Large & Giant Breed Dog Food Basics

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Large & Giant Breed Dog Food Basics

Large and giant dog breeds are genetically predisposed to grow too much.

Large breeds reach 50 % of their body weight at approximately 5 months of age.

Great Danes, Labrador retrievers, German shepherds, and are examples of large and giant dog breeds.

Mastiff is a large dog breed

Large Breed Dogs

A large breed dog is a dog weighing 26 – 45 Kg (56-100 lb)when he’s full grown, which generally occurs between 10 and 24 months of age, according to the breed.

They have a short life expectancy, which ranges from 9 to 12 years old.

Giant Breed Dogs

Giant dogs weigh more than 45 kg (100 lb).It takes 18 to 24 months for giant breed puppies to reach adulthood.

Giant dogs have a shorter life expectancy than large breed dogs.

They usually are able to reach 7 to 9 years old.

They were bred to work in cold weather and are frequently used today as rescue dogs as well as being extraordinary pets.

“Life Stage Nutrition”

What are the specificities of large and giant dog breed puppies?

The nutritional aim for large and giant breed puppies should be controlled growth – not overgrowth.

Veterinarians recommend you feed your puppy the amount of food required to keep him lean, which corresponds to a 4 out of 9 body condition score.

Large breed puppies are more vulnerable to developmental bone and joint pathologies during their rapid growth phase to 1 year of age.

When a puppy’s body gets too big, too fast, it puts stress on the developing skeleton.

Fast bone growth can result in structural deficiencies of the bones, which makes the skeleton less able to bear the increasing body weight.

The components of nutrition that have been scientifically proven to harmfully impact skeletal development in puppies are:

  • Fat (too much calories)
  • High or unbalanced mineral content (calcium and phosphorus)
So these lead us to the conclusion that fat and calcium should be decreased in foods for large and giant breed puppies for the following reasons:

  • High fat/calorie intake causes rapid weight increase, and bones/muscles aren’t developed enough to bear the excessive body weight
  • Controlling the fat content and full amount of calories in the food reduce the risk of developmental bone and joint problems
  • Excessive calcium intake increases the probability of skeletal problems
  • Calcium supplements should not be add to commercial pet food for growth
My advice is that you should monitor your puppy’s body condition and activity level. Since puppy appetite varies depending on what growth stage they’re in, you’ll need to adjust the quantity of food you feed your puppy and keep him at the suitable weight during his growth period.

In my view, some significant attributes of dog food composition for different life stages in large and giant dogs are the follow:

Life Stage Food Attributes
Puppy (weaning to 15 – 24 months old)
  • Immunity support
  • Moderate energy
  • Joint support (omega 3, chondroitin)
  • Digestive security promoting development of intestinal flora
Adult (> 15 -24 months of age)  
  • High digestibility
  • Tartar control
  • Moderate energy
  • Intestinal flora balance
  • Antioxidant complex
  • Joint Support maintains healthy muscles and bones to support an active life and facilitates joint mobility
  • Glucosamine and chondroitin helps to maintain healthy joints

Things to Remember

If you have a large or giant dog breed you should keep in your mind that:

  • Feed your large or giant breed dog the right amount at the right intervals
  • Large and giant breed dogs are much more prone to joint and bone pathologies
  • Exercise your dog frequently
  • Avoid excessive or intense physical activities until they are old enough to avoid injury
  • Maintain  and monitor your dog’s weight
  • Obesity and inactivity are the foremost risk factors for joint problems
  • Consult a veterinary opinion before beginning a new exercise plan
  • Never free feed
  • Keep the puppy lean (4/9 or 5/9)
You can find reviews about the best dog foods appropriate for your large or giant dog breed in our Dog Food Selector.

About the Author:

Hi! I'm Dora Mancha, DVM. I am graduated for the Veterinary Medicine Faculty of Lisbon (2009). My degree is recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). I completed my degree in Veterinary Medicine in July, 2009. Over the first years as a veterinarian my work was closely related to the animal health field. I have gained some average experience having worked in Barcelona University (UAB) Equine Hospital and by working with veterinarians in Portugal. In addition, in 2009 - 2010 I was in Madrid at the University Alfonso X el Sábio doing an internship in the equine service. I am also very interested in small animal medicine and surgery. In fact I worked in several small animals clinics in Portugal improving my knowledge about small animal behavior and health. Dogs always have been present in my life, since I was a child. At the present moment I have four dogs a Labrador, a Epagnheul Breton, a Whippet and a mixed breed dog.

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Why was the Dog Food Selector created?

Each dog has unique needs... The approach "one food for all dogs" isn't the more suitable. Dogs have different sizes, different life stages, unique breed characteristics, health conditions and a few other factors... Choosing the right food for your dog may help him or her life a longer and healthier life! We exist to make that task easier for you.

How does the Dog Food Selector work?

It's quite simple... It's a 1-2 step process. You just have to fill in the form with your dog's characteristics, like gender, age, size, activity, health conditions and a few other important data and click "search". Then, you'll see a list of dog foods with the highest review score. If you wish you can see all the detailed review of each individual dog food.