15 Best Dog Foods for Giant Breed Dogs

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A giant dog’s required diet is drastically different from that of a tiny or medium-sized dog breed. Not only do they require a higher volume of food, but they need a variety of vitamins and nutrients to keep a healthy muscle mass and maintain proper organ function. They also have more energy to burn off on a daily basis, so you need to keep a healthy balance.

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You may be familiar with a few giant dog breeds, including the Great Dane, Irish Wolfhound, Bernese Mountain Dog. The list doesn’t stop there, either, and you can view a comprehensive directory of the largest dog breeds on the American Kennel Club website.

A giant dog breed, in simplest terms, is any breed whose full-grown weight exceeds 99 pounds. This does not include overweight dogs who happen to fall beyond this weight range, but rather, breeds that are genetically engineered to weigh above 99 pounds.

Having a giant breed dog who is underweight or not receiving the proper diet can be harmful to their lifespan and overall quality of life. Keep reading to learn more about your giant breed’s dietary requirements and to learn about our top 15 picks for the 2021 best dog food for giant breeds.

Understanding a Giant Breed Dog’s Diet Requirements

Learning about your giant breed’s ideal diet and nutritional requirements is essential for raising and maintaining a healthy pup.

This is especially important if you’re raising a giant breed puppy. Giant breed puppies grow faster and longer than the average puppy, but their growth needs to be monitored in order to avoid dangerous health problems. Overfeeding a giant breed puppy or feeding them incorrect food can lead to uncontrolled growth spurts, causing painful bone, joint, and muscle issues in adulthood.

Most giant breeds won’t stop growing until two years of age or older. The “rapid growth” phase can occur anywhere between 4 and 8 months old, and their diet needs to be closely regulated and adjusted during this time.

Free-feeding your growing puppy is also dangerous because puppies do not practice portion control. They will eat whatever amount is in front of them without listening to their body, so overeating is very possible. You should feed your puppy multiple portioned meals per day to ensure proper growth and transition to an adult formula around 11 to 12 months.

  • Puppy Giant Breed Diet—As a puppy, you should feed a giant breed dog food containing at least 22-30% high-quality crude protein and approximately 10-14% fat. High-quality protein consists of whole-food meat or high-quality by-products, not meat meals including by-products.
  • Adult Giant Breed Diet—Full-grown giant breed dogs should be on a diet that includes a minimum of 22% protein and 10% fat.
  • Senior Giant Breed Diet—Diets formulated for senior breeds are still new to the canine nutritional market. Still, senior dogs need a lower calorie density food since they do not burn off as much energy and fat as younger dogs.

Calcium intake is also an important aspect of a giant breed’s diet. For puppies, a calcium: phosphorus ratio between 1:1 and 1:3 is the ideal range. Giant breeds react more to calcium, so the ratio is smaller than with other breeds. The calcium content in their food should be around 1.5%.

Giant breed adults, on the other hand, should be carefully monitored for signs of orthopedic disease, obesity, and bloat. Their diet heavily influences these conditions, so they need to be receiving a balanced formula with lots of beneficial vitamins and minerals.

Since giant breeds also have more muscle mass than smaller breeds, they will need to be fed a higher volume of food. Any dog food you purchase will have a recommended feeding chart according to weight, but most giant breeds will need to have a minimum of 4 to 5 cups per day. Your veterinarian can also help determine the correct diet for your pup.

Special Dietary Considerations for Giant Breed Dogs

The following health conditions are most commonly seen in giant breed dogs. They are very susceptible to musculoskeletal conditions that affect their movement.

Hip and elbow dysplasia: Malformed or poorly-fitting joints

Ligament damage

Arthritis

Wobbler Syndrome: Most common in Doberman Pinschers and Great Danes

Hyperthyroidism

Gastric Dilation Volvulus: Also known as bloating or torsion, occurs when the stomach suddenly fills with gas and twists

Dilated Cardiomyopathy: Irregular heartbeat, heart muscles not contracting fluidly

Aortic Stenosis: Aorta is narrowed, placing pressure on the heart

The list of diseases and conditions that are seen in giant breeds is much longer than what’s listed above, but these are some of the most common ones. While not everything can be fixed with a healthy diet, key ingredients will help strengthen certain organ functions and bone health.

A balanced diet for a giant breed puppy also prevents overfeeding and uncontrolled growth, which commonly leads to bone and ligament problems in adulthood.

Compared to their smaller cousins, giant dog breeds also have a significantly shorter lifespan. Some breeds, such as the Great Dane, Irish Wolfhound, and Pyrenean Mountain Dog, only have an average lifespan of 7-10 years. Staying on top of their diet and keeping them healthy is a big contributor to their overall health and dosage.

Organ function in giant breeds begins to deteriorate after five years when they become senior. Their energy is much lower as well, so they require a lower calorie intake. There are many foods specifically engineered for senior giant breeds.

If you obtained your giant pup from a breeder, ask to see their parent’s health information so you can be aware of any hereditary conditions you need to monitor and adjust for. If there are any, your veterinarian can help narrow down the best lifestyle changes to make.

Giant Breed Feeding Chart

Giant breed dogs are canines that, when matured, weigh at least 99 pounds and are at least 30″ tall. In general, giant breeds require a diet with a lower caloric density. Larger dogs have slower metabolisms, so they need to consume fewer calories while still maintaining a heavier weight (so that means more food with fewer calories).

It’s hard to narrow down the number of calories per pound required because it varies per giant breed, age, and time of year. Most dog food brands will provide a feeding chart on the back of the bag to go by, or you can consult your veterinarian.

If you’re unsure about your dog’s weight and condition, consult a Body Condition Score (BCS) chart. Similar to a BMI score for humans, the BCS will allow you to gauge if your dog is underweight, overweight, or at the right weight. The ideal body condition score for a giant breed dog falls between 4 and 5.

The Best Dog Food for Giant Breeds: Our Top 15 Picks for 2021

Many giant breed dog foods on the market are labeled as “large breed,” but they are also engineered for giant breed dogs. Large and giant breeds have nearly identical dietary requirements, but giant breeds need to consume a higher volume of food than large breeds.

No matter which formula you’re leaning towards, high-quality, wholesome protein and real ingredients will provide the best results for your pup. Here are our top 15 picks:

Holistic Select Large & Giant Breed Adult Health Chicken Meal & Oatmeal Recipe Dry Dog Food

Overall Best for Giant Breeds: As a food brand that lives up to its name, Holistic Select is one of the best foods that you can feed your giant breed dog. Their holistic giant breed recipe uses concentrated, premium proteins as a base and then adds in active ingredients that are optimal for nutrient absorption and overall health. Their large breed formula has no peas or gluten and is formulated for dogs with sensitive digestion, which is common in giant breed dogs. It has a unique combination of probiotics, fiber, and digestive enzymes. The omega-3 fatty acids help achieve a healthy skin and coat.

Pros: Made in the United States, high-quality ingredients, no artificial colors or preservatives, formulated for sensitive digestion

Cons: Pellets are smaller than average, pricier than other dry food brands

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Large Breed Adult Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food

Most Popular Food: Blue Buffalo has been a leading industry brand for almost two decades, and the number of customers who keep coming back for more lives up to their reputation. Their Life Protection Formula is engineered for giant breeds to support joint function and mobility and develop lean muscle. It’s packed with antioxidants and chelated minerals to support your giant breed’s immune system. The second primary ingredient is chicken meal, but there are no by-products included.

Pros: Antioxidant blend is formulated by holistic veterinarians, 1.3:1 calcium: phosphorus ratio is engineered to support healthy joints and bones, no corn, wheat, or soy, the first ingredient is real, deboned chicken

Cons: Not great for picky eaters

AvoDerm Chicken Meal & Brown Rice Recipe Large Breed Adult Dry Dog Food

Best for Giant Breed Dogs with Skin or Coat Problems: Avocados are rich in high-quality fats, oils, and most importantly, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which help improve skin and coat health. Customers have had nothing but positive feedback about the changes in their giant breed’s itchy, dry coat once they switch to AvoDerm. In addition to the avocado, chicken cartilage is added as a natural source of glucosamine and chondroitin to maintain healthy joints. Their food is slow-cooked in small batches to ensure digestibility.

Pros: Great results for treating dry, itchy skin and coat, high-quality ingredients, no by-products, made in the United States

Cons: Primary ingredient is chicken meal instead of real protein, but there are no by-products included

Iams ProActive Health Adult Large Breed Dry Dog Food

Most Affordable Food: Even if you’re on a budget, you can still give your giant breed pup a healthy diet with Iams’ ProActive Health Dog Food. The first ingredient is real, farm-raised chicken backed by wholesome grains and antioxidant-rich vegetables. This formula is great for overall health as it targets everything from the skin, coat, joints, and muscles.

Pros: Affordable price is great because giant breeds go through bags quickly, all-around nutritional formula, real, wholesome ingredients

Cons: Hit or miss with picky eaters, large pellets are difficult for older dogs, common issues with gas and loose stools

The Farmer’s Dog Fresh Delivery

Super Premium Food: If you’re interested in a premium, fresh diet for your giant pup, then look no further than The Farmer’s Dog. They use real, human-grade food made in USDA kitchens. Their formulas exceed the industry standards for dogs set by AAFCO (The Association of American Feed Officials). One of the best things about The Farmer’s Dog is that a recipe is formulated based on your dog’s profile, not just plucked out of the fridge and shipped to you (speaking of shipping, it’s free). The personalized profile will ask about your dog’s weight, activity level, eating style, and any outstanding health problems. They can fulfill any prescription diet needs, such as joint support or diabetes.

Pros: Real, human-grade food, made and delivered fresh, no preservatives, never frozen and delivered within days of cooking, personalized to your pet

Cons: More expensive compared to dry food options, must be refrigerated, delivery is only available in 48 states

American Journey Large Breed Salmon & Sweet Potato Recipe Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Best Food for Giant Breed Dogs with Allergies: Shopping for a pup with allergies is frustrating, but luckily American Journey has swooped in and provided an excellent limited ingredient recipe for giant breed dogs. Their Salmon & Sweet Potato Recipe is free of grains, corn, wheat, soy, and fillers. Naturally added glucosamine and chondroitin help support healthy joints, and fiber-rich chickpeas and sweet potatoes improve energy levels.

Pros: 30% crude protein content is excellent for giant breeds, limited ingredients is ideal for dogs prone to food sensitivities, larger kibble size

Cons: Second primary ingredient is turkey meal, and it does not state if by-products are included or not

Nutro Wholesome Essentials Large Breed Adult Lamb & Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food

Best for Giant Breed Dogs with Sensitive Stomachs: Having a sensitive stomach is slightly different from having food sensitivities. Dogs with sensitive stomachs are prone to lots of gas and loose stools if their diet is not the right fit. Lamb is the number one ingredient with essential antioxidants for the immune system. As with all giant breed formulas, natural glucosamine and chondroitin sources are added to ensure healthy joints. Individual kibbles are also great for puzzles and training outside of feeding time.

Pros: Non-GMO, no corn, wheat, soy protein, by-products, or artificial colors and preservatives, the primary ingredient is deboned, pasture-fed lamb, lower-calorie density is excellent for giant breeds, great results for sensitive stomachs

Cons: Second primary ingredient is chicken meal (no by-products), not a lot of nutrients for skin and coat

3 Top Rated (5 Star) Giant Breed Adult Foods

Diamond Naturals Large Breed Adult Chicken & Rice Formula Dry Dog Food

Starting with cage-free chicken, the Diamond Naturals Chicken & Rice Formula is a great choice to keep your giant breed healthy and active during adulthood. The recipe is well-rounded and has a plethora of vitamins and nutrients such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to support a healthy skin and coat and antioxidants to promote whole-body health. It’s highly digestible with proprietary probiotics and no corn, wheat, filler, or artificial additives.

Chicken Soup for the Soul Large Breed Chicken, Turkey & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food

Not to be mistaken with the book series, Chicken Soup for the Soul is a food brand dedicated to enriching dogs’ health nationwide. Their Large Breed Chicken, Turkey & Brown Rice recipe starts with real chicken and turkey and has a variety of vitamins and minerals to support overall health. Glucosamine and chondroitin are present for healthy bones and joints. There is also no wheat, corn, soy, or artificial flavors. In addition to the real protein, though, there is also chicken and turkey meal, but it contains no by-products.

Purina One SmartBlend Large Breed Adult Formula Dog Food

Purina encourages all of their new customers to take the 28-day challenge, which earns you a $5 coupon in return. In 28 days, you should see a healthier pup with lots of energy and a shiny, healthy coat. Their SmartBlend formula for large breeds has an ideal 26% crude protein and 12% fat for adult giant breed dogs. There are no fillers and necessary nutrients to support a healthy immune system and joints. The calorie content of 355 kcal/cup is perfect for keeping your giant breed pup at an ideal weight while giving them a full stomach and lots of energy.

3 Top Rated (5 Star) Giant Breed Puppy Foods

Hill’s Science Diet Chicken Meal & Oat Large Breed Puppy Recipe

For giant breed puppies, the Hill’s Science Chicken Meal & Oat Recipe is a great choice for steady, healthy growth. Controlled calcium levels prevent uncontrolled growth while still supporting bone formation and are loaded with vitamins and nutrients that support a healthy immune system. While the primary ingredient is chicken meal, Hill’s Science guarantees there are no by-products included in the meal. This recipe is meant for puppies up to one year old.

Purina Pro Plan Chicken & Rice Formula with Probiotics for Large Breed Puppy

Giant breed puppies’ original growth phase can last anywhere from 18 to 24 months, and this Purina Pro Plan Chicken & Rice Formula can be fed up to puppies up to two years old. With 28% crude protein and 13% fat, this falls perfectly within the recommended parameters for growing giant breed pups.

The live probiotics support digestive and immune health, while the 1.2:1 calcium: phosphorus ratio encourages steady and healthy bone growth. Omega-rich fish oils support brain and vision development.

Diamond Naturals Large Breed Puppy Lamb & Rice Formula

Diamond Naturals’ dog food lives up to its name with high-quality holistic formulas designed to meet every pup’s needs. They start with real protein and then add in 10-20% of superfoods like kale, blueberries, chia seeds, pumpkin, and others that are rich in key ingredients for healthy growth. 27% crude protein is perfect for growing puppies, although the 15% fat is a little high. Overall, the Diamond Naturals Large Breed Formula is highly digestible (no corn, wheat, or soy) and fully balanced. Puppies should be switched off the Diamond Naturals puppy formula around 15 months old.

2 Picks for Senior Giant Breed Food

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Large Breed Senior Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food

Blue Buffalo’s Life Protection formula for senior dogs starts with high-quality deboned chicken and L-carnitine, which provides healthy muscle maintenance and necessary energy to keep them active. The lower calorie density is ideal for seniors, and the absence of corn, wheat, soy, and by-products caters to sensitive digestion. Unfortunately, the only senior recipe from Blue Buffalo is their Chicken & Brown Rice, so if you have a finicky eater who prefers beef or lamb, you may need to look elsewhere.

Gary’s Best Breed Holistic Senior Reduced Calorie Dry Dog Food

Dr. Gary’s is well-known for its holistic, wholesome recipes engineered for different breeds and life stages. Their Senior Reduced Calorie Food provides balanced nutrition for elderly dogs as well as overweight dogs. Vitamin E and beta-carotene support a healthy immune system, while glucosamine and green-lipped sea mussels maintain joint health. The formula is free of corn, wheat, and soy. The primary ingredient is chicken meal, though, which is a deterrent for many customers, and it is not clear whether or not it contains any by-products.

Frequently Asked Questions and Giant Breed Feeding Guide

Here are the most commonly asked questions about formulating the ideal diet and schedule for giant breed dogs.

What is the Difference Between Giant Breed and Regular Dog Food?

You should never feed your giant breed dog food that is formulated for small or medium-sized pups.

Giant breed dog food has many differences from regular dog food, such as having larger kibble sizes for larger mouths and a higher amount of glucosamine, chondroitin, and calcium because their bones and joints require extra support. Giant breeds also need a lower calorie density because they need to consume a higher volume of food than smaller dogs.

Is Protein Meal Bad for My Dog?

Chicken, turkey, lamb, and other protein meals are present in lots of dog foods. Opinions vary on protein meal, with some veterinarians advocating for it while others advise against it.

Protein meal is the dried end-product of rendering, a process that converts ground meat (typically including flesh, skin, and bone) into a concentrated powder that manufacturers use in their food. Meat meal can be a valuable ingredient in pet foods as real protein, such as deboned chicken, has a low protein and high water content, and using protein meal provides a higher concentration in a lesser amount of food.

Here’s what to look out for, though—you should stay away from any protein meal that includes by-products or is simply listed as “animal meal.” By-products include extra organs and materials that are not necessarily healthy for our pups, such as gizzards, bone, or even feathers. If a dog food you’re considering includes a type of protein meal, but they don’t use any by-products, it’s perfectly healthy for your dog.

Should Giant Breed Dogs Be on a Grain-Free Diet?

Recently, the FDA released a report exploring the relationship between grain-free diets the increase in canine dilated cardiomyopathy (CDM). The results were not conclusive, but this sent many dog owners into high alert about their dog’s diet and whether or not grain-free is the way to go.

While grains contain a high amount of carbohydrates and are linked to enlarged hearts in humans, this is highly unlikely to occur in our lovable, furry family members. The absence of grains in dog food usually means they’ve been replaced with another supplemental ingredient such as peas, lentils, or sweet potatoes, which are actually higher in carbohydrates than traditional grains.

If your dog doesn’t have any food sensitivities, then you should have no reason to specifically seek out grain-free food. Grain-free does not mean it’s a healthier recipe. If you have any concerns about your dog’s weight, then you can always consult the Body Condition Score (BCS) chart and go to your veterinarian with any outstanding concerns.

Raw and fresh dog food is naturally grain-free because of the selection of ingredients used. This is perfectly safe for your pup because it does not have any substitutes mentioned above, like peas or lentils. The formula composition is entirely as nature intended.

How Often Should I Feed My Giant Breed Dog?

Growing puppies should receive three small meals per day, and adults and seniors should be fed twice a day. Puppies do not practice portion control so you should never leave food out for free-feeding. While grown dogs practice some degree of portion control, there is still a very high risk of overfeeding and becoming overweight, resulting in a number of health concerns.

How Do I Transition My Giant Breed Dog to a New Food?

If your pup is already on a regulated diet and you’ve decided to introduce a new food, under no circumstance should you switch their food entirely in one day. This can cause many issues, such as puking, loose stool, and stress.

For healthy dogs, the ideal diet transition includes:

  • Day 1: 25% new diet and 75% old diet.
  • Day 3: 50% new diet and 50% old diet.
  • Day 5: 75% new diet and 25% old diet.
  • Day 7: 100% new diet.

If your dog has a sensitive stomach, food allergies, or any other gastrointestinal problem, they will need a longer transitional period. The key to a smooth transition is to constantly monitor your dog’s health. If they begin vomiting or have diarrhea, you should cut back on the newer food and lengthen the process.

It’s also a good idea to buy the smallest amount possible of the new dog food in case your dog has an adverse reaction, and you cannot use the rest.

What is AAFCO?

AAFCO stands for the Association of American Feed Control Officials. The AAFCO does not approve or disapprove of any individual dog foods, but they have a set guideline for nutritional levels that ensure a healthy diet for specific types of dogs at different ages.

Each manufacturer is required to meet these guidelines on their own. To ensure that they meet AAFCO standards, a statement that looks like this will be present on the bag, typically near the ingredients:

[Dog Food Brand and Recipe] for [Adult Dogs/Puppies] is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for maintenance.

Which Fruits and Vegetables are Best in a Giant Breed Dog Food?

Fruits and vegetables are a necessary source of vitamins and minerals and typically provide a better concentration than artificial additives. The following fruits and vegetables are best in giant breed dog foods:

  • Apples
  • Cranberries
  • Pumpkin
  • Kale
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Beets
  • Celery

The list doesn’t stop here, but you should be aware of the benefits that each ingredient provides. Apples, cranberries, and pumpkin are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. Beets help with digestion, skin, and coat, and kale provides a number of health benefits such as bone health, increased vision, and immune function.

The Final Bite

Now that you know the basics about your giant breed dog’s nutritional and dietary needs, you’re ready to narrow down the best giant breed food for your pup. Giant breeds need extra joint and muscle support, as well as an overall lower calorie density.

Foods that start with real, all-natural protein and include lots of vitamins and minerals are the best choice. Be wary of any food that includes a protein meal that includes animal by-products. If you’re still not sure where to start in choosing the best food for giant breed dogs, try one of our top 15 picks reviewed above!

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