Nutritionally, large breed dogs are different than their wild ancestors. As large breed dog’s body size got bigger, their bone structure did not get proportionally bigger. The result is more weight is on the same amount of bone. This leads to a greater incidence of skeletal problems, especially those problems related to bone joints. Nutrition can be used to modify their genetic predisposition to these skeletal problems. So by altering their genetics we have created dogs which have different nutritional requirements than their wild ancestors.

Big Dogs, Big Appetite

Most large breed dogs are prone to overeating, and it is overeating that causes most of the higher incidences of skeletal problems in large dogs. As mentioned, the skeletal structure of a large breed dog is not proportionally bigger in comparison to their body size, this means a large breed dog that is carrying 10% extra weight puts more weight and stress on their bone joints than a small breed dog carrying 10% extra weight. The most common nutritional related medical problem in large dogs is obesity, and closely linked to obesity is the higher incidence of leg and joint problems. The primary nutritional feature of most large breed dog foods is their lower nutrient density in order to help prevent obesity. The foods have a lower fat content and fewer calories per cup to help prevent larger dogs from overeating. Most foods also have a larger kibble size to assist in slowing down the rate of food consumption and therefore help reduce overeating. Carnitine is a vitamin-like nutrient which helps burn fat, and it is often added to large breed dog foods to help prevent excess body fat.

Big Dogs, Sore Joints

Poor joint health is usually a result of excess body weight, but joint problems can also occur due to developmental issues (bone and joint didn’t develop correctly) or degenerative issues (ex. arthritis). In both scenarios, the cartilage in dog joints is directly affected and unfortunately a major reason joint problems persist is because cartilage rebuilds very slowly. Nutrition can help manage joint health by helping to rebuild cartilage and reducing inflammation. Because of the slow rebuilding of cartilage, controlling inflammation is the most effective way to support joint health because inflammation literally eats away at the cartilage. Chondroitin is more effective at reducing inflammation and Glucosamine is more effective at rebuilding cartilage. Glucosamine and Chondroitin are added to foods to help rebuild cartilage. Different dogs respond differently to anti-inflammatories, which is why different foods and supplements contain a host of different antiinflammatories. Other commonly used anti-inflammatories are: Green Lipped Mussel, Omega-3 fats, MSM (methylsulfonylmethane), SAM (s-adenosylmethionine), Bromelain, Turmeric, Boswellia, and Hawthorn. There are drugs that can also be effective in reducing inflammation, but only should be used when prescribed by a veterinarian.

Big Dogs, Big Nutrients

Calcium, Phosphorus and Vitamin D are all important nutrients in maintaining healthy bones. Keeping your large breed dog’s bones healthy is key to their frame being able to support their large body. Although it is possible to have too much or an imbalance of these three nutrients, it is very rare in large breed dog foods and therefore knowing their individual levels does not help in selecting one food over another. Rest easy knowing any quality large breed food will have a healthy ratio of these nutrients for your large dog.

Big Dogs, Big Kibble

Gastric Twisting or Torsion is another problem in large dogs, particularly giant breeds. There are no clear nutritional factors related to it, but slowing down the rate of food consumption is one correlated factor. A bigger kibble size not only helps prevent obesity, it can also help with gastric torsion as it forces your dog to chew more and therefore slows down how quickly they eat. Some pet parents believe eating out of a raised bowl is more comfortable for their pet and helps with their digestion but with regards to Gastric Twisting, it isn’t clear if a raised feeder helps to prevent or not.

Big Dogs, Big Heart

Dilated Cardiomyopathy, or Enlarged Heart, effects large breed dogs more frequently than smaller dogs. An enlarged heart becomes overloaded with fluid and results in heart failure. Although no clear nutritional relationship has been established, in some cases there were deficiencies of taurine and carnitine in the dog’s blood which may have contributed. Taurine and Carnitine work together to improve heart function and help regulate your dog’s heartbeat.