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Feeding large breed dogs

Big dogs have big appetites, but they may also have slower metabolisms than their smaller cousins, so they require fewer calories and less fat from their food to maintain a healthy, lean body condition. Conversely some larger dogs are very athletic and have lower body fat and higher energy requirement. Discuss with your breeder/vet which type your dog is.

Bigger breeds need to develop and support a large, strong skeletal frame and powerful joints. Minerals that form bones, like calcium and phosphorous, must be correctly proportioned in their food. Some larger and giant dogs carry more body fat which, when combined with their slow metabolism, makes them particularly prone to weight gain. They also need fewer calories than more athletic breeds of similar weight. Some large- and giant-breed formulas contain high-quality protein and a lower fat content to control weight gain and minimise the impact on joints and other vital organs. Some diets of this kind also include nutrients associated with the synthesis and repair of the joints, and nutrients to help minimise fat deposition. Kibble sizes in dry foods are larger to satisfy the appetite and discourage dogs from bolting their food. The quality of ingredients can vary greatly from product to product, influencing intake requirements and nutritional delivery.

Nutritional requirements of young dogs from a large breed may also differ from those of other, smaller breeds, with the correct balance of minerals vital for normal bone growth.

How to feed

Your dog should be fed in a quiet place away from the hustle and bustle of the house. Choose a surface that can be cleaned easily, such as a tiled floor or a feeding mat. Some large dogs, particularly if getting older, may prefer to have their food bowl raised. Always serve the food in a clean bowl; ceramic or metal bowls are preferable. If you have other dogs in the household, feed them separately to avoid bullying and fighting.

Try to serve wet food at room temperature, as it smells more attractive and is easier to digest. This could take some time if the food is kept in the fridge, or you can microwave wet food for a short time until it’s warm (never hot) to the touch. Avoid leaving out wet food out as it can quickly go stale. Alternatively, dry food can be left out during the day and won’t spoil. Most dogs like to crunch on their dry food, but if yours prefers it moistened, or there is a medical reason to avoid hard food, leave the food in a bowl of water for up to 30 minutes before serving. If you do moisten dry food, consider feeding a regular dental treat to help remove the plaque some dry foods work to combat, but remember that regular brushing of your dog’s teeth is the best way to prevent dental disease.

It's not advisable to exercise your dog an hour before or after feeding. Large and giant dogs are particularly susceptible to bloating of the stomach and twisting of the gut (a condition called gastric dilatation and volvulus) which is a medical emergency. Signs of such a problem include a bloated tummy, retching and seeming very uncomfortable. Contact your vet immediately if you are concerned about your large dog.

How much?

Feed your dog once or twice a day, as part of a regular routine. Large breeds in particular have a tendency to bolt their food which can lead to problems in the gut, and so may benefit from two smaller meals. If you are not sure how often to feed your large dog, consult your veterinary practice.

How much to feed depends on your dog’s breed and lifestyle as well as the food you select. Always read the feeding instructions printed on product packaging carefully. Ranges are given, combining breed sizes with age bands. Your dog is likely to fall within one of these bands. Remember, these feeding guides are only there as a starting point. Note that adult large-breed products have lower feeding recommendations per unit weight of dog simply because, pound for pound, larger dogs tend to have a slower metabolism. Every dog is an individual, so the most important consideration is to feed enough to maintain a lean, ideal body condition.

Weight concerns

Obesity is a common nutritional disorder in all large dogs, and needs to be monitored carefully. Overweight dogs are more likely to suffer medical problems such as arthritis. Lower calorie levels in some large-breed foods can help control the tendency. However, if weight is a growing concern, consider trying a specially formulated 'light' product, lower in fat while still containing all the necessary vitamins and minerals, ensuring a balanced diet despite reduced calorie intake, and consult your vet for further advice.

Purina brands for larger dogs

Several leading Purina brands offer formulas specifically developed to meet the needs of large and giant breed dogs, each the result of the very latest scientific advances in quality, taste and nutrition.

Find out more about PURINA® dog foods.

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