Large Breed Dogs can eat the same diet as small and medium breeds, Right? No, the Larger Breed dogs have completely different nutritional needs, and are of greater risk than other breeds for developmental disorders of the bones and joints, such as hip and elbow dysplasia, osteochondrosis dissecans (disease of the cartilage that can affect various joints in a dog) and hypertrophic osteodystrophy (also known as skeletal scurvy, producing severe lameness and pain in the limbs). These disorders can have a strong genetic component but, environmental factors can also influence the development of them.
The growth phase is also the most important phase and the nutritional needs of a growing Large Breed Dog (from Birth to 12-18 months) are one of the Key Influential factors affecting the development of the above mentioned disorders. The growth rates of these puppies are dependent on their diet and the skeletal size of the dog is genetically determined; slower growth does not mean a smaller dog. There are two key nutrients important to reducing the risks of the disorders, Fat (Total Calories) and Calcium.
A High Fat/Calorie intake can cause rapid weight gain, and if the bones/muscles aren’t developed enough to support all this weight it increases the risk of developmental bone and joint problems. Growth spurts lead to poor quality bone which will be more susceptible to problems. There is a difference between Optimal Growth and Maximum Growth, and since Large Breed Dogs are already predisposed to growing too fast, we don’t need to help that along by feeding inappropriate, Calorie dense diets. Body condition scoring is vital as weight is one of the most important aspects of protecting joints and this is imperative to all growth phases.
An excessive or insufficient calcium intake increases the chances of skeletal issues. A Calcium deficiency would caused the bones to develop soft or very thin, luckily due to commercial balanced diets this is easy to prevent, but Calcium excess is a lot easier than people realise for Large Breed Dogs. Supplementing extra vitamins can also increase Calcium intake and isn’t a good idea. The excess Calcium essentially makes the dog more susceptible to diseases to which is could be genetically prone, or increase the risk of development.
Large Breed puppies shouldn’t start exercising too young as their joints and bones take longer to develop fully, young bones are also softer and prone to being worn down if over-exercised, worse if muscles are not strong enough and get very tired. They will also gain their adult weight much faster than other breeds and this could cause irreparable damage to their skeletal structure. Muscle and tendons need to develop and strengthen to support the joint structures such as the hips. Exercise should start slow, and then increase over time but it will differ between breeds and individuals.
A healthy balanced diet and regular controlled/limited exercise is the best thing you could do to help large breed dogs create a strong, balanced skeletal and joint structure, to live long, healthy lives.
Once you have reached the adult age, which varies from 12-18 months, you have to maintain your Large Breed Dogs healthy lifestyle. This includes feeding a balanced diet with higher levels or certain nutrients such as Fatty Acids (EPA and DHA), Glucosamine, Chondroitin, L-Carnitine and the Antioxidant Vitamins E+C, these extra’s help to maintain an optimal weight, muscle to fat ratio and healthy joints and cartilage in your dog. The prevention of old-age arthritis starts here; early prevention is much more effective.
Large Breed Dogs age faster than the small and medium breeds, this means that instead of changing over to a Senior diet at around 7 years of age, you change over at around 5. Older dogs usually need a diet lower in calories, but still adequate protein and fat and higher in fibre. Certain Senior Dogs might need diets with less protein, if they have decreased kidney function, Lower Calories for less active dogs as excessive weight gain puts even more stress on their already aged joints and bones, older dogs are more prone to constipation and need the higher fibre diets. Although Premium Senior Large Breed Diets are well balanced and don’t need supplementation, but all dogs are different and some supplements can be useful at this stage to make their golden years more comfortable and help maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Feeding your Large Breed Dog a Super Premium/ Veterinary Approved diet will work in your favour, as they have done all the research to ensure the levels of nutrients are always optimal for the individual dog sizes, as well as catering for the different life phases. You should always feed for a Large Breed Dog, since now you know they differ from the small to medium breeds and need a different make-up and ratio of nutrients. These Diets have undergone years of research and testing, which means you don’t need to worry about supplementation and calorie counting. You can rest assured that if you feed the correct diet for your Large Breed dog and stick to the guidelines given, they won’t encounter the burdens to their health and wellness that come with feeding sub-optimal diets.