Should Giant Breed Puppies Have Adult Food?

It’s long been a standard of practice to feed giant breed puppies such as Great Danes and Mastiffs adult food from 8 weeks on.

This came about because there was a time when nobody (including the dog food manufacturers) understood why some giant breed puppies were turning up with orthopedic skeletal growth disorders.

The visible disorders include carpal laxity (often called ‘knuckling over’ or ‘flat feet’), HOD, Angular Limb Deformity, and Panosteitis (growing pains).

Breeders found, anecdotally, that by switching giant breed puppies with painful crooked limbs to adult foods, they were often able to resolve the issue.

Should Giant Breed Puppies Have Adult Food in 2023?

To answer this question, we have to first make it clear that many advancements have been made to dog nutrition in the last several decades.

This includes literally millions of dollars put into large and giant breed growth and how nutrition plays a key role in establishing sound structure, bone health, joint health, and muscle.

We are no longer stabbing in the dark, as the breeders of the past were.

The reason that adult foods are often effective at stopping or even reversing orthopedic growth disease is that it doesn’t have as much nutrition.

Adult foods work by starving the puppy of the nutrition they need to grow.

Because growth disorders are caused by an imbalance between explosive growth and bone modeling, slowing growth down as much as possible tends to have a therapeutic effect.

Unfortunately, many breeders and even some veterinarians still recommend that giant breed puppies ONLY have adult food, never puppy food.

The problem? Adult foods do not support brain, eye, muscle, joint, or tendon health in rapidly growing puppies. It’s just not what they are designed to do.

This is despite the fact that millions of dollars have been poured into research which allows us access to appropriate large and giant breed puppy foods that support slow, even growth and healthy development of bones, joints, eyes, tendons, and the brain.

Should I Feed Adult or Puppy Food?

The top Veterinary Nutritionists, research-backed food brands (Purina, Royal Canin, Hill’s, Eukanuba), most veterinarians, and many of the top giant-breed show and sport dog owners and handlers now recommend that large and giant breed PUPPY or ALL LIFE STAGES foods be fed to growing giants.

There are many well-researched, properly formulated food brands that support slow, even growth.

Because we have better options now, there is no reason to feed adult maintenance diets to growing giant breed puppies.

Interestingly enough, many adult maintenance formulas are too high in calcium. Because they also lack the nutrition puppies need for correct development, many giant puppies will overeat to compensate.

Overeating results in excessive calcium intake, which can result in a number of skeletal disorders that may not be apparent until the dog is older.

Eating too much also causes chronic loose stools.

These loose stools tend to be misdiagnosed as chicken or grain allergies, triggering a seemingly endless and frustrating process for owners who can’t find a “food that works”.

It is not uncommon to see hopelessly lanky giant breed puppies in their teenage growth stage (6-12 months) that have only ever been fed adult food. They haven’t had the nutrition they needed to support everything else, and their muscle and tendon health fall woefully behind.

However, because those puppies grew without knuckling over, the food is deemed a success, and the ‘feed adult food only‘ myth persists.

The Best Puppy Foods for Giant Breed Puppies

Science gives us the following information about choosing food for a large or giant breed puppy.

  • 1.2% or less calcium
  • 2.5 – 3.5g of calcium per 1000kCal
  • A CA/PH ratio of around 1 : 1
  • AFFCO Large Breed Growth Statement
  • Large or Giant Breed PUPPY or ALL LIFE STAGES Formula
  • Formulated by a qualified nutritionist, employed by the company (PhD in Animal Nutrition or DACVN Veterinary Nutritionist
  • Has undergone feeding trials to prove the formula in real life, not just on paper

For a comprehensive, unbiased look at how over 600 different dry dog foods compare to the above recommendations, visit our massive Giant Puppy Food Search Tool.

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