A dog’s health has everything to do with its diet, and this is regardless of the breed and size. Pet parents need to understand what their specific breed requires in terms of nutrition, but also the needs of their individual pet. You can find some giant breeds to be very energetic while others are perfectly fine lazing around the house. Because dogs vary in so many ways, dog food manufacturers are trying to address the problem with different formulas.
You can find so many forms of dog food in your local pet store aisle that include regular puppy food and adult food, but then you get into the subcategories that have large breed puppy food, dog food for small breeds, and even age-specific ones. Do you need to adhere to these guidelines or can you feed large breed puppies adult dog food?
Large or Giant Breed Puppies Should Never Eat Puppy Food?
Is it true that large breeds should never eat puppy food and should be directly fed adult formulas? This is a surprising question that is commonly asked. The short answer is no, this isn’t entirely true but this question is valid because bigger dogs require development control to make sure they don’t grow too quickly.
A large breed dog that experiences rapid growth will also suffer from muscular or skeletal issues, a common one being hip dysplasia. Puppy food is generally rich in nutrition and can cause the growth process (which should take anywhere between 1.5 to 2 years for large breeds) to happen too quickly. It’s for this reason dog parents wonder if feeding adult food to these puppies is a better idea.
Way back in the day, puppy food and adult dog food didn’t have a distinction. There were no special recipes formulated specifically for certain breeds, sizes, or needs.
Now, we seem to know better and realize that dog food shouldn’t all be made the same, because there isn’t a one-fit-for-all recipe. If there is puppy food or adult food that is specially formulated for your pet, we say go for it.
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Top Rules for Feeding Large Breed Puppies
There are certain ingredients that dog food for large breed dogs needs from puppyhood to adulthood. large and giant breeds have different nutritional needs compared to the likes of small or toy breeds.
In general, you want puppy foods that have at least a 30% protein content from high-quality sources, around 9% fat content, and calcium of around 1.5%.
We have put together a list of rules to follow for large breed puppy owners that can help you find the best puppy food in any form, whether it’s dry kibble or fresh food.
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Don’t Free Feed
Bloating can be an issue for all dogs, although it is more common in some breeds than others. Bloating can be caused by eating too quickly or too much, all of which free feeding (or grazing) can fix – right? While this can be true, it’s not the best option because it’s hard to tell how much your dog has eaten, and many dogs are food motivated and don’t know to stop when they are full. This results in a dog eating all of the dog food at once and negating the purpose of grazing.
As we previously stated, we do not want large breeds to grow into adult dogs too quickly, and portion control is the best way to monitor nutrient intake. This means no free feeding. Slow and steady always wins the race for large and giant breed dogs, so we recommend feeding 3 to 4 properly proportioned meals a day.
No Calcium Supplements
We talked about large breed puppies and adult dogs suffering from skeletal issues, so why is feeding calcium supplements, something that helps with bone growth, a no-no? The problem isn’t with calcium itself, but with excess amounts. If you feed too much to puppies or adult dogs, the consequences could be provoking an earlier onset of certain bone issues, which are direr in big puppies and adult dogs.
You don’t need much for your dogs to maintain healthy bone growth, just about 1% content in the puppy food will be enough. Pay attention to the phosphorus ratio as well, with the ideal balance of calcium to phosphorus being 1.2:1.
A Raw Diet – Yes or No?
There are pet parents out there worrying that a raw diet is dangerous for large breeds. This is a consideration because people were worried that a high protein content intake, which is what raw diets have, is dangerous for large and giant breeds.
We’ll start by saying too much of anything can be bad for your dog, just look at calcium. The key is and always will be – balance. The protein content is the fundamental building block for a dog’s body and human ones as well. You can’t cut out protein and while it’s true that a raw diet does have more protein, the key is to balance it out with other necessary nutrients.
If you’re not too keen on a raw diet, you can also consider fresh food. A general rule of thumb is fresh is always better than processed.
Transitioning Your Puppy to Adult Dog Food
Luckily, we now have puppy food that fits American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) guidelines. This means that they are formulated to meet various nutritional needs, and those of your large breed is included.
As we also previously stated, big puppies need longer to grow into adult dogs, so the switch to adult dog food should happen around 1.5 to 2 years old. We would recommend consulting with your vet for the exact suggested time frame as it can vary due to dog size, activity level, and breed.
When you have the green light to make the switch, do it slowly. The transition to adult food should be gradual and take anywhere from 5 days to a week. Start by adding 10-25% new food to the 75-90% old food, then gradually increase by 10 to 25% increments daily until you’re only left with new food.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can large breed dogs eat regular dog food?
Yes, large breed dogs can eat regular dog food, but it’s not necessarily recommended. Large breeds have different needs because of their larger size, but if your vet gives you the go-ahead or if your fur baby is on the cusp of being a medium/large breed, then you can consider regular dog food.
Can I feed my large breed puppy regular puppy food?
We do not recommend feeding your large breed puppy regular puppy food because large breed puppies require different things. Feeding a large breed puppy food that is too enriched could lead to rapid growth and muscular-skeletal issues.
If you’re stumped about what puppy food to feed, our recommendation is to always go for breed, size, or age-specific formulas if possible. Seniors should switch to senior dog food, puppies should have puppy food and adult dog food should be fed when appropriate. When in doubt, always ask your vet or enlist the help of a certified pet nutritionist.