Best Dog Food To Build Muscle: 10 High Protein Dog Foods in 2021

Mike PowellEdited by: Mike Powell
Abby TexasReviewed by: Abby Texas

Last Update:

The Rundown

Best Overall for Building Muscle: Stella & Chewy’s Raw Dinner Patties
“Nothing can beat the benefits that raw nutrition can give to your dog, especially when it comes to building strong and lean muscles. These dinner patties have the highest protein content in a dog food essential for muscle growth and development.”

Best High Protein Flavor Range: Acana Singles Limited Ingredient Dry Dog Food
“Picky eater dogs who need extra muscle building support can benefit from the amazing flavor range offered by Acana. Each recipe contains high levels of protein with added supplements that makes it a well-rounded meal for your pup.”

Best Value for Money: Diamond Naturals Extreme Athlete Dry Dog Food
“This high protein dog food is formulated for athletic dogs who need extra muscle building support. You can guarantee they’re getting all the protein they need, along with other essential nutrients, for a wallet-friendly price.”

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Protein is one of the most important nutrients that every dog needs. It contains essential amino acids that are vital in cell and energy production, immune boost, and hormone production. But it’s primarily needed for building tissues in the body, most especially the muscles.

Dogs require muscle building nutrients no matter what size, breed, or age they are. If you’re looking for the best dog food to build muscle, we’ve rounded up a list of protein-rich dog foods, with added minerals that help build, support, and maintain your dog’s muscles. All the products listed here has a protein content of 30% and more.

Product Name
Best for Muscle Building Overall
Best High Protein Flavor Range
Rank
Ranked #1
Ranked #2
Ranked #3
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Stella & Chewy's Freeze-Dried Raw Chewy's Chicken Dinner Patties Dog Food, 25 oz. Bag, Freeze-Dried Raw Dinner Patties
ACANA Singles Limited Ingredient Dry Dog Food, Lamb & Apple, Biologically Appropriate & Grain Free
Diamond Naturals Extreme Athlete Real Meat Recipe High Protein Dry Dog Food With Real Cage Free Chicken Protein 40Lb
Pro 1
48% protein content from a single high quality animal source
Large variety of limited ingredient dog food recipes with exciting flavors
Affordable, high quality dog food formulated for highly active dogs
Pro 2
Enhanced with probiotics and antioxidants to aid in digestion and maintain a strong immune system
Protein-rich formulation made from a mix of kibble and raw nutrition
32% Crude Protein content from chicken and poultry sources
Best for Muscle Building Overall
Rank
Ranked #1
Thumbnail
Stella & Chewy's Freeze-Dried Raw Chewy's Chicken Dinner Patties Dog Food, 25 oz. Bag, Freeze-Dried Raw Dinner Patties
Pro 1
48% protein content from a single high quality animal source
Pro 2
Enhanced with probiotics and antioxidants to aid in digestion and maintain a strong immune system
Custom Button
Best High Protein Flavor Range
Rank
Ranked #2
Thumbnail
ACANA Singles Limited Ingredient Dry Dog Food, Lamb & Apple, Biologically Appropriate & Grain Free
Pro 1
Large variety of limited ingredient dog food recipes with exciting flavors
Pro 2
Protein-rich formulation made from a mix of kibble and raw nutrition
Custom Button
Best Value for Money
Rank
Ranked #3
Thumbnail
Diamond Naturals Extreme Athlete Real Meat Recipe High Protein Dry Dog Food With Real Cage Free Chicken Protein 40Lb
Pro 1
Affordable, high quality dog food formulated for highly active dogs
Pro 2
32% Crude Protein content from chicken and poultry sources
Custom Button
Sources researched
15
Sources researched
Customer reviews
17,453
Customer reviews
Hours spent testing
13
Hours spent testing
Products tested
6
Products tested

Best Dog Food To Build Muscle

Here are top recommendations for the best dog food to build muscle:

  1. Best for Muscle Building Overall: Stella & Chewy’s Raw Dinner Patties
  2. Best High Protein Flavor Range: Acana Singles Limited Ingredient Dry Dog Food
  3. Best Value for Money: Diamond Naturals Extreme Athlete Dry Dog Food
  4. Best for Skin and Coat Health: Nulo Limited Ingredient Dry Dog Food
  5. Best High Protein for All Life Stages: Nature’s Logic Dry Dog Food
  6. Best Muscle Maintenance Food for Seniors: Merrick Grain Free Senior Dog Food

1. Stella & Chewy’s Raw Dinner Patties

Best for Muscle Building Overall: Made from premium animal ingredients that support lean strong muscles and boost your dog’s stamina

PROS

  • 48% protein content from a single high quality animal source
  • Raw, natural, whole ingredients that’s packed with fiber for optimal digestibility
  • Enhanced with probiotics and antioxidants to aid in digestion and maintain a strong immune system
  • Minimally processed dog food that locks in flavor, texture, and nutrients

CONS

  • Not suitable for less active dogs

Stella & Chewy’s Raw Dinner Patties is a high protein, high fat dog food made from all natural and minimally processed ingredients that retains flavor, texture, and the nutrients. Freeze drying raw ingredients keeps the integrity of the nutrients which are naturally accessed directly from fresh food ingredients.

Raw food is generally easier to digest, so your dog’s stomach should be totally okay with this dog food.

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These raw dinner patties are made from meat, organs and ground bones – all excellent sources of concentrated amino acids that help build muscle tissues, keeping them lean and strong. They’re grain free and packed with quality ingredients with no unnecessary carbohydrates which are used as dog food fillers.

This dog food is also abundant in natural oils and omega fatty acids that keep your dog’s skin healthy and vibrant. The addition of taurine, which is present in a significant amount, is excellent for dogs who need additional hearth support.

2. Acana Singles Limited Ingredient Dry Dog Food

Best High Protein Flavor Range: Excellent variety of dog food recipes with high protein content that’s crucial for building and maintaining muscles

PROS

  • Large variety of limited ingredient dog food recipes with exciting flavors 
  • Protein-rich formulation made from a mix of kibble and raw nutrition
  • Grain, potato, and tapioca-free dog food to accommodate dogs with food sensitivities
  • This particular flavor is made from lamb which is a highly digestible protein

CONS

  • Slightly pricey

If you have a picky eater dog who needs additional muscle support, the Acana Singles Limited Ingredient Dry Dog Food can help you solve two problems at the same time.

With 8 exciting flavors available, each having high protein content from a single premium animal source combined with a few well-chosen vegetables, your fussy eater can have plenty of flavors to choose from and you can guarantee they’re getting enough protein to help keep their muscles lean and strong. 

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It has a crude protein content of 31%, which is pretty consistent across the flavor range. This amount of protein comes from meat, organs, cartilage, and bone which deliver a concentrated blend of amino acids essential for muscle building.

Every recipe is free from potato, grains, and tapioca, so your pup’s stomach will be happy no matter which flavor they go for.

3. Diamond Naturals Extreme Athlete Dry Dog Food

Best Value for Money: Provides optimal amino acid supply from premium animal source for a budget-friendly price

PROS

  • Affordable, high quality dog food formulated for highly active dogs
  • 32% Crude Protein content from chicken and poultry sources
  • Contains glucosamine and chondroitin 
  • Highly digestible dog food with proprietary probiotics 

CONS

  • Not the best for less active dogs

This amazingly affordable dog food is specifically formulated for athletic dogs like Greyhounds, Huskies, and American Bullies. Diamond Naturals Extreme Athlete Dry Dog Food is a protein-rich diet that contains joint supplements and is extra high in fat to provide enough fuel for active dogs.

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More than 90% of the protein found in this dog food comes from chicken and other poultry ingredients. It is highly digestible and, combined with the proprietary probiotics, easy for your dog’s stomach to process.

The Omega fatty acid content is also high, keeping your dog’s skin and coat healthy, vibrant, and protected from any skin infections.

4. Nulo Limited Ingredient Dry Dog Food

Best for Skin and Coat Health: High protein dog food that’s rich in Omega fatty acids to keep your dog’s skin healthy and vibrant

PROS

  • High protein and Omega fatty acids content for strong muscles and vibrant skin
  • Contains DHA, essential brain development of growing puppies 
  • High-quality, fresh, natural ingredients for a well-balanced diet that avoids common allergens 
  • Has added probiotics and prebiotics to aid in digestion

CONS

  • No joint supplements

Nulo Limited Ingredient Dry Dog Food is a puppy and adult-specific formula that has 31% protein content – more than the recommended protein count with a little extra for building muscles.

It avoids the most common protein allergies by sticking to salmon as its source, which is also an excellent source of highly concentrated Omega fatty acids crucial for keeping your dog’s skin healthy and well-nourished.

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Aside from making your dog’s muscle healthy and lean, this dog food also contains a patented probiotic called GanedenBC30 that keeps the digestive and immune system healthy, allowing them to absorb all of the nutrients included in their food.

5. Nature’s Logic Dry Dog Food

Best High Protein for All Life Stages: Protein-rich and nutrient-dense dog food made from a wide variety of quality protein sources

PROS

  • 36% Crude protein content for a concentrated dose of amino acids essential for muscle building
  • Lower in fat than some, but still adequate for less active dogs 
  • Added digestive enzymes & probiotics to nourish dogs with extra sensitive stomachs
  • Free from common allergens and artificial ingredients that cause allergies

CONS

  • No joint supplements

Even less active dogs who don’t do a lot of physically straining activities still need a protein-rich diet to support muscle development and maintenance. Nature's Logic Dry Dog Food is a high protein, low fat diet that accommodates the nutritional requirement of less active dogs while making sure they have the muscle support they need.

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It’s packed with probiotics and prebiotics to make for easy digestion. There are also various flavors available, so your pup won’t get bored easily. We recommend adding a joint supplement and helping your dog get some more daily exercise. Even a short daily walk will do! 

6. Merrick Grain Free Senior Dog Food

Best Muscle Maintenance Food for Seniors: High protein diet enhanced with joint-fortifying supplements to support an aging dog’s muscles and joints

PROS

  • High protein, moderate fat dog food formulated for less active, senior dogs
  • Contains L-carnitine to regulate metabolism for senior dogs
  • Leading levels of glucosamine and chondroitin to support your aging dog’s hip and joints

CONS

  • Lower in calories than others 
  • Only available in chicken flavor

Senior dogs may be slowing down but they still need a decent bit of protein and fat, and this senior-specific dog food meets the nutritional requirement of aging dogs. It has the right amount of protein to maintain muscle mass of senior dogs and a lower fat content that caters to their slightly lower physical demands.

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This dog food contains high levels of Omega fatty acids, glucosamine and chondroitin, and L-carnitine, which are crucial to keeping your dog’s bodily functions normal as they grow old. There are only 349 calories in a cup of this dog food so you won’t have to worry about your dog gaining unnecessary weight from eating this meal regularly.


Questions & Answers

Why would my dog need to build muscle?

In some cases, you may find yourself the parent of a rescue dog who needs some fattening up. Lifestyle, poor eating habits, or underlying illness could cause your pup to be underweight and need some extra muscle on their frame. 

On the other hand, if you’re the parent of a hunting dog or a show dog, you may want to work on their muscle mass for athletic or aesthetic reasons.

How do I know if my dog is underweight?

It’s not always apparent that you have an underweight pup. There are a few signs to look out for that are indicative of a dog who needs to build muscle. 

  • Bad or irregular eating habits 
  • Decreased appetite 
  • Visible bones (especially ribs, shoulders, and hips) 
  • Dull, brittle coat 
  • Weakness and lethargy

Why is my dog underweight even though I feed him enough?

If you’re feeding your dog according to the dog food’s instructions but he’s still underweight, there could be an underlying reason. 

Low-quality dog food is a common one. Dog foods that use bad quality “filler” ingredients are most  likely not giving your dog the nutrients he needs. So even though he’s eating enough, he’s not getting enough nutrition to build muscle. 

It could also be that you’re underestimating how many calories your dog needs. The guidelines on dog food are just that – guidelines. Active dogs will most likely need more than what’s specified, and it depends largely on your individual pup as well, and their metabolism. 

If you’ve recently switched to a “senior” food, it could be that your dog is no longer getting the fat required to provide them enough energy to be active. This means instead of getting their energy from their food, they’re dipping into their fat stores, and could easily become underweight from this. 

The same is true if your dog was on a weight management food and has since reached their desired weight but is still on the lower-fat food. Dental issues could also be why your pooch just doesn’t want to chew on kibble anymore! 
If none of these could be the reason, then it’s worth a trip to the vet to rule out underlying illnesses such as diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, or intestinal parasites.

Mike Powell

Mike is an avid dog lover and writer. He’s based in Los Angeles, CA where he grew up in a household surrounded by pets. He’s been a dog owner all his life and he uses this extensive experience of having dogs as part of his family to share valuable, practical tips to improve other people’s dog parenting experience.