High Calorie Dog Food : The Best Brands To Help Your Dog Gain Weight

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If you run a search for “high calorie dog food” on one of the dog food retail sites, you’ll probably be surprised by the results. Pet food web sites are not programmed to search for this term so they will show you low calorie dog foods and weight control foods. (There are a few exceptions which we’ll discuss below, but not many.) The reason these sites don’t have results for “high calorie dog food” is because about half the holistic/natural dog foods sold today could be considered “high calorie.” Dog lovers don’t usually need to search for high calorie foods since they are so easy to find. Most of these holistic foods are very calorie-dense. And most of us are feeding our dogs more calories than they really need.

Dogs in the U.S., Canada, the UK, Australia, and other countries that rely on commercial dog foods all report that their dogs have problems with obesity. In the United States, more than 50 percent of our dogs are overweight or obese. You can see why pet food web sites expect people to search for “low calorie dog food” instead of high calorie foods.

Why are foods high calorie?

Not all holistic dog foods are high calorie, but many are. They tend to be higher in calories than grocery store brands of dog food, for example. It’s not hard to figure out why when you think about it. Most of the calories in dog foods come from the fats and/or oils in the foods. Holistic foods usually emphasize quality ingredients. In most holistic foods you will find a good, named source of fat within the first 5-7 ingredients. As you probably know, the closer to the top of the list of ingredients, the more of the ingredient the food contains by weight before cooking. So, if you’re feeding a holistic dog food that contains chicken fat and it’s the fourth ingredient, there is probably quite a bit of it in the food. That means the food will likely have more calories than a food that lists a source of fat or oil as the 10th ingredient.

In addition, some kinds of fat have more calories than others. Chicken fat, for example, contains Vitamin E and it’s a source of Omega 3 and Omega 6. It has 255 calories per ounce. Canola oil, used as a source of fat in some dog foods, also has Vitamin E as well as Vitamin K. It has more Omega 3 and Omega 6. And it has 251 calories per ounce. On the other hand, generic animal fat, considered less desirable because it’s not specific, has only 231 calories per ounce – at least 20 calories less per ounce than the named fats. That can add up to many fewer calories per day for your dog. This is a primary reason why many of the foods sold in grocery stores tend to have fewer calories than the holistic foods sold by pet food retailers online and in pet stores. Many of the dog foods sold in grocery stores use generic animal fat as a source of fat instead of the named fats that have more calories.

Along with the primary source of fat in the food, some holistic foods will also add flax seed oil, fish oil, and other sources of oil for various reasons. These oils will all contribute some calories to the food, along with whatever nutritional purposes they also serve. For example, salmon oil is often added to dog food as a source of DHA and EPA. These are Omega-3 fatty acids that are particularly good for a dog’s skin and coat, among other things. Salmon oil has 255 calories per ounce. While it’s not usually a major ingredient in most dog foods, it still adds calories when it’s used.

Does your dog need high calorie dog food?

Yes and no. Certainly dogs can benefit from some of the good quality holistic foods available today. And these foods often happen to have more calories than other dog foods. However, if you intend to feed one of these foods, you have to be careful about how many calories you’re feeding your dog. Quality ingredients and good nutrition are important but at some point you have to realize that you can be overfeeding your dog and giving him calories that he doesn’t need. If you allow your dog to become overweight or obese you will be undermining the good health you are trying to provide for your dog.

The National Research Council provides recommendations  for how many calories dogs need based on their weight, activity level, and other factors. AAFCO uses these recommendations and passes them on to pet food companies, though the suggested feeding guidelines found on pet food labels are not always very accurate. However, you may get more accurate calorie requirements for your dog if you figure the information for yourself.

Does your dog need to gain weight?

Most dogs in North America today need to maintain or lose weight. However, there are dogs who may need to gain weight. Some dogs are picky eaters. Dogs can be nervous and not interested in food. Or some dogs can have health issues that make it hard for them to gain weight. This is often true for dogs with gastrointestinal problems or cancer. Dogs with lymphoma often don’t necessarily need to gain weight but it’s often recommended that they have a diet with plenty of protein and fat. Some older dogs can start to lose weight as they age. They can lose muscle tone, too. They can benefit from more protein as well as calories.

If you have a dog that needs to gain weight, there are many good dog foods that are high in calories. Before choosing a food it’s a good idea to have your veterinarian check your dog to see if there’s a health issue that is keeping your dog from gaining weight. Internal parasites, dental problems, and many diseases have weight loss as a symptom. Your vet may be able to help your dog so s/he can eat a normal diet and gain weight.

If your dog is very skinny and needs some extra help gaining weight many people use PetAg Dyne High Calorie Liquid Dog Supplement. This is a liquid nutritional supplement that you can add to your dog’s food for extra calories. It is vanilla-flavored so most dogs and puppies will like it. It’s also good for pregnant and nursing mother dogs, performance and working dogs, dogs under a lot of stress, dogs recovering from illness or surgery, and any dog that is having trouble maintaining weight. It can also be given to a dog with an oral syringe. It has 1.9 percent crude protein, 48.3 percent crude fat, 0.5 percent crude fiber, and 18 percent moisture, along with some vitamins and minerals. You can see that the 48 percent crude fat is what provides your dog with the extra calories.

Tomlyn Nutri-Cal High Calorie Dog Supplement (squeeze tube) has also been used for many years as an emergency source of calories for puppies that need more calories; for hypoglycemic puppies and dogs; senior dogs that need some extra calories; convalescing dogs; and any dog that needs some extra calories.

What Are The Best Dog Food Brands for Gaining Weight?

If you are looking for a good high calorie dog food, many canned dog foods have high fat percentages so you may wish to check some of them, especially the better quality foods such as FirstMate/Kasiks and Weruva/Dogs in the Kitchen. Dave’s and Zignature also get good ratings and they tend to have plenty of calories.

Keep in mind when figuring calories and nutrient percentages for canned foods that companies often provide calorie information based on can size. While this is helpful in one sense, it’s also annoying in another because one company may have 5.5 ounce cans and another company may have 13 ounce cans – leaving you to make the calculations and conversions. If you’re trying to find a good dog food for your dog, it really helps if you’re good at math – or if you find a good online calculator.

This list of canned foods with their calories from Pet Obesity Prevention is a little out of date but much of the information is still useful. It’s the most current, comprehensive list we know for canned dog food at the moment.

If you prefer to feed your dog a dry dog food, there are some good foods with high calories. These foods also tend to be higher in meat protein so you can expect them to be pricey. Many of them are also grain free.

Orijen Original Dry Dog Food Buy It

Orijen Original Dry Dog Food

First 5 Ingredients : Deboned Chicken, Deboned Turkey, Yellowtail Flounder, Whole Eggs, Whole Atlantic Mackerel

Orijen Original has 470 kcal/120 g cup (note that there is a difference between Canadian/metric cups, which Orijen uses, and U.S. cups which we won’t even go into here but you can read about it on this site). This food has a crude fat percentage of 18 percent.

Adirondack High Fat Puppy & Performance Recipe Dry Dog Food Buy It

Adirondack High Fat Puppy & Performance Recipe Dry Dog Food

First 5 Ingredients : Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Chicken Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Ground Grain Sorghum

Adirondack High Fat Puppy & Performance Recipe Dry Dog Food has 534.8 kcal per cup. This formula has 20 percent crude fat. AAFCO-approved for all life stages. No corn, no wheat, no soy.

Kinetic Performance Power 30K Formula Dry Dog Food Buy It

Kinetic Performance Power 30K Formula Dry Dog Food

First 5 Ingredients : Chicken Meal, Chicken By-Product Meal (Natural Source of Glucosamine), Chicken Fat (Mixed Tocopherol Preservative), Brewers Rice, Ground Sorghum

Kinetic Performance Power 30K Formula Dry Dog Food is designed for performance dogs, small or medium breed puppies, and dogs that have trouble maintaining their weight. This is nutrient-dense food with 20 percent crude protein. No corn, no wheat, no soy. No artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. It has 462 kcal/cup. AAFCO-approved for all life stages. Kinetic also has Kinetic Performance Ultra 32K Formula Dry Dog Food with 24 percent crude fat if you are looking for even more calories. That food has 477 kcal/cup.

Purina ProPlan Sport Chicken & Egg Formula Buy It

Purina ProPlan Sport Chicken & Egg Formula

First 5 Ingredients : Chicken, Corn Gluten Meal, Brewers Rice, Animal Fat Preserved with Mixed-Tocopherols (Form of Vitamin E), Poultry By-Product Meal (Natural Source of Glucosamine)

Purina ProPlan Sport Chicken & Egg Formula is grain free with no corn, wheat, or soy. This is a high performance formula with 30 percent crude protein and 20 percent crude fat. It’s designed for performance dogs, growing puppies, and dogs that have a hard time maintaining weight. It has 541 kcal/cup. This is an all life stage formula.

These are just a few of the foods with higher fat percentages and more calories. In general, if you are looking for a dry dog food with more calories, look for foods with 17 percent crude protein or higher. Keep in mind that there are risks involved with feeding high fat foods for some dogs. Some dogs have trouble digesting very rich foods. It’s not usually a good idea to feed your dog scraps of fat in the kitchen or from your plate. Fat is an important part of a dog’s diet but it has to be fed in conjunction with other healthy ingredients.

This list of dry dog foods and their calories is somewhat out of date, like the canned food list, but it is still helpful for many brands of foods.

Remember that with any dog, even a dog that needs to gain weight, it’s best if you make changes to the diet slowly. Fast changes can lead to gastrointestinal upset. Talk to your veterinarian if you have any questions about your dog’s health or if you’re seeking reasons why your dog might not be gaining weight.

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