All dogs are descended from the Grey wolves of thousands of years ago, and there is one constant among all dog food nutrition. Pay close attention because this is one of the most important rules you will ever learn about best large breed puppy food. Despite what you might have read or what any dog food manufacturers might claim, dogs are meant to eat diets high in animal protein.
Dogs aren’t natural 50/50 omnivores, and absolutely aren’t vegetarians or vegans! Unfortunately, the vast majority of dog food manufacturers today produce foods filled with mostly plant products because they are far cheaper to produce and easier to grow.
This decision usually has absolutely nothing to do with actual dog nutrition, but all about what can make producers the most money and what consumers are most likely to buy. Fruits and vegetables do contain valuable nutrients and are important, but shouldn’t compose over half of a dog’s diet.
- Don’t try to feed your large breed puppy a vegetarian diet just because you are a vegetarian; they will probably become nutrient deficient and could run into growth/developmental issues.
- Large or Giant breeds develop differently than other breeds, making proper nutrition especially important!
Choosing the best large breed puppy foods is often just as much about recognizing poor ingredients to avoid as it is recognizing high quality ingredients!
Updated on 7/15/2019 by William Hill: Updated prices, links, and formatting.
*The above links lead to current prices and customer reviews.
It’s often hard for dog owners to make educated decisions when buying dog food, especially with all of the confusing terms out there. Thankfully, many of these remain the same, and are often offered in low quality dog foods because they are cheap.
By-products: Clean, non-rendered, slaughtered animal ‘parts’ other than meat. This could include the lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, blood, bone, fatty tissue, stomachs, and more.
Meat Meals: These can include all slaughtered animal tissues (minus any by-products above) that are rendered and then added as dry solids to pet food. These can sometimes be considered protein concentrates and quality ingredients as long as the name is specific, like Chicken meal or Beef meal. Try to avoid generic ‘Meat meals or Meat and Bone meals’.
Meat By-product Meal: These are meat by-products (not actually meat) that are cooked/rendered. After rendering, the dry solids are added to pet foods.
Corn or Grains: Corn and many grains offer little biological value to dog foods, and are often used simply as ‘filler’ ingredients to make the foods seem like more than what they are.
Large or giant dog breeds grow at a faster rate, and tend to remain puppies longer. Because of such rapid growth, poor or incorrect nutrition actually poses several risks over other breeds. Rapid growth means rapid bone development, which could easily grow incorrectly if the dog is deficient. If solid nutrition is ever important, it is during this time!
Hip Dysplasia occurs more often in larger breeds because the hip joint forms incorrectly and doesn’t articulate right, which can be very uncomfortable for the dog! There are three main causes, each listed below in order of occurrence:
- Excessive dietary calcium
Though no one can yet alter their pet’s genetics, we absolutely have control over the next two. Though ‘free feeding’ is a popular method both because dogs can eat when they want and because this eliminates the extra effort of counting servings, it has caused many large breed puppies to grow to fast and led to serious problems.
Too much calcium has been shown in many cases to have led to skeletal disease, since a puppy’s body has difficulty regulating intestinal calcium absorption. The Association of American Feed Control Officials recommended dry dog foods offer:
Bloat (Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus)
Also called ‘twisted stomach’ or stomach torsion’, Bloat is a very dangerous, life threatening condition that occurs when the stomach fills up with air, putting pressure on both the diaphragm (causing breathing difficulty) and other organs.
The air filled stomach compresses on large veins in the abdomen, restricting important blood flow. On top of all this, the stomach often rotates, further cutting off the dog’s blood supply. Once the stomach twists and cuts off blood flow, it begins to die; the dog doesn’t have much time left.
Though Great Danes top the list with a surprisingly high risk factor, larger breeds in general are at greater risk for developing Bloat. Over feeding or rapid eating are the largest causes.
Knowing how to choose a great dog food is often just as much about knowing what to avoid. The dog food below is an extraordinarily popular dog food brand, selling countless tens of millions of packages worldwide annually and known to almost every single dog owner out there. Unfortunately, the food below is also as cheaply made as it is popular, an example of one of the lowest quality manufactured brands in existence today.
Corn is used mainly as a filler ingredient, presenting little actual nutritional value to today’s dogs. Manufacturers use it because it is cheap, not because it’s nutritious. As you can see, the top two ingredients here consist of corn products.
Chicken by-product meal isn’t meat at all, but a rendered mixture of other ‘animal components’. Animal fat is a generic by-product of rendering, and soybean meal is a by-product of soybean oil, more commonly found in farm animal feed.
Whole grain corn
Corn gluten meal
Chicken by-product meal
Animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols
Comparing pet foods can often be confusing! Most of the time, owners see this vibrant, smooth and stylish package portraying a dog happily chowing down, (a very popular marketing technique), and gravitate toward that. Who wants to read through an obscure, lengthy list of fine print ingredients?
Believe it or not, you can usually forget about everything but the first three. Ingredients are listed by quantity, meaning those first ingredients are found in greater amounts than all of the others (often combined).
If one of those first three ingredients happens to be a type of corn product, for example, you automatically know the dog food is cheaply made. Below is a list of three standardized rules to follow:
- Make sure it’s large breed puppy food.
- Check the first three ingredients, making sure they are animal/fish sources.
- Try avoiding any fillers, meat by-products, meal by-products, bone meals, or plant sources.
- Be sure to offer a “complete and balanced” food that meets the AAFCO nutrient profile for dog growth in any life stage. It’s always a good idea to reference accredited organizations experienced in animal nutrition (not simply trying to promote their product).
- Don’t feed your large breed puppy adult dog food meant for adults. Feed your large breed ‘for this breed food’ meant for and specifically designed for large breed puppies.
- Don’t offer nutritional supplements when feeding your pup commercial food. The food itself is already designed to offer the exact right vitamins and minerals; adding supplements here could actually cause more harm than good.
- Don’t try to force your puppy to become a vegetarian just because you are. Though adults finished with early growth and development can thrive off of a vegetarian diet if given exactly right by an educated owner, puppies need the correct amounts of animal proteins or risk developmental issues.
- Be sure to focus on gradual, continuous growth, and don’t overfeed your puppy! Over-feeding can cause several issues, not simply limited to incorrect bone development. Don’t ‘free feed’ your puppy.
Orijen Puppy Food
It’s honestly hard to find a large breed puppy food better than Orijen anywhere. Where most reputable manufacturers stop at three or four good, high quality ingredients, Orijen just keeps going. Forget the six listed below; you could count the top 20 ingredients and not find a filler or low quality product anywhere!
Orijen Food goes well past fantastic sources of animal protein with the top three ingredients being forms of chicken, offering three different types of turkey, another chicken ingredient, and at least four different types of fish!
Unlike countless other manufacturers out there, Orijen understands that where they may be able to get by with plant proteins, dogs are meant to consume mostly animal meat (especially developing puppies). Their diet here reflects that.
Top 6 Ingredients
- Several sources of animal protein
- At least 4 different types of fish
- High in Omega Fatty Acids and Fish Oils
Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dry Large Breed Puppy Food
Like Orijen above, the top ingredients are all easily digestible sources of animal meat and quality protein. Potatoes and peas are considered quality sources of carbohydrates, peas being rich in natural fiber. If you’re looking for a large breed dog food offering some carbohydrates and plant nutrients, while still achieving a diet high in animal protein, Wellness Core is where you want to go!
Top 6 Ingredients
- Top 3 ingredients are sources of high quality animal protein
- Specific meals, like chicken and turkey meal, are considered protein concentrates.
- Tomato Pomace is thought to be a controversial filler ingredient, a tomato by-product remaining after processing.
Holistic Select Natural Dry Dog Food, Large & Giant Breed Puppy Recipe
With Holistic Select Natural dry large breed puppy food, you again have the top two ingredients as animal sources offering high quality protein, turkey meal being a protein concentrate. Both peas and lentils are quality sources of carbohydrates and both high in natural fiber.
Top 6 Ingredients
Dried plain beet pulp
- Deboned meat products are easier to digest.
- Top 2 products contain animal protein
- Technically, dogs do not need these sources of carbohydrates.
BLUE Wilderness Rocky Mountain Recipe Grain Free Large Breed Puppy Food
Blue Buffalo is another brand known for producing high quality dog foods! Yet again, the first two ingredients here are sources of animal protein. Because it has been deboned, unlike several manufacturers who will simply grind the bones in with everything else, the first ingredient is far easier to digest. Both peas and starches are high quality sources of carbohydrates, starches being long, complex carbs.
Top 6 Ingredients
Chicken meal (source of glucosamine),
- Deboned beef is easier to digest.
- Top 2 ingredients are sources of animal protein
- Dogs don’t require so many carbohydrate sources.
Though they may not all be designed for ‘large’ breed puppies, you can find a list of all of the best dry puppy foods on the market according to Dog Food Advisor. You can also find a complete list of top canned large breed puppy foods here.
A pretty significant portion of a puppy’s life with his owner (prior to 9-10 weeks) should be spent eating wet puppy food. Even at nine or ten weeks, the transition to dry food needs to be gradual. That being said, this article wouldn’t be complete without listing some of the best wet large breed puppy foods out there!
Wet Large Breed Puppy Foods
These are all given 5 stars by *Dog Food Advisor.
1. What is the best rated commercial large breed puppy food?
I’ve never seen anyone produce better dog foods than Orijen. In fact, I’ve never really seen anyone come close to even tying with them, for any breed. If you’re willing to go that extra mile for your dogs, Orijen Large Breed Puppy is without a doubt the top pic here.
2. Can I feed my puppy a vegetarian/vegan diet?
Dogs are still scientifically classified as carnivores, their teeth designed to tear at meat, for a reason. That being said-
I’ve read countless articles published by veterinarians about vegetarian diets for dogs, and they all pretty much agreed on one thing- dogs can get by on a vegetarian diet as long as it is very carefully designed. If the owner is willing to spend many hours researching Canine nutrition, or spend the extra money on a veterinary nutritionist, go right ahead. If not, the dog could easily become deficient in some area.
Puppies, on the other hand, are at a very important stage of development and should receive high quality sources of animal protein. I would never recommend putting any puppy on a vegetarian/vegan diet.
3. How often should I feed my large breed puppy?
Though the American Kennel Club recommends 4 small feedings a day, young puppies (4-9 weeks) should be fed wet puppy food for easy digestion. At nine or ten weeks, large/giant breeds can begin making the slow transition to dry puppy food. Immediately switching foods could cause digestive issues.
Puppies younger than a minimum of 4 weeks should be fed milk from their mothers and not be separated from their litters.
4. Can I feed my puppy adult dog food?
Puppies need to be fed large breed puppy food. Puppy food is specifically designed to meet the nutritional needs of a puppy, whereas adult dog food is lacking in certain integral areas. On the flip side, adults shouldn’t eat puppy food. All that being said, a cheap dog food brand will still likely produce a cheaply made puppy food.
5. I’ve seen my puppy eat his own feces. Why does he do this?
According to the American Kennel Club, about 1 in 4 (amounts to several million) domestic dogs have been seen eating their own droppings. There are in fact several reasons why dogs do this, but poor nutrition is By Far the largest. If you have seen your pup do this, it is probably time to change up or upgrade your large breed puppy food.
Video: Feeding Large Breed Puppies
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