients, or recalls.
How we ranked high-calorie dog diets in our list of best high-calorie dog food;
Dog food that is high in calories is important for some dogs but it is not suitable for all dogs. We ranked the best high-calorie dog foods based on the following criteria and scoring;
- 35% for diets that meet the classification of high-calorie diet: We awarded a 30% score for diets that have 600 calories or more per cup. This is the minimum amount of calories needed for high-calorie dog foods.
- 25% for nutrient-rich: We awarded a 5% score for diets that are nutrient-rich in that they meet the minimum AAFCO recommendation of 18% protein and 5.5% fat for adult dogs and 22.5% protein and 10% fat for puppies. This means that the food contains all the essential nutrients your dog needs including proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals. We also evaluated Omega 3, Omega 6, Calcium, Phosphorus, and Ca:P levels
- 15% for digestibility: We awarded a 5% score for diets that are highly digestible. This means that the food is easy for your dog to digest and absorb the nutrients. With high fat and protein content, some brands use ingredients with lower digestibility scores including vegetable oils and this reduces the number of nutrients your dog will get from the high-calorie diet.
- 15%Key ingredients and chemicals: Some protein sources such as beef lack some essential amino acids that dogs meet while fish and chicken have all the right proportions of amino acids. In addition, some ingredients have an imbalance in Calcium: Phosphorus and Omega 6 to 3 ratio that is known to cause significant health problems and significantly reduced the lifespans of high-energy dogs being fed high-calorie diets. Zinc and other minerals such as copper sulfate, and ferrous sulfate are added to some kibbles to prevent deficiencies.
- 10% for no recalls: We awarded a 5% score for diets that have not been recalled in the past 3 years. 5% for high-quality ingredients: We awarded a 5% score for diets that use high-quality ingredients such as meat, fish, and vegetables. We did not award any points to brands that
- -5% for additives, preservatives, and sweeteners: Some chemical preservatives such as BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin are used in dry dog food to increase the shelf life of the product but have been linked to cancer and other health problems. We did not award any points to brands that use these ingredients.
- -5% for by-products and up to -5% for problematic ingredients: We do not recommend feeding your dog high-calorie diets that contain by-products such as meat meal, animal fat, or chicken meal. These ingredients are low in nutrients and can be harmful to your dog’s health. We also reduce up to 5 points for dog food recipes that contained problematic ingredients such as canola oil, soybean oil, sodium selenite, sodium hexametaphosphate, and carrageenan, among others.
Comparison of our Best High-Calorie Dog Food Diets
|Name of High-Calorie Diet;||Best for;||Features;||OurPets HQ Rating:|
|Miracle Vet High-Calorie Weight Gain Dog Food||Overall best weight-gain high calorie diet||-600 cal/cup|
-31% protein and 25% fat with an F:P ratio of 80%- (considered high)
|Instinct Original Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken||Best Raw high-calorie dog food||-518 cal/cup|
-37% protein and 20% fat with an F:P ratio of 54%- (moderate)
|Tomlyn NutriCal Tube Dog 4.25oz||Best high-calorie dog food supplement||-Calorie content (ME) is 4760 kcal/kg or 28 kcal per teaspoon.||Not rated as dog food.|
Best High-Calorie Dog Food Reviews
Our overall high-calorie dog food diet meets our top six requirements as it has 600 Calories per cup and can be healthy if you want pooch to gain weight fast without exposing them to the risk of obesity. Balanced nutrition drew us to this kibble as it has 31% protein coming from real meat sources and 25% fat. In addition, this food is AAFCO compliant for all life stages, providing adequate nutrition for puppies, adult dogs, and seniors.
All the other ingredients in the market have an average of 320 calories per cup. This makes this brand 46% energy-dense compared to all its competitors. In addition, you can rely on this kibble having been formulated by Dr. Christine Priest, who is part of the nutritionist team that formulated in an FDA-registered facility that meets all safety and health regulations.
In addition, this dog food brand comes with 8 health benefits, including healthy weight gain, prebiotics & probiotics for improved digestion, Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids for skin and coat health, and added antioxidants for immune system support, glucosamine & chondroitin to support joints, and more!
Prebiotics and probiotics are included for improved digestion, and the kibble is easy to chew and digest. It is also made with no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. The first five ingredients are deboned chicken, chicken meal, brown rice, peas, and cracked pearled barley.
- -46% more energy-dense than average-Formulated by a nutritionist
- -Made in the USA
- -8 health benefits
- An 85% score as the best high-calorie diet with balanced nutrition for all stages.
- Contain some problematic ingredients including dried beet pulp and brewers dried yeast. Beet pulp is a common allergen in dogs, and brewers dried yeast can cause digestive upset in some dogs.
Possible health problems associated with this diet:
Dogs eating this diet may experience digestive upset due to the inclusion of dried beet pulp and brewers dried yeast. Some dogs may also be allergic to ingredients such as chicken or corn.
This is an excellent high-calorie diet for dogs who need to gain weight quickly. It is made with high-quality ingredients and provides balanced nutrition for all life stages. However, it does contain some problematic ingredients that may cause digestive upset in some dogs.
Our second pick in this list of best high-calorie died didn’t quite get to 600 calories per cup but got close enough with 518 cal/cup. This is the best raw and high-calorie diet by Instinct Original and is called Instinct Original Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken. The kibble is made with Cage-Free deboned chicken as the first ingredient followed by peas and tapioca starch. It has 37% Crude Protein and 20% Crude Fat.
This formula is grain-free, which is ideal for dogs that are allergic or sensitive to grains. In addition, it is GMO-free and does not contain any soy, wheat, corn, by-products, artificial colors, or preservatives.
Aside from scoring less in the top ranking factor that we assigned 30% for having 600 cal/cup, this brand did well in most other 6 factors including having 70% real animal ingredients and healthy oil and 30% wholesome ingredients with veggies and fruits. A truly balanced high-calorie diet that will get your pup gaining healthy weight in no time.
The kibble is also freeze-dried raw to maintain the nutritional benefits of a raw diet without the hassle or mess. Just add water and serve!
- Truly balanced high-calorie diet
- Grain-free and GMO-free
- Made with Cage-Free deboned chicken
- Freeze-dried raw to maintain nutritional benefits
- Does not contain 600 cal/cup per serving
- Uses peas as the first 5 ingredients. Peas are a problematic ingredient for some dogs as they can cause digestive upset. It is also not an ideal source of problems compared to chicken, fish which should appear in the top 5. Peas are a good source of carbs though and may not be necessary bad on this list of high-carbs and energy-dense diets for dogs;
To supplement your dog’s diet, we’ve included TomlynNutriCal Tube Dog 0.25 pounds as one of the best high-calorie products on our list as it is an appetite stimulant and has a possible impact on inducing your dog to go on a ‘munching spree’ and packing up those calories. This is a high-calorie gel that can be given orally or mixed with your dog’s food.
Instinct Original Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken is an extremely palatable, nutrient-rich oral gel for dogs who need extra calories and vitamins. It’s ideal for finicky or aging dogs and those recovering from illness or surgery.
The gel has a smooth texture that makes it easy to use and helps ensure acceptance by your dog. The high-calorie formula contains over 160 calories per teaspoon, including a natural appetite stimulant. This recipe also provides added nutrients like taurine, Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids, and glucosamine to help maintain healthy skin and coat, support joint health, and more.
Additional Guide on the Best High-Calorie Dense Diets for Dogs:
What is a high-calorie dog diet?
A dog diet with at least 600 calories per cup is considered high calories. This level of calories is needed for dogs who are very active, working dogs, growing puppies, and pregnant or nursing mothers. If your dog is eating a high-calorie diet and not getting the proper amount of exercise, they may become overweight which can lead to health problems such as joint problems, diabetes, and respiratory issues.
Which ingredients are calorie-rich; grain-gree or grain-inclusive diets?
Grain-free diets are usually higher in calories because they contain more fat and protein. Grain-inclusive diets can also be high in calories depending on the ingredients used.
There have been controversies surrounding grain-free diets as they have been linked to Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs as reported in this FDA investigation.
When deciding whether to go for a grain-free or grain-inclusive diet, it is important to consider the positive aspect of potential energy-dense diets from grains but also possible health issues such as allergens present in gluten grain diets such as wheat and the uncovered risk linking grain-free diets with DCM. If your dog is at approaching old age, consider grain-inclusive diets with no links to DCM but go do avoid high-calorie dense diets for older dogs.
Below are the dog breed’s susceptibility to DCM as per the cases that were reported to FDA;
Types of dog food for high-calorie dog food;
High-calorie Dry dog food;
- Variety of protein options
- Long shelf life
- Readily available
- Relatively cheaper
- Easier to feed and not messy
- Higher in carbohydrates
- Can contain fillers
- Kibble may not be soft and chewable for puppies and senior dogs that have missing teeth.
Wet dog food;
- Usually have a higher meat content
- often grain-free
- Can be expensive
- Must be refrigerated
- High digestibility
Complications brought when feeding high-calories goes wrong;
Statistics indicate that up to 60% of all dogs in the US are considered obese by their veterinarians. That’s a startling statistic when you think about it. And, even more disturbingly, the number of obese dogs seems to be on the rise.
As with humans, obesity in dogs can lead to all sorts of health problems, including:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Respiratory difficulties
- And more…
What’s more, fat dogs don’t live as long as their leaner canine counterparts. One study found that overweight dogs live an average of 1.8 years less than dogs of normal weight.
So, if you’re feeding your dog high-calorie foods, it’s crucial that you monitor their weight and activity level closely. If they start to gain weight, cut back on the calories and/or increase their exercise.
You can try using calorie supplements to specifically provide the following in boost caloric intake;
- Antioxidants: In a high-calorie diet, your dog will have to metabolize the food and break it down to nutrients and minerals it can actually utilize. Unfortunately, this process produces by-products called free radicals that damage cells in the body. Because of this reason, a high-calorie diet should have antioxidants or can be supplemented with antioxidant supplements over the counter to help to protect cells from free radical damage.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Fatty acids have a wide range of health benefits for dogs including reducing inflammation, supporting the immune system, and improving cognitive function.
- Probiotics: this help keep the digestive tract healthy and can improve gut motility (the movement of food through the digestive tract) which is important for dogs on a high-calorie diet.
- Canned pumpkin: This is a great source of fiber that can help to regulate digestion, especially in dogs that are prone to diarrhea.
- Digestive enzymes: These can help to improve the digestion of a high-calorie diet and make sure your dog is getting all the nutrients they need from their food.
Pros of supplements:
- Easily available
- Can be tailored to your dog’s specific needs
Cons of supplements:
- It may be unnecessary if you are feeding a complete and balanced diet
- It may interact with other medications your dog is taking
- Should be used under the guidance of a veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist
- May not be in a hydrolyzed state where nutrients can be easily utilized by the body
- Some dogs don’t like the taste
Transitioning from a low or medium-calorie diet to a high-calorie diet; Steps:
- 1. Start by mixing 25% of the high-calorie food with 75% of the low or medium-calorie food.
- 2. Gradually increase the amount of high-calorie food while decreasing the amount of low or medium-calorie food over a period of 7 to 10 days until your dog is only eating the high-calorie food.
- 3. Monitor your dog closely during the transition period and make sure they are doing well before making any changes to the diet. If you notice any of the following problems, stop the transition and contact your veterinarian:
- appetite Weight loss
- 4. After your dog has successfully transitioned to the high-calorie diet, continue to monitor their weight and make sure they are maintaining a healthy body condition.
- 5. If you notice your dog starting to gain weight, decrease the amount of food you are feeding or switch to a lower-calorie food.
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Hi there! My name is Ben Domb, an owner of two pets and I am one of the co-founders of OurPets HQ. I have several years of experience as a pet care professional in the New England region having spent time in various roles including a stint at a veterinary hospital in Upstate New York, Syracuse area. I am a certified pet care professional and mostly spend my time researching pet nutrition and sharing my thoughts in various blogs and columns. With quarantine and COVID restrictions, I have been spending a lot of time a lot with my dogs and cat and loving it! I also run a small consulting business providing advice to parents on pet nutrition, and especially safe homemade options to try. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org