The Best Large Breed Puppy Food for Your Best Friend

Do you have a large breed puppy? Any dog that will get above 50-70 pounds when they’re full-grown is considered a large breed. 

If you have one of these wonderful big boys (or girls), then you need to consider their diet carefully.

Malamute puppy lying near the metal bowl
An Alaskan Malamute waiting for food refill

The right – or wrong – food can make all the difference in whether they grow up big and healthy or not. 

Top 5 Picks for Best product for Puppies in 2021

Large breed dogs need special food to keep them healthy while they’re growing.

If you want the best food for your best friend, our top picks are below. Any one of these will help keep your dog in the best shape possible. 

  Large Breed Puppy Food Our Rating
Best Overall Large Breed Puppy Food Orijen Puppy Large Breed Grain-Free

  • Made with 85% animal protein
  • Freeze-dried liver enhances flavor
  • Lots of high-quality meat ingredients
5
Best Budget Large Breed Puppy Food Diamond Naturals Large Breed Puppy Formula

  • Pasture-fed lamb is the first ingredient. 
  • Contains DHA, fatty acids, vitamins, and antioxidants
4.5
Best Dry Large Breed Puppy Food Wellness Complete Health Large Breed Puppy Food

  • No GMOs
  • Real meat ingredients
  • No artificial flavors, preservatives, or colors
5
Best Wet Large Breed Puppy Food Merrick Grain-Free Canned Puppy Food

  • No chicken, ideal for dogs with chicken allergies
  • Whole ingredients make up the bulk of the food
  • No soy, wheat, corn, or by-products
5
Best Grain-Free Large Breed Puppy Food Blue Buffalo Wilderness Large Breed Grain-Free Food

  • No soy, corn, or wheat
  • No artificial flavors or preservatives
  • Chicken is the first ingredient
4.5

Best Dog Food for Large Breed Puppies

Dry dog food is the most popular option for pet owners because it’s affordable, convenient, and provides a completely balanced diet for your best friend.

Here are our top picks, ranging from more affordable to pricier options, and including both grain-free recipes and foods with grains.

Best Dry Foods for Large Breed Puppies

a fierce Siberian Husky eating on the floor
Meet Kira, a Siberian Husky enjoying the breakfast – Image source

1. Wellness Complete Health Large Breed Puppy Food

Wellness Large Breed Complete Health Puppy Deboned Chicken, Brown Rice & Salmon Meal Recipe

Our rating: 5
Top ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Peas, Ground Brown Rice, Salmon Meal
Type: Dry

Wellness Complete Health contains real chicken, salmon, and rice along with omega fatty acids, vitamins, antioxidants, and probiotics to give your pup a healthy start in life.

Made in the USA with high-quality ingredients sourced globally.

Pros:

  • No GMOs
  • No meat by-products or fillers
  • No artificial flavors, preservatives, or colors

Cons:

  • Contains the by-product tomato pomace
  • Contains garlic powder

CHECK PRICE HERE

2. Orijen Puppy Large Breed Grain-Free

ORIJEN Puppy Large Grain-Free Dry Puppy Food

Our rating: 5
Top ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Deboned Turkey, Flounder, Eggs, Whole Atlantic Mackerel
Type: Dry

Orijen’s large breed puppy food is packed with high-quality protein and healthy ingredients like whole mackerel, chicken, turkey, flounder, eggs, liver, hearts, and herring.

It also has lentils, beans, peas, pumpkin, collard greens, carrots, apples, and kelp.

It’s coated in the freeze-dried liver, a flavor most dogs can’t resist! It’s made in the USA with ingredients sourced from across the globe. 

Pros:

  • Contains probiotics
  • Made with 85% animal protein
  • Freeze-dried liver enhances flavor
  • Lots of high-quality meat ingredients

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Contains lentil fiber, a cheap filler

CHECK PRICE HERE

3. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Large Breed Grain-Free Food

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Large Breed Puppy Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Our rating: 4.5
Top ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Peas, Pea Protein, Tapioca Starch
Type: Dry

With DHA, calcium, omega 3 fatty acids, and omega 6 fatty acids, this food has a lot of good stuff to give your dog energy and support for its growing body and healthy immune system.

With a balance of carbohydrates, fat, and protein, this pet food is made with big pups in mind. Contains sweet potatoes, carrots, cranberries, and blueberries.

Pros:

  • No soy, corn, or wheat
  • No artificial flavors or preservatives
  • Chicken is the first ingredient

Cons:

  • Features a high level of non-meat fillers
  • Contains yeast, which some dogs are allergic to
  • Contains tomato pomace

CHECK PRICE HERE

4. Diamond Naturals Large Breed Puppy Formula

Diamond Naturals Large Breed Puppy Formula Dry Dog Food

Our rating: 4.5
Top ingredients: Lamb, Lamb Meal, Whole Grain Brown Rice, Cracked Pearled Barley, Ground White Rice
Type: Dry

Diamond Naturals has all the things your puppy needs to grow big and strong.

With lamb as the first ingredient, it also has peas, garbanzo beans, papaya, and coconut. Made in the USA with ingredients sourced from around the world. 

Pros:

  • Pasture-fed lamb is the first ingredient. 
  • Contains DHA, fatty acids, vitamins, and antioxidants

Cons:

  • Contains a high level of rice
  • Lower protein than many other foods

CHECK PRICE HERE

5. Solid Gold Dry Puppy 

Solid Gold Wolf Cub Bison & Oatmeal Puppy Formula Dry Dog Food

Our rating: 4.5
Top ingredients: Bison, Ocean Fish Meal, Brown Rice, Oatmeal, Peas
Type: Dry

Ingredients like flaxseed, blueberries, cranberries and real bison give puppies of all sizes the nutrition they need to get a good start in life and promote healthy growth.

This blend contains high levels of calcium to support bone development.

Pros:

  • Bison is the first ingredient
  • Has probiotics for gut health

Cons:

  • Contains tomato pomace
  • Rice, oatmeal, and peas are high on the ingredient list

CHECK PRICE HERE

6. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Large Breed Puppy Food

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Large Breed Puppy Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry

Our rating: 4
Top ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Oatmeal, Barley, Pea Protein
Type: Dry

Blue Buffalo makes their Life Protection formula with lots of real meat, whole grains, and fruits and veggies.

It has DHA and ARA for brain and eye development, as well as lots of healthy fats including fish oil for your giant breed puppy’s skin and coat. It also has the manufacturer’s patented LifeSource Bits.

Pros:

  • No wheat, soy, or corn
  • Chicken is the first ingredient

Cons:

  • Contains tomato pomace and yeast
  • Pea, rice, and oatmeal feature high on the ingredient list

CHECK PRICE HERE

Best Wet Foods for Large Breed Puppies

a Great Pyrenees looking up and wearing a penguin scarf
Meet Luna, a fluffy Great Pyrenees looking fabulous – Image source

Wet food is often preferred by dogs for the taste, and it’s a convenient way to carry around a portion of food if you’re traveling.

The downside is that you pay for a lot of water, so it’s a more expensive way to feed your dog.

Since large breeds eat so much, it can be a good idea to use wet food as a supplement or a treat to entice your pup to eat (or to hide pills). 

1. Blue Buffalo Homestyle Puppy Food 

Blue Buffalo Homestyle Recipe Puppy Chicken Dinner with Garden Vegetables Canned Dog Food

Our rating: 4.5
Top ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Broth, Chicken Liver, Carrots, Peas
Type: Wet

This wet food is made for dogs of any size and contains DHA and superfoods like cranberries and blueberries. It has healthy chicken and chicken liver to keep your pup happy.

Pros:

  • No preservatives
  • No soy, corn, or wheat
  • No by-product meals

Cons:

  • Contains guar gum, which some pet owners avoid
  • Low protein

CHECK PRICE HERE

2. Merrick Grain-Free Canned Puppy Food

Merrick Grain Free Wet Puppy Food Puppy Plate Beef Recipe

Our rating: 5
Top ingredients: Deboned Beef, Beef Broth, Carrots, Sweet Potatoes, Apples
Type: Wet

Real beef and beef broth make up the first ingredients, followed by healthy apples, carrots, sweet potatoes, and liver.

It’s formulated for all dog breed sizes in the USA, where it is also made. DHA helps maintain healthy brain development. 

Pros:

  • No chicken, ideal for dogs with chicken allergies
  • Whole ingredients make up the bulk of the food
  • No soy, wheat, corn, or by-products

Cons:

  • Contains guar gum
  • Low protein

CHECK PRICE HERE

3. Wellness Just for Puppy Canned Food

Wellness Complete Health Just for Puppy Canned Dog Food

Our rating: 4
Top ingredients: Broth, Chicken, Chicken Liver, Salmon, Ground Barley, Sweet Potatoes
Type: Wet

With real chicken and salmon as the top ingredients, this food has lots of healthy protein for your growing dog.

It’s made for any size of the breed and contains the antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals necessary for growing animals.

Pros:

  • Has real chicken and salmon
  • Lots of fruits and veggies

Cons:

  • Contains carrageenan
  • Contains guar gum
  • Low protein
  • Low fiber

CHECK PRICE HERE

4. Purina Pro Plan Focus Puppy Classic Chicken and Rice Entree Canned Dog Food 

Purina Pro Plan Focus Puppy Classic Chicken & Rice Entree Canned Dog Food

Our rating: 4
Top ingredients: Chicken, Liver, Meat By-Products, Rice, Guar Gum
Type: Wet

This food is formulated with a balance of protein, fats, and carbohydrates for puppies of any size. Made in the USA without preservatives or artificial colors or flavors.

Pros:

  • Chicken is the first ingredient
  • Contains Omega acids and DHA

Cons:

  • Contains a high level of water
  • Contains carrageenan
  • Contains guar gum

CHECK PRICE HERE

5. Canidae Pure Grain-Free Puppy Formula 

CANIDAE Grain-Free PURE Puppy Limited Ingredient Chicken Formula Canned Dog Food

Our rating: 5
Top ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Broth, Dried Egg Product, Peas, Salmon Oil
Type: Wet

If your puppy has allergies or a sensitive stomach, this limited ingredient food is perfect. It has just five main ingredients, plus vitamins, oils, and minerals to keep your dog of any size a good start in life.

Pros:

  • Limited ingredients for dogs with allergies
  • No guar gum or carrageenan
  • No soy, wheat, or corn

Cons:

  • Low protein
  • Low fiber

CHECK PRICE HERE

6. Nulo Freestyle Turkey & Cod Recipe

Nulo Freestyle Turkey, Cod & Sweet Potato Recipe Grain-Free Puppy Canned Dog Food

Our rating: 4
Top ingredients: Turkey, Turkey Broth, Salmon Broth, Turkey Liver, Cod, Sweet Potatoes
Type: Wet

This food is packed with real turkey, salmon, cod, and sweet potatoes, along with blueberries, cranberries, and pumpkin.

It’s a low-glycemic recipe, perfect for dogs who struggle with blood sugar issues. Made in the USA.

Pros:

  • Low-glycemic recipe
  • Real turkey and salmon

Cons:

  • Contains guar gum
  • Low fiber

CHECK PRICE HERE

Buyers’ Guide: What is the Best Dog Food for Large Breed Puppies? 

A Saint Bernard puppy laying outdoors and holding 2 carrots
Meet Gordon, a Saint Bernard puppy with his carrot treats – Image source

A well-balanced diet is key for any size of a puppy, but it is especially important for large breed dogs.

Large and giant breeds grow quickly and that can cause problems with their bones and joints down the road if they don’t get the right nutrients. 

Whether you feed your puppy dry dog food, wet, raw, or homemade, it’s essential that they get the right combination of vitamins, minerals, and whole ingredients.

Keep them healthy for years to come as they mature into adult dogs. 

So how do you make sure you pick the right food? We’ll help you figure it all out.

How to choose high-quality puppy food for a large breed?

The first thing you should check on the package of any dog food is the nutrition label. The ingredients should be listed there in order of weight.

So if the chicken is the first ingredient, it means that the recipe contains more chicken than any other ingredient. 

Keep in mind, however, that the weights are determined before the food is dried. So if the first ingredient is meat and the next five ingredients are grains, the food probably has more grains than meat. 

Ideally, high-quality and healthy food will have meat-based proteins as at least half of the first five or six ingredients, but the first should be meat at the very least. 

Then, watch for controversial ingredients like corn, soy, wheat, tomato pomace, yeast, garlic, meat by-products, or pea fiber, all of which can be used as cheap fillers or can cause allergies.

You also want to see what kind of quality control standards the ingredients are being held to.

While it’s good if a food is made in a country with high-quality control, ideally, the ingredients will be sourced from somewhere with high-quality control, as well. 

Look for foods that have been approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).

The brands listed above, and food brands like:

Hill’s Science Diet, Iams, Nutro Wholesome Essential, Royal Canin, Taste of the Wild, Natural Balance, and Stella and Chewy have all earned reputations as reliable brands.

How can you tell if food is safe for a large breed puppy? Look at the calcium. It should be about 1.8% at a minimum to help support the fast growth rate of their bones.

Finally, look at the review of the food on websites like this one, Chewy, or Amazon to see what other people think. 

Large Breed Puppy Nutrient Needs

an Alaskan Malamute sitting while waiting for his broccoli
Meet Dasher, a veggie-loving Alaskan Malamute puppy – Image source

Large breed and giant breed dogs should be fed a special diet. That’s because they have special needs. Since they get so big so quickly, their bones develop very fast.

That can cause problems down the road if they don’t get all the nutrients they need when they’re young. 

What to Look for In Your Large Breed Puppy Dog Food?

The best large breed puppy foods will have at least 30% protein content from high-quality sources. They should also have omega fatty acids, calcium, and about 10% fat. 

You should also keep an eye on phosphorus levels.

There should be about 2.5-4.0 grams of phosphorus per 1000 calories and calcium to phosphorus ratio of 1:1 to 1.8:1. Don’t worry, you don’t have to do the math. 

If the food has the seal of approval from the AAFCO, it contains at least this much. 

So what else do large breed puppies need besides the stuff listed above? You should look for things like amino acids, glucosamine, and chondroitin.

All of these ingredients combine to reduce the risk of orthopedic disease and other developmental disorders.

While you should look for a puppy recipe, since puppies have different nutritional needs from adults, you can get away with food made for all life stages.

Still, if you want to be on the safe side, stick to puppy food. 

Puppy food is different from adult food in that it contains a different ratio of fatty acids, proteins, and calcium.

If young puppies get too much calcium and protein, it can stress their bones. Too little and they won’t develop as well. 

You should also stick to food meant for large breed puppies because they are formulated for the optimal growth in large and giant breed dogs.

If you have a smaller large breed dog, it’s fine to go ahead and feed regular puppy food, though.

Just remember, by feeding your dog quality food formulated just for their needs, you give them a better chance of living a long, healthy life (along with vet visits and regular care, of course).

Things to look for when selecting a puppy food: What should large breed puppies eat?

a Bernese Mountain Dog drinking water on a hot summer day
Meet Maple, a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy cooling-off – Image source

So you’re looking at the ingredient list and wondering which ingredients are good and which are bad.

The first rule is the same one that you should use with human food: if you know and can pronounce the ingredient, that’s a good start. 

Avoid ingredients that you can’t pronounce and sound more like chemicals than real food.

Avoid generic “meat meal” or “meat by-products,” though specific meals like “turkey meal” or “beef meal” are fine.

Also, look for real meat and fats from meat like chicken fat or salmon oil.

Olive oil is good, too. If you feed your dogs grains, look for healthy ones like brown rice, barley, and oatmeal rather than wheat. 

Vegetables and fruits are good, too. 

Avoid any food that has melamine, BHA, BHT, carrageenan, food dye, preservatives, MSG, artificial flavorings, and sugar (that includes fructose, dextrose, glucose, and molasses). 

Wet, Semi-Moist, or Dry? Which food Is best for your large breed puppy?

You have options if you decide to feed commercial food to your large breed pupper. There’s semi-moist, wet, and dry food. 

Semi-moist food should generally be avoided because it’s usually full of sugar and salt.

They also frequently have chemical preservatives, colors, and flavors. They do make a good treat now and then though. 

Wet food is more expensive because you get a lot of water in that can.

You have to feed your dog a lot more to give them the calories that they need. But many dogs prefer it and it can help encourage picky eaters to dig in. 

Dry food is the most affordable option and the most convenient. It’s easier to manage portions and helps build healthy teeth.

The downside is that some dogs seem to not like it as much. You can always add a little wet or semi-moist food to entice picky eaters.

To grain or not to grain: Do puppies need a grain-free large breed puppy food?

A few years ago, experts found that a grain-free diet might give your dog a serious and even fatal condition known as dilated cardiomyopathy (or DCM). Since then, the FDA has been investigating the issue. 

They are currently urging people to avoid a completely grain-free diet for dogs and instead are telling people to give their dogs some healthy grains like brown rice or oatmeal. 

However, there isn’t a solid answer to the question of whether to go grain-free or not.

If you decide to feed a grain-free diet, there are some excellent options reviewed above. Then, chat with your vet and get their take on the whole debate.

If your dog has a gluten intolerance, which is rare, it’s best to avoid foods with grains. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

a German Rottweiler and Bullmastiff puppy ready to shop
Meet Kane and Abel, a Rottie and Bullmastiff puppies in a shopping cart – Image source

Once you narrow down the right food for you and your pup, you might be wondering how often to feed them and when you can switch from puppy food to adult food.

We’ve got all the answers to your most burning questions.

How much food should you feed your large breed puppy?

Growing puppies need a lot of food in general, but large breed puppies especially so.

They eat a lot more food than a smaller breed. Some giant breed dogs have a huge appetite! You may begin to wonder if they do anything but eat and play when they’re young! 

Just check out these Great Dane pups chowing down! 

That’s because large breed dogs grow much faster than small breed dogs, so their body needs a lot more calories.

But you also have to be careful not to feed them too much, because if they are overweight, it can cause serious joint and bone issues later in life. 

The best thing to do is to look at the food label to determine how much your dog should eat.

The manufacturer will usually give you a guideline for feeding based on how much your dog weighs. A young puppy needs around 600-2000 calories depending on its size. 

An older puppy needs around 800-2500 depending on its size. Keep a close eye on your dog’s weight to make sure that they are getting the right amount of food.

When and how often should you feed your large breed puppy?

Large breed puppies should be fed three to four times a day.

You can gradually reduce the number of feedings as they age, but remember that you should still feed them at least twice a day to avoid issues such as bloat (also known as gastric torsion). 

Is raw food good for large breed puppies?

There is some debate out there over whether to feed your puppy raw food, kibble, wet food, homemade food, or some combination of these. 

Raw diets run the risk of spreading bacteria and disease, so immunocompromised people and homes with young children or elderly adults should avoid feeding raw.

The AKC reports that veterinarians think puppies should stick to cooked food until they are adults.

The American Veterinary Medical Association urges people to avoid feeding raw altogether. Some argue that it provides a diet closer to a dog’s natural diet, however.

Some dog foods contain raw food additions like Instinct’s Raw Boost so you can have the best of both worlds. 

When should I switch my puppy to adult food?

Depending on how large your dog will get when it is full-grown, you may want to keep your dog on puppy food until they’re two years old.

Giant breeds like Great Danes and Newfoundlands take up to two years to reach their full size. 

Medium-large breed dogs Malamutes and Akitas can be switched at about 18 months, and smaller large breed dogs like Bulldogs and Retrievers can be switched at around 12 months.

Is human food good for large breed puppies?

Human food can be a welcome treat for large breed puppies.

Don’t be afraid to supplement their food with small amounts of salt and sugar-free treats like ground beef, cooked chicken, brown rice, bell peppers, carrots, and broccoli. 

Avoid giving them anything that has a lot of fat or chemicals and limit-rich treats.

Is it safe to let my puppy eat whenever she wants?

In general, you should be in charge of when your dog eats.

This allows you to monitor their diet better. Puppies are given free range to eat whenever often become obese. Remember, that’s especially dangerous for large breed dogs.

Can you give homemade dog food for your large breed puppy? 

You can absolutely feed your large breed puppy homemade dog food, just as you can any dog.

You need to be extra careful about the nutrients you give them to ensure that they get the things they need to grow big and strong. 

Are large breed puppies susceptible to obesity?

Large breed dogs, in general, don’t appear to be more predisposed to becoming obese, but if they do become overweight, it can have a much larger impact on the dog than on a small breed puppy. 

Large breeds that become obese can have a dramatically reduced lifespan and serious joint, bone, and muscle issues.

Are large breed puppies susceptible to joint issues?

Hip dysplasia plagues many breeds of all sizes, but larger dogs are more susceptible to the debilitating disease.

That’s because they grow faster than smaller dogs, so their joints and bones are taxed more. 

There also seems to be a genetic component involved. Improper weight and nutrition can make the situation worse, which is why choosing the right food is so important.

Give your large breed pup the best nutrition

An American Bulldog puppy sitting on a mushroom stool
Meet Banjo, a curious American Bulldog puppy sitting – Image source

Now you’re a large breed dog food expert! Hopefully, the information in this article will help you and your puppy enjoy a happy, healthy life together. 

If you plan on feeding dry food, we recommend Orijen’s grain-free option. It’s an excellent food for large breed puppies and well worth the extra cost.

If you decide to go the wet food route, Merrick’s recipe is a healthy option, whether as the main meal or just a snack. 

Let us know what your puppy thinks of these tasty foods!

Talk to your vet before choosing any new food for your dog

Remember, it’s best to chat with your vet before choosing a new food.

They know your dog’s health and any health issues best and they can help you pick the perfect formula for your best friend. 

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