The Great Dane is a massive dog with a gentle heart. It is a friendly, loyal, and truly a man’s best friend.
How much does it cost to feed a Great Dane? Feeding an adult Great Dane typically costs between $70 – $100 per month. Great Danes need quality food to meet their dietary needs and avoid health issues down the road.
The dietary needs of Great Danes vary depending on their activity level and age. It is essential to understand the best types of feed for Great Danes and what you should feed adult and puppy Great Danes.
Feeding a Great Dane
All dogs have some unique features. However, few dog breeds have the word “Great” included in the name! Therefore, it should come as no surprise that these gentle giants eat more food than the average dog.
Despite their giant size, Great Danes are a calm breed with low-to-moderate energy levels. This means that while they will eat more than an average-sized dog, it’s probably not as much food as you might expect!
While each dog’s activity will vary, you can expect most fully grown adult Great Danes to eat between 6-10 cups of food (kibble) per day. Note, that due to variation in each dog’s resting metabolic rate, this number can vary by as much as 20%.
While that may sound like a TON of food, it’s actually lower than many other breeds on a calorie to weight basis. Many generic calorie recommendations for dogs are targeted in the 25-30 calories per pound range.
Let’s use the Great Dane Care mascot (Gus) as an example. At the time of writing this article, she’s a 4-year old female weighing ~135 pounds. Based on these calculations she’d be expected to eat between 3,375 – 4,050 calories per day!
Spoiler alert – she doesn’t eat anywhere near that much!!
In reality, Gus eats 7 cups of food per day (split across 2 meals). Her particular food, Wellness Large Breed Adult, contains 340 calories per cup. Doing the quick math, that means she’s eating around 2,380 calories per day.
While that’s still not a small number by any means, it’s a good deal short of the 25-30 calories/pound range specified in the other sources. In fact, if we reverse-calculate the calorie to pound ratio it comes to just under 18. That’s a whopping 32% less than the bottom of the “generic” food range provided.
This isn’t to say that every Great Dane should be fed 18 calories per pound of bodyweight – that’s just the number that we found to be the case for Gus. Her age, sex, activity level, and genetics play a massive role in landing on that specific number.
While this is good news in a sense that we’re able to save money by feeding her “less” food, that’s not why we feed her that amount. A dog’s food intake should 100% be tailored to their specific needs.
How do you know how much to feed a Great Dane then?!?
Well, the quick answer is to just take a look at their body composition. If you can see every rib in the dog’s body, that’s a pretty clear sign that they probably need more food.
On the flip side, if you can’t see the faint outline of their last rib, then you may want to consider cutting their food back a little bit.
In either scenario, make small adjustments and allow time to see how or if they make an impact on the dog’s body composition and repeat if needed.
Last but not least, in the event that you’re not sure, just ask your veterinarian and they’ll be quick to provide feedback on your dog’s weight.
If your dog is struggling to maintain their weight, then there very well could be other health issues at play that need to be addressed by the veterinarian.
For a simple starting point, you can also take a look at our puppy feeding guide to get started.
Adjustments to Food Intake for Great Dane Adults
Regardless of how you’re calculating food intake, it’s common sense that you can expect larger dogs will eat more food. Because males are generally larger than females, you can expect them to in slightly more.
While certainly not always the case, males do have a tendency to be more rambunctious, therefore requiring a higher caloric baseline.
During the end of their puppy growth phases (12-18 months), you may find that your dog eats slightly more than their full-grown selves. Like human teenagers, their bodies are nearing physical maturity but their metabolism is still in a growth (calorie-consuming) mode that requires more energy.
Once they reach physical maturity around two years of age, you can expect a slight taper off to the previously mentioned ranges. I cover everything you should know about picking a Great Dane puppy food here.
Food Intake for Great Dane Puppies
Unfortunately, the breed is known for a variety of diseases that often result in shortened lifespans. For this reason and others, it’s absolutely critical that a Great Dane puppy is fed properly to ensure correct development.
During their first two years of life, when their bodies will experience massive growth, it’s even more critical. To put things into perspective – Great Danes usually weigh 1-2 pounds at birth.
By the time that they’re full-grown, they will weigh anywhere from 110-175 pounds. It’s not uncommon to see larger males even reach 200+ pounds!
As you can see, that’s a lot of growth for their bodies to handle. And with that massive growth, comes some important considerations to account for.
Important Considerations for Feeding
Due to their massive growth, one of the biggest challenges when feeding Great Danes is incorporating a diet that prevents the development of orthopedic diseases (DOD). Examples of DODs include swollen carpals, deformed limbs, pano, and hypertrophic osteodystrophy.
These are often seen in puppies during their high-growth months, and in addition to being painful, can result in long-term damage. Special “puppy” foods with extreme amounts of protein to encourage rapid growth are believed to be the primary source of these issues.
In addition to these extra-high protein foods, the ratio of the micronutrients calcium and phosphorus is also important as they play a critical role in bone formation.
Last but not least, Great Danes have notoriously sensitive stomachs. Puppy diarrhea is extremely common, and will only be worsened by feeding them low-quality foods. Just one more reason why it’s important to feed your Great Dane well!
Rather than completely repeat this topic, I’ll refer you to our dedicated article on feeding Great Dane puppies for any additional information.
Free Feeding Great Danes
Although most Great Danes aren’t highly food motivated, it’s not recommended that you allow them to free feed.
Because controlling their food intake is so critical to controlled growth, it just makes good common sense to not let them eat any time that they please.
In addition to ensuring a smooth growth pattern, this also helps prevent your Great Dane from getting overweight. While being overweight is never ideal for a dog, it’s particularly harmful to giant breeds like Great Danes.
Any extra weight just leads to increased wear and tear on their joints, which is already an area of concern for giant breeds.
While never proven, free feeding is also believed to play an indirect factor in bloat. It’s theorized that one of the triggers for bloat is when Great Danes engage in vigorous exercise without resting after a meal.
When you’re limiting their meal times to 2-3 times per day, this is much easier to stay on top of. However, if you’re allowing your dog to free feed, they could literally eat at any time and then go roughhouse at the dog park! Definitely not an ideal situation…
Dietary Considerations for a Great Dane
Although my previous examples were centered around kibble-based options, there are additional approaches to feeding your Great Dane dog that are equally valid. From raw to home-cooked, there many choices available.
The real key to it all is that you’re able to ensure that you provide your dog with the calories and nutrients that they need to develop properly and remain healthy.
A raw diet for Great Danes replicates the traditional diet of domesticated dogs consisting mainly of:
- Organ meats
- Raw meats
Many Great Dane owners prefer the fresh meat diet. Some of the benefits of the raw meat diet include:
- Improved appetite
- Healthy-looking coats
- Higher levels of energy
- Does not cause health-related problems
Some processed dog foods contain allergens that have raised many concerns about their safety. The concerns over the safety of processed dog foods have led many Great Dane owners to revert to dog meat as the primary source of food for their pets.
Raw, home-prepared meats give dog owners total control over the content of their pet’s food. The raw diet should include some vegetable or fruit roughage to aid digestion.
However, the raw diet also has its drawbacks. Some of the risks associated with the raw diet include:
- Exposure to bacteria in raw meat such as salmonella and listeria
- Raw meat contamination
- Imbalanced diet
- Choking when dogs feed on bones
- Bones in a raw diet may cause stomach punctures and tooth breakage
Many people adjust their eating habits to accommodate their lifestyle, environment, or religion. Some people sometimes carry over their feeding habits to their pets.
Some Great Dane owners choose to feed their pets a vegan diet. However, experts do not recommend vegan diets for dogs because dogs metabolize differently than humans.
Unlike humans, dogs cannot make vitamin D through their skin. Therefore, they must receive this nutrient in the food they eat.
The type of vitamin D that dogs need is vitamin D3, whereas humans require vitamin D2. Animal sources are the leading supplier of vitamin D3, therefore making a vegan diet less than optimal.
A vegan diet may not be the most appropriate diet for a Great Dane because of its low protein content. Some of the drawbacks of a vegan diet include:
- Low levels of proteins
- Imbalance of amino acids
- Deficient in minerals, calcium, iron, and phosphorous
A vegan diet for dogs is also associated with:
- Problems with sight
- Enlarged heart
Like the vegan diet, a vegetarian diet for dogs is doable but not recommended. However, the vegetarian diet has fewer risks than the vegan diet.
Contrary to the common misconception, dogs are not strict carnivores. Although their natural diet consists mainly of meat and bones, they can also eat plant-based foods.
Unlike cats, dogs can process amino acids, which are the main components of proteins. Examples of protein sources in dog food include:
- Whole grains
Although a vegetarian diet may work for an adult Great Dane, it is not recommended for Great Dane puppies. The vegan and vegetarian diets have significant drawbacks.
Unfortunately, many dog owners choose the vegetarian and vegan diets to make themselves happy, and not their dogs. The two diets are unnatural to the physiology of a Great Dane.
A Great Dane is a large dog with specific nutrient requirements. It is always advisable to do what is best for your dog and not your human ideals.
A “Normal” Diet
Because kibble is so well known I’ll spare you the explanation of what it is, but know that it remains one of the best food choices for Great Danes. It has many benefits, including:
- Readily available
- Simple portion control
- All-in-one food
- No concerns of nutrient imbalances
Dry dog foods like kibble are excellent food choices for people who do not raw feed their dogs.
If you’re interested in looking for a recommend kibble, make sure to take a look at our article here.
Great Danes should be fed in such a way that they achieve their full size and weight gradually. Such feeding helps to prevent multiple health complications, such as:
- Painful metacarpals
To ensure your Great Dane grows healthy and strong, be sure to give it foods rich in calories and proteins. Consider investing in quality feeds made for giant breeds.
Great Dane puppies should not be rushed to grow bigger and become active until they are approximately two years old. They should be lean and light before their second birthday.
Dog nutrition experts recommend feeding your Great Dane smaller meals throughout the day. Consider also getting an elevated food-dispensing dish for your Great Dane puppies. Lastly, make sure your Great Dane has access to clean water at all times.
Great Danes are known for their bulky size and energy. The diet you choose for your Great Dane should provide a healthy balance of nutrients including:
As you can see, there are many things to take into consideration when it comes to feeding a Great Dane. While good food may be more expensive in the short term, it will be guaranteed to save you money on health bills down the road.