This is our review of the best high calorie dog food in 2023.
As a vet tech, I’m used to helping pet parents select lower calorie dog foods for weight control programs. But some dogs need higher calorie diets to thrive.
Calories measure the amount of energy that food provides. High caloric content helps sustain active dogs’ energy levels, maintain a healthy weight on senior dogs, promote weight gain in underweight pups, and support puppy growth.
I researched the best high calorie dog food and found that Solid Gold Barking at the Moon High Protein Dog Food is the best overall option for pups who need higher energy diets.
But different dogs need more calories for different reasons. So I reviewed the best high calorie dog food formulas in every category.
Let’s get started!
32% crude protein
Real, deboned salmon
No corn, wheat or soy
41% crude protein
Probiotics for gut health
Made in the USA
37% crude protein
70% real animal ingredients
Our Best High-Calorie Dog Food
- Solid Gold Barking at the Moon High Protein Dry Dog Food (Best High Calorie Adult Dog Food)
- Instinct Original Freeze-Dried Raw Coated Dry Dog Food (Best Premium High Calorie Dog Food)
- American Journey Salmon Grain-Free Dry Dog Food (Best Budget High Calorie Dog Food)
- Merrick Grain Free Texas Beef Puppy Food (Best High Calorie Puppy Food)
- Wellness Complete Health Senior Dry Dog Food (Best High Calorie Dog Food for Seniors)
- Crave Beef Pate Grain-Free Canned Dog Food (Best High Calorie Wet Dog Food)
- Holistic Select Giant Breed grain Free Dry Dog Food (Best High Calorie Dog Food for Large Breeds)
- Taste of the Wild Appalachian Small Breed Dry Dog Food (Best High Calorie Dog Food for Small Breeds)
- Purina Pro Plan Sport Chicken and Rice Formula Dry Dog Food (Best High Calorie Dog Food for Active Dogs)
- Zignature Lamb Limited Ingredient Formula Dry Dog Food (Best High Calorie Dog Food for Sensitive Dogs)
10 Best High-Calorie Dog Foods Reviewed
All of these dog food formulas meet AAFCO recommended daily nutrient profiles for dogs. Always talk to your veterinarian before making any changes to your dog’s diet.
Solid Gold Barking at the Moon High Protein Dog Food
- First 5 Ingredients: Beef, Ocean Fish Meal, Pea Protein, Potatoes, Dried Eggs
- Key Feature: High protein, high calorie formula for dogs with high energy needs
- Guaranteed Analysis: 41% Protein, 18% Crude Fat, 4% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
- Estimated Carbohydrates: 27%
- Caloric Content: 415 kcal/cup
- Type of Product: High Protein, Grain-Free, Gluten-Free, No Corn, No Wheat, No Soy
- Life Stage: Adult
- Best For: Overall
This dog food has a specialized formula designed to meet the nutritional needs of dogs with high energy requirements. Beef, ocean fish meal, and eggs combine to provide 41% crude protein and 415 kcal/cup.
The recipe also includes pea protein to boost protein content further. Plant protein is less bioavailable to dogs but still helps provide extra energy in high calorie formulas.
The first ingredient is beef, and ocean fish meal offers additional high-quality animal protein.
Ocean fish meal is also high in fat, increasing the crude fat content to 18%. This ingredient contains omega-3 fatty acids that help boost overall health by promoting a healthy coat and immune system. Fat is an excellent source of energy for dogs and high in calories.
Pumpkin, cranberries, carrots, and blueberries offer concentrated sources of vitamins and minerals. And a probiotic enhances nutrient absorption so that your dog can use all of the energy this food provides.
Pet owners who feed this dog food recommend the formula for active dogs. But it may not be suitable for dogs with legume sensitivities due to the high pea protein content.
Instinct Original Freeze-Dried Raw Coated Dog Food
- First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Peas, Chicken Fat, Tapioca
- Key Feature: Raw-coated premium dry dog food with a high caloric content
- Guaranteed Analysis: 37% Protein, 20% Crude Fat, 3% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
- Estimated Carbohydrates: 30%
- Caloric Content: 518 kcal/cup
- Type of Product: Grain-Free, Gluten-Free, No Corn, No Soy, No Wheat, Natural
- Life Stage: All Life Stages *Except for Large Size Puppies
- Best For: Premium
This premium grain-free formula features kibble coated in freeze-dried raw protein to combine the benefits of raw and dry dog food. The exceptionally high 37% protein content and 20% fat content offer 518 kcal per cup of this high-energy recipe.
Cage-free chicken is the first ingredient. This lean animal protein acts as a source of essential amino acids to support lean muscle development in active pups.
Nearly 70% of this recipe is made of real animal ingredients for maximum bioavailability.
The other 30% of this recipe consists of whole fruits and vegetables, which offer bioavailable antioxidants sources, vitamins, and minerals. There is no grain, corn, wheat, soy, or by-products. These ingredients sometimes cause adverse reactions in sensitive dogs.
Sixty million CFU of probiotics ensures that your dog absorbs all of the nutrients from this 518 kcal/cup dog food. Probiotics enhance nutrient absorption by assisting in the breakdown of food.
The raw protein coating also makes this dog food appealing to even the pickiest of eaters. Owners of underweight dogs highly recommend this formula for increasing appetite and weight gain.
American Journey Salmon Grain-Free Dog Food
- First 5 Ingredients: Deboned Salmon, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Peas, Sweet Potatoes
- Key Feature: Affordable high calorie dog food with quality ingredients
- Guaranteed Analysis: 32% Protein, 14% Crude Fat, 5% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
- Estimated Carbohydrates: 39%
- Caloric Content: 390 kcal/cup
- Type of Product: Grain-Free, No Wheat, No Corn, No Soy, Gluten-Free, High Protein
- Life Stage: All Life Stages
- Best For: Budget
Many inexpensive dog foods depend on filler ingredients high in calories but low in nutritional content. This high-quality budget dog food features a simple recipe of whole ingredients that provide a moderately high caloric content of 390 kcal/cup.
Deboned salmon is the first ingredient, contributing to the high 32% protein content. Additional sources of animal protein include turkey meal and chicken meal. These meat meals have crushed bone, which acts as a natural source of glucosamine and chondroitin.
The grain-free recipe also excludes corn, wheat, and soy. But the formula still has a high estimated carbohydrates content of 39%. Carbohydrate-rich ingredients like peas and sweet potatoes are high in calories, providing an excellent digestible energy source.
A moderate 14% fat content is relatively low for a high-calorie formula. Fat sources like salmon oil and flaxseed provide omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These healthy fats play a vital role in skin, brain, and eye health.
Fiber-rich ingredients like chickpeas are not a primary source of energy. But they do help keep your pup’s digestive system healthy.
This dog food’s moderate calorie and fat content is ideal for dogs who may have trouble maintaining weight on a lower calorie diet but don’t have active lifestyles.
Merrick Grain Free Texas Beef Puppy Food
- First 5 Ingredients: Deboned Beef, Sweet Potatoes, Peas, Lamb Meal, Potatoes
- Key Feature: High calorie puppy food formulated for growing dogs
- Guaranteed Analysis: 28% Protein, 15% Crude Fat, 4.5% Crude Fiber, 11% Moisture
- Estimated Carbohydrates: 41.5%
- Caloric Content: 400 kcal/cup
- Type of Product: No Corn, No Wheat, No Soy, Grain-Free
- Life Stage: Growth
- Best For: Puppies
This puppy food is ideal for active puppies or young dogs who struggle to maintain a healthy weight while growing. High-quality protein sources and healthy fats make up most ingredients in this 400 kcal/cup formula.
The 28% crude protein content comes from real deboned beef and lamb meal. These red meats are excellent sources of the essential amino acids needed for normal muscle development. They are also rich in vitamins and minerals like iron.
Added taurine helps encourage normal heart function in young dogs. And concentrated levels of DHA from salmon meal support healthy brain and eye development. Other healthy omega-3 fatty acids also contribute to the 15% fat content.
Glucosamine and chondroitin from the lamb meal help limit the risks of abnormal skeletal growth or joint conditions.
Puppies spend a lot of the energy they gain from their diet playing and growing. So feeding your young dog a high calorie diet can help ensure that they have enough expendable energy.
Some pet owners also noticed this diet helped puppies with digestive issues.
Wellness Complete Health Senior Dog Food
- First 5 Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Oatmeal, Ground Barley, Ground Brown Rice
- Key Feature: Grain-inclusive senior dog food with comprehensive nutritional support
- Guaranteed Analysis: 22% Protein, 10% Crude Fat, 4.25% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
- Estimated Carbohydrates: 53.75%
- Caloric Content: 416 kcal/cup
- Type of Product: No Corn, No Wheat, No Soy, Weight Control
- Life Stage: Senior
- Best For: Seniors
Most senior-specific dog food formulas have lower calorie content to prevent weight gain in sedentary older dogs. But some elderly pups who struggle to keep enough weight could benefit from transitioning to this 416 kcal/cup diet.
Elderly dogs generally require less protein than younger pups. The 22% protein content of this food is ideal for maintaining muscle mass in seniors without overloading weakened kidneys.
Deboned chicken, the first ingredient, acts as the primary source of animal protein.
The low 10% fat content helps prevent excess weight gain from this high calorie diet. Most of the calories come from nutritious whole grains like oatmeal and ground barley. These ingredients are easy for older stomachs to digest and boost the carbohydrate content to 53%.
Therapeutic levels of glucosamine help ease discomfort in arthritic joints, and added taurine helps limit the risk of heart problems in older dogs.
Additional support from beta carotene helps preserve eyesight. And omega fatty acids from flaxseed helps prevent itchy skin conditions that can reduce your senior’s quality of life.
Most senior dog owners noticed improvements in the overall health of their dogs on this diet. But, some picky pups may find this dog food unappealing.
Crave Beef Pate Grain-Free Canned Dog Food
- First 5 Ingredients: Beef, Chicken Liver, Pork Broth, Chicken Broth, Chicken Heart
- Key Feature: Canned high-calorie dog food for picky dogs
- Guaranteed Analysis: (wet matter basis) 12% Protein, 5% Crude Fat, 1% Crude Fiber, 78% Moisture
- Estimated Carbohydrates: 16% Carbohydrates
- Caloric Content: 391 kcal/can
- Type of Product: Grain-Free, High-Protein, No Corn, No Wheat, No Soy, Pea-Free
- Life Stage: Adult
- Best For: Wet Food
This canned dog food is a high-protein, high-calorie formula with an appealing texture for dogs with a fussy appetite. 99% of the protein in this recipe comes from animal products, maximizing the bioavailability of the 391 kcal in each can.
Real beef is the first ingredient of this wet dog food. The high moisture content of wet formulas reduces the other crude percentages, but the 12% protein content is still relatively high. Other sources of this high protein content include egg product, chicken, and organs.
Organ meat from chicken heart and liver are also rich in vitamins and minerals. These organs have significantly high levels of vitamin A, which is critical for eye health.
There are limited plant product in this recipe. It is grain-free and excludes common allergens like corn, wheat, and soy. The high amounts of meat in this formula make the palatability and aroma ideal for the pickiest dogs.
Pet parents recommend this formula for encouraging weight gain in dogs with poor appetites. Some also use this canned food as a topper to encourage dogs to eat other types of kibble.
Holistic Select Giant Breed Grain Free Dog Food
- First 5 Ingredients: Chicken Meal, Potatoes, Lentils, Peas, Dried Ground Potatoes
- Key Feature: High calorie dog food with moderate protein for large breeds
- Guaranteed Analysis: 24% Protein, 14% Crude Fat, 4% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
- Estimated Carbohydrates: 48% Carbohydrates
- Caloric Content: 453 kcal/can
- Type of Product: Grain-Free, Sensitive Digestion, Gluten-Free
- Life Stage: Adult
- Best For: Large Breeds
Big dogs often have unique dietary needs that other high-calorie formulas may not meet. This 453 kcal/cup formula features target nutrition that helps manage the health conditions common in some gentle giants.
A moderate 24% protein content from chicken meal supports healthy muscle function without promoting excess bulk in large breeds. Chicken meal is also a natural source of glucosamine, which helps protect overworked joints from problems that frequently develop in big dogs.
Bigger dogs are also predisposed to bloat and digestive problems. This recipe includes probiotic that can help regulate gas build-up and digestive enzymes that help breakdown food. This digestive support helps dogs process all of the energy available from their diet.
Antioxidants like vitamins C and E help protect tissue from oxidative stress and free radicals. Omega-3 fatty acids from flaxseed also help reduce inflammation in the gut and joints.
Dog owners appreciate the large kibble size designed for giant mouths. Larger kibble encourages thorough kibble and limits food bolting.
Taste of the Wild Appalachian Small Breed Dog Food
- First 5 Ingredients: Venison, Lamb Meal, Garbanzo Beans, Peas, Lentils
- Key Feature: High calorie dog food for the fast metabolism of small dogs
- Guaranteed Analysis: 32% Protein, 18% Crude Fat, 4% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
- Estimated Carbohydrates: 36% Carbohydrates
- Caloric Content: 370 kcal/can
- Type of Product: Grain-Free
- Life Stage: Adult
- Best For: Small Breeds
Small breeds have much faster metabolisms than their larger relatives that require higher calorie diets to meet their increased energy needs. This high protein, high-fat formula features a caloric content of 370 kcal/cup.
Venison is the primary source of this dog food’s 32% protein content. Additional protein sources include lamb meal and duck meal. These unique meats are ideal for sensitive dogs who have adverse reactions to more common ingredients.
High protein content helps maintain muscle mass in active small dogs. The reduced muscle mass of toy breeds also prevents them from storing enough glycogen. So, tiny pups need a consistent source of carbohydrates to avoid hypoglycemia.
Although this recipe is grain-free, the 36% carbohydrate content provides adequate digestible energy for small dogs. Instead of grains, peas act as a primary source of carbohydrates that is also rich in protein.
A high 18% fat content is also ideal for small breeds. Fat sources include canola oil and ocean fish meal for a balanced ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.
Reviews recommend the palatability of this flavorful recipe for notoriously picky tiny pups.
Purina Pro Plan Sport Chicken and Rice Formula
- First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Corn Gluten Meal, Rice, Beef Fat, Poultry By-Product Meal
- Key Feature: High-energy dog food for the active lifestyle of sporting dogs
- Guaranteed Analysis: 30% Protein, 20% Crude Fat, 3% Crude Fiber, 12% Moisture
- Estimated Carbohydrates: 35% Carbohydrates
- Caloric Content: 484 kcal/can
- Type of Product: High-Protein
- Life Stage: All Life Stages
- Best For: Active Dogs
Sporting dogs that lead active lifestyles have much higher energy needs than the average house pet.
This specialized formula has high protein levels, fat, and carbohydrates to provide well-balanced energy with a caloric content of 484 kcal/cup.
A 30/20 balanced recipe offers 30% protein and 20% fat. Chicken is the first ingredient and primary source of lean protein. High protein content is essential for providing the amino acids your sporting dog uses to build more muscle mass.
20% crude fat from beef fat and fish oil provides high usable energy levels for active dogs. Although increased fat levels can lead to excessive weight gain in sedentary pups, active dogs may not perform their jobs without it.
A specially formulated recipe also optimizes oxygen metabolism for endurance during exercise. And therapeutic levels of glucosamine support overworked joints to preserve mobility.
Dog owners find that the specialized nutrition in this dog food improves their active dog’s performance. But, this formula may not be suitable for dogs with sedentary lifestyles.
Zignature Lamb Limited Ingredient Formula
- First 5 Ingredients: Lamb, Lamb Meal, Chickpeas, Peas, Sunflower Oil
- Key Feature: Limited ingredient diet for sensitive dogs with high energy needs
- Guaranteed Analysis: 28% Protein, 15% Crude Fat, 4% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
- Estimated Carbohydrates: 43% Carbohydrates
- Caloric Content: 393 kcal/can
- Type of Product: Grain-Free, No Corn, No Wheat, No Soy, Low Glycemic, Limited Ingredient Diet, Gluten-Free, Chicken Free
- Life Stage: Adult
- Best For: Sensitive Dogs
This grain-free dog food features a simple recipe to offer sensitive dogs with high energy needs a limited ingredient diet with enough calories.
The formula eliminates common allergens in favor of a few high-energy ingredients to provide a 393 kcal/cup caloric content.
Lamb is the first ingredient and the single source of the 28% protein content. Unique single-source proteins are a critical part of the diets for dogs with sensitive stomachs. Most allergens are proteins, and multiple protein sources can lead to the development of new allergies.
Although uncommon in dog food, lamb is an ideal animal protein rich in vitamins and minerals. This meat contains high levels of vitamin B6, phosphorus, manganese, and selenium.
Some dogs have grain and gluten allergies. But dogs need digestible carbohydrates for energy. This recipe uses peas and chickpeas as an alternative source of carbohydrates that also increase protein content.
Sunflower oil and flaxseed contribute to the 15% fat content. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids can help manage allergies by reducing inflammation and promoting skin health.
Dog owners recommend this formula for active dogs who have adverse reactions to other high calorie recipes made with common allergens.
High Calorie Dog Food Buying Guide
There are multiple reasons why dog owners may choose to feed their pup a high calorie diet. But there are also several factors to consider when selecting the best formula for your furry friend.
What Is High Calorie Dog Food?
High-calorie formulas are dog foods that have higher than average caloric content. Calories are a measurement used to determine how much energy a food contains.
Most of the power in these recipes come from high levels of fat, protein, and carbohydrates.
Does Your Dog Need High Calorie Dog Foods?
Dogs may have high energy requirements because of their activity level, age, or body condition. Feeding your pup a quality high calorie diet can help ensure that he has enough energy every day.
More Energy for Active Dogs
Like humans who live more active lifestyles, sporting dogs with increased activity levels also need higher daily calorie intake.
Some breeds that naturally have higher energy levels may also need higher calorie and protein content in their diet to support a faster metabolism.
The best high calorie formulas for active dogs are high in protein to support active muscles. Increased fat levels and digestible carbohydrates can also help ensure that your active dog has enough readily available energy.
There are numerous low-calorie dog foods formulated for weight control diets to help overweight dogs shed some pounds. But if your dog is underweight, he needs more calories in his diet to improve his body condition.
High calorie proteins can help encourage increased muscle mass. If dogs consume more energy than they use, the excess calories lead to healthy weight gain.
Healthy Puppy Development
Growing is very energy-intensive. Young puppies need to consume a diet with higher caloric content to meet their energy needs. Nutritious, high calorie foods also act as sources of vitamins and minerals to promote healthy development.
If puppies do not eat enough calories to support their growth, they can quickly lose weight. Active and small breeds with fast metabolisms need extra calories to prevent weight loss.
If your puppy is looking scrawny after a growth spurt, consider switching to a higher calorie dog food.
What to Look for When Buying High Calorie Dog Food
Not all high calorie dog food offers the same quality nutrition. Calories only measure the amount of energy provided by the food.
But any diet you feed your dog should also meet his daily nutrient requirements and support his overall health.
High Protein Content
Dogs are omnivores who depend on high-quality protein from animal sources. Meat is a high-calorie ingredient that also has high concentrations of bioavailable vitamins and minerals.
Protein provides essential amino acids that your dog’s body uses to build new muscles. If your dog has an active lifestyle, he needs to develop enough muscle mass to support the strength necessary for his activities.
Underweight pups also need to eat a diet that supports the development of more muscle mass. Feeding a high-calorie dog food with a low protein content may lead to excessive fat deposits and reduced muscle mass.
The best high calorie dog food formulas have high protein content from animal sources. Look for recipes that have real meat as the first ingredient. Dogs can efficiently digest protein and use all of the calories that those ingredients contain.
When selecting any type of dog food, the quality of ingredients should be one of the most important considerations. A recipe may have a high caloric content, but your pup can’t use that energy if the ingredients aren’t easily digestible.
Animal products are the most bioavailable ingredients for dogs. Look for high quality sources of protein that don’t include by-products.
These ingredients are leftover from food processing and generally lose some of their nutritional value. Real meat is the best source of protein.
The best quality ingredients are whole foods. Whole fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of vitamins and minerals. They also contribute some calories to the dog food’s total energy, unlike synthetic minerals used to fortify recipes.
Some dogs need a high calorie diet to meet their increased energy requirements.
Sporting dogs who live an active lifestyle, high energy breeds with fast metabolisms, and underweight dogs can benefit from increased calorie consumption.
Meeting daily calorie requirements will ensure that your pup has the energy he needs to stay active and healthy.
Overweight dogs need careful weight control diets that limit the amount of calories they consume. But if your dog’s diet doesn’t meet his calorie requirements, he can become lethargic or lose weight and muscle.
Solid Gold Barking at the Moon High Protein Dog Food is the overall best high calorie dog food.
This formula has a high protein content and quality ingredients to meet all of your pup’s nutritional needs.
If your four-legged friend could use an energy boost or needs to gain a few pounds, talk to your veterinarian about switching to a high calorie diet.
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