Table of Contents
Essential Guide to the Best Large Breed Dog Food
Is your dog bigger than all the other doggies in the park? Do they jump onto your lap as if they were a bouncy ball, unaware of their size? Is your pooch the same height as you are when they prop up on their hind legs?
If you answered “yes” to all of the above questions, then congrats, you are a proud owner of a large breed—or crossbreed—pup!
Apart from taking up much more space on the couch, the size of the dog plays a crucial role in choosing the right kibble that matches their nutritional needs.
From kibble size to the macro-and micronutrient content, there is a lot to consider before choosing the right chow. That is why we at Alpha Paw have taken it upon ourselves to help you find the perfect kibble for your furball so that they can achieve optimal health and reach their full potential growth-wise.
One thing’s for sure: the reviews we conduct are not a result of a paid partnership. This is an honest, no-nonsense overview of the best available dog food in the market, based on scientific facts about canine nutrition.
Evaluation Process for the Best Large Breed Dog Food
The quest for the right chow is not an easy one. It takes time to research and a whole lot of munching before figuring out the brands that truly put their money where their mouth is.
Our first stop was with our faithful vets. They gave us the basic info on what large breed dog food should look like, the ratio of macronutrients, the number of micronutrients, and the presence of supplements.
Next in line were the dedicated pet store workers in our neighborhoods. We figured they are the right address for all canine-related inquiries since they deal with this topic more than anyone else.
As we value our readers’ opinions more than anything, we went on to ask them what they feed their big doggos as we compiled our definitive list. They provided us with valuable insight into large breed eating habits and needs, which is something you won’t find on any dog food packaging.
Our preliminary research has produced a list of 46 dog chow brands that claimed they have all it takes to satisfy the nutritional needs of any large breed pooch. As it turned out, 25 of them failed the initial test, which included reading tons of online reviews and checking their guaranteed analyses against scientifically determined nutritional requirements for jumbo canines.
Selection Process for the Best Dog Food for Big Dogs
The 21 brands that made it to our shortlist were then ready for actual testing. Establishing a few basic criteria has helped us move through the testing process. Each dog food brand we tested had to:
- Comply with the standards of “complete and balanced” nutrition proposed by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and monitored by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
- Be sourced from genuine, whole-food ingredients
- Have a near-perfect calorie-to-nutrient ratio
AAFCO standards are the criteria governing the marketing of pet food proposed by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). For instance, under the first so-called “95% rule,” animal food labels featuring a single ingredient must contain at least 95% of the said item, and so on. Although the AAFCO is not a government agency, all reputable producers follow these rules.
Sourcing from whole-food ingredients may sound like a complicated rule that requires a lab analysis. In reality, it is the most simple criterion—if a doggy parent can’t understand where the heck a particular component of the chow came from, then it’s best to step away from the shelf.
Surprising as it may seem, bigger tummies don’t need higher-calorie diets than their smaller cousins. They may even be detrimental to their health. We’ll get back to this later on in the section where we discuss the right amount of nutrients for big pooches.
One could say this forms a solid basis for research done by a small team of dog aficionados, who don’t get their cues from affiliate links!
The Final Countdown: What Is the Best Large Dog Food?
We sifted through the list, double-checking the ingredients and verifying their compliance with the standards, while our associate researchers munched away on dozens of kibbles!
Three months later, the time has come to present the very best of what dog food producers have to offer to large and giant pups!
|Alpha Paw Picks||Brand||Rating|
|Best overall||Wellness CORE Large Breed||5.0|
|Runner-up||Now Fresh Grain-Free Large Breed Adult Recipe||4.8|
|Best on a budget||Instinct Original Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken||4.7|
|Best for senior dogs||Wellness CORE Senior Dog Food||4.8|
|Best for puppies||Blue Buffalo Carnivora Woodland Blend Large Breed Puppy||4.9|
Our top pick: Wellness CORE Large Breed
Wellness Core Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food Large Breed emerged as the best-performing of all dog foods we tested! The reasons for this are simple—this is a premium-quality chow that is both nutritious and, according to our test subjects, absolutely delicious.
Ingredient-wise, this food is packed with high-quality protein sourced from real chicken, it’s on the lower end of the scale when it comes to fat. It also contains many vegetables, like spinach and carrots, that provide necessary vitamins and antioxidants.
Another advantage of this food is that it has an exceptionally high level of calcium, an essential mineral that helps to keep those big bones strong.
What we loved about it:
- Bursting with protein and calcium
- Low in fat
- Naturally preserved
|Crude protein||34.0% min|
|Crude fat||12.0% min|
|Crude fiber||6.0% max|
|Vitamin A||25,000 IU/kg min|
|Vitamin E||400 IU/kg min|
|Omega 6 Fatty Acids||3.25% min|
|Omega 3 Fatty Acids||1.0% min|
|Glucosamine||1,400 mg/kg min|
|Chondroitin Sulfate||1,400 mg/kg|
|Total Lactic Acid Microorganisms||80,000,000 CFU/lb min|
Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal (source of Glucosamine), Turkey Meal (source of Chondroitin Sulfate), Lentils, Peas, Dried Ground Potatoes, Tomato Pomace, Ground Flaxseed, Pea Fiber, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Natural Chicken Flavor, Potassium Chloride, Taurine, Vitamin E Supplement, Spinach, Broccoli, Carrots, Parsley, Apples, Blueberries, Kale, Choline Chloride, L-Carnitine, Zinc Proteinate, Mixed Tocopherols added to preserve freshness, Zinc Sulfate, Calcium Carbonate, Niacin, Iron Proteinate, Ferrous Sulfate, Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Manganese Sulfate, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Sodium Selenite, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Biotin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Chicory Root Extract, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Calcium Iodate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Dried Lactobacillus plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Rosemary Extract, Green Tea Extract, Spearmint Extract.
Second Best: Now Fresh Grain Free Large Breed Adult Recipe
Image source: Petcurean
Now Fresh Grain-Free Large Breed Adult Recipe is the right choice for everyone who wants to keep the freshness of dog food at an optimal level.
Protein in this chow is sourced from premium-quality meat such as turkey, salmon, and duck meat. Omega fatty acids come from superfoods like coconut and canola oil that promote the healthy development of the pooch’s ticker. It contains no artificial products and meat by-products, making it one of the healthiest kibbles on the market.
What we loved about it:
- No meat by-products
- No preservatives
- No grains
|Crude protein||27% min|
|Crude fat||13.0% min|
|Crude fiber||4.0% max|
|Omega 6 Fatty Acids||2.4%|
|Omega 3 Fatty Acids||0.48%|
|Chondroitin Sulfate||120 mg/kg|
De-boned turkey, whole dried egg, potatoes, peas, potato flour, tapioca, natural flavour, flaxseed, de-boned salmon, de-boned duck, pea fibre, apples, sweet potatoes, dicalcium phosphate, canola oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), coconut oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), alfalfa, carrots, pumpkin, bananas, blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, papayas, lentil beans, broccoli, spinach, squash, pomegranate, dried chicory root, calcium carbonate, sodium chloride, potassium chloride, vitamins (vitamin A supplement, vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin E supplement, niacin, L-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (a source of vitamin C), d-calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate, beta-carotene, riboflavin, pyridoxine hydrochloride, folic acid, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement), minerals (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, copper proteinate, zinc oxide, manganese proteinate, copper sulphate, ferrous sulphate, calcium iodate, manganous oxide, selenium yeast), taurine, DL-methionine, L-lysine, glucosamine hydrochloride, dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, New Zealand green mussels, yucca schidigera extract, chondroitin sulphate, L-carnitine, dried rosemary, green tea extract, peppermint, parsley, rosehips, zedoary, dandelion, chamomile, ginger, turmeric, fennel, juniper berries, licorice, cardamom, cloves.
Best on a Budget: Instinct Original Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken
Image source: Instinct pet food
Instinct Original Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken is another grain-free chow that is bursting with high-quality protein but is at the same time suitable for people who want to save some money buying food for their furry friends.
Meat content goes up to 70% in this food and is sourced from cage-free chicken and no meat by-products. The micronutrients come from a wide range of fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, apples, and cranberries.
|Crude Protein||37% min|
|Crude Fat||20% min|
|Crude Fiber||3% max|
|Vitamin E||100 IU/kg|
|Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)||85 mg/kg|
|Omega 3 Fatty Acids||0.30 %|
|Omega 6 Fatty Acids||2.60 %|
|Bacillus coagulans||60,000,000 CFU/lb|
Chicken, Chicken Meal, Peas, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid), Tapioca, Herring Meal, Menhaden Fish Meal, Natural Flavor, Salt, Dried Tomato Pomace, Potassium Chloride, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate, Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin), Carrots, Apples, Cranberries, Montmorillonite Clay, Minerals (Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Ethylenediamine Dihydriodide), Choline Chloride, Freeze Dried Chicken, Freeze Dried Chicken Liver, Pumpkinseeds, Freeze Dried Chicken Heart, Dried Bacillus coagulans Fermentation Product, Rosemary Extract.
Best Large Breed Dog Food for Senior Pups: Wellness CORE Senior Dry Dog Food
Image source: Wellness pet food
Wellness CORE Senior Dry Dog Food is the best choice of chow for doggos that have entered their golden years.
Apart from boasting a high amount of quality protein, this kibble has an exceptionally high level of micronutrients sourced from healthy ingredients such as salmon and flaxseed that promote the health of heart, skin, and coat.
Added joint supplements in this chow promise to keep your dog’s joints more flexible, while probiotics manage the intestinal flora, keeping it an optimal level.
What we loved about it:
- Added joint supplements
- Micronutrients sourced from leafy vegetables and fruits
|Crude protein||32.00% min|
|Crude fat||12.00% min|
|Crude fiber||6.25% min|
|Vitamin A||25,000 IU/kg min|
|Vitamin E||400 IU/kg min|
|Omega-6 Fatty Acids||3.25% min|
|Omega-3 Fatty Acids||1.25% min|
|Glucosamine||275 mg/kg min|
|Chondroitin Sulfate||200 mg/kg min|
|Total Lactic Acid Microorganisms||80,000,000 CFU/lb min|
Deboned Turkey, Chicken Meal, Dried Ground Potatoes, Peas, Turkey Meal, Lentils, Tomato Pomace, Ground Flaxseed, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Chickpeas, Natural Chicken Flavor, Salmon Oil, Vitamin E Supplement, Choline Chloride, Spinach, Broccoli, Carrots, Parsley, Apples, Blueberries, Kale, Taurine, Sweet Potato, Zinc Proteinate, Mixed Tocopherols added to preserve freshness, Zinc Sulfate , Calcium Carbonate, Niacin, Iron Proteinate, Ferrous Sulfate, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Chondroitin Sulfate, Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Manganese Sulfate, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Sodium Selenite, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Biotin, Chicory Root Extract, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Calcium Iodate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Dried Lactobacillus plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Rosemary Extract, Green Tea Extract, Spearmint Extract.
Best Large Breed Dog Food for Puppies: Blue Buffalo Carnivora Woodland Blend Large Breed Puppy
Image source: Amazon
Blue Buffalo Carnivora Woodland Blend Large Breed Puppy is the perfect nutritional start for large and giant breed puppies, with 85% of protein sourced from chicken, turkey, saltwater fish, and duck.
The protein effect is boosted with several legumes, but, unlike many other kibbles, this one does not rely on vegetables as the source of protein.
With this chow, you can rest assured that your pooch will get the right amount of all vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that promote the health of the skeletal system, vital organs, skin, and coat.
What we loved about it:
- Strong reliance on canines’ ancestral diet
- Carbs kept at a minimum
|Crude Protein||40.0% min|
|Crude Fat||17.0% min|
|Crude Fiber||5.0% max|
|Choline||2,750 mg/kg min|
|Omega 3 Fatty Acids||0.75% min|
|Omega 6 Fatty Acids||3.0% min|
|L-Carnitine||100 mg/kg min|
Deboned Chicken, Dried Chicken, Deboned Turkey, Chicken Meal, Tapioca Starch, Chicken Liver and Hearts, Dried Egg Product, Dried Tomato Pomace, Fava Beans, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Lentils, Chickpeas, Deboned Duck, Gelatin, Natural Flavor, Flaxseed (source of Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids), Fish Oil (source of ARA-Arachidonic Acid, DHA-Docosahexaenoic Acid, and EPA-Eicosapentaenoic Acid), Chicken Cartilage, Dried Pollock, Dried Sole, Dried Halibut, Dried Cod, Turkey Liver, Dried Pork Liver, Dried Chicken Liver, Dried Sardine, Dried Tuna.
Ideal Macronutrient Ratio in Top Large Breed Dog Food
The right content of protein, fats, and carbs a particular pooch should eat is influenced by several factors that aren’t always easy to calculate. Let’s first break down the roles of macronutrients so you can get a clearer picture of their importance and be able to determine the right amounts.
Protein is the building block of muscles, and bigger bodies need more muscle mass to support their massive skeletal systems.
According to the National Research Council, a balanced diet for large and giant breed whelps should contain at least 30% of quality protein. When it comes to adult doggos, they should source 22–28% of their calorie intake from protein.
“Quality protein” refers to the source of the ten amino acids dogs need, but their bodies can’t synthesize. Contrary to a common misconception, the source of protein plays a minor role—as long as the pooch can extract the right amino acids from the food they eat, you don’t need to worry whether the protein is animal- or vegetable-based.
These water-insoluble molecules serve as the most readily available source of energy.
The recommended share of fats in dog food made especially for large and giant breed puppies should range between 10-14%. The percentage is a bit higher for mature doggos and ranges between 10–16%.
Pups burn calories much faster than adult dogs and, knowing that dogs can metabolize up to 95% of fat they consume, you shouldn’t worry too much about that greasier brand you stockpiled—just make sure that this doesn’t happen habitually.
Too much fat can trigger many health conditions in dogs large and small. Acute pancreatitis is one of them, while others include a range of cardiovascular diseases the pooch can suffer from if they overeat.
Inappropriate dietary fat can result in poor growth and diminished physical ability. Dry skin and coat are also among the symptoms of inadequate ratios of fat in the food, while in extreme cases, dogs can even develop dermatitis.
Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy. They can be either simple (sugars found in fruit, for instance) or complex (sugars in green and yellow vegetables).
There is another type of carbs that cannot be digested but can improve digestion. Fiber is an insoluble type of carb that only passes through dogs’ intestinal tracts and doesn’t interact with enzymes there.
Food rich in fiber is the right choice for furballs that tend to overeat. Fiber absorbs excessive water and offers the feeling of a fuller tummy. This doesn’t apply to high-energy requirement periods, such as growth or lactation, because fiber may scoop up other beneficial substances on its way through the intestine.
Simple, complex, or fiber, there is no recommended percentage of carbs the dog should consume, and no rules to guide the right amount of sugars in dog food.
Here’s a handy reminder of the recommended intake of protein and fat for a large breed dog:
Senior dogs’ dietary needs differ from those of puppies and mature dogs. As shown in our review of the best senior dry dog food, nutritional requirements change dramatically when dogs reach their golden years.
What’s the Difference Between Large Breed Dog Food and Small Breed Dog Food?
The difference between the best dry dog food and the worst dry dog food is clear, but what makes large breed chow so special?
The first and the most important distinction between large and small dog breeds’ nutritional needs is seen in their size.
Due to their vastly different anatomy, small and big pups have distinct requirements for nutrients. Large breed puppies should have a diet that is less calorie-dense because eating food that is abundant in fat can cause these pooches to grow at a rate that their skeletons can’t keep up with. At the same time, giant breed pups need more calcium than normally found in dry dog food for small dogs, to allow their bones to grow at the desired rate.
Large breed dogs who are affected by an imbalance of nutrients (e.g., high fat content, low calcium) may, as a result, develop skeletal abnormalities and subsequent orthopedic diseases such as:
As they grow older, they burn fat slower, so the fat content should be reduced. The same goes for calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and vitamin D levels—they are all essential for bone development, and, in later stages in life, they are not as needed as when a doggo is still a pupper.
How Much of the Top Rated Large Breed Dog Food Should I Feed My Pooch?
Once you have found the ideal food for your pooch, the best way to go is to consult the feeding chart on the packaging. The number of nutrients contained in each cup of the food will be right only if you follow the instructions.
Generally speaking, adult large breed dogs should be fed twice a day according to this chart:
|Weight (in pounds)||Daily serving size (in cups)|
Whelps should eat at least three times a day. That will help them make the most of nutrients in each feeding, while smaller amounts of chow will be easier on their tiny tummies.
|Puppy age||Serving size (in cups)|
|Up to 3 months||1 ¾–4 ¼|
|3–5 months||3 ¼–5 ⅓|
|5–7 months||4 ½–6 ⅓|
|7–1 year||4 ¼–6 ⅓|
These are the basic guidelines for an average-sized large breed, such as the Labrador Retriever of the Doberman. Depending on the size—there are much bigger pooches out there!—and the level of activity, the quantity should be increased accordingly, in line with the feeding chart on the packaging and vet’s recommendations.
Final Thoughts on the Best Dog Food Brands for Large Dogs
Now that you’ve become a dog food expert, all that’s left is to pick the right kibble for your pooch and watch them munch away happily! Let’s sum up the most important characteristics of quality dog food.
The best chows for extra-large pups are made to satisfy their high requirements for protein, while at the same time keeping the fat content at an optimal level.
In whelps, too much fat can lead to quicker growth, which can cause their tiny bones and joints to form improperly.
For a large breed dog to grow properly, the diets must contain high levels of calcium and magnesium to promote the proper development of their large skeletal systems.
Remember to keep it simple and natural—the best kibbles are made from genuine, fresh ingredients, with no shady explanations on the back of the packaging.
- Palika, Liz. The Consumer’s Guide to Dog Food: What’s in Dog Food, Why It’s There, and How to Choose the Best Food for Your Dog. Howell Book House, 1996.