As the proud new owner of a large breed puppy, you’ve probably heard from someone by now that your dog needs a large breed specific puppy food to grow up strong and avoid skeletal problems all too common for big dogs.
But how do you find a quality food that’s right for your pup’s needs and will truly make a difference in their long term health?
In this article, we’ll look at the various aspects of the best rated large breed puppy foods and what sets them apart from other types of food and why these differences are important. Then we’ll review our top five picks of the best large breed puppy foods so you can find the right diet for your growing pooch.
What Makes Large Breed Puppy Formulas So Special?
There are a lot of trends in the dog food industry that you should ignore, but large breed puppy food isn’t one of them.
This new type of diet formulated specifically for dogs that will be over 50 to 70 pounds when fully grown, was founded out of a concern for growing numbers of large breed dogs developing various musculoskeletal diseases. Many of these diseases, it was discovered, were caused by a high growth rate early in life.
Large breed specific puppy foods are made to provide growing large and giant dogs with the right amount of calories and nutrients for steady growth. But the story of what’s so special about these foods doesn’t stop at how calorie-dense they are.
The biggest contributor to how many calories a dog food has per cup is the amount of fat in the food. The best foods for large breed puppies have 8% to 12% fat as compared to the 10% to 25% of the average puppy food, according to petmd.com.
Protein is an important factor in healthy growth for all dogs. While all puppies need protein in higher amounts than adult dogs, large breed dogs should not get too much protein or it could throw off their calcium/phosphorus balance, according to Lynn Buzhardt, DVM.
She recommends finding a food with at least 30% protein (dry matter basis) to assure healthy muscle growth, but make sure the food also complies with the suggested amount of calcium and phosphorus (see below).
Calcium and Phosphorus
As we all know, calcium is key to strong bones, but because puppies can’t regulate how much calcium they uptake from their diets, they are prone to skeletal malformations caused by excess calcium in the system.
Phosphorus also plays a key role in bone and joint health, but excess calcium in the system will cause phosphorus levels to drop too low, leading to additional health issues later in life.
Reviews of The Best Large Breed Puppy Foods
#1. Solid Gold – Wolf Cub with Real Bison and Oatmeal – Natural Large Breed Puppy Food
The best puppy foods for large breed dogs combine the right calorie density, nutrient profile, and quality ingredients that will lead to healthier, stronger adult dogs. Solid Gold’s large breed formula tops our list for all those reasons and more.
The first two ingredients in this food are bison and fish meal, two less common meats that pack a lot of great nutrition and healthy fats. These animal ingredients are backed with healthy grains, including rice, oatmeal, and barley, that have been proven over time to keep large breed dog’s hearts and muscles healthy.
This food only has 28% protein (dry matter basis), slightly less than the optimal value. But at 12% fat, it hits the mark and brings home the right calorie density to help your large breed dog grow at the right pace.
This food contains 1.0% to 1.3% calcium, which isn’t perfect for all large breeds but is pretty close. Like many dog foods, this one does not list the amount of phosphorus in the diet.
Like all Solid Gold foods, this one is born out of holistic ingredients meant to help your dog thrive. The large breed puppy recipe includes probiotics and DHA for a healthy digestive tract, immune system, and brain.
Not to be forgotten, this food comes in just under moderately priced and would fit nicely into most owner’s budgets. Not bad considering all this diet has to offer.
To make sure your pup gets the right amount of both these important micronutrients, look for foods with 0.7% to 1.2% calcium and 0.6% to 1.1% phosphorus. The overall ratio of calcium to phosphorus should fall between 1:1 and 1.5:1.
#2. Nutro Ultra Puppy Dry Dog Food
Like Solid Gold, our second choice food contains quality meat ingredients and healthy grains, as well as nutrient-packed superfoods to help your large breed puppy thrive. Nutro’s Ultra large breed puppy food hits the mark on most of our large breed food requirements and brings a little extra to the table.
Like our first choice, this food has only 28% protein (dry matter basis), but it does offer a variety of meat meals that add to the overall animal ingredient content of the diet.
Chicken and chicken meal are the first two ingredients listed, but lamb meal, salmon meal, and fish oil also appear on the ingredients list. Also appearing on the list are some nutrient-packed superfoods like chia seeds, kale, pumpkin, and spinach.
This food has a slightly higher fat content at 13%, so you may have to keep an extra eye on your pup’s waistline to make sure they aren’t gaining weight too fast. If you do get concerned about their weight, you can easily cut their portion down slightly and still continue to feed the same diet.
The listed calcium percentage is 1.2% and this food does list phosphorus amounts at about 1%. These amounts fall within the optimal range for each individual ingredient and the optimal ratio between them.
And, maybe best of all, this food costs even less than our first choice pick. An important characteristic given how much food a growing large breed dog can consume each day.
#3. Tuffy’S Pet Food Nutrisource Large Breed Chicken & Rice Puppy Food
Looking for a quality alternative to Nutro’s large breed puppy formula that will save you some money but give your dog all the same benefits? Nutrisource’s large breed recipe is as close as you’re likely to find.
Like our first two choices, this food contains only 28% protein (dry matter basis) and, like Nutro Ultra, the first two ingredients are chicken and chicken meal. It also contains near identical calcium and phosphorus amounts as Nutro.
However, it doesn’t contain as many meat ingredients, with fish meal being the only other one that shows up on the ingredients list.
This diet also contains healthy grains like rice, barley, and oatmeal, as well as a few nutrient-packed plant ingredients like kelp and flaxseed. And, while it does have added probiotics, it does not list any DHA on the analysis.
Overall, this food is similar to Nutro Ultra in a lot of ways but comes up short in a few categories. But, with a slightly lower price tag, it still might be the best choice for your growing giant.
#4. Nutro Wholesome Essentials Natural Puppy Dry Dog Food
Fourth on our list is another great Nutro diet made specifically for large breed puppies. Nutro’s Wholesome Essentials comes in two great large breed flavors
This diet is available in lamb or chicken flavor with each food containing lamb meal or chicken, and chicken meal. Both have lamb meal listed further down the ingredients list as well.
While these are great, quality meat ingredients that we love to see on labels, this food has a disappointing protein percentage at only 23 (dry matter basis). The total fat percentage is higher than others on the list at 13%, which helps bring the total calorie content into a higher range that is more appropriate for growing puppies.
This food also contains healthy grains like rice, sorghum, and oatmeal, but relies more heavily on synthetic vitamins and minerals for micronutrients than our previous choices.
While this is one of the best dry puppy foods for large breeds that will be at or below 70 pounds when fully matured, we would not recommend it for giant breeds. This is because the calcium percentage is listed as being as high as 1.7% and the phosphorus as high as 1.6%.
These levels aren’t optimal for extra large dogs who are already prone to joint issues.
But, given the quality ingredients, added glucosamine, DHA, and the low price tag, this food would still be a great choice for most medium-large breed dogs.
#5. Eukanuba Puppy Dry Dog Food Chicken – Large Breed
If your main concern is finding a food to meet your growing giant’s large appetite that won’t leave you bankrupt but still contains quality ingredients, our last choice is for you. Eukanuba large breed puppy comes with a very affordable price tag and with a protein percentage rivaling that of our top choices.
With 28% protein (dry matter basis) and 14% fat, Eukanuba comes close to meeting the optimal large breed requirements while still boasting a low, low price. And with .65% calcium and .55% phosphorus, it has the lowest levels of any of our choices, making it an ideal option for very large breeds whose growth needs to be restricted.
While this food does contain corn, wheat, and chicken by-product meal, less than ideal ingredients, it does have chicken listed as the first ingredient and contains no animal digest.
Still, a large percentage of that high protein level likely comes from plant ingredients.
This food does have added DHA and glucosamine to support growing brains and joints.
What is the Best Dog Food for Large Breed Puppies?
After looking at the best large breed puppy food reviews and rating each against the optimal level of protein, fat, and micronutrients, we’ve named Solid Gold’s Wolf Cub as the best large breed puppy food on the market. This food contains an almost optimal level of protein, the right amount of fat and near-ideal levels of calcium and phosphorus.
And just as importantly, this food is made with quality animal ingredients like bison and ocean fish meal as well as higher quality grains like oatmeal and barley. Combine those ingredients with nutrient-dense holistic superfoods like parsley, spinach, blueberries, and spearmint, and you have a food your dog will love that will also keep them healthy and strong as they grow up.
Frequently Asked Questions
All medium to large dogs should be fed puppy food until they reach their adult size. For large and giant breed puppies, this is typically between 10 and 14 months of age.
At that point, you’ll want to transition your large breed dog onto a quality large breed adult dog food.
Recently the FDA and many veterinarians have reported a correlation between grain-free diets and an increased risk of DCM. There are a lot of complex factors playing into this apparent association and there are no clear answers yet on what is causing the disease and how different food types play into the problem.
However, since many large breed dogs are already at an increased risk of DCM, the safest choice, as of now, for your large breed puppy is a diet that contains quality grains like rice, barley, or oatmeal, at least until we know more about this new phenomenon.
Quality large breed specific canned puppy foods are few and far between. This likely has a lot to do with the amount of food a large breed needs to eat as well as their very specific calorie needs.
If you want to supplement your large breed puppy’s normal diet with canned food, look for a normal adult food or low-calorie puppy food that fits the optimal nutrient makeup we discussed in the first section of this article. But do make sure you count these extra calories into your dog’s total diet so they don’t end up gaining too much weight too fast.
Summed Up: The Best Large Breed Puppy Food
|Name||Solid Gold Wolf Cub Large Breed Puppy||Nutro Ultra Large Breed Puppy||Nutrisource Large Breed Puppy||Nutro Wholesome Essentials Large Breed Puppy||Eukanuba Puppy Large Breed|
|Large Breed Puppy Features||Near-optimal protein, calcium, and phosphorus, and optimal fat, quality ingredients||Quality meat ingredients, near-optimal protein and fat, optimal calcium and phosphorus ratio||Optimal phosphorus and calcium ratio, near-optimal fat and protein, quality meat ingredients||Multiple flavors, quality ingredients, close to optimal macro and micro nutrient levels||Affordable, high protein for budget food, low calcium and phosphorus levels|
- Lynn Buzhardt, DVM. “Nutritional Requirements of Large and Giant Breed Puppies” vcahospitals.com.
- Dr. Jennifer Coates. “What is Large Breed Puppy Food?” petmd.com, 1 March 2013.