The 4 Best Large Breed Dog Foods (Reviews & Details)
Feeding a big dog can be a monumental task. Not only do they just pile in the calories (especially if they’re active), but they also come with their own unique set of health problems. So finding the best large breed dog food can be ruff (sorry; couldn’t resist the pun).
Of course, that’s what we’re here for. We’ve consulted a few different experts and large breed enthusiasts. Below, we’ll walk you through a few of the common health problems and give you a few specific recommendations for dog foods you can try. So give this guide a once-over, and let us know in the comments if you have any questions and read our best large breed dog food reviews!
Product Comparison: 4 of the Best for Big Dogs
**Below, you'll find our expert's science-backed reviews, but you can also click the links above to see current prices or read customer reviews on Chewy.
Large Breed Nutrition Info
Calories & Protein
Probably the most important thing you need to know about nutrition for large breeds is that they’re going to need a lot more calories.
That may seem like kind of a no-brainer, but a lot of people don’t really take it into account. Even more importantly, though, you should remember that if you have a large dog who is also active or working, he’s going to need a lot more calories and quite a bit more protein.
For example, a Doberman who’s highly active might need 1,000 more calories than a member of the same breed who’s a couch potato.
For the same reason, we tend to recommend high-protein dog food for most large dogs. They just burn so many calories; a short romp in the yard can expend a ton of energy and nutrients that needs to be replaced.
Correcting for Growth Rate
One of the trickiest parts of feeding a large dog is figuring out how to feed a large-breed puppy. Not only is it tough because they grow so fast, but it’s also super important. Overfeeding a large breed pup can result in some pretty serious health problems.
The most common problem here is that large-breed puppies usually love to eat, and most won’t stop themselves. So, given the chance, they’ll gorge themselves until they pass out.
And that’s a problem because large breeds are especially prone to bone and joint problems, and excessive weight and/or obesity can make those problems appear much earlier and can make them much worse.
So, for the first two years, it’s absolutely vital that a large breed puppy eats a well-balanced diet without too many calories (they still need quite a few calories, though). Because so many of these breeds are so active, the best course of action is to (1) talk to your vet and (2) closely monitor their weight.
The Same Old Rules Still Apply
Other than the stuff above, the golden rules of all dog food still apply.
You still want to look for dog foods that have plenty of great, high-quality sources of protein (stuff you can recognize, not generic meat or animal byproducts).
You also want some good sources of fat, and you especially want some good omega fatty acids, which come from stuff like flax and fish.
You also want to see a lot of food that you could find in the produce section of a grocery store. The most common things you’ll see in dog food are peas, apples, blueberries, cranberries, carrots, and sweet potatoes.
Large Breed Health Problems & How Picking a Good Dog Food Ingredients Helps
Large breeds have a few health problems that are especially common across most of the bigger breeds. Luckily you can treat (or at least ameliorate) most of them with a few simple dietary adjustments.
Bone & Joint Problems
This is probably one of the most common health issues for big dogs. These dogs tend to weigh a lot, and they tend to be very active. Put those two together, and you get a dog that puts a lot of stress on his bones and joints, which can lead to painful conditions like hip dysplasia.
To help keep your pup’s elbows and knees spritely, try to pick dog foods that include good sources of glucosamine and chondroitin.
In the simplest terms, glucosamine helps your body grow new cartilage, which provides padding between your joints. Chondroitin, on the other hand, does the opposite: it helps block enzymes that break down cartilage.
Together, they’re an awesome 1-2 combo for joint health. Lots of dog foods add these things as supplements, but they can be found in natural sources as well, especially in stuff like elk antler (although they’re found in smaller quantities in more common places, like chicken).
Gastric Volvulus (Bloat)
This is a super serious condition that could even prove fatal if untreated.
Large dogs—especially those breeds with deep chest cavities—are especially at risk. This condition occurs when your dog’s tummy twists and gas can’t escape. And, obviously, if gas can’t escape from your digestive system, it can lead to major problems.
If this happens to your dog, take him to the vet immediately.
If you want to avoid this potentially life-threatening problem, one of the best things you can do is feed your dog smaller meals. That will probably also mean you’ll feed him more meals throughout the day (so, three or four meals instead of two meals).
However, you can also avoid foods that cause excess gas or foods that tend to which dogs tend to be intolerant, like dairy and wheat.
Check Out This Quick Video
This video provides a pretty simple, yet informative pet profile of the German Shepherd, one of the large dog breeds. If you’re thinking about adopting a large dog or already have one and need to learn more about them, then you should definitely check this out.
Our Recommendations & Reviews for Best Large Breed Dog Food for Adult Dogs
This is food tops our list because it supplements its already good ingredients with glucosamine, which we always recommend for large dogs, since they need to take special care of their joints.
But there’s a lot of other stuff to like here, too.
For example, there are four good sources of protein, including chicken meal, pork meal, sardine meal, and eggs. The carbs come from brown rice, a nice, complex carbohydrate.
We also like that there are several wonderful sources of plant food: carrots, peas, apples, blueberries, and cranberries, it's the best dry dog food for large breed in my opinion.
This is another good one from one of our favorite brands.
One of the things that grabbed our attention about this particular formula, though, is that it pays special attention to the calories per cup, which can help keep a large dog who loves to eat from getting too chubby.
In addition to that, it includes both glucosamine and chondroitin, which helps keep joints healthy, which keeps your pup happy.
In addition to all of that goodness, there’s just a lot of great ingredients here: four sources of protein and a bunch of plants, like spinach, sweet potatoes, apples, berries and a bunch of other stuff.
In general, if you’re looking for a good dry food, it’s tough to go wrong with Wellness, and this formula is just as great as their others.
Blue Buffalo Wilderness Rocky Mountain Recipe is a really good, very high-quality formula that should work well for most large breeds.
At 32% protein and 13% fat, this is a pretty well-balanced dog food.
The protein comes from a variety of sources beef, bison, chicken, lamb, and venison.
We also do like that it includes flaxseed meal, which is a good source of fat, and there are plenty of good veggies in this formula. You can find blueberries, watercress, spinach, broccoli and lots of other produce here. However, we wish there were a bit more.
Still, it’s a strong pick for a large breed.
If you’re a HerePup! regular, you’ll know that this isn’t the first time we’ve recommended Nutro Ultra’s adult dry formula.
It’s best large breed adult dog food, well-balanced, and we especially like the variety of protein used to make it. In total, there are four sources of protein: chicken, chicken meal, lamb meal, and salmon meal.
It doesn’t have outrageous amounts of protein, but it’s got a fairly hefty 29% protein content, so about a third of the calories here come from meat.
Of course, there are no byproducts, flavors, or coloring here, and this food steers clear of corn and soy, which is a must-have for us.
Nutro makes good stuff in general, and this is a nice food for large dogs in particular.
Fan of this post? Here's another good one on grain free dog food options and one on good dog bones.
**Disclaimer: Our dog food reviews are based mostly on (1) our expertise and that of the experts with whom we consult and (2) the information provided by the manufacturers. We do test many dog foods (with our dog's help), but we can't test them all. As such, please remember the above recommendations are our opinions, and you should consult your vet before making changes to your dog's diet.
Image credits: Chewy.com