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What is the Best Puppy Food for Large Breeds?

Like you, we wondered “What is the best puppy food for large breeds?”, so we dug deeper & here are our favorite dog foods for your future colossal canine [and why].

CC image “Puppy Dog Eyes..” (a melt-your-heart-out African Boerboel named Kahuna) by stOl1 on Flickr – Thx!

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Jump directly to current prices & more info about the best puppy food for large breeds:

  1. Orijen Puppy Large Breed
  2. Wellness Complete Health Natural Large Breed Puppy Food
  3. Acana Large Breed Puppy Food
  4. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Dry Puppy Food

Hint: Some links have coupons.

What is the Best Puppy Food for Large Breeds?

After years of toy poodles and tiny terriers, you’ve decided to bite the bullet and get a large breed puppy.

You love the laid-back attitude many of these gentle giants have, and their gargantuan size is sure to get you both noticed at the dog park.

You thought you had everything set for your new puppy including an extra-large dog bed, super long leash, and high-powered industrial vacuum cleaner for all the pet hair.

Unfortunately, you forgot that your giant pooch in-the-making has some additional nutritional requirements beyond what a smaller breed puppy would need.

Maybe you’ve heard horror stories of owners who spent thousands of dollars on puppies that seemed to suddenly develop a number of structural issues including hip dysplasia or the dreaded developmental orthopedic disease.

These conditions didn’t just happen, and unfortunately the owners’ actions probably played a role in their pup’s newfound condition.

This is where nutrition comes into play.

You can prevent your clumsy puppy from turning into a permanent wobbly-kneed dog by selecting an excellent food that is appropriate for their size.

Prevent your clumsy puppy from turning into a permanent wobbly-kneed dog by selecting a food that is appropriate for their size. Click To Tweet

So read on to find out which brands serve up the nutrition your huge hound needs…

1. Orijen Large Breed Puppy Food

Maybe you’ve done a bit of googling and are now convinced that ‘excess’ protein should be avoided at all costs lest your mini Mastiff become a bumbling mess of disjointed limbs.

But lay your beliefs aside for a moment because the theory that protein is the causative factor in the development of joint and structural issues in large breed puppies is just internet mythology.

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I wanted to clear up that misconception so you won’t run screaming when you see Orijen’s protein content.

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What you need to know about Orijen is that they base their formulation on ancestral nutrition, which means high protein and very minimal grains.

Orijen’s formulation has substantially more protein than the other foods on this list, but I don’t want you to be scared away from it based on those grounds.

As long as you keep your puppy in an energy-balanced state, then you won’t have to worry about him developing too fast. Just don’t keep a bowl full of kibble available at all times because you’re puppy is probably not too concerned about portion control.

Orijen’s high protein content comes from a truly impressive array of different types of animal meats (herring, salmon, chicken, turkey) including muscle and organ meats.

Not an organ meat fan?

Well, you should be because they’re an extremely rich source of nutrition for your growing puppy.

Another great attribute of this food is the absence of grains. You won’t find oats, rice, or barley in this formulation. Instead, you’ll find legumes like peas providing the main source of carbohydrates.

This can be a nice alternative unless your dog has very sensitive digestion and can’t break down complex carbs.

Finally, Orijen’s calcium content is higher than optimal (1.2%-1.5%), but they include a guaranteed maximum, which means you can be sure you’re not overfeeding calcium to your fast-growing pooch.

Plus, the addition of glucosamine and chondroitin is just another benefit for supporting your puppy’s joints, and the high levels of DHA (a brain-building fat) will ensure your pup is the smartest student at training school.

Good for:

  • Dogs that have sensitive to medium strength digestion (the overall starch content is lower, but the legumes may still pose a problem for sensitive stomachs).
  • Owners moving towards a more ancestral diet (higher protein, no grains, organ meats).
  • Additional joint support (chondroitin and glucosamine)

2. Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Dog Food, Large Breed Puppy Health Recipe

If this is your first time owning a large breed puppy, you may be surprised they even make a unique formula for bigger pups.

Aren’t all puppies the same?

Don’t you just feed large breed puppies more than their smaller counterparts?

Not exactly.

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Wellness Complete has recognized the unique needs of large breed puppies by creating a formula that will support your pup’s growth without taxing his joints. They pack a satisfying serving of animal protein, including chicken and salmon, with an array of colorful fruits and vegetables for a punch of antioxidants.

And unlike some cheaper brands, Wellness has left out inflammatory wheat and corn that could cause a lot of digestive distress.

That being said, the carbohydrates in this formula do still come from grains including oatmeal, rice, and barley.

There’s a lot of heated debate around grains right now with some people equating them to toxic sludge and others saying they’re a necessary form of energy for active puppies. What’s a dog owner to do when no one seems to agree?

The best course of action is to try a food and see how your puppy reacts to it. Loose poops, itchy skin, and dandruff are signs that all is not well in the land of digestion.

My other recommendation is for you to become a bit of a doggie detective to understand what afflictions your dog’s breed is prone to.

For example, German Shepherds have a bit of a history of having sensitive stomachs, so be extra vigilant when feeding your dog something potentially inflammatory.

Another important point relating to large breed nutrition is the percentage of calcium present. Excess calcium is a big contributor to your puppy growing too quickly, putting undue stress on his joints.

Therefore, you want to buy a food whose calcium content is no more than 1.5% (and that is the absolute max), with a more ideal percentage being 1.0-1.1%.

Large Dog Nutrition Tip: Excess calcium is a contributor to your puppy growing too fast, putting undue stress on his joints. Click To Tweet

Wellness gets a thumbs up from me because they list the minimum (1.1%) and maximum (1.5%) amount of calcium in their formulation so you don’t have to worry about overdosing your Great Dane on excessive calcium.

Good for:

  • Dogs with medium-strength digestion (the inclusion of grains can be tough on sensitive stomachs)
  • Avoid for large breeds prone to inflammatory conditions (e.g., arthritis, skin irritation)
  • Dogs that thrive on starch and protein

3. Acana Large Breed Puppy Food

Acana is another ‘ancestrally-oriented’ brand that ditches the grains in favor of legumes. Your puppy ends up getting a hefty serving of animal-based protein, balanced with supercharged nutrition from organ meats.

You may turn up your nose in distaste at the thought of liver or heart, but believe me when I say that they are excellent for your growing puppy.

Your dog’s wild ancestors were hardly the picky type, and you shouldn’t poo poo the idea of Fido chowing down on some liver once in awhile.

Acana has even included a nice assortment of fruits and vegetables like turnip greens and kale as a source of fiber and antioxidants.

Plus, this formula provides a good amount of DHA, a special fat that results in whip smart puppies who learn quickly and never disobey you (that assessment may be overly optimistic).

On another note, there are a few unique herbs that have been added including milk thistle, lavender, and turmeric.

Herbs can be very powerful (as anyone who’s ever taken an herbal laxative can attest to) so they should always be used wisely and in the correct dosages. Milk thistle is excellent for supporting the liver and turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory, anti-parasitic, anti-fungal, and antibacterial so you probably have nothing to lose by feeding your puppy these herbs.

That being said, your pooch may be the sensitive type.

Sometimes the digestive system rebels to send a message that it’s not happy. So if your dog is experiencing explosive diarrhea, don’t rule out the possibility that it could be from all those herbs.

While Acana’s formulation is pretty impressive, I am a bit concerned about the calcium content. No, it’s not exorbitantly high, but it is above what is considered optimal for large breed puppies.

Acana states that the minimum amount of calcium in their puppy food is 1.4%, which means there is likely more than that amount in the end product (1.5% is the absolute maximum recommended for large breed puppies).

My advice would be that you’re concerned your puppy is particularly at risk of developing any number of size-related joint issues then you may want to to steer clear of Acana.

Good for:

  • Dogs that have sensitive to medium strength digestion (the overall starch content is lower, but the legumes may still pose a problem for sensitive stomachs).
  • Owners moving towards a more ancestral diet (higher protein, no grains, organ meats).
  • Large-breed puppies that aren’t at great risk of developing joint-related conditions.

4. Blue Buffalo Large Breed Puppy Dry Dog Food

Blue Buffalo is another great option for large breed puppies that can handle a bit of grain.

And just like Wellness, Blue Buffalo has nixed inflammatory corn and wheat to prevent excessive digestive issues.

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As long as your puppy is not overly sensitive to grains like oatmeal and rice, then he should be able to grow into the lumbering giant you always knew he could be without excessive stinky stools or nauseating gas.

There is an ingredient I am a bit hesitant over and that is the inclusion of alfalfa meal. On paper, alfalfa looks like a great source of plant-based protein, but it also contains something called saponins.

Saponins have a foaming action in the gut and can interfere with nutrient absorption, which is not ideal when trying to get as much nutrition into a puppy that could easily gain over a hundred pounds in a year.

That being said, the inclusion of good bacteria (probiotics) to help populate the gut will assist digestion. I’m not sure if you were aware, but most diseases stem from the gut.

Allergies, dandruff, dermatitis, excessive itching and scratching, lethargy, irritability, and sensitivity are all related to digestive dysfunction. So by supplying your puppy with a good source of helpful bacteria, Blue Buffalo is giving your puppy a leg up for continued health over the long term.

One caveat I have with this brand is their lack of clear calcium labeling.

I had mentioned before that 1.0-1.1% of calcium is ideal, with 1.5% calcium being the absolute maximum in order to avoid chronic conditions like hip dysplasia.

Blue Buffalo’s formula does contain an ideal amount of calcium (1.1%), but this is the minimum content guaranteed to be in the formula, so in actuality it could be higher.

It’s hard to know how much higher, and if you were concerned I would tread forward with caution when feeding your dog this brand. Better safe than sorry, especially if your Giant Schnauzer puppy starts showing signs of swaying like a drunkard from hip dysplasia.

Good for:

  • Dogs with medium-strength digestion (grains can be tough on sensitive stomachs)
  • Avoid for large breeds prone to inflammatory conditions (e.g., arthritis, skin irritation)
  • Dogs that thrive on starch and protein

Conclusion

I hope this guide helped clarify some of the muddy waters surrounding large-breed puppy nutrition!

You may feel that balancing all of these nutrients is just too complex, but these companies have done most of the legwork for you.

Any of these brands would be a great choice for your future colossal canine.

The Best Puppy Food for Large Breeds

Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Dog Food, Large Breed Puppy Health Recipe
Blue Buffalo Large Breed Puppy Dry Dog Food
Orijen Large Breed Puppy Food
Acana Large Breed Puppy Food

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