With big dogs come big responsibilities!
But finding the best food for giant dog breeds doesn’t have to be a daunting task.
This guide is all you’ll need to make your choice.
Top food recommendations await below, but your ultimate pick will depend on:
- the form/type of food you’re feeding your giant breed
- a giant dog’s lifestyle, current weight, life stage, and overall health.
Though if you’re in a hurry, you can skip the line:
- Best for giant breed puppies: Holistic Select Natural Giant Puppy
- Best for giant adult dogs: Pro Plan Focus Adult Giant
- Best for senior giant dogs: Hill’s Science Diet Large Breeds
- Best grain-free option: Now Fresh Grain-Free Adult
Narrowing down the individual needs of a giant dog:
- Is your giant breed an adult, still a puppy, or in their later years?
- Form of dog food they prefer: raw, wet, dry, canned, or a mixture?
- Does your dog have any dietary restrictions/needs: limited ingredient food, easy digestion, grain or gluten-free, stomach sensitivity, weight control, etc.?
Whoa! Did you think you’d be faced with such questions (and a variety of paths) when buying your dog some good food? Luckily, this guide to feeding huge dog breeds is all you’ll need to navigate ashore.
Suppose you’re not here purely for product recommendations. In that case, you’ll enjoy learning more things about your dog, like what defines a giant breed, their nutritional needs, general feeding tips for the different life stages, and finally, our favorite choices from some trusted dog food brands.
What Is a Giant Dog? (Breed Examples)
Defining “giant dog breed”: Nearly everyone that sees a Newfoundland dog, a Tibetan Mastiff, or Zeus (the tallest giant dog ever), will have no trouble agreeing that they’re giant dogs. But what about the rest of the dogs we consider “giant?”
While it is true that companies and organizations may disagree as to the starting point (i.e., at what height, weight do large breed dogs cross over) for the “giant” classification, after such a point, however, they all consider these breeds “giants.”
See if you can find your dog on this giant dog representative species list.
(*Due to space limitations, not all breeds could be listed.)
|Akita Inu||Alaskan Malamute|
|Anatolian Shepherd Dog||Bernese Mountain Dog|
|Dogue de Bordeaux||Fila Brasileiro|
|Great Dane||Greater Swiss Mountain Dog|
|Mastiff (Old English)||Neapolitan Mastiff|
|Scottish Deerhound||Shiloh Shepherd|
|Tibetan Mastiff||Tosa Inu|
Here are the criteria we choose to adhere to when defining a giant dog:
Giant dog breed mass: You may see this differ across dog food labels, as companies use different criteria. But in this article, when we say ‘a giant breed,’ we mean: a dog whose standard average weight at maturity is over 100 lbs.
Giant dog breed height: Height is another determining characteristic debated among pet owners, food companies, and bloggers. However, in this article, when we say ‘a giant dog,’ we mean: a dog whose standard average height at maturity is over 26 inches.
Here’s a mini-chart to summarize:
|Giant Dog Breeds
over 26″ | over 100 lbs
Now: Read on to find out what you can do to help your dog live a happy & healthy life.
Nutritional Needs of Giant Breeds
Some of them may have been used as war dogs (like ancestors of the mastiff breeds) way back in the day, but nowadays, these gentle giants lead much more peaceful lives. Looking after our families and providing us with more joy (and scary moments!) than we can handle at times.
Here’s the deal: Out of all the breeds, giant dogs tend to have the shortest lifespans, making the years we spend with them all the more special. It also means their growth, health issues, and dietary needs are different.
Here are some F.A.Q.s people encounter while raising giant breed dogs:
Important nutrients for giant breeds
These gentle giants of our lives are genetically predisposed to certain health issues. Thus the last thing they need is an unbalanced diet and an unstable environment to make things even worse, especially the giant breed’s puppy stage. It is the most crucial time to meet specific nutritional needs, ensuring proper physiological development and helping reduce/prevent long-term health problems.
How can you help? Do your best to ensure your “giant-to-be puppy” eats premium dog food (preferably holistic, organic, or all-natural ingredients). Usually, a quality dog food formulated for giant breed puppies will contain the right balance of nutrients, with certain (but not every) “all life stages” foods being qualified.
Basic nutrients to look for when feeding giant breed puppies:
- Calcium (1.2% – 1.5%)
- Protein (23% – 25%)
- Fat (12% – 15%)
Know this: Don’t feed your giant pup a high-calorie diet! You want your puppy to grow tall and strong but not too fast. Overly rapid growth comes with bone/joint problems. Aim for a moderate calorie range, about 350 -380 kcal/ cup. (Monitor your dog’s activity and speak with a vet to confirm/set a more individualized range.)
Note: Don’t forget to count snacks and treat as part of your dog’s daily calories!
What about the nutrient needs of mature giant breeds: Great question! At this stage, your dog needs higher levels of protein, calcium, and fats. The six essential nutrients are water, proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals. But ideally, you’d like to know how much of each, wouldn’t you agree?
There’s a general basis for nutrition requirements that commercial pet food companies should consider when formulating dog food.
How much food does my giant dog need?
Your first instinct is a lot! Right?
They do require more than their smaller cousins. But it’s not easy to generalize giant dogs’ daily caloric needs; each dog’s life is unique.
Optimal feeding levels vary depending on your pet’s temperament, age, health, breed, activity levels, and environment.
Ideally, the right way to find out how much food your giant dog needs daily is to find your dog’s ideal weight. Then proceed to feed according to that weight, adjusting as necessary. It can get pretty tedious without your vet’s help (with constant monitoring and weighing giant dogs!).
But a brief consultation with your vet will yield a good estimation of daily calories you need to feed; based on your dog’s lifestyle and body condition score. If you know your dog pretty well, you can also use the:
The standard formula for calculating caloric needs of an average adult dog, who:
- lives in the house
- gets light exercise daily
- is spayed (or neutered)
Formula: (30 x Dog’s Weight in Kg ) + 70 = Daily Caloric Needs
How to convert kg to lbs: Simply take lbs and divide by 2.204. (So, 110 lbs / 2.204 = 49.90 kg)
Example: ( 30 x 49.90 (which is 110 lbs) ) + 70 = 1,567 calories per day.
Know this: Your dog is unique and probably not “average.” So the above chart and formula is simply a good starting point for knowledge-seeking owners. Most dogs will need fewer calories daily than the formula output, with few active dogs requiring more.
Important: The chart and formula are for adults; giant breed puppies have different and very important needs! (We discuss them in the feeding tips section below.)
How do I know if my giant breed puppy is growing too fast?
It’s true, puppies require a lot of food, and more often too! But at the same time, rapid growth is undesirable and can be detrimental to their health.
Help your giant breed dog live a longer, happier life by ensuring optimal giant breed puppy growth via knowing the following:
The myth: “Overfeeding will ensure my dog gets as big as possible.” No! Diet affects how FAST your giant puppy grows, NOT how big they will be at maturity.
The dilemma: Skeletal problems caused by overfeeding giant puppies; during the active, rapid growth period just after weaning.
The solution: Controlled growth, NOT overgrowth. Your dog’s ultimate size is pre-determined by the genes, so they’ll get there, don’t worry, but proper nutrition means they get there safely. Use your dog’s knowledge, and consult with your vet to best adjust the feeding guidelines on the back of dog food labels accordingly.
Keep this in mind: Monitor your giant pup’s weight and physical activity continuously. Their appetites vary throughout their growing phase, so it is up to the owners to adjust the volumes and maintain a steady weight throughout.
Common Big Dog Health Problems
Whether you own a giant Pit Bull breed (most likely a Presa Canario mix), a Rottweiler, a Mastiff, a Bernese Mountain Dog, or some other giant breed, the common denominator is that giant dogs are at a higher risk for certain health problems than smaller dogs.
Most common health problems seen in giant dogs:
Please make sure you are in a position, both time-wise and financially, to take care of a big dog should any of the below occur. These gentle giants rely on our nursing in exchange for the joy and love they bring into our lives.
Orthopedic issues (less bone density means more problems)
- hip and elbow dysplasia (malformed or poorly-fitting joints)
- cruciate ligament damage (typically “knee’ area of the back leg)
- panosteitis (inflammation of growing joints)
- hyperthrophic osteodystrophy (a.k.a HOD; swollen, painful joints)
- wobblers syndrome (most common in Great Danes and Doberman Pinschers)
- dilated cardiomyopathy (a.k.a DCM; heart muscles not contracting efficienlty -> irregular heartbeats)
- aortic stenosis (extra strain on the heart via narrowing of the aorta)
- entropion and ectropion (eyelash rolls inwards, irritating the cornea)
- cherry eye (a gland in the third eyelid inflames and enlarged)
- hypothyroidism (low production levels of thyroxin hormone)
- bloat or torsion (a.k.a gastric dilatation-volvulus; stomach fills suddenly with gas, twists unnaturally)
Certainly, a lot to digest, isn’t it? The above is by no means an all-encompassing list either. There are just too many breed-specific and overall variables to consider. Early detection and early treatment can play a pretty big role in the outcome.
So you’re probably wondering what the best approach is to avoiding/reducing the above?
The formula for success (reducing your big dog’s health risks):
- Premium, quality giant breed dog food
- Adequate, appropriate exercise (not too much strain on bones/joints)
- Good lifetime veterinary care (vaccination, dental and annual checkups, etc.)
- Continuous, conscientious monitoring of weight and activity
Obesity carries a lot of health problems with it, especially in extra large dog breeds with weaker bone density. Do your best to ensure your big dog is well fed but still maintains a healthy mass, and you’ll save a lot of money and heartaches.
Research findings: Studies have shown that protein is not the culprit of what was once believed about skeletal issues. Instead, the nutritional elements that impact a giant puppy’s skeletal development adversely are excess calories and excessive/unbalanced mineral content (specifically calcium: phosphorus ratio).
Tips on Feeding Giant Dog Breeds
They say dogs grow up too fast. Well, when it comes to extra large dog breeds, this is an understatement! It also makes life-stage nutrition all the more important. Giant breed’s nutritional needs vary from when they are puppies to maturity.
Certain foods labeled “all-purpose” may not contain enough nutrients for puppies of a giant breed, pregnant giant breed dogs, or nursing mothers. On the flip side, they may offer too many certain nutrients for the senior giant breed dog and increase their risk of obesity.
Here’s the deal: Feeding your giant dog according to their life stage has been recommended by respected nutritionists. The ultimate goal is overall good health and well-being, increasing the quality and quantity of your giant dog’s life. Let us start from when they are born, shall we?
Giant breed puppy feeding (birth – 1.5/2yr): Instead of asking, “how big will my puppy get?” ask instead, “how can I keep my growing giant breed puppy lean and optimally control their growth? ”
The good news: In 2016, AAFCO guidelines started to require dog foods categorized as growth to”. . . specify if they have met additional guidelines just for large- and giant-breed puppies.” Previously, some puppy stage dog foods were dangerously high in calcium for large and giant breed puppies.
Reduce the risk of growth diseases by working together with a vet who knows giant breeds pretty well and using this feeding chart for giant breed puppies as your starting point:
How to use this giant breed puppy feeding chart: These are general guidelines to be used as a starting point combined with your dog’s individual dietary needs and requirements.
Assumption: The dog in question is crated or less active during the day.
Females: Start with low-end amounts. Males: Use the mid-range figures.
Transitions: Don’t feed high-end amounts until your dog is at least 1/2 way through to being a month older. Example: Female Great Dane at 17 weeks old should be fed approx. 4 cups/day portioned into two daily meals; maximum five daily cups. Male Great Dane at 17 weeks old should be eating 5 cups/day; maximum of six daily cups.
|2 months (8 weeks)||2 to 4||3 daily meals|
|3 months (12 weeks)||3 to 5||2 daily meals|
|4 months (16 weeks)||4 to 6||2 daily meals|
|5 months (20 weeks)||5 to 7||2 daily meals|
|6 months (24 weeks)||6 to 8||2 daily meals|
|7 months (28 weeks)||6 to 9||2 daily meals|
|8 months (32 weeks)||6 to 9||2 daily meals|
|9 months (36 weeks)||7 to 10||2 daily meals|
|10 to 12 months||7 to 10||2 daily meals|
|12 to 18 months (male)||8 to 10||2 daily meals|
|12 to 18 months (female)||6 to 9||2 daily meals|
* Thanks to “The Great Dane Lady” (Linda Arndt, Canine Nutritional Consultant) for the above.
Know this: On a per body pound basis, puppies eat much more than adults, with younger puppies eating more than the older puppies. Raw fed giant breed puppies require a larger volume of food than their kibble-fed counterparts (as raw food has less fat and calories per ounce).
Giant breed adult feeding (2yr – 5yr): Overfeeding your adult giant can lead to obesity, which in turn leads to serious health conditions (like heart disease and diabetes). Thus, avoid obesity at all costs.
Earlier in this article, we discussed how much food your adult giant dog needs by providing a feeding chart.
Now: Let’s add to the suggested volume and frequency of food based on weight and activity levels, with some additional feeding tips for an adult giant breed.
Practice controlled eating: Feed an exact amount of food every day, based on weight and nutritional needs. Don’t leave food out all day; they are bored, and they will eat it!
Adjust for seasons: Is your giant dog more active in the summer than winter? Maybe walks and jogs are way more frequent during warmer months. But not just that, keeping warm and cool requires extra energy expenditure. Adjust for this variation in energy needs accordingly.
Treat occasionally, not too often: Feed them healthy, low-calorie treats that should only make up less than 10% of their total daily calories consumed.
Free-choice feeding: This means leaving the food out (typically dry food that doesn’t spoil easily) for the dog to eat at their convenience. This method is commonly used for pregnant giant breed dogs, as the mother-to-be has to eat more than usual. This method is not recommended otherwise, as it can lead to obesity.
Know this: If your giant dog is going through a recovery phase, whether due to surgery or disease, they may require additional nutrition to help repair and heal (but also fight off infection). Consult with your veterinarian if you find yourself in this situation.
Senior giant breed feeding (5yr+): The golden years are when your big dog needs you the most. Out of all the breeds, they’re considered seniors the earliest. With visible aging come to some noticeable immunologic, metabolic, and body composition changes as well.
The ultimate goal: Maintain optimum body weight and overall health; slow down the development of chronic diseases and minimize diseases that are already present.
Don’t decrease protein intake: Ensure good muscle mass by feeding your giant senior food that contains optimum protein levels. Studies have shown that as they age, protein needs don’t decrease. Decrease the calories to ward off obesity, but maintain normal protein levels.
Speak with your vet about G.L.A. and F.O.S.: Gamma-linolenic acid (G.L.A.) and Fructooligosaccharides (F.O.S.). G.L.A., an omega-6 fatty acid normally produced in a dog’s liver, plays a key role in skin and coat maintenance; it can diminish as the dog ages. F.O.S. promotes beneficial growth bacteria, helping fight off disease.
Choose food containing vitamin E and beta-carotene: These helpful antioxidants destroy free-radicals (particles capable of body tissue damage, bring about signs of aging). They can also help with your senior giant’s immune system by increasing its effectiveness.
Know this: Before making any drastic changes to your older dog’s diet, lifestyle, feeding habits, etc. Speak with your vet! Abrupt changes and stressful situations can throw your senior giant dog into a frenzy (exacerbating issues that would have otherwise happened gradually or not at all).
Best Food For Giant Dog Breeds (Recommended Brands)
Learning about their nutritional needs above was fun, but this is what you’re here for, right!? You’ve got a BIG, hungry dog that needs to be fed!
You might be wondering: Why don’t I see a lot of food specifically for extra-large dog breeds? Currently (according to Chewy, the biggest retailer), there are about 160 items under the giant breed category out there. But: Not all are exclusively for giant breeds, but instead a combo for large/giant dogs.
Until more pet food companies collaborate with knowledgeable nutritionists on formulating giant breed-specific dog foods, you are bound to see the large and giant classes coupled together. Though this is not too frowned upon by vets and experts, as long as the company meets the standard nutritional levels set by AAFCO.
But here’s the kicker: The coupling of dog food into “large/giant” puts more responsibility on you, the owner. For example, a Pit Bull and a Great Dane will normally mature to two very different weights. Thus, it is up to caring giant dog owners to ensure proper volumes and that the food they’re buying contains the right nutrients, such as protein, fat, calcium, glucosamine, and chondroitin.
The experts say that AAFCO currently provides no specific regulations or guidelines tailored for adult and old giant dog breeds. However, when it comes to giant breed puppies, they have issued a requirement. Companies must state whether their foods labeled “growth/all life stages” are acceptable (to ensure they’re not getting too much calcium) for puppies that will reach 70+ lbs at maturity. So we’re heading in the right direction!
Here are some of our favorite food choices from some of the best dog food brands around various needs.
What’s the Best Giant Breed Puppy Food?
Have a puppy on his way to giant-hood? Proper nutrition during his early days will ensure the worries of the later years are minimized.
If the packaging will say something along the lines of, “except for growth of large-sized dogs (70 lbs or more as an adult), that is your sign not to buy that food for your giant-to-be pup!
Remember this: Controlled, optimal growth; NOT forced growth! Not too much calcium (not too little either). Measure and portion out meals throughout the day, avoid free-feeding to prevent nutrient excesses and obesity.
Now: You’re ready for a good food recommendation for giant breed puppies; here’s one of our favorites!
Our Top Pick: Holistic Select – Natural Giant Breed Puppy Food
Notable ingredients: lamb meal, chicken meal, oatmeal, brown rice, barley, peas, salmon oil, flaxseed, pumpkin, cranberries, digestive enzymes.
Flavors: Lamb & oatmeal.
Packaging: 15 lb, 30 lb.
Why we like it: First and foremost, it is formulated to meet the unique growth nutrition levels set by AAFCO for giant breed puppies. This tasty formula contains the optimal levels of protein and fat for your giant pup’s muscle development and growth, as well as D.H.A. from salmon oil to support healthy eye and brain development.
Also, inside, you’ll find prebiotics, probiotics, natural fiber, live yogurt cultures, and digestive enzymes for a healthy gut, all of which in turn means key nutrients are properly broken down and absorbed. Aside from superior digestion, on the nutrition side, the formula contains nourishing fruits and veggies, antioxidant-rich superfoods, and natural ingredients. It’s an overall premium ingredient, nutritionally balanced, all-natural giant breed puppy formula. Backed by a “holistic select guarantee” and proudly made exclusively in the U.S.A.
What’s the Best Food for an Adult Giant Breed Dog?
Well, they’re officially in their prime. Ready to eat anything and everything in sight, but not so fast! Though they may look quite imposing, they may not be done growing just yet. So before switching your puppy to adult giant breed food, please consult with your vet or a breed expert as to when it would be the best time to change your particular breed to adult food. Just to play it safe!
Know this: Bigger dogs have slower metabolisms.
Big vs. small: The above is why you’ll see extra large dog breeds food containing fewer calories than other foods (especially small-breed options). Paradoxically, these gentle giants only require about 20 kcal/lb per day, whereas tiny toy breeds require 40 kcal/lb per day. Not only that, their bones are more fragile too! So obesity should be kept at bay.
Now: You’re well informed to choose quality, adult giant dog food. Here’s a good option.
Our Top Pick: Pro Plan Focus – Dog Food for Adult Giant Breed
Notable ingredients: Chicken, brewers rice, corn gluten meal, oatmeal, whole grain wheat, poultry by-product meal (natural source of glucosamine), pea fiber, fish meal, dried egg product, fish oil.
Packaging: 34 lb.
Calorie Content (calculated): ME 1,718 kcal/lb; 3,787 kcal/kg; 383 kcal/cup.
Why we like it: Taking on the challenge of formulating quality dog food for extra large dogs, Purina’s Pro Plan is getting the job done! It is manufactured with high-quality ingredients (real chicken being the first protein-providing component). Moreover, it looks out for your pets’ mobility and joint health. Eicosapentaenoic acid (E.P.A., omega-3 fatty acid) and glucosamine 26% protein and 12% fat help maintain ideal body weight.
Finally, this formula helps giant adult dogs digest better using a natural prebiotic fiber sourced from wheat bran.
Backed by science: Feeding tests on live animals using AAFCO procedures validate that Pro Plan Focus Adult Giant Breed Formula provides complete and balanced nutrition to maintain adult dogs.
What’s the Best Food for the Senior Giant Breed Dog?
How is senior dog food any different: Dog food formulated for the aging canine will typically have higher levels of key minerals and vitamins; to help maintain and promote good health through old age.
How to take care of your giant senior dog: Here are some tips to consider when taking care of your beloved aging dog.
The vet who knows giant breeds: An invaluable resource, a knowledgeable vet is worth their weight in gold! They’ll tell you why your dog likes a certain food, help you choose the food when to switch your furry giant over to senior nutrition, save you crucial time and headaches.
Here come joint issues: Health issues involving joints are all but a guarantee with extra-large dog breeds. Thus, to help promote the good health of your dog’s aging joints, choose food high in omega fatty acids, glucosamine, and chondroitin.
Hold the calories, please: Weight gain in giant breeds is a recipe for disaster. Their fragile joints and bones just can’t handle the excess weight over time. Weight management is key.
Now: You’re informed and in a good position for a quality senior giant dog food recommendation.
Our Top Pick: Hill’s Science Diet – Veterinarian Recommended Dog Food
Notable ingredients: Chicken mean, brown rice, whole grain wheat, whole grain corn, whole grain sorghum, cracked pearled barley, pork fat, dried beet pulp, natural glucosamine, and chondroitin.
Flavors: Chicken meal, rice & barley.
Packaging: 17.5 lb, 33 lb.
Why we like it: Senior big dogs need all the help they can get when it comes to bones and joints. In support of that, this science-backed old dog formula offers natural sources of glucosamine and chondroitin. On top of promoting mobility and joint health, it contains a clinically proven blend of antioxidants with Vitamin E and C to help support immune system health. This expertly formulated dog food for aging canines contains vitamins, fatty acids, and other key nutrients responsible for healthy skin and coat for a noticeable difference.
The verdict is in: Precisely balanced nutrition + high-quality ingredients + being #1 choice of vets (based on an annual survey) = one big happy and healthy senior dog!
Best Grain-Free Giant Breed Dog Food
If your giant breed dog is on a grain-free diet, here’s one of our favorite food options.
Our Top Pick: Now Fresh – Grain Free Dog Food (Adult)
Notable ingredients: 100% fresh turkey, salmon, duck & 100% fresh Omega 3 & 6 oils from coconuts & canola. as well as calcium & phosphorus.
Flavors: Turkey, salmon, duck.
Packaging: 12 lb, 25 lb.
Why we like it: An overall high-quality, fully grain-free dog food your giant breed will love, the recipe features ZERO grains, wheat, beef, gluten, corn, or soy. No rendered meats, artificial preservatives, or by-products either! A great nutrient-rich choice for active dogs, with New Zealand, sourced green muscles, glucosamine, and chondroitin promotes hip and joint health. Digestion wise you’ll find the formula contains pre and probiotics to help your giant dog absorb key nutrients, as well as added taurine for vision and heart function support.