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Best Large Breed Dog Food: Puppy, Grain-Free, Senior & More

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Last Updated: November 30, 2023 | 15 min read | Leave a Comment

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Feeding a large breed of dog is a massive responsibility. While plenty of high-quality, very nutritious dog food options are available on the market, they are not all created the same. Not every brand or recipe can support the needs of a large or giant breed. Owners must pay attention to the details of where food comes from and the main ingredients used. Larger breeds need nutrition that supports their bigger bodies, heavier frames, and the high use of their joints. We looked at some of the best large-breed dog foods available and want to share what we found.

At A Glance: A Few Of Our Top Picks

Top PickPuppyGrain FreeSenior
Spot & Tango Unkibble Cod and SalmonOrijen large breed puppyMerrick Backcountry Raw Infused Grain Free Large Breed Recipe Freeze Dried Dog FoodJustFoodForDogs package and food
Spot & TangoOrijenMerrick BackcountryJustFoodForDogs
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Nutritional Needs Of Large Breed Dogs

big brown dog eatting food from metal bowl laying and eating on green park grass

One might think that because a dog is larger, they automatically need to eat more. While partially true, simply over-feeding a bigger breed does not equal providing them with well-balanced, quality nutrition. Larger breeds are those that weigh between 51 and 90 pounds when fully grown. Some large breeds include Great Danes, Bernese Mountain Dogs, German Shepherds, Giant Schnauzers, Standard Poodles, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Australian Shepherds, American Staffordshire Terriers, Samoyed, Alaskan Malamute, Afghan Hounds, Belgian Sheepdog, and the German Shorthaired Pointer.

Giant canine breeds are those that reach over 90 pounds when fully grown. Giant and large breeds have similar needs nutritionally, though giant breed owners should look specifically for nutrition formulated for their dog’s massive size.

Large Breeds Stay Puppies Longer

One of the biggest concerns about large and giant breeds is that they age at a different rate than smaller rates. Larger breeds remain puppies longer and are not fully mature at 12 months. Sometimes, it can take up to two years for a larger breed to fully mature. Because of the extended growth period, larger breeds often stay on puppy recipes for much longer, 18 to 2 months. On the reverse end, they also switch to senior dog chow earlier than other breeds.

Weight Management

Weight management is also a considerable concern for larger-bodied dogs. Though they are big, they should not be overweight. Larger breeds need fewer calories per pound than medium and smaller breeds. Their diets must be packed full of nutrients and energy. Feeding them foods high in calories and too much fat will not properly support their health. If larger breeds become overweight in adulthood, it can quicken the rate of joint dysfunction, diabetes, osteoarthritis, Hypertrophic osteodystrophy, and heart health. Dog food for large breeds should contain L carnitine, essential in burning fat and maintaining a healthy weight. Omega three and six fatty acids are also necessary to support skin and coat health.

Health Concerns For Large Breeds

Larger breeds develop bone and joint problems faster than smaller breeds. They need a diet that includes glucosamine and conditions to support bones and joints. Glucosamine is a critical part of cartilage and comes from poultry and meat proteins.

Large and giant breed canines often suffer from size and breed-related health conditions. All larger canines are prone to joint dysfunction like hip and elbow dysplasia and luxating patella. Bigger-bodied dogs are also at higher risk of heart disease, bloat, arthritis, hypoglycemia, dysplasia, entropion, aortic stenosis, degenerative joint disease, hypothyroidism, and more. Working with your veterinarian to provide your dog with a healthy diet is one of the best ways to keep them healthy and prevent some diseases. Along with that, owners need to keep up with regular care.

Ingredients To Look For

Large-breed dogs need a healthy diet that caters to their distinctive nutritional needs. Proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals are all significant components of large-breed dog food.

Protein

Protein is vital for large breeds. It is critical for energy, growth, muscle development, tissue repair, and immune function. It should make up a significant portion of your dog’s diet. However, not all proteins are equal. High-quality proteins, like animal sources, are more beneficial than plant-based proteins.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates provide energy but should be complex, slow-burning carbs like brown rice or sweet potatoes. Fats are essential for healthy skin and coat, but they must be healthy fats, like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Complex carbohydrates, like brown rice or sweet potatoes, give energy and aid in digestion. Fruits and vegetables supply vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to support overall health.

Vitamins & Minerals

Vitamins and minerals support a range of bodily functions. Calcium and phosphorus are critical for bone health. Vitamins A, C, and E support eye health and the immune system.

Fats

Healthy fats, like those from fish oil or flaxseed, support skin and coat health. They also provide energy and aid in nutrient absorption. Prebiotics and probiotics can help digestive health.

Avoid foods with generic terms like “meat,” “animal by-product,” or “animal fat.” These are usually lower quality and sometimes questionably safe ingredients. Also, avoid foods with artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.

AAFCO guidelines state that adult dog food should have a minimum of 18% protein for adult dogs and 22% for puppies. Larger breeds need closer to 25% protein as adults (on a dry matter basis.) It is very easy to overfeed a larger breed. Be careful to avoid extra, needless calories. Dogs love the taste of protein, as it generally comes from meat. Stick with high-quality foods with enough fat and protein, but be careful to control how much and how often your pup eats.

These larger breeds are more prone to developing gastric dilatation, volvulus (GDV), or bloat. The stomach becomes twisted, often due to eating or drinking too quickly. Bloat can quickly turn serious, even fatal. To reduce the risk, feed large breed dogs smaller meals throughout the day instead of two larger ones. Monitor how long they eat, and never freely feed them. Avoid treats like table scraps, as these lead to indigestion and gas and are unhealthy for your pup.

Best Large Breed Dog Food Winner Spot & Tango Review

spot and tango unkibble

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Spot & Tango Offers a top-of-the-line product. They make both fresh frozen meals and gently dehydrated UnKibble, which dogs simply love. Currently, the company offers three fresh recipes that can be stored in the freezer and three UnKibble recipes that are safe for shelf storage. Meal plans are customized based on a pup’s gender, breed, age, body shape, health, activity, and other considerations. The shelf-stable UnKibble uses human-grade meats, fresh vegetables, fruits, and starches. These are dehydrated under low temperatures, preserving top-level taste and nutrition. Spot & Tango uses ingredients sourced from local farms and human food suppliers. Proteins include beef, chicken, lamb, turkey, cod, and salmon.

Spot & Tango allows customers to create a custom subscription, even mixing both fresh and dehydrated food to create the perfect meal plan for their dog. Owners answer short questionnaires about their pet’s specific conditions and are given recommendations on what recipes will work best for their pup. Ingredients are highly identifiable by sight, and there is no question about what ingredients are used. The shelf-stable UnkKbble option is a fantastic choice for many owners who want to benefit their pets from human-grade meals but do not have freezer space.

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Personal Experience With Spot & Tango

dog eating spot and tango dog food next to box

I was able to try Spot & Tango with my dogs. My younger dog is 3 years old, a poodle Beagle mix named Falkor. He loves to eat and, of course, gobbles up the fresh recipe quickly. My older dog, Daisy, 11, is a large breed. She is a Labrador Retriever Pitbull mix. At her heaviest, she weighs about 85 pounds. In her younger years, Daisy was always very excited to eat. However, over the past couple of years, she has shown less interest in her regular kibble and canned meals. Introducing Spot & Tango to her greatly impacted her appetite and overall interest in meals. She particularly liked the beef and barley on the kibble. We were able to mix the UnKibble in with her regular kibble, and she gobbled it up every time. Daisy also really appreciated the fresh meals.

These meals are much different than canned or wet brands we purchase at the pet store. Introducing these fresh, natural flavors made a difference in her appetite, digestion, and overall energy. As a large breed and an older pup, I was delighted to find something she liked so much after her being so picky and sometimes flat-out refusing to eat her food. I highly recommend Spot & Tango for all breeds, especially larger ones, as I have experienced it to be very beneficial for my dog.

Best Puppy Food For Large Breeds

Orijen Puppy Large Breed Review

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Orijen Large Breed puppy kibble is an excellent all-around pick for larger breed pups. Designed to be protein-rich and nutrient-dense, it can support the changing needs of a growing puppy, including skin and coat health and brain development. The kibble is grain-free and uses up to 85% animal ingredients to create a protein and fat balance puppies need for growth and development. Kibble contains no soy, corn, tapioca, or wheat ingredients. Kibble is also made with a freeze-dried coating to boost raw flavor.

The ingredients of the kibble recipe are chicken, turkey, salmon, whole herring, chicken liver, dehydrated chicken, dehydrated turkey, dehydrated sardine, dehydrated chicken liver, dehydrated egg, whole red lentils, eggs, whole Pinto beans, whole Navy beans, whole green lentils, whole chickpeas, and includes other ingredients like turkey giblets, Pollock oil, chicken fat, dehydrated pumpkin, chicken heart, whole pumpkin, whole butternut squash, collard greens, whole apples, whole pears, whole camp cranberries, and dried kelp. Orijen’s nutrient-dense, flavor-packed formula provides everything larger breed puppies need to be healthy.

Kibble is high in protein, with 38% crude protein (min), 16% crude fat (min), and 4% crude fiber (max). Origin uses a whole prey approach, meaning they use many different parts of the animal, including organ meat. Puppies are drawn to the natural meat flavor and crunch. Owners who want to add grain to their puppy’s diet can mix in some boiled white or brown rice.

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Open Farm Puppy Gently Cooked Review

Open Farm Puppy Gently Cooked Recipe

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Open Farm makes a human-grade, slow-cooked recipe developed just for puppies. The gently cooked formula includes humanely raised chicken, wild-caught salmon, humanely raised pork, chicken liver, carrots, apples, kale, butternut squash, chicken bone broth, pumpkin, flaxseed, coconut oil, sunflower oil, salmon oil, chia seeds, dried kelp, and a variety of other vitamins and nutrients. It is a grain-free recipe, so owners can add some boiled white or brown rice if they want to add that fiber boost.

Open Farm also makes high-protein puppy kibble, both grain-inclusive and grain-free. These are high-quality kibbles made from the same ingredients as the fresh meals. Recipes are formulated to prevent the development of allergies in puppies, and do not use meats with antibiotics or added growth hormones.

Open Farm is a top choice for both wet and dry puppy food. Though not explicitly formulated for large breeds, their meals use some of the best ingredients possible. Because they focus so much on natural proteins, these are a tasty, nutrient-dense pick for large-breed puppies. Open Farm is a high-quality pick for dogs of all ages and all breed sizes.

Price

  • Starting at $99.99 for 8 lbs., or $12.50 per pound

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Best Grain-Free Large Breed Dog Food

Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused Grain-Free Large Breed Freeze-Dried Review

Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused Grain Free Large Breed Recipe Freeze Dried Dog Food

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Merricks’s raw-infused kibble is formulated directly around the needs of larger canines. The recipe supports healthy energy, strong muscles, and healthy joints. Includes glucosamine and chondroitin for bones and joints. Kibble is raw coated, with freeze-dried raw bites mixed in. Top nutrition and plenty of natural meaty taste. All recipes are produced in small batches with omega fatty acids, glucosamine, and chondroitin for joint health.

The formula is high in protein and uses no grains, corn, soy, wheat, or gluten. It helps with weight control and healthy digestion. The recipe starts with deboned chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal, sweet potatoes, potatoes, peas, salmon meal, potato protein, chicken fat, duck, lamb, sunflower oil, chicken liver, apples, and blueberries. It contains 34% crude protein (min), 17% crude fat (min), and 3.5% crude fiber (max) and offers 386 kcal/cup.

Merrick offers a tasty kibble that gives the benefit of raw food. Dogs enjoy robust meat-coated kibble and get the benefit of raw meat proteins. It is made to be highly digestible and grain-free. A grain-inclusive recipe is available. It supports overall health and offers the right nutritional balance to support larger-sized dogs.

Price

Wellness Core Grain-Free Large Breed Chicken & Turkey Review

Wellness Core large breed

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Wellness Core makes a flavorful kibble just for the bigger breeds. Kibble uses fresh, whole-food ingredients, including fresh fruits and vegetables, for antioxidants, fiber, carotenoids, and vitamins and minerals. The recipe is also formulated to support heart health, digestive health, strong bones and joints, and skin and coat health. Wellness’s recipe is grain-free, with no corn, soy, wheat, or gluten. It is developed to be a high-protein, natural formula that is easy to digest.

Wellness uses deboned chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal, lentils, peas, dry ground potatoes, tomato pomace, ground flaxseed, pea fiber, chicken fat, taurine, spinach, broccoli, carrots, parsley, apples, blueberries, kale, and more. No grains, egg products, or meat byproducts make the kibble tasty and easy to digest. It contains 34% crude protein (min), 12% crude fat (min), and 6% crude fiber (max) and offers 342 kcal/cup.

Wellness Core focuses on meat-based, natural recipes. Formulas are grain-free, have no fillers or artificial ingredients, and provide high-quality animal protein from chicken.

Price

American Journey Large Breed Adult Chicken & Sweet Potato Review

American Journey Large Breed Adult Chicken Sweet Potato Recipe

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American Journey’s grain-free recipe featuring chicken and sweet potato is formulated just for larger breeds. The recipe uses no corn, wheat, or soy fillers. Deboned chicken, chicken meal, and turkey meal are the primary protein sources. The formula includes fruits and vegetables like blueberries, carrots, peas, sweet potatoes, chickpeas, and beet pulp. Other ingredients like chicken fat, menhaden fish meal, flaxseed, salmon oil, and dried kelp add nutrients and healthy fats.

There are no unnecessary fillers or additives, which makes kibble easier to digest. The nutrient-dense formula is made just for those heftier breeds. It contains 30% crude protein (min), 12% crude fat (min), and 5% crude fiber (max) and offers 370 kcal/cup.

American Journey also makes a salmon and sweet potato recipe for large breeds. These kibbles are formulated for all life stages but are best for adults over 12 to 18 months, depending on the breed.

Price

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Best Large Breed Senior Dog Food

JustFoodForDogs Large Breed Support Review

JustFoodForDogs PantryFresh Beef Russet Potato

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JustFoodForDogs makes human-grade, fresh, frozen meals specifically for dogs. We like that the recipe is prepared specifically to support larger breeds. Using 100% human-grade ingredients, these limited-ingredient foods are highly digestible and help promote immune system health. The recipes are developed by vet nutritionists and made to promote superior nutrient retention and develop smaller stools. Owners can expect improved digestion, increased energy, mealtime excitement, healthier weight, and a shiny coat. The 100% human-grade recipe is perfect for senior dogs experiencing dietary sensitivities, disinterest in meals, and sensitive stomachs. Nothing digests better than fresh, human-grade ingredients.

The fresh frozen recipe designed for larger breeds includes a healthy fiber ratio to support digestion. Meals use no artificial coloring or unknown chemical additives. It uses no rendered meats or byproducts. JustFoodForDogs recipes are fortified with glucosamine and chondroitin to support bone and joint health.

A favorite JustFoodForDogs recipe is the beef and brown rice formula. The ingredients include beef, brown rice, beef heart, carrots, green beans, beef liver, sunflower oil, flaxseed oil, fish oil, calcium carbonate, shellfish egg meal, beef cartilage, and other ingredients. JustFoodForDogs wet food offers 9.5% crude protein (min), 10% crude fat (min), and 1.5% crude fiber (max).

Price

  • Starting at $272.58 for 7, 80 oz. pouches.

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Canidae Pure Goodness Grain-Free Pure Senior Review

canidae senior limited dog food

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Canidae makes limited-ingredient kibble explicitly crafted for the sensitive stomachs of older dogs. The recipe is grain-free and contains just 9 ingredients: chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal, sweet potatoes, garbanzo beans, potatoes, sun-cured alfalfa meal, and chicken fat. Along with those, added vitamins and minerals create a nutrient-dense, tasty, dry kibble formulated specifically for senior dogs. After cooking, recipes are fortified with Canidae’s HealthPlus blend of probiotics, Omega fatty acids, and antioxidants. Kibble is cooked in-house in the company’s Texas facility.

The recipe includes no corn, soy, or wheat, which can be challenging for the aging dog’s stomach to digest. Using wholesome fruits and vegetables helps provide extra fiber, probiotics, and whole-food nutrients. Kibble is easy on the stomach. Despite having limited ingredients, Canidae’s recipe packs 28% crude protein (min), 10% crude fat (min), and 5% crude fiber (max). It also boasts 409 kcal/cup.

Canidae is a good pick if you are looking for a simple, tasty, nutrient-dense kibble for a large senior pup. It is affordable, made from high-quality ingredients, and packed with a meaty taste, which dogs love. Canidae is great to mix with fresh or freeze-dried meal toppers to give dogs a boost of meaty flavor and a satisfying crunch.

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Best Large Breed Sensitive Stomach Dog Food

The Farmer’s Dog Review

Dog with a box of The Farmer's Dog

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Larger breeds often have sensitive stomachs. One way to approach sensitivity is to feed them a fresh, human-grade diet. While it is hard to do the right way at home, some fresh delivery options are incredibly high quality. One of our top picks for all breeds, especially dogs with sensitive stomachs, is The Farmer’s Dog. The Farmer’s Dog makes human-grade, fresh, frozen meals delivered right to your door. They are about as good as it gets for taste, texture, and quality.

The Farmer’s Dog is great for fussy pups of all ages, puppies, adults, and seniors. Meals use all-natural, top-of-the-line ingredients, minimal processing, and nothing artificial. It uses only limited ingredients and is made in human-grade kitchens. The Farmer’s Dog is good enough for people to eat, not that we recommend it.

Owners set up a personalized subscription based on their pup’s unique needs and tastes. Board-certified American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN) nutritionists develop all recipes. Currently, protein includes beef, chicken, pork, and turkey. They are all grain-free, so some owners mix in rice or add some of the food to dry kibble to get that grain and crunch. The Farmer’s Dog is a premium brand at a higher price but is well worth the investment for a fussy pup.

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Solid Gold Wolf King Large Breed Whole Grain Kibble Review

Solid Gold Wolf King Large Breed Whole Grain Kibble

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Solid Gold offers some different protein choices than others, which may work well for the sensitive stomach of a larger pup. The recipe uses non-GMO whole grains and fresh protein and contains superfoods. The number one ingredient is pasture-raised USA bison. Solid Gold contains no artificial flavors or dyes and no corn, wheat, or soy. It’s an excellent kibble pick for larger pups who need some healthy grains in their diet.

The Solid Gold recipe is developed to cleanse the gut with antioxidants, phytonutrients, and fiber. Prebiotic fiber and live probiotics help with digestion. Omega fatty acids support the immune system, coat, and skin health.

Protein comes from bison and ocean fish meal. Other ingredients include brown rice, oatmeal, pearled barley, chickpeas, peas, potatoes, dried eggs, sweet potatoes, ground flaxseed, dried pomace, chicken fat, salmon oil, pumpkin, carrots, cranberries, and blueberries. Solid Gold has slightly lower protein, 22% crude protein (min), 9% crude fat (min), and 4% crude fiber (max). 340 kcal/cup. While slightly lower in protein, kibble is tasty and easy to digest. It makes a good meal alone or mixed with a fresh or freeze-dried topper.

Price

Premium Food For Large Breed Dogs

Maev Raw Review

Maev raw dog food bag and bowl of food

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Maev is a raw, premium, human-grade frozen delivery dog food. The price is high, over $100 a bag, but it is well worth the price. Maev’s formula is incredibly high quality and very tasty. Without a doubt, dogs love it. Maev is a fantastic choice if owners can afford it, but it can also work as supplemental nutrition. Dogs of all ages and sizes will gobble it up quickly, even frozen right from the back. The chow looks good enough to fry up for lunch, but it’s just for your pet. For extra flavor, add some of their frozen cubes of bone broth.

Maev raw food can be served frozen, mixed with kibble, or thawed out, whichever your pup prefers. Maev is an excellent choice for dogs with sensitive stomachs due to the limited ingredients in their recipes. Additionally, raw food offers top nutritional benefits and has not had any processing.

The only downside to Maev is that it is very high-priced. The higher price makes it infeasible for many budget-conscious owners. However, if owners are looking for meals for sensitive dogs or those with special dietary needs, Maev’s premium option is a tasty, nutrient-dense choice that is sure to satisfy. Can be purchased through the Maev website or on third-party sellers like Amazon.

Price

  • Starting at $138 for 10 lbs.

Personal Experience With Maev

dog eating Maev dog food off plate outside with package on ground next to food

I was able to try Maev with my senior large-breed pup, Daisy. She absolutely loves the raw food. I was concerned that she might not like it because she generally does not eat frozen food. However, she got very excited and gobbled it up immediately. If it were her choice, I’m sure it would be the chow she would always eat.

What About Supplements?

Because larger breeds can be prone to different health conditions, owners are often curious about health supplements. There are many different kinds to choose from, including allergy, bone, joint health, and vitamins to help your dogs through various stages of life. It is best to discuss adding any supplements with your veterinarian before doing so, especially if your pup is older, on any other medications, or suffering from a specific health condition. Along with supplements, owners can consider healthy, vegan dog treats, homemade organic treats, and do-it-yourself dog food recipes. As always, it is best to discuss any significant dietary changes or the addition of anything like vitamins, minerals, or supplements with your veterinarian first.

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The information provided through this website should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease; it is not intended to offer any legal opinion or advice or a substitute for professional safety advice or professional care. Please consult your health care provider, attorney, or product manual for professional advice. Products and services reviewed are provided by third parties; we are not responsible in any way for them, nor do we guarantee their functionality, utility, safety, or reliability. Our content is for educational purposes only.

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