Large Breed Puppies - What should you feed them? - GA Pet Food Partners

The dietary requirements of large and small breed puppies vary somewhat from their adult counterparts. With growth and development resulting in both increased and decreased requirements for various nutrients compared to adult maintenance. Meeting the dietary needs of puppies through a balanced diet is key to ensuring short and long-term health.

Although adult body weight will be considerably more, the nutritional requirements of a large breed puppy compared to medium or small breeds vary relatively little. Once weaned, all puppies require a diet higher in protein than adult dogs. A minimum recommendation of 25g/100g dry matter (DM) in the first 14 weeks, dropping to 20g/100g DM in the late growth period1. This late growth period will be more prolonged with a large breed puppy until adult body weight is met. (i.e. lasting up to 18-24 months compared to 10-12 months or 15-18 months in small and medium breeds, respectively).

Giant Portions? – How Much Food for Large Breed Puppies

Feeding for maximum growth is not the same as feeding for optimum growth. A key problem to consider in large breed puppies is overfeeding4. Whilst nutrition must be adequate to ensure development, the growth of a large breed puppy must be carefully monitored. There may be a temptation to increase feed quantity with a large breed puppy to account for its increased size.

However, overfeeding can result in an oversupply of some nutrients and increase body weight at a rate that a developing skeletal system cannot adequately support. These additional stresses have been linked to bone abnormalities and orthopaedic conditions, which can problematic through to adulthood.

Naturally, the stomach size of puppies is smaller than that of adults. Therefore, it is advised that feeding is split over a minimum of 3-4 meals per day. This aids energy maintenance over a prolonged period of time and ensures an adequate level of feed is consumed. Likewise, ‘free feeding’ is not advised. Monitoring consumption levels using this method is difficult. If feeding multiple puppies from a litter, an owner cannot account for the potential gorging- compared to the undereating of another.

Large breed owners may also wish to consider the kibble size of dry feeds. With a larger puppy comes a bigger mouth and dentition that can accommodate a larger kibble size. This may help slow down consumption compared to a small kibble size often given to commercial puppy feeds. Furthermore, small meal sizes, combined with a slow rate of consumption is a preferable eating habit to instil in large breed puppies as a method of reducing the risk of gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), an issue often of concern with large breeds 5.

Bone Development in Large Breed dogs

A high calcium intake can affect skeletal development in large breed dogs, particularly during the early growth phase6. Therefore, a strict maximum of 1.6g/100g DM is recommended for foods intended for large breed puppies.

This maximum can be increased to 1.8g/100g DM for all breeds during the late growth phase – except for Great Danes, where it is recommended to maintain a maximum of 1.6g/100g DM. Ideally, the ratio of calcium to phosphorus in the diet should be 1:1, with a maximum of 1.6:1 during early growth and 1.8:1 maximum during late growth.

The actions of vitamin D on skeletal development may be indirect, e.g. by influencing intestinal calcium absorption, or more direct, e.g. stimulating bone mineralisation. Based on the evidence of disturbed bone formation in Great Dane puppies fed diets containing elevated vitamin D levels, a maximum nutritional limit of 320 IU/100g DM has been set in FEDIAF Nutritional Guidelines1, although a lower legal maximum (227 IU/100g DM) over-rides the nutritional maximum in the UK/Europe.

It is important; owners should be aware that there is no need to supplement additional vitamins or minerals into the diet if feeding a complete and balanced diet. Supplementation via meal ‘toppers’ or tablet form can lead to oversupply, which could be detrimental to health.

Why feed a Large Breed Puppy recipe?

Healthy growth and bone development in puppies is an area of increased focus amongst large breed owners. Meeting the dietary needs of large breed puppies can be vital to ensure healthy development and longevity. This can be achieved by feeding a complete, balanced diet formulated specifically for puppies – without overfeeding – throughout the early and late growth phases. This is a more prolonged-time period for large breed puppies than that of small or medium breeds.

References

  1. FEDIAF. Nutritional Guidelines For Complete and Complementary Pet Food for Cats and Dogs. (2020).
  2. Salt, C. et al. Growth standard charts for monitoring body weight in dogs of different sizes. PLoS One 12, 1–28 (2017).
  3. Hawthorne, A. J., Booles, D., Nugent, P., Gettinby, G. & Wilkinson, J. Body-Weight Changes During Growth in Puppies of Different Breeds. in WALTHAM International Science Symposium: Nature, Nurture, and the Case for Nutrition vol. 134 2072S–2030S (WALTHAM International Science Symposium: Nature, Nurture, and the Case for Nutrition, 2004).
  4. Linda P. Case, Leighann Daristotle, Michael G. Hayek, M. F. R. Nutrient Needs During Growth. in Canine and Feline Nutrition – A Resource for Companion Animal Professionals (ed. Pohlam, H.) 232–233 (Elsevier Mosby, 2011).
  5. Lauten, S. D. Nutritional Risks to Large-Breed Dogs: From Weaning to the Geriatric Years. Vet. Clin. North Am. – Small Anim. Pract. 36, 1345–1359 (2006).
  6. Schoenmakers, I., Hazewinkel, H. A. W., Voorhout, G., Carlson, C. S. & Richardson, D. Effect of diets with different calcium and phosphorus contents on the skeletal development and blood chemistry of growing Great Danes. Vet. Rec. 147, 652–660 (2000).
  7. Tryfonidou, M. A., Van Den Broek, J., Van Den Brom, W. E. & Hazewinkel, H. A. W. Intestinal Calcium Absorption in Growing Dogs is Influenced by Calcium Intake and Age but Not by Growth Rate. J. Nutr. 132, 3363–3368 (2002).
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Emma Hunt, Junior Pet Nutritionist

Emma Hunt

GA Pet Food Partners Junior Pet Nutritionist

Emma has an undergraduate in Animal Behaviour and Welfare and subsequently completed a Masters in Veterinary Public Health at the University of Glasgow. Following this, she worked in the agri-food industry for several years and kept her own sheep flock before joining GA in 2021. Emma enjoys coaching netball and spending time with her much loved collie Lincoln.

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Article written by Emma Hunt