Hi guys –
The topic of large and giant breed puppy nutrition seems to come up quite often on DFA, so I thought it should have its own topic. Being that I own bloodhounds (large dogs prone to growth issues), it’s a topic I’m very passionate about. Proper nutrition can potentially help your large breed puppy or giant breed puppy avoid growth issues such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and pano. I thought this would be a good area for people to share information (personal experiences, articles, etc.) and ask questions.
These are a few of my favorite articles and studies on the topic:
1. “Nutritional Risks to Large and Giant Breed Dogs: From Weaning to the Geriatric Years” by Susan D. Lauten, PhD
2. “Growth and Skeletal Development of Great Dane Pups Fed Different Levels of Protein Intake” Nap, Hazewinkel, Voorhout, Van Den Brom, Goedegebuure and Van ‘T Klooster
3. “Dietary Mineral Levels Affect Bone Development in Great Dane Pups” by Henry J. Baker DVM
4. “Feeding Large Breed Puppies” by Jennifer Larsen DVM, PhD, DACVN
5. “Why Overgowing Your Large Breed Puppy is Dangerous” Dr. Karen Becker DVM
Many may have already seen this, but I’ll re-post here. This is a list I put together myself of foods that I feel are good choices for growing large and giant breed puppies. This list includes only grain-free 4 and 5 star foods with 3.5 g. calcium per 1,000 kcal. or less and approved for “growth” or “all life stages”. I based the calcium per energy density levels on overall research I’ve done and figures given in the Lauten article posted above. I contacted all the companies directly via email or phone to obtain the actual (not minimum) calcium levels of their foods.
Hound Dog Mom,
That is a great compilation of articles on large breed growth. The most important tenets of large breed nutrition are to keep the puppy lean during the growth period and to feed foods that have a calcium level near 1% (dry diets).
Calcium levels over 1.3 % in a dry food are likely approaching or above the safe upper limit for growth. Since there is no benefit to feeding these higher calcium products to a growing large breed and there may well be risk to the developing skeleton, IMHO they should not be fed during the growth period of a large/giant breed puppy.
Unfortunately, manufactures may state their foods are appropriate for large breed growth when they exceed the recommended level and may even say it is a dietary factor other than calcium that is responsible for the growth problems seen in large breeds. It really is a buyer beware situation as even foods labeled as “large breed puppy” sometimes exceed the recommended level of calcium.
On a energy basis the recommended amount of calcium is 3 grams/1000 kcals. The National Research Council sets the safe upper limit for calcium during growth at 4.5 grams/1000kcals. The European Pet Food Association sets the limit at 4 grams calcium /1000 kcals in puppies less than 6 months. AAFCO allows 7.14 grams/1000 kcals which is why large breed puppy owners have to be vigilant.
Additionally, as you pointed out, when evaluating calcium levels in foods you have the know the actual calcium level in the food. Manufactures often report min. calcium levels so that their foods appear to have a calcium level lower than what they actually have.
Hound Dog Mom,
Thanks for posting your list of recommended foods for large breed puppies. The commercial products it contains appear to be both practical and well-researched. I found this footnote reassuring too…
“All calculations are based on actual or average calcium percentage. Companies that could not disclose actual or average calcium content were not included.”
Thanks again for sharing this valuable list. The information you provided along with many of Aimee’s previous postings on the blog could be the basis for a future article on this subject.
Also, very good advice. I hope readers take the time to follow your suggestions, too. Advice like this could save a lot of great animals from the heartbreak of hip dysplasia and other canine skeletal diseases.
Thanks Dr. Mike!
that’s some good info. are you also watching the protein %. I have a friend that has a great dane pup. and has been told to watch the protein, to be under 25.
They have found that protein is not the issue with large breed dogs. The study that concluded that high protein played a role was actually faulty and has been disproven for quite some time now, but it’s a bandwagon that is easy for vets to jump on since they don’t have much education in nutrition and what they do have is from pet food companies that want business not what is best for your pet.
Hound Dog Mom,
For some reason I am unable to view the document. Is it just unavailable for some reason? I am looking for dry kibble and a canned food topper for my 5 month old Lab. Any help would be great! Thank you!
Sorry Jagger2012, I just noticed this post. I’m not sure why you’re not seeing the document, it’s working for me. I’ll try posting a new link, let me know if this works: https://docs.google.com/open?id=0BwApI_dhlbnFY183Q0NVRXlidWc
I like Merricks 96% grain free canned,Fromm,wellness 95%,Tripett,BB Wilderness.They are all nice toppers.We use canned 3 times a week.We also use fresh meat as toppers.Ground chicken/turkey,gizzards,beef,sardines,venison,eggs,yogurt . Brothers Complete is the kibble we use with a bag of fromms grain free once in awhile…
Hello! This is EXACTLY the thread that I was looking for. We have a 1.5 year old vizsla/lab mix who has hip dysplasia. While I feel as if I didn’t feed her the best food during her first year (Nature’s Recipe – Large Breed Puppy), I have been feeding her better food since. I’m definitely more educated. She’s currently transitioning to Fromm’s Four Star Grain-Free Game Bird recipe from Acana Ranchlands due to itchiness from Acana.
We are fostering a lab/mastiff mix whose parents were a 60lb lab (mom) and a 150lb purebred mastiff (dad). I have been trying to find the “best” food to feed him — and I am thrilled that I might be able to feed the same food to both of my dogs!
I do have a question, though. You state that Dr. Tim’s Kinesis (grain-free) has 1.3% calcium — where did you get this number? His site (http://drtims.com/grain-free/) states 1.51%, unless I’m reading it incorrectly.
I’m trying to choose between Fromm’s Four Star line (I love that you can swap flavors to give variety and I also love that you can feed less because they have a bit higher protein/fat content than the grain inclusive Four Star!) or transitioning both of my dogs to Dr. Tim’s Kinesis (GF).
I want to make sure that I am feeding my dogs one of the best foods! I know that either of these choices would be okay for Quinn, but I am really worried about hip dysplasia in a second dog. Any advice or feedback would be really appreciated. 🙂
Hi Saireah –
Thanks for pointing that out about the Dr. Tim’s – I’ll have to remove it from the list. I got the percentage from Dr. Tim’s customer service, I emailed them and asked them for the average calcium percentage of the grain-free Kinesis. Looking at their site, I think there was some confusion and they accidentally gave me the calcium level for the grain-inclusive Kinesis. I had the email saved and checked it and I did say grain free Kinesis, so it must have been a mix up.
Hmm! Their calcium for the grain inclusive formula is min. 0.97%. Maybe their site is wrong and your list is still okay? I can send them an e-mail separately and see what they say to me if you’d like?
Well I asked for the “average calcium level” of the grain-free Kinesis. The reason I email each company directly and ask for the average is because what’s stated on the website and product packaging is the guaranteed minimum, not what’s actually in the food. Generally the average calcium level is quite a bit higher than the stated minimum. Dr. Tim’s site states 0.97% min – so when I asked for the average I’m assuming he gave me the average for that formula. Then for the grain-free the min is 1.51%, so the average is likely somewhere around 1.8% or so. Hope that makes sense!
Definitely makes sense. Thanks!
You seem quite knowledgeable with large breeds, so I have a question if you wouldn’t mind? We’ve decided to keep our foster puppy (yay!) — but I’m not sure how much to feed him given his breed background. Again, his mother was a 60lb black lab and his father was a 150lb purebred English mastiff. I’m going to be feeding him the Fromm Four Star line. Quinn, our 50-ishlb lab/vizsla mix, gets just under 2 cups a day as we’re trying to keep her at a leaner weight due to her hip dysplasia. Ideally, she would be 45-50lbs per our discussion with Iowa State. However, for Mr. Unnamed, how many cups per day would you suggest on the Fromm Four Star line? He is 3 months old.
Thanks again for your spreadsheet — it solidified my decision to feed Fromm’s!
That’s really a tough question to answer as each dog is very different. The best thing you can do is monitor his his weight and adjust the food intake accordingly. So many factors can affect the calorie requirements of a dog including size, activity level, age, breed, gender, whether the dog is spayed or neutered, temperature, level of stress, etc. etc. A good place to start would be the feeding recommendation on the bag. Looking at Fromm’s feeding recommendation for their 4 Star line it’s based on an adult dog, so I would find his weight on the chart and double the suggested cups per day (because he’s a puppy and puppies at that age generally require about twice as many calories per pound as an adult dog). When he’s around 6 months old you could probably cut back to about 1 1/2 times the recommended amount for an adult dog. If he gets chubby cut him back, if he looks like he’s losing weight increase his feedings. Starting with the feeding chart on the bag is the and adjusting from there is the best suggestion I can give you. From personal experience though, you’ll probably have to adjust it. Just as an example, by 68 lb. spayed female eats the same amount as my 110 lb. unaltered male – doesn’t make any sense, right? According to Dr. Mike’s dog food calculator she should get 1,639 calories per day – she eats 2,500 calories per day.
Gumbo and Roux MamaParticipant
The information provided by Hound Dog Mom is extremely helpful, but I am having a hard time deciding if my 8 month old puppy would be considered a large breed. After doing reserch, there are many varing opinions on what designates a large breed dog. My girl is a rescue and we were told she was a Boxer/Lab mix but who knows! She is definitely Boxer, but not certain about the lab. At 8 months, she weighs 40 pounds but is really lean. I worry that she borders on being a bit too thin but do not want to overfeed her in an effort to prevent future problems. Being new to this site, I certainly welcome any and all advice!
Hi Gumbo and Roux Mama –
I consider any dog that will be 60 pounds or more at maturity to be a large breed. If your pup is 8 months old and only 40 lbs. she’ll likely be a medium-sized dog at maturity, but definitely on that medium/large borderline. Feeding a small or medium sized dog as a large breed won’t hurt, so if you’re unsure there’s no reason you can keep the dog lean, limit calcium and limit strenuous exercise, etc. As for her weight, just google body weight scores for dogs and you’ll be able to find pictures of what a good weight should look like. I personally keep my dogs on the lean side, probably leaner than most keep their dogs – I’d rather see my dogs borderlining underweight than borderlining overweight. I think with large dogs any excess weight is just excess stress on the joints. You should see a waistline when you view the dog from above, an abdominal tuck when viewed from the side, you should be able to feel the ribs but they shouldn’t be protruding. A good indication that the dog is underweight is if you can see the hip bones – if you can see these she’s too thin.
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