Best Dog Food For Great Danes

There are many dog breeds where you can just feed them a high quality dog food and expect the typical results of having a healthy dog who lives a long life with little to no illness. Great Danes, unfortunately, are not one of those easy-to-feed breeds, and it’s because of their size. Great Danes are considered a giant breed, and giant breeds require special dietary considerations. Before you welcome your Great Dane home, it’s critical you educate yourself on the diet this breed needs to grow into a healthy adult free of orthopedic disorders.

Why Great Danes need Special Diet Considerations

Great Danes are bred to get huge, and unfortunately, they grow large rapidly. Growing fast is normal in dogs, but with giant breeds, it places undue stress on their bones and joints. When a Great Dane grows too quickly, they’re at a very high risk of developing a variety of painful bone and joint disorders that cannot be reversed once they develop.

Breeders and veterinarians stress to owners that their Dane puppy needs to be “grown slow”. Of course you want your Dane to grow to their full size, but you also want them to reach that full size steadily and not all at once. A Great Dane puppy grows like a weed during the first eight months of life, often gaining five pounds a week, and they continue to grow until they’re at least 18 months old.

It’s tempting for a lot of owners to grow their Danes as big and as quickly as possible. It’s fun to have the biggest dog in the neighborhood, but rapid growth comes at a very high price. Bone and joint disorders that develop because of growing too quickly lead to a lifelong battle with painful joints and deformed bones. Certain bone conditions can actually lead to premature euthanasia of your dog because their pain can’t be managed past a certain point.

This is why a proper diet is crucial during those first 18 to 24 months. If you feed your dog a balanced diet designed to encourage steady, gradual growth, you’re far more likely to have a Great Dane with healthy bones and joints.

What to Feed Your Great Dane

“Light and lean” is the general rule of thumb in feeding your Great Dane. Let’s break down the essential macronutrients your Dane needs to ensure healthy growth.

Great Dane Protein Requirements

This is the most essential macronutrient in any dog’s diet, and there is a great amount of misinformation going around about controlling protein intake in Great Danes during their puppyhood.

The theory that protein has an impact on a Dane’s growth has been disproven because there is no scientific evidence available to show that protein plays a role in joint and bone disorders. A lot of breeders tell new owners that the food they feed their dog should be between 21 and 24 percent and no higher. Most commercial dog foods contain up to 31 percent protein (more if you try hard to find it), and any of these protein ranges are suitable for a Dane puppy. Nutritionists recommend fast-growing breeds eat a diet that consists of 30 percent protein during development.

Great Dane Fat Requirements

Body weight plays a huge role in joint disorders regardless of your dog’s age. Even if they’re genetically doomed to having some sort of orthopedic disease, excessive weight is going to exacerbate any symptoms. Ideally, choose a food that has no higher than nine percent fat.

Calcium and Phosphorous – Especially for Great Danes

Now that it’s disproven protein is a contributor to too-rapid growth, research shows that it’s actually the calcium and phosphorous in the food that contributes to orthopedic diseases. Research indicates an ideal calcium content should be at or below 1.2 percent, and the phosphorous is best kept at or below 0.9 percent. These amounts show a lower incidence of bone and joint disease in giant breed puppies. Too much calcium and phosphorous shows higher rates of skeletal disease.

So…What’s the Ideal Dog FoodFor Great Danes?

There’s really no perfect one-size-fits-all food out there for your dog. There are formulas that are better for certain dogs, but this will always depend on your dog’s energy and growth needs. Protein is important simply because dogs are carnivores, but when you’re looking for nutrients that are ideal for a Great Dane, the mineral content is the most important. The best thing you can do is talk to a veterinarian familiar with up to date research on optimal nutrition for Great Danes and choose a diet based on their recommendation.

A Note About Great Danes and Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV) or “Bloat”

If you’ve done any research at all on the Great Dane breed, you have come across a mention of GDV/bloat. This deadly disorder occurs when a deep-chested breed develops excessive air in the stomach. The organ then becomes distended and twists over on itself, cutting off vital circulation. It is 100 percent fatal without emergency medical management, so it’s critical all Great Dane owners know exactly what the symptoms look like.

  • Distended, painful abdomen
  • Restlessness. An affected dog will lay down briefly then get up and pace
  • Panting
  • Coughing up white foam
  • White gums

What causes GDV?

Research is mixed on this. Some research indicates it’s because the dog eats or drinks too quickly, and other research suggests it occurs more often when dogs eat or drink immediately before or after vigorous exercise. There’s no guaranteed method of preventing it from occurring, but there are precautions to take.

Research is mixed on this. Some research indicates it’s because the dog eats or drinks too quickly, and other research suggests it occurs more often when dogs eat or drink immediately before or after vigorous exercise. There’s no guaranteed method of preventing it from occurring, but there are precautions to take.

Avoiding food and drink before or after your Dane is going to exercise is crucial, and there is a small amount of research showing elevating the food and water dishes may help prevent it. One thing that does not prevent GDV, however, is certain brands of dog food. There are no ingredients that will prevent GDV because it isn’t a disease based on nutrition; it’s completely based on the dog’s anatomy.

Choosing the right dog food for your Great Dane is a bit more complicated than it would be with a different breed, but once you’re armed with the right knowledge, the decision process is an absolute breeze. Any questions can be answered by your veterinarian, and they’re always going to be an important factor in helping you choose the best nutrition for your dog.