Great Dane Puppy Food

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8 mins read

Great Dane puppies grow extremely fast. Choosing the right Great Dane puppy food is key!

The wrong formulation and unbalanced, untested foods from boutique companies can cause:

  • Bone growth disorders
  • Knuckling
  • Limb Deformities
  • Flat feet
  • Weak pasterns
  • Incorrect bone density and development
  • Lack of muscle tone
  • Dull coat
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Elbow Dysplasia
  • Low Energy
  • Calcium, taurine, or vitamin deficiencies or excess
  • Secondary DCM

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! We are going to share the best food for a Great Dane puppy, and food brands to choose from that are formulated for large and giant breed growth.

If you are looking for dog food for an older or adult Great Dane (15+ months), read HERE.

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Calcium & Phosphorus Ratios in Great Dane Puppy Food

The ratio of calcium to phosphorus is a key consideration when choosing food for your puppy.

Calcium must be at or below 1.5% and the Phosphorus should be CLOSE behind it.

A typical analysis might look like this:

Calcium 1.2%
Phosphorus 1.0%

The following puppy food brands and formulas below are ideal for Great Dane puppies (continue reading for more information about why):

271631 MAIN. AC SS348 V1631149304
271628 MAIN. AC SS348 V1626396086
90757 MAIN. AC SS348 V1635866197

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.

Large breed foods from science-backed companies such as Purina, Iams, Hills, Eukanuba and Royal Canin will have been correctly formulated for growth, regardless of the protein level indicated on the bag.

Here are other considerations:

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How to Choose a Healthy Food for your Dog:

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association has put together some common-sense guidelines for choosing food.

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.

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

We’re covering more giant breed puppy nutrition information below, but if you are impatient for our list of the BEST foods, we’ll post them here as well! Each one links to Chewy, for your convenience.

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

It used to be said to NEVER feed a Great Dane puppy ‘puppy’ food.

This is majorly outdated advice based on old, dated food formulations and is no longer true!

Through feeding trials and data research, formulas have changed and many large breed puppy foods ARE appropriate and ideal for giant breed dogs.

A science-backed, properly formulated large breed puppy food will have been designed, tested, and proven to encourage slow growth and healthy bone development.

Our TOP PICKS for Giant Breed Puppies:

The following food brands meet the highest standards for ingredients, analysis, formulation, testing, science, nutrition, and ethics.
Large Breed Puppy foods from these brands are ideal for Great Dane Puppies:

271631 MAIN. AC SS348 V1631149304
271628 MAIN. AC SS348 V1626396086
90757 MAIN. AC SS348 V1635866197
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IS GRAIN-FREE FOOD DANGEROUS?

Read more here ↗

Great Dane Puppy Food Brands

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.

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

271631 MAIN. AC SS348 V1631149304
271628 MAIN. AC SS348 V1626396086
90757 MAIN. AC SS348 V1635866197

The Royal Canin Giant Breed line. Tailored nutrition from puppy through adult:

63276 MAIN. AC SL1200 V1530038530
Feed until 8 months of age.
63278 MAIN. AC SL1200 V1530030508
Feed from 8-24 months of age.
62058 MAIN. AC SL1200 V1592946427
Adult formula from 24 months on.

We believe in Pro Plan because it’s one of the only food brands on the market that has been heavily researched, tested, and backed by canine nutrition science, including for the growth of large and giant breed dogs.

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 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:

271631 MAIN. AC SS348 V1631149304
271628 MAIN. AC SS348 V1626396086
90757 MAIN. AC SS348 V1635866197
63276 MAIN. AC SL1200 V1530038530
Feed until 8 months of age.
63278 MAIN. AC SL1200 V1530030508
Feed from 8-24 months of age.
62058 MAIN. AC SL1200 V1592946427
Adult formula from 24 months on.
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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?

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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!?

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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. Balanced raw, Olewo Carrots, fresh fruits and vegetables, or Dr. Harvey’s are some of our favorites.

What about raw feeding?

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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. www.perfectlyrawsome.com is a great resource.

Formulating your own food at home is rewarding, but you have to do it correctly.

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.

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.

Hello Danes

Dane lover and believer in ethical breeding, training and rescue practices. Positive + Balanced trainer, owner of rescue dogs and dogs from breeders. Love the dog in front of you.

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