best large breed puppy food

The Best Large Breed Puppy Food: 5 Top Foods for Growing Pups

No matter what breed or combination of breeds your puppy is, you’ll want to be sure to feed her a healthy, delicious, high-quality large breed puppy food to ensure she reaches her full potential.

But this is especially important for those with large breed puppies, as their eventual size and rapid growth rate have important implications for their nutritional requirements.

Below, we’ll discuss some of the things that you want to consider when comparing the various foods for large breed puppies, as well as some of the specific health concerns and dietary requirements of large dogs. And we’ll conclude with 5 of the best large breed puppy food options on the market. 

Characteristics and Features of the Best Puppy Food for Large Breeds

All dogs need a healthy and nutritious food, and there are a few important characteristics you’ll always want to seek when choosing a recipe for your canine. While you may not find a food that satisfies each of these criteria, you should certainly strive to select one that satisfies most of those identified below.

In general, the best puppy food for large breeds

Feature a Whole Protein at the Top of the Ingredient List

Although dogs are omnivores, meat should make up a very large portion of their daily caloric intake. Accordingly, quality large breed puppy foods include a whole protein, such as chicken, beef, pork or salmon, at the very beginning of the ingredient list.

Are Made Without Artificial Colors, Flavors and Other Additives

Dog food manufacturers often include things like artificial colors and flavors to make their recipes more appetizing and palatable. However, these types of additives often trigger food allergies, and, if the food is made with high-quality ingredients, they are unnecessary. Artificial colors are especially unnecessary, as your dog doesn’t care what color her food is.

Include Probiotics in the Recipe

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that some manufacturers include in their recipes, which help to promote proper intestinal function. Probiotics are also available in supplemental form, so you needn’t avoid foods without them, but those that include probiotics are clearly more convenient and often more cost-effective.

Do Not Include Unidentified Meat Meals or Byproducts

While meat meals and meat byproducts are nutritious and tasty ingredients that many manufacturers include in their recipes, it is important to avoid those that do not identify the species they contain. This is the only way to avoid meat meals and byproducts that include unsavory or unsafe ingredients.

In other words, large breed puppy foods containing “chicken by-products” or “lamb meal” are perfectly fine, but those containing “poultry meal” or “meat meal” should be avoided.

Are Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids help to reduce inflammation, improve coat and skin condition, and support brain function. Therefore, you’ll always want to look for foods that contain several different sources of these important compounds. Flaxseed, salmon and fish meal are some of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, and you’ll see them included in many foods.

Have Plenty of Antioxidants 

Antioxidants help to support your immune system and keep your puppy healthy. Antioxidants are typically found in colorful fruits and vegetables, such as blueberries, cranberries, pumpkin, spinach, kale and carrots, among others.

Are Made in a Country with High Safety and Quality-Control Standards

You’ll always want to be sure that your dog’s food is made without any dangerous or toxic contaminants and that includes the ingredients actually listed on the label. You’ll also want to be sure that the food was handled and prepared properly, to ensure the best possible taste.

Although it is not a foolproof method, the best way to do so is by picking large breed puppy foods that are made in countries with high safety and quality-control standards. This essentially means buying foods made in the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia or Western Europe.

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Common Health Issues for Large Breed Dogs and Their Dietary Implications

When perusing foods for large breed puppies, you’ll want to find one that helps address some of the most common health problems from which big breeds often suffer. This will help ensure your dog stays healthy and enjoys the highest quality of life possible.

But you’ll need to familiarize yourself with some of the most common health problems of big breeds first, to have a good chance of accomplishing this goal.

Some of the most notable and common health problems of large breeds include:


Bloat is a potentially life-threatening medical emergency that occurs when a dog’s stomach spins on its axis, thereby trapping gases inside. The pressure caused by these gases can lead to tissue death and even rupture, so such dogs require immediate medical attention if they are to have any chance of survival.

Bloat can occur in any breed, but it is most common among large dogs – particularly those with deep chests, such as Great Danes, St. Bernards and Rottweilers.

To help reduce the chances of bloat, avoid foods that are unusually high in fat content and try to select one with large kibble size. This will help slow your dog down at chow time, which will likely help reduce the chances of bloat.

Fortunately, many of the best large breed puppy foods are made with larger kibble, so you should be able to find one pretty easily. 


Any dog can become obese, but it is most common among big breeds. Part of this is due to the super-sized appetites of these dogs, but the increased risk of obesity also stems from the lower metabolic rate of these dogs.

The best way to avoid obesity is by ensuring your dog gets plenty of exercise and carefully monitoring your dog’s food intake, but you’ll also want to avoid super-high-calorie foods, which are often used to increase bulk.

Hip Dysplasia and Other Joint Problems

Hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, arthritis and other joint problems are incredibly common among large breed dogs. And, while many of these ailments have a genetic basis, they also appear to be influenced by environmental factors, such as exercise, growth rate and diet.

Many of these problems precipitate from the accelerated growth rates of large dogs, which place unique demands on the bodies of these canines.

To give your pet the best chance of avoiding these problems, you’ll want to encourage a steady, moderate growth rate and select one of the best large breed puppy foods available. Many such foods are made with lower calcium levels than normal foods, which appears to help prevent some of these joint-related problems.

You’ll also want to be sure to feed your dog a food with joint supplements, such as chondroitin and glucosamine, as well as plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, to help keep inflammation to a minimum.

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The Best Large Breed Puppy Food

The following large breed puppy food options are among the best choices for your future super sized canine. Compare the various foods listed below to help determine the best one for your pet.

1. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Large Breed Chicken and Brown Rice

About: Blue Buffalo’s Large Breed Chicken and Brown Rice recipe is a nutritious food designed to provide your large breed puppy with exactly the kind of nutrition she needs to live a long, healthy and happy life. And because it is made with a litany of high-quality ingredients, it is sure to please your dog’s palate too.

Notable Features and Characteristics:

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    Deboned chicken is the first listed ingredient
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    Made with whole, nutritious grains and carbohydrates
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    Rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants

Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Whole Ground Brown Rice, Whole Ground Barley, Oatmeal, Menhaden Fish Meal (source of DHA-Docosahexaenoic Acid),Tomato Pomace (source of Lycopene),Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols),Natural Chicken Flavor, Peas, Alfalfa Meal, Whole Potatoes, Flaxseed (source of Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids),Fish Oil (source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids),Whole Carrots, Whole Sweet Potatoes, Blueberries, Cranberries, Apples, Blackberries, Pomegranate, Spinach, Pumpkin, Barley Grass, Dried Parsley, Garlic, Dried Kelp, Yucca schidigera Extract, L-Carnitine, L-Lysine, Turmeric, Dried Chicory Root, Oil of Rosemary, Beta Carotene, Calcium Carbonate, Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1),Riboflavin (Vitamin B2),Niacin (Vitamin B3),d-Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5),Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6),Biotin (Vitamin B7),Folic Acid (Vitamin B9),Vitamin B12 Supplement, Calcium Ascorbate (source of Vitamin C),Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Choline Chloride, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Iodate, Salt, Caramel, Potassium Chloride, Dried Yeast (source of Saccharomyces cerevisiae),Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, Dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation product, Dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product.

Customer Reviews: Most owners were extremely happy with Blue Buffalo Life Protection Large Breed, and several reported improvements in their dog’s mobility, energy level and elimination habits after trying the recipe. Several even noted that dogs loved the taste so much that owners could use it as a treat.  

Bottom Line: Most Blue Buffalo Life Protection recipes are very high-quality foods which are almost universally loved by dogs and their owners. It is a US-made food that satisfies almost every criterion you’d want for your puppy, including an impressive ingredient list full of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables and three different probiotic strains.

About: Wellness Complete Health Large Breed Puppy Food is a great dog food that is specifically designed to meet the needs of your soon-to-be-big canine. Made with only the most nutritious ingredients, including multiple proteins, antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables and an assortment of whole grains, Wellness Complete is clearly one of the best foods available for large breed puppies.

Notable Features and Characteristics:

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    Made in the USA and backed by the manufacturer’s wellness guarantee
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    Deboned chicken is the first listed ingredient
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    The recipe is packed with a variety of fruits and vegetables, including apples, spinach and carrots

Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Whitefish, Chicken Meal, Oatmeal, Ground Peas, Ground Barley, Ground Brown Rice, Salmon Meal (a source of DHA - Docosahexaenoic Acid), Tomato Pomace, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols, a natural source of Vitamin E), Tomatoes, Natural Chicken Flavor, Ground Flaxseed, Salmon Oil (a source of DHA - Docosahexaenoic Acid), Carrots, Spinach, Sweet Potatoes, Apples, Blueberries, Salt, Minerals [Zinc Sulfate, Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Ferrous Sulfate, Copper Proteinate, Copper Sulfate, Manganese Proteinate, Manganese Sulfate, Sodium Selenite], Vitamins [Beta-Carotene, Vitamin E Supplement, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Vitamin A Supplement, Niacin, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin, Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Thiamine Mononitrate, Folic Acid, Biotin, Vitamin B-12 Supplement], Choline Chloride, Taurine, Mixed Tocopherols (a natural preservative), Chicory Root Extract, Yucca schidigera Extract, Dried Lactobacillus plantarum, Enterococcus faecium, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation products.

Customer Reviews: Most owners who tried Wellness Complete raved about the quality of the food and its impressive ingredient list. Most dogs appear to like the food’s taste, and several owners noted that this food helped to make their dog’s coat shinier and it helped improve their breath too.

Bottom Line: Wellness Complete Health Large Breed Puppy Food is a great option for owners who are seeking a premium food and are willing to pay premium prices to do so. It comes with almost everything you’d want in a large breed food, including probiotics, omega-3-rich ingredients and several nutritious proteins.

About: BLUE Wilderness Large Breed Puppy Food is a grain-free option that is made with all of the things you’d want for your puppy and none of the things you wouldn’t. Packed with all of the protein, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants your dog needs, this food is sure to please you and your four-footed friend.

Notable Features and Characteristics:

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    This grain-free recipe features no corn, wheat or rice
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    Fortified with five different probiotic strains
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    Made in the USA under strict safety guidelines

Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Peas, Pea Protein, Tapioca Starch, Pea Starch, Menhaden Fish Meal (source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids), Dried Tomato Pomace, Natural Flavor, Flaxseed (source of Omega 6 Fatty Acids), Dried Egg, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Fish Oil (source of ARA-Arachidonic acid, DHA-Docosahexaenoic acid and EPA-Eicosapentaenoic acid), Dicalcium Phosphate, Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Salt, Dried Chicory Root, Potassium Chloride, Potatoes, Pea Fiber, DL-Methionine, Calcium Carbonate, Choline Chloride, Caramel Color, preserved with Mixed Tocopherols, Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, L-Carnitine, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Blueberries, Cranberries, Barley Grass, Parsley, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Dried Kelp, Turmeric, Nicotinic Acid (Vitamin B3), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Oil of Rosemary, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), L-Lysine, Copper Sulfate, Biotin (Vitamin B7), Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Sulfate, Taurine, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Calcium Iodate, Dried Yeast, Dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, Dried Aspergillus niger fermentation extract, Dried Trichoderma longibrachiatum fermentation extract, Dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation extract, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Sodium Selenite.

Customer Reviews: The majority of owners who tried BLUE Wilderness Large Breed Puppy Food were happy with the product and rated it highly. Several reported that this grain-free formula helped to eliminate their dog’s itchy skin and poor coat condition. Additionally, many owners noted improvements in their dog’s energy level and elimination habits, likely due to the five probiotics included in the formula.

Bottom Line: BLUE Wilderness Large Breed Puppy Food is an extremely nutritious and high-quality food, which still bears a reasonable price tag. It is a great choice for owners seeking a grain-free recipe, and it is full of the probiotics, high-quality proteins and antioxidant-rich ingredients you’d want for your dog.

About: NUTRO Wholesome Essentials Large Breed Puppy Food features an impressive ingredient list, which is comprised solely of non-GMO ingredients to give owners peace of mind. Designed to provide your dog with the best possible nutrition, NUTRO Wholesome Essentials features multiple protein sources, high-quality carbohydrates and dried fruits and vegetables.

Notable Features and Characteristics:

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    Made without artificial flavors, colors or additives
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    Backed by the manufacturer’s money-back guarantee
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    Brown rice and sweet potatoes provide carbohydrate content, instead of corn or wheat

Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal (source of Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate), Brewers Rice, Split Peas, Whole Grain Sorghum, Whole Brown Rice, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Pea Protein, Lamb Meal (source of Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate), Dried Sweet Potato, Natural Flavor, Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Fish Oil (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Potassium Chloride, Salt, Choline Chloride, DL-Methionine, Dried Apples, Dried Blueberries, Dried Carrots, Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid (preservatives), Zinc Sulfate, Niacin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Selenium Yeast, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Rosemary Extract.

Customer Reviews: Most owners loved NUTRO Wholesome Essentials, and used phrases like “best food on the market,” and “five stars,” when describing it. It helped improve the coat condition and elimination habits of several dogs, and a few owners noted that it increased their dog’s energy level too.

Note that a few owners reported that this food upset their dog’s stomach, so be sure to switch to this (or any other) food slowly and gradually to give your dog’s body a chance to adjust.

Bottom Line: NUTRO Wholesome Essentials is a very high-quality food that would make a great choice for most owners. It doesn’t include any probiotics in the recipe, which is a bit disappointing, but you could always add a probiotic supplement to the food if you like. NUTRO Wholesome Essentials is also very reasonably priced, given the high-quality ingredients it contains.

About: Instinct Raw Boost Large Breed Puppy Food is a super-premium dog food, made with small pieces of freeze-dried raw meat to appeal to your dog’s inner wolf. A grain-free recipe, Instinct Raw Boost is full of protein-rich food sources and high-value carbohydrates instead of corn and wheat.

Notable Features and Characteristics:

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    Contains several protein sources, including chicken, four different meat meals, eggs and liver
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    Contains herring meal and salmon oil to provide plenty of omega-3 fatty acids
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    Made in the USA with only the finest ingredients available

Ingredients: Chicken, Turkey Meal, Peas, Chickpeas, Chicken Eggs, Herring Meal, Tapioca, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid), Ground Flaxseed, Freeze Dried Chicken, Dried Tomato Pomace, Chicken Meal, Lamb Meal, Menhaden Fish Meal, Freeze Dried Chicken Liver, Natural Flavor, Pumpkin Seeds, Freeze Dried Chicken Heart, Salt, Montmorillonite Clay, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate, Niacin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin), Carrots, Apples, Cranberries, Potassium Chloride, Minerals (Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Ethylenediamine Dihydriodide), Choline Chloride, Dried Kelp, Salmon Oil, Blueberries, Dried Bacillus coagulans Fermentation Product, Rosemary Extract

Customer Reviews: Most owners had only good things to say about Instinct Raw Boost and several reported improvements in their dog’s health after making the switch. The inclusion of raw, freeze-dried meat was very popular with owners (and their dogs), as were the impressive number of fruits, vegetables and seeds included in the recipe.

Do be aware that this is a very calorie-dense food, which caused some dogs to gain weight; so, use caution before feeding this to dogs that struggle to stay slim.

Bottom Line: Instinct Raw Boost is one of the few large-breed puppy formulas that contains raw, freeze-dried meats, and it is full of nutritious vegetables, fruits and carbohydrates. However, these ingredients come at a price, and Instinct Raw Boost is much more expensive than the other foods in our review. However, those willing to pay premium prices will likely be happy with this recipe. 

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Which large breed puppy food have you tried? Have you found one that works well for you and your soon-to-be-gigantic puppy? We’d love to hear about it. Tell us the recipe you selected and what it was about the recipe that appealed to you. Have you noticed any concrete health benefits from the food?

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