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5 Best Dog Foods to Gain Weight & Muscle

In this guide we’ll take a look at the best dog food to gain weight and muscle.
We’ve compared quality of ingredients, nutritional information, and value for money
to give you our top recommendations below.

Breed Advisor only recommends products that we’ve tested, or significantly researched . This page contains affiliate links, that at no additional cost to you, may earn a small commission for the site. Find out more here.

What is the Best Dog Food to Gain Weight & Muscle?

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Vet’s Advice

If you are trying to improve your dog’s physical condition then you might be wondering what to look out for when choosing their food. Your dog may be recovering from a recent illness or surgery, or perhaps they are otherwise well but a little on the lean side, so you may want to help build them up. Your dog must have a check over from a veterinarian if they are suddenly losing weight or muscle mass though. Here are some key things to look out for when picking the right diet for your pet.

Look for a calorie-dense diet

When comparing diets look for one that contains more calories per cup. This means it will pack more energy and weight-gaining potential into the same volume of food.

Pick food that contains around 30% protein

A high-protein diet will help your dog build and maintain healthy muscles. Most typical dog foods contain 18% protein so you should look for a diet that contains more than this, ideally around 22-35%. Look for whole meat or meat meal at the top of the list of ingredients on the packet, to give you extra confidence.

Note: Most dog foods will list the protein content on an ‘as fed basis’. You’ll need to convert it to dry matter basis in order to make a meaningful comparison between diets.

Look for a fat content of 15-18%

While you may think that a high-fat diet is the way to gain weight, too much fat in the diet could cause digestive upset or perhaps even a serious condition called pancreatitis. While fat does contain more calories than protein on a like-for-like basis, protein will do a better job of maintaining lean muscle mass. Pick a diet that has a fat content of 15-18 % where the fat is derived from animal sources such as chicken fat or fish oils. This will help with the flavor of the diet and make it palatable to your pet.

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Compare Our Recommended Dog Foods

Use the dropdown to sort the table by the feature that’s most important to you.

  • Top 5 Ingredients
  • Type
  • Lifestage
  • Calories
  • Protein
  • Fat
  • Fiber
  • Cost
  • Our score

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Dog Food to Gain Weight & Muscle

Instinct Raw Boost Grain-Free Recipe with Real Duck & Freeze-Dried Raw Pieces Dry Dog Food review

At a Glance

  • Top 5 Ingredients:
    1. Duck
    2. Chicken Meal
    3. Peas
    4. Egg Product
    5. Turkey Meal

  • Type: Freeze-dried raw and dry food
  • Lifestage: Adult
  • Calories: 497 kcal/cup
  • Protein: 34.5%
  • Fat: 21%
  • Fiber: 4%

Instinct Raw Boost Grain-Free is an excellent quality diet that has been formulated to assist dogs with gaining weight and muscle to achieve their ideal body condition. This diet is extremely flavorful and uses both freeze-dried raw meat pieces and dry kibble to increase eating satisfaction. A food that bases its foundation on whole duck, Instinct Raw Boost Grain-Free is rich in high-quality proteins to provide support for lean, healthy muscle development.

Probiotics have been supplemented to ensure excellent digestion and proper gut health. Instinct Raw Boost Grain-Free is formulated without grains, potato, corn, wheat, soy, by-products, artificial colors, and preservatives.

For the best dog food to gain weight and muscle, you can’t go wrong with Instinct Raw Boost Grain-Free.

Pros

  • Most dogs love the taste of this diet, particularly the freeze-dried raw meat. They consume their meals with hearty gusto.
  • Dogs that suffered with poor stool quality saw a return to normal digestion when fed a steady diet of Instinct Raw Boost Grain-Free.
  • Owners shared that the transition from their dogs’ old diet to the new one proceeded seamlessly.
  • Dogs had a reduction in bowel movements when fed this diet on a consistent basis.
  • Owners related that their dogs’ energy levels were greatly improved with a change to this diet.

Cons

  • A few owners noted their dogs seemed to have excessive thirst when fed this diet regularly. They questioned whether or not the sodium level in this food was high.
  • In rare cases, some dogs had soft stool and excessive gas when fed this diet. This may be the result of a sensitivity to one of the food’s ingredients or too rapid a change from the old diet to the new.
  • Some owners wondered if there has been a change in formula, noting that their food’s appearance was different with subsequent purchases.
  • Some dogs pick out the freeze-dried meat pieces and refuse to eat the kibble. This problem can be resolved by reserving the meat bits to be fed after the food has been consumed.
  • This diet is completely grain-free. Some owners prefer to feed a diet that includes some nutritious whole grains to lay a good foundation for ideal digestion.

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Crave High Protein White Fish & Salmon Adult Grain-Free Dry Dog Food review

At a Glance

  • Top 5 Ingredients:
    1. White Fish
    2. Chicken Meal
    3. Lentils
    4. Split Peas
    5. Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols)

  • Type: Dry food
  • Lifestage: Adult
  • Calories: 422 kcal/cup
  • Protein: 34%
  • Fat: 17%
  • Fiber: 3.5%

Crave High Protein is a diet of great quality that packs a powerhouse punch when it comes to both nutrition and value. Its main ingredient is white fish, a high-octane protein that is rich in omega 3 and 6 fatty acids to promote coat and skin health.

This food is free from by-products, soy, corn, wheat, artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives.  Crave High Protein is enriched with fiber and antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables to encourage good digestion and a strong immune system.

Crave High Protein offers families a top quality diet at an affordable price point, making it one of the best foods for dogs to gain weight and muscle.

Pros

  • Owners of dogs with sensitive stomachs were pleased to report their dogs found relief from their symptoms with a change to this diet.
  • Owners are pleased by the price of this diet, feeling it offers them great nutrition and excellent value.
  • The stool quality of dogs fed this diet on an ongoing basis was excellent.
  • Dogs enjoy the taste of this food. They look forward to their every meal with great enthusiasm.
  • Dogs fed this diet on an ongoing basis displayed coats that were healthy, soft, and shiny.

Cons

  • A few owners felt this diet was a little on the pricey side.
  • Some dogs had a dramatic increase in flatulence when fed this food. This may be the result of too rapid a change from the old diet to the new.
  • Some dogs dislike the taste of this food and will not eat it. A change to a different Crave High Protein flavor may yield better results for these dogs.
  • A few owners indicated they felt the kibble pieces in this diet were too small. They expressed concern they may pose a choking hazard for medium and large breed dogs.
  • A few dogs became itchy after a change to this diet. This most likely can be attributed to a sensitivity to one of the ingredients in the food.
  • Peas, lentils, pea starch, and flaxseed are all included in this recipe. These ingredients are the subject of some controversy today and may be connected to such health problems as elevated blood sugar levels and lower fertility rates.

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Merrick Backcountry Freeze-Dried Raw Grain-Free Great Plains Red Recipe Big Game Recipe with Beef, Lamb & Rabbit Dry Dog Food review

At a Glance

  • Top 5 Ingredients:
    1. Deboned Beef
    2. Lamb Meal
    3. Salmon Meal
    4. Sweet Potatoes
    5. Potatoes

  • Type: Freeze-dried raw and dry food
  • Lifestage: Adult
  • Calories: 392 kcal/cup
  • Protein: 38%
  • Fat: 17%
  • Fiber: 3.5%

One of the best dog foods for weight gain and muscle, Merrick Backcountry Freeze-Dried Raw is a premium food formulation that meets all of the criteria to encourage healthy weight gain and the development of muscle in dogs. Deboned beef is the basis for this diet, a high-quality protein included in its whole farm.

Merrick Backcountry Freeze-Dried Raw contains both freeze-dried meat pieces and dry kibble to encourage hearty eating in dogs. There are no grains in this recipe with the diet taking its carbohydrates from easily digestible fruits and vegetables that are antioxidant-dense.

This food is free from artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. It has been enriched with omega 3 and 6 fatty acids to encourage healthy skin and coat. Glucosamine and chondroitin provide vital joint support for active dogs and seniors.

Pros

  • Owners love that this diet includes both freeze-dried raw meat pieces and kibble to increase the flavor and protein found in this diet.
  • Dogs love the taste of this diet. Even picky eaters lap up each morsel in their bowl with great enthusiasm.
  • Dogs that regularly struggled with flatulence saw a great reduction in this problem when fed a steady diet of Merrick Backcountry Freeze-Dried Raw.
  • Dogs consistently fed this food had coats that were beautiful. Their fur was shiny, soft, and healthy.
  • Owners like that this diet is grain-free, feeling it is an excellent choice for dogs with food-related allergies.

Cons

  • A few owners expressed that the ratio of freeze-dried meat pieces to kibble was not correct. Their bags contained very few meat chunks.
  • Some dogs avoid the kibble and instead pick out all of the meat chunks to eat. This can be avoided by removing the meat pieces and serving them only once the dog has eaten its entire meal.
  • Some owners feel this diet is too expensive for them to feed their dogs on an ongoing basis.
  • Some dogs don’t like the taste of this food and will not eat it. A different Merrick formulation may be better for these dogs.
  • Owners disliked that recent bags of this food came without the Ziploc strip to reseal the bag. This made it more difficult for them to keep their dogs’ food fresh.

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Nulo Freestyle Limited+ Puppy Grain-Free Salmon Recipe Dry Dog Food review

At a Glance

  • Top 5 Ingredients:
    1. Deboned Salmon
    2. Salmon Meal
    3. Chickpeas
    4. Chickpea Flour
    5. Canola Oil (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols & Citric Acid)

  • Type: Dry food
  • Lifestage: Puppy and adult
  • Calories: 438 kcal/cup
  • Protein: 30%
  • Fat: 18%
  • Fiber: 5.5%

Nulo Freestyle Limited+ is among the best dog foods to gain weight and muscle. It is a diet of exceptional quality that provides all the support adult dogs need for healthy weight gain and the development of lean muscles. Salmon is the only protein source in this food. Included in its whole form, this powerhouse meat is full of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids to support coat and skin health and encourage a healthy body condition.

Probiotics have been added to this diet to assist with optimal digestion. This diet is naturally low in carbohydrates and contains no potatoes, tapioca, eggs, corn, wheat, soy, artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.

Pros

  • Dogs suffering from poor appetite loved this food, eagerly lapping up everything in their bowl.
  • Dogs with poor stool quality saw a return to normal stool consistency when fed a steady diet of Nulo Freestyle Limited+.
  • Dogs that regularly struggled with gastrointestinal distress and itchy skin found complete relief when transitioned to this food.
  • Owners love that this diet is grain-free. They feel it is a great choice for dogs with food-related allergies.
  • The salmon and salmon meal in this diet ensures it is rich in omega 3 and 6 fatty acids to help support healthy skin. This is particularly important for dogs recovering from allergies.

Cons

  • Owners dislike that the larger bags of this food are not resealable, making it more difficult to keep the food fresh.
  • Several owners felt this diet was too expensive.
  • A few dogs became bored with this diet after a short period on it. Thankfully, Nulo has several different formulations owners can choose from to provide their dogs with greater variety in their diet.
  • This diet is quite high in protein. As a result, some dogs may suffer from greasy stool or constipation during the transition to this food from their old diet.
  • Chickpeas and chickpea flour are both included in this recipe. These ingredients are of questionable nutritional value and are believed to be associated with lowered fertility rates in breeding dogs and rapid elevation of blood sugar levels.

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Adirondack 30% Protein High-Fat Recipe Chicken Meal & Brown Rice Puppy & Performance Dogs Dry Dog Food review

At a Glance

  • Top 5 Ingredients:
    1. Chicken Meal
    2. Brown Rice
    3. Chicken Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols)
    4. Dried Plain Beet Pulp
    5. Ground Grain Sorghum

  • Type: Dry food
  • Lifestage: Puppy and adult
  • Calories: 522 kcal/cup
  • Protein: 30%
  • Fat: 20%
  • Fiber: 3.8%

Adirondack 30% Protein High-Fat Performance is comprised of natural ingredients to promote healthy weight gain and management. This powerhouse food has been supplemented with probiotics to support optimal gut health and good digestion.

Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids from a number of excellent quality fish proteins encourage good skin and coat quality. This food is free from corn, wheat, soy, artificial flavors, and colors.

A diet that offers excellent nutrition at a reasonable price point, Adirondack 30% Protein High-Fat Performance is one of the best foods for dogs to gain weight and muscle.

Pros

  • Owners like that this diet includes nutritious whole grains, expressing they felt these ingredients assist with optimal digestion.
  • Dogs fed this food on a regular basis had excellent stool quality.
  • The coats of dogs fed a steady diet of Adirondack 30% Protein High-Fat Performance were shiny, soft, healthy, lustrous, and thick.
  • Dogs really enjoy the taste of this food. It is highly flavorful, encouraging even the pickiest dogs to eat with hearty abandon.
  • Dogs that struggled to maintain a healthy weight were able to achieve and remain at their ideal body condition when fed this diet on a consistent basis.

Cons

  • Some owners dislike that this diet includes whole grains, preferring to feed a grain-free food to their dogs. This was particularly important to owners whose dogs suffered from allergies.
  • A few owners felt this diet was rather costly.
  • Several owners indicated it was difficult to find this food in their local stores. Thankfully, it can be ordered online and delivered.
  • Some dogs are uninterested in this food and will not eat it.
  • This diet contains no supplements to boost joint health in dogs.

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How to Choose the Best Dog Food to Gain Weight and Muscle

Most dogs follow the patterns of their owners, leaning more towards being overweight than underweight. But on occasion, dogs struggle to maintain a healthy body condition, and when this occurs, it is important to try to find a diet to help the dog return to a normal body weight.

Unfortunately, in today’s world, many people have difficulty determining what an overweight and an underweight pet looks like. In general, dogs that are not maintaining a correct weight will exhibit similar symptoms including very obvious rib, hip, and shoulder bones. In addition to these visual cues, underweight dogs often suffer from fatigue, poor coat quality, depression, and loss of appetite.

Most often; when these changes are detected, a physical problem is at play. It is a good idea to take the dog to a veterinarian for a thorough examination and assessment to rule out any medical problems that are resulting in the weight loss.

Weight loss in dogs is only one indication that a more serious medical issue may be present in a dog. Among the health problems that include weight loss as one of their symptoms are:

  • Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Diabetes
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Surgery
  • Illness
  • Thyroid issues
  • Anxiety
  • Liver disease
  • Dental issues

Getting to the bottom of what is causing the weight loss is a key component of helping the dog to return to a normal healthy weight. While diet may not be sufficient to treat the problem on its own, it certainly does play a role in canine health and wellness.

Other reasons that can explain weight loss in dogs are poor quality diet, poor digestion, extreme exposure to cold, and stress.

The best dog food to gain weight and muscle can be a powerful help in restoring underweight dogs to a healthy body condition.

Choosing the Correct Calorie Count for Dogs to Gain Weight and Muscle

With puppies, care must be taken to not encourage a growth rate that is accelerated as this can lead to permanent structural problems in the future. For puppies that are not maintaining a normal weight, it is best to work directly with a veterinarian to resolve this issue.

Precautions should be observed with underweight adult dogs as well. Dogs generally do not become underweight in an abbreviated amount of time. To ensure the health and well-being of the dog, a conservative approach to weight gain and muscle development is important.

To begin the process of gaining weight at a healthy rate, the portion size of the dog’s daily meals can be marginally increased. This will allow the dog to eat more calories without noticing much difference to its regular daily intake.

Frequency of meals can also be adjusted by taking the total number of calories including the slight increase and dividing those calories into three or four meals fed throughout the day. A change of diet to something with higher calories and protein can also assist with a healthy rate of weight gain, particularly if the food is very calorie and nutrient-dense. However, these foods are also more filling, so it is possible the dog will need less of the food to feel satisfied, and thus, will not eat much.

Though strongly discouraged for most dogs, free feeding may be an effective strategy for dogs in need of weight gain. Treats and supplements designed to support overall canine health can also be beneficial in the development of muscle. Select extremely high value treats to encourage a healthy appetite.

Puppy foods also contain more calories and may make an excellent choice to help dogs gain weight appropriately. It is also an excellent idea to purchase a food that is well-renowned for its flavor to increase its appeal for dogs struggling with low weight and/or poor appetite.

Though most typically foods for adults should contain a minimum of 18 percent protein and 5 percent fat; in dogs needing to put on a few pounds, a diet that consists of 22 percent protein and 8 percent fat or more is ideal.

High-protein diets are very beneficial when it comes to muscle development. However, to achieve strong, healthy muscles, regular daily exercise is a must.

Weight gain should be monitored daily and adjustments made to keep progress moving at a healthy rate. Regular veterinary appointments are also an excellent way to keep tabs on the dog’s health during the weight gain process.

To determine how much of the best dog food to gain weight and muscle to feed a dog for weight gain, it is best to seek the advice of a veterinarian who can provide amounts and a daily feeding schedule to encourage weight gain at a healthy rate.

Dietary Requirements for Dogs looking to Gain Weight and Muscle

The most effective means to help a dog gain weight and assist with muscle development is to make the change to a diet that is higher in calories and protein. However, balance is still vitally important in any food selected for an underweight dog, so it is crucial that the diet selected is still nutritionally sound though more calorie-dense.

The best foods for dogs to gain weight and muscle place a high emphasis on protein. Of the utmost importance is the quality and source of the protein included in a food. It should be derived from animal origins and should be the first ingredient in the recipe. Whole meats are best, but meat meals are also an excellent choice. By-products and plant-based proteins offer poor nutritional value and are hard to digest, so foods containing them should be avoided.

If possible, select a diet with a protein content between 22-35 percent. By comparison, the fat ratio for weight gain should be between 15 to 18 percent. Foods with fat counts higher than this can also cause gastrointestinal distress and issues with proper elimination of waste. All fats should come from animal sources with chicken fat and salmon oil among the best.

Though carbohydrates should form a lesser portion of a diet for dogs in need of weight gain, the fiber and antioxidants they contribute are still important. Fruits and vegetables should be selected for their quality and nutrients to support digestion and a healthy immune system.

It is best not to start a new food abruptly. Over a period of a week, gradually incorporate some of the new food into the old food, increasing the new diet and decreasing the old very slowly until the meals now consist only of the new food. At the first sign of stomach or bowel distress, it is best to take a step backwards and reduce the amount of the new food, making up the difference with the old food and proceeding more slowly until a proper balance is achieved.

Things to Look for in the Best Dog Food to Gain Weight and Muscle

Here is a basic list of the most important things to look for in a dog food to gain weight and muscle:

  • Whole meat or meat meal proteins heading up the ingredients list
  • Prepared without the addition of chemicals, flavorings, fillers, or mystery ingredients
  • Enriched with probiotics, digestive enzymes, and helpful supplements
  • Meets AAFCO nutritional requirements for a complete and balanced food
  • Includes healthy fats such as chicken fat or salmon oil

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