Owning a large breed dog comes with large responsibilities, with their health being the top priority. Large breeds are prone to many health conditions, not often seen in smaller breeds, and they also tend to have a much shorter life span. This is why things like diet are so important for a large dog breed, so in this post, I will be looking at the healthiest foods to give them.
Every owner wants their dog to live a long, healthy, and active life, and this is all highly dependent on the nutrition that the dog receives, from puppyhood right through to his senior years. Feeding your large breed dog a healthy diet is one of the key factors in keeping him healthy – and with you for as long as possible. This can put a lot of pressure on owners.
When you look online or down a store’s pet food aisle, you can find several dog foods, all claiming to be the best choice for your large dog breed. There will often be wording to persuade you to accept that this product is the best, but it is important to remember that what is on the front of a dog foods packaging is nowhere near as important as the ingredients listed on the back – here, is where you really need to be looking.
I have researched the top dog food brands, the less-well-known brands, and the emerging brands to compare their large breed foods.
At a Glance: Our 6 Healthiest Food For Large Breeds
- Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food – Large Adult – Our Top #1 Pick!
- Purina Pro Plan Large Breed & Giant Breed Adult Dry Dog Food
- IAMS PROACTIVE HEALTH Adult High Protein Large Breed Dry Dog Food
- Blue Buffalo Wilderness Rocky Mountain Recipe High Protein, Natural Adult Large Breed
- Nature’s Recipe Grain Free Dry Dog Food
- Nutro Natural Choice Large Breed Dry Food
My guide is about healthy food for large adult breeds, we have previously reviewed the best large breed foods for puppies, here.
Commercial Dog Foods – Are They the Right Choice?
Many people avoid buying manufactured, commercial dog foods due to a couple of reasons. Years ago, it is true that the dog food found in pet stores or general stores was not of the greatest standard. When it was discovered just how poor some of the foods were, mass hysteria began.
Dog owners were bombarded with criticism if they fed their dog’s store-bought food, with apparent nutritionists claiming the products were made with condemned meats, rancid fats, chemicals, and artificial ingredients. The truth today is that dog food is one of the most highly regulated food products in America – it is safe.
Of course, there are alternatives to store-bought pet foods. The new ‘trend’ of raw feeding is not without criticism, but many owners claim to have seen mass improvements in the overall health of their dogs since starting a raw food diet. The science on this is still, however, relatively new.
Another option for owners is to consider homemade dog food, this way, you know exactly what you are feeding your dog. But, this can be incredibly time-consuming and very expensive to do in the long term.
Your veterinarian is the best-placed person to discuss the individual dietary requirements of your dog – however, be cautious if they stock one brand of food in their clinic and recommend this to all!
The 6 Healthiest Foods for Large Dog Breeds
|Hills Science Diet Dry Large Adult Food
|• No.1 Veterinarian Recommended
• Made with Natural Ingredients
• Science Led Nutrition
|Purina Pro Plan Large Breed & Giant Breed Adult Dry Dog Food
|• 1st Ingredient Real Meat
• Specific Nutrients for Joint Health
• Live Probiotics
|IAMS PROACTIVE HEALTH Adult Large Breed Dry Food
|• 1st Ingredient is Real Chicken
• Tailored to Support Large Breed Active Dogs
• Veterinarians Recommend IAMS
|Blue Buffalo Wilderness Rocky Mountain Natural Adult Large Breed Food
|• Includes Real Bison
• Made with Natural Ingredients
• Antioxidant-Rich Lifesource Bits
|Nature’s Recipe Grain Free Dry Dog Food
|Nutro Natural Choice Large Breed Dry Food
|• Made with Non-GMO Ingredients
• High Quality Protein Source is the #1 Ingredient
• ‘FEED CLEAN’ Recipe
1. Hills Science Diet Dry Large Adult Food – Our Top Pick!
I feed my own dogs Hills Science Diet Large Adult Food. It is not the cheapest dog food, but the fact that Science leads it is appealing, and from experience, I can say that my dogs have shiny coats, strong teeth, and no digestive problems.
I feel good about the amount of high-quality protein in the first two ingredients listed – chicken meal or other animal meal, flavor depending). There are also green ingredients and prebiotics that promote good health in dogs. Ratings are consistently high for this dog food, and my dogs certainly never turn their noses up at it!
This is a well-balanced, nutritionally complete food for adult dogs with wholesome and healthy ingredients. The price point is fair, and the brand does a lot for dogs in need. Hills seem to have a genuine care for animals, as they proudly support shelters – marketing? A gimmick? Maybe. Do they have to do this? No.
2. Purina Pro Plan Large Breed & Giant Breed Adult Dry Dog Food
Coming in at number two is Purina Pro Plan Large Breed & Giant Breed Adult Dry Dog Food. At Canine Weekly, we have previously written a review guide on the best dog foods by Purina as this is a reputable, responsible brand that consistently produces high-quality, healthy foods for our canine friends.
Purina has voluntarily recalled three foods previously; small animal feed, wet cat food, and a sheep-specific lamb chow. To date, the brand has never had any issues with dog foods. The Dog Food Advisor states that Purina Pro Plan is ‘above-average kibble’ with named meat and by-product meats being its primary source of animal protein.
This food is designed for large breeds and giant breeds, over 50lbs, with specialized nutrition to support their needs. Purina has an entire line of large breed food, from puppy to senior, with each formula slightly tweaked to support the ideal body condition of the life stage.
3. IAMS PROACTIVE HEALTH Adult Large Breed Dry Food
At Canine Weekly, I have previously looked into IAMS Proactive Health Food for adult dogs. In this guide, I am including IAMS PROACTIVE HEALTH Adult High Protein Large Breed Dry Dog Food – and am aware of the controversy that surrounds it. People are concerned that ingredients are sourced from China, but I have discovered this is never meat content, and only vitamins and minerals are added to the American ingredients in American factories.
IAMS Proactive Health for Large Breeds is free of potentially harmful additives and ingredients, and I like that the kibble size is tailored to large breeds. IAMS is a company that has been around for more than 70 years; although they’ve had ups and downs over the years, the fact that they’re still standing speaks volumes in today’s business world.
Although I have added this food to my guide, I will be honest that I question the authenticity of the brands claim that veterinarians recommend IAMS, as I have found no recorded names or evidence of this. The good news is that the 1st ingredient is chicken, and this isn’t disputed. The food is formulated to support active dogs and large breeds and promotes strong muscles.
4. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Rocky Mountain Natural Adult Large Breed Food
‘Love Them Like Family, Feed Them Like Family’ is the Blue Buffalo slogan. When you see the ingredients in Blue Buffalo Wilderness Rocky Mountain Recipe High Protein, Natural Adult Large Breed, that doesn’t seem far-fetched.
This food is packed with real Bison and a high-protein food with lots of healthy ingredients, including; omega 3 & 6, glucosamine, fatty acids, chondroitin, antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins. It has actually been created with the support of holistic veterinarians and animal nutritionists and includes no by-product meals, soy, preservatives, artificial flavors, or wheat.
There is no disputing that Blue Buffalo produces top-quality food, but this recipe, in particular, is perfect for larger breeds as it is inspired by the diet of wolves who roam the Rocky Mountains. It is a high-protein dog food that is entirely natural. The recipe is specially formulated for larger dogs to help support joint function and their overall mobility. Plus, dogs seem to love the taste!
5. Nature’s Recipe Grain Free Dry Dog Food
If you are considering a grain-free food due to allergies, I recommend trying Nature’s Recipe Grain-Free Dry Dog Food. Real meat is the first ingredient, flavor-dependent; this could be lamb, chicken, or salmon. The recipe is easy to digest and is nutrient-dense, with added pumpkin and sweet potato – incredibly healthy foods for dogs, to replace the missing grains.
There is no poultry by-product meal, corn, wheat, soy, preservatives, or artificial flavors, and the only added ingredients are vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Nature’s Recipe has been producing fine quality foods for pets for more than 30 years with formulas such as this that promote healthy bones and teeth, skin and coat condition, support heart health, maintain strong muscles and support a healthy immune system.
Dog owners rate Nature’s Recipe for larger breeds with sensitive stomachs, as the limited and healthy ingredients seem to positively tame the digestive system. Large breeds are more prone to health problems like bloat, so to try and prevent this before it starts, a healthy dog food like this one would be a good option.
6. Nutro Natural Choice Large Breed Dry Food
There are so many things to praise with Nutro Natural Choice Large Breed Dry Food; it is firstly recommended for large breeds to keep them trim and fit. Chicken is the number one ingredient – and it is actual chicken, not a by-product.
There are no GMO ingredients in this food, nor will you find soy, wheat, or corn. These are cheaper ingredients that many brands use as fillers, and they have little-to-no nutritional qualities. Large breeds can encounter more problems with their joints than smaller breeds, and this food is formulated specifically to support healthy joints.
The food is cooked in USA facilities, and natural glucosamine and chondroitin are sourced and included with essential antioxidants. Actual veterinarians feed this food to their large and giant breeds, as I discovered reading online reviews from verified purchasers.
Things to Consider Before Buying the Healthiest Dog Food for Your Large Dog
Like humans, our furry friends also need healthy and nutritious food daily. A healthy diet will keep them healthy and hearty. But choosing the right dog food is not an easy task.
There are a lot of dogs food brands available in the market, and they offer a range of solutions with varying ingredients. But the question still looms large if the ingredients and the dietary solutions suffice for your dog or not.
We should also remember that the suitability of dog foods depends on a range of factors, like their breed, size, physical age, ailments, and levels of daily activities. In this section, let us look at the factors that you should consider before buying dog food for your dog.
Your Dog Should Like the Food
Any dog food that you choose should appeal to your pet dog. This is probably the basic-most requirement. Dog foods can be both meat-based and plant-based. The choice is your dog’s, and we recommend that you stick to that variant that your dog is more comfortable eating.
Also, before choosing any dog food, consider if your large dog has any allergies or other health issues and choose accordingly.
Don’t Be Charmed By Fancy Ingredients
It is better to focus on the nutritional value of the dog food instead of the fancy ingredients or the labels. Good-quality dog food should have a perfect ratio of proteins, fats, vitamins, carbohydrates, and minerals, which will fulfill the requirements of your large dog.
If you have any doubt about your dog’s requirements or specific dog food brands, consult a veterinarian and seek clarification.
It Should Be Low In Grains And Carbohydrates
While carbs are necessary for all, even large dogs don’t need numerous carbs daily. Besides, it will be better if the amount of grain is also low in your dog food. While low carbs will help maintain your dog’s weight, a low amount of grains will also reduce their chances of allergies.
Low carbs generally imply higher fiber, improving your dog’s digestive system. It will, in turn, strengthen the immune system of your dog.
The Food Should Be Suitable For Its Age
Please remember to buy those dog foods suitable for your dog’s age. Nutritional requirements depend on the physical age of the dog as well.
When choosing dog food at the supermarket or a pet store, dog food includes puppies, adult dogs, and seniors. Choose wisely from these options.
Consult A Specialist If Required
It is natural to doubt the best dog food for your large dog. You are probably finding it difficult to determine the perfect combination of nutrients in dog food. Or, you may be fumbling about the brand you should stick to.
In this case, consult a veterinarian. Let them check your dog’s health and devise a diet plan. They may also recommend changing the brand or the food composition if your dog feels sick after consuming some specific food brand.
Feeding a Large Dog Breed
As an experienced large breed owner, I have some tips that have helped my dogs and me over the years. Firstly, the food needs to be of good quality and specifically for a large dog breed – this will mean there are tailored ingredients to support joints and hips, be easy on the digestive tract and be healthy to reduce weight gain – all things linked to large breeds.
As well as the type of food you give, it’s important how you give that food. I recommend using raised feeders to reduce a large breed having to stoop or regularly bend, as this can have an adverse effect on already strained limbs. I appreciate that this is controversial but until the evidence strongly suggests otherwise, raised feeders certainly do have their benefits.
I also buy my dog food online in bulk; this may not be enormously cost-effective, although I’m sure the odd few dollars are saved. But, some of the sacks are so huge that I would struggle to carry them. Home delivery is always a good option, and if you have an Amazon prime account, it is quite often free and the very next day too.
Some large breeds can have pretty dominant personalities, and how you feed them can help you assert dominance. When my large breeds were young, they were taught to wait before going to their bowl, and I practiced hand-feeding too – there can only be one alpha in a large dog household, and that needs to be the owner.
How Much Dry Food Should I Feed My Dog?
The amount of dry dog food you should give your dog regularly primarily depends on your dog’s activity level and biological age.
Please remember that if your dog is old, it doesn’t need that much food since its activity level is low. In addition, a normal amount of dog food is difficult to digest for old dogs and may cause abdominal issues like bloating and diarrhea.
If your dog is suffering from some serious condition, it doesn’t need a regular amount of food. So, instead of focusing on the quantity of food, we recommend you focus on the food’s quality and ingredients. The same rule also applies to sick dogs.
Amount Of Dry Food Required By Dogs
Let us now quickly look at the dog food given to differently sized dogs.
- Toy breed: Suppose your dog is a toy breed like a Chihuahua with an average level of physical activity. In that case, an adult dog should have somewhere between 0.25 to 1 cup of dry dog food at a time.
- Small Dog Breeds: A small adult dog like a Poodle or a Maltese Dog with a typical daily activity level can be given 1 to 1.25 cups of dry dog food every time they have their main meals.
- Medium Dog Breeds: If you own a medium-sized dog like a Bulldog or an Australian shepherd, feed them about 2 to 2.75 cups of dry dog food.
- Large Dog Breeds: With large dog breeds, like English Mastiff and Great Dane, 2.75 to 3 cups of dry dog food a day is sufficient if they have a good amount of exercise every day.
What Risky Ingredients Should I Avoid When Buying Dry Dog Food?
Many dry dog food brands are available, but choosing the perfect one can be tricky. These foods have a range of ingredients, and while some may look fancy and desirable according to human taste, remember that they might not be suitable for dogs.
This section will discuss the ingredients you should avoid while buying dog foods for your furry friend.
While meat is a great source of protein, there are certain meat products that your dog should avoid. In addition, some dog foods may have meats as ingredients whose sources are not mentioned.
Avoid such dog foods, as the meat might be expired, infected, and of extremely poor quality. In addition, it may not have been adequately cleaned and can have fatty tissues. Also, it has been repeatedly noticed that these meats have no prior quality controls.
Such meats are just used as fillers and are not serving any purpose. So, we recommend you buy only those dog foods where the source and nutritional value of the meat are mentioned on the label of the dog food packet.
Meat meals serve as fillers with little to no protein, as they have almost no quality control. Therefore, it’s best to avoid them altogether. However, if you must resort to getting a meat meal for your dog, choose one that specifies the kinds of meat used.
Vegetable oils may have some health-related benefits, but their method of harvest and production is important if you plan to include them in your dog’s diet. Generally, it is processed from soybean and corn and contains a good amount of omega-6, which is a healthy option for dogs.
But often, the amount of vegetable oil in dog foods is high, which can cause inflammation in dogs. Such dog foods can cause pain in the joints of dogs and worsen their condition if they have arthritis. It can also cause joint and hip pain and adversely affect your dog’s health in the long run.
While some dog food may have flour as a binding agent, flour is not a healthy option for dogs. Your dog risks getting its blood sugar level changed drastically with flour.
Since flour is not fulfilling, your dog will keep becoming more hungry, making them obese. It can also tamper with their blood sugar levels and make them diabetic.
Salmon, in general, is an amazing source of omega-3, which is beneficial for canine consumption. But if it’s farmed salmon, labeled and sold as “Salmon oil,” it implies that it has been artificially harvested.
These salmons are not that nutritious anymore. Besides, they can contain a substantial percentage of pollutants, mercury, and toxins soluble in fat. Moreover, prolonged consumption of farmed salmon can cause cancer in dogs.
Artificial colors are often added to dog foods to make them look more appealing but don’t be fooled. Dogs don’t care about the color of their food; the color has been added to make it look appealing to you.
In fact, this color is dangerous for dogs. Some of the most common food colors can cause acidity and allergies in dogs. So, when choosing dog foods, buy only those which have natural colors.
Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)
Generally, BHA is a preservative added to oils, but it is toxic for dogs. It can adversely affect your dog’s health and can damage your dog’s vital organs, like the liver and the kidney. Besides, BHA-infused oil can also cause eye and skin irritation if your dog ingests it.
Unfortunately, melamine is a nitrogen-infused type of plastic. It is often added as a filler in dog foods. It helps in reaching the ideal amount of protein that dogs need daily.
It can contaminate your dog’s food, and ingesting it can prove toxic for your furry friend. In addition, the consumption of melamine over a long time can lead to serious conditions like renal failure.
This non-descript variant of fat is used in some dog foods to increase flavor. However, if this fat is derived from unidentified sources, the quality of such ingredients can be relatively poor.
Therefore, it can become a host for molds and other harmful microorganisms, such as salmonella. Additionally, rendered fats can also have a high level of heavy metals, which is toxic. So, this kind of dog food can harm your dog and cause serious health issues.
Although nitrites are often used as preservatives in dog foods to increase their shelf life, it is also added to meat products like sausages, deli meats, and hot dogs.
But regular consumption of such meats regularly can affect your pooch’s health. Since mostly it is sodium nitrite is often used to preserve meat, it can lead to a blood-related problem, known as methemoglobin, and even cancer.
Some of the best dog foods vets recommend are Purina Pro Plan Large Breed and Giant Breed Adult Dry Food, Blue Buffalo Wilderness Rocky Mountain Recipe, Nutro Natural Choice, and IAMS PROACTIVE HEALTH Adult High Protein.
Brands like Midwestern pet food, Taste of the Wild, California Natural, NutriSource, Acana, Earthborn Holistic, Blue Buffalo, Merrick, Natural Balance, Nature’s Variety, and Nutro are believed to be killing dogs with their unhealthy dog foods.
You should avoid dog food containing a high percentage of sugar, salt, GMO, GMO, artificial flavor and color, and gluten. A dog’s digestive system can’t digest these ingredients, and they can lead to further complications.
No, vets claim that grain-free is not better for dogs. Dogs need some source of carbs. Besides, grain-free dog foods are rich in meat sources as a source of protein, and processed meat can have a high percentage of salt, harming your dog.
Vets do not recommend grain-free dog food due to the primary reason that dogs do need some quantity of carbs in their daily diet. Besides, grain-free dog food can lead to heart-related conditions like cardiomyopathy and heart failure.
Yes, dogs really need some grains. Whole grains are the most common source of food intolerance and can cause allergies in dogs, grains are a good source of carbs, and dogs need some carbs. Besides, grains help in maintaining a balanced diet for dogs.
No, Purina dog foods are not suitable for dogs. Mostly, these dry foods contain chicken parts and less nutritious beef parts. Besides, they can also have
preservatives and artificial dyes, which can impact their health.
Healthiest Food for Large Breeds – My Verdict.
Of all the foods listed in this guide, there are none I would suggest avoiding. The ingredients are of high quality, natural, and free from potentially harmful components. My large breeds are fed on Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food – Large Adult, and I have experienced no problems with this food – although there are cheaper alternatives with similar nutritional qualities.
Purina Pro Plan Large Breed & Giant Breed Adult Dry Dog Food is considered an above-average food and supports the overall health of large and giant breeds over 50lbs. The brand has a line of foods to maintain physical health from puppy to senior, and dogs are said to thoroughly enjoy the meaty flavor – due to the high meat content.
A food I researched thoroughly was IAMS PROACTIVE HEALTH Adult High Protein Large Breed Dry Dog Food due to the controversy around it. I am happy with my findings to recommend this food as the good outweighs the bad – in my opinion. It is free from potentially harmful additives and ingredients and is a chicken 1st ingredient, which means that chicken makes up most of the food. I like that the kibble is the right size for large breeds.
Blue Buffalo Wilderness Rocky Mountain Recipe High Protein, Natural Adult Large Breed is a top-quality dog food with many healthy ingredients and components, such as omegas 3 & 6 and fatty acids. The brand took advice from animal nutritionists and holistic veterinarians when creating this recipe, and every way food can support a dog’s health has been considered.
For grain-free food, Nature’s Recipe Grain-Free Dry Dog Food has lots of healthy ingredients, including pumpkin, which on its own has lots of great health benefits for a dog. This is a nutrient-dense food that is good for larger breeds that have more sensitive stomachs. Nutro Natural Choice Large Breed Dry Food is used by vets for their large breeds and has many nutritional qualities to support joints and bones.
Forrest is a lover of dogs, the wild outdoors, deep mysterious conversations… and coffee. He is the owner of several websites, including Canine Weekly. He resides in Austin, Texas.