The Top Dry Foods For Large Dogs
GIANT APPETITES, GIANT MEALS
Massive paws. Slobbery kisses. Big, wagging tails. There's a lot to love about large-breed dogs. And if you have one in your home, of course, you want to make sure you're feeding them right.
At the same time, it's important to understand that large-breed dogs have some special dietary needs when compared to smaller and even medium-sized pups. If you're looking for food that will optimize your big dog's health and wellness, then just any old bag of kibble from the local pet store probably won't do.
So, what are some of the key ingredients to look for in dry food for large dogs — and what do you need to know about nutrition for large breeds? Let's dig in.
Which Dog Breeds Are Considered Large Dogs?
First, it's important to understand which breeds fall into the category of large dogs. Generally speaking, large breed dogs are those that grow up to weigh at least 50 pounds with a height of about 24 inches. Meanwhile, giant breeds (also known as extra-large dogs) weigh more than 100 pounds.
This isn't a comprehensive list, but some of the most popular large and giant dog breeds include:
- Labrador Retriever
- German Shepherd
- Golden Retriever
- Great Dane
- Siberian Husky
Key Ingredients To Look For in Dry Food For Large Dogs
If your dog falls into the category of a large or giant breed, then it's important to find a food that will best support their health, wellness, and growth. This remains true whether your dog is a puppy, a senior, or any life stage in between.
A quality, natural dog food will ensure that your pup receives the vitamins and nutrients needed to build and maintain muscle tone, repair muscles, and even fight off illness with a strong immune system. Meanwhile, adult dog food with a high protein source will promote your dog's overall health and provide the energy needed for those daily walks and lots of play.
As you begin exploring food options and looking for top picks, there are a few things you should be looking for in large-breed puppy food.
Not Too High in Calcium
Although it may seem like a larger breed should need more calcium to support healthy bones, the reality is that larger dogs need lower levels of calcium to reduce the risk of developmental orthopedic disease (DOD) and joint disorders like hip dysplasia and osteochondritis dissecans (OCD). Unfortunately, large-breed adult dogs are especially prone to these conditions because their bodies often grow at such a rate that their bones and joints become damaged.
While calcium is needed for strong bones, food with too much calcium can cause problems. This is especially true in younger dogs, who aren't able to regulate how much calcium they absorb from their food. When they retain too much, skeletal malformations can occur — and the absorption of other nutrients can be stunted.
So, how much calcium should you be looking for in dry dog food for large breeds? VCA Animal Hospitals recommends a calcium content of around 1.5%. Meanwhile, calcium-to-phosphorus ratios in a large dog's diet should hover somewhere between 1.1:1 and 1.3:1 to promote joint health.
Lower Caloric Density
Caloric density is another important consideration when choosing food for your large breed dog. You might assume that a larger breed dog will automatically need to consume a lot more calories to grow and thrive, and that's true (to an extent).
Still, dog owners must be mindful not to overdo it here. That's because calorie-dense foods can cause your dog to grow at a faster rate than is healthy and can even contribute to obesity. This is true in both puppies and adult dogs.
Feeding a large breed dog a calorically dense food can cause your dog to grow more quickly than the bones can accommodate, which can also contribute to the bone and joint problems already mentioned. A recipe that is less dense in calories will help your dog achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
When looking for a dog food that is not too calorically dense, look not just at the caloric content, but the carbohydrate and fat content as well. Generally, large-breed dogs should consume food that consists of at least 22% high-quality protein and about 8% fat. Of course, you should also consider your dog's activity level when thinking about calorie content; when in doubt, it's never a bad idea to consult with your vet.
Quality Animal Protein
Speaking of quality protein, it's important to understand that not all protein is created equal — especially when it comes to containing the essential amino acids a large dog needs to thrive.
Did you know that your dog needs 22 different amino acids — but only half of these can be naturally produced within your dog's body? The rest needs to come from the food your pup eats. These amino acids are vital for transporting nutrients, building and repairing tissue, and even carrying oxygen throughout the body.
The best way to make sure your large pup gets these amino acids is to choose a food that contains animal protein as the first ingredient in the ingredients list. Chicken, turkey, beef, and even eggs are all excellent sources of animal protein. And while protein can come from plants, the reality is that dogs need animal-based protein to get those amino acids that their bodies can't produce on their own.
There's a reason that our dogs' ancestors were carnivores; they knew that animal meat was a crucial part of their diets. Your dog may no longer need to hunt for food, but it's now up to you to choose the right recipe that will support your pup's dietary and nutrition needs.
Many larger dog breeds are prone to digestive issues because they tend to have less intestinal surface area for digestion and nutrient absorption. In fact, the actual weight of the intestines in a large dog is typically just 3% of its body weight (compared to 7% in small dogs and medium-sized breeds)!
With this in mind, it's a good idea to shop for dog food that contains digestive supplements, prebiotics, probiotics, and digestive enzymes to aid in the breakdown of food. This is especially true if your dog has displayed signs of a sensitive stomach in the past, such as:
- Excessive drooling
- Loss of appetite
A Quick Note on AAFCO Guidelines
As you begin exploring your options for large-breed dog food, you'll likely see some labeling that indicates that food provides "complete and balanced nutrition" based on AAFCO procedures and regulations. What does this mean?
AAFCO stands for the Association of American Feed Control Officials. This non-profit organization works with state and federal agencies to oversee pet food distribution. To this end, AAFCO also publishes a list of nutritional requirements that dog food sold within the United States should meet.
While AAFCO doesn't perform any testing of dog food, the idea is that reputable pet food companies (such as Merrick, Blue Buffalo, Purina Pro Plan, Nutro, Orijen, and Hill's Science Diet) will perform their third-party testing to ensure their recipes meet or exceed these standards. When you see AAFCO labeling on a bag of dog food, this means that the pet food company has performed its testing and found that the food meets or exceeds AAFCO standards to be considered "complete and balanced."
With all this in mind, it's a good idea to limit your search for large-breed dog food to those that meet AAFCO standards. This way, you can ensure that your pup is at least getting the recommended levels of protein, fat, vitamins, and other nutrients needed to thrive. And because these nutrients (and their ratios) are so important for large breeds, you don't want to risk your dog's health and wellness with dry food that isn't complete and balanced.
The Basics of Large Canine Nutrition
We've already covered quite a bit when it comes to large dog nutrition, but there are a few more things you should know if you're shopping for food for a large breed.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that large breeds are at a higher risk of developmental joint problems (including OCD and joint incongruity), especially if they grow too quickly. This is why foods made with large breeds in mind should have a lower caloric density, which can slow down growth and make things easier on a dog's skeletal system.
Likewise, larger breeds also need a lower calcium-to-phosphorus ratio than small breeds because this ensures that a dog is not absorbing too much calcium from their food. Unfortunately, younger dogs especially cannot regulate how much calcium they absorb — so if levels are too high, they may be unable to absorb other important nutrients.
Last but not least, owners of larger dogs should focus on feeding multiple smaller meals per day rather than free-feeding or serving one large meal. Smaller meals spread throughout the day will help curb overeating and control your dog's growth.
Eating large portions at once can also contribute to bloat, which is very dangerous in larger breeds. As tempting as it might be to free-feed your large dog (and as much as your pup may nag you for food when the bowl is empty), it's more important to do what's best for their health and wellness.
Paw up Pet Food's Best Dry Food For Large Dogs
As you can see, there's a lot to keep in mind when it comes to choosing the best dog food for your supersized pup. The good news? Paw Up Pet Food makes it easy to select quality dry food.
Grain-Free Beef Clusters
Available in one- five- and 20-pound bags, our Grain-Free Beef Clusters recipe was created with guidance from a veterinary nutritionist and is made with 100% human-grade ingredients. Ranch-raised beef (an animal protein) is the first ingredient in this recipe and makes up 26% of each dry cup's nutrition. Meanwhile, this minimal-ingredient dry food contains no fillers, artificial preservatives, or GMO ingredients.
Our Grain-Free Beef Clusters food does contain quality ingredients that your large dog needs to thrive, including:
- Superfoods (like kale and chia seeds)
- Vitamin E
- Fruits and veggies (including pumpkins, carrots, broccoli, and apples)
- Pumpkin (to promote digestive health)
- Fish oil
- Ground flaxseed
The best part? This grain-free dog food is appropriate for many life stages, ranging from puppies to senior dogs.
Unlike other dog food brands, we roast and gently dehydrate our dry food ingredients to preserve nutrition and flavor — so you can feel good feeding this recipe to your dog. Meanwhile, this food is cold-pressed into bite-sized clusters that are the perfect size for a large breed. This larger cluster size supports chewing, which aids in nutrient breakdown, absorption, and digestion.
Try Paw up Pet Food Today
Your love for your large-breed dog is huge, so you don't want to feed them just any dry food. Our Grain-Free Beef Clusters recipe from Paw Up Pet Food is a complete and balanced option to support your dog's health and wellness through all stages of life. Like all of our food, this recipe is minimally processed and made of 100% human-grade ingredients so you can feed your dog with confidence.
Ready to try Paw Up Pet Food and see the difference for yourself? Shop our selection of human-grade dog food today, or check out our wet dog food, freeze-dried dog food, healthy treats, and more! If you have questions or need help placing your first order, get in touch with our friendly and knowledgeable team.
*Health Disclaimer: This post is educational and doesn’t constitute health advice. Please consult your pet's veterinarian or other healthcare professional for specific guidance on this topic.