Your large breed dog may think that they are a giant lap dog, but their nutritional needs are quite a bit different from your average toy poodle. Luckily, there are a number of diets on the market nowadays that are formulated specifically for these heavyweights.
If you’ve ever struggled to keep your big dog at a healthy weight or if they are battling joint and other common large breed health problems, a diet change may be the solution. But don’t trust your giant furry friend’s health to just any food, read on to find our recommendations of the best large breed dog foods to keep your dog at the top of their game.
How Do Large Breed Foods Differ from Normal Dog Food?
As a large breed dog owner, you probably already know the importance of a large breed puppy formula for dog’s who are expected to tip the scales as adults. But did you know that larger adults, especially those over 70lbs will also benefit from a large breed specific recipe?
These large breed foods are made with your dog’s health in mind. Typically, they have a lower fat and protein content than traditional and small breed formulas to support your large dog’s slower metabolism.
This helps your dog maintain a healthy weight without needing to restrict portions and thereby restrict nutrients.
Most of these foods also contain added glucosamine and chondroitin, both of which help support joint health and can delay the onset of arthritis and other painful bone issues later in life.
Because your giant dog has a much larger mouth and stomach than a Chihuahua, these foods are balanced with the right amount of nutrition for larger serving sizes and contain large kibbles that can’t easily be gulped down.
Large Breed Nutritional Concerns
All these differences found in large breed specific formulas are based on common health concerns found in many large breeds.
According to akc.org, the three most significant nutrition-related health issues facing large dogs are obesity, orthopedic diseases, and bloat.
Larger breed dogs aren’t necessarily more likely to be obese than any other sized dogs, but the consequences of them carrying around a few extra pounds are more significant than those for smaller breeds. Because of their mass, large breed dogs’ joints already suffer a lot of strain and they often develop diseases like hip and elbow dysplasia and arthritis.
Keeping your dog at a healthy weight by feeding a food with the appropriate calorie density for their size and activity level is key to maintaining a healthy weight.
Even without excess weight, these orthopedic diseases can plague large breeds. Some of this is due to genetics, but other factors are more controllable, like the type and quality of puppy food fed during growth and an adult food with quality nutrition to support proper bone and muscle function.
If you’re looking for a quality food to get your large breed puppy started out on the right paw, you’ll want to read this article.
The last big health concern for large dogs is bloat. This deadly condition occurs when air gets trapped in a dog’s stomach and causes the organs to twist, cutting off the blood supply.
While avoiding bloat has more to do with taking precautions like not exercising your dog too soon after meals, what you feed can also contribute to the likelihood of this problem occurring. Large breed formulas are often lower in fat and contain large kibbles that must be chewed, both of which can decrease the chances of bloat occurring in a healthy dog.
How to Choose a Quality Large Breed Dog Food
While large breed formulas do consider the above problems when creating their recipes, don’t assume that all of them are created equal. Just like with traditional foods, there are high-quality large breed formulas and low-quality ones.
To make sure your dog gets the best nutrition to support their mass and their health, you’ll want to look for foods with the following qualities:
- Named animal ingredients. Check the ingredients label for meats like “chicken meal,” “lamb,” and “salmon” listed first and unnamed meats like “meat by-product” not listed at all. The more recognizable animal ingredients listed in the first five, the better the food is.
- Quality plant ingredients. Your dog’s system was meant to process meat, but it will also benefit from quality, high-nutrient plant foods like greens, berries, and other herbal superfoods. Avoid low-nutrient filler ingredients like corn, soy, and wheat.
- All natural. Chemical additives and preservatives can cause digestive upset, irritated skin, and some have even been linked to higher cancer rates. Choose an all-natural food without any added colors and only natural preservatives.
Reviews of The Best Large Breed Dog Foods
#1. Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free, Natural Adult Large Breed Dry Dog Food
First on our list of the best dog foods for large breeds is a high protein diet with the right balance of nutrients and calories to keep your big pooch healthy and happy. Blue Buffalo’s Wilderness Large Breed diet is perfect for dogs over 50lbs.
This diet comes in two flavors, chicken and salmon. Both flavors list quality meat ingredients as the first two ingredients, with additional animal ingredients added throughout.
Unlike many large breed formulas, this one contains a high 32% protein. Protein is an important macronutrient for dogs for both energy and metabolic function.
Many brands replace protein ingredients with those higher in fiber to bring down the total calorie count. So, as you can imagine, this food has a slightly higher calorie density at around 380 kcals per cup.
All that extra protein plus a moderate calorie count make this one of the best dry dog foods for large breeds with a moderately active lifestyle. If your dog is more active, this food is still a great choice, you just may have to up the serving size.
Like many large breed foods, this diet contains glucosamine and chondroitin for healthy joints, as well as plenty of omega fatty acids for skin, joint, and eye health.
Best of all, this food is moderately priced and well worth it for the higher protein content.
#2. Holistic Select Natural Dry Dog Food Large & Giant Breed Adult
Our second pick on the list of best dog foods for large breed adult dogs is marketed for dogs over 50lbs but specially crafted for truly giant breeds. Holistic Select’s Large and Giant Breed dry food has higher than average protein and added nutrient dense holistic ingredients.
At 24%, this food has a lot less protein than our first choice, but still slightly more than the average large breed food. Most of that protein comes from the first listed ingredient which is chicken meal.
This recipe also contains pork meal and an array of nutrient-dense plant foods like flaxseed, papaya, pomegranate, and cranberries.
Despite the lower protein, this food has a slightly higher fat level than our first choice food which lends to the overall higher calorie count of 433 kcals per cup. That higher calorie density makes this one of the best dog foods for giant breeds on our list because you can feed less and still help your dog maintain an ideal weight.
Of course, this food also contains glucosamine, vitamin E, and omegas to support your giant’s joints.
This food is even more affordable than our first choice food and a great option for giant breed owners who already have to buy double or triple the amount of food to fill their dog’s extra-large stomach.
#3. Instinct Be Natural Recipe Natural Dry Dog Food Formerly Prairie by Nature’s Variety
Do you have a smaller large breed dog or a household with a mix of giant and medium breeds? Our third choice of food is one of the best dog foods for medium dogs on our list.
Instinct’s Be Natural food is an all-breed formula with the nutrient and calorie profile that makes it a great choice for dogs from 20 to 70 pounds and up.
This recipe comes in four great adult flavors: chicken, beef, lamb, and salmon. All four flavors contain meat as the first two ingredients plus additional meat meals further down the list including menhaden fish meal and turkey meal.
All varieties contain around 25% protein and 14% fat. Each flavor contains fewer calories than our second choice food but more than our first choice, making this food ideal for average to moderately active medium and large breed dogs.
In addition to all the great meat ingredients, this food also contains nutrient-dense whole-foods like dried organ meat, sweet potatoes, and blueberries. Each kibble is also raw coated which gives the whole meal a blast of bioavailable nutrients your dog will love.
This is one of the higher priced foods on our list but more than worth it for the overall quality.
#4. Nutro Max Natural Adult Dry Dog Food
If you have a giant dog with a big appetite, you’re going to love our next choice. Nutro Max’s Large Breed Chicken recipe is a quality diet at an affordable price.
This diet has lower protein than the others on our list at only 22% and a slightly lower fat level at 13%. Not surprisingly this brings the total calorie count down to 324 kcals per cup, making this the best dog food for big dogs with small activity windows.
If your big pup is a bit of couch potato or just too old to enjoy romping through the park like they used to, this food will help keep them trim.
Even with the lower protein, this food still contains chicken meal as the first ingredient. It also contains some higher quality grains like sorghum, rice, and oatmeal.
This food does contain more synthetic vitamins and minerals and fewer whole-foods than others on our list. But the price point makes this easily one of the best inexpensive dog foods for large breeds on the market.
#5. Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets Dry Dog Food – Large Breed Bites L.I.D. Lamb Meal & Brown Rice
The last food on our list was included for those large dogs with sensitive tummies. Natural Balance’s Limited Ingredients Large Breed is specially formulated with a short ingredient list and large breed specific nutrition.
The only meat ingredient in this diet is lamb, making it an excellent choice for big dogs with protein sensitivities. The only grain is rice, which is easily digestible and less likely to cause allergic reactions than many grains.
This food only contains 21% protein and maxes out at 355 kcalories per cup. It would not be a great choice for more active or younger large breed dogs but would work well for senior pups, especially if they suffer from a sensitive stomach.
Because of the limited ingredient recipe, this food contains fewer whole foods and more synthetic nutrients than the first three diets on our list. But it still maintains a balanced nutritional profile.
This food is moderately priced and cheaper than most limited ingredient diets you’ll find.
What is the Best Dog Food for Large Breed Dogs?
We looked through the best large breed dog food reviews and picked the top five diets to keep your big pooch healthy and happy. Blue Buffalo’s Wilderness Large Breed diet was chosen as the best of the best large breed dog food for its outstanding protein content and quality ingredients.
Your dog is sure to thrive on this food’s 32% protein and nutrient-packed ingredients. And with a moderate calorie-density for a large breed food, this diet is a great option for the average pooch.
If you’re looking for something with more or fewer calories, we’ve included a couple of those options on our list as well.
Frequently Asked Questions
AAFCO, the organization responsible for regulating dog foods, considers 70lbs the cut off for large breed specific foods. But many vets and other breed professionals would consider anything over 50lbs a large breed dog.
If your dog is much larger than 70lbs a food with the right calorie and nutrition density for a large breed is a must, but it is less important if your dog is under that cutoff.
Summed Up: The Best Large Breed Dog Food
|Name||Blue Buffalo Wilderness Large Breed||Holistic Select Large & Giant Breed||Instinct Be Natural||Nutro Max Large Breed||Natural Balance LID Large Breed|
|Large Breed Features||High protein, moderate calories, quality meat ingredients||Calorie dense, holistic ingredients||High in meat, quality ingredients, all natural||Affordable, no fillers or by-products||Limited ingredient diet, easily digestible|
- Anna Burke. “Best Food for Large Breed Adult Dogs” akc.org, 1 June 2016.
- Various. “Nutritional Differences for Small, Toy, and Large Breed Dogs” petmd.com, 3 February 2012.
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