How Do I Know if My Dog Needs Large Breed Food?

Should you be feeding your pet food to large breed dogs? It’s easy to do an eye test on dogs and classify them as giant, large, medium, or small breed dogs, but sometimes it’s a little difficult to tell if the dog is straddling the size/weight line. It’s also tough to tell sometimes because a fluffy dog may look bigger than it is under all that hair.

There are also certain breeds that are generally classified as large breeds such as Golden Retrievers and Siberian huskies, but what if yours is on the smaller side? There is no one-size-fits-all answer, and even the weight guidelines for what’s considered large breed dogs can vary.

It’s all very confusing and there is a lot of information to process, but we’ll help clarify everything.

What is Considered a Large Breed Dog?

What is Considered a Large Breed Dog?
Image by Lucie Malouin from Pixabay

Let’s start by addressing what’s considered large breed dogs. Sometimes it’s very easy to make the distinction, like when you’re dealing with mastiffs and many dogs that have the word “great” before their name. However, other times it’s not so easy. As we said, the cutoff weight for what’s considered large or giant breed dogs varies online.

In general, dogs that weigh 60 pounds to about 90 pounds are considered large and will require large breed dog food. You may find guidelines that give or take 10 pounds and include dogs that weigh 50 pounds in the “large breed class” all the way up to 100 pounds. Usually, you will find a general consensus that dogs over 100 pounds are part of the “giant breed” classification.

That weight range leaves a lot of dogs within the grey area of 50-60 pounds, and this gives their owners more questions than answers. It’s even more difficult to gauge whether your dog will be large or medium-large if the breed’s projected adult size is right at the cusp.

In this case, there are many other factors to account for when making a decision. You should ask your vet to help gauge your dog’s potential size by looking at his paws, etc., but again, this is just an estimate and you can’t be sure until your dog reaches maturity.

You will also need to look at his activity level and how fast he’s growing (with the help of your vet) to decide if your dog will require food for large breed puppies.

Large Dog Nutrition 101

Large Dog Nutrition 101
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Why does a big puppy need large breed puppy food? Is there actually a purpose behind large breed dog food, or is it a ploy by the pet industry to get dog parents to pay more for pet food? Let’s find out.

Is There a Difference Between Dog Food?

Is There a Difference Between Dog Food?
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Yes, there is a difference between dog food. You can find all sorts of recipes and formulas within your local pet store aisle, from kibble for small dogs to ones for mental acuity for senior dogs, and even breed-specific choices. The biggest question dog parents ask about dog food recipes is – is it necessary?

Maybe you don’t need boutique food for beautiful fur because a healthy diet will usually give your dog a healthy and glossy-looking coat without much you need to do on your part. However, when it comes to development and growth, there is definitely a need for specialized large-breed puppy foods.

Large breed puppies specifically need to grow into adult dogs at a slow and steady rate because rapid growth will put too much strain on their muscles and bones. In order to control this, large breed puppy foods have a special formulation that regular dog food does not. It has the right amount of nutrients to aid in slow and stable growth.

Not only should you feed the right food, but you also need to do it for the right amount of time. Large and giant breed dogs will take longer to grow into their bodies, so we’re looking at anywhere between 1.5 to 2 years! It’s important to maintain the appropriate diet until then.

Benefits of Large Breed Dog Food

benefits of large breed dog food
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Let’s dive a little deeper into what exactly large and giant breed dog food can do for your dog.

Unlike small breed dog food, which is packed with nutrition, large breed dog foods have closely monitored caloric content. This is because small dogs have a lot of energy and reach maturity faster (6 to 10 months), so they need all the extra goodness to help with the rapid growth, but big dogs do not.

Caloric control is one thing, but large breed pups also require calcium and phosphorus limitations. Yes, these minerals are essential for healthy bones, but too much can be a bad thing and cause rapid growth.

The largest benefit of large breed dog foods is the carefully tailored nutritional proportions from puppyhood to adulthood.

Then as the dog enters its golden years, you should also make the switch to senior dog foods. This is because large and giant breed dogs also have different needs later in life.

The calorie amount is lowered because activity levels in senior dogs decrease no matter the breed size. Protein requirements increase, but it should be in the form of easily-digestible protein to make it easier on a senior dog’s system. Lots of fiber for digestion and antioxidants to boost the immune system are good in any large breed dog formula and don’t forget about levels of glucosamine and chondroitin for bone and joint support.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does my dog need large breed food?

Your dog needs large breed food if he falls within the weight range. The problem is the weight cutoff between a large and medium breed dog can vary (around 50 to 60 pounds), so in general, we recommend consulting with your vet if your dog is within that range.

What happens if you feed a small dog large breed dog food?

Small breeds will have an issue consuming food for large breeds because the kibble size will simply be too big for their little mouths. Not only that, but these big bits can become a choking hazard. The large breed food also likely won’t have the nutrients required to sustain their little bodies.


It’s very important to make sure your dog’s diet is appropriate for his needs. If you have a large breed, then definitely feed large breed dog food. If you’re unsure whether your dog qualifies as a large breed, then have a talk with your vet. You want to make sure your pooch has access to the necessary nutrients for healthy growth.

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