Due to their large size, Great Danes may seem intimidating to those who aren’t familiar with the breed. But they’re typically lovey-dovey and make great family dogs! In fact, thanks to their gentle temperaments and majestic statures, they’ve earned the nickname “the Apollo of Dogs.”
However, because of their size, Great Danes have more complex nutritional requirements.
In this article, we’ll cover characteristics specific to Great Danes, how these traits relate to their diets, and some healthy dog foods you’ll want to check out to support your Great Dane’s overall well-being and longevity.
Understanding Great Danes and Their Unique Characteristics
As mentioned, Great Danes are extremely large dogs — also known as giant breeds. Male Great Danes are the tallest dogs in the world, reaching up to 32 inches at the shoulder and weighing up to 175 pounds. Female Great Danes are a little smaller, reaching up to 30 inches tall and 140 pounds.
Because of their giant size, Great Danes need the right diet to support their energy levels, help with proper digestion during eating, and ensure a long, healthy life. Let’s explore some factors that influence their diets and eating habits in more detail.
Despite their size, Great Danes are not as high energy as some smaller breeds. They won’t be running marathons with you, but they still need exercise every day. Because of their moderate activity levels, Great Danes don’t require as many calories and carbohydrates as you may think for a dog of their size.
Proper Bowl Height
Due to Great Danes’ height, it’s essential that they have elevated food bowls. This will help aid in digestion and support proper posture in this giant breed. To determine the right height for your Great Dane’s food bowl, check with your vet, but generally, you want their bowls to be about chest high.
Great Danes are gentle and affectionate in nature, easily debunking any misconceptions about aggression due to their size. “Gentle giant” is a term often associated with Great Danes.
Nutrient deficiencies or imbalances in the diet may lead to various health issues for Great Danes, some of which may manifest in behavioral changes.
Like many giant breeds, Great Danes have a shorter lifespan — only about six to eight years — but some have been known to live up to 10 years. We all want our dogs to live forever, but since that’s not possible, we can strive to meet their nutritional needs to support their health and longevity.
As mentioned above, Great Danes are not as active as some smaller dogs, so it’s best to ensure they don’t eat more calories than they need to maintain a healthy weight. Weight gain can lead to strain on their joints and organs, as well as potential long-term joint problems.
Dietary Requirements for Great Danes
Because of all the characteristics listed above, Great Danes require a diet tailored just for them. So let’s take a look at Great Danes’ specific dietary requirements.
Rapid Growth Phase
As is true with many large breed puppies, Great Danes grow quickly, with their largest spurts happening between four and six months old. However, they do take longer to reach skeletal maturity — as long as 18 months.
Because of this, you’ll want to be careful not to overfeed your dog during those growth phases. If you overfeed your puppy during these important periods of growth and development, they may be more likely to develop congenital bone anomalies as an adult Great Dane.
Great Dane puppies will grow as much in their first year as a child grows in 14 years. Conventional wisdom would say that they must require a lot of food in that first year, but that’s not quite true. Even though Great Danes grow fast, their moderate energy levels mean they may not require as many calories as you would guess.
There is a balance a Great Dane parent will have to achieve to support their pup’s wellness. Your veterinarian can help you monitor your Great Dane’s weight and growth so you can make sure they get the right amount of calories as they grow into an adult dog.
Special Nutrient Considerations
There are some specific nutrients that Great Danes need to support their large statures. Calcium is key to supporting their bones, but if a Great Dane gets too much calcium, it can be harmful. For large and giant breeds, aim for a calcium-to-phosphorus level between 1.1:1 and 1.4:1.
Other vitamins and minerals that can impact skeletal development include vitamin D, vitamin A, copper, zinc, and manganese. Joint supplements can also be especially helpful for maintaining joint health and mobility and reducing the risk of arthritis.
Regular, Balanced Meals
In addition to the amount of calories your pup eats, it’s important to emphasize consistent meal times and portion sizes to support their metabolism and prevent conditions like bloat.
Some tips to keep in mind to ensure healthy digestion include:
- Resting after a meal rather than going to play right away
- Setting regular meal times (twice per day is ideal for Great Danes)
- Avoiding large meals that will overfill their stomach
- Using an elevated bowl that’s level with their chest
Common Health Concerns To Watch Out for in Great Danes
There are some health concerns to watch out for in Great Dates, several of which can be impacted by their diets. Before we examine some of the more common concerns, it’s important to remember to consult your veterinarian if you notice any concerns about your dog’s health or wellness.
Gastric Dilation Volvulus (Gastric Torsion)
Gastric dilation volvulus (GDV), also known as gastric torsion, can be a life-threatening disorder that’s often seen in large and giant dog breeds, especially those with deep chests. The condition occurs when a dog’s stomach fills with air, causing bloating.
Sometimes it stops at bloating, but other times, it progresses further to GDV, which is when the stomach twists in on itself and flips. This blocks both the entrance and exit of the dog’s stomach.
To decrease the risk of bloating, avoid feeding your pup large meals and introduce more wet food into their diet. You should also ensure their dry food has calcium-rich real meat (not meat by-products, such as chicken meal) listed in the first four ingredients on the ingredient list.
Hip dysplasia is a common skeletal condition among dogs, where the ball and socket joint of the dog’s hip don't fit or develop properly. This can cause pain that worsens over time and eventual loss of function.
Though hip dysplasia can occur in dogs of any size, large- and giant-breed dogs have higher chances of developing the condition due to their size and quick growth. Sometimes hip dysplasia is the result of genetics and can’t be avoided, but in other cases, there are things pet parents can do to support healthy joints.
Obesity is one of the most controllable risk factors, so keeping your dog’s diet in check is key. Joint supplements and proper levels of vitamins and minerals, especially during their early years, can also help prevent hip dysplasia.
Great Danes should get moderate exercise, but ensuring your dog doesn’t overdo it with excessive exercise in their prime growing years is also important.
Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy (HOD)
Lesser known than bloat hypertrophic osteodystrophy (HOD) is a developmental disease that most often impacts the bones of fast-growing large- and giant-breed puppies. HOD decreases blood flow to certain parts of the bone near the joint and can cause a lot of pain.
Unfortunately, there is not much known about the cause of HOD. However, because there’s a link between this condition and rapid growth, it’s recommended to support the slow, steady growth of your puppy, rather than quick growth. You can encourage this through a well-balanced diet that minimizes growth supplements.
The Honest Kitchen’s Recommendations for Great Danes
All this talk about diet and nutrition may have you thinking about your pup’s current pet food. If you’re considering switching to a food that directly supports the needs of giant dog breeds like Great Danes, we recommend The Honest Kitchen’s human grade dog food.
And don’t just take it from us — read the stories of other Great Dane parents who swear by The Honest Kitchen.
Here are some of our top pick dog foods to support Great Danes’ health and longevity.
Whole Grain Clusters Dry Dog Food
We recommend The Honest Kitchen’s Whole Grain Chicken Clusters as a filler-free, whole grain kibble alternative.
This nutrient-dense food includes whole chicken as the first ingredient, followed by oats, barley, chicken liver, carrots, eggs, ground flaxseed, broccoli, and pumpkin. The recipe also includes prebiotics and probiotics to support digestion.
Hip and Joint Pour Over Supplements
Because large- and giant-breed dogs are predisposed to more bone and joint issues, we recommend The Honest Kitchen’s Hip and Joint Pour-Over supplement. This topper, which is especially great for dogs with sensitive stomachs, is a savory chicken stew that is chock full of quality ingredients to support bones and joints.
The ingredients include chicken bone broth, whole chicken (including the healthy chicken fat!), carrots, butternut squash, tapioca, fish oil, and turmeric — that’s it! These ingredients also pack an extra punch of omega-3, EPA, DHA, and glucosamine, further supporting your pup’s joint health.
Dehydrated Whole Grain Dog Food
If you’re looking for a food option in between dry and wet, we recommend The Honest Kitchen’s Dehydrated Whole Grain Chicken recipe. You simply add warm water, mix, wait 3 minutes and you’ve got a nutritious homemade meal for your pup. Add water to your dog’s liking, but be mindful that too much water can contribute to bloat.
This recipe also includes nutrient-rich, high-quality ingredients without any by-product meals, artificial colors, or artificial preservatives. So your dog will get their share of amino acids, omega fatty acids, antioxidants, and minerals — all with an irresistible taste.
Feed Your Large Breed Dog the Best Honest Kitchen Recipes
Large breed dogs — especially Great Danes — require specific diets to support their health and wellness. The Honest Kitchen makes it simple with a line of high-quality, human-grade dog food that supports digestion, a strong immune system, and bone health.
With so many dog food recipes to choose from, even the pickiest of Great Danes are sure to find something that will satisfy their taste buds. And, as a pet parent, you can rest easy knowing your best friend is getting balanced nutrition without any artificial preservatives or low-quality fillers.
*Health Disclaimer: This post is educational in nature and doesn’t constitute health advice. Please consult your pet's veterinarian or other healthcare professional for specific guidance on this topic.