Are you searching for the best dog food for your large breed dog? Whether you’ve got a German Shepherd or a Labrador, we’re here to give you the full nutrition lowdown. Feeding your dog the right food can be the difference between a healthy and happy life and malnutrition and illness. So, it’s safe to say that picking the best food for him is one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a dog mom or dad.
But with thousands of dog foods out there, where exactly do you start? Should you feed him the same food as you did when he was a puppy? We’ll answer all of your questions and more. From the nutrients your big pooch needs to what ingredients to look out for, you’ll be a pro by the time you’ve read this guide.
You’ll also have a selection of the best dog foods for large breed dogs to choose from—both dried and wet, catering to all doggy tastes and needs. We’ve made sure there is something here for every dog and every budget. So let’s get stuck into the world of big dog food.
At a Glance: Our Favorite Foods for Large Breed Dogs
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- 1 Large Dog Breeds
- 2 Buyer’s Guide
- 3 Dry Dog Foods For Large Breeds
- 4 Wet Foods For Large Breed Dogs
- 5 Weight Management Dog Foods
- 6 Final Thoughts
Large Dog Breeds
So, the first question here is, what counts as a large dog breed? Although there are no official guidelines, most accept that large breed dogs weigh between 51 to 100 pounds at maturity. If you have a puppy that’s expected to fall into this weight, we have a large breed puppy food guide. So, be sure to check that out as they have different needs. Anything over is consider a giant dog breed.
But some dog breeds fall into both medium and large dog breed categories, and some fall into large and giant categories. This is why it is essential to focus on the weight that your pooch is. For example, Rottweilers weigh between 80 and 135 pounds. Meaning some will be large, and some will be giant. So, get your scales out to check where your bestie falls.
Not only do large adults have different nutritional needs from puppies, but they also have different needs than large senior dogs. So, if you are interested in the various life stages of your dog’s breed as a whole, we have a bunch of breed nutritional guides for you to check out too.
- Doberman Food Guide
- Labrador Retriever Food Guide
- Siberian Husky Food Guide
- Goldendoodle Food Guide
- German Shepherd Food Guide
- Golden Retriever Food Guide
- Labradoodle Food Guide
- Belgian Malinois Food Guide
- Rottweiler Food Guide
Most big breed puppies don’t hit maturity until they are 12 to 18 months old. Some large dogs can be switched to an adult kibble anytime between 12 to 18 months. But again, every dog is different. If you have any questions about when to change your pup to a large breed adult kibble, your vet will be able to offer you tailored advice.
Just like us humans, all dogs are different. Not only do they have dietary needs, either through allergies or health conditions, but they also have various taste preferences.
That’s right; some dogs will turn their noses up at certain meats or flavors. Some dogs will need a grain-free diet, and some will require a limited ingredient diet. You will probably know what your pup needs from his food by the adult stage, so use all that information to help you choose.
Big dogs carry more weight and therefore need more energy to sustain their days ahead than smaller breeds. Large breed adult foods also have the optimal ratios of calcium, phosphorus, vitamin D, and fats.
The extra weight that larger dogs carry also has an impact on their joints. This means that dog foods for big dogs also have extra glucosamine. This helps to support joints, and many large dogs are at a higher risk of joint conditions such as hip and elbow dysplasia.
Finally, if you choose to feed him dried kibble, big breed kibbles have larger pieces. These larger biscuits need crunching and help break down the plaque buildup in his mouth, preventing periodontal diseases. And crunching his food rather than inhaling small breed kibble will help with digestion too.
A well-balanced diet is almost always guaranteed in commercial dog foods. And although many big dog owners like to feed their pups raw food, it doesn’t include all the nutrients needed. This is why most canine nutritionists and vets worldwide recommend kibble.
To ensure that he gets a well-balanced diet, you must know what you are looking for in a food product. Many pet food brands will mislead customers and exaggerate claims that persuade you to buy their products. Unfortunately, they put profit before the best interests of your pooch. So it’s your job to ignore the labels and claims and instead read the ingredients list yourself. Here is what you should be looking for in a good-quality large breed dog food:
The first ingredient should always be meat, either whole meats or meat meals. Meat provides protein and amino acids, which are the essential building blocks. It also provides oils, fats, energy, vitamins, minerals, and taste. So, look for ingredients such as chicken or deboned salmon, etc.
Meat meals will simply be listed as chicken or beef meal. A meat meal is concentrated protein and is very good for dogs. It can have up to four times the protein amount compared to whole meat ingredients. The meat should also be named and not listed as meat derivatives or poultry meal, for example. Some large dogs might be allergic to chicken and not turkey. But with unnamed meats, you cannot be sure what it is.
Carbs are necessary for a dog’s diet because meat alone cannot provide sufficient energy to keep him going throughout the day. Healthy carbs are natural grain ingredients such as oatmeal, barley, and brown rice. Or vegetables such as potatoes, peas, and lentils. Your decision about whether to include them or not will likely be influenced by you and your vet’s views on grain vs. non-grain diets and your dog’s dietary needs.
Omega Fatty Acids
Despite what most people think, fats are also a necessity. Fats are crucial and support his skin, coat, bones, organ health, eyes, digestion, vitamin absorption, and overall wellness. Look for meat meals, fish, fish oils, plant oils, and flaxseeds that are rich in omega fatty acids. Avoid fatty human foods, as these do not contain the right fats and lead to weight gain and other health concerns.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruit and vegetables offer a variety of benefits for Fido. They provide vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to keep his immune system strong and healthy, providing power to fight disease and illness. They also provide fiber to support his digestive system. Fiber also keeps him feeling fuller for longer, which is important to prevent additional weight gain.
Essential Amino Acids
Amino acids are the critical building blocks that all living things need to live. All of his bodily functions rely on these compounds. Protein is a great source of amino acids and can be found in animal meat, egg products, and fish oils. Manufacturers may add healthy amino acids to commercial dog foods. The key ones to look for include arginine, lysine, histidine, isoleucine, phenylalanine, threonine, valine, leucine, methionine, and tryptophan.
This is an essential nutrient when it comes to big dog nutrition. Many high-quality food brands increase the glucosamine levels in their large breed recipes because their joints are under increased pressure from a heavier bodyweight. Even if he doesn’t suffer from poor joint health now, it’s important to start from a young age to support joint health as he ages. Ingredients like meat meals, fish oil, eggs, and green-lipped mussels are fantastic glucosamine sources.
Natural is always the way to go when it comes to food. Preservatives are required to keep kibble and wet food edible. Ascorbic acid (vitamin C), mixed tocopherols (vitamin E), and botanical oils such as peppermint and rosemary extract are natural ingredients that help keep food fresh. Other artificial ingredients, including colors and flavors, should be avoided because they can irritate doggie digestive systems.
Dry Dog Foods For Large Breeds
We have scoured the market for the very best, using the knowledge above and online reviews. And we guarantee that there is something to suit most dietary needs, flavor preferences, and owners’ budgets. Read through our reviews to help you choose which product is best for you and Fido.
Hill's Science Diet Adult Large Breed
- Real chicken is the very first ingredient.
- Highly digestible, flavorful recipe.
- Natural sources of glucosamine and chondroitin.
- Clinically proven antioxidant blend.
- Omega-6 fatty acids.
- Made in U.S. facilities.
- No artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.
American Journey is a relatively new dog food brand, but they are proving to be popular thanks to their high-quality products. This formula is designed specifically for large dog breeds. It is made with high-quality real meats such as deboned salmon and menhaden fish meal, which provide lots of healthy fats and glucosamine for joints.
It is also the lowest calorie count, making it a great option for big dogs to maintain their weight or if they have become less active in their older years. Brown rice and peas are the primary carb sources, and dried beet pulp provides prebiotic fiber. It also lists added vitamins and minerals, like blueberries, cranberries, and carrots, for an antioxidant boost. Mineral-rich dried kelp is named as well.
We love that this recipe is packed with salmon and other omega-rich ingredients that are ideal for coat, joint, and overall wellness. It’s packed with flavor too!
Blue Buffalo Wilderness Large Breed Grain-Free
- Great alternative to raw food diets.
- Made with deboned beef, lamb and venison.
- Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids.
- Free of chicken, by-product meals, corn, wheat or soy.
- The finest natural ingredients, including antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables.
- Grain-free diet.
Wellness is a well-established brand, and CORE is their protein-rich line. This kibble has the highest protein content on our list and one of the highest in the market too. Deboned chicken, chicken meal, and turkey meal provide lots of protein and amino acids. As well as lots of yummy taste that your big dog will love. As a result, this recipe also has the highest glucosamine content, which is great for his large joint needs.
Lentils, peas, and ground potatoes provide healthy carbs, and this is a grain-free recipe for those who need such a diet. This recipe uses fruits and veggies that offer his immune system antioxidants. Spinach, broccoli, kale, apples, and blueberries are listed, as well as a long list of added vitamin and mineral supplements. Dried fermentation products are listed too, which help to promote friendly bacteria in his gut.
We love that this recipe is our premium pick. It uses a lot of real meat ingredients to provide a high protein content. Great for big and energetic dogs.
Nutro Limited Ingredient Diet Adult Large Breed
- Number one ingredient is lamb.
- Made with 10 ingredients or less.
- Natural flavors, vitamins, and minerals.
- Naturally sourced glucosamine and chondroitin.
- Made in the USA with non-GMO ingredients.
- No artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.
This is our top pick for large breeds who have sensitive stomachs. It is made with less than ten key ingredients, meaning that everything included is needed and nothing that isn’t essential. Lamb is the sole animal protein, which is easier for many dogs to digest than other meats. Deboned lamb and lamb meal are the first two ingredients, so it’s great for dogs that go mad for this meat.
Chickpeas, potatoes, and sweet potatoes provide fiber and energy to keep your big pooch energized. A long list of vitamins and minerals are added to the limited ingredients to support the digestive system. This recipe has a high-calorie content, which is ideal for very active big dogs. Sunflower and canola oil are great for skin and coat health.
We love that this recipe caters to large dogs with sensitive digestive systems. A limited ingredient diet keeps it simple and reduces the likelihood of irritating his stomach.
Wellness CORE Large Breed
- Crafted into a larger kibble size.
- Formulated with chicken, turkey, fruits, and vegetables.
- Designed to promote lean body mass, muscle tone, and a healthy coat and skin.
- Fortified with antioxidants, probiotics, vitamins, minerals, glucosamine, chondroitin and omega fatty acids.
This recipe is from the high-protein Wilderness range, but it is different from the rest, which is why we have included it on our list. This recipe is chicken and poultry-free, an ingredient that many dogs do not tolerate well. So this pick is for these canines! It uses only red meats and fish for protein, including deboned beef, fish meal, beef meal, deboned lamb, and deboned venison.
It is a grain-free option that uses peas, tapioca, and potatoes as the secondary energy sources. Flaxseed and fish oil provide healthy omega fatty acids. It is rich in antioxidants and other mineral-rich ingredients, including alfalfa meal, sweet potatoes, cranberries, and dried kelp. Dried fermentation extract helps to support regular healthy digestion.
We love that this recipe is chicken and poultry-free, making it a great option for large dogs with poultry sensitivities. Whereas many kibbles use these ingredients, this recipe features rich and tasty red meats and fish.
American Journey Active Life Formula Large Breed
- 24% high-quality protein from real, deboned salmon as the first ingredient.
- Antioxidant and nutrient-rich vegetables.
- Easily digestible, fiber-rich grains.
- Balanced blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
- No wheat, corn, soy, poultry by-product meals, artificial colors, artificial flavors or artificial preservatives.
Hill’s Science Diet is based on the scientific observations of canine nutritionists, so you can be sure that it will meet your large dog’s nutritional needs. This recipe has the lowest protein content in our list. But some dogs do better on a lower protein kibble, so this choice is for these pups. Chicken is the first ingredient, and chicken meal (higher protein content) is listed further down.
It is a grain-inclusive recipe that uses barley, wheat, and corn to supply energy for the day ahead. Apples, broccoli, carrots, and cranberries are added to keep the immune system strong. And there is a long list of added vitamin and mineral supplements to keep him fit. Natural sources of glucosamine are listed, keeping joints supported as your dog ages.
We love that this scientifically-based recipe caters to the needs of large breed dogs.
Wet Foods For Large Breed Dogs
As you already know from the previous sections, we are a huge fan of dried kibble. However, we also understand this is not the best option for every dog. Wet food might be the only option, or your dog might need it in addition to dry kibble. So, whether your large pooch will only eat wet food or requires softer food for medical reasons, we have a selection here of some of the best.
Blue Buffalo Homestyle Recipe Large Dog
- Starts with real chicken to support healthy muscle maintenance.
- Serve as a special treat, mixed with dry food or all on its own as an entree.
- Formulated with glucosamine and chondroitin to support joint health and mobility.
- Does not contain any by-product meals, corn, wheat, soy, artificial flavors, or preservatives.
Blue Buffalo has created this homestyle recipe specifically for large breeds, meaning it is juicy and full of taste. It has the highest protein content on our wet food list, thanks to chicken being the first ingredient. Chicken broth is the second ingredient, making it super juicy. Fish oil is added to support joints.
Carrots, peas, and sweet potatoes provide prebiotic fiber, and a mix of berries contributes antioxidants to support a healthy oxidative state. Brown rice, barley, and oatmeal pack lots of energy in this grain-inclusive option. L-carnitine is also listed in this recipe, supporting the metabolism and maintaining weight.
We love that this recipe has the highest protein, fat, and calorie content, making it the best option for big active dogs.
American Journey Limited Ingredient Diet
- Made with a limited number of high-quality ingredients.
- Real lamb is the first ingredient.
- Grain-free meal.
- No corn, soy or wheat.
- Packed in BPA non-intent cans for safety.
- Manufactured in the USA.
This is our top wet food pick for large dogs with sensitive stomachs. It is a limited ingredient option made with seven key ingredients. The first three ingredients are lamb, lamb broth, and lamb liver, which are all easy to digest and nutritionally rich. Sweet potatoes offer healthy carbs and fiber, and it is a grain-free option.
Sunflower and fish oil provide plenty of healthy omega fatty acids for his skin and coat health. There is also a wide variety of added vitamin and mineral supplements for his immunity. This wet food isn’t made specifically for large breed dogs, but it ticks all of the boxes, which is why it has made it to our list. This is a premium loaf recipe.
We love that this recipe is a limited ingredient wet food, which is the best option for sensitive stomachs.
Weight Management Dog Foods
It is super important that large breeds do not become overweight because each pound adds extra pressure on already heavily laden joints. Also research shows that being overweight leads to other health concerns. So, it’s really important to keep the weight down for big dogs, even more so than with smaller dogs. For this reason, we have reviewed two weight maintenance dog food options.
If you notice that your pooch is gaining more weight than he should, be sure to switch him to a healthy weight option. Get him moving more, too, to burn off those extra calories. Also, take him for a checkup with the vet to make sure that there isn’t an underlying health reason for his weight gain.
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Large Adult
- High-quality protein and L-Carnitine for lean muscle development and reduced calories from fat.
- Glucosamine and chondroitin.
- Calcium, phosphorus, and essential vitamins.
- Chelated minerals and antioxidants for immune system health.
- No corn, wheat, soy, or chicken (or poultry) by-product meals.
Blue Buffalo has created a high-quality weight management recipe for large dogs. Chicken and chicken meal are the first two ingredients, and brown rice and barley provide gentle grains for energy. The fat content is 9%, the calorie count per cup is 323, and fiber makes up 10% of the recipe. Blueberries and cranberries provide antioxidants for immunity.
We love that this gourmet recipe is made specifically for larger dogs to maintain their weight.
Hill's Science Diet Adult Large Breed Light
- Contains 18% fewer calories than the Adult Large formula to help transform fat into energy.
- Glucosamine and chondroitin work together to maintain healthy joints and cartilage.
- Antioxidant and vitamin E and C.
- No artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.
- Made in the USA.
Chicken meal is the first ingredient and the sole animal protein, making it a good option for large dogs with sensitive stomachs. The fat content is 5.5%, and the calorie count per cup is just 271. It is a grain-inclusive option and provides a 14% fiber content, helping keep Fido feeling full for longer. L-carnitine stimulates the metabolism to burn extra calories.
We love that this recipe has a low calorie count per cup, allowing your large dog to lose weight more quickly.
Hopefully, we have cleared up all the canine confusion regarding what to feed your big pooch, including the various options to choose from. All of our recommendations are from well-known brands and include high-quality ingredients. Each one is designed specifically for large breed dogs and has been tested on them as well, so you can rest assured that they are safe, nutritious, and tasty.
Always choose the option that best suits your pup and their dietary needs. But no matter which one you choose, we bet your big pup will go mad for it! By picking one of our recommended options, you can be sure that you are taking a step in the right direction towards better big breed health.