While shopping for your puppy's food, you may have noticed that special food is available for puppies of large breeds. This is because recent studies suggest large breed puppies require a diet that is lower in protein and fat. Large breed dogs grow much faster and run a higher risk of development problems, specifically those associated with hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia usually plagues large or heavy dogs and occurs when a dog's hip structure is abnormal and insufficiently supported by surrounding muscles
According to food manufacturers, puppies who will grow to weigh more than 50 pounds need reduced calcium, reduced calorie food with a balanced calcium-to-phosphorous ratio. Some brands, like Iams, includes 5 percent or less crude fiber and moderately fermentable fiber for health of the intestine. The company reports that too much calcium can lead to poor skeletal development and bone diseases, and that limiting calcium is especially important in puppies less than six months old. Because these puppies are already growing at a faster rate, ingesting the same amount of calcium and protein as other dogs could promote a growth rate that is excessive.
Choosing a Brand
While most, if not all, large breed puppy foods agree on the low-calcium, low-protein, low-calorie standard, other brands feature additional nutritional methods. Purina One, Eukanuba and Nutro large breed puppy formulas contain Glucosamine for healthy joints, real chicken protein and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), a nutrient found in mother dogs' milk, which can enhance brain development. Chelated minerals for general health, linoleic acid for the skin and coat, grains for maintaining blood sugar and energy, antioxidants for the immune system and FOS (fructooligosaccharides) for digestive tract health are other things you may see as ingredients in your large breed puppy's kibble.
If you're caring for a five-week-old, large breed puppy (or younger), he will likely eat about 1 cup of food everyday. Being so young, the little one may have sore gums and probably does not have sufficient teeth to chew dry dog food, so it must be moistened and fed to him frequently. At six weeks, the puppy may be able to handle dry food, and his appetite will increase to two cups. As he grows, his food intake will continue to grow, but his number of meals per day can decrease. Depending on his weight, his largest appetite will occur between six and eight months. After that, he will approach his adult size, and his hunger will subside slightly.
Read your food bag or check with your veterinarian regarding how long to feed your dog puppy food. Some breeds take longer to reach adult size than others, and their special diets could last anywhere from six months to two years. Dogs who are eating large breed puppy foods don't need any additional dietary supplements; giving these to your puppy could throw off the nutritional balance provided by the food. Also, these foods are for puppies only and should not be given to pregnant or lactating mother dogs.
The veterinarians at PetEducation.com are skeptical of special large breed puppy formulas. According to the website, although a link may exist between bone illness and protein, these problems are inherited, and feeding your dog a special food isn't enough to off-set a genetic pre-disposition for them. The site also explains that the actual nutritional makeup of the large breed formulas is pretty close to regular, cheaper puppy foods. A little bit of research could get your dog paired with a quality food that will meet his needs and isn't as expensive.
baby english mastiff image by Joy Fera from Fotolia.com
Sara Gentry is a writer and editor with 10 years' experience. She has worked in newspaper, magazine, catalog and web publishing. Her most recent staff post was as editor of "The Southside Times" in Indianapolis. She graduated from Indiana University with a degree in journalism and history.