Best Large Breed Puppy Foods

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Best Large Breed Puppy Food

Best Large Breed Puppy Foods
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Feeding the best large breed puppy food can significantly lower your dog’s risk of developing hip dysplasia.1

That’s because the nutritional needs of large and giant breed puppies are different from those of small and medium breeds.

And ignoring those needs can lead to crippling bone and joint disorders like:

  • Elbow dysplasia2
  • Osteochondrosis (OCD)
  • Canine hip dysplasia (CHD)
  • Developmental orthopedic disease (DOD)

X-ray of large breed dog with hip dysplasia

Why Large Breed Puppies Are
Prone to Hip Disease

When compared to smaller breeds, two unique factors about the way they grow make large breed puppies more prone to skeletal problems:

  1. They grow faster
  2. They remain puppies longer

A Labrador retriever can grow from just under a pound at birth to over 70 pounds in a year. That’s a whopping 70-fold increase in size in just 12 months.

In comparison, a human being can take 18 years to achieve results that are less than half that much.

What’s more, unlike smaller breeds that can be fed as adults at about 9-12 months, many larger breeds continue to grow and can still be considered puppies until 12 to 24 months.3

Rapid growth means the bones must change quickly, a factor that can put them at risk of forming improperly.

And it is this remarkable rate of growth that makes large and giant breeds so prone to hip disease.

The Protein Myth

Unfortunately, the Internet is awash with misinformation about how to feed large breed puppies.

For example, many insist that high levels of dietary protein can lead to hip dysplasia.

Yet contrary to that popular myth…

No evidence exists to link high protein intake to skeletal disease in large breed dogs.4

So, if high protein isn’t the problem…

What Causes Hip Disease
in Large Breed Dogs?

Hip disease in large breeds appears to be the result of at least one of 3 proven factors:

  1. Genetics5
  2. Overfeeding6
  3. Excessive dietary calcium7

So, since after birth there’s nothing you can do to change your puppy’s genetics

It’s important to avoid feeding too many calories or too much calcium, two factors that can significantly increase your puppy’s risk of hip dysplasia.

Overfeeding

Free choice is a popular feeding method in which the food remains in the bowl and continuously available — so a puppy can eat whenever it wants.

Sadly, many owners of large breed puppies mistakenly believe that this form of uncontrolled eating is the correct way to feed their pets.

However, free choice feeding has been shown to cause a puppy to grow too fast — and lead to serious problems.

For example, a 1995 German study of Great Danes demonstrated a significant increase in the risk of developing skeletal disease when the puppies were fed free choice.8

In another study, one group of Labrador Retriever puppies was fed throughout life a restricted calorie diet while a second was fed free choice.9

The restricted calorie group experienced a much lower incidence and later onset of hip joint arthritis.

Too Much Calcium

Like overfeeding, excessive dietary calcium has also been shown to increase the risk of skeletal disease in large breed puppies.10

That’s because puppies can have trouble regulating how much calcium is absorbed from their intestinal tracts.11

And that’s not all.

Feeding too little calcium can also lead to problems.

That’s why it’s so important to feed a dog food that contains an amount of calcium that’s safe for large breed puppies.

Best Large Breed Puppy Foods
January 2019

Here are The Dog Food Advisor’s top 15 best large breed puppy foods for January 2019.

Wellness Core Large Breed Puppy Food

Rating: ★★★★★

  • First 5 ingredients: Deboned chicken, chicken meal, peas, dried ground potatoes, turkey meal
  • AAFCO: Growth
  • Best for: All puppies including large breeds

Label analysis reveals a dry matter protein content of 39%, a fat level of 16% and an estimated carbohydrate share of about 38%.

Above-average protein. Near-average fat. And below-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.

Highly recommended.


Horizon Complete Large Breed Puppy Dry Dog Food

Horizon Complete Large Breed Puppy Food

Rating: ★★★★½

  • First 5 ingredients: Chicken meal, whole grain barley, whole grain oats, chicken, whole grain rye
  • Profile: Growth
  • Best for: All puppies including large breeds

Label analysis reveals a dry matter protein content of 31%, a fat level of 16% and an estimated carbohydrate share of about 45%.

Above-average protein. Near-average fat. And below-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.

Highly recommended.


Blue Buffalo Wilderness Large Breed Puppy Dry Dog Food

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Large Breed Puppy

Rating: ★★★★★

  • First 5 ingredients: Deboned chicken, chicken meal, peas, pea protein, tapioca starch
  • Profile: Growth
  • Best for: All puppies including large breeds

Label analysis reveals a dry matter protein content of 39%, a fat level of 16% and an estimated carbohydrate share of about 38%.

Above-average protein. Near-average fat. And below-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.

Highly recommended.


Hill's Science Diet Large Breed Puppy Dry Dog Food

Hill’s Science Diet Large Breed Puppy Food

Rating: ★★★★☆

  • First 5 ingredients: Chicken meal, whole grain wheat, whole grain oats, whole grain sorghum, corn gluten meal
  • AAFCO: Growth
  • Best for: All puppies including large breeds

Label analysis reveals a dry matter protein content of 30%, a fat level of 14% and an estimated carbohydrate share of about 48%.

Near-average protein. Below-average fat. And near-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.

Highly recommended.


Holistic Select Large and Giant Breed Puppy Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Holistic Select Large and Giant Breed Puppy Food

Rating: ★★★★½

  • First 5 ingredients: Lamb meal, chicken meal, potatoes, chickpeas, lentils
  • AAFCO: Growth
  • Best for: All puppies including large breeds

Label analysis reveals a dry matter protein content of 31%, a fat level of 17% and an estimated carbohydrate share of about 44%.

Above-average protein. Near-average fat. And below-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.

Highly recommended.


Instinct Raw Boost Large Breed Puppy Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Instinct Raw Boost Large Breed Puppy Food

Rating: ★★★★★

  • First 5 ingredients: Chicken, turkey meal, peas, chickpeas, chicken eggs
  • AAFCO: Growth
  • Best for: All puppies including large breeds

Label analysis reveals a dry matter protein content of 37%, a fat level of 17% and an estimated carbohydrate share of about 38%.

Above-average protein. Near-average fat. And below-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.

Highly recommended.


Eukanuba Large Breed Puppy Food Dry

Eukanuba Large Breed Puppy Food

Rating: ★★★★☆

  • First 5 ingredients: Chicken, corn meal, chicken by-product meal, ground whole grain sorghum
  • Profile: Growth
  • Best for: All puppies including large breeds

Label analysis reveals a dry matter protein content of 29%, a fat level of 16% and an estimated carbohydrate share of about 48%.

Above-average protein. Below-average fat. And Near-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.

Highly recommended.


Merrick Grain Free Puppy Dry Dog Food Approved for Large Breed Puppies

Merrick Grain-Free Puppy Food

Rating: ★★★★☆

  • First 5 ingredients: Deboned chicken, chicken meal, potatoes, peas, sweet potatoes
  • AAFCO: All life stages
  • Best for: All puppies including large breeds

Label analysis reveals a dry matter protein content of 31%, a fat level of 13% and an estimated carbohydrate share of about 47%.

Above-average protein. Below-average fat. And near-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.

Highly recommended.


Purina Pro Plan Focus Large Breed Puppy Dry Food

Purina Pro Plan Focus Large Breed Puppy

Rating: ★★★★☆

  • First 5 ingredients: Chicken, brewers rice, corn gluten meal, whole grain corn, poultry by-product meal
  • Profile: All life stages
  • Best for: All puppies including large breeds

Label analysis reveals a dry matter protein content of 32%, a fat level of 15% and an estimated carbohydrate share of about 45%.

Above-average protein. Below-average fat. And near-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.

Highly recommended.


Now Fresh Grain Free Large Breed Puppy Dry Dog Food

Now Fresh Grain-Free Large Breed Puppy Food

Rating: ★★★★½

  • First 5 ingredients: Deboned turkey, whole dried egg, potatoes, peas, potato flour
  • AAFCO: Growth
  • Best for: All puppies including large breeds

Label analysis reveals a dry matter protein content of 32%, a fat level of 18% and an estimated carbohydrate share of about 42%.

Above-average protein. Above-average fat. And below-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.

Highly recommended.


Royal Canin Large Breed Maxi Puppy Dry Dog Food

Royal Canin Large Puppy Dog Food

Rating: ★★★★☆

  • First 5 ingredients: Corn, chicken by-product meal, wheat, wheat gluten, chicken fat
  • AAFCO: Growth
  • Best for: All puppies including large breeds

Label analysis reveals a dry matter protein content of 31%, a fat level of 16% and an estimated carbohydrate share of about 45%.

Above-average protein. Near-average fat. And below-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.

Highly recommended.


Taste of the Wild Grain-Free High Prairie Puppy Dry Dog Food

Taste of the Wild Grain-Free Puppy Food

Rating: ★★★★☆

  • First 5 ingredients: Buffalo, lamb meal, sweet potatoes, egg product, pea protein
  • AAFCO: All life stages
  • Best for: All puppies including large breeds

Label analysis reveals a dry matter protein content of 31%, a fat level of 19% and an estimated carbohydrate share of about 42%.

Above-average protein. Above-average fat. And below-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.

Highly recommended.


Orijen Large Puppy Dry Dog Food

Orijen Puppy Large

Rating: ★★★★★

  • First 5 ingredients: Deboned chicken, deboned turkey, yellowtail flounder, whole eggs, whole atlantic mackerel
  • Profile: All life stages
  • Best for: All puppies including large breeds

Label analysis reveals a dry matter protein content of 43%, a fat level of 18% and an estimated carbohydrate share of about 30%.

Above-average protein. Above-average fat. And below-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.

Highly recommended.


Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Puppy Dry Dog Food

Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Puppy Food

Rating: ★★★★☆

  • First 5 ingredients: Chicken meal, dried potatoes, peas, chicken fat, dried sweet potatoes
  • AAFCO: All life stages
  • Best for: All puppies including large breeds

Label analysis reveals a dry matter protein content of 29%, a fat level of 13% and an estimated carbohydrate share of about 49%.

Near-average protein. Below-average fat. And near-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.

Highly recommended.


Diamond Naturals Large Breed Puppy Food Dry Dog Food

Diamond Naturals Large Breed Puppy

Rating: ★★★★½

  • First 5 ingredients: Lamb, lamb meal, ground white rice, peas, pea flour
  • Profile: All life stages
  • Best for: All puppies including large breeds

Label analysis reveals a dry matter protein content of 30%, a fat level of 17% and an estimated carbohydrate share of about 45%.

Near-average protein. Near-average fat. And below-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.

Highly recommended.


How to Choose Your Own Safe
Large Breed Puppy Food

Thanks to an important change in labeling laws that went into effect in January 2016…

It’s now possible for you to be 100% certain ANY food you buy is safe for your large breed puppy.

Without calling your vet.

Or consulting a nutritionist.

Best of all…

The written assurance you need is printed right there on the label of virtually every commercial dog food.

You just need to know where to look.

It’s a simple, easy-to-read sentence known as the Nutritional Adequacy Statement.

And based on standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)…

And scientific data published by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Science.

Which means…

To meet the more rigid safety guidelines for large breed puppies, a dog food must contain12

  • 1.2 to 1.8% calcium
  • 1.0 to 1.6% phosphorus
  • Calcium-to-phosphorus ratio 1:1 to 1.8:113

So…

Scan the Package for the
Nutritional Adequacy Statement

Here’s what it looks like…

Since you’re feeding a large or giant breed puppy

You want to be certain the food meets AAFCO nutrient profiles for either “Growth” or “All Life Stages“.

And…

That it ALSO reads… including growth of large size dogs“.

That last phrase is SUPER IMPORTANT!

Because if you don’t see those words…

You should assume the food contains too much calcium… and is NOT SAFE for your large or giant breed puppy.

By the way…

AAFCO defines a large breed puppy as any dog whose adult weight is expected to exceed 70 pounds.

However…

For greater safety…

We recommend a more conservative 50 pound definition of large breeds advocated by others.14 15 16 17

When Can You Safely Switch
Your Puppy to Adult Food?

Large breeds puppies (like Labs, Goldens and German shepherds) don’t reach adulthood until 12 to 18 months.

And giant breeds (like Great Danes and St. Bernards) can take up to 24 months before they’re considered adults.

Breed SizeAdult WeightAdulthood
Large breed50-100 lbs12-18 mos
Giant breedOver 100 lbs18-24 mos

Since calcium content can vary widely…

Switching your large breed puppy to adult dog food too soon can significantly increase your pet’s risk of hip dysplasia.

References

  1. Lauten SD, Nutritional Risks to Large Breed Dogs: From Weaning to the Geriatric Years, Vet Clin Small Anim 36 (2006) 1345–1359.
  2. Elbow dysplasia, Wikipedia
  3. IAMS: Is Your Puppy Ready for Adult Food?
  4. Lauten SD, Nutritional Risks to Large Breed Dogs: From Weaning to the Geriatric Years, Vet Clin Small Anim 36 (2006) 1348.
  5. Hedhammar A, Canine hip dysplasia as influenced by genetic and environmental factors, EJCAP, Oct 2007, 17:2 (pp 141-143)
  6. Kealy RD et al, Effects of limited food consumption on the incidence of hip dysplasia in growing dogs, JAVMA, Sep 1992, 201:6 (pp 857-863)
  7. Richardson, Skeletal diseases of the growing dog: Nutritional influences and the role of diet, Canine Hip Dysplasia: A Symposium Held at Western Veterinary Conference, 1995
  8. Zentek J, Meyer H, Dammrich K. The effect of a different energy supply for growing Great Danes on the body mass and skeletal development. Clinical picture and chemical studies of the skeleton. Zentralbl Veterinarmed A 1995;42(1):69–80.
  9. Smith GK, Paster ER, Powers MY, et al. Lifelong diet restriction and radiographic evidence of osteoarthritis of the hip joint in dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2002;229(5):690–3.
  10. Hazewinkel HAW. Nutrition in relation to skeletal growth deformities. J Sm Anim Practice. 1989; 30:525-630.
  11. Tryfonidou MA et al. Intestinal calcium absorption in growing dogs is influenced by calcium intake and age but not by growth rate. J Nutr. 2002;132:3363-3368.
  12. On a dry matter basis
  13. Ratio reduced by the author from 1:2 to 1:1.8 based on dry matter maximum calcium and minimum phosphorus values
  14. Lauten SD, Nutritional Risks to Large Breed Dogs: From Weaning to the Geriatric Years, Vet Clin Small Anim 36 (2006) 1345.
  15. IAMS, “How to Transition Your Puppy to Adult Food
  16. Purina, “When to Switch from Puppy Food to Adult Dog Food
  17. Yuill C, DVM, MSc, CVH, “Nutrition: General Feeding Guidelines for Dogs“, VCA Hospitals (November 2011)
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