Large Breed Puppy Nutrition

Discuss ways to improve the quality of your dog's life and longevity through proper nutrition; a place for all of your questions and answers about feeding your pooch!

Please keep discussions fun, friendly, and helpful at all times. Non-informative posts criticizing a particular brand or another poster’s choice of food are not allowed in this Forum. References to any brand of food as "junk," "garbage," or other harsh names will be removed.

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Bam-Bam, CGC

Lil' Rubble
Barked: Sun Feb 28, '10 4:02pm PST 
After constantly going around and correcting myths, giving advice, etc, I have decided to compile a thread to help new owners of large breed puppies pick out a proper kibble, dispel any myths, and shoot straight from the hip with facts. Wherever I can, I will try to cite sources, but so much of this information is contained in my head, I can't remember where I learned it all.

Myth: Too much protein will make my large breed puppy grow too fast, and hurt him.

Fact: (Taken from Relationship of Nutrition to Developmental Skeletal Disease in Young Dogs by Daniel C. Richardson & Phillip W. Toll
It is too little protein that will actually cause skeletal problems in growing puppies.
Unlike other species, protein excess has not been demonstrated to negatively affect calcium metabolism or skeletal development in dogs. Protein deficiency, however, has more impact on the developing skeleton. In Great Dane puppies, a protein level of 14.6% (dry matter basis) with 13% of the dietary energy derived from protein can result in significant decreases in bodyweight and plasma albumin and urea concentrations.9,10 The minimum adequate level of dietary protein depends on digestibility, amino acids, and their availability from protein sources. A growth food should contain > 22% protein (dry matter basis) of high biologic value

Myth: I need to have a specific ratio of calcium to phosphorus or else my puppy will get a growth disorder.

Fact: It is the overall calcium level that affects everything. Calcium excess is the culprit. (same source as above... What can I say? it was a GREAT cumulative study)
The absolute level of calcium in the diet, rather than an imbalance in the calcium/phosphorus ratio, influences skeletal development.2 Young, giant-breed dogs fed a food containing excess calcium (3.3% dry matter basis) with either normal phosphorus(0.9% dry matter basis) or high phosphorus(3% dry matter basis, to maintain a normal calcium/phosphorus ratio) had significantly increased incidence of developmental bone disease.2 These puppies apparently were unable to protect themselves against the negative effects of chronic calcium excess.3 Further, chronic high calcium intake increased the frequency and severity of osteochondrosis.

Myth: I need to switch my large breed puppy to an adult food at 4-6 mos of age or else he will grow too fast and get a growth disorder.

Fact: (taken from the same source as above) Adult foods are often calorically less dense and have lower protein levels. Therefore, in order to get all that your puppy needs, you would need to feed more of the food. This causes an increase in the calcium levels, which could then result in a growth disorder.
Often puppies are switched from growth to maintenance-type foods to avoid calcium excess and skeletal disease. However, because some maintenance foods have much lower energy density than growth foods, the puppy must consume more dry matter volume to meet its energy requirement. If the calcium levels are similar (dry matter basis) between the two foods, the puppy will actually consume more calcium when fed the maintenance food. This point is exemplified in the case of switching a 15-week-old, 15-kg male Rottweiler puppy from a growth food containing, on an as fed b asis, 4.0 kcal/g metabolizable energy and 1.35% calcium (1.5% on a dry matter basis) to a maintenance food containing the same amount of calcium but at a lower, 3.2 kcal/g energy density. The puppy would require approximately 1,600 kcal/day. In order to meet this energy need the puppy would consume approximately 400g of the growth food (containing 5.4g of calcium) vs. 500g of the maintenance food (containing approximately 6.7g of calcium).

Myth: Large breed puppy food is just a marketing scam, and any puppy food or dog food is fine.

Fact: Large breed puppy foods are specifically formulated for controlled growth. These foods contain the appropriate levels of calcium, in addition to the appropriate balance of minerals, fat, and protein to ensure a healthy, steady growing puppy.

Myth: Raw-feeding will cause my puppy to have growth disorders because I can't control the calcium intake.

Fact: Raw feeders actually tend to have very nice, slow, even growing lines. As long as the 10% bone ratio adhered to as the pup grows, this ratio is the proper and precise percent that the pup needs.

Myth: I can find out what levels of specific nutrients are in my kibble by just reading the bag.

Fact: Don't simply rely what is on the bag. When you are researching these numbers, make sure that you are reading the MAX %, not just the minimum. If a max is unavailable to you, look on their website or email the company.

Myth: I need to supplement with Vitamin C/Ester C because my breeder said so because it'll prevent hip dysplasia (or some similar statement).

Fact: First of all, ANY complete, quality kibble should not need supplementing, period. Second, Vitamin C does basically...nothing.
L-ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) is necessary for hydroxylation of proline and lysine during biosynthesis of collagen, a major component of ligaments and bones. Food devoid of Vitamin C fed to puppies for 147 to 154 days neither affected growth nor caused skeletal lesions.12 There are no known dietary requirements for Vitamin C in the dog.

Myth: I have a medium-sized dog like a husky or a border collie, so I can feed regular puppy food.

Fact: This is speaking moreso from someone who has read the bags and compared them to the facts, then from an actual study. Medium sized and even small breed puppies can still grow too fast. They may not grow for a long enough period of time to develop some of the awful bowing or knuckling that we large/giant breed owners see, but they are not beyond getting pano or other problems. A small/medium breed puppy is not going to be harmed in any way by eating a large breed puppy food. However, a small/medium breed puppy could be just as susceptible to a growth/skeletal problem while on a regular puppy food.

Myth: Ol' Roy is just as good as Orijen!

Fact: First of all, because of a lack of nutritional density, you'd have to feed quite a bit more of Ol' Roy or any grocery store brand in order to give your pup the proper nutrition. And even then, the other health problems I'm sure you'd encounter would be insanely high because these foods don't get their ingredients from highly digestible sources. A bunch of protein means nothing when it comes from corn and it can't be digested.
Also, these are animals that are going to grow A LOT over a long period of time, they need all the nutrients they can get served up in the proper package (meat, not mystery ingredients). So what is it? Feed 15 cups a day and buy 20 bags a month, or feed 4-6 cups a day and buy 2 bags a month? Hmmm....thinking

Myth: Puppies are meant to be rolly-polly.

Fact: Ugh, this is one of those things that I see in my own breed. It's one thing to have nice puppy chunk, but there is such a thing as an overweight puppy, and no it is not cute it is A BAD THING. Especially in large breed puppy joints, that extra weight is hard. But it seems like in these breeds everybody wants the chunky, big puppy because of course one of the reasons folks get large breeds is to have a large dog. Understand that intentionally beefing up a pup of any breed is wrong and harmful to the pup. I find this is an especially common practice amongst unscrupulous bully breed breeders. If you think your large breed pup is too thin, as long as he or she is not emaciated, he or she is probably fine. Whilst growing, it is better to be a little bit underweight than ANY bit overweight.

Myth: I cannot feed a grainfree kibble as they all have levels of calcium and phosphorus that are too high for my large breed puppy.

Fact: While many grainfree kibbles are inappropriate for large breed puppies (Wellness Core, Taste of the Wild, Canidae GF, Evo, etc) there are grainfree kibbles specifically formulated for large breed puppies. Orijen is one such company.
I also would like to caution those who see a food that is listed for "All Life Stages" and think it will be okay for a large breed puppy. PLEASE PLEASE check the maximum analysis on these foods. Taste of the Wild and Canidae both claim to have grainfree all life stages foods, but when you check out their maximum analysis they are completely inappropriate for a large breed puppy.
Conversely, Orijen also makes 6 Fresh Fish, which is an All Life Stages food and does indeed have the appropriate levels fro a growing puppy.
The rule of thumb is 4-4.5g of calcium per every 1000 calories.

Myth: Wild pups would eat the same thing as the adults, so why bother with a large breed puppy food?
In the wild, a puppy would not be eating the same food day in and day out. The variety alone is natures way of balancing over time. Because we feed the EXACT same thing every single day, there has to be a balance in the amount of nutrients, particularly calcium, as puppies cannot control their absorption of calcium. This is why those who do the raw diet for a LBP do not change the ratios from the adult diet, they just increase the amount the pup gets: the variety allows for that natural balance over time, and helps to prevent excesses or deficiencies.

Thats all I can think of right now... If anybody can think of any other myths that need dispelled, feel free to add! way to go

Edited by author Wed Apr 20, '11 6:30pm PST

Delta Force- CGC RN NA- RL1

Raw Fed and- Happy
Barked: Sun Feb 28, '10 5:50pm PST 
Awesome job Bam-Bam. smile
Tucker, CGC,- TDI

Bloggin' Dog
Barked: Sun Feb 28, '10 9:02pm PST 
Great job, Bam-Bam! We have really needed this for awhile! And here it is - a nice, bumpable thread that addresses all the major hot buttons! hail

Tanuk CGC

Sherpa Tanuk of- Everest
Barked: Mon Mar 1, '10 8:23am PST 
hamster dance

I especially like the bit you added about the Vitamin C and puppy rolliness. Both are just silly. Tanuk was a typical rolly puppy when he was itty bitty, but by 12 weeks he had a visible waistline.

Work? What's- that?
Barked: Mon Mar 1, '10 9:38am PST 
I always worry about Samson because it seems like he's too thin all the time...I think it is just because I am so used to seeing FAT puppies.

Farlekiin the- Dragonborn
Barked: Mon Mar 1, '10 9:47am PST 
GREAT thread, Bam-Bam! cheer

Eat, Sleep, and- Play!
Barked: Mon Mar 1, '10 10:45am PST 
Thank you! As a new mama of a large breed puppy I appreciate this info smile
Delta Force- CGC RN NA- RL1

Raw Fed and- Happy
Barked: Mon Mar 1, '10 10:59am PST 
Delta might not be large breed, but everyone expected a rolly polly. They always said she was too skinny, but looked perfect to me... maybe just a TAD underweight. shrug She has looked like a miniature version of an adult dalmatian her whole life.

*insert fart- noise*
Barked: Mon Mar 1, '10 11:38am PST 
Do you mind if we copy and paste some? I'll be sure to give you and all your sources credit!
Bam-Bam, CGC

Lil' Rubble
Barked: Mon Mar 1, '10 1:11pm PST 
Go right ahead Stinky!
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