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Can Great Danes Eat Puppy Food: A Comprehensive Guide

For many dog breeds, puppy food is commonly used to support the accelerated rate of growth that they experience as puppies. However, if you’re been reading about Great Danes then you’ve likely heard that many recommend to not use puppy food!

Great Danes can safely eat puppy food given that it meets specific requirements around micro and macro nutrient levels, calories, and contains quality ingredients. This ensures that they receive the proper nutrition to support proper growth while minimizing the risks of growth-related diseases.

A list of Great Dane-friendly puppy foods that meet this criteria are listed below.

With that in mind, it’s worth digging into more of the specifics around feeding your Great Dane puppy food so that you can make a fully informed decision!

Why Are Dogs Fed Puppy Food?

Before jumping straight in, it’s worth getting a better understanding as to why puppy foods were developed in the first place.

Regardless of the breed, all puppies grow at an incredible rate for the first several months of their lives. To support this hyper growth, their bodies require a surplus of calories and nutrients. This is why puppy foods are specifically formulated with more calorie-dense foods to support this high growth phase.

Once their bodies reach at or near full size, they no longer need a caloric surplus to support on-going growth because their growth.

This is the point at which they are typically switched from their puppy-specific food to an adult formula that seeks to provide adequate calories and nutrients at a maintenance rather than growth level.

Continuing to feed them a puppy food as adults could result in undesirable weight gain and other health issues.

Great Dane Puppy Food Considerations

With that context in mind, it’s reasonable to think that Great Dane’s also need additional calories to support their puppy growth as well.

However, there are a few differences that make a big GIANT difference.

Difference #1 – Growth Timelines

While small and medium breeds typically reach their full growth potential in a few months, giant breeds like Great Danes often take up to to two years to reach their full size.

Over these two years, their bodies will experience massive growth and transformation that needs to be handled carefully.

Providing too many nutrients can result in unnecessary weight gain, orthopedic issues, and even result in growth-related diseases. The most common of these diseases include Panosteitis and Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy (HOD).

To help prevent these issues from arising, it’s best to control their food to encourage slow and controlled growth over their first two years.

Difference #2 – Metabolism

If you’ve even spent much time around a Great Dane, then you probably already have a good idea of what their metabolism is like.

While they certainly have faster metabolism as puppies, giant breed dogs in general will have slower metabolisms than small breeds. This means that their bodies burn off any calories consumed through food at a slower rate.

If you were to feed a comparable food portion to them as a smaller breed, it would result in excess calories. Once again creating the potential for weight gain and other orthopedic issues.

Difference #3 – Stomach Size & Satiety

By comparison, small and even medium sized dogs simply have a harder time overeating due to their smaller stomachs. This isn’t to say that it’s impossible, but they simply can’t take in the same volume of food as giant breeds!

Because of these larger stomachs, Great Danes need to consume a comparatively larger volume of food to feel full.

Now knowing that puppy-specific formulas are extremely calorie dense, this makes for an easy recipe for overeating.

Can Great Danes eat puppy food?

With these differences in mind, the burning question is still whether or not you can feed your Great Dane puppy food.

While the short answer is yes, you can feed a Great Dane puppy food – there are several important caveats that you should take into consideration to ensure healthy development.

Caveat #1 – Calorie Control

First and foremost, controlling the amount of calories that you feed your Great Dane will be incredibly important. Feeding 5 cups per day of puppy food will be result in far more calories than 5 cups of an adult formula.

For a quick comparison, watch how the math works out!

Example #1 – Adult Food: For example number one, we’ll use a moderate calorie food containing 375 calories per cup. When eating 5 total cups of food, that results in a total of 1,875 calories per day.

Example #2 – Puppy Food: Now, let’s say we’re working with a typical puppy-specific formula that has 450 calories per cup. That results in 2,250 calories per day when eating 5 cups of puppy food.

While the addition of 375 calories may not sound like a lot, it’s an 18% increase!

If you still don’t think that’s a significant increase, keep in mind that these additional calories compound over the course of weeks and months. Ultimately, this could result in unwanted weight gain for your Great Dane.

Of course, you can mitigate this caloric surplus by feeding them less puppy food. However, the lower food volume will result in them feeling less full and increase the likelihood of eating undesirable items.

This is important because the consumption of non-edible items is one of the leading causes of diarrhea in Great Dane puppies.

The takeaway here is that you should look for puppy foods containing moderate calories per cup.

A good range to look for is 350 – 400 calories per cup.

When it comes to deciding how much to feed your Great Dane on a daily basis, a great starting point can be found in my puppy food guide.

Caveat #2 – Micronutrients

While controlling your Great Dane’s caloric intake is extremely important, it’s not the only item that you should watch out for. In particular, certain micronutrients play large roles in the formation and development of bones and other connective tissues.

It’s important to ensure that they receive enough micronutrients to support growth, but not have a surplus that would accelerate it in an unnatural way.

The two most important micronutrients to consider are calcium and phosphate.

An ideal puppy food will have calcium between 1% – 1.5%. Anything lower than one percent is undesirable for properly supporting growth, while levels above that could accelerate it.

The ideal level of phosphate will be calculated as a ratio to that of calcium. For each part of phosphorus, you should find that there is 1 – 1.5 times as much calcium.

CalciumPhosphorus Range
1%0.67% – 1.0%
1.25%0.83% – 1.25%
1.5%1% – 1.5%
Acceptable micronutrient ranges

To spare you from needing to calculate these on your own, the table above shows acceptable ranges for phosphorus based on the amount of calcium present in the food.

Sample guaranteed analysis label

To locate these numbers, simply check the “Guaranteed Analysis” portion of the label on your food.

An example of this labeling is seen adjacent here. The fifth row indicates the calcium percentage, while the sixth row details that of phosphorus.

Seeing that the calcium here is 1% and the phosphorus is 0.7%, this would be considered an acceptable puppy food from the standpoint of evaluating its micronutrient levels.

Caveat #3 – MacroNutrients

In addition to the micronutrients found in a Great Dane puppy food formula, the breakdown of macronutrients should also be considered.

Many puppy formulas add more protein and fat to their formulas to increase their caloric density. However, doing so can result in unwanted outcomes for our giant breed dogs given their long development timeline.

Similar to that of calcium and phosphorus, there are ranges of acceptable protein and fat that can be targeted to encourage healthy development in your Great Dane.

Ideal Protein Range: 20% – 26%

Ideal Fat Range: 12% – 20%

In particular, you will find that many puppy formulas exceed the recommended target protein percentages.

CAVEAT #4 – Ingredient Quality

Last but certainly not least is the quality of ingredients used in the formula. Ideally, any food that you choose should meet the following criteria.

  • Uses at least 2 different protein sources i.e. chicken and beef
  • A meal should not be the first source of protein
  • Not contain protein sources made from by-products
  • Have named sources of fat e.g. duck fat or chicken fat rather than a generic “animal fat”
  • Provide carbohydrates from a variety of wholesome sources such as pea, carrots, and brown rice

Similar to verifying the micronutrient levels, inspecting these items is as easy as checking the ingredient list on the food. While manufacturers are not required to specify how much of ingredient is used, they are required to be listed in order of decrease weight.

Referencing the ingredient list above as reference, you can see how these appear on the label. In this case, deboned chicken is listed as the first item. This means that this is the most widely used ingredient by weight, while “oil of rosemary” (the last item) has the least.

If you would like to learn more details about the specifics of evaluating a food label, then I’d recommend taking a look at my article on the best food for Great Danes where I cover this topic in depth.

Final Take on Puppy Food for Great Danes

Given that a puppy food formula meets the specific guidelines covered above, then there’s no reason that you can’t feed them to your Great Dane. Knowing that the needs of giant breeds like Great Danes are different, many companies have developed giant breed specific formulas.

Many of these do a great job of moderating the calories per cup and micro/macro nutrient levels. While you still need to check these specifics, it’s the quality of the ingredients used where things often get dodgy.

Keep in mind while purchasing high-quality food will be more expensive up front, it will help prevent veterinary bills in the future thereby saving money in the long run.

To save you the time of searching, I’ve compiled a short list of puppy foods that meet the criteria covered above.

While these are just a few of the options that you can pick from, there’s another approach that’s worth considering as well…

Can Great Dane Puppies Eat Adult Dog Food?

As you may have caught on, virtually all of the criteria that we’ve accounted for in these puppy food selections are to prevent further growth acceleration. But once this is done, what you’re essentially looking at is an adult food!

As long as the adult food meets the same requirements around micro and macro nutrients, as well as ingredient quality, there’s no reason that you can’t feed your Great Dane puppy an adult formula.

By starting with an adult formula, there’s also the benefit of not needing to transition their foods. Great Danes have notoriously sensitive stomachs and often experience bouts of diarrhea during these food transitions while their body adapts to the new food.

They can be fed adult food from the time that they come home, and there is not a need to wait until a particular age. My favorite food that we’ve been using for years and have no plans of changing anytime soon is Wellness Large Breed Adult shown below.

My Pick
Wellness Large Breed Dog Food, Chicken & Rice

Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Dog Food, Large Breed Health Recipe, is healthy, natural dog food for large breed dogs made with carefully chosen, authentic ingredients for everyday health and provides an optimal balance of nutrient-rich whole foods.

Buy from Amazon.com Buy from Chewy.com

Regardless of which route you choose, you do not want to switch foods during their first year if it can be helped. This is the period during which they will grow the most, and any interruptions to it should be avoided.

4 thoughts on “Can Great Danes Eat Puppy Food: A Comprehensive Guide”

  1. Hello,
    In the feeding chart you talk about amount of food in cups.
    Is the amount of cups for a meal or for the whole day ?
    Thank you in advance for your advice.
    Greetings.
    Erik.

    Reply
  2. I have a 15 wk old puppy who is allergic to chicken. We currently feed him Diamond Naturals Large Breed Lamb and Rice puppy food, but his poops are always so wet even if we add pumpkin. I’ve read all of your articles about feeding Great Dane puppies and it looks like all of your recommendations contain chicken. We’re at a complete loss and our vet isn’t helpful at all. Do you have any chicken-free recommendations that we can feed our pup?

    Reply

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