Special Nutritional Needs of Puppies
petMD - Puppies eating a food with too much Calcium and Phosphorus, and a high calcium to phosphorus ratio, also increases the odds that a large breed puppy will be afflicted by a developmental orthopedic disease.
Studies have shown rather definitively that high calcium levels are a risk factor for development of DOD in large breed puppies. Best to a avoid calcium-containing supplements and treats.
Choosing the best large breed puppy food — and feeding it in the right amount — can significantly lower your dog’s risk of developing hip dysplasia.1
That’s because the nutritional needs of large and giant breed puppies are different from those of small and medium breeds, and ignoring those needs can lead to crippling bone and joint disorders like:
Why Large Breed Puppies
Are at Greater Risk
When compared to smaller breeds, two unique factors about the way they grow make large breed puppies more prone to skeletal problems:
In comparison, a human being can take 18 years to achieve results that are less than half that much. What’s more, unlike smaller breeds that can be fed as adults at about 9-12 months, many larger breeds continue to grow and can still be considered puppies until 12 to 24 months.3
Rapid growth means the bones must change quickly — a factor that can put them at risk of forming improperly. And it is this remarkable rate of growth that makes large and giant breeds so sensitive to nutritional imbalances.
Pups, unlike adult dogs, cannot adequately regulate how much dietary calcium they absorb from the intestinal tract. Sometimes they absorb and retain too much calcium which can cause skeletal malformations.
Free choice is a popular feeding method in which the food remains in the bowl and continuously available — so a puppy can eat whenever it wants.
Sadly, many owners of large breed puppies mistakenly believe that this form of uncontrolled eating is the correct way to feed their pets.
However, free choice feeding has been shown to cause a puppy to grow too fast — and lead to serious problems.
For example, a 1995 German study of Great Danes demonstrated a significant increase in the risk of developing skeletal disease when the puppies were fed free choice.8
In another study, one group of Labrador Retriever puppies was fed throughout life a restricted calorie diet while a second was fed free choice.9
The restricted calorie group experienced a much lower incidence and later onset of hip joint arthritis.
Too Much Calcium
Like overfeeding, excessive dietary calcium has also been shown to increase the risk of skeletal disease in large breed puppies.10
That’s because puppies can have trouble regulating how much calcium is absorbed from their intestinal tracts11 and that’s not all, feeding too little calcium can also lead to problems. That’s why it’s so important to feed a dog food that contains an amount of calcium that’s safe for large breed puppies.
Unfortunately, the Internet is awash with misinformation about how to feed large breed puppies. For example, many insist that high levels of dietary protein can lead to hip dysplasia.
Yet contrary to that popular myth…
No evidence exists to link high protein intake to skeletal disease in large breed dogs.4
So, if high protein isn’t the problem — what is?
The Real Causes
of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs
If you exclude all the less common factors, hip dysplasia in large breeds appears to be the result of at least one of 3 proven causes:
Scan the Package for the Nutritional Adequacy Statement. Here is a picture below, of what it looks like…
How To Be Sure
Your Dog Food Is Safe
Thanks to an important change in labeling laws that went into effect in January 2016…It’s now possible for you to be 100% certain ANY food you buy is a good match for your large breed puppy. Without calling your vet. Or consulting a nutritionist.
Best of all…The written assurance you need is printed right there on the label of virtually every commercial dog food. You just need to know where to look.
It’s a simple, easy-to-read sentence known as the Nutritional Adequacy Statement, and based on standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)… And scientific data published by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Science. Which means…To meet the more rigid safety guidelines for large breed puppies, a dog food must contain12
You want to be absolutely certain the food meets AAFCO nutrient profiles for either “Growth” or “All Life Stages“.
And… That it also reads… “including growth of large size dogs.“
That last phrase is SUPER IMPORTANT! Because if you don’t see those words…
You should assume the food contains too much calcium… and is NOT SAFE for your large or giant breed puppy by the way…
AAFCO defines a large breed puppy as any dog whose adult weight is expected to exceed 70 pounds. However... For greater safety… We recommend a more conservative 50 pound limit advocated by others.14 15 16 17
Read More On This Topic,
IVC Journal (Innovative Veterinary Care)
Best Large Breed Puppy Foods
See Complete List
Lauten SD, Nutritional Risks to Large Breed Dogs: From Weaning to the Geriatric Years, Vet Clin Small Anim 36 (2006) 1345–1359.