A Guide to the Best Large Breed Dog Food

Great Danes, St. Bernards, Irish Wolfhounds, Mastiffs, Newfoundlands. What do all of these dog breeds have in common? They’re all large. With some of them being able to reach up to 240 pounds at maturity, these large breed dogs require much different nutrition than your neighbor’s teacup Yorkie.

But what exactly do you need to look for when searching for a food for your dog that’s bigger than you? Let’s learn what to look for when searching for the best large breed dog food for your large breed whether they’re a puppy, adult, or senior so you can help them live the best life possible.

What is the Best Food for Large Breed Dogs?

As you can surely imagine, large breed dogs require much different nutrition than their smaller counterparts. From their much quicker growth to slower maturity to higher weight, large breed dogs have very unique nutritional needs and there are different things you’ll need to look for when searching for a complete and balanced diet for your large and giant breed dogs. 

Large Breed Dog Food vs Regular Dog Food

If you’re looking at two recipes of dog food side-by-side and one is a large breed adult dog food and one is a regular adult dog food, there are a few things you’ll likely notice that are different. For starters, large breed dogs have much slower metabolisms than small- or medium-sized dogs. Because of this, you’ll find most large breed dog food formulas are relatively low-calorie. 

For example, our Coastal Catch recipe comes in at 365 kcal per cup. While this might sound like a lot of calories at first, calories tend to be more of a concern with large breed dogs just because they are more prone to joint issues due to their already high weight. If you add unnecessary extra pounds to their already massive size, their joints are likely to deteriorate quicker. 

Speaking of joints, another thing you’ll often find different with large breed dog food is glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. Glucosamine and chondroitin are compounds that support healthy joints. Glucosamine specifically focuses on maintaining healthy cartilage and joint function while chondroitin helps to maintain the thickness of your dog’s natural joint lubrication and gives structure to the cartilage. 

Can I Feed My Medium Dog Large Breed Dog Food?

While you technically could feed your medium dog large breed dog food, it’s not recommended. Feeding large breed dog food to a dog that’s not a large breed could cause problems long-term due to lack of or even excessive nutrients. With any size dog, it’s important to look at the AAFCO Statement on the food label to make sure it contains all of the necessary nutrients for your specific dog. 

Large Breed Puppy Food

Just like large breeds have specific nutritional requirements, large breed puppies have even more specific requirements to keep up with their quick growth. In addition to the general needs of large breeds, dog food for large breed puppies is typically higher in calories. Puppies have much higher metabolisms than older dogs while they’re growing, so higher calories helps aid healthy development. 

Additionally, when looking for a large breed puppy formula you’ll want to look for higher levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA is an Omega-3 fatty acid that helps to develop your puppy’s nervous system and cognitive development. While Omegas are commonly associated with skin and coat health (and certainly do help here also), they put in extra work for puppies as they grow and develop.  

Another thing to consider about large breed puppies is their age. With average-sized dogs, typically at one year old is when they are no longer considered puppies and can be transitioned to adult dog food. However, large breed puppies reach the age of maturity much later–some as late as almost three years old. This all depends on how big your dog will be once they’re all grown up, but this also affects the food you choose to feed them. 

If your large breed doesn’t reach maturity until they’re closer to two years old, they should likely be eating puppy food until they’re closer to two years old as well. Even the best dog food for large breeds won’t be good for your large breed dog if they should still be eating puppy food while they’re developing. 

This is a milestone best determined with the help of your vet, so be sure to keep up with consistent visits while your dog is a puppy so they can help you determine when is the best time to switch from puppy to adult dog food. 

What is a Large Breed Puppy?

You may know what to look for in puppy food for large breeds, but what exactly is considered a large breed puppy? In 2016, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) changed their guidelines to require pet food companies to specify if a puppy food is suited for large breed puppies. This applies to puppies whose adult weight is likely to be more than 70 pounds. 

Any wet or dry puppy food should have an AAFCO large breed puppy statement similar to that of our Coastal Catch recipe:

“Earthborn Holistic Coastal Catch is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for all life stages including growth of large size dogs (70 lbs. or more as an adult).”

While you should look for “all life stages” or “growth” for in the AAFCO statement that’s on your puppy’s food bag, the AAFCO statement on your large breed puppy’s food should also include the large breed disclaimer so you know your dog is getting all of the nutrients they need to support their quick growth. This statement essentially confirms that the food was created with your large breed puppy’s complete health in mind. 

An Irish Wolfhound and a Newfoundland dog sit behind a bag of Earthborn Holistic large breed dog food smiling at each other

Large Breed Senior Dog Food

Just like puppies, senior dogs have their own list of things you should be looking for when it comes to their food. Things like lower metabolism, aging joints, and more can contribute to senior dogs’ nutritional needs, but what is the best senior large breed dog food?

Typically when searching for a senior dog food, there are a few things to keep an eye on:

  • Calorie content
  • Fat content
  • Glucosamine and chondroitin

With senior dogs of any size, calorie content is something you’ll always want to look out for. As your dog ages their metabolism tends to slow down. This means that their bodies aren’t processing calories as quickly as they once were. If you continue to feed a relatively high-calorie food to a senior dog as they age, you could start to notice intense weight gain and even obesity.

If you throw the fact that you have a large breed dog into the mix, you could start seeing serious problems like joint issues–which are already a concern for senior dogs–become a major concern for your large breed. Keeping your dog at a healthy weight is important no matter their age or size, but it’s especially important if you have a large breed senior dog. 

Fat content is closely related to calorie content. In any large breed or senior dog food (and especially large breed dog food for seniors) you’ll want to make sure it has a relatively low fat content. Similar to calories, fat content can also contribute to weight gain if you’re not careful and balancing your dog’s diet and exercise. 

As mentioned before, glucosamine and chondroitin are critical ingredients in your large breed dog’s food and this is no different as they enter their senior years. Whether you find glucosamine and chondroitin added to the recipe or added in the form of a natural source like chicken or fish meal like it does in our Unrefined Roasted Lamb dry dog food recipe, it’s something you’ll want to make sure is included to help protect your senior dog’s joints. 

What Age is a Large Breed Dog Considered a Senior?

If you have a large breed dog, you probably know that large breeds generally have much shorter life expectancies than their smaller breed counterparts. 

While most small breeds have life expectancies of about 15 years and some live to be as old as 20, most large breeds can be expected to live anywhere from 8 to 12 years. Because of this, most large breed dogs are considered seniors once they reach about 6 to 8 years old and most giant breeds are considered seniors once they’re about 5 years old.

If you’re trying to determine what age you should switch your large breed dog to senior dog food, this is a decision best made with the help of your vet. In some cases, a normal large breed dog food might carry your dog into their senior years since large breed dog food tends to be low calorie anyway, but definitely check with your vet if your dog is getting older and you’re wondering if a switch is necessary. 

Large Breed Sensitive Stomach Dog Food

If you have a dog with a sensitive stomach, skin sensitivities, or even allergies, it can sometimes feel like you have limited options when it comes to what to feed them. If you have a large breed dog, this feeling can be even more amplified given the long list of nutrients your large breed needs to be happy and healthy. After all, even some of the best large breed dog foods aren’t helpful if your dog is allergic to an ingredient.

Chicken is one allergy that’s fairly common among dogs. If you have a large breed that’s needing chicken-free dog food, we have several great options to choose from. Our Venture recipes are limited ingredient diets formulated specifically for dogs with allergies and sensitivities, making them perfect for dogs with allergies to chicken.

For large breed dogs with allergies to chicken, our Venture Turkey Meal & Pumpkin recipes are both suitable for large breed dogs and large breed puppies alike with allergies or sensitivities. 

Another large breed dog food without chicken that’s not a limited ingredient diet would be our Unrefined Salmon recipe. Unrefined Salmon is a sensitive skin and stomach recipe and is made with tasty salmon protein which provides Omegas for healthy skin and coat. It’s also grain- and gluten-free and is made with your large breed dog in mind. 

If you’re looking for a whole grain recipe to help deal with allergies, our Unrefined line is made with a variety of proteins but without chicken and all four recipes are suitable for the growth of large breed dogs and puppies.  These grain-inclusive, chicken-free dog food recipes are made with a variety of ancient grains and superfoods like pumpkin, butternut squash, carrots, and quinoa to help keep your dog healthy.

In the end, it’s important to remember that your large breed dog or puppy is very different from other dogs–they may like snuggles and walks in the park just the same, but what their bodies need to thrive are different. By keeping in mind the specific nutrients that large breed dogs need to stay happy and healthy when choosing their food, you can help your large breed maintain a healthy diet that will keep them healthy for years to come. 

From puppy food to senior dog food to dog food for every moment in between during your large breed’s life, Earthborn Holistic has you covered with a variety of complete and balanced recipes packed with vitamins and minerals.

If you need help choosing food for your large breed dog, read our other blogs about large breed dogs to learn more.