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  • Writer's pictureDr. Renè Smit BVSc


Updated: May 17, 2021

Like collars, beds and bowls, dog foods aren’t always one-size-fits-all.

Nutritional needs between small-breed and large-breed puppies differs significantly as large-breed dogs mature at a slower rate than small-breed dogs. Large-breed dogs will only reach maturity between 18 and 24months. Nutrient imbalances (deficiencies or excesses) may lead to developmental abnormalities.

What is considered a large/ giant breed puppy?

Puppies are considered large-breed if they will weigh over 25kg when fully grown (for example Labradors, German Shepherd, Boxer). Puppies that will weigh over 50kg when fully grown, are generally considered a giant breed (for example Great Danes, Mastiff).

What is different about large & giant breed puppy food?

Large breed puppy foods are designed for gradual and healthy growth.

In general, large & giant breed puppy foods should have a lower energy density (lower in fat), have a good calcium content, an appropriate Calcium: Phosphorus ratio and provide good quality protein.

Lower energy density

It is important that the body (bone + muscle) grow synchronically at the proper rate. Feeding a diet that is too calorie dense (high in fat) can cause excessive bodyweight and rapid growth. If a pup grows faster than his bones and joints can accommodate, skeletal abnormalities will develop. Large-breed puppy food is therefore generally less energy dense (lower in calories & fat content) so that he grows and develops at the right speed (slow, but steady), avoiding excess body weight stressing developing bone.

Calcium content

Calcium is needed for strong bones. Feeding a diet with too little or too much calcium is equally problematic. Pups, unlike adult dogs, cannot adequately regulate how much dietary calcium they absorb from the intestinal tract. This can lead to excessive absorption of calcium, especially when the calcium in the food is too high. Excess calcium is harmful to healthy skeletal development and can also cause deficiencies in other nutrients. Too little dietary calcium, will cause the body to release hormones leading to the release of calcium from the skeleton, causing soft, malformed bones that can easily fracture. Large-breed puppy food is formulated to control the amount of calcium your pup takes in to ensure proper bone development. If your puppy is eating a complete balanced puppy food, there’s no need to give a calcium supplement.

Calcium: Phosphorus ratio

The balance between phosphorus and calcium is important because they work together to maintain the skeletal system. Too much calcium can bind phosphorus, leading to decreased phosphorus absorption. Similarly, high dietary phosphorus levels can interfere with calcium absorption. Large-breed puppy food is formulated to provide calcium and phosphorus in a proper ratio of 1.1:1 to 2:1 to avoid mineral imbalances that can lead to skeletal problems.

High quality protein

Good quality protein is needed to support healthy growth and building strong lean muscles.

With the huge variety of foods on the shelves, choosing the right one for your puppy can be overwhelming. Please do not hesitate to ask our trained staff to assist in helping to choose the best diet suited for your puppy, budget and needs.

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