Owning a big dog comes with big responsibilities, the most important of which is providing for your dog’s nutritional needs. Though all dogs have the same basic nutritional requirements, large breeds have a higher risk for musculoskeletal issues and higher needs for protein to support lean mass.
The best way to meet your dog’s needs is to feed him a high-quality dog food formulated for large breeds. Keep in mind, however, that not all dog foods are created equal. It is your job as a dog owner to do your research and to make a smart choice for your dog.
In this article, we’ll review the nutritional requirements of large breed dogs and how they differ from those of smaller dogs. We’ll also teach you what to look for when shopping for large breed dog food and provide you with our top 10 picks for the best food for large breed dogs.
What is the Best Large Breed Dog Food?
- NomNomNow Fresh Food Delivery
- Taste of the Wild Sierra Mountain Grain-Free Dry Food – Most Popular
- American Journey Large Breed Chicken & Brown Rice Protein – Most Affordable
- Wellness Large Breed Complete Health Puppy Deboned Chicken
- Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Large Breed Senior Chicken
- FirstMate Large Breed Pacific Ocean Fish Meal Formula LID Dry Food
- Earthborn Holistic Large Breed Grain-Free Dry Food
- Holistic Select Large & Giant Breed Adult Health Chicken Meal
- Nutro Wholesome Essentials Large-Breed Adult Farm-Raised Chicken Recipe
- Castor & Pollux Organix Grain-Free Healthy Weight Dry Food
Nutritional Requirements of Large Breed Dogs
Just like you, your dog has certain requirements for nutrients in his diet. The quality of the ingredients that provide these nutrients matters greatly, so don’t skimp on your dog’s food. Take the time to learn about his nutritional needs and find a high-quality product to provide for those needs.
Here’s a quick review of your dog’s basic nutritional requirements:
- High-quality, animal protein – at least 18% of his diet
- Healthy fats – at least 5% – and a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
- Limited carbohydrate content from digestible sources
- Essential vitamins and minerals to ensure nutritional balance
- Plenty of moisture for hydration and healthy digestion
All dogs need a diet rich in protein. Protein provides the building blocks for strong muscles and, particularly in large breeds, supports lean mass. The most digestible forms of protein for dogs come from animal sources like poultry, meat, and fish. Animal proteins are complete proteins as well which means they contain all of the essential amino acids that your dog’s body can’t synthesize on its own.
In addition to plenty of protein, your dog needs healthy fats in his diet. Fats provide a concentrated source of energy for dogs – 9 calories per gram, compared to just 4 for protein and carbohydrate. Like protein, fats should come from digestible animal sources, though plant oils can be used to ensure the proper balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Healthy fats also support your dog’s skin and coat.
Do Small Breeds and Large Breeds Need Different Food?
All dogs have the same basic nutritional needs because, while there may be dozens of different breeds, they come from the same species. This means that the basic nutritional requirements for large breeds are no different than from small breeds, but there are certainly some small differences.
Small-breed dogs have fast metabolisms which means that they burn calories more quickly than large breeds. This also means they have higher needs for calories and fat in their diet than large dogs. For large dogs, the primary concern is controlling growth and body weight. Big dogs have a higher risk for musculoskeletal issues, so they need to maintain a healthy body weight with plenty of lean mass to avoid putting excess strain on their bones and joints.
Another concern with large dogs is a condition called bloat, or gastric dilation volvulus. This is a condition in which the stomach fills with air and twists on its axis, cutting off blood flow to the stomach and essential organs, creating a life-threatening condition. This can happen when the dog eats too fast, too much at once, or too soon before or after exercising. Large breed dog food usually comes in larger kibbles to deliver nutrition in a smaller portion.
These are some of the reasons you need to buy specific dog food for large breeds instead of just giving your dog regular kibble. Keep reading to learn what to look for in the best food for large dogs.
What to Look for in Large Breed Dog Food
Though all dogs have the same requirements for essential nutrients, large breeds have slightly different requirements for protein, fat, and calories. The best way to ensure that your dog gets the proper concentration of calories and nutrients in his diet is to choose a recipe formulated for large breed dogs.
Here are some general things to look for in a healthy food for large breed dogs:
- All-natural ingredients. The quality of the ingredients in your dog’s diet is directly related to the nutritional value, so look for a recipe made with natural, whole-food ingredients.
- High in animal protein. Your dog needs a minimum of 18% protein in his diet, but more is recommended, especially for large breeds where lean mass is important. Look for a quality source of meat, poultry, or fish as the first ingredients.
- Healthy fats. Fat provides a concentrated source of energy for your dog but you need to control the amount to prevent your dog from gaining weight – look for 5% to 12% fat.
- Nutrient-rich and nutritionally balanced. Synthetic vitamin and mineral supplements are typically needed to ensure complete and balanced nutrition for dogs.
- Larger kibble size. To reduce your dog’s risk for bloat, you need to keep him from eating too fast or eating too much at once – larger kibbles can deliver balanced nutrition in a smaller portion.
Now that you understand your large breed dog’s nutritional needs and have a better idea of what to look for in a dog food for large breeds, you’re ready to start shopping! If you’re still not quite sure where to look, you can consider one of our top 10 picks reviewed below.
The 10 Best Large Breed Dog Foods
The best large breed dog food will be formulated specifically for large breeds and made from wholesome, natural ingredients. Look for real animal protein as the first ingredient with essential fatty acids for energy as well as skin and coat support. It also doesn’t hurt to see beneficial supplements like chelated minerals, probiotics, and glucosamine and chondroitin.
Here’s our top pick for the best large breed dog food:
Overall Best Large Breed Dog Food: Large-breed dogs need a larger volume of food than small dogs, but the quality of their diet is just as important. When it comes to high-quality nutrition, fresh food is best because the ingredients retain more of their original nutritional value. If you’re looking for a high-quality, fresh food diet for your large dog, consider NomNomNow. NomNomNow is a fresh pet food delivery service that sends pre-portioned packages of fresh food right to your door on a monthly basis. Choose from four different recipes and know that the company will cater the portion size to meet your dog’s specific needs for calories and nutrients, based on his age and weight. You can’t do better than fresh food and NomNomNow is fresh pet food at its finest! Give it a try and you won’t be disappointed.
- Pros: Fresh food sent right to your door, choose from four recipes, catered to your dog’s calorie needs, made from wholesome natural ingredients, complete and nutritionally balanced
- Cons: More expensive than typical kibble (especially to feed a large dog)
Most Popular Large Breed Dog Food: Large-breed dogs need a diet rich in protein to sustain their lean muscle mass. If you’re not sure where to go for dog food, you can always go with a popular brand like Taste of the Wild. Though this brand doesn’t offer any recipes specifically formulated for large breeds, any of their recipes (aside from the small-breed recipe) would be a good choice. We chose this Taste of the Wild Sierra Mountain Grain-Free Dry Food because it contains plenty of protein (25%) with more limited fat content than some of their other recipes (15%). It is still an excellent source of high-quality animal protein – in fact, it is a single-source protein recipe. It also features grain-free carbohydrates as well as fresh fruits and vegetables to provide natural sources for key nutrients.
- Pros: Real lam first ingredient, single-source protein, rich in healthy fats, digestible grain-free carbohydrates, fresh fruits and vegetables, probiotic supplements, chelated minerals
- Cons: Could be higher in protein, not specifically formulated for large breeds
Most Affordable Large Breed Dog Food: You don’t have to choose between an affordable dog food and a good one. American Journey is Chewy’s in-house brand and it offers a wide variety of high-quality recipes at an affordable price. This American Journey Large Breed Chicken & Brown Rice Protein First Recipe is an excellent choice because it is uniquely formulated for large breeds and is positively packed with protein. Real, deboned chicken is the first ingredient and it is supplemented with chicken meal. This recipe contains digestible whole-grain carbohydrates as well as fresh fruits and vegetables to provide natural sources for essential nutrients. You’ll also be glad to know that it is rich in omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat and supplemented with glucosamine and chondroitin for bone and joint support.
- Pros: Formulated for large breeds, real deboned chicken first ingredient, digestible whole-grain carbohydrates, rich in omega fatty acids, supplemental glucosamine and chondroitin
- Cons: Contains some plant protein (pea protein), may be too high in fiber for some dogs
Best Large Breed Dog Food for Puppies: Your large-breed puppy needs a high-quality source of premium animal protein to fuel his growth and development. You also need to control the fat and calorie content of his diet to prevent him from growing too fast. This Wellness Large Breed Complete Health Puppy Deboned Chicken, Brown Rice & Salmon Meal Recipe provides for these needs and more. It features deboned chicken as the first ingredient and a rich source of lean protein. This recipe also contains digestible whole-grain carbohydrates for energy and fiber with plenty of omega fatty acids for skin and coat support. You’ll find probiotic supplements for healthy digestion with chelated minerals for optimal nutrient absorption. Plus, this recipe contains controlled levels of calcium and phosphorus to protect your puppy’s joints.
- Pros: Formulated for large-breed puppies, real chicken first ingredient, digestible whole-grain carbohydrates, chelated minerals, probiotics, rich in omega fatty acids
- Cons: Not a grain-free recipe (some puppies may be sensitive)
Best Large Breed Dog Food for Seniors: As your large-breed dog gets older, it becomes more important to control his weight. Excess weight can put strain on your dog’s bones and joints, increasing his risk for musculoskeletal issues. This Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Large Breed Senior Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe is a great choice because it is formulated to provide for the changing needs of your large-breed senior dog. This recipe features real deboned chicken as the first ingredient with chicken meal to provide a natural source of bone- and joint-supporting glucosamine and chondroitin. It contains digestible whole-grain carbohydrates as well as fresh fruits and vegetables to ensure balanced nutrition. Overall, it contains 20% protein with 10% fat and sits at 344 calories per cup. Simply put, it is a nutritious and flavorful recipe your senior dog will love and you can feel good knowing that it will provide for his nutritional needs.
- Pros: Formulated for large-breed seniors, real deboned chicken first ingredient, digestible whole-grain carbohydrates, fresh fruits and vegetables, rich in omega fatty acids, controlled calories and fat
- Cons: Contains some plant protein (pea protein), could be higher in protein
Best Large Breed Dog Food for Sensitive Stomach: If your large-breed dog suffers from food allergies or sensitive stomach, you may want to switch to a limited ingredient diet made from natural ingredients. The best natural dog food with limited ingredients for large breeds is this FirstMate Large Breed Pacific Ocean Fish Meal Formula LID Dry Food. This formula features ocean fish meal as a novel source of protein and a rich source of omega fatty acids. This recipe contains digestible carbohydrates like potatoes and is very high in fiber for healthy digestion. It contains supplemental glucosamine and chondroitin for joint support as well as chelated minerals for optimal nutrient absorption. This recipe is complete and balanced, plus it is uniquely formulated for large breed dogs.
- Pros: Limited ingredient recipe, novel source of protein, rich in omega fatty acids for skin and coat, highly digestible, chelated minerals, glucosamine and chondroitin for joint support
- Cons: Expensive compared to typical kibble, may be too high in fiber for some dogs
4 More Top-Rated Large Breed Dog Foods
If you don’t like the large breed dog foods reviewed above, don’t worry – there are plenty of other options out there. Here are four more top-rated picks:
If you’re looking for a high-quality dog food for your large-breed dog, consider a holistic recipe made with natural ingredients. This Earthborn Holistic Large Breed Grain-Free Dry Food is scientifically formulated to provide for the nutritional needs of dogs that weigh more than 50 pounds at maturity. It features chicken meal as the first ingredient, a concentrated source of lean protein and a natural source of glucosamine and chondroitin. This food contains fresh fruits and vegetables to provide natural sources for key nutrients but still contains vitamins and chelated minerals to ensure complete and balanced nutrition. It is supplemented with fiber as well as probiotics for healthy digestion and provides a total of 26% protein with just 13% fat and 370 calories per cup.
- Pros: Formulated for large breeds, rich in lean protein, natural source of glucosamine and chondroitin, rich in fiber for digestion, fresh fruits and vegetables, chelated minerals, probiotics
- Cons: Somewhat more expensive than typical kibble
Some dog breeds are large, and others are giant. If you have a giant breed like a Great Dane, you might want to look for a recipe formulated specifically for giant breeds like this Holistic Select Large & Giant Breed Adult Health Chicken Meal & Oatmeal Recipe. This formula features chicken meal as a concentrated source of lean protein as well as a natural source of joint-supporting glucosamine and chondroitin. It is made with digestible whole-grain carbohydrates and supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables to provide natural sources for key nutrients. This recipe is loaded with natural flavor and contains plenty of fiber as well as probiotics for healthy digestion. It also contains taurine and L-carnitine to support your dog’s healthy heart function.
- Pros: Formulated for large and giant breeds, highly digestible, whole-grain carbohydrates, fresh fruits and vegetables, glucosamine and chondroitin, supports heart health, complete and balanced
- Cons: May be too high in calories for some dogs
For wholesome, balanced nutrition from high-quality ingredients, consider this Nutro Wholesome Essentials Large-Breed Adult Farm-Raised Chicken Recipe. This formula features real farm-raised chicken as the first ingredient with digestible whole-grain carbohydrates. It is rich in healthy fats from chicken fat and provides a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for skin and coat support. In addition to fresh chicken, it also contains chicken meal as a natural source of glucosamine and chondroitin, plus it has chelated mineral supplements to ensure complete and balanced nutrition. Overall, this recipe is packed with protein and healthy nutrients but limited in fat and calories to control body weight.
- Pros: Formulated for large breeds, farm-raised chicken first ingredient, highly digestible, whole-grain carbohydrates, rich in omega fatty acids, no artificial additives
- Cons: Not a grain-free recipe (some dogs may be sensitive)
If your large-breed dog has trouble maintaining a healthy body weight, it might be time to switch to a weight control formula. This Castor & Pollux Organix Grain-Free Healthy Weight Dry Food may not be specifically designed for large breeds, but it is rich in lean protein and low in fat and calories. This formula features organic free-range chicken as the first ingredient with organic whole grains for digestible carbohydrates. It contains plenty of fiber to support your dog’s digestion and to help keep him feeling full despite consuming fewer calories. It is rich in organic fruits and vegetables to provide natural sources of key nutrients and supplemented with vitamins and chelated minerals for balance. Overall, it provides 26% protein to support lean mass with just 10% fat and 357 calories per cup.
- Pros: Rich in lean animal protein, formulated for weight control, highly digestible, organic fruits and vegetables, chelated minerals, low in fat and calories, glucosamine and chondroitin
- Cons: Contains some plant protein (pea protein), not specifically formulated for large breeds
Frequently Asked Questions
- Is large breed dog food necessary? – Technically speaking, you could feed your large breed dog regular dog food and he would probably be fine. All dogs have the same basic nutritional requirements in terms of protein, fat, and essential nutrients. The thing you need to be mindful of is protecting your large breed dog from growing too quickly or putting on too much weight – these things can put extra strain on his bones and joints. The benefit of large-breed dog food is that it is formulated with extra protein to support lean mass with controlled levels of fat and calories to prevent overgrowth.
- What’s the difference between large breed dog food vs regular dog food? – Large breed dog food is designed to support lean mass and to prevent overgrowth. When large-breed dogs grow too quickly or put on too much weight, it increases their risk for musculoskeletal issues. Many large-breed recipes are rich in protein to support lean mass with reduced fat and calorie content to control growth. They may also contain supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin for joint support with controlled levels of calcium and phosphorus for bone and joint health.
- How much should I feed my large breed dog? – The amount you feed your dog depends on his age and body weight. The best thing to do for your dog is start with a recipe formulated for large breeds and refer to the feeding recommendations on the package. This will give you a general idea how much you should be feeding your dog each day and you can divide that amount into two feedings, making adjustments as needed. Be sure to keep an eye on your dog’s body weight and condition, making adjustments if he starts to gain or lose too much weight.
- How many times a day should I feed my large breed dog? – Most dogs do well with two meals per day and this is definitely true for large breeds. Take the feeding recommendation on your dog’s food and divide that amount in half – that gives you the amount to feed him at each meal. It is best for your dog’s digestion if you schedule his feedings around the same times each day. Dogs thrive on routine and this will make your life easier as well.
- Can I feed my small dog large breed food? – All dogs have the same basic nutritional requirements, so if you’re wondering “can I feed my small dog large breed food,” the answer is technically yes. All commercial dog foods are formulated to meet the minimum nutritional requirements set forth by AAFCO. What you need to realize, however, is that dog foods formulated for specific breed sizes are different. Small breeds have faster metabolisms, so their food is usually higher in calories and fat. If you feed your large breed dog too many calories, he could gain an unhealthy amount of weight which puts excess strain on his bones and joints.
The best dog food for large breeds will be made from wholesome, natural ingredients and formulated for your dog’s unique nutritional requirements. It should be loaded with protein to support lean mass with controlled levels of fat and calories to support a healthy body weight. Additional benefits such as chelated minerals and probiotics are great as well!
If you’re still not sure where to look for the best natural dog food for large breeds, check out our top picks! These are the best large breed dog food reviews you’ll find and any of these recipes could be a good choice for your dog. Best of luck!
Large Breed Dog Food