Best Dog Food To Build Muscle: Top 10 Picks You Need To Know

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

Last Update:

Are you the pet parent of a scrawny pup? Maybe you can see your dog’s ribs, and he has less energy than he should.

Perhaps you’re looking to bulk your dog up so he can be a more efficient hunter or a muscly show dog.

Whatever the reason your dog needs to gain some muscle, what you feed him will make all the difference! Choose one of the best dog food to build muscle to help your pooch bulk up healthily and safely.

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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
Nulo Puppy & Adult Freestyle Limited Plus Dry Dog Food: All Natural Limited Ingredient Diet for Digestive & Immune Health - Allergy Sensitive Non GMO (Salmon Recipe - 22 lb Bag), Model Number: 51LS22
Pro 1
High protein & fat
Limited ingredient, single protein
High-quality ingredient list
Pro 2
Minimally processed
Grain, potato, and tapioca-free
Contains DHA, essential for puppies
Best Overall
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Ranked #1
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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
Pro 1
High protein & fat
Pro 2
Minimally processed
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Premium Option
Rank
Ranked #2
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ACANA Singles Limited Ingredient Dry Dog Food, Lamb & Apple, Biologically Appropriate & Grain Free
Pro 1
Limited ingredient, single protein
Pro 2
Grain, potato, and tapioca-free
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Best Value for Money
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Ranked #3
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Nulo Puppy & Adult Freestyle Limited Plus Dry Dog Food: All Natural Limited Ingredient Diet for Digestive & Immune Health - Allergy Sensitive Non GMO (Salmon Recipe - 22 lb Bag), Model Number: 51LS22
Pro 1
High-quality ingredient list
Pro 2
Contains DHA, essential for puppies
Custom Button
Sources researched
15
Sources researched
Customer reviews
17,453
Customer reviews
Hours spent testing
13
Hours spent testing
Products tested
10
Products tested

Best Dog Food To Build Muscle in 2020

Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Raw Dinner Patties

Best Overall: Best Raw Food In Various Flavor

Overall Score90%
Calorie Count90%
Protein Count90%
Fat Count90%
Omegas90%
Affordability90%

PROS

  • Various flavors 
  • High protein & fat 
  • Minimally processed

CONS

  • Not suitable for less active dogs

If you prefer raw feeding, Stella & Chewy’s is the best dog food to build muscle. They’re a little  lower in calories than others, but they’re very high in protein (late 30s to late 40%), and also high in fat (high 30s). 

They’re also quite minimally processed, and have probiotics added. Raw food is generally easier to digest, so your dog’s stomach should be totally okay with this dog food.

Acana Singles Recipe Range

Premium Option: Good Choice For Picky Eaters

Overall Score90%
Calorie Count90%
Protein Count90%
Fat Count90%
Omegas90%
Affordability90%

PROS

  • Large variety of flavors 
  • Limited ingredient, single protein 
  • Grain, potato, and tapioca-free

CONS

  • Slightly pricey

If your scrawny dog is a picky eater, this recipe range would be a great option. With 5 flavors available, each containing a single protein and a few well-chosen vegetables, your fussy eater will be spoilt for choice. 

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

Nulo Puppy & Adult Small Breed Freestyle

Best Value for Money: Great For Puppies

Overall Score90%
Calorie Count90%
Protein Count90%
Fat Count90%
Omegas90%
Affordability90%

PROS

  • Contains DHA, essential for puppies 
  • High-quality ingredient list 
  • Avoids common allergens 
  • Has added probiotics and prebiotics

CONS

  • No joint supplements

Not only is this food super to help puppies build muscle, but it’s also great for dogs who have food allergies or sensitivities. It avoids the most common protein allergies by sticking to salmon as its source, and also avoids most allergy-causing vegetables, although some dogs might not like chickpeas. 

It’s missing glucosamine, but it has DHA, high Omegas, and a perfect calcium/phosphorus ratio. With 30% protein and 18% fat, this dog food would suit an active pup who needs to build muscle at a young age.

Diamond Naturals Extreme Athlete

Affordable With Superfood Ingredients

Overall Score90%
Calorie Count90%
Protein Count90%
Fat Count90%
Omegas90%
Affordability90%

PROS

  • Extremely affordable for a quality dog food 
  • Contains glucosamine and chondroitin 
  • Superfood ingredients included 
  • High in fat, perfect for energetic dogs

CONS

  • Not the best for less active dogs

This extremely affordable dog food is fantastic for athletic dogs like Greyhounds, Huskies, and American Bullies. No need to break the bank to feed your muscly dog something premium quality! 

It contains joint supplements and is extra high in fat to provide for active dogs. The Omegas are also high, so your dog’s skin and coat will improve. Superfood ingredients add a dash of antioxidants and vitamins and minerals.

Nature’s Logic Dog Food Canine Meal Feast

Best for Less Active Dogs

Overall Score90%
Calorie Count90%
Protein Count90%
Fat Count90%
Omegas90%
Affordability90%

PROS

  • Lower in fat than some, but still adequate for less active dogs 
  • Added digestive enzymes & probiotics 
  • Whole food ingredients 
  • Available in various flavors

CONS

  • No joint supplements

Dogs who don’t get much exercise will need a food that is lower in fat but still high in protein to build muscle. This dog food has 15% fat in it, which is lower than many but not too low so as to make your dog feel weak. 

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! 

Merrick Grain Free Senior Dog Food

Best For Seniors

Overall Score90%
Calorie Count90%
Protein Count90%
Fat Count90%
Omegas90%
Affordability90%

PROS

  • Contains L-carnitine 
  • Included joint supplements 
  • High in Omegas 
  • Superior quality ingredient list

CONS

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

Seniors still need a decent bit of protein and fat, and this recipe has both of those. The fat count is slightly lower to accommodate their lower activity levels, but it retains a high protein count at 32%. 

High Omegas, glucosamine and chondroitin, and L-carnitine are all wonderful supplements to see in a senior food. There are only 349 calories in a cup of this food so you may need to add some treats. Also, if your dog doesn’t tolerate chicken, then you may need to find something else. 

Bully Max High Performance Dog Food

Best for Performance Dogs

Overall Score90%
Calorie Count90%
Protein Count90%
Fat Count90%
Omegas90%
Affordability90%

PROS

  • Specifically created for performance dogs 
  • Real meat as first ingredient 
  • 535 calories per cup 
  • Suitable for dogs 4 weeks and older

CONS

  • No glucosamine

Bully Max is created specifically for performance dogs. It’s high in protein (30%), high in fat (20%), and calories (535 per cup). Chicken meal makes it extra high-protein, as well as easily digestible. You may need to supplement separately with glucosamine. 

The high calorie count means your dog will be getting all they need, but eating less to get there. One bag of this dog food should last a lot longer than other brands, so although it’s not cheap, it’s worth it in the long run.

Gorilla Max 31/25 Ultra Performance Dog Food

Highest Calorie

Overall Score90%
Calorie Count90%
Protein Count90%
Fat Count90%
Omegas90%
Affordability90%

PROS

  • 600 calories per cup 
  • No by-products 
  • Never been recalled 
  • High calorie count makes it last longer

CONS

  • Not suitable for less active dogs

Whether your dog needs serious fattening up or is getting into proper shape for a competition, this high-calorie dog food should do the trick. With 31% protein and 25% fat, it’s definitely best suited for dogs who get plenty of exercise. 

You’ll need to supplement with glucosamine, but your dog will get a fantastic, filling meal. Gorilla Max has never been recalled in 15 years of being on the market, so you know you’re getting a quality product.

Bully Max Muscle Building Chews

Best High-Calorie Treat

Overall Score90%
Calorie Count90%
Protein Count90%
Fat Count90%
Omegas90%
Affordability90%

PROS

  • High protein and fat per chew 
  • Packed with vitamins and minerals 
  • Around 60 chews per bag 
  • Suitable for all breeds

CONS

  • Contains wheat, so may not be suitable for all dogs

Treats are an essential part of a dog’s diet, and these ones are high in protein and fat and will add some calories to your dog’s daily intake. There’s no creatine or steroids in them – just decent protein. 

They’re also quite suitable for pregnant dogs who need to gain a bit of weight. They do contain wheat, so not all dog’s tummies will be okay with them.

Maximum Bully Elite K9 Nutrition

Rich in Antioxidants

Overall Score90%
Calorie Count90%
Protein Count90%
Fat Count90%
Omegas90%
Affordability90%

PROS

  • Multiple protein sources 
  • Contains DHA 
  • Added vegetables for antioxidants 
  • Added probiotics and prebiotics

CONS

  • No joint supplements

This comes in tops for us as it contains a decent amount of calories and is high in both protein and fat (32% and 22% respectively). Although it doesn’t contain joint supplements (you’ll need to buy these separately), it does have unusually high levels of Omega 3 fatty acids, as well as a dose of DHA

Unlike some high protein foods, it also contains some vegetables for extra vitamins and minerals. It does avoid potatoes, which some dogs are sensitive to. 


Testing Protocol & Criteria Used For Evaluation

Criteria #1: Calorie Count

Upping your dog’s calorie intake is essential if he needs to bulk up. We’ve made sure the foods we’ve chosen are high in calories, but packed with goodness in each bite – no empty calories! Upwards of 400 calories per cup is a good calorie count for dogs who need to build muscle.

Criteria #2: Protein Count

Protein is the building block of muscles! We’ve tried to choose foods that have 30% protein or more to help your pooch pack on the pounds in muscle, not fat. We’ve reviewed some performance foods for those pups who’ll be competing. We have also included a couple of lower-protein options for pups who are less active.

Criteria #3: Fat Count

Fat is what gives your dog energy, and if they aren’t getting enough, they’re definitely going to become a little stringy. We’ve included foods with various fat counts, so that dogs of every activity level have something that suits them. 

Very active dogs would do well with fat in the high teens, or even above 20%. Less active dogs should get a dog food with a fat count in the mid-teens.

Criteria #4: Omega Fatty Acids

Often, a dry, dull coat is a side effect of being underweight. A good dose of Omegas should remedy that, and also will add a shine to a dog who’s bound for competitions.

Criteria #5: Affordability

Affordability is always a consideration for us. We have a wide range of price tags, but our Best Value is all the quality at much less price.


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.