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Can Puppies Eat Adult Dog Food? The Scary Truth of Feeding a Great Dane Puppy

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Feeding Great Dane puppies is no easy task. They eat a lot, and there is a ton of misinformation and outdated advice out there about what to feed them!

Great Dane puppy owners are bombarded with a million ideas of what is ‘best’ for growing Great Dane puppies.

Home cooked diets, raw diets, grain free food, or even adult dog food…. What the heck SHOULD your Great Dane puppy eat?

We’re digging into the science of Great Dane puppy nutrition and bringing you current advice about feeding puppy vs. adult food to your puppy.

  1. Why feeding adult food to Great Dane puppies is an outdated practice
  2. How to choose the right food for your Great Dane
  3. The research behind pet nutrition
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Should Great Dane Puppies Eat Adult Dog Food?

We’ve all heard it.

You’re minding your own business in the Great Dane facebook group, chatting happily with other loving pet owners, sharing cute pictures and talking about your love of large breed dogs when someone decides to talk with you about your puppy’s diet.

“Never feed puppy food!”

“Feed low protein adult food ONLY”

“Puppy food causes knuckling”

…If you’ve heard dog owners give this speech about your large breed dog-




Large Breed Puppies and Science Development

Historically, (think 15+ years ago) dog food brands were lacking in their research on large breed puppy food.

In result, giant breed dogs were typically fed adult food rather than the puppy food brands on the market, which were unsuitable for growing giant breeds.

In other words, those who had to feed a Great Dane puppy historically were ‘stuck’ without giant breed specific formulas, and thus resorted to feeding their dane puppies adult food in order to get as close as possible to the nutrient requirements for growing Great Danes.

Giant Breed Puppies Suffer When Great Dane Owners Don’t Know How to Feed a Growing Large Breed

Sadly, many Great Dane puppies are experiencing the consequences of outdated advice to feed them “adult only” dog food. These pups tend to be lanky and suffer from chronic loose stools due to overeating in an attempt to make up for nutritional deficiencies – resulting in a lack of proper muscle development.


But, in more recent years, there have been an incredible advancement in the research and development of large breed puppy food.

As a result, there are now numerous dog food brands (especially science-based and veterinarian formulated kibble brands) that are offering formulas specifically designed for giant breeds.

These formulations contain the right balance of protein, fat, calcium and phosphorus to promote controlled growth rates in Great Dane puppies.


So, when you hear someone tell you to feed your Great Dane puppy adult dog food, keep in mind that this is an outdated way of thinking.

If you are looking for the best food for your Great Dane puppy, there are many options on the market specifically designed to meet the needs of giant breed puppies.

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Great Dane Breeders

Many large breed breeders who have been producing dane puppies for generations are ‘stuck’ in a mindset of feeding Great Dane puppies adult dog food due to the lack of them keeping up with the research in large breed puppy diets.

If you are buying a Great Dane puppy from an experienced breeder, they should suggest you feed a large breed puppy food, and explain why.

If they don’t- you may want to reconsider the breeder you are considering and look for someone who is more up-to-date on nutrition and breeding large breed puppies responsibly.

Giant Breeds, Great Danes and Their Unique Need for Large Breed Food

Great Dane pups need Great Dane puppy food! Do not feed your Great Dane pup adult food.

With its impressive size, Great Dane puppies require special nourishment to reach their full potential – feed them a large or giant breed puppy food until they turn 18-24 months old and watch as they grow into magnificent adult dogs!

Here are our favorites:

Check out THE GIANT DOG FOOD PROJECT to compare brands and values.

Giant Breed Growth: Why It Matters to Feed Great Dane Puppy Food

It matters that you, as your Great Dane puppy’s guardian, are aware of the importance of feeding a large breed puppy food.

This type of kibble is formulated to provide the proper levels of calcium and phosphorus for controlled growth, as well as adequate protein and fat levels for muscle development.

Feeding your Great Dane puppy adult dog food will cause them a lack of important nutrients, leading to health complications as an adult due to their fast rate of growth.

By making sure your Great Dane pup is getting the right nutrition from the start, you will be helping them grow into a healthy and happy dog in adulthood.

What to Look For in a Great Dane Puppy Food


AAFCO is a term you’ll see on your bag of puppy food- this stands for the Association of American Feed Control Officials. This organization sets standards and regulations for pet food in the US, so a bag with an AAFCO stamp will ensure that the product is safe and balanced to feed your pup.

Having an ‘AAFCO approved’ label is not enough to ensure your pup’s food has everything they need. Modern puppy formulas are extra special; with nutrients that have been carefully crafted to promote even bone and joint development, as well as improved muscle tone, vision health, gut function and mental clarity!

Having said that, by seeing the AAFCO statement, you can discover key insights on a dog food label that will help determine if it meets your pup’s nutritional needs.

Feed a Great Dane Quality Proteins

High-quality proteins should come from animal sources like chicken, beef or salmon meal.

Despite misconceptions, Great Danes need more protein in their diets than one might think! A lack of sufficient levels of this essential nutrient can put a damper on muscle growth and energy output. A common myth in the Great Dane world is that Great Danes will wither or knuckle on a diet that has too much protein. This is false!


Fats are necessary for brain development in puppies, so make sure the food also contains high-quality fats.

Omega fatty acids and other antioxidants will help ensure optimum health for your giant puppy as he grows into an adult Great Dane.

Feeding the correct diet to your Great Dane puppy is one of the most important decisions you can make for their long-term health and wellbeing.

Here is the list of best puppy food for Great Danes:

Home Cooking

Home cooking meals for your dog means taking ‘human grade’ food such as fresh meat, vegetables and grains then preparing them in a way that your pup will be able to digest.

This is an excellent option for people who want to ensure their pet is eating only wholesome ingredients and foods that are tailored to their individual needs. It does however require some research and education on the part of the owner, as meals can VERY EASILY become unbalanced. We do NOT support home cooking unless you are working with a board certified veterinary nutritionist.

Finding a Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist

All canine nutritionist are not made equal. An inexperienced nutritionist may give advice that is not balanced or appropriate for your pet. To ensure you are getting the best help possible, it is strongly recommended to search for a Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist (DACVN).

A veterinary nutritionist has specific expertise in canine nutrition and will be able to make dietary recommendations tailored to your individual dog’s needs.

When selecting a food for your Great Dane it is important to review the nutritional information on the label, speak with your veterinarian and/or board certified veterinary nutritionist, and consider the reviews of other owners who have used the same product with their large breed pup. With so much choice available it can be difficult to know what is best for your Great Dane, but a good quality food that provides optimum nutrition will be worth the time and effort!

The right diet for your Great Dane puppy is essential for their long-term health. Feeding them with a high-quality large breed puppy formula with plenty of protein, carbohydrates, fats and minerals.

Red Flags to Look for When Feeding Your Great Dane Puppy

Being aware of red flags when feeding your Great Dane puppy can be the difference between a healthy, happy pup and one that experiences health issues.

Food For ‘Adult Maintenance’ Does Not Work for Great Danes

Two decades ago, Great Dane puppies faced a unique challenge – finding the right food to ensure they stayed healthy and strong. Fortunately today, there is an expansive range of special formulas that make sure these pooches get all the nutrients needed for optimal growth!

With today’s incredible progress in nutrition, puppy food is specially designed to support a pup’s growth and nourish them from head-to-tail! It helps promote healthy bones & joints as well as muscle strength, vision, digestive system development and cognitive capacity.

Companies That Tell You “Meat Meals are Evil”

Companies that tell you that meat meal is evil are often wrong. Meat meal can be an excellent source of protein and other vitamins & minerals that are perfect for your Great Dane puppy’s growth.

Meat meal, after all, contains significantly less water and therefore animal protein than fresh meat and is cooked & dehydrated which increases the concentration of nutrients. In general, high-quality meat meals contain more protein compared to fresh meats, as well as higher concentrations of other micronutrients like iron and zinc.


Meat meals are a nutrient-dense, high-protein, dehydrated form of organ meats and muscle, skin, and cartilage tissue that has been shown in studies to reduce the risk of bloat.

Bloat is a common problem with Great Danes, and when fed the right kind of meat meal blend, it can help reduce the risk. Meat meals such as chicken meal, lamb meal or turkey meal are often combined with meat by-product meals to provide your pup with a nutritious and balanced diet that will keep them healthy and strong for years to come.

By-Products are a key to keeping your Great Dane healthy and energized! These often misunderstood ingredients, such as liver, bone marrow & cartilage actually provide essential nutrition like protein and minerals. So don’t hesitate: add some by product meal into the mix next time you feed Fido – it’s one of the healthiest gifts you can give them!

When it comes to keeping your pup at its peak health, animal byproducts provide the perfect nutritional balance. Moreover, going beyond just parts of an animal and utilizing all sources available is a forward-thinking approach that shows care for our ethical values, financial wallets as well as environmental impact.

Plain meats such as chicken might not provide the same nutritional benefit you would expect. After all, it’s mostly water! To truly receive optimal nutrition for your pet, consider going with meat meals instead – they are much richer in essential vitamins and minerals than muscle meat is.

Pet parents everywhere are being duped by deceptive marketing of ‘fresh meat in kibble’, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Let’s upgrade the pet food story and give our furry friends better nutrition!

Ingredient Splitting

Big brands are getting crafty when it comes to disguising unhealthy ingredients in their products. Through ingenious ingredient splitting, they can sneak additives past unsuspecting consumers – even though these substances may be detrimental both health-wise and financially. Be sure to read labels carefully!

What’s in our pet’s food? The ingredients list can give us a glimpse into how nutritious the dish is. Fresh meat may be deemed high quality, but once water evaporates during production of kibble there isn’t much left – simply an illusion to its original state!

Despite their flashy appearance, consumers should be wary of foods with ingredients like spinach and blueberries – they may just be marketed as a healthier alternative to real meats that truly contain the necessary proteins.

Read more here.

The Food is Not Formulated by a Professional

Exciting news for owners of large-breed puppies! Companies like Purina, Hill’s and Royal Canin have dedicated resources to uncover the nutritional needs required by giant pooches such as mastiffs and Great Danes. Soon these canine specialists may be able to provide tailored nutrition plans that will help ensure healthy growth – no matter how big your pup is!

Grain Free Dog Food

Should you feed your dog grain free dog food?

Many dogs know nothing better than the delicious crunch of kibbles, providing them with tasty sustenance day in and day out!

Every pup knows their daily dose of kibble to stay nourished, but its crunchy goodness doesn’t last long without an additional starch! Grain-inclusive varieties provide the perfect combination; keep your furry friend’s diet complete and healthy with a hearty helping of starches like rice or oats.

And, without an added starch, the kibble would fall apart!

However, some (most/all) companies are using an alternative ‘binder’ in their grain free formulas: peas and lentils. This poses a MASSIVE issue.

Grain Free and DCM (Heart Disease)

Many wonder if grain free dog food causes DCM in dogs.

Well, a study released in December of 2022 states that diet is indeed a risk factor for canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). So, if your pup is on a grain free diet, you should consult with your vet to consider changing their food regimen.

But- it’s not because of the lack of grain!

Believe it or not, some of the food you may be feeding your beloved four-legged companion could potentially put them at risk for developing heart disease.

What to Avoid

Pulse ingredients may include:

  • Peas
  • Garbanzo beans/chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Beans

The Calcium and Phosphorus Ratio is Not Appropriate for Great Dane Feeding

Not all dog breeds require an exact ratio of calcium and phosphorus in the same way that Great Danes do.

Too much or an uneven balance of Calcium and Phosphorus can cause serious health issues in our four-legged friends, ranging from trembling to bone diseases. This can lead to them being unable to walk properly or have weakened bones – ouch! Keep these vital nutrients balanced for your pet’s wellbeing.


Most people wither and fear the dreaded recall.

But are recalls really that bad?

A recall means that a product has been identified as potentially harmful to your pet. It is important that you check with the manufacturer regularly and be aware of any recalls for the products you are feeding your pup!

It is also essential to stop using a food immediately if it has been recalled. Even if your dog hasn’t displayed any symptoms, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

An Ethical Brand Will Recall Their Food

The truth of the matter is all brands will have bad batches of food.

However, which brands choose to inform you of those bad batches is the difference between an ethical and an unethical brand.

An ethical pet food company will issue a recall as soon as they are aware of any potential problems with their products, as well as provide assistance to anyone who has been affected. They understand the importance of maintaining their customer’s trust and strive to do right by them every time.

It is alarming to discover brands that refuse to recall their foods from consumers, even after becoming aware of harmful outbreaks.

Darwins Refuses to Recall Their Pet Food After Salmonella Outbreak

Victor Foods Unprecedented Recall


Feeding a Great Dane consists of finding a high quality puppy food, becoming knowledgeable on puppy foods, and speaking with your vet about all their is to know about large breeds and their needs.

Feeding your Great Dane does not need to be a difficult task. With the right knowledge and understanding, you can provide your pup with a nutritious diet that will keep them healthy and happy for years to come!

It is important to ensure your dog’s food is being sourced from an ethical brand, as well as being aware of any potential recalls which could pose a risk to your pet’s health. Additionally, it is essential to maintain an appropriate calcium and phosphorus ratio in order to avoid any negative health consequences.

By doing your research and following the guidelines set by experts, you can rest assured that your pup’s diet will be tailored to their needs!

It is also important to remember that not all grain free diets are bad for your pup, but it is essential to do your research and understand the ingredients. Additionally, it is important to check in with your vet about any potential dietary changes for your pet- especially if they are at risk of developing DCM.

Let us know in the comments what you feed your Great Dane puppy!


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Blue Great Danes – Facts, Photos, and Care
The Best Collars for Great Danes
Great Dane Puppy Food
Great Dane Farts: The Funniest Collection of Photos and Videos on the Internet
Great Dane Not Eating – What to Do

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. 

2 Responses

  1. So here is the question on nutritional values
    For a great dane puppy
    What would be the best levels of the following
    Best ca:p ratio low to high
    What is important vitamin and minerals it should have for a Giant Breed fast growth? Thank you

    1. Hi Gary,

      Don’t get hung up on the protein and fat values. In a food with well balanced calcium, phosphorus, vitamin D, zinc, and over all energy those values do not matter and can actually stop you from choosing some of the best foods.

      Dane puppies need:

      Around 1.2% calcium
      Less than 3.5g calcium per 1000kCal
      A ca/ph ratio of between 1.1 : 1 and 1.2 : 1
      Food labeled as a large breed puppy or all life stages specific food WITH the AAFCO large breed growth statement.

      This site is a great resource, in addition to the nutrition articles on this page.

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