Are you the proud parent of a large-breed puppy? You’re in for an adventure! With their great size comes plenty to love and plenty of fun, but it’s important to get a good handle on what your pup needs as they grow. And for large-breed dogs, nutrition is especially important to support long-term wellness!
It may seem like a tricky balance to keep up with a high-energy pup and support a steady growth rate, but identifying the best large-breed puppy food for your pup can be a great place to start. Below, we’ll cover what’s different about feeding large-breed puppies, habits to avoid, and a few great-tasting puppy food recommendations.
Feeding Differences: Large Breed Puppies vs. Other Puppies
Feeding large-breed puppies is a little different from feeding their smaller counterparts.
Remember, large-breed puppies might grow a lot faster than small- and medium-breed puppies, but they also grow a lot more. In fact, it can take up to two years for large-breed puppies to reach skeletal maturity!
However, it’s important to remember that their growth should be as gradual as possible. Feeding them too many calories may cause them to grow too fast, which can impact their bones and joints. (We’ll cover more on this later, so keep reading!)
So, you’ll want your feeding habits to support slow and steady growth to avoid over-encumbering their skeletons. To support a healthy skeleton, it’s important to keep an eye on the calcium-to-phosphorus ratio in food for large-breed puppies.
Generally speaking, a 1.1:1 calcium-to-phosphorus ratio for large dog breeds is ideal. And when it comes to dry dog food, look for 0.8%-1.2% calcium per kilogram of food. Some large breed puppies like German Shepherds may require upward of 1.5% calcium per kilogram of food.
Puppies have a harder time regulating how much dietary calcium their body can absorb from the intestinal tract than adult dogs. So, too much calcium can lead to bone and joint health issues down the road.
Similarly, large breed puppies have different protein requirements. It might seem like the bigger the dog, the more protein they’ll need — but that’s not the case. In fact, too much protein can also cause puppies to grow too fast, leading to bone and joint issues, as touched on above.
The slow and steady mindset can also support a lower chance of your pup developing diseases like hip dysplasia and osteochondritis dissecans (OCD). But keep in mind that some skeletal problems can be out of your hands as they are genetic. Staying on top of your puppy’s regular vet visits can help catch these issues, and you can always check in with your vet if you have any growth or development concerns.
The Importance of High-Quality Dog Food for Large Breeds
All growing puppies require a diet balanced with essential nutrients, antioxidants, animal protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Similar to babies and young children, the body develops integral tissues and organs in the early stages of development. And what fosters healthy tissue growth and development? Protein (among other essential building blocks).
According to the American Kennel Club, large-breed puppies need food with about 26% protein content. But it’s not just the amount of protein that matters — it’s also the quality.
Not all protein sources are the same. To support healthy growth, it’s also important to feed your large-breed puppy high-quality protein from whole muscle and organ meats you can find in high-quality puppy foods like The Honest Kitchen’s recipes.
High-quality protein sources offer greater nutritional value, and contain essential amino acids your puppy’s body needs for growth. Low-quality protein sources (like meat meals and by-products), on the other hand, don’t have as many essential amino acids.
Finding nutritious puppy food with the quality protein your growing pup needs, in addition to the right calcium:phosphorus ratio, is key to ensuring they grow to their full potential on a safe, healthy timeline!
Feeding Mistakes To Avoid in Large Dog Breeds
Beyond choosing the right type of dog food to support your puppy's growth, there are some other mistakes to avoid when raising your large-breed pup, including:
Giving Your Dog Table Scraps
Your new best friend is likely always interested in what you’re eating. They may even sit at your feet while you eat, hoping for a taste of the good stuff! And while it might be hard to resist those sweet puppy eyes, do your best not to give your puppy table scraps.
Table scraps may seem harmless, but there are a few reasons to avoid giving them to your pup. Our prepared human food often has more salt and fat than dogs can handle, which can lead to upset stomachs and diarrhea. Some human food may also contain ingredients or seasonings that are harmful to dogs, like garlic, onions, and xylitol.
While not all table scraps are bad for dogs, training your puppy not to beg will establish good manners and support healthier eating habits.
Overdoing Treats (Especially During Training)
Treats can be tough for humans to resist, and our pets are no different! However, to maintain healthy and gradual growth, try not to give your large-breed puppy too many treats, especially during training where they can add up quickly.
A good rule of thumb is to limit your pup’s daily caloric intake from treats to 10% to avoid excess weight gain. And as we know, weight gain in the prime growing months can sometimes lead to long-term health concerns.
One way to cut down on calorie-dense treats is to use small pieces of dry dog food as a training treat. If you’re using large treats, consider breaking them in half, or even thirds. Parmesan Pecks from The Honest Kitchen are great for training — they’re only seven calories. These treats are available in three recipes: beef and blueberry, chicken and cranberry, and duck and cherry.
High Caloric Intake or High Fat Intake
As touched on earlier, a diet high in calories and fat may cause your pup to grow too fast and gain excess weight.
When it comes to fat, look for food that has between 10% and 25% on a dry matter basis. If you’re not sure exactly how many calories your large-breed puppy needs each day, a puppy feeding chart or the feeding guidelines on the food you’re planning to feed your pup can be great places to start. However, you should always consult your veterinarian for the most accurate information.
Though calories and fat are vital for healthy growth, it’s important to make sure they‘re from high-quality sources and balanced with other nutritious ingredients. Look for foods with healthy whole grains like oats, grain free carbs like sweet potatoes, healthy fats like fish oil (a great source of DHA, which is good for your growing pup’s learning capacity), and meats with omega-3 fatty acids like chicken, lamb, and beef.
(Pro tip: Chicken, lamb, and beef also contain glucosamine, which can support bone and joint health — a key piece of raising a healthy large-breed puppy!)
The Top 2 Best Puppy Foods for Large Breeds From The Honest Kitchen
Your big puppy most likely has a big appetite, so it’s important to choose dog food that supports their growth and taste buds. And that’s exactly what The Honest Kitchen provides! Our recipes are all 100% human grade, packed full of nutrients and whole ingredients that dogs love. You won’t find any artificial preservatives, colors, or fillers here — just great-tasting, high-quality, responsibly-sourced ingredients.
Looking for the best puppy foods? Here are our top picks for large-breed puppies.
1. Whole Grain Chicken Clusters for Puppies
If you’re in the market for whole grain dog food, you’ll love our Whole Grain Chicken Clusters for Puppies. These tasty, minimally processed clusters are made with cage free chicken (first ingredient), followed by oats, veggies like broccoli and pumpkin, salmon oil, and probiotics to support your pup’s digestive health as they grow.
2. Grain Free Chicken Clusters for Puppies
If your puppy has a grain sensitivity, try The Honest Kitchen’s Grain Free Chicken Clusters for Puppies. Like the whole grain recipe, this grain free option contains just the right balance of high-quality protein sources (no chicken meal here!), fat, and carbs for growing puppies. This nutrient-dense puppy recipe includes chicken, potatoes, lentils, peas, carrots, broccoli, pumpkin, ground flaxseed, coconut oil, and more.
Try The Honest Kitchen Today
As the newest member of your family continues to grow into an adult dog, it’s important to keep their nutritional needs in mind. The key is balance and moderation — which can be hard when you’re face to face with a set of adorable puppy eyes.
Cutting back on treats, avoiding table scraps, and choosing a nutritionally balanced dog food can support healthy bones and overall wellness as your large-breed puppy grows. With The Honest Kitchen, it’s easy to find healthy, delicious, and high-quality food that even the pickiest pups will love!