Nutrition for Large-Breed Puppies

As your large-breed puppy grows, he goes through some pretty dramatic changes. In fact, large-breed puppies generally grow more rapidly than smaller breeds of dogs. But your large-breed puppy is best fed a diet that supports growth without allowing him to grow too quickly, a circumstance than can contribute to abnormal skeletal development. To help give him the right balance of nutrients, here are some key points to keep in mind.

Feeding Your Puppy

From the time your puppy is weaned until 4 months of age, you should feed your puppy two to three meals a day, with the total amount based on the guidelines of the food label. After 4 months of age, your puppy should be fed twice a day on a regular schedule. Always have fresh water available.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Not all puppies have the same nutritional needs. Large-breed puppies actually have lower metabolic rates per pound than smaller-breed puppies. And while his growth is more dramatic, your puppy will reach his mature adult weight 12 to 24 months later than smaller breeds that reach adulthood at as early as 9 months. So, large-breed puppies can benefit from fewer calories per cup.

Large-breed puppies can also benefit from less calcium. Puppies who consume too many calories and too much calcium might grow too rapidly, which can result in the development of bone growth problems or joint problems. With your large-breed puppy, the goal should be a moderate, healthy rate of growth. That's why it's important to choose a diet with precisely balanced amounts of fat, calcium, and phosphorus, designed specifically for large-breed puppies.

Choosing Puppy Food

To help your large-breed puppy grow at a healthy rate, look for these features:

  • Adjusted calcium and phosphorus levels to support healthy skeletal development

  • Controlled calories and fat to help maintain ideal growth rate

  • Vitamin-rich fish oils to support overall health

  • Essential vitamins and minerals to help support the immune system and help your puppy stay healthy during this critical stage of growth

  • High-quality animal-based protein sources to help nourish growing muscles, vital organs, and skin and coat

  • A fiber source that will help keep your puppy's sensitive digestive system healthy, so more nutrition stays in your puppy

These are important building blocks of nutrition. Look for them when you choose dry or canned dog food and when you select treats. IAMS® ProActive Health™ Smart Puppy Large Breed gives your puppy a great start by providing him the essential nutrition he needs to grow at a healthy rate.

A Caution About Supplements to Puppy Food

You want to give your puppy the very best nutrition during these months, but supplementing your puppy's diet may lead to health problems.

Whether feeding vitamins, calcium tablets, table scraps, yogurt, or meat, you could be upsetting a critical, balanced interaction of nutrients and minerals. Too much of one mineral can affect a puppy's ability to absorb other minerals. And excess amounts of calcium might lead to bone-growth problems, especially in large-breed puppies. A high-quality pet food, carefully formulated for life stage and breed size, will give your puppy complete and balanced nutrition, without supplements.

The Switch to Adult Food

A large-breed puppy approaches adult weight by 12 to 24 months, at which time you can begin feeding adult dog food. You can help ease the transition by gradually introducing the adult food. Try mixing 25% of the new food with 75% of his puppy food, then gradually change the proportions over the next three days until he's eating 100% adult food.