10 Best Dog Foods for Weight Gain in 2022 – Reviews & Top Picks


We hear a lot about canine obesity and foods to help our dogs lose weight. There’s a good reason for it, given that an estimated 56% of dogs in the United States are overweight. But what if your dog has the opposite problem? Some dogs struggle to keep weight on or need to gain weight back after a recent illness.

Putting on a few pounds is as simple as feeding them more for some dogs. Sometimes you can get away with feeding your dog a little extra food. Other dogs have a harder time increasing their weight and need a little extra help. If this sounds familiar, you need dog food designed to promote weight gain. To help you find the best one, we’ve compiled some reviews of the best dog foods for weight gain.

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A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites – 2022 Udpate

The 10 Best Dog Foods for Weight Gain

1. Crave Real Chicken Grain-Free Dog Food – Best Overall

Crave Real Chicken

Food Form: Dry Food
Special Diet: Grain-free, high-protein, no corn, no wheat, no soy

Crave Real Chicken Grain-free Dog Food is our recommendation as to the best overall dog food for weight gain. This food is packed full of animal-based proteins and protein-rich vegetables to add an extra boost to your dog’s diet. Crave designs its dog food to represent the ancestral diet of wild dogs. It contains 34% protein and 17% fat, so it smells and tastes great, even for the pickiest of eaters.

This recipe is also grain-free, so it’s an option for dogs with sensitive stomachs or who may be recovering from an illness. What’s great about this dog food is that it works for all breeds and all sizes of dogs, big or small.

As this food is made for all sizes of dogs, the kibble pieces are quite small. This may be a choking hazard for extra-large dogs, particularly if they like to “inhale” their food.

Pros

  • High in protein and fat
  • Grain-free
  • Good for all sizes of dogs

2. Purina Pro Plan Sport – Best Value

Purina Pro Plan Sport

Food Form: Dry Food
Special Diet: High-protein

Purina Pro Plan Sport has several different varieties of all life stages dog food, and this recipe is the best value for the money. This particular recipe is 26/16, meaning it contains 26% protein and 16% fat. It is also enhanced with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, amino acids, and even glucosamine to promote joint health. While it’s designed for active dogs to help them maintain their weight and energy levels, it’s also a great choice for putting some extra pounds on an underweight dog. Purina Pro Plan Sport promotes building lean muscle mass, rather than just empty pounds, so you can be sure your dog is getting the energy he needs.

Purina Pro Plans kibble has very large pieces, so it’s ideal for larger dogs. Small dogs may require a recipe specifically formulated for small breed dogs.

Pros

  • High protein and fat
  • Includes glucosamine for joint health
  • Promotes building lean muscle mass

3. Instinct Raw Boost Grain-Free Recipe – Premium Choice

Instinct Raw Boost

Food Form: Dry Food, Freeze-Dried Raw
Special Diet: High-protein, grain-free, no corn, no wheat, no soy, gluten-free, raw, natural

If your dog not only has trouble keeping weight on but is also a picky eater, Instinct Raw Boost might be your answer. This food is a bit on the expensive side as far as dog foods go, but this food does have the quality to go along with its price tag.

This grain-free recipe is formulated from cage-free duck and chicken and contains 47% protein and 17% fat, which is an extremely high protein to fat ratio.

Instinct Raw Boost is freeze-dried raw food, so it can cause stomach upset in dogs who aren’t used to a raw diet. It also has a strong smell, so you’ll want to keep it in a sealed container to avoid your whole house smelling like dog food. Some dogs also like to pick out the raw pieces and leave the rest of the kibble behind, resulting in a significant amount of waste.

Pros

  • Very high protein to fat ratio
  • Grain-free

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Strong odor
  • Can result in lots of wasted food for picky dogs

4. Purina Pro Plan Puppy – Best for Puppies

Purina Pro Plan

Food Form: Dry food
Special Diet: High-protein

Purina Pro Plan Puppy has everything your puppy needs to build lean muscle mass while they are growing. This recipe includes DHA-rich ingredients to promote vision and brain development and enough complex carbohydrates to keep your pup active and playing throughout the day.

While this food is on our list as the best food for puppies, it is also an option for adding weight to adult dogs. Much like nursing mothers benefit from high-fat puppy food for extra energy, so can dogs who just need a little extra in their diet. As this recipe is made for large breed dogs who will grow to over 50 pounds, it is high-protein and contains added probiotics for immune system protection.

Purina does use some filler carbohydrates in this food to increase the caloric value. There are some concerns that Purina has changed recipes, and not all bags contain identical ingredients. This is concerning for all dogs, but especially for puppies, as changes in diet make them susceptible to stomach issues.

Pros

  • Lots of added energy
  • High-protein
  • Promotes healthy development

Cons

  • Contains filler ingredients
  • Not all bags contain identical ingredients

5. Purina Pro Plan Performance 30/20

Purina Pro Plan Performance

Food Form: Dry food
Special Diet: High-protein, weight control

Purina Pro Plan Performance 30/20 is similar to our best value pick for dog food to help with weight gain. The difference between the two is that the food reviewed earlier had a protein to fat ratio of 26/16, and this one is 30/20. So, it contains more protein and more fat. The ratio in Pro Plan Performance is the veterinary recommended ratio for dogs who need to gain weight quickly. With salmon, corn gluten, brewer’s rice, and animal fat as the top four ingredients, any dog can gain a few pounds in a few days on this diet.

In addition to helping with weight gain, Pro Plan also increases endurance and strength, making it an ideal food to feed to a dog recovering from illness. Added antioxidants will help re-build your dog’s immune system, so they can gain their strength back faster.

If your dog is not a high-energy breed, you don’t want to keep them on this food long-term as it will eventually lead to them becoming overweight.

Pros

  • The great short-term solution for fast weight gain
  • Good choice for dogs recovering from illness

Cons

  • Not for long-term feeding

6. Earthborn Holistic Coastal Catch

Earthborn Holistic

Food Form: Dry food
Special Diet: Grain-free, gluten-free, high-protein

The Coastal Catch recipe from Earthborn Holistic is a grain-free option that includes seafood as the primary ingredient rather than poultry or red meat. It’s not only high-protein, but made from herring meal, so it’s perfect for dogs with sensitive stomachs.

This dog food is also rich in vegetable-based proteins and includes compounds like L-carnitine and glucosamine. You can rest assured that your dog is getting an all-natural, complete food that contains above-average protein levels.

There is a recall listed from the manufacturer of Earthborn Holistic from March of 2021 related to Salmonella contamination. While the issues with the recall have been resolved, if you choose this food, be sure to check the manufacture date on the bag to make sure it’s not part of the recalled batch.

Pros

  • High-protein
  • Great for sensitive stomach

7. Adirondack High-Protein High-Fat Recipe

Adirondack

Food Form: Dry food
Special Diet: No corn, no wheat, no soy, pea-free

Adirondack High-Protein High-Fat Recipe is formulated for puppies and high-performance dogs and is also a great choice for helping an underweight dog add some extra pounds. This food features a 30/20 protein to fat, thus meeting the recommended ratio for weight gain.

The feeding chart on Adirondack food only provides recommended feedings for dogs up to 80 pounds. While it states it is suitable for all sizes of dogs, it’s not ideal for extra-large breeds over 80 pounds. It’s also not a good choice for long-term feeding due to the high protein and fat content.

Pros

  • Veterinarian recommended protein to fat ratio

Cons

  • Not for large breed dogs
  • Not for long-term feeding except in high-energy dogs

8. Ziwi Peak Beef Recipe

Ziwi Peak Beef Recipe

Food Form: Wet food, Pate texture
Special Diet: Grain-free, no corn, no wheat, no soy, limited ingredient, non-GMO, low-glycemic, high-protein, natural

For dogs who need extra calories, mixing wet food into their diet is a great way to help them gain weight while introducing limited ingredients, thus reducing the risk of digestive upset. Canned food smells good too, so it appeals to even the pickiest of eaters. This particular recipe from Ziwi Peak is loaded with beef protein, including meat from organs, beef lung, kidney, and tripe.

Ziwi Peak has an incredibly high protein content and may be too rich for some dogs, leading to stomach upset. It’s also rather expensive, so it’s likely not a cost-effective option as your dog’s only source of nutrition and may be better used as a supplement to regular kibble.

Pros

  • High-protein
  • Animal protein as the primary ingredient
  • Great for weight gain

9. Wellness CORE Grain-Free Canned Dog Food

Food Form: Wet Food
Special Diet: Grain-free, gluten-free, no corn, no wheat, no soy, pea-free

Wellness CORE wet food is made with 95% animal protein mixed with vegetables. It’s a good choice for promoting lean muscle mass and improving muscle tone. There are no fillers, by-products, or artificial ingredients contained in this food, so you can rest assured that your dog is getting real ingredients.

The biggest complaint about this food isn’t about the food itself, but about the packaging. Unlike most wet foods, Wellness CORE doesn’t provide pop-top lids on their cans, so you have to use a can opener to open them. The cans are also smaller than most wet dog foods, providing only 12.5 oz of food instead of 13 oz. While it doesn’t seem like a lot, it is important to know if you are comparing prices. There’s a lot of liquid in the cans, which can make them messy to feed, and some dogs don’t like the runny consistency of the food.

Pros

  • 95% protein
  • Promotes gaining lean muscle mass
  • All-natural ingredients

Cons

  • Hard to open
  • Less food per can than most wet foods
  • High quantity of liquid in cans

10. Merrick Backcountry Freeze-Dried Raw Great Plains Red Recipe

Merrick Backcountry

Food Form: Dry Food
Special Diet: Freeze-Dried, No corn, no wheat, no soy, high-protein, raw, weight control, sensitive digestion

Merrick Backcountry is another freeze-dried raw option for your underweight dog. If your dog is not just underweight but also malnourished, Merrick is a good choice for getting them back to full health. It has a good balance of protein and fat and is also rich in carbohydrates for added calories.

This food is freeze-dried kibble with chunks for freeze-dried raw beef, dried fruits, and vegetables. As with many foods that contain extra-tasty chunks, there is a risk of your dog picking out the tastiest bits and leaving the rest of the kibble behind. As a freeze-dried raw food, it’s more expensive than traditional kibble as well. If you have a large dog, the 15-pound bags aren’t ideal either, as you’ll have to buy several at a time, which can get expensive.

Pros

  • Freeze-dried raw
  • Well-balanced nutrition

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Can be wasteful
  • Small bags

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Buyer’s Guide: Selecting the Best Dog Food For Weight Gain

Dog food that is good for weight gain has several traits that make it nutritious and appealing for your dog. Here’s a breakdown of what qualifies a dog food as good for weight gain.

Dog Food Palatability

When food tastes good, your dog will be more likely to eat it. Wet foods are often more palatable than dry foods, and so are foods that have a high protein and fat content.

Homemade diets can be suitable to help promote weight gain and entice your dog to eat as well, but if you choose this option, be sure to consult your veterinarian to ensure your dog is getting the proper balance of nutrients.

Dog Food Digestibility

Digestibility refers to how much of a food can actually be utilized by your dog’s body. Fillers and fibers aren’t absorbed by your dog but simply eliminated as waste. Too many fillers in food mean your dog isn’t benefitting from what they’re eating. While this can be a benefit for dogs who need to lose weight, it’s not helpful for those who need all the added nutrients they can get.

Unfortunately, the digestibility of food can’t be determined just by reading the label. As a rule, fiber isn’t digestible, so you want to avoid foods with high-fiber content.

Another way to assess this is to take a peek at your dog’s stool. Highly digestible foods produce lower volumes of stool that are firm and well-formed. If your dog’s stools are loose and frequent, he’s probably not digesting his food very well.

Dog Food Caloric Density

Dog foods that promote weight gain pack a whole lot of calories into a small amount of food. This means you don’t have to feed more to provide more calories.

Caloric density is measured in kcal per cup, per can, or per kilogram. This information is provided on dog food labels, and high-fat foods have more caloric density than low-fat foods.

High protein levels are also important to support and build your dog’s lean muscle mass.

dog eating_Shutterstock_Jaromir Chalabala
Image Credit: Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock

Types of Dog Foods for Weight Gain

There are some specific types of dog foods that help promote weight gain. All the foods on our review list fit into one of these categories.

  • Therapeutic Diets – In extreme cases, your veterinarian might recommend a prescription diet for your dog. These include critical care or recovery foods, and they can only be purchased directly from your veterinarian. Therapeutic foods are designed to keep your dog’s energy up while recovering from an illness or surgery.
  • Puppy or All Life Stages Foods – Puppy foods, or those designed for all life stages, are higher in fat and protein than typical adult dog foods, making them ideal for promoting weight gain in underweight pups.
  • Performance/Sports Diets – Highly active dogs require performance diets to support their needs. This includes high-protein and high-fat food that helps them maintain their body conditions. These diets can also help healthy dogs increase their muscle mass by providing them with a more calorically dense food.

Tips for Helping a Dog Gain Weight

It’s strongly recommended to speak with your veterinarian regarding your dog’s health or to ensure that your dog needs to gain weight. Most vets will help you develop a feeding program specific to your dog and ensure they gain weight in a healthy manner.

To ensure success with your dog’s weight gain, here are some tips:

  • Transition your dog to a new food gradually. Particularly when switching to high-fat foods, changing foods too fast can put your dog at risk for pancreatitis or other digestive issues.
  • Wet foods are more palatable, but dry foods are usually more calorically dense. Weigh the pros and cons of each one carefully when choosing a food, or balance out the benefits of both by mixing wet food in with a calorically dense kibble.
  • Feed multiple small meals throughout the day rather than one or two large meals. Dogs will typically eat more when you do this, ensuring they are taking in the calories they need. Since you’re not concerned about your dog being overweight in this case, you can also leave dog food out for your dog to graze on throughout the day, although this makes it harder to determine how much food your dog is getting.

What Causes Weight Loss in Dogs?

A dog’s weight loss is considered clinically significant when it exceeds 10% of the dog’s normal weight. This is important to note because a Golden Retriever might need to lose 10 pounds for weight loss to be a concern, whereas a tiny Chihuahua might be in danger after the loss of a single pound.

From a technical standpoint, weight loss occurs when a dog takes in fewer calories than they are burning off. Working breeds are famous for being hyper-metabolic and requiring high-calorie diets, as are young puppies and pregnant and nursing dogs. These are all normal conditions that cause weight loss in healthy dogs, but there are some reasons a dog might experience unhealthy weight loss:

  • Low-quality diet or insufficient food intake
  • Dental problems leading to low food intake
  • Poor digestion or malabsorption of nutrients
  • Prolonged exposure to cold
  • Acute illnesses that cause vomiting or diarrhea
  • High levels of stress
  • Internal parasites

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Conclusion: Best Dog Food For Weight Gain

Hopefully, you now have a good idea of what to look for in dog food to help your dog gain weight based on our reviews and buyer’s guide. Our recommendation for the best overall food is Crave Real Chicken Grain-Free Dog Food. This food is high in protein and fat to help promote weight gain, and it’s also grain-free, so it’s safe for dogs with sensitive stomachs. The best value for the money is Purina Pro Plan Sport. Designed to help dogs build lean muscle mass, this food has all the added vitamins, minerals, and supplements necessary for supporting your dog’s overall health and well-being.

Choosing the best dog food to help your dog gain weight doesn’t have to be complicated. Keep in mind the important features listed in our buyer’s guide as you shop, and your dog will be on the road to a healthy weight in no time.


Featured Image Credit: Pixel-Shot, Shutterstock

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