Large Breed Puppy Food vs. Adult Dog Food: What's the Difference?

Ashley Gallagher, DVM
Written by:
Published: April 24, 2014
Large Breed Puppy Food vs. Adult Dog Food: What's the Difference?

Is Your Large Breed Dog Getting the Right Dog Food?

Puppies of any size or shape are just about guaranteed to be adorable. Even though they seem similar, puppies grow at different rates depending on their breed. Large breed puppies like Labrador Retrievers and Great Danes, for example, need a much different diet for optimal growth than a tiny Yorkie or Chihuahua. For this reason it is extremely important to feed your large or giant breed puppy a food specifically formulated for his nutritional requirements.

Proteins are the building blocks of the body and an absolute necessity for daily function and growth. Puppies require more protein than adult dogs because their bodies are busy growing. Puppy food should be higher in calories than adult food to compensate for how much energy puppies expend by growing, not too mention all that playing. About half of the calories they consume are spent on tissue growth and development. However, you must be careful and consult your veterinarian because feeding large breed puppies something that is too high in calories and protein may make them grow too quickly and cause health issues later in life.

Just like people, puppies and dogs do best with a balanced diet of nutrients such as protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Excessive protein in a diet is not only unnecessary but in large breed puppies it can result in an unbalanced ratio of calcium to phosphorus.  If this ration is not ideal a puppy’s bones may grow too quickly resulting in abnormal joint development, which can lead to arthritis down the road.  Large breed puppy food has a specific calcium and phosphorus ratio to ensure the bones develop properly to help prevent joint disease.

How Do I Choose the Best Puppy Food?

You should choose a large breed puppy food from a dog food company that has undergone AAFCO feeding trials. This means that the specific formulation of the diet has been fed to dogs to make sure there are no deficiencies. As surprising as it may seem, many dog food companies make their food based on a recipe and never feed it to actual dogs before sending into the stores. You want to choose a pet food company which invests in scientific research and consults with veterinary nutritionists to provide a dog food that specially balanced for a puppy's development.

Should I Be Concerned About My Puppy's Weight?

Keeping your puppy at a healthy weight is crucial to lifelong health. Underweight puppies may not develop properly while puppies that are overweight are at increased risk of being overweight adult dogs. This can lead to diseases such as arthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and even heat exhaustion during outdoor activities. Your veterinarian should evaluate your puppy’s body condition score at each visit to make sure you are on track with nutrition.

When Do I Switch My Puppy to Adult Dog Food?

Large and giant breed dogs will not stop growing for the first year or two, depending on the breed. You can continue feeding a large breed puppy formula until their growth plates have sealed as long as they are not overweight. However, you must work closely with a veterinarian to assess your puppy’s body condition score. This will ensure that your puppy switches from puppy to adult dog food at the ideal time.

Ashley Gallagher, DVM

Image: Karramba Production / via Shutterstock

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