Complete Guide to High-Calorie Dog Food: 2022 Edition
At different life stages, our dogs may need assistance gaining weight or a high-calorie boost, whether they are exuberant puppies and need extra protein or a senior who has slowed down their eating over time
In this guide, we answer all your burning questions like:
- Why has my dog lost weight?
- What is the best food for seniors?
- Is high-calorie food good for puppies?
- Benefits of high-calorie pet food
- Factors to look for when choosing a pet food
- What are the best high-calorie dog food brands?
We’ve extensively researched our list so you can have peace of mind. Before switching your dog's diet, it is important to look at the reasons why they may need that calorie booster. If there are any underlying health conditions it is best to speak with your vet so that you can make an informed nutritional decision for your dog.
How Many Calories Does a Dog Need?
This can vary based on many contributing factors/ For example, a toy poodle's calorie intake will be very different from that of a husky.
Research states that dogs need approximately 25-30 calories per pound of their ideal weight. However, body weight is not the only measurement for calories. There is their age, activity level, the fact of if they have been spayed or neutered, and their breed to consider.
A dog who is a couch potato will need about 30% fewer calories than an active dog.
Calculating calories can take some math skills, thankfully this calorie calculator by Pet Nutrition Alliance is a great starting point to figure out how many calories your pup should be getting.
According to the Animal Medical Center of Chicago, puppy calorie intake can vary between 115-2450 calories depending on their weight and age. It is best to consult with your vet or a nutritionist about how much food your puppy should be getting.
Why Has My Dog Lost A Lot Of Weight?
There are a few serious medical reasons why your dog may be losing weight. These can range from kidney issues and dental problems to cancer and heart disease. As a starting point, we always recommend a visit to the vet to diagnose any underlying health issues and formulate a plan for your dog's needs.
Once you’ve ruled out more serious concerns, below are 3 fairly common reasons why your dog may be losing weight that can be assisted by a diet change.
Picky Eater syndrome. We’ve seen it time and time again and fully understand how frustrating it can be when our dog decides they aren’t going to eat. Oddly enough this is a great time to switch or add a meal to their current diet that is highly enticing and happens to be high in calories. Kafka’s Organic, for example, is picky eater proofed (it’s probably due to those tasty whole ingredients we use) and is beneficial for weight gain.
- Age - Naturally weight fluctuates with age. Puppy owners are encouraged to have a little more chub on them because as they get older they begin leaning out and that cute puppy fat turns into lean muscle. However, we have to remember activity levels, appetite preferences and sickness (think upset tummy) at different life stages affect our dogs differently and we can see weight loss through all of these.
- Underfeeding - Ok, so maybe Beau and Bella sneak as much food as they can from the dinner table, but if they are still eating their entire meals and losing weight you may want to readjust how much they are being fed.
Remember feeding guidelines are just that, guidelines and sometimes your dog's nutritional needs will be different than that of Charlie who does well on the recommendations.
How High-Calorie Pet Food Can Help Underweight Dogs
So what is high-calorie dog food? Before we can understand what high-cal dog food is, we first need to understand what calories are. The technical definition of calories is energy derived from food. Calories are required for the proper function of the nervous system, and essential processes like respiration, digestion, and heart & brain functions. When calories are counted it can either aid in weight loss or weight gain and is vital for muscle gain and overall vitality.
High-calorie pet food is manufactured with high amounts of either carbohydrates, protein, fats or all the above, and is usually formulated to be balanced and complete. Specialty kibbles are often formulated with a blend of protein, carbohydrates and fats to be high calorie, while more premium offerings like fresh food use fewer carbohydrates and more protein + fat to accomplish this objective.
Why High-Calorie Food is Great for Puppies
While a high-calorie diet can help your puppy’s development you want to make sure that they are receiving quality nutrition rather than empty calories. Empty calories or fillers will otherwise be converted to body fat instead of towards the intended function: the proper development of bones and muscles in your pup.
Some of the main reasons why a higher-calorie diet is necessary for puppies is because
- For underweight puppies to put on the correct amount of healthy weight
- Support the proper development of muscle and bone
- To have enough calories to support the extensive and quick growth spurt that happens in this life stage
- Get their digestion set up for a long, healthy life
That’s why it’s important to select a diet that’s balanced and complete, ideally formulated by a veterinary nutritionist, and one that meets the nutritional requirements established by the AAFCO dog nutrient profiles to support either growth or all stages of development. In addition, puppies must get their calories from high-quality sources like whole ingredients and human-grade supplements.
High-Calorie Dog Food for Seniors
Have you ever googled “is my dog too skinny?” or “what to feed an old dog that is losing weight?” Or maybe you are cooking for your dog and thinking “why is my dog losing weight on a homemade diet?”
While weight loss in seniors is common, drastic weight loss is not and it’s considered clinically significant when it exceeds 10% of normal body weight. If you notice this you should book a vet visit to ensure there are no underlying health issues.
However, weight loss over time is quite common and is one of the normal effects of aging. If there are no medical issues that are affecting your pup, feeding high-calorie dog food to seniors can go a long way in helping them gain and maintain a healthy weight.
High-quality protein sources from human-grade foods are key, especially for senior pets as they need something easily digestible. This is because their digestive system declines with age, making them have more difficulty extracting and utilizing nutrients from low-quality foods. Senior dogs need their protein intake to be increased by about 50%, so make sure you select a high-protein food (like Kafka’s!), instead of carbohydrate-filled foods like kibble when looking to add calories to your senior dog’s diet.
High-Calorie Dog Food For Other Life Stages
As a whole, a higher calorie diet is prescribed for puppies, nursing mums, senior dogs, sick dogs, and underweight, or overweight dogs.
Because of the protein levels in high-calorie dog food, it can be a beneficial diet for many dogs as protein is an excellent source of energy.
Mummy dogs who are pregnant or are nursing need an extra boost as their bodies are going through rapid changes and they need to be able to keep up with the demanding nutritional needs of their babies. As we have mentioned above, senior dogs & puppies also greatly benefit from this type of diet.
Generic pet food brands often base their meals on breed or size, high-calorie food however is made specifically for puppies of those who need to gain weight.
What to Look for When Buying High-Calorie Dog Food
It’s important to note that not all high-calorie dog foods offer the same quality of nutrition.
When looking for new or supplemental food for your dog you need to make sure you are looking at three key things;
- High protein content
Dogs who may be underweight also need a diet that supports muscle mass development, and feeding high-calorie food with low protein content could lead to reduced muscle mass and fatty deposits.
Look for formulas that have meat as their first ingredient. High protein from animal sources will offer the best foods.
- High-quality ingredients
The quality of ingredients should be one of the most important considerations when selecting any type of dog food. Some recipes might be high in calories but if the ingredients are not easily digestible then they won’t be converted to energy inside your pup, but instead will be stored as fat.
You want to look for high-quality sources of protein that do not include any sort of by-products.
Whole foods such as fruits and vegetables are of the best quality ingredients as they are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
- Low in fillers and carbohydrates
Often times generic dog foods are high in carbohydrates and fillers such as rice, wheat, or corn - which offer little to no nutritional value. Brands add fillers and a high carb load to drastically cut down on their production costs and bulk up their foods and unfortunately, our dogs do not properly process these ingredients
Instead, look for meals that have a smaller ingredient list that features real ingredients. A few carbohydrates are ok, like potatoes & sweet potatoes, and can in fact be beneficial to your pup but make sure they do not take over the entire recipe.
What Are the Benefits of High-Calorie Dog Food?
As we have discussed so far, there are many reasons why someone would feed their dog a high-calorie diet
Some of these key benefits of feeding a high-calorie pet food are:
- Promotion of muscle growth and weight gain causes your dog's metabolism to kick into a higher gear aiding in their weight loss
- Promotes healthy gut with probiotics
- Omega fatty acids aid in proper brain function
- Antioxidants support a healthy urinary tract.
- Often recommended for large breed puppies due to their rapid muscle structure and development
- Senior dogs benefit from high-calorie wet food because as they age their metabolism begins to slow. Wet food is often a cleaner and higher source of protein
- High-calorie food promotes weight gain and energy.
Why Fresh Pet Food Is the Best Option for A High-Calorie Diet
According to the experts, no matter how tailored it may be, kibble/dry food will more than likely upset any issues your pet might currently have.
Commercial Pet Food (Kibble, Canned etc.)
Fresh Pet Food
Our Pick for Best High-Calorie Dry Food
Solid Gold Barking at the Moon High Protein Grain-Free Beef, Eggs, and Peas Dry Dog Food, we know, it’s a big name, but hear us out.
Solid Gold is made in the USA and was the first holistic pet food in America starting in 1974. Their new formula is high in protein, 100% grain & gluten-free, and contains prebiotics and probiotics to help promote gut health.
With a recipe that has changed over time to always be optimized for the health of your pet this kibble offers the best calorie intake along with many other health benefits.
Best High-Calorie Raw Food
Turkey Dinner by Big Country Raw is made in Ontario, Canada. They pride themselves on transparency and ensure that their ingredients are all sourced from Canadian farmers. Protein is sourced from wild-caught fish, pasture-raised & free-range animals.
According to research, using ethically sourced ingredients such as pasture-raised products offer higher levels of vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids.
Turkey Dinner is a mixture of organic fruits & veggies, hormone & antibiotic-free free-range turkey.
Best High-Calorie Freeze-Dried Diet
Farmers Table Pork Freeze Dried diet comes from a Canadian company called Open Farm.
This single high-quality protein recipe is mixed with organic veggies, superfoods, and antioxidants.
Formulated to meet the nutritional requirements established by the AAFCO dog nutrient profiles for all life stages.
Best High-Calorie Wet Food/Fresh Food
Highly nutritional, optimal for all life stages, convenient and frankly… delicious!
Chicken Chunk Bliss is the best high-calorie wet dog food with locally sourced, human-grade protein, organic veggies, and omega-3’s already incorporated into the meal.
Kafka’s Organic wants to ensure there are no missing nutrients in our highly digestible meals while promoting holistic health and vitality in dogs of all ages.
Our meals are gently cooked to maintain the integrity of the nutritionally dense profile and to retain the natural antioxidants, vitamins and minerals from the whole ingredients.
This gives your dog the tools he needs to properly absorb and utilize nutrition allowing weight to stick to their body
Experts say that kibble/dry food will more than likely exasperate any issues your pet may have.
The best high-calorie dog food is not a dry, crunchy kibble but rather a moisture-rich diet that guarantees a nutritionally balanced meal.
While there are many different pet food options out there, at the end of the day the best decision you can make is to choose a food that will optimize your dog’s overall health and wellbeing.
Where one dog may need a high-calorie intake to keep up with their boosted energy, an overweight dog (who believes himself to be one with the couch) will need to go on a diet that limits the amount of calorie intake but still meets his daily requirements.
We believe that Kafka’s Organic Fresh Food for dogs is the best high-calorie dog food as it is moist, hydrating, nutritionally dense and formulated for all life ages. We’ve put a lot of love into our small-batch, handcrafted recipes and we hope your pup enjoys it too!