In This Article...
- Understanding the nutritional requirements of Large Breed Puppies
- What to look for in a good large breed puppy food
- Our Top Picks: 5 Star Large Breed Puppy Foods
- Most Affordable Large Breed Puppy Food
- Most Popular Large Breed Puppy Food
- Best Grain Free Large Breed Puppy Food
- Best Allergy Large Breed Puppy Food
- Best Dry Food Large Breed Puppy Food:
- Best Canned Food for Large Breed Puppies
- 5 more Really Good Foods for Large Breed Puppies
- Large Breed Puppy Food – A Final Word
Cute Toy dogs and small breeds get lots of attention today in movies and TV commercials but America still loves a big dog. If you look at the list of most popular breeds in the U.S., you’ll find plenty of large breeds at the top of the list.
Breeds like Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Golden Retrievers dominate the rankings. Sure, small and medium-sized dogs have their place on the list, too, but Rottweilers and German Shorthaired Pointers – large dogs – are also in the Top 10.
Large breed puppies have some special food requirements. Here’s a look at what you need to know about the nutritional requirements of large breed puppies. Plus, we’ll show you the 11 best large breed puppy foods!
By the way, it’s not always easy to tell the difference between a medium-sized dog, a large breed, and a giant breed dog, especially if you’re looking at a puppy!
Not all puppy foods are alike. Not all pups are alike. Feeding the right diet to the right puppy is very important, especially when it comes to large or giant breed pups. – Lynn Buzhardt, DVM @ vcahospitals.com
A kennel club might consider a dog that weighs 50 pounds to be a medium-sized dog. Pet food companies often combine large and giant breeds together and make dog foods that are suitable for both large and giant breed dogs in one formula. AAFCO defines a large breed puppy as any dog whose adult weight is expected to exceed 70 pounds. For our purposes, we’ll consider a large breed to be a dog that will weigh around 50-60 pounds as an adult but less than 90 pounds. If your dog weighs 90 pounds (or more) you should consider him a giant breed.
Understanding the nutritional requirements of Large Breed Puppies
Large and giant breed puppies (or “whoppers,” as we call them) can weigh a pound or more when they are born. These big puppies tend to grow quickly and keep growing much longer than their Toy dog cousins. For example, a Toy dog such as a Chihuahua may achieve his full adult size by the time he’s about six months old. Most large breeds such as the Labrador Retriever will continue to grow until they are about 18 months old. They won’t be fully mature until they are about two years old. (Giant breed puppies will grow even longer.) For this reason, large breed puppies are sensitive to the nutrients and calories they receive throughout this growing period. Too much or too little of certain nutrients can have a negative impact on your large breed puppy’s health and growth.
If large breed puppies are allowed to grow too fast, they can have problems with something called developmental orthopedic disease (DOD). This phrase covers conditions such as:
- Elbow dysplasia
- Hip dysplasia
- Hypertrophic osteodystrophy (HOD)
- Osteochondrosis (Sometimes part of osteochondritis dissecans or OCD)
- Panosteitis (Pano)
Over nutrition is another possible problem with large breed puppies. This doesn’t just mean over-feeding, although that can also be a problem. Overnutrition refers to food that has too many or the wrong kind of nutrients for your large puppy. This can occur if you feed your large breed puppy a regular puppy food instead of a food that is formulated especially for large breed puppies. Large breed puppy foods are different from ordinary puppy foods in the following ways:
- They have less fat/fewer calories;
- They have less calcium;
- They have less phosphorus;
- They are lower in Vitamin D.
The calcium, phosphorus, and Vitamin D levels are lower in large breed puppy foods to help reduce the risk of the orthopedic problems with DOD. Less fat and fewer calories helps large breed puppies grow at a slower rate.
Experts recommend that you feed large breed puppies several small meals throughout the day. Free feeding is not recommended. These measures are suggested so your puppy won’t become overweight. Being overweight or obese are especially harmful for large breed puppies.
What to look for in a good large breed puppy food
Many of the things you should look for in a good large breed puppy food are similar to other puppy foods, with a few exceptions. As we already mentioned, your large breed puppy needs a food that is especially formulated for his needs. These foods generally have less fat and fewer calories than ordinary puppy foods. They have less calcium; less phosphorus; and they are lower in Vitamin D. The calcium percentage in the food should be about 1.5 percent. Some veterinarians advise a calcium to phosphorus ratio of 1.1:1 to 2:1 but many sources familiar with large breed puppies recommend a ratio closer to 1.1:1.3 or 1.5 on an as fed basis. Vitamin D helps the body absorb more nutrients, especially calcium, so a puppy food with less Vitamin D keeps your large breed puppy from absorbing more nutrients than he needs, among other things.
Other things to look for in a good large breed puppy food include:
- Food that has undergone AAFCO feeding trials;
- DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid), an essential long chain polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid that helps in the development of eyes, brain, and hearing; marine sources are best;
- Foods that have about 30 percent protein and 9 percent fat, by dry matter basis, are considered ideal for most large breed puppies;
- Look for a food that is labeled “complete and balance.”
- Avoid foods that have oils or fats as one of the first four ingredients. These foods are believed to be more likely to contribute to bloat – something that can affect some large breed dogs.
- A large breed puppy food should have an AAFCO statement saying that it is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established for growth including growth of large-size dogs (70 lbs or more as an adult).
It can be difficult to find puppy foods that have undergone AAFCO feeding trials, especially if you are looking at foods from smaller companies. Feeding trials are expensive and take months to do properly. In many cases, only the large pet food companies go to the trouble and expense to do them. When considering puppy foods, you should give an edge to companies and brands that can back up their foods with a feeding trial instead of just a nutritional profile. Feeding trials don’t guarantee a food’s nutrition but at least dogs have eaten the food and survived.
You can feed a dog food that is AAFCO-approved for all life stages (sometimes it may say for “growth and reproduction”). If you feed one of these foods, make sure it has a nutritional adequacy statement that says something like “[Pet Food Name] is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for all life stages including growth of large-size dogs (70 lbs or more as an adult).” Or it could say that feeding trials have shown that the food meet the levels, including for growth of large-size dogs (70 lbs or more as an adult). All life stage foods that have these approvals should be suitable for large breed puppies but a puppy food that is especially formulated for large breed puppies will likely have more precise nutrient levels for your puppy. On the other hand, you should NOT feed your large breed puppy a maintenance dog food. These foods will not meet your puppy’s nutritional needs.
One more thing about feeding your large breed puppy. As long as you’re feeding a good food made for large breed puppies, you absolutely should not add supplements to your puppy’s food. It’s especially important that you don’t add any extra calcium to your dog’s diet. Too much calcium for a large breed puppy will lead to the developmental orthopedic diseases (DOD) mentioned earlier.
Our Top Picks: 5 Star Large Breed Puppy Foods
Most Affordable Large Breed Puppy Food
Our choice for best value in a large breed puppy food is American Journey Chicken & Sweet Potato Recipe Grain Free Puppy Dry Dog Food. This grain free puppy food has no corn, wheat, or soy. Plus, it’s high in protein. The first three ingredients are Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, and Turkey Meal. It has 30 percent protein and 12 percent fat with 419 kcal/cup. Nutrients and antioxidants build immune system support. Salmon oil provides a good source of omega-3, including long-chain DHA. Also comes in Lamb & Sweet Potato recipe. Chewy has this food in 4 lb, 12 lb, and 24 lb bags.
Most Popular Large Breed Puppy Food
Here it is. Hands down, the bestselling, most popular large breed puppy food on Chewy.com: Taste of the Wild High Prairie Puppy Formula Grain Free Dry Dog Food. No other large breed puppy food even comes close. It has over 1000 reviews and most of them are 5 stars. This food is grain free with no corn, wheat, or soy, according to the company. No fillers, artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. It has 28 percent protein and 17 percent fat with 370 kcal/cup. The first three ingredients are Buffalo, Lamb Meal, and Sweet Potatoes. Antioxidants, omega-3 and 6, and a proprietary K9 strain probiotic to help your puppy’s digestion. Comes in a 5 lb, 15 lb, and a 30 lb bag.
Best Grain Free Large Breed Puppy Food
Wellness CORE makes some of the best and most popular grain free dog foods available. We think that Wellness CORE Grain Free Puppy Chicken & Turkey Recipe Dry Dog Food could be the best grain free large breed puppy food around. It’s grain free and gluten-free with no corn, wheat, or soy. It’s high in protein with 36 percent protein and 18 percent fat; 417 kcal/cup. The first three ingredients are Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, and Turkey Meal. It has natural DHA from salmon oil; and guaranteed levels of calcium and phosphorus. Kibble is coated with probiotics to help digestion. Plus it has no by-products, artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. Available in a 4 lb, 12 lb, and 26 lb bag.
Best Allergy Large Breed Puppy Food
Natural Balance is well-known for making foods for dogs with allergies. Puppies aren’t born with allergies but they can develop an allergy after they eat something that triggers a reaction. Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Puppy Formula Potato & Duck Formula Grain Free Dry Dog Food can be a good food to try if your puppy shows signs of a food allergy. Natural Balance L.I.D. foods have one kind of meat protein and limited carbohydrates, along with vitamins and minerals. The first three ingredients in this food are Potatoes, Duck Meal, and Duck. It also has omegas and DHA from salmon oil. It’s grain free with no artificial flavors or colors. No corn, no wheat, no soy. Good for a puppy with sensitive digestion. It also comes in a Lamb & Brown Rice formula for puppies. Comes in 4.5, 12, and 24-lb bags.
Best Dry Food Large Breed Puppy Food:
Canidae has been making top quality dog food for years. We like Canidae Grain Free PURE Foundations Puppy Formula with Chicken Limited Ingredient Diet Dry Dog Food as the best dry food for large breed puppies. It’s grain free, gluten-free, and it has no corn, wheat, or soy. There are no antibiotics or hormones used in the ingredients. It’s good for any puppy with sensitive digestion. It has just nine main ingredients plus vitamins and minerals. The first ingredients are chicken and menhaden fish meal. It has 30 percent protein and 12 percent fat; with 520 kcal/cup. This Canidae formula has DHA and a probiotics mix. With just a few quality ingredients, this food is good for big puppies, especially if they ever get an upset stomach from their food. Chewy.com has 4 lb, 12 lb, and 24 lb bags. The 24-lb bag is $64.99; $61.74 with autoship.
Best Canned Food for Large Breed Puppies
Like any pet food, you have to be careful about ingredients with canned/wet foods. We chose Merrick Grain Free Puppy Plate Recipe Canned Dog Food as the overall best canned food for large breed puppies because we like the ingredients in their food; and because they have recently removed carrageenan from their formula. Some other very good canned foods still contain this ingredient which, according to some reports, can cause stomach irritation, at least in humans. This food features Deboned Chicken, Chicken Broth, and Turkey. It’s grain free and gluten-free and it has no corn, wheat, or soy. No artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. It’s made in small batches by Merrick in Texas.
5 more Really Good Foods for Large Breed Puppies
It’s always hard to choose the best foods. Puppies are individuals. Your puppy might like something that another puppy won’t eat. Here are five more great foods for large breed puppies.
Wellness makes several good puppy foods. We like Wellness Large Breed Complete Health Puppy Deboned Chicken, Brown Rice & Salmon Meal Recipe Dry Dog Food for large breed puppies. It has no corn, wheat, or soy, and no meat by-products, fillers, or artificial ingredients. It has precise amounts of calcium and phosphorus plus DHA from salmon meal for good brain development. The first ingredients are Deboned Chicken and Chicken Meal. It has 29 percent protein and 13 percent fat with 366 kcal/cup. Comes in 15 and 30 lb bags from Chewy.com.
Solid Gold was one of the earliest makers of holistic pet foods. They continue to make good dog foods today. Solid Gold Wolf Cub Bison & Oatmeal Puppy Formula Dry Dog Food is formulated for large puppies. It has optimal calcium for big puppies. This food has 26 percent protein and 12 percent fat with 345 kcal/cup. The first ingredients are bison and ocean fish meal. It has no corn, wheat, or soy. It’s potato-free and it has no added sugars, artificial preservatives, or artificial colors. Available in 4 lb and 24 lb bags from Chewy.com.
Holistic Select Large & Giant Breed Puppy Lamb & Chicken Meals Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food is formulated for big, growing puppies. It’s grain free with DHA from salmon oil for good brain development. It has prebiotics, probiotics, live yogurt cultures, digestive enzymes, and natural fiber to help your puppy digest the food and support his overall health. Vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants help build immunity. The first ingredients are Lamb Meal and Chicken Meal. It has 27 percent protein and 16 percent fat with 388 kcal/cup. It has no meat or poultry by-products; no wheat or wheat gluten; no fillers; and no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. Comes in a 12 lb bag and a 24 lb bag from Chewy.com. Chewy has the 24 lb bag for $59.99 or $56.99 with autoship.
Trusted for generations, Purina Pro Plan is a favorite with dog breeders and people who show dogs. Purina is one of the largest pet food companies in the world and they devote a lot of money and research into their dog foods. Sticklers may not like some of the ingredients in their foods but they are good from a nutritional view. You can’t fool around when it comes to correct nutrition for large breed puppies and we think Purina Pro Plan Focus Puppy Large Breed Formula Dry Dog Food is a very good food. The first ingredient in this food is chicken. It has 28 percent protein and 13 percent fat with 417 kcal/cup. This food contains prebiotic fiber for good digestion and DHA from fish for cognitive development. According to the nutritional adequacy statement, the company used animal feeding trials to substantiate the food’s nutrition. Comes in an 18 or 34-lb bag at Chewy.com.
Eukanuba is another well-known brand that’s not trendy but they make reliably good dog foods. Some people may not like some of the ingredients in Eukanuba Large Breed Puppy Dry Dog Food but Eukanuba, owned by Mars, has always done excellent research into canine nutrition. The first ingredient in this food is chicken. It has 26 percent protein and 14 percent fat with 337 kcal/cup. Calcium and phosphorus levels are guaranteed; and it features DHA from fish for cognitive development. Eukanuba has a specialized fiber system that uses natural beet pulp and prebiotic FOS (a natural sugar, dietary fiber, and prebiotic) that helps promote nutrient absorption and healthy digestion. The food also has optimum levels of omega-3 and omega-6. This is another food that substantiates their nutritional claims with animal feeding tests using AAFCO protocols. Comes in 5-lb, 16-lb, and 33 lb bags from Chewy.com.
Large Breed Puppy Food – A Final Word
Large breed puppies grow fast, especially in their first few months; but they continue to grow for a long time. You should expect to feed your puppy a good large breed puppy food for at least a year. Good quality ingredients are important but it’s also important to feed a food that has the right amount and ratio of calcium and phosphorus. DHA from fish sources is important for your puppy’s cognitive development, as well as the development of his eyes and hearing. Puppy foods formulated especially for large breed puppies are recommended. Remember not to overfeed your puppy. Everything you feed your puppy during the first 18-24 months will affect his future health, so choose wisely.