5 Best Large Breed Puppy Foods, According To Veterinarians
Here's what to look for in puppy food for big dogs.
It turns out that not all food for puppies is created equal. If you have a big-breed puppy, then you’ll want to make sure you’re feeding him a large-breed puppy food to make sure he’s getting all the necessary nutrients to grow up happy and healthy — but which formulas are best?
We reached out to several veterinarians to get a better understanding of why it’s important to feed your large-breed puppy a specific formula and which ones, in their opinion, are best for your pet. Here are their top picks:
How is large-breed puppy food different from regular puppy food?
It’s really important to feed your growing dog a large-breed-specific food during their puppyhood because these foods help regulate your dog’s growth.
“[Large-breed puppy foods] have slightly lower fat content and a lower calcium to phosphorus ratio, which regulates bone growth,” Dr. Stephanie Sheen, a veterinarian for digital pet health company Fuzzy, told The Dodo.
“This is important because a large-breed puppy who grows too quickly can be at risk for developing orthopedic abnormalities, such as hip dysplasia or elbow dysplasia, which can be life-long problems,” Dr. Sheen continued. “Large-breed puppy food helps slow that growth down and spread it out so that the body has more time to develop properly.”
She noted that, ideally, all large-breed puppies should eat large-breed-specific puppy food for the first 18 to 24 months of their lives (during which they will continue to grow).
What breeds of dogs need large-breed puppy formulas?
Your vet can tell you if your puppy qualifies as a large-breed dog, but according to Dr. Zay Satchu, co-founder and chief veterinary officer at Bond Vet in New York City, “large-breed formulas are most appropriate for large- and giant-breed puppies expected to weigh over about 60 to 75 pounds as an adult.”
What to look for in a large-breed puppy food
“The best thing to do when you're looking for puppy food is to make sure that the dog food label states [the dog food is] formulated to meet Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) dog food nutrient profiles,” Dr. Claudine Sievert, a Kansas-based vet who works with Stayyy.com, told The Dodo.
Dr. Sheen said that, rather than focusing on ingredients, you should find a puppy food brand that meets the guidelines established by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA), which cover quality control, caloric content, information on who makes the food and more.
If you want to do a quick scan of the nutrition facts on a large-breed food label, then look for nutrients including calcium, phosphorus, DHA and EPA for healthy brain and eye development, and fats, fiber and carbohydrates from veggies, fruits and grains.
Consulting your vet on their opinion of which nutrients, ingredients and formulas are best for your puppy and his unique needs is a great place to start on your search for the best food.
Best vet-recommended large-breed puppy foods
Though consulting your vet ahead of choosing a food is best, these large-breed puppy foods (which come in both dry and wet formulas) are vet-recommended and contain all the necessary ingredients and certifications to get your puppy’s life off to a great start.
Drs. Satchu and Sheen recommend Purina Pro Plan puppy food, which comes in a large-breed-specific formula for pups under 2 years. It has DHA for brain development and calcium and glucosamine for healthy bone growth. And Dr. Sheen specifically likes the sensitive skin and stomach formula for pups who may need a milder meal option.
Dr. Satchu also likes the Purina One puppy food, which comes in a large-breed, puppy-specific formula. It contains lots of protein for healthy bone and muscle development and helps maintain a healthy growth rate.
Made with all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals to support healthy growth, brain development and teeth, the Hill’s Science Diet large-breed puppy formula was recommended by Dr. Sheen as the brand meets the WSAVA guidelines.
“I have fed my dogs Diamond brand dog food for almost 25 years now and have never had an issue,” Dr. Sievert said. “When they came out with the Diamond Natural grain-free food, I switched to buying it … it's made with all of the recommended ingredients.” This large-breed puppy formula is specifically made for bigger dogs and contains fatty acids for skin and coat health as well as digestion-friendly probiotics.
Dr. Sheen also recommended Royal Canin, which offers a large-breed puppy food. It makes sure your pup develops properly and maintains stamina throughout his puppyhood.
Eating these vet-recommended foods each day will ensure your large-breed puppy grows up to be the healthiest, strongest and happiest dog he can be. Remember to chat with your vet to find the best option for your puppy, and don’t forget to transition him to a new food slowly so he doesn’t get sick.
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