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Welcome to the world of owning a Great Dane Puppy! Now you have to figure out what to feed it. Choosing the right Great Dane puppy food can be difficult and confusing. There is a lot of conflicting, misleading, and even dangerous information out there. We get it, because we’ve totally been there!

Great Dane puppies grow extremely fast and unfortunately, the wrong dog food can be devastating for their health. Giant breed dogs are susceptible to a number of nutrition-related imbalances and orthopedic growth disorders.

Many of these conditions are preventable with the right diet. Choosing the best puppy food for your Great Dane is key, and the right kibble may not be what you think!

If you have a new Great Dane puppy and are confused about what to feed it, you’ve found the most scientific, up-to-date article! We are driven by current research and science, not outdated advice or clickbait.

In this post you will find:

  • A list of the best foods to feed a Great Dane puppy (2023 update!)
  • Health problems caused by incorrect nutrition in puppyhood
  • How to choose food for a Great Dane puppy
  • Best practices for feeding Great Dane puppies
  • Supplements and health information

Read on, Great Dane friends!

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2023 Best Foods for Great Dane Puppies

Before we dig into the WHY, please check out this list of foods that are the best and most well-researched options. You don’t need to flip endless bags to find the right one; choose from the list below and you WILL be making a solid choice.

We know you are busy chasing that cute puppy around, so if you want the simple, already researched-for-you answer, here it is. Easy-peasy!

The foods on the list below meet the following science-backed recommendations:

  • 1.2% or less calcium
  • 3.5g or less calcium per 1000kcal
  • Formulated by a board-certified Veterinary Nutritionist who is on staff for the company (not a consultant)
  • Grain-inclusive
  • Contains Meat Meal as a top ingredient (reduces bloat risk)
  • Has the AAFCO Large Breed Growth Statement
  • Formulated correctly for the growth of large AND giant breed puppies (not “adult maintenance” diets)

Click on any link below to view on Chewy.

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


Great Dane Puppy Growth Disorders Caused by Wrong Food

If you are new to Great Danes, you may not be aware of how they are different than other dogs. They experience explosive growth from birth to 8 months of age, and then continue to grow and fill out until they are nearly 3 years old.

Imagine going from 1 pound to 100 pounds in just 8 months!

The wrong kibble formulation and unbalanced, untested foods from boutique companies or home cooking can cause:

There is a lot of confusion and misinformation out there about what to feed a Great Dane Puppy.

Today we are using science and modern knowledge to clear it up, once and for all!

If you are looking for dog food for an older or adult Great Dane (18+ months), read HERE.


Great Dane Puppy Food – What You Need to Know

We are going to cover some important need-to-know topics below. You may notice that we are going to dispel a LOT of myths about what to feed Dane puppies, too!

Here are some common nutrition myths in the world of Danes. If you hear these, you are hearing information from people that are stuck in 1993.

Never feed puppy food!”

Great Dane puppies should only eat adult food!”

The protein level must be very low! Never feed a food with protein above 24%”

Add calcium to the diet so their bones can grow.”

All of those statements are outdated and misleading! Let’s dig into this!

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Should I feed puppy food or adult food to my Great Dane?

This is the biggest and most important question you can ask yourself as a Great Dane Owner! Should Great Dane puppies eat adult food?

Absolutely not! Get that idea out of your head right now.

Story time!

20 years ago we didn’t have an understanding about what causes growth disorders in large and giant breed puppies. Anecdotally, breeders found that if they fed adult food to their puppies, they experienced fewer growth problems.

At one time, this concept did have merit. The problem here is that it’s now 2023 and we have much, much better choices.

Adult food works to minimize growth disorders by literally starving the puppy of the nutrition that it needs to grow.

Seriously. I don’t know about you, but I am not ok with that. We see a LOT of 8-18 month old Great Danes that have no muscle tone and are hopelessly lanky and skinny. This is why! They are being fed adult food and don’t receive enough nutrients to support their muscle, tendon, and brain development.

Guess what?

Through feeding trials and data research, dry dog food formulas have been modified and updated. Many large and giant breed PUPPY foods are now considered ideal for giant breed puppy dogs.

A science-backed, properly formulated large-breed or giant-breed puppy food will have been designed, tested, and proven to encourage slow growth and healthy bone development. Veterinarians and veterinary nutritionists will repeat this.

Great Dane puppies should be on a well-researched large or giant breed puppy formula until 18-24 months. Intake and body condition should be monitored. You should never, ever feed traditional puppy foods that are not made for large breed dogs! This is of key importance.

Here is our list of appropriate foods to feed a Great Dane Puppy (more on why, below!):

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


Calcium & Phosphorus Ratios in Great Dane Puppy Food

In addition to being an appropriate grain-inclusive large or giant breed growth formula, the ratio of calcium to phosphorus is a key consideration when choosing food for your puppy.

Calcium must be at or below 1.3% (1.2% is even better) and the Phosphorus should be CLOSE behind it.

NOTE: However, even foods with correct calcium and phosphorus ratios may not be appropriate!

There is a lot more to nutrition than just that. Amino acids, the source of those nutrients (meat vs. peas or legumes), and ultimate bioavailability and formulation of the finished product are incredibly important. It is also believed that vitamin D and zinc levels contribute, which is why it is difficult to compare foods in an informed manner. Two foods may appear to be very similar based on the limited information the label provides, however, they likely are not.

A typical CA/PH analysis might look like this below, or similar. Do not feed food brands that don’t have this information easily accessible on the label!

Calcium 1.2%
Phosphorus 1.0%

Look specifically for the AAFCO large breed growth statement on the bag of food. This is a requirement to find in addition to seeing the calcium levels at or below 1.2%!

The AAFCO large breed growth statement will contain something that looks like this:

including growth of large-size dogs (70 pounds or more as an adult)

If it says “excluding growth of large-size dogs”, do NOT feed it. If it does not have a statement about the growth of large-size dogs, don’t feed that either.


What is the Best Protein Level for Great Dane puppy food?

Many people believe that protein is the most important thing to look at. This is fairly dated information, based again on old observations. Some people believe you should keep protein levels less than 24%.

Many Great Danes are being starved of protein in the name of this. Protein provides amino acids that are necessary for health. Protein must come primarily from a meat source. Meat meals and meat by-product meals are ideal, as they offer a concentrated source of amino acids and protein!

Food brands that use ‘fresh deboned meat’ and no meat meals will be deficient and likely heavy in starches; don’t fall for marketing that is designed to appeal to your tastes. Foods that are extremely heavy in peas, lentils, garbanzo beans, potatoes, or derivatives of them are not safe to feed.

Meat meals (or by-product meals) contain biologically appropriate meat tissue, bone, cartilage, and organ. These ingredients have also been shown to reduce the risk of bloat by 53%!

Some of the best foods will have protein levels up to 32%! Royal Canin Giant Breed Puppy, for example, which has been scientifically proven for growth.

Here are other considerations:

AAFCO Food Guidelines for Puppy Foods

The food you choose for your Dane puppy should have an AAFCO statement on the bag with only small variations to the following statement.

This statement should indicate that the food is formulated for the growth of large-sized dogs AND that food trials were used to prove that the formulation is correct for growth:

Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that [THIS FORMULA] provides complete and balanced nutrition for all life stages, including growth of large sized dogs (70 lb. or more as an adult).

***Note: In dog food, ‘Large Sized Dogs’ is a simplified term that INCLUDES giant breeds.

Here is some additional information on AAFCO statements.

If the nutrition statement says “formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles”, it means that the food wasn’t substantiated in food trials. It was only seen to meet certain minimums on paper.

It’s important to understand that MANY food companies can use a computer program to spit out recipes, send it to their marketing department to make adjustments that appeal to you (ingredient splitting), and have it signed off by a consulting company that it meets AAFCO minimums.

Use your best judgment here. Ask questions and look past the marketing.

Best Food Brands for Great Danes

The following food brands are recommended for these reasons:

  • They meet the highest standards for analysis, formulation, testing, science, nutrition, and ethics
  • Formulated by on-staff board-certified veterinary nutritionists
  • They use biologically correct ingredients such as meat by-product meals
  • Subjected to millions of dollars in research, testing and feeding trials
  • Balanced protein, fat, calcium and phosphorus ratios
  • Proven
  • Science-based, not marketing-based

All of the items below are links to this product on Chewy. We recommend placing your choice on autoship!

Large Breed Puppy foods from these brands are ideal for Great Dane Puppies:

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

This list is not exhaustive, and it is up to you to do your own research. It is important to note that the Great Dane community is full of anecdotal stories and dated advice.

Our blog is focused on science and we update it often with the most current recommendations.

We no longer recommend brands that do not meet WSAVA guidelines. See our FAQ for more information.

My great dane is not eating, now what?

Signs that your Great Dane puppy food may not be the right choice:

  • You’ve chosen a food from a boutique ‘feel good’ company that doesn’t employ a board-certified Veterinary Nutritionist (DACVN) to formulate and test the food
  • Your puppy is knuckling
  • Your pup has developed flat feet
  • Your dog is experiencing panosteitis, HOD or wobblers
  • You notice that your puppy has swollen joints, pain or limping
  • You see your puppy suffering from lethargy and general weakness, unrelated to disease
  • Your puppy is not developing muscle tone
  • Your puppy is experiencing excess gas and loose stools that aren’t related to parasites or frequent dietary changes
  • You’ve chosen a brand from an MLM scheme

We do not recommend Life’s Abundance or similar foods or supplements (including NuVet) where breeders receive commissions (‘kickbacks’) when you purchase from them.

These foods are not formulated by boarded, professional Veterinary Nutritionists. The high pricing is reflective of the commission scheme underneath the brand, not of the actual quality.

Choose science, instead:

The Ultimate Great Dane Feeding Chart

What is DCM in Great Danes?

Royal Canin Giant Breed Dog Food Review

Is Large Breed Dog Food Necessary?

Large Breed Adult vs. Puppy Food

Red Flag Dog Foods

Here is our list of dog foods and supplements we would never feed for any reason. These brands made this list because of extra-shady marketing tactics, having a bad reputation among the veterinary and veterinary nutritionist community, having high rates of harm caused by unbalanced nutrition, extreme ingredient splitting, and/or because they are MLM.

  • Orijen
  • Acana
  • Gentle Giants
  • Life’s Abundance
  • Paw Tree
  • NuVet
  • Most grain-free kibbles, especially 4Health, Acana/Orijen, Zignature, Fromm, etc.
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When should my Great Dane puppy switch to adult food?

As long as you are feeding one of our recommended formulas, you should follow the manufacturers recommendation.

Pro Plan, for example, has foods that encourage you to feed them until 18-24 months. Royal Canin does as well.

We believe that Great Dane puppies should have puppy food until 18-24 months.

Puppy Food Q&A

What are WSAVA Guidelines?

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The WSAVA is a non-profit, worldwide organization dedicated to supporting veterinarians, health, science, and nutrition. Any food brand can sponsor these important efforts, however, most boutique brands do not.

The WSAVA has released a set of common-sense guidelines to consider when choosing food for your dog. These guidelines are simply a set of recommendations. There is no such thing as ‘WSAVA Approved’, and the WSAVA does not make ‘kickbacks’ or money from food brands.

See the guide HERE.

Is Large Breed Dog Food ok for Great Danes?


Some science-backed food companies (including Royal Canin and Purina) make ‘Giant Breed’ specific formulas, and those are fantastic!

The Royal Canin Giant Breed line is perfect.

However, many ‘giant breed’ formulas have been phased out or are hard to find.

Large Breed foods from Purina, Hills, Science Diet and Royal Canin are formulated and tested for dogs over 70+lbs, and this includes our giant breed dogs.

Therefore, both giant and large breed formulas are ideal and can be correct for Great Danes!

Meat Meal and Meat By-Products? YUCK, right!?


Many people see ‘Meat Meal’ or ‘Meat By Product Meal’ on the ingredients list and immediately believe that it must mean the food is full of cheap protein and junk.

Meal and Meat By-Product Meals are a concentrated form of whole-prey meat, not junk as you may have been led to believe.

Dogs don’t eat nicely cut and trimmed steak and chicken filets like us humans do.

They eat the WHOLE animal! Bone, organs, muscle, tendons and more. There is absolutely nothing wrong with meat meals and meat by product meals.

“By Product” simply means that the food is a rendering left over from some other process. Us humans don’t eat a lot of organ meat. Therefore, organ is ‘by product’.

Dogs NEED organ, bone and other ‘yucky’ things in their diet.

Whole prey model raw diets rely heavily on bone, organ and other tissues.

It’s not junk, it’s necessary nutrition.

What are Boutique Food Brands?

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A boutique food brand is a dog food from a company that:

-Does not employ a board-certified Veterinary Nutritionist (DACVN) to formulate and test foods
-Does not regularly utilize ongoing AAFCO food trials to test and substantiate their formulas
-Does not participate in or contribute to veterinary-level research and nutrition science
-Does not support ongoing veterinary health efforts (WSAVA, for example)

Boutique food brands often:

-Use marketing to make you ‘feel good’ about the food

-Rely on generic, unregulated terms such as ‘holistic’, ‘farm fresh’, ‘family-owned’ and ‘human grade’ to guide you so that you look past deficiencies in their scientific practices

-Will intentionally misrepresent science-backed and heavily-researched foods as ‘trash’, ‘garbage’, ‘fast food’ or ‘horrible’ so that you feel emotional or worried about food and buy their brand instead

Boutique food brands are linked to secondary DCM, a devastating heart condition that can cause sudden death in ‘healthy’ looking dogs.

I don’t see a popular food recommended here, why not?

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Popular foods seen in the Great Dane community include Victor, 4Health, Diamond Naturals, Costco, Fromm, Zignature, Nulo, Nutro, Solid Gold, Orijen, Acana, The Farmer’s Dog, Honest Kitchen, Canine Caviar, Liberty, and Holistic Select (among others).

These are all ’boutique’ foods. We will not recommend them.

They do not employ DACVN Board-Certified veterinary nutritionists to formulate their foods. They do not participate in well-run nutrition research and food trials for their brand or for the greater good of dogs.

For example, Fromm foods are formulated by a chemical engineer.
Victor foods are formulated by a guy with an online certificate in dairy cattle feeding.

Contrary to popular belief, boutique food brands are not inherently ‘higher-quality’.

Marketing is what makes you believe that it is.

Boutique food brands are linked to secondary DCM, and should be fed with caution.

Many dogs that suffer from nutritional DCM have healthy coats and good stools! They die suddenly, often without warning because their heart enlarges and eventually gives out.

It is believed that a majority of nutritional DCM cases go undiagnosed, because of this.

Nutritional (Secondary) DCM is caused by unbalanced nutrition.

We recommend sticking with science at this time and feeding only the highest quality, heavily researched diets that were substantiated in actual feeding trials, not just looked over by a ‘nutritionist’ on paper.

Don’t vets get a kickback on food?

Brindle Great Dane

Many people believe that the only reason their veterinarian recommends Purina, Hill’s or Royal Canin is because their vet is receiving kickbacks and took all of their nutrition education from those companies.

Considering that those companies are the ones spearheading and funding most, if not all of our existing canine nutrition research, those are the companies that should be educating veterinarians!

Veterinarians that sell foods in their lobby mostly offer the prescription formulas to pets who need them and yes, they do receive a nominal amount of money for this, which covers the costs associated with stocking the food.

Keep in mind that the pet store who is trying to sell you the pricier boutique food brand with the higher margin is ALSO receiving a ‘kickback’ to promote the foods they sell. As a matter of fact, these kickbacks can be both high-pressure and HUGE. Influencers, bloggers (yes, even us here at Hello Danes), and brand reps all make money selling food brands to you.

No matter what food you buy, somebody somewhere stands to make money on the deal. Veterinarians are approached by ’boutique’ food brands OFTEN and absolutely could sell those options in their lobbies.

But they don’t, because veterinarians believe in science and research. Not marketing and woo.

My trainer/breeder/nutritionist recommended something else

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Your trainer and breeder are not nutritionists. They are subject to the same marketing as you, which was created to make you feel nervous and guilty about choosing food for your dog. Follow the money here!

‘Nutritionist’ is an unregulated term. Anybody can take an online course and obtain that as a ‘title’. There are many ‘nutritionists’ out there, many of whom charge money for their services.

The only legitimate nutritionists are veterinarians who have obtained additional credentials, study, degrees, and board certifications in the field of animal nutrition. Read more about DACVN at

What about fresh foods?

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We believe in fresh foods!

As a matter of fact, studies have shown that feeding a dry-kibble-only diet may increase the risk of bloat.

We recommend supplementing a healthy, well-formulated science-backed kibble with up to 10% raw or fresh foods. Purina One or Pro Plan Canned, balanced raw, Olewo Carrots, fresh fruits and vegetables, or Dr. Harvey’s are some of our favorites.

What about raw feeding?

Raw feeding can be done right!

We recommend working with a board-certified Veterinary Nutritionist and learning a lot about raw feeding before getting started. is a great resource.

Formulating your own raw dog food at home is rewarding, but you have to do it correctly. There are many misconceptions and myths about raw feeding and the truth is that most owners are not educated or equipped enough to do it correctly. Each meal must be perfectly balanced, and care must be taken to ensure food safety.

We do not recommend raw-feeding giant breed puppies during their extreme growth phase (birth to 9 months) without professional veterinary nutritionist support.

What about home-cooked diets?

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Meat, veggies, and rice is NOT a balanced diet and may be extremely dangerous, despite the fact that it makes you feel like you are doing something ‘healthy’ for your pet.

If you do make a home-cooked stew, use it as a topper for an already balanced, science-backed commercial food.

Studies show that over 94% of home cooked diets are not correctly balanced (leading to nutrient deficiency or worse, toxicity).

To feed a full home cooked diet, work with a veterinary nutritionist and utilize BALANCE IT to view what nutrients are missing from your recipe.

You can hire a DACVN HERE.

We do not recommend home-cooking for Dane puppies under the age of 1 year, if ever at all.

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. Great Danes loves polutry meat; I regualry feed my Dane with fish, red meat, and foods having a high amount of omega 3 fatty acids. They have large bones and those bones need nutrients, calcium. Seriously Great Danes are very brave. I was trekking with my Aunt and my brave Great Dane, and suddenly, we had an encounter with a fox, but thanks to Great Dane, he kept the fox away from us, and she barked at the fox loudly, resulting in our safe trekking.

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