Large dog breeds have continued to rise in popularity among pet parents across the United States. These large and giant dog breeds — which include the increasingly beloved Bernese Mountain Dog, the Great Dane, and more — have their own unique set of nutritional needs. For bigger dog breeds to grow correctly, it’s important to provide them proper nutrition early on in their development. Enter large breed puppy food.

In this article, we’ll look at the benefits of large breed puppy food and share specific recommendations for pet parents to consider.   

Our Top Puppy Food Recommendations for Large Breeds

Benefits of Large Breed Puppy Food

Large breed puppy food provides a host of benefits for the growth and development of these more sizable pups.

“Large and giant breed puppies grow much faster and longer than small breed dogs,” explains Dr. Natalie Marks, DVM, CVJ at VCA Blum Animal Hospital. “Their diets are specially formulated to help prevent or avoid the more common developmental orthopedic diseases like elbow dysplasia, hip dysplasia, panosteitis, osteochondrosis, HOD (hypertrophic osteodystrophy), and retained cartilage cores.”

Much of the benefit of large breed puppy food comes in its ability to slow growth that can occur too quickly over too long a period, and in turn stave off the more typical orthopedic complications noted by Dr. Marks. The foods do this by suppressing some key nutrients and ensuring that overnutrition doesn’t occur.

“[Large breed puppy foods] are lower in the percentage of fat, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D,” says Dr. Marks. “Limiting the intake of these minerals helps decrease the development of orthopedic diseases. [Additionally,] having a lower calorie level slows down the growth rate, which is also preventive.”

How We Ranked Our Top Puppy Food Recommendations for Large Breeds

In making our recommendations for the best puppy food for large breeds, we considered:

Overall brand recognition. It can be helpful for pet parents to turn to a brand they’re familiar with when purchasing puppy food. We’ve included options from several well-known dog food brands, as well as a few that you may not be as familiar with but are still high in quality…and may even become new favorites for you and your pup!

Ingredient quality. Even if a selection on our list isn’t marketed specifically as food for large breed puppies, we took a look at the ingredients/nutritional info for each option to ensure that they would be appropriate for younger, bigger pups to consume.

Consumer reviews. We like hearing what other pet parents have to say about the food they feed their dogs, so we dove deep into the reviews to get a sense of what the canine-loving community was saying.

Price point/overall cost. In order to provide options for everyone, we made sure to feature brands at both higher and more affordable price points.

6 Best Large Breed Puppy Foods in 2023

Best Overall

Our pick: Royal Canin Large Breed Puppy Food

A staple in the world of specialized pet foods, Royal Canin is often a go-to recommendation for many veterinarians. Their large breed puppy formula is specifically made for dogs with an expected adult weight of 56 to 100 pounds and is designed to promote bone and joint health. The array of additional benefits this food provides — such as immune and digestive health support — is what separates it from others on the market.

Pros

  • Specially formulated for large breed puppies
  • Contains specialized minerals to promote bone and joint health, as well as antioxidants to promote immune support
  • Features probiotics to support digestive health
  • Large kibble size helps encourage chewing

Cons

  • Limited flavor availability
  • High price point

Best Dry Food

Our pick: Purina Pro Plan Large Breed Puppy Food

Purina Pro Plan’s large breed puppy formula is specifically formulated for large breed puppies under 2 years of age. Providing pet parents a name-recognized food option to consider, the formula features calcium and glucosamine to promote healthy bone development, as well as vitamin A and omega-6 fatty acids to nourish skin and coat.

Pros

  • Specially formulated for large breed puppies to promote appropriate growth rates
  • Name-recognized brand in Purina
  • Contains nourishing vitamin A and omega-6 fatty acids 
  • Available in multiple size bags to suit pet parents’ buying preferences

Cons

  • Higher price point

Best Wet Food

Our pick: Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Wet Puppy Food

Blue Buffalo’s formulas have been helping dogs with healthy development for many years. Their high-protein puppy food is a viable solution for pet parents of large breeds looking for a wet alternative to the largely dry specialty formula options that are out there.

Pros

  • Name-recognized brand
  • Available in a few different flavor options
  • Easy to use as a standalone meal or meal topper to dry foods
  • High protein content and formulated with wholesome ingredients
  • DHA promotes cognitive development
  • Many reviewers loved this recipe for their larger puppies
  • Good price point

Cons

  • Not labeled as specifically formulated for large breed puppies

Best Fresh Food

Our pick: The Farmer’s Dog

While not definitively called out as being formulated for large breed puppies, The Farmer’s Dog actually takes things a step further by asking you to enter very specific info about your pup on their site: age, weight, breed, health issues, etc. They then use this information to build a customized meal plan packed with all kinds of nutritional benefits tailored to your dog’s individual needs. The best part — it’s delivered fresh right to your door. What’s not to love about that?

Pros

  • Company utilizes details specific to your dog to create a customized meal plan
  • Prepared fresh and delivered directly to your house
  • You can select your own plan if you don’t love what The Farmer’s Dog has recommended
  • Most recipes contain whole muscle/organ meats and whole vegetables

 Cons

  • While convenient and fresh, the service is somewhat expensive

Best Value

Our pick: Hill’s Science Diet Large Breed Puppy Food

Hill’s is renowned within veterinary circles for their specially formulated pet foods, and their large breed puppy food is no different. While all puppy food made for larger breeds typically come at a higher price point than standard fare, Hill’s seems to provide the most value from a cost standpoint.

Pros

  • Specially formulated for large breed puppies
  • Veterinarian recommended
  • Features a balanced set of minerals to promote proper growth
  • Most affordable of large breed puppy food options

Cons

  • Limited flavor availability

Best Food for Picky Eaters

Our pick: Diamond Naturals Large Breed Puppy Formula

Diamond Naturals is an established pet food maker with a rich history of providing quality foods for dogs. Their large breed puppy formula featuring a lamb and rice flavor is a great option for picky eaters that may not enjoy the traditional beef and chicken flavors that are common with other foods. Plus, it contains omega fatty acids to support healthy skin and a nourished coat.

Pros

  • Specially formulated for large breed puppies
  • Balanced omega fatty acids that promote healthy skin and coat growth
  • Potentially a good solution for picky eaters, the lamb flavor provides an alternative to more traditional beef and chicken flavors 
  • Plenty of customers said that their puppies loved this food after switching from other brands

Cons

  • Only available in the one flavor

Large Breed Puppy Food Buyer’s Guide

There’s no shortage of large breed puppy foods on the market, which can make it difficult to navigate the landscape. To make shopping a little easier, pet parents can follow the below guidance.

Look for foods labeled “large breed.” It seems relatively straightforward, but the first tip pet parents can abide by is looking for foods that are specifically designated for large breed puppies.

Read labels to make sure the foods you’re looking for are lower in key minerals. Pet parents should be double checking labels to ensure their foods are lower in what Dr. Marks calls “the big four”: fat, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D.

Make sure the food is complete and balanced, and meets or exceeds nutritional standards. “Ideally, the bag of food should say ‘complete and balanced,’ and have had clinical trials,” says Dr. Marks.

Puppy Food for Large Breeds FAQs

In considering large breed puppy foods, many pet parents may be asking themselves some of these common questions:

Does large breed puppy food slow growth?

Yes, large breed puppy foods help slow growth in breeds that traditionally grow faster than others by pulling back on key minerals that contribute to overnutrition, including fat, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D.

Is large breed puppy food necessary?

Large breed puppy foods are definitely beneficial, as helping to prevent overnutrition and overly fast growth can lead to medical complications down the line. 

When should you stop feeding large breed puppy food?

“Because large and giant breed dogs take longer to reach maturity, most veterinarians recommend staying on puppy food until 18-24 months of age,” says Dr. Marks.

How much food does a large breed puppy need?

This is dependent on both the individual dog and the choice of food that a pet parent ultimately decides on. “It completely depends on the caloric content of a dry food, as it will give a number of kcals/cup,” says Dr. Marks.

As with any new food, work with your veterinarian to ensure your large breed puppy is getting the best, most nutritional choice for their individualized needs.