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great dane & english mastiff puppy nutrition and feeding

giant breed dogs, like english mastiffs and great danes, require some special attention when it comes to feeding and nutrition. many times great danes and mastiffs are lumped into the category of "large breed puppies," which grow to 50 lbs. or more. giant breeds like mastiffs and great danes grow to be 100 -250+lbs at adulthood. proper nutrition plays a huge role in the proper growth and health of giant breeds, from proper development to prevention of bloat in adults.

there are a few major points on great dane/mastiff puppy feeding and nutrition that all giant breed owners should be familiar with as they are crucial to proper growth and development:

puppy care
nutrition and feeding
giant breed growth
great dane/mastiff health
training large breed dogs
behavior & training
responsible breeding

slow down

overfeeding a great dane or mastiff is a big no! this seems to be the toughest point for new giant breed owners. everyone wants their puppy to be impressively huge, and there is a misconception that by feeding more, your puppy will grow to be a larger adult. genetics are genetics - your dog will grow to be the same size in the end, it's just a matter of how long it takes for them to get there and how healthy they are in the end.

studies have shown that by feeding giant breed puppies approx 25% less calories and by feeding the proper ratios of protein, fat, calcium and phosphorus (all slightly reduced levels compared to normal puppy food) you can greatly reduce, if not eliminate their chances of developing certain diseases such as HOD, OCD, Pano, and environmentally caused hip dysplasia.

when a great dane or mastiff puppy is fed more calories or foods with high levels of protein and fat (most experts agree that an average of 23% protein and 12% fat are the ideal levels for growing giant breeds) it can cause their bones to grow faster than their muscles, which can lead to the painful and disfiguring diseases listed above. proper feeding allows for more consistent, slower and proper growth.

weight - so how much should i feed?

a good general rule for great dane and mastiff puppies is you should be able to see the outline of the last rib or two when looking at their side while standing. for adults, you should be able to easily feel the ribs, but not see them other than possibly the last one. if you can see your dog's spine, the dog is underweight. adjust your feeding amounts by about 1/2 cup at a time and watch for improvement. if you have to err, it's always better for a giant breed to be on the lighter side rather than overweight as extra weight can lead to hip dysplasia and joint problems in giant breeds.

no regular puppy food

typical puppy formulas contain too much fat and protein for giant breeds like great danes and mastiffs, and are not properly balanced for special needs of giant breeds. look for a good quality giant breed puppy formula. we like holistic select giant breed formulas. we also like solid gold wolf cub formula, innova large breed puppy and wellness large breed. you should watch your puppy carefully for any signs of irregular growth, including bowing or curving of the front legs or toes, swollen joints or legs, or hip or joint pain, and see your veterinarian promptly if you suspect problems.

how often to feed

puppies from 7 weeks to 3 months should be fed three-four times per day. we like to feed three times a day up to 4 months. studies show that more frequent feeding in smaller amounts can reduce the likelihood of developing bloat, so we feed smaller, more frequent meals throughout our dogs' life.

you are what you eat

and so is your dog. many commercial pet foods contain junky ingredients. salt, sugar, corn and by-products (the junk left over after the good meat is used elsewhere) are just as bad for your pet as they are for you. especially during the crucial growth period, spring for a super-premium giant breed puppy food to give your pup the best chance at growing into a healthy adult. giant breed puppy formulas are balanced with the proper levels of protein, fat, calcium and phosphorus for these fast growing giant breeds. we feed our giant breed puppies eagle pack holistic large/giant breed puppy formula. there are links to other premium brands at the bottom of the page.

some breeders recommend fresh raw bones and raw foods (BARF) as an alternative to processed foods. if you choose to go this route, make sure you consult a vet that is familiar with the special needs of giant breed puppies to make sure you're feeding your puppy the correct ratio of ingredients. although we don't feed exclusively raw foods, we do like to supplement with them as treats.

healthy treats

as great as some super-premium foods are, they are still processed foods. we like to give our great danes and mastiffs healthy treats rather than packaged bones in order to add some fresh ingredients to their diets. some of our favorites are fresh grilled chicken breast slices, carrots, plain yogurt, green beans, broccoli, peas, strawberries, apples, oatmeal, blueberries, bananas, green peppers, cucumbers and celery. in addition, we keep a pack of nature's variety frozen raw organic chicken medallions on hand to give as a treat - our dogs love these, and they contain raw bones which aren't found in most processed foods. if your dog or puppy isn't used to getting these types of foods, start slowly so you don't upset their digestive systems - just a bite or two at a time.

take care of their joints

we've had the most success keeping our giant breeds feeling good & playing like puppies well into adulthood by choosing foods with glucosamine and condroitin for healthy joints, and by choosing super-premium foods rather than foods with junky ingredients.

bloat prevention

deep-chested breeds, like great danes and mastiffs, are highly susceptible to bloat (or torsion), a condition where the stomach fills with gas, twists, and kills the dog if untreated immediately. nutrition and feeding practices play a huge role in the prevention of bloat. Visit our page on bloat prevention for more information.

premium food links

here are some links to premium dog foods:


greatdanelady.com guide to recognizing bone diseases by linda arndt, canine nutritional consultant.
eagle pack information and photos on proper nutrition and what can happen when you overfeed a giant breed puppy.
pet education information on hip dysplasia.

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