Hip Dysplasia in Dogs Linked to Improper Diet


Hip dysplasia in dogs is a common condition in which the hip joint becomes malformed. The disease typically appears before a dog turns 18 months and can lead to severe arthritis and lameness.1

This video by Dr. Karen Becker shows how proper diet can help prevent this crippling condition.

Doesn’t a High Protein Diet Cause
Hip Dysplasia in Dogs?

Although there are many who still believe high protein can be a health problem for puppies, more recent studies tend to disagree.

The rapid growth which causes skeletal disorders (like hip dysplasia) in larger breeds is now believed to be more appropriately linked to genetics2 — and made worse by excessive dietary calcium3 or overfeeding during the puppy phase of life4.

For more in-depth information about this controversial subject (including references and footnotes), you may wish to visit our article, “Best Puppy Foods“.

In large breeds, be sure to look for puppy foods with comparatively lower calcium content.


  1. Wikipedia, “Canine Hip Dysplasia
  2. A Hedhammar, Canine hip dysplasia as influenced by genetic and environmental factors, EJCAP, Oct 2007, 17:2 (pp 141-143)
  3. 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
  4. RD Kealy et al, Effects of limited food consumption on the incidence of hip dysplasia in growing dogs, JAVMA, Sep 1992, 201:6 (pp 857-863)
  • Rosario Salas

    We also use the Ortocani’s hip brace and so far is the only thing working

  • Pitlove

    No not at all. As I said, of the brands you listed Wellness would be a good choice. I personally use Pro Plan, so that is another I would recommend. Also Michigan based company Dr.Tim’s, specifically his grain inclusive Kinesis formula. I’m also ok with Natural Balance and Natures Variety.

  • Meredith Rogers

    Is science diet the only food you would suggest?

  • Pitlove

    Science Diet is only considered a bad food to those who still believe you can evaluate the quality of a pet food by using the ingredient list. What those same people do not understand is that an ingredient list tells you only what is in the food, but nothing of the quality of the raw materials, if the raw materials were stored properly at freezing temperatures, how the raw materials were handled during processing, how they were processed, if the company tests their food for deadly pathogens, who is formulating the food and if they indeed have a background in canine nutrition.

    I don’t know if you followed these recent string of recalls, but the two that involved Evangers showed clearly why an attractive ingredient list does not mean quality food. Not only did two skus of foods that by evaluating based on ingredients only get great reviews on here test positive for large quantities of Pentobarbital, but when the FDA did a full investigation of both their canneries found them to be in filthy condition. Raw material stored at amibient temperature and exposed to chipping paint and mold on the walls. And also filthy machinery and the area where they hand pack their canned foods was disgusting.

    I’m not sure about most people but after reading that report I absolutely will not use any product co-packed in an Evangers facility and i don’t care how nice the ingredients are.

    As for your concern about a grain allergy. It is very rare for dogs to get food allergies in the first place and grains are not among the most common allergens as many would have you think. I fed my pitbull nothing but “high quality” grain free chicken free foods when he was a puppy and now he gets violently sick when he eats anything grain free because of the peas in them. Grain free does not mean hypoallergenic and will not guarantee your dog to never develop a food sensitivity.

    A food can only reduce the risk of HD expression not guarantee it. Genetics are still going to be in play.

    At least until he is cleared for HD, I would highly encourage you to use a food from a company that does feeding trials, employees veterinary nutritionists, manufactures their own food in their own US facilities and does their own independent research.

    If you are set on Simply Nourish still, I would encourage you to pull up the WSAVA guidelines for choosing a food, find out a contact # for Simply Nourish and pose those questions to them. If you like their answers use the food, if not move on.

  • Meredith Rogers

    isn’t science diet one of the worst food now of days. I have been feeding him simply nourish large puppy breed and it has 400mg of Glusomine and have 340 cals per cup. Also is that a good food to go with by any chance. Also it has Chondroitin Sulfate 300 per cup. I did read something about how some one fed that food to their dog and still got hip Dysplasia. And I thought about changing his food to taste of the wild but I decided not too. Also I know that science diet does have 440 glusomine compared to simply nourish and has 353 cals per cup. And the chondroitin sulfate is way higher than 300. I think he seems better since he’s been on it for a week now. I just don’t want to start a grain allergy. Science diet has the grains that could cause an allergy to grain while. Simply nourish has less bad grains and more vegetables and fruits.

  • Pitlove

    I would check with your vet, but it may help to a degree. Could at the very least help stop further damage.

  • Meredith Rogers

    Ok awesome thanks for the advice. Also if I started to give him supplements at this young of age do you think that will help. Like glucosamine or hip and joint supplements

  • Pitlove

    I would not trust any of those brands at this critical time. Wellness maybe, but most certainly not Blue Buffalo or Orijen. A regular member of this forum put it best when she said, you only have one chance to get a sound orthopedic structure. The breeder already set him back by not keeping up with current research, so I would only trust a company at this point that has done their own original research on large breed nutrition which Hills has.

  • Pitlove

    Yeah the vet is right. Radiographing before 2 is not a clear sign of no HD and waiting to neuter and/or not doing it at all will help greatly.

  • Meredith Rogers

    So even feeding him large breed Orijen puppy food won’t do that great or blue wilderness, wellness.

  • Meredith Rogers

    But he still plays and it doesn’t seem to bug him too much.

  • Meredith Rogers

    The vet also gave me a trial pack of anti inflammatories

  • Meredith Rogers

    We have had x rays done and they say that his hip is shallow right now. They just said feeding him large breed puppy food can help and not neutering him can help. The vet said that they won’t really know if he has hip dysplasia Until he’s two. And so far he just walks funny on his right hip. When the vet stretched the hip out they said it was stiff and he’s more resistant to let them stretch it out than the left leg. He used to scoot a little is he didn’t have to get up and move a few inches. But it’s been a week he’s gotten better about that.

  • Pitlove

    Hi Meredith-

    Can you elaborate on what you mean by sore hip? Has be had x-rays done?

    It’s going to be critical that he receives a low energy density food right now and he needs to be kept at an ideal weight to slow down the damage. You may not want to hear this but Science Diet Large Breed Puppy is going to be your most truthworthy option right now. Hills is one of the leaders in large and giant breed puppy growth and development. I would trust only a company who’s formulas have been feed trialed and have research standing behind them at this time.

  • Meredith Rogers

    I have a 11 wk old pitbull puppy and he already has sore right hip because of his breeders feeding him pedigree adult food when he was younger. I need to a large puppy food that will help his hips before he keeps growing. Right now I’m feeding him taste of the wild. But I’m not sure if that’s good for him or not. The just say he’s growing to fast and getting him on large breed puppy food will help and hopefully he grows out of it. I need suggestions.

  • Karl

    I’ve read about green lipped mussel a couple times now, I really don’t know anything about.. I’m going to look further into it. Thanks! And yes, no dog whether purebred, puppy, or old can give you the guarantee of a lifetime of good health! Just part of the package dealing with things like this. That’s life!!

  • Pitlove

    Yes and no. Proper nutrition can reduce the risk of these kinds of DOD’s, but genetics can still be the deciding factor. I agree with everything Crazy4dogs said and she has also given you some good advice.

  • Crazy4dogs

    Hi Karl,

    It’s a chance you take but it happens to purebred dogs that are gotten as puppies and fed correctly.

    In addition to keeping him lean, you might want to add fish oil, green lipped mussel, and a joint supplement. I have a lab I rescued many years ago who now has bad knees due to injury several years ago. The supplements have really kept her very active.

    I foster adult dogs & even though they come from rural shelters, many are very healthy after being taken care of any issues. Thanks for saving an adult. ūüôā

  • Karl

    Hm, guess that’s just what comes with adopting a dog and not getting a puppy. I’m careful to keep him lean and as of now, he seems to be comfortable. Sometimes in the morning there’s stiffness or after a longer walk.. but he seems to be doing okay for now. Thanks for the info.

  • Pitlove

    As far as I know, there is no research showing that feeding a diet lower in calcium at the this point (when the dog is older and hip dysplasia has set in) will help. The controlled levels of calcium fed during puppyhood can help reduce the expression because large and giant breeds do not absorb the calcium correctly.

    The best thing at this point besides surgery or physical therapy (if those are even options) is to make him comfortable and keep him very lean. Putting weight on will only make him hurt more.

  • Karl

    Hi Pitlove – yeah the hip dysplasia has set in. He’s about 5 now (more or less.. rescue dog, never 100% positive about his age).

  • Pitlove

    Hi Karl-

    Judging by your post I’m assuming your dog has already developed hip dyplasia? How old is he?

  • Karl

    Interesting article. We adopted our dog so there was no way of knowing if it had to do with the breeder or if it was more of a developmental issue. I’m starting to look into different ways of feeding him so thanks for this informative article! What we have been using is a dog hip brace from Ortocanis, it’s supposed to help with hip instability and reduces pain and inflammation. I don’t keep it on my dog 24/7 obviously, but when we do use I can almost always notice an improvement in the stiffness/limping.

    Guess now’s the time to ask my vet about changing up the diet..

  • Cannoli

    it sounds like it is your breeder’s fault. Did you ever ask your breeder if they ever did hip certification on your pup’s parents and grandparents? what kind of breed do you have? i have a bulldog mix and bulldogs are very suspectible to hip issues. i demand all my bulldog breeders to provide me with this information otherwise i won’t buy a pup from them

  • Pitlove

    Hi Karen-

    A few things can play a role in the expression of hip dyplasia. Genetics is a major factor and there are a lot of breeds that are prone to it. Diet however, plays a major role in reducing the incidence of a lot of developmental orthopedic disorders.

    Your breeder was wrong in the fact that it is not high protein that causes hip dysplasia (this myth was debunked 20 years ago) and also, at 3 years old she would have been completely past her critical growth period and what food you chose to feed would not have had any effect on her bone growth.

    What does cause DOD’s (besides genetics) is excessive levels of calcium during growth and overfeeding calories during that time period.

  • Karen

    My dog is 5 years old, at 4 years she was diagnosed with hip dysplasia. The breeder said is because I feed her dog kibble with high protein when she was 3 years old for about a month. I quit feeding her high protein when she started gaining to much weight in a month. The vet said it was genetics. I just get tired of hearing that it is my fault from the breeder.

  • Sharon

    If you only knew what all I have tried to do to find you I couldn’t seem to reply thru email so I had someone on here that helped me out. Thanks to Bobby dog I found you.
    You shove down thru the muscle close to the bone but not to hurt them and go in a clock wise motion. It gets the blood back in the muscle. You can also rub your hands together and go from the tip of there nose back over there body not touching them to there tail. If you feel any heat coming off there body or static electricity you rub your hands together and hold over this area again and again until it lets up. You can massage down there back on both sides of there spine not on it.
    1st dog was a big Golden and he was dragging his hind quarters on the ground. I pet sit him and after 3 days of massage he was up ready to play when I went the 4th morning. I always tell them not to expect anything and if they don’t get it they won’t be disappointed. But it has always worked for me.
    [email protected]

  • Airbrushed Bodyart

    I have a 13 yr old golden retriever. With hip problems I feed him chicken soup brand is this good for him? Please tell me about massage thank you

  • Natalie Marie Alvarez Padilla

    thank you!! <3

  • Crazy4cats

    You are right. He is perfect!

  • Natalie Marie Alvarez Padilla

    He was seen once by the vet since I’ve had him, and the vet said he was perfect, but he didn’t really get to see Charlie walking. I honestly think I’m imagining things but just to be sure I will ask again now that he’s going in for his third round of booster shots and his first rabies tag. I will call Whole Earth Farms and find out tomorrow and get back to you. Thank you for the compliment. I will take your advice on having him checked just in case.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Hi Natalie –

    I’m glad you found the list useful! I’d like to run through it sometime in the near future and check back with the companies to verify that everything’s still current (it’s been about a year since a made it) – but with my current hectic schedule I’m not sure when I’m going to be able to get around to it.

    I created the list before Merrick launched the grain-free Whole Earth Farms recipes so I’m not sure of the calcium levels in those formulas. What I can tell you, is that the vast majority of Merrick’s formulas were extremely high in calcium. I believe the old WEF puppy recipe was 2.1% calcium and the adult formulas were about 1.7% calcium. I’m not sure about the new formulas so you’d have to check with them.

    If you suspect that there’s something off with your puppy I’d highly recommend having him seen by a vet that specializes in orthopedics. Being that he’s only 4 months old, if something is wrong there are more options for correcting the problem that are cheaper. If you wait until he’s full grown and the problem ends up being severe, really the only surgical option for a large dog is a total hip replacement (very expensive). If it’s caught early there are surgical options such as juvenile pubic symphysiodesis and triple pelvic osteotomy which are MUCH cheaper – but they cannot be done on adult dogs. There are obviously other non-surgical treatment options and I have no idea if there is even a problem or, if so, if it’s even severe enough to merit surgical intervention but it’s better to know and figure out your options early.

    Good luck! BTW – he is absolutely adorable! ūüôā

  • Natalie Marie Alvarez Padilla

    Hi Hound Mom, this list is amazing, thank you so much! I just happened to switch my puppy over from Whole Earth Farms Puppy Recipe to their grain free beef and lamb line, but I can’t find any details on their calcium levels. Just wanted to know if you were ever able to find out since it’s grain free and rated 4.5 stars (and quite economical compared to other brands). My lab/pitbull pup is turning 4 months and is growing at an alarming rate, also i feel he walks a little funny (it might be my imagination), just don’t want to make any bad decisions that can ruin the health of my perfect pup. Thank you!

  • Helen

    My puppy 7 mths lab has hip diplasia .. She is overweight
    By 5 k and … So I only give her 1.5 cups of advanced
    Puppy food … She has been to a dog chiropractor
    Called Robert Humphries on the goldcoast..
    He is amazing he told me her back ad neck were
    Out ad adjusted her ad she is running around again
    I also bought some power he mixes up for
    Puppies with hip displasia .. Email me if u want his
    Details [email protected] the vets quoted me $16,000
    For a hip replacement .. Chro is $40.00 a mth
    Plus she is happier ūüėČ

  • Pam c

    I’d like to thank everyone for their advice. I forgot to mention that the vet said her knee were a little loose. Anyway, I’m taking my dog to another vet for a second opinion. She’s been the bunny hop on the stairs.

  • Pam c

    Sometimes she looks back and watches me. But it’s not like she whips her head back.
    (I did it several times)

  • Pattyvaughn

    I’ve always seen the sway, even before I knew what it meant, so I think if you are looking for it, you would see it, if it was there. The fact that she can jump super high probably means that hips are not the issue. Maybe it’s her back. Have her stand in front of you, facing away from you. Run your fingernails down her spine on either side with light pressure and see how she reacts.

  • Pattyvaughn

    I’ve seen loads of HD in small dogs, they just don’t have as many problems with it. I believe the small size helps them to not get so much wear and tear over time.

  • Pam c

    It’s hard because I watched some videos on YouTube of dogs with hip dysplasia and they’re all old large, older dogs. So it’s not a good reference point for me. How noticeable would the sway be?

    I’m thinking about calling a second vet to ask about xrays.

    She can jump super high and I’ve never seen her miss a jump if that was her intention. The issue is her occasionally getting up from a laying position.

    How much MSM is good for a 20# dog?

  • Crazy4cats

    Hi Patty-
    Just curious… Have you seen much dysplasia in dogs this small?

  • Pattyvaughn

    Hip dysplasia causes them to pull the hip forward with each step at a walk, so if you aren’t noticing a bit of sway, then it may not be a hip issue. Does she have any issues with jumping?

  • Crazy4cats

    I think she is very cute. I can’t imagine buying clothes for my big dogs! She looks like a good weight to me also. Is she limping anymore? Seems like you are in good hands now. Patty and the others have a lot more experience than me with dog “issues”. I wish you luck.

  • Pam c

    I don’t think she wiggles. She does have a confident spring to her walk.

  • Pattyvaughn

    This is a perfectly normal amount of hip bone to show. She looks like she is in perfect weight. When she is walking, does she keep her spine straight or does she appear to pull her hips from side to side, giving her a little May West wiggle?

  • Melissaandcrew

    If its a normal thing for her breed mix, then she will not have pain etc and it is NOT indicative of a problem. And, for the record, no specific food is going to fix it, so do not let any one sell you on that idea.
    If you want the hip bones covered, you may need to feed a touch more, but understand that the rest of her will get extra padding which may or may not be healthy.

  • Melissaandcrew

    Hi Pam-
    Your dog does not look thin to be, nor does she look fat. Since she is a mix breed, understand that she may be a mix of a breed that its “normal” for the hip bones to stick up a touch-such as an Italian Greyhound.
    With that said, I personally do not like the look on my dogs, lol, so I tend to feed my Iggys a touch more and yes, in order for the hips to be covered, there is a bit extra padding on the ribs etc-slightly more, not lots more : )

  • Sharon
  • Actually, I can’t do that, Sharon. If you’re comfortable with posting your email publicly, then you may post it here.

  • Betsy Greer

    My response disappeared so I’ll try again… she looks like she’s at at a healthy weight to me. You can’t see her ribs. My Golden is at a good weight and even through his full coat, you can see his defined hip bones.

  • dchassett

    Corrected myself. I jumped the gun when I answered. I was answering a post and then realized that she had posted pictures. She certainly doesn’t look overweight to me, but as you say she didn’t really look thin either. Hard to tell. I suggested she get a second opinion and vets can and do take x-rays without sedating. If hers doesn’t then she needs to find one that will. It’s just easier on them, not the dog, to sedate.

  • Sharon

    She did. Did you see them. I have never seen a dogs hips bones stick up like this. She doesn’t look thin. So maybe she jumped on or off something and hurt herself. Massage really makes a difference.

  • Betsy Greer

    I have a big Golden who always acts crazy at the vet. We needed x rays to rule out dysplasia and my vet was able to get several views without sedation.

  • dchassett

    I’m sure you can wait if you’re not seeing any signs of pain, limping, etc. Keep in mind that dogs will not necessarily let you know they are in pain. They don’t whine and cry like humans. In the wild dogs did not display outward pain because they would be perceived as weak to the rest of the pack. That’s why you have to watch a dog closely if you think something is not right. Generally it will exhibit itself as something different in their demeanor, not hungry, not wanting to be touched or not wanting to be around anyone. Though sometimes a dog in pain will want to be very close to you. They know something is wrong but don’t know what. It’s so hard. I have had plenty of dogs X-rayed and they’ve not been sedated… But, depends on the dog and the vet and the availability of technicians at the time. I’m not one for having my dogs sedated for testing unless I have no choice because they may need biopsy or surfer depending on findings. Sedating a dog is a big deal to me. All my dogs are accustomed to my poking and prodding and examining and cleaning their ears, teeth, clipping toe nails, etc. so they are very much accustomed to being handled and it’s no big deal to them having vets and technicians examine them all over. As I said, there are vets that will and can clean dogs teeth without have to use anesthesia. Depends on the dog and the vets practice.

    Also, it’s not the money that object to for sedating, though I’m not thrilled at the cost, I just don’t think it’s necessary and is an unnecessary risk I’m not willing to put my dogs through when many procedures can be done without sedation. It’s just easier on the vet and technicians to sedate. I’m not paying and bringing my dogs to vets to make their lives easier. I expect them to use their expertise to the fullest while putting my dogs to minimal risk. Many vets and techs are afraid of being bitten. Well, I say, they chose the wrong profession. Bottom line is that dogs are animals and it comes with the territory to learn ways about not harming my dogs unnecessarily while watching for their own safety.

  • Sharon

    Hi Send Mike a email that is the owner of this site and tell him I said it is ok for him to give you my email.

  • Pam c

    I know it doesn’t. So I guess I should feed more and…when do I know she’s fat?

    I kind of worry how much she likes to bounce around. She could’ve very easily hurt herself. She thinks she’s a big dog and likes to bite off more than she can chew.

  • Pam c

    They have to sedate her and that would cost $400ish. I already got an estimate. Since the vet reassured be my dog was fine I didn’t see a need to waste money when I was *probably* making a big deal on nothing.

    I was going to trying the glucosamine chondroitin supplement to see if helps since the problem happens somewhat infrequently. She’s not in pain and she gets around like any normal dog.

    My next step would be to get a second opinion(different vet) and get xrays…Do you think getting xrays is a priority? Or can i wait a few weeks?

  • Pam c

    She isn’t fat but IMO she’s not skinny either(~20#). Right now only her hips are showing. I increased her feeding. I posted pics under Crazy4cat’s post. How do I get your email?

  • dchassett

    What a cutie. But I’m not sure that I would feel that she was overweight. Not sure why you think you’re feeding her too much. Other than her hip bones showing does she act and seem as she should for her age. Some times that is more important than the actual pounds she weighs. If she does have hip dysplasia or arthritis you would want to keep her on the lean side but and that’s a big but, you need to know if she does have any skeletal problems. I think it is not common for hip dysplasia at her young age. Maybe she’s just very active and has a high metabolism. Thin doesn’t always mean sick.

  • dchassett

    Sorry, I just noticed that Pam C did post pictures. I jumped the gun.

  • Pam c

    I posted some pictures. It’s hard for me to get clear pictures and at a good angle with my phone though. They’re under Crazy4cats’s post.
    I pay monthly for a service which ends in a few months. All vet appointments are included with the monthly fee. I’ve just been thinking about it for awhile and I want to shop around.

  • dchassett

    I think it would be helpful to you if Pam C. actually posted pictures. I did advise her to get a new vet if she feels she’s not getting appropriate guidance. Wouldn’t have been a big deal to take x rays and rule it out. I would have felt more comfortable as the guardian of my dog to have an X-ray to rule it out. I have been told many times through the years to not worry about some issue only to learn later that, in fact, I had cause to worry and should have sought a second opinion just as we would if it were our human children.

  • dchassett

    Why a couple of months? If you do have pictures that you can post maybe we can be in a better position to give help.

  • Pam c

    Same dog but different angle. Indoor pic is really yellow because of the lighting.

  • Sharon

    Is this her? Or the one in the next picture?

  • Sharon

    I have food with the G&C in it too along with treats. I also use a site http://www.springtimeinc.com. I am a Dist for a natural food.

  • Sharon

    Can you ask them to forward my email address to you and I will send you some information on how to do massage. If her back bone and hips are sticking out I would feed her more. She cannot be fat if they are showing. What size dog is she? How much does she weigh.

  • Pam c

    Thanks I’ll keep that all in mind. I haven’t noticed any lumps or bumps aside from feeling her bony hips.

    I’m planning on switching vets in a couple months.

  • Pam c

    Enjoying the nice weather today.

  • Pam c

    She is a jack russell mix. Took her to the vet yesterday and she weighed 19 pounds.

  • dchassett

    It also might be time to find another vet. Glucosamine/Chondroitin with MSM is a good start. You can buy a scale, of course, but the best way to tell if she is indeed too fat or too thin is to feel her. Feel her entire body, which you should be doing anyway for little lumps, bumps, and weight, etc. That’s really the best way. Even is she does have arthritis, hip dysplasia or whatever dogs still need to take slow walks (doesn’t have to be long and or fast) but the worst thing to do his let their muscles atrophy from lack of exercise. I have a dog with two degenerative discs mid spine and arthritis is in right hip and what has helped her enormously is the glucosamine/chondroitin (I rotate brands-that’s just my thing. I rotate everything they ingest) and walks, slow and steady to build up her leg muscles. Of course when all this occurred my first instinct was to let her lie around and rest and all she got was worse. When I used some common sense (I suffer from an autoimmune illness that affects my muscles and skin) and realized that since I became ill my specialists here in Atlanta and NYC have all told me to keep on moving. Stillness is the worse thing for your muscles. They need exercise to get them strong and keep them that way. Good luck. I know, I know, I know. My posts are always too long. Too much to say I guess. lol

  • Crazy4cats

    Yes, please show us pictures. What breed of dog is she?

  • Pam c

    I’m worried about her getting fat if I feed her even more…I feed her twice a day and honestly she feels like a stuffed turkey. I can take some pictures of her so you can see what I mean about her not being skinny.

    I got conflicting responses from the vet and the vet tech which I found irritating. Vet said don’t feed more and vet tech basically implied that she needs to get bigger so fat and muscle can cover her hip bones.

    I’m also taking a big sigh because I’ll be doing more research. My vet hospital *encourages* people to buy medicine and supplements directly through them. Like dog toothpaste…why would I buy that from the vet? Anyway, they don’t specifically say what she needs just tell me to buy very specific products.

    As far as the massages go I could use as much information as possible.

    So I guess my plan is to buy the glucosamine/chondroitin/msm tablets from the swanson website, buy a scale, and keep her from running around like a chicken with her head cut off.

    I am open to suggestions.

  • Sharon

    Hi Pam
    This is Sharon again. If I had listened to the Vet years ago my 15 year old dog would have been blind 1st in 2003 or 2004 and then in 2007 she would have been dead from what they said was cancer. But I saved her eyesite and her life both. Me I would increase the food and do a massage on her. If you would like to know more about the massage let me know. I have done it on 5 and it helped all of them.

  • Pam c

    I’ve already increased her food from 2/3c to 1c a few weeks ago. Only her hips are showing now but my vet isn’t worried about it. She said not to increase feeding amount.
    I’m just supposed to give her some down time because she may have pulled a muscle. Crossing my fingers I don’t have to go back to the vet really soon.

  • Sharon

    HI With the hips and backbone showing sounds like you need to increase her amount of food a day unless she is having a illness issue. No other problems showing now I would increase the food. I have seen in the Vets office pictures of dogs and it will show you what they should look like for the right weight. You are suppose to be able to feel their ribs but not see them. If they lose all the muscle tone from lack of food they will have trouble getting up and around. I have seen that happen in a couple of cases. Sharon

  • Crazy4cats

    That’s great news. Good luck!

  • Pam c

    Vet thinks my doggy is okay–no xrays. But wants to put her on a joint supplement with glucosamine, chondroitin, and possibly omega 3s.

  • Crazy4cats

    A vet visit sounds right. I sure hope its not hip dysphasia. I think it usually happens in larger dogs, but might happen in smaller dogs too. Good luck!

  • Pam c

    How do I know if my dog has hip dysplasia?

    I find it hard to tell how much to feed my dog. She’s just shy of 2 years old. I’ve been noticing her hips sticking up for the past couple weeks…and also her spine. So I assumed I need to feed her more.

    She is twenty pounds and I used to feed her 2/3c of merrick grain free kibble(most recently). I have used a number of grain free foods with kefir. I decided to increase her feeding to 1 cup daily. Now I would say only her hips are bony.

    Today she had trouble lifting her hind legs…I’ve never seen her in pain and she’s likes to run around without a problem. So I was just wondering if you anyone had any insight. I’m planning on scheduling a vet visit tomorrow.

  • TOM E

    Has anyone ever herd of giving dogs Ester-c. it was a germen breeder that did a study . using vitamin c when the dog is a puppy. I have done this with my shepherds and have had no HD well into 15 years of age.

  • Kathy Eklund

    How much do the injections cost? Just wondering cause my 11 year old “Holly” who weighs 50 pounds has never been to the vet until recently for Hip problems is on Glucosamine and Meloxicam…… I don’t know if this is the best choice and wondering about what to do…… I really think the dog food today sold is the responsible problem… I have heard of four friends dogs this last three months being on Meloxicam….. Thanks to everyone for writing… Its helps me decide what to do …. Kathy

  • Shawna

    Also from Dr. Jennifer Larsen’s paper —
    “In contrast to protein, excessive calories and inappropriate amounts of calcium have both been shown to negatively influence optimal skeletal development in puppies.”


    “In addition to excessive energy intake, inappropriate amounts of calcium have also been shown to cause developmental bone disease (Hazewinkel, 1989). Many breeders and dog fanciers advocate calcium supplementation for growing pups. Calcium supplements should never be recommended for dogs eating commercially available diets designed for growth. Excess calcium is potentially very detrimental to the development of a healthy skeleton.”

  • Shawna

    “High protein is fine but not beyond 12 weeks .when a protein level of 22-25% is optimum (high protein does cause faster growth).”

    It has clearly been disproven that the amount of protein in the diet does not have any relevance on the development of HD. Overfeeding is the culprit not any one particular macronutrient. Dr. Jeff Bergins, a newfie breeder, is interviewed by Dr. Karen Becker. Dr. Bergins feeds a HIGH protein raw diet and has not experienced HD and such disorders. http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2011/04/05/how-a-newfoundland-pet-dog-reached-17-years.aspx


    “Jennifer Larsen DVM, MS
    Resident, Small Animal Clinical Nutrition
    Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital
    School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis” writes
    “The same group went on to investigate the individual dietary components and demonstrated that dietary protein level had no effect on the development of osteochondrosis (Nap, et. al, 1991). For some reason, dietary protein level continues to be incriminated by some owners, breeders, and veterinarians, despite the lack of supportive evidence.” http://www.lgd.org/library/Optimal%20feeding%20of%20large%20breed%20puppies.pdf

  • peter

    You know-this subject is done to death,All the science about HD is mind boggling,and really no REAL cause has been found.
    For me-most problems are simple-BUT one must start at the beginning.
    One has to do that if involved with animals commercially-PREVENT problems,rather than treat them when they appear.
    My involvement with dogs spans 50 plus years,as well as other species and especially nutrition.I am talking large breeds-shepherds and Malamutes.
    I have never had a case of HD in the many hundreds of dogs I have reared from my own breedings. Why?
    I am convinced it is this-and we must go to the very beginning-birth,Pups are not born with bones as such,which makes common sense as large breed mums would break them wholesale when treading on them,The bones develop as they grow and nothing is better than mothers milk-so weaning at no less than 8 weeks-as in nature.Meanwhile pups are eating a commercial puppy biscuits as well-ADD LIB.No-they don’t eat too much-nature again-if they do they will get belly ache due to swelling of food-so they don’t-they are not stupid!
    High protein is fine but not beyond 12 weeks .when a protein level of 22-25% is optimum (high protein does cause faster growth).Always dry biscuits-nothing else.The nothing else is most important,because nearly all new pup owners have an insatiable drive to do something special for their loved pet-and feed them treats!
    Most ‘treats’ are absolutely wrong CA/P balance,and it is the CA/P balance which is the important factor.Should be 1.4 to 1 as in most commercial diets,Meat on its own can be up to 1 to 20 as an example(boneless),
    When an excess of Phosphorus is present-the body tries to balance by acquiring more Calcium-but it is in only one place,and that is the still developing bones-so they are leeched instead of growing as they should.Skeletal problems are bound to develop.
    The genetic links(yet unproven) may be very financially rewarding for all those involved,but with all respect I say they are wrong,There are no accounts of HD in wolves!
    The only genetic links are large breed dogs produce offspring of the same ilk-Large.
    The environmental and geographic links or inheritance is the key factor-same owners-same environment and practises/nutrition.
    Of course their can be other causes for HD-such as excessive excersize with pups etc.,but these are minor in percentage terms,

  • Tonka’s Dad

    Whats the calcium limit for a small dog?

  • Bcroome

    We just lost our 5 year old Aggie to lung cancer.
    We know your loss and send our condolences

  • EvesHumanMom

    I am sorry for your loss.  It must be so hard for you right now, but Zak was lucky to have you.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    So sorry to hear this about your dog. At least he’s in a pain free place now.

  • Tlpandco

    Thank you for your reply.  I have very sad news  our Zak was xrayed again at 1 year and we took him to Cornell Animal Hosp. to an ortho specialist.  His hips had not developed since he was 4 momths when first xrayed.  We did all we could do for him and he was in so much pain and so unhappy his agression increased and with a very broken heart we had to put him down.
    There was nothing they could do for him.  The surgeries were not recommended as they also felt he had a genetic temperment disorder causing high fevers and he would not be a canidate for the long rehab required.  It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.  I loved him so much but his pain meds wore out and he had only about 3 hours a day where he was my happy boy.  I know it was the only kind thing to do for him but I cry everyday and miss him so much.

  • Alexandra

    Thanks for the wonderful information HDM!

  • KellyLight

    Wow, thanks HDM! I wish I had your list when my Tank was a puppy…I always struggled trying to find something appropriate, especially when so many of the foods formulated for large breed puppies actually aren’t. I know this is something that can help a lot of people!

  • aimee

    Hi HDM,

    Grrrreat Job!!

    Thanks for all your hard work tracking down this information and putting it here for others to access!

  • Dear Hound Dog Mom,

    Wow. What an incredible job you did! And what a great service to owners of large breed puppies.

    Congratulations on the completion of such a useful project and a special thanks from all of us for being kind enough to share the fruits of your labor with everyone.

    We love you, HDM!!!!!

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Hi Everyone –

    I’ve been working on this for awhile, it’s a list of foods I wanted to put together that I believe are appropriate for large and giant breed puppies. I have a lot of people come to me asking for advise about what to feed their lbp’s so I wanted to compile a list – I thought I’d share it with everyone here on DFA too. Unfortunately, many large and giant breed puppy owners have the best intentions when wanting to feed their new pup a high quality grain-free food, but many are grossly excessive in calcium and can potentially do more harm than good. All of the foods on this list are rated at least 4 stars, grain-free, meet AAFCO nutrient requirements for all life stages or growth, and have 3.5 g. calcium per 1,000 kcal. or less. I contacted all the companies directly to get the actual calcium content and the calculations are based on that.


    This article, provided to me by a veterinarian, is where I got my calcium limits from:


  • Gina

    Hi Tasha,

    Sorry to hear about your baby.¬† My 10 year old Lab just had xrays done and as my vet put it, “She has severe hip dysplasia and her hips are terrible”.¬† We have started adequan injections and Rimadyl as needed.¬† Have heard good results with the injections, so hoping it will help my baby and may be worth a try for Loki? I also¬†used to give the Tramadol and my¬†vet said to stop it and decided¬†to try the¬†Adequan as it has minimal side effects.¬†To add to the news of her hip dysplasia, we have found out that she has high ionized calcium levels and the blood work is pending (Crossing my fingers, toes, etc.¬† that it is nothing terrible. It is so heartbreaking when they are in pain.¬†Best of luck to you and Loki.

  • ¬†I totally agree

  • Hound Dog Mom

    I’ve thought about the same thing with dehydrated diets. When I fed THK I put it into giant ziplock bags and shook it up before every feeding. Plus my two dogs when through a 10 lb. box every week, so like you said with larger dogs distribution shouldn’t be as big of an issue.

  • aimee

    Oops… Sorry I assumed that you were advising her to contact companies regarding diets other than the ones you mentioned.

    The one concern I have with dehydrated diets and growth is if the nutrients are evenly distributed vs settles out. I’d think with a large breed this is prob. not a concern due to the shear volume fed¬† you’d go through a box fairly quickly.

    I worry though about small breeds as there is¬†a published report of¬†severe bone thinning¬†in a sheltie pup and¬†Ca was way too low when eating a dehydrated diet. It was SoJo’s. The needed Ca may very well have been¬† box but I have to think it settled out and the pup was eating a Ca deficient diet.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    I agree, which is why I suggested she contact the companies to confirm average calcium level and maximum levels. These were just some suggestions that appear to be appropriate.

  • aimee


    Did you confirm Ca levels with these companies as on the website min are only given for some of them?

    On the other hand Nutro products max is 1.5%  a little high for my preferences.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Hi again Corsomom ūüôā

    That’s wonderful that you dog’s parents were OFA tested. Good genetics are the first step in avoiding conditions such has hip dysplasia.

    I’m not a fan of Iams at all, it does have appropriate calcium levels but the ingredients are awful. Some higher quality suggests with appropriate calcium levels would be: The Honest Kitchen Love (1.1% ca.), The Honest Kitchen Thrive (1.3% ca.), Innova Large Breed Puppy (0.9% ca.), NRG Max (0.95% ca.), Petcurean NOW Grain-Free Puppy Recipe (1.2% ca.), Summit 3 Meat Puppy Recipe (1.2% ca.), Grandma Lucy’s Pureformance (1% ca.), Eathborn Holistic Puppy Vantage (1.2% ca.), Precise Large and Giant Breed Puppy (1.2% ca.), Nutro Natural Choice Large Breed Puppy (1.2% ca.), Nutro Ultra Large Breed Puppy (1.2% ca.). Most of these are rated 4 or 5 stars. There are others too. You may also want to contact the companies and ask what the maximum or average calcium levels are.

  • Corsomom

    Ok so wow…Iams isnt the best quality “rating” wise for a diet but it is ok for the large breed as far as the calcium intake. I have the parents records according to hip displaysia and the dad has an excellent score and is 140 lbs…he was raised on Iams as a pup and now is on the adult large breed. What is everyones thoughts on this…I canNOT get passed the 2nd and 3rd ingredients which are corn meal and chicken byproducts…

  • Hi Betsy,

    Thanks for taking the time to post this interesting letter from Champion. I’ll defer judgement on their the company’s response until some of our resident large breed regulars take a look.

    Thanks again for sharing this note with our readers.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    I do not agree with them at all. I agree that large breed puppies should not be overfed so that they don’t grow too quickly, but this doesn’t mean fat levels and calorie levels need to be reduced – it means the owner needs to monitor the puppy’s body condition and cut back the amount fed if it’s growing too quickly. Also, the reduced calorie content of the large breed puppy formula actually results in the puppy consuming MORE calcium than they would eating the regular puppy formula – both formulas have the same calcium content yet the regular puppy formula has 70 more calories per cup so a puppy would have to eat less of the regular puppy food to meet its energy needs because it’s more calorie dense and more food would have to be consumed with the large breed formula to meet energy needs because it’s less calorie dense, but they have the same calcium density so the higher volume of food required on the large breed formula would result in higher total levels of calcium consumed.

  • Betsy10360

    Hi Everyone!

    I received a reply from Orijen today regarding my question to them regarding what seemed to be a high Calcium level in their large breed puppy formula.  

    I’ll be curious to see what you think.

    Blessings, Betsy

    Here is their reply:

    Good Afternoon Elizabeth, Thank you for taking the time to send us an email. Congratulations on your new puppy J Energy and mineral content are the two main factors that can affect large breed growth and development. The American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN) states that growing large breed puppy diets should have a moderate energy intake and an ideal mineral ratio.  When you have a large breed dog you want to be concerned with controlling their rate of growth. You do not want them to grow so fast that the bones and joints do not have the time necessary to develop correctly. The Large Breed Puppy has a reduced fat content to help us regulate the growth of Large Breed Puppies. Lowering the fat content lowers the calorie count of the diet because a gram of fat has roughly twice as many calories as a gram of carbohydrate or protein. Our ORIJEN Large Breed Puppy diet is formulated with these specific needs in mind: 1) The energy content in ORIJEN Large Breed puppy is lower than our Adult diets to prevent an excess of energy(calories) and improper growth. 2) Our calcium content is a guaranteed maximum of 1.7%.3) The ratio of calcium and phosphorus is within what AAFCO has defined as optimal for growing large breed puppies (1.2:1-1.4:1) The ideal calcium content for large breeds is thought to be between 1.0 and 1.4% on an as fed basis. This is the ideal content and nowhere near the upper limit set by AAFCO. The ORIJEN Large Breed Puppy has a Calcium minimum and maximum of 1.5% and about 1.7%, and Phosphorus has a minimum and maximum of 1.2 and about 1.4%. AAFCO sets an upper limit on calcium and phosphorus for a reason: the upper limit for dogs is 2.5% for calcium and 1.6% for phosphorus. The ideal calcium to phosphorus ratio is 1:1 and maximum ratio is 2:1 and we get as close to the optimal ratio as possible. Once the dog is no longer undergoing any growth spurts, it can be fed a more energy dense food as the vitamin and mineral needs have decreased and there is no longer the risk of excess energy being transferred to improper growth and development. I hope this helps to clarify your concerns. Please feel free to write back to me if you have any other questions. Have a fantastic day, AngelaCustomer CareChampion Petfoods LP Toll Free 877-939-0006 11403 Р186 Street | Edmonton, AB, Canada | T5S 2W6                      championpetfoods.com                                                                                         

  • aimee

    Hi Betsy10360,

    Take a look at diets I posted back further in this comment section and see if any of those¬†fit your needs.¬†I’d feel comfortable with those.

    Since vet nutritionists say you can safely add 10% unbalanced ingrediets to a diet  I used tiny pieces of cooked lean meats for all my puppy training so as to boost protein levels.   

  • Hound Dog Mom


    Unfortunately THK is pretty expensive, especially for big dogs. :/

    The C:P ratio does make a difference. It’s better to have as close to a 1:1 ratio as possible for large breed puppies, but an overall high calcium level is still potentially harmful even if the phosphorus level is higher as well. If you’re interested in Orijen you should consider Acana Wild Prairie – it’s suitable for all lifestages and Acana is made by the same company as Orijen, they’re basically the same food Acana is just slightly lower in protein. The Wild Prairie formula has 1.3% (although I’d inquire about max, just to make sure it’s not too much higher). This is slightly on the high side with 1.3% being generally considered the upper limit for large breed puppies, but I think if you mixed it with an all meat food to dilute the calcium a bit it would be fine. Tripett is has a 1:1 calcium to phosphorus ratio with only 0.33% calcium and 0.33% phosphorus (dry-matter basis). Once your pup was full grown you could move to Orijen or some of the other Acana varieties.

    Another option if you did like the Honest Kitchen would be their Thrive formula. It’s only rated 4 stars as it’s lower in protein than the Love formula, but it’s also suitable for all lifestages and has 1.3% calcium. This formula is also quite a bit cheaper, it’s $68 on doggiefood.com. And remember a 10 lb. box of THK makes 40 lbs. of food.

    Some other options: Petcurean GO (regular puppy formula has 1.2% ca.), Innova Large Breed Puppy (0.9% ca.), Earthborn Puppy Vantage (1.2% ca.), Nutro Ultra Large Breed Puppy (1.1% – 1.5% ca. – so should average at about 1.3% which is okay), Wellness Super5Mix Large Breed Puppy (1% ca.), Holistic Select Large and Giant Breed Puppy (1.1%).

    Also for companies that only list minimum calcium levels, inquire about what their maximum is to make sure it’s not too excessive.

  • Betsy10360

    Thanks, HDM! I knew I had looked at THK Love previously and wasn’t sure why I didn’t have it on my short list of contenders… so I re-read the review and loved what it said. Then I went to PetFlow and that refreshed my memory… Cost. Yikes! It’s almost $10 per pound. I spend at least that on ZiwiPeak for my Cavalier, but she only eats a tiny bit (half a scoop) once a day. It’s still a great suggestion based on the brands I already choose so it’s definitely worth further investigation.

    I will let you know what I hear from Orijen Granted, I only know enough to be a teensy bit dangerous… but, I was wondering about the correlation between their higher calcium level along with the higher phosphorous level. Is it possible that this creates a safe and appropriate ratio?

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Make sure to share Orijen’s response to the reasoning behind their excessive calcium levels because the 1.7% calcium in their so called “large breed puppy” formula makes no sense to me…you’d think they would know better!

    The Honest Kitchen’s Love formula is suitable for all lifestages and has only 1.1% calcium, it’s grain-free and rated 5 stars. I fed it to my last bloodhound puppy, you may want to consider that for your new pup. ūüôā

  • Betsy10360

    I agree, Jennifer! ¬†I already have a Cavalier and am picking up our newest addition, a Golden Retriever pup, in a couple of days. ¬†I do all of my food research here and made what I believe are excellent choices that I have a lot of confidence in for my Cavalier sweetheart, Arabella. ¬†She gets a rotation of Darwins, ZiwiPeak (dry & canned), Orijen and Wellness (canned). ¬†I’ve found however that large breeds have significantly different nutritional needs and after hours… make that days… of research, my head is spinning! ¬†In fact, I’ve emailed Champion and asked them to explain (in layman’s terms) the reason for the high calcium level in their large breed formula. ¬†Clearly, there are people here who have a ton of knowledge whose opinions I have come to respect and if they’d be willing to go out on a limb and help me choose (or just go ahead and choose for me), that would be awesome! ¬†…I’d be happy to sign a hold harmless… ¬†; ) ¬†Aimee?? ¬†[email protected]

  • aimee


    I don’t think there is a one perfect food. A lot of it depends on how a particular food fits with your puppy and your preferences.

    I don’t have a bias against grains so a grain free isn’t important to me. Nor do I limit my choices to 4-5 star products.

    It is more important to me how a company handles a recall vs that they have never had any. 

    During growth I feed products that have passed feeding trials and come from a company that has veterinary nutritionists on staff. 

    My last pup I raised on Purina Pro Plan, a food that only earns 2.5 stars. Her breeder told me after trying many brands of food her line did best on Pro Plan.    

  • Jennifer

    Aimee, just curious, if you had to choose, which food would you pick to feed a large breed puppy taking everything into consideration (calcium, protein, grain free, pet food recalls, 4 vs. 5 star foods, expense, etc)?

  • hounddogmom12


    Even if your dog parents were OFA tested with good or excellent hips there is still a 25% chance your the puppy will have dysplasia. When breeders OFA or PENN Hip test their breeding dogs they are not guaranteeing pups will not have dyspasia they are merely being responsible and decreasing the odds that the pups will have dysplasia. Also genetics are only 50%, too much calcium and/or too much exercise is the first 1 1/2 year of life can cause dysplasia. Also trying medizym-fido tablets when he’s experiencing discomfort.

  • Kaliberknl

    ¬†I am so sorry to hear of your puppy’s misfortune.¬† Did you know that you can look at his hip pedigree online at http://www.offa.org ?

  • Kaliberknl

    ¬†I was sorry to hear of your puppy’s misfortune.¬† Has your vet discussed surgery with you to alleviate the pain?

  • TLP, My Malamute, who grew to 110 lbs, has hip dysplaysia. He was diagnosed as well as a puppy. He expressed his discomfort quite similarly! A lot of biting and grabbing my arms or pouncing at me. Ask your vet about giving him buffered aspirin for pain (only aspirin, dogs cannot take tylenol or ibuprofen!). That pretty much stopped Loki’s biting at me, when we appropriately managed his pain. As he is a large dog he could handle 325 mg 2x a day if it was an active day. Glucosamine is great, I also recommend omegas. Our vet initially told us Loki would not live comfortably past 4-6 years of age but his 6th birthday is Saturday! He is pretty spry yet, until he lays down or tries to get up he groans but is fine once he’s moving. later on down the road (a few years) Rimadyl is great for as necessary pain management. We have stopped that now because Loki’s liver numbers are high due to muscle deterioration (not the rimadyl) and have started a treatment daily of gabapentin and tramadol. I wish you luck! Its a tough road but not the worst. Most important is pain management In my opinion. It really made Loki stop having his bad behaviors (as he was trying to tell me he hurt by hurting me!) and for my husband and I in talking about med side affects, we decided we would rather see our baby live a shorter but happier life than a possibly longer and more painful one.¬†

  • TLP


    I have an 8mo old Golden puppy.  He had to have xrays for a
    digestive concern and they also did his hips because of tenderness and behavior.  He has dysplasia in both hips.  His
    parents, grandparents and greatgrand all were OFA w/good to excellent.  I was told it may be a resesive gene ???Unfortunately, he learned to express his pain from his digestion and the tenderness in the groin area by biting my arms and being very demanding.  I have had a very hard time
    controling him.  If I can see it coming I can sometimes revert the reactions.  I am working with a great trainer to learn how to work with the bad behavior and turn it around.  My vet put him on adult food..chicken, rice, and veggies containing glucosamine and tablets for a 1200 mg per day.

    I think he is more comfortable and he gets to run off leash
    in a fenced yard for about 15min two times a day.

    He would not jump up on the couch by invitation I had to help him lift his butt before and now he jumps up to lie down by me by himself.

    Now if I can totally stop the biting (pinching more than bite)
    when he is tired, hungry or over excited he will be PERFECT
    like all young Goldens  Ha Ha Ha

    Any ideas would be appreciated I hope to have a happy actice boy for many years to come if I can.


  • Hi Aimee,

    Thanks again. I’ve copied these all into my spreadsheet list for future publication. You’ve certainly invested a lot of time on this important project.

    BTW, the format you used this time – as a list with each product on its own line – made it easier for me to copy and paste these recipes into the storage document.

    So, thanks from all of us (especially me!).

  • aimee

    I went through Natura’s food line using their on line nutrient analysis and found the following¬† 4 star foods:

    Innova Puppy 1.07% Ca, 82% P, 2.81 grams Ca/1000 kcals

    Innova Large Breed Puppy .9% Ca, .82% P,  2.52 grams Ca/1000kcals

    Innova Large Breed Puppy canned .38% Ca, .33% P, 2.87grams/1000

    Innova Adult dry ALS 1.23% Ca, .91 P, 3.33 grams Ca/1000kcals

    Innova Adult red meat ALS 1.16% Ca, .83% P, 2.96 grams/1000kcals

    Innova Prime grain free Salmon/Herring adult ALS  is a 5 star product and is close to desired levels at 1.49% Ca. 1.02% P  3.66 grams Ca/1000 kcals. 

    California Natural Chicken and Rice Puppy 1.32% Ca, .92% P 3.59 grams Ca/1000kcals

    California Naturals Chicken and Rice Adult ALS 1.51% Ca 1.03% P, 3.69 grams Ca/1000 kcals  

  • Hi Aimee,

    Thanks for the clarification. I may ultimately take your advice when I complete my screening by using calorie-weighted basis.

    BTW, Aimee, your introduction on this forum about the value of calorie weighted (a.k.a. energy weighted ) basis is the primary reason you now see this figure posted in our dashboard.

    Thanks again for this important input. Large breed puppy owners, please take note.

  • aimee


    All the values I reported are on as as fed basis, so while .40 % Ca looks low ( it should have been .4 not .44)  for the canned food on a dry matter basis it is  1.7% Ca and is  3.4 Grams/1000 kcals : )

    The Selects Chicken and Brown Rice canned entree is .41 Ca, .33 P  1.74% DM and 3.57 grams/100 kcals.

    The levels look odd because they are canned products and we usually talk about % Ca in large breed dry foods.

    On dry matter the Ca levels look too high, but both of these are high fat products.  I think these would make good toppers vs a complete food due to the high fat levels. 

    Caloric basis takes into account both water and fat levels which is why it is my preferred way to compare products and both of these would be appropriate as they are both just under 3.5 grams Ca/1000.

    I’ve noticed that you are now including caloric basis in your reviews which I think is a GREAT addition!

    I pulled a few 4 star products and even found a 5 star diet and will post those in the near future.



  • Hi Aimee,

    Wow. On behalf of all of us. Thanks for a job well-done!

    I’m keeping these dog foods on a special list for future publication.

    When it comes to preventing skeletal dysplasia, folks with large breed puppies should overlook our star ratings in favor of one of these rare low calcium recipes.

    Thanks again for this sharing this valuable research with our readers, Aimee.

  • aimee

    Hi Mike,

    I’ve made a few inquires to add diets to your¬†future list : )¬†

    I’ve verified the Ca levels of¬†these products based on average nutrient analysis.¬† IMHO¬†if a company will only give a minimum Ca I don’t think they should be included¬†on a list of recommended produsts.¬†I’ve read it is a common practice to list minimums in diets whose levels are too high.¬†¬†

    Hill’s¬†nutrient analysis¬† are on their¬†website¬† so they were easy : )

    Their Nature’s Best¬†Line ( 3 star) ¬†Puppy Chicken and Rice ( 1.29% Ca 1% Ph, 3.29¬† grams/1000kcal)¬†¬† and Lamb and Rice Puppy ( 1.35% Ca 1.16% Ph¬† 3.47 grams/1000 kcals)¬†formulas¬† both make the cut.

    The Iams company was really easy to work with as they gave me all their formulas on a caloric basis.

    Iams Healthy Naturals Puppy 3 star is 1.6% Ca 4.1grams/1000  and their Premium Protection puppy is 1.5% Ca,   3.7 grams/1000 kcals  (  both higher than what nutirionist rec  3.5 grams/1000 but lower than NRC safe upper limit of 4.5/1000)

    Iams Pro Active Smart Puppy  Large breed is .8% Ca 2.2 grams/1000, and the Original is 1.2% Ca 3.3 grams/1000 so both of those make the cut.

    Eukaneuba Naturally Wild Salmon and Rice puppy 1.07% Ca 3.0 grams/1000 kcals

    Eukaneuba Pure Puppy is 1.2% Ca and 3.3 grams/1000kcals

    Eukaneuba Lamb and Rice puppy  is a little higher at 1.42% Ca and 3.78 grams /1000

    Eukaneuba Large breed is 0.8% Ca, 2.65 grams/1000 kcals

    Purina initally only gave me minimums until I asked for more specifics and then they gave me a nutrient analysis

    The only Purina line that  meets  3 star is Proplan select line. all of their products meet the guidelines
    The Natural Turkey and Barley for Puppies is 1.25% Ca .99%Ph, 3.09 grams Ca/1000 kcals 

    Turkey and Barely All Life Stages is 1.24% Ca .94% Ph 3.17 grams/1000 kcals
    Turkey and Barley canned for puppies is .44 % Ca .3 % Ph 3.43 grams/1000kcals

    I also called Blue Buffalo¬†since the min Ca levels looked¬†like I might find some good choices there but¬†.. they said it is against company policy to give out¬†a¬†nutrient analysis as that is proprietary.¬† They also wouldn’t put a cap any of the Ca levels in their food, only say what the min was.
     I told them to please pass on that as a consumer I would choose to never feed a Blue product since the company is unwilling to give out basic nutrient information.

  • aimee

    To Allnaturalpetcare,

    I agree that ratios are important too! Additionally there are a lot of nutritional factors besides Ca/Ph levels that play a role in proper bone growth.

     But as you said we need to start somewhere and since it is established that high Ca causes orthopedic problems in growing large breeds it is a good place to start.  

  • aimee

    I agree it can be frustrating as hip dysplasia is a multi factorial based condition. Progess has been made in decreasing its frequency but still a long way to go.


  • From the research I’ve seen, it’s more about balance (such as ratios) than percentages, but we have to start somewhere.¬†

  • hagelult

    Hip dysplasia is such a frustrating thing for parents of large breeds. I know first hand! My female bloodhound (now 1 1/2) came from parents who were both OFA tested with scores of good and the grandsires and granddams on both sides had OFA scores of good or excellent. I fed a combination of THK Love and Zeal (both under 1.3% calcium) and Tripett. I kept her very lean, and I was very careful with her exercising until she was a year old (no off leash running, 10 minutes leashed walk max per month of age, no long periods of heavy play). When she turned one I took her to an orthopedic specialist (the best around according to my regular vet) to have X-Rays and make sure everything was okay. Grade 1 Dysplasia! I was was shocked because I thought I did everything right to prevent this, the doctor told me 25% of all large breed dogs will develop some degree of hip dysplasia regardless of diet, exercise, genetics, etc. I think that really says something about where the modern breeders have taken breeding. Confining large breed puppies so they grow properly? Carefully analyzing calcium intake? I’m sure our dog’s ancestors did not have their exercise limited, calcium levels limited, and weight constantly monitored just so their hips developed properly. Monitoring calcium is definitely a good precaution to take but trust me it is by no means a guarantee.

  • Addie

    I definitely agree with you on the Ca minimum listing; it’s a little frustrating they don’t usually disclose the maximum. While I appreciate Orijen for disclosing their max levels, 1.7% seems high. Glad to hear the 1.2 and 1.3% is okay, but again that’s just the minimum unfortunately. Natura seem like one of the few companies who provides an average nutrient analysis.¬†

  • aimee

    I think levels like 1.2%, 1.3% can be fine.¬† Part of the problem is that Ca is often listed as a min. so we don’t really know how high¬†level go!

     It is nice if a company posts an average nutrient analysis as I think that more closely reflects the actual Ca content in the diet.

    Also the higher the fat level in the diet the higher the Ca level can be while still hitting the target on a calorie basis.

    Ideally we should be able to call a company and ask what the Ca level is /1000 kcals. 

    Safe upper limit for NRC is 4.5 grams/1000 kcals but many vet. nutritionists prefer the Ca to be less than 3.5 grams/1000.

    On a practical level though I look for a Ca around 1%

  • Addie

    Oh, and Diamond Naturals Large Breed Puppy won’t make the list either at 1.2%¬†

  • Addie

    I know you can cross off Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover’s Soul Large Breed Puppy (1.2%) and Fromm Large Breed Puppy Gold (1.3%). I couldn’t find Ca levels on Royal Canin Maxi Puppy, so maybe aimee will be able to post that info?¬†

  • aimee

    Hi Mike,

    Addie just¬†asked me to take a ¬†look at Innova large breed puppy, it is a 4 star food and has a Ca level of .9% and Phos of .72%¬†¬†and has undergone feeding trials too so I’ll¬† kick of the list¬†with that one!

  • Hi Aimee,

    I completely agree. For this reason, I’m planning to create a short list of those commercial dog foods (preferably rated at least 3 stars) that at least come closer to the more ideal 1% you mention here.

    Unfortunately, due to our current and ongoing project of updating all the reviews on our website, it’ll probably be a while longer before we can create this list.

    Any nominations for a good low calcium dog food especially targeted for large breed puppies to get us started?

  • aimee

    Hi Mike

    I think this is a great addition to your collection of articles. As you have probably noticed I frequently post on the special needs of large breed puppies.

    I think Dr. Becker has done a really nice job getting the word out that it is important to keep growing pups lean and to strive for slow controlled growth.

    I do however disagree with her recommendations. Many all life stage diets¬†contain inappropriately¬†high calcium levels for a large breed growth¬†as do some foods specifically labeled as large breed puppy food. On the flip side many “general”¬†puppy¬†diets which she recommends to avoid¬†contain very appropriate levels of calcium and fat in them.¬†

    As a general guidleline Ca should be about 1%  as fed for a dry large breed puppy diet.