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April 12, 2021

What You Need to Know About Feeding a Large Breed Puppy

  • Puppy
  • Dry Food
  • Wet Food
  • Dog Food
German Shepherd mix large breed puppy sitting on bed looking into camera

Do you know how much to feed your large breed puppy?

Feeding growing puppies has proven to be complex, especially for large breed puppies. Unlike smaller dogs that remain relatively similar in size throughout their life, an average large breed puppy undergoes a 70-fold increase in size during its first year.2 Wow! Because of their rapid growth, adequate nutrition must meet their diet to ensure a healthy transition to their adult size. 

Many key nutritional factors should be considered when deciding on a recipe suitable for your pup's growth. Here are our top tips on how to properly feed your large breed puppy. 

What To Consider When Feeding a Large Breed Puppy 

Look at Their Energy Intake

Large breed puppy's bones and joints are very vulnerable to improper development when rapid growth occurs. Improper feeding practices can influence several diseases of the skeleton of large breed puppies. 

Large breed puppies are predisposed to certain diseases, as they genetically grow much faster than their small breed friends.3 For large breed puppies, ensuring they grow at the right pace is crucial to promoting skeletal health and long life. Its all about optimizing growth, rather than maximizing!

Overnutrition, or feeding your pup too many calories, can contribute to fast growth and extra body weight. This can add stress on their growing bones and joints4 and can become an issue that inherently lowers their bone density. It's important to remember that although a chubby puppy might look happy, excess body weight can result in serious health issues later in its life. 

To address this, large breed puppy diets are generally formulated with a moderate caloric density, as compared to smaller breed puppy foods. This is to meet the goal of optimised growth rate and discourage overnutrition.
Lauten, S.D.Vet. Clin. North Am. Small Anim. Pract., 2006.

We always recommend following the feeding guidelines included on the pet food label. This way, you can adjust the amount needed to maintain an ideal body weight throughout your pup’s life.

Now Fresh Large Breed Puppy Grain-Free Recipe with Turkey, Salmon & Duck for dogs

Our Recommendation

Delicious recipes for larger-than-life pups

Now Fresh recipes for puppies have been specially prepared to provide perfectly balanced, minimally processed goodness to help your puppy grow and thrive.

Calcium and Phosphorus for Large Breed Puppies 

Calcium and phosphorous are essential when it comes to healthy bone development in large breed puppies. However, unlike adult dogs, puppies' can't regulate absorption from the food they consume,4 which can ultimately lead to detrimental effects on the growth of large breed puppies.

Excess calcium fed to large breed puppies can increase the risk of abnormal joint growth and skeletal malformations.7 Additionally, the amount of phosphorus in a diet can also affect bone metabolism in growing puppies.8 Too much can lead to decreased calcium absorption and soft bone development, while too little phosphorus can lead to poor weight gain.6 Therefore, you must feed your large breed puppy food that's formulated to target adequate levels, and that has a proper balance of calcium to phosphorus.

In 2016, the AAFCO Canine Nutrition Expert Subcommittee (CNES)
published an upper limit for calcium specific to large breed growth recipes.
This limit restricts the calcium level in these products to 1.8% on a dry matter basis (DMB).1 This limit is largely based on the risks, discussed above, of skeletal abnormality when calcium is not tightly controlled. According to AAFCO, calcium levels must also be considered in relation to phosphorus. By controlling and restricting the maximum calcium content, we also control the ratio of calcium to phosphorus to target appropriate levels in a recipe. This change in regulations has altered how the nutritional adequacy statement is declared on a dog food bag formulated for puppies (growth) or all life stages. 

These statements now indicate whether a recipe is appropriate for the growth of large breed puppies by stating either "this food is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for All Life stages including the growth of large size dogs (70 lb. or more as an adult)" or "except for the growth of large size dogs (70 lb. or more as an adult)".1

Therefore, it's important to read the nutritional adequacy statement on pet food labels to ensure you're feeding your large breed puppy the best food that meets these unique calcium requirements.

Additional Supplements for Large Breed Puppies

Food formulated for large breed puppies often contain supplemental ingredients to support optimal health.

Some unique supplements for large breed puppies include: 

New Zealand Green Mussels

New Zealand Green Mussels are a source of chondroitin sulphate and essential fatty acids.9 They help the body cope with stress on the joints,  which can come from carrying around their larger body weight.9


One of the most popular supplements for growing pups is glucosamine. Glucosamine is great at supporting cartilage, improving joint health and reducing inflammation. With this supplement, it is important to only use under the supervision of a veterinarian, as there is limited research into its efficacy and safety for growing puppies.


L-carnitine is a molecule that helps the body use fat as an energy source and promote a healthy body weight.10 Since some large breeds are also genetically predisposed to certain heart diseases, L-carnitine is often used in combination with taurine to support optimal heart health.11

In conclusion, large breed puppies have specific requirements that need to be met with tailored nutrition. It's important to choose a diet formulated to help grow your large breed puppies at a healthy rate. Next time you walk down the aisle in a pet food store, don't hesitate to ask what large breed puppy recipes they have available!

  1. AAFCO, Association of American Feed Control Officials: Official Publication. 2018, Atlanta, GA: Association of American Feed Control Officials.

  2. Wynn, S. Feeding Large Breed Puppies. 2013 [cited 2018; Available from:].

  3. Toll, P.W. and D.C. Richardson, Relationship of nutrition to developmental skeletal disease in young dogs. Vet. Clin. Nutr., 1997. 4: p. 6-13.

  4. Larsen, J., Feeding large-breed puppies. Compend. Contin. Educ. Vet., 2010. 32(5): p. E1-4.

  5. Dammrich, K., Relationship between nutrition and bone growth in large and giant dogs. J. Nutr., 1991. 121(11 Suppl): p. S114-21.

  6. Lauten, S.D., Nutritional risks to large-breed dogs: from weaning to the geriatric years. Vet. Clin. North Am. Small Anim. Pract., 2006. 36(6): p. 1345-59.

  7. Fascetti, A.J., Food for Thought on Canine Developmental Orthopedic Disease. Vet. Surg., 2006. 35(3): p. 211-213.

  8. Hazewinkel, H.A., et al., Calcium metabolism in Great Dane dogs fed diets with various calcium and phosphorus levels. J. Nutr., 1991. 121(11 Suppl): p. S99-106.

  9. Bui, L.M. and R.L. Bierer, Influence of green lipped mussels (Perna canaliculus) in alleviating signs of arthritis in dogs. Vet. Ther., 2001. 2(2): p. 101-11.

  10. Carey, D. and A.J. Lepine, Maximising Mobility With Nutrition. in Iams Clinical Nutrition Symposium 2006.

  11. Sanderson, S.L., Taurine and carnitine in canine cardiomyopathy. Vet. Clin. North Am. Small Anim. Pract., 2006. 36(6): p.1325-43.


Jennifer Adolphe

Dr. Jennifer Adolphe

PhD (Companion Animal Nutrition)

Dr. Jennifer Adolphe has a PhD in companion animal nutrition from the University of Saskatchewan. She previously completed a master’s degree in human nutrition and is the recipient of more than 20 awards and scholarships for her academic work. Wow!

Natalie Asaro

Natalie Asaro

Nutrition Manager

Natalie received both her BSc in Honours Biological Science and MSc in Companion Animal Nutrition from the University of Guelph.

Michele Dixon

Michele Dixon

Health and Nutrition Specialist

Michele studied animal nutrition through Colorado State University and the Companion Animal Sciences Institute. Involved in animals and nutrition for over 25 years, Michele had the pleasure of receiving a High in Trial with her first Borzoi Yascha at an early age.