Best Dog Food for Large Breed Puppies

by Stuart | Last Updated:   December 3, 2019
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Bringing a large breed puppy into your home or raising your own romping litter can be exciting, but it can also be confusing if you are not sure of what a puppy, especially a large breed puppy, eats and how much. 

Is wet better or is dry? When do I switch to dry? How much do I feed them?

We wrote this post to help make one of these decisions a little easier.

Top Pick At A Glance

NUTRO Wholesome Essentials

  • High-quality protein source is the #1 ingredient in the delicious dry kibble
  • Supports brain and eye development in your large breed puppy with omega-3 fatty acids like DHA

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Top 3 Foods for Large Breed Puppies: Our Picks

  1. Nutro Wholesome Essentials
  2. Blue Buffalo Wilderness
  3. Taste of the Wild
Large breed puppy sitting next to dog food

Best Dog Food for Large Breed Puppies

What a puppy eats may depend on what stage of development that puppy is at in its life cycle. We are going to walk you through the different stages of puppyhood in this post and help you to understand why different stages need different types of dog food.

In the second part, we want to share with you some of my favourite foods and brands that can help your large breed puppy get a good start in their different stages.

1. Nutro Wholesome Essentials Puppy Dry Food

Another great food not normally found in your local grocery store is Nutro Wholesome Essentials. We really like how this food is made without any GMOs, which have been found to have some issues for dogs, and the long term research is concerning for both humans and pets.

The cost is fairly inexpensive for a 30 lbs bag. 

Nutro

  • Chicken and Brown Rice Recipe for large breed puppies up to 18 months old; real chicken is the #1 ingredient
  • Made with non-GMO ingredients*; no chicken by-product meal, corn, wheat, or soy*
  • Natural sources of glucosamine and chondroitin; formulated to support healthy joints
  • Supports healthy immunity with essential antioxidants
  • Cooked in our USA facilities

With the first ingredient being farm-raised chicken, you know your large breed puppy will be getting a healthy and nutritious start to their life with you.

This puppy food is designed to help your puppy grow strong bones and muscles and give it the best possible start for their “larger than average” life.

Add in the brown rice and sweet potatoes, and it becomes a treat that your puppy will be eager to eat morning noon and night. Add in a little wet food to make for an even yummier treat for those picky eaters. 

2. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Large Breed Puppy Food

One of my favorite brands for large breed puppies, Blue Buffalo Wilderness, is a bit more expensive, a little over $50 for a 24 lb bag, but it is also the highest quality.

Made with high performance or hunting dogs in mind, this is a zero grain recipe that will ensure that your puppy grows up eating only the very best. 

Blue Buffalo

  • A recipe made to satisfy your puppy’s natural love for meat this high protein puppy dog food features real chicken to help encourage strong muscle growth
  • This formula contains BLUE’s exclusive LifeSource Bits, a precise blend of antioxidants vitamins and minerals carefully selected by holistic veterinarians and animal nutritionists to support immune system health, life stage requirements, and a healthy oxidative balance
  • Formulated for the health and well-being of your dog and features the finest natural ingredients enhanced with vitamins and minerals. It never contains chicken (or poultry) by-product meals corn, wheat, soy, artificial flavors or preservatives

They have worked to design a formula that does not include any meat by products or meat “meals,” just meat like chicken, not things like chicken meal or chicken “by products” which is code for things like ground bone or other fillers. 

By forgoing the use of grains and fillers, you can be sure that your puppy is getting a higher concentration of ingredients from animal sources. With added vitamins and nutrients, your large breed puppy will be sure to have a healthier start to their life.

Their large breed formula is made for large breed puppies to ensure they get the extra calcium and nutrients that larger dogs need.

3. Taste of the Wild Dry Food

One of the higher quality brands out there that don’t break the bank is Taste of the Wild.

Taste of the Wild

  • Tailored for growing puppy; superfoods for hard-working antioxidants; DHA for brain & vision
  • Made without grain, corn, wheat, filler; NO ARTIFICIAL flavours, colours, or preservatives added
  • Added vitamins & minerals; nutrient-rich and HIGHLY digestible with guaranteed species-specific, proprietary PROBIOTICS

Taste of the Wild is not normally available at local supermarkets and typically costs somewhere around $15 for a 5 lb bag, but you can save some money by purchasing a larger 28 lb bag.

One of the things we love about Taste of the Wild brand food is that it is made in the US, not outsourced to another country and imported, so there is less risk of being contaminated like many of the brands available in your local grocery store.

The main ingredient is meat like venison or bison, and it is specially designed small bits with puppies in mind. 

It also includes things like probiotics, which aids in digestion, especially with how sensitive some puppy tummies can be.

Close-up portrait of cute large breed puppy with red collar and brindle coat

Different Food for Different Stages of Puppyhood

It may not make sense that you would feed a younger puppy something different than what you would feed an older puppy, but puppies are just like kids and they sometimes need different things in their diet.

As they grow up, they will be able to eat more adult food, but younger can often require different things for optimal development. 

Young Puppies, 4 to 12 Weeks

Younger puppies need both higher calories and softer food to prevent choking through enthusiasm. Sadly, we have heard of too many stories of puppies that were fed dry food too soon and ended up literally inhaling and/or choking on the dry kibble.

This is easily prevented by offering soft or wet food at first. 

As soon as their eyes are open, they will start exploring their world, and this includes what mom is eating. As soon as they are starting to “mouth” or chew on everything in sight, this is when you will want to start to introduce them to wet dog food.

This will help with the transition to weaning as well they won’t be as much of a nutritional burden on mom too. 

The first day should only be a couple of teaspoons per puppy and only a couple of times. Each day increase the amount they are eating and let mom wean them as she sees fit.

By 8 weeks, they will be eating primarily solid food and nursing only at night with a possible midday nursing. By 10 weeks mom will probably have them fully weaned. 

10 to 16 weeks – Ready for Adoption or Taking Home 

While some puppies may be ready for adoption as young as 8 weeks, they should be weaned and eating solid food before going to a new home. By 12 weeks of age, you can start transitioning to some dry food by mixing in with their normal wet food, but this should be done over a matter of weeks, not days. 

You will want to start with just a few dry bits mixed in with the wet increasing to ¼ of their total food being dry if you plan to transition them to dry food.

With larger breed puppies, this would be more economical because of how much they will be eating over their lifetime on a daily basis. However, this should not be left to a new family and should not be done overnight. 

Puppy digestive systems are sensitive, and they can be upset by having their food changed drastically overnight.

If you are adopting out a puppy, make sure the new family knows exactly what they are currently eating so they can make the transition. If you are the one adopting, make sure to transition slowly, so you don’t upset the puppy’s tummy. 

16 Weeks Plus – Growing Up

At this age, you will want to be feeding your puppy what it will be eating for the rest of its puppyhood. For small dogs, this could be for the first year. Larger breeds are considered puppies until they are 2 years old.

It is usually around the 18-month mark or so that you begin to transition to adult dog food as they no longer require the higher caloric puppy food. 

Tips For Choosing and Changing Your Dog’s Diet

Whenever switching to a new food it’s important to follow both the food’s recommended transitioning protocol and any suggestions from your veterinarian.

Here’s a great quote from Dr. Lisa M. Freeman, DVM, PhD, DACVN, who is a veterinary nutritionist and a professor at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.

She is on the cutting-edge of science, with hundreds of articles in prestigious journals, speaking engagements at national and international conferences, and awards for her scientific achievements.

She also is passionate about providing objective and accurate information on pet nutrition to veterinarians, pet parents, and other animal enthusiasts. 

I think this is an important quote as we often see pet parents get hung up on the specific ingredient list in a dog food and while it can be important, most of us aren’t properly trained or educated to actually decipher the meaning behind it all:

Pets require nutrients, not ingredients; a diet full of great sounding ingredients can be less nutritious than a diet containing less appealing (to people) ingredients. Some manufacturers may add ingredients to diets solely for marketing purposes, to increase the appeal of the diet to consumers. These ingredients may have unproven benefits, be present in minuscule amounts and provide nothing to the diet but added expense

When it comes to recommending dog foods for pet parents we feel most comfortable recommending vet-approved foods that are produced by companies investing in research for veterinary medicine and veterinary nutrition while also meeting AAFCO standards.

High Quality Dry Food for Large Breed Puppies

Having a high quality dry food to transition to will make the process easier without sacrificing your puppy’s health in the process. Rather than make you do a bunch of research to try to find the best brands out there, we wanted to share with you the ones we like the best based on quality or the food and ingredients. 

Since feeding usually depends on the weight of your puppy, you will need to follow both your vet recommendations and the individual manufacturer’s instructions on the bag. 

Continue Reading:

  1. Benefits of Cold Pressed Dog Food
  2. How Long Does Dry Dog Food Last?
  3. Wet Dog Food vs Dry, which one is better?
  4. What Can I Mix With Dry Dog Food?
  5. What Is Kibble?
  6. Best Dog Food for Large Breed Puppies
  7. Best Dog Food for Less Poop and Better Digestion
  8. Best Food for Older Dogs With Sensitive Stomachs