Your Great Dane puppy is likely an excellent eater. Just one look at his/her parents should help you to understand why; he or she has a ‘great’ deal of growing to do before they reach adulthood. Before you start letting that little bundle of joy scarf down everything in sight, take the time to understand how a healthy and well-balanced diet can contribute to their happiness and longevity.
Large breed dogs grow fast! Great Dane puppies can increase their birth weight by 60 times or more the first year and they will continue to grow until age three! This rapid growth has been known to cause problems for these gentle giants and it is important that you provide your little eating machine with foods of appropriate nutritional value.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT FOOD
To begin with your Danes diet should start with real meat protein, as opposed to protein gleaned from grains. Proteins promote healthy muscle growth and are important to your Danes physical development. Look for premium dry dog foods with real chicken, lamb, or beef and a protein content of at least 25%-30%.
In addition to protein, your Great Dane’s diet should include ingredients that promote healthy skeletal growth. Calcium promotes strong teeth and bones, but can be harmful in excess (especially for puppies). Puppies have a more difficult time regulating how much calcium their bodies absorb, and too much calcium can have adverse effects. Look for foods with calcium levels around 1.5%. Also, try to ensure that the calcium to phosphate ratios are close to 1:1.
Vitamin D, vitamin A, manganese, zinc, and copper also promote healthy bones and a dog food that includes these vitamins and minerals can benefit large breeds. As with calcium, a deficiency, or excess of these ingredients can be detrimental.
While many of us humans have a rather negative opinion of fat, it is an essential ingredient for your Great Dane’s diet. Now, before you start frying up the bacon for your little charmer, keep in mind that we are talking about healthy fats, and a good quality dog food should contain some. Keep the fat content to around 9% and you should be fine.
FREQUENCY AND QUANTITY
As important as ‘what’ you feed your Great Dane is ‘how’ you feed them. Great Danes are big eaters and will often eat more than is necessary if food is made available. This overeating can lead to obesity and promote skeletal problems like hip dysplasia and OCD (osteochondritis dessecans).
To avoid obesity you should limit your dane’s caloric intake to 2500-3500 calories per day, depending on age, weight, and activity levels. Choose a dog food that provides between 350 and 450 calories per cup and avoid ‘free feeding’. It is best to divide their caloric intake between two or three meals a day.
It is also important to note that Dane’s are susceptible to bloat (a twisting of the stomach that can be both painful and deadly). It is important that mealtime be followed by a nice nap to allow time for digestion. Two or three hours rest after eating is highly recommended.
TREATS AND SUPPLEMENTS
All dogs love treats and the look that they give you when they want one is difficult to ignore. Don’t worry, we’re not going to tell you they can’t have treats, but not all treats are created equal.
Choose treats that are low in carbohydrates and do not contain added calcium. Your pooch should be getting the recommended calcium allowance with his primary meals. Also, be wary of how those treats affect your Dane’s caloric intake; an overweight dog is an unhealthy dog.
Fruits and vegetables can be healthy alternatives to commercial dog treats, but be aware that some fruits and veggies are toxic to dogs. Never feed them grapes, raisins, or onions and always check with your veterinarian if you are unsure.
Supplements for dogs are big business these days and it seems that everyone and their brother are promoting something new. It can be very difficult to choose the right supplement for your beloved pet.
As long-time breeders of Great Danes we recommend NuVet Tablets. These are made using natural, human-grade ingredients and are formulated in a FDA regulated pharmaceutical lab. They include a variety of antioxidants, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and herbs that support your Great Dane’s immune system and help them to lead longer healthier lives.
As always, if you have questions or concerns about what, when, or how often to feed your Great Dane, you should consult your veterinarian.