Tips for Feeding Large Breed Puppies to Make Them Healthy and Not Just Big

It’s a common belief that whether it’s a pet or a kid, if it’s round and plump, it’s healthy. This thought should be discarded from pet parents’ mind if they want their pet to live a healthier life.

There is a difference between the optimal growth and maximum growth of a large breed puppy. Optimal growth for these puppies means controlled growth, unlike the common misconception that it means growing very big, very quickly.

The fact is that the large pups whose bodies grow too fast contract severe, unbearable and sometimes crippling health problems, including problems of joints, bones, muscles, tendons and nerves.

Pet parents of large breed pups should avoid giving their pets diets that will encourage fast growth. Excessive calories and excessive mineral content, but not protein, are the culprits in fast growth puppy diets.

Instead they should feet their large or giant breed pup a balanced, portion-controlled, species-appropriate diet, either homemade or a best commercially available recipe.

Here’s some information on slow growth diets for growing pups, particularly large and giant breed puppies.

The aim of parents and breeders of big dogs must not be to help their pups grow as large as possible and as rapidly as possible.

Somehow and at some point of time, pet parents started assuming that a big, rapid growth is a good thing for the health of the dog; but the truth is just opposite.

Health Problems that Develop in Rapidly Growing Dogs

Although many factors contribute to the skeletal development of dogs, including exercise, heredity, trauma and nutrition, nutrition is one of the most important one. Several orthopedic problems, i.e. problems related to a dog’s bones, muscles and nerves, are rooted in poor feeding practices during the growth period of the pup.

Fortunately, nutrition is also the one which you as a pet parent, can have a total control over.

Many big and giant breed dogs are hereditarily predisposed to grow too rapidly. Sadly humans speed up the process by feeding improper, high-growth pet food recipes to these pups.

When a dog’s body becomes too large, too quickly and gains excessive weight, it exerts pressure on the developing skeleton. Too fast bone growth can lead to structural defects of bones, which make the skeleton even less able to tolerate the growing body weight.

Often the developing cartilage can’t match with the fast bone growth and this leads to cartilage defects. Plus, large dogs tend to have less bone density than smaller breeds, which means that their bones are more brittle and more prone to injury.

Protein is Not Problematic – But Excess Minerals and Calories Are

Studies have constantly found that dietary protein levels don’t affect the development of skeletal disorders in big and giant breed dogs. Although several breeders, parents and experts of large dogs may propose that protein is a problem, there is no scientific evidence to prove it. Excessive protein intake is never a problem; on the contrary, a dietary protein deficiency may cause skeletal problems.

However, unbalanced mineral content, especially phosphorous and calcium, or excessive calories have been scientifically proven to cause a negative impact on skeletal development in dogs.

Why is Excessive Mineral Content Problematic?

The bodies of pups are not capable of controlling or restricting absorption of dietary calcium and some other minerals.

Absorption takes place in intestines. The more the calcium and other mineral content in the diet, the higher will be their absorption and assimilation which will go to the bone structure of the puppy. This can further disrupt the natural process of bone growth and lead to lesions in the skeleton and joints.

Thus high mineral concentrations in the puppy’s diet will rapidly cause bone mineral changes that will cause skeletal abnormalities in a growing pup. These include a severely painful condition named HOD or hypertrophic osteodystrophy that causes lameness and another disease known as craniomandibular osteopathy that affects skull bones including lower jaw.

An excessive mineral content has also been found to lead to conformation abnormalities and problems in both weight gain and stature.

The Right Food for Large or Giant Breed Puppies

Your aim as a parent of a large or giant breed puppy should be to keep your pup lean with controlled growth. Such a pup will thrive on a balanced, portion-controlled and species-specific diet, either homemade or commercially available food.

Traditional puppy foods usually contain much more calories than required by large breed puppies, leading to quick weight gain. Therefore pet food manufacturers have started producing recipes especially for large breed puppies.

These are foods typically lower in calorie density (amount of calories per gram or per cup of food) than a regular puppy diet. They are also typically less in calcium on an energy basis.

These two points are very important for decreasing too-quick growth in big puppies.

Even some adult foods may contain fewer calories, but usually they have high calcium content, which is not required by your big or giant breed puppy while growing.

If you will be feeding kibble to your large breed pup, it’s recommended to find special big breed pup formulas or a recipe that is “Approved for all life stages” which means that the food is right for growing pups or adult dogs.

Feeding a traditional (high growth) puppy food to big breed puppies is not recommendable.

Quantity of Food

Most vets and breeders agree that pups can be shifted to adult foods between 6 and 10 months of age, based on their size, breed and present physical development.

When it comes to the amount of food you should feed your pup, there are many factors to consider. These include the pup’s breed, age, weight, expected adult weight, environment in which she’s growing and her activity level.

Pups eat much more than adult dogs for their weight. Very young pups must be fed 3-4 times a day, whereas older pups usually do fine with twice-daily feedings.

Instructions on the packs of dog foods are helpful to some extent regarding portions to feed, but those are only general guidelines. There’s no fixed amount that will be fine for any pup and what kind of food you choose is also a deciding factor.

When you feed your pup with raw food, you need to feed him a larger portion than when you feed him with kibble because raw food contains less calories and fat per ounce.

One more tip is to allow your puppy to eat at her own pace for around ten minutes three times a day. But this too is not one-size-fits-all rule for all puppies. Hence you should discuss the caloric needs of your pup with your vet.

Take care of your puppy’s diet and see to it that he remains lean and energetic rather than big and fat.