Feeding Large Breed Puppies & Large Breed Dogs
Our aim when feeding large and giant breed puppies is to grow them slowly. This requires a breed appropriate diet fed in regulated portions. Avoiding diets formulated to promote rapid growth is extremely important. Too big too fast spells bad news for large and giant breed puppies! Rather, slow and steady growth to naturally achieve genetically programmed adult size is suggested.
Common with large & giant breed dogs, nutritional related development issues can crop up that are often directly related to diet. Excess calcium, mineral content, carbohydrates, and agreed by some, too much protein, leaves traditional puppy diets best left for small and medium breed dogs. Large breed puppy or all life stage diets are the appropriate choice over the outdated logic, "puppy food until 6 months of age", that certain Vets may still advocate.
TIP: What are "large" & "giant" breeds? Large breeds include any dog that will reach or exceed 60 pounds adult weight and giant breeds, any dog reaching 90 pounds and over as an adult. (Just like those four cute giant breed Great Dane puppies featured on this page.)
Specific Large Breed Guides
The Challenge of Feeding Large Breed Puppies
Simply put, the challenge at hand is to carefully nourish our large breed puppies during their critical "rapid growth phase" and maintaining appropriate nourishment over an extended duration of development. (Up to two years with some giant breeds.)
With large & giant breed puppies, rapid growth can begin anywhere between 4 and 8 months of age depending on the breed and individual dog. It's during this growth period that extreme caution should be taken to provide proper diet as this is when nutritional related development issues most often begin. Of course, every large and giant breed dog will hit this growth spurt at a different age so we've added links on this page to breed specific articles just for "your" dog.
TIP: If you haven't witnessed the "rapid growth" phenomenon yet, you'll know you're in it when you wake up one morning, look at your dog and swear he just grew 2" overnight!
Large Breed Diet Rules of Thumb
Following a few simple rules of thumb is the safest bet for feeding large breed puppies.
- Feed a quality, breed appropriate dog food or a raw dog diet (See our Kibble Section and Raw Diet section for info).
- Don't ever try to grow a giant breed puppy by over feeding or over nourishing. BIG spells BAD for a puppy!
- Feeding large breed puppies to grow them slow so they may achieve their genetically programmed adult size is recommended.
- Keep large and giant breed puppies light and lean with a keen eye on their energy level.
- We don't want an emaciated dog but at times your pup may look skinny. This is normal during the first year.
Feeding large breed puppies and giant breed puppies is not rocket science and there's no written rule. Take our advice however and that from others "in-the-know", it should be pretty smooth sailing.Your large and giant breed puppies should be fed a quality large breed puppy or all life stage formula dog food in portioned amounts to keep them light and lean. We Recommend Dry Kibble Formulas with lower calcium, 23% to 30% protein, and calcium/phosphorus ratio as close to 1/1 as possible. Choose a formula with named meat as the first ingredient and avoid foods containing poor grains, calcium additives, or non-essential vitamin and mineral supplements. Additional info on selecting quality kibble including ingredients to avoid can be found in our Feeding Dry Dog Food section.
Keep you large breed puppy lean and ideally, just heavy enough so you can always see a trace of the last rib. During the rapid growth phase your dog's body is going through major physiological changes. Energy, activity level and appetite will absolutely fluctuate so keep a watchful eye and stay in-tune with your dog to monitor their weight. Tweak amount per meal when feeding large breed puppies as needed to maintain a "nice and lean" energetic dog.
Raw feeding is also a great option and we advocate raw feeding for all dogs, from puppy through senior. Feeding raw is actually a bit easier than analyzing ingredient panels of commercial dog food.. just start with Chicken! Don't miss our Raw Dog Diet section for additional info on this wonderful method of feeding.
Growing a Large Breed Puppy Too Fast
Excess feeding large breed puppies, especially during the rapid growth phase, can lead to a variety of health problems most common being skeletal, bone & joint related. If diet is not corrected, and fast, your pup can end up debilitated or temporarily crippled with bone deformities, tendon, muscle, nerve and painful joint issues.
While development of large breed puppies can be affected by heredity, over exercise, genetics, injury or trauma, nutrition plays as much of a role. Who'd have imagined that nutrition, something that we as dog owners have full control plays such an important factor?
Contrary, the genetics of large and giant breed dogs that predisposes them to rapid growth is out of our control. For this reason and to increase your odds of avoiding nasty orthopedic diseases and ailments, it's critical to be diligent and not to feed large & giant breed puppies as if they were a smaller breed dog. Being proactive will also lessen the chance your dog develops osteochondrosis, hip dysplasia, or the dreaded Wobbler's Syndrome. Please don't overlook the importance of your puppy's rapid growth, and extended growth phases!
Feeding large breed puppies and giant breed puppies too much food or a puppy formula meant to promote rapid development is a recipe for disaster. Since giant breeds are predisposed to rapid growth already, we as their owners must be diligent to grow them slow. By growing a large breed puppy too fast we're over stressing their body which can cause skeletal deformities, muscle, joint and tendon damage that if not reversed quickly, can linger as a lifelong problem.
On the dog feeding methods discussed in this article is available on our Homepage via easy navigation banners.
Large and giant breed dog specific nutritional guides are linked on this page with additional articles being published weekly, so stop in again soon. Questions, comments, or suggestions? Send us a note using the email form on our contact page.