Feeding a large breed puppy is a balancing act.
There’s the balance between feeding the highest quality, most nutritious diet you can find, and trying not to go bankrupt providing for an ever-growing beast who eats more with each passing day.
And then there’s the equally important balance of vitamins and minerals that help a large breed puppy grow at a healthy, steady pace to avoid bone and joint problems later on in life.
When choosing a diet for your new large or giant breed puppy, quality, cost, and suitability are all important factors to consider. To help take the guesswork out of the process, we have rated and reviewed the best puppy foods for large breeds, so you can spend less time shopping and more time watching your snuggly puppy grow into a giant lapdog.
1. Orijen Puppy Large
Orijen brand dog food is famous for including over a dozen high-protein, high-quality animal ingredients in every one of their recipes. Each of their foods packs a higher than average protein and fat percentage and a lower than average carbohydrate content. Their foods are designed to be biologically appropriate and full of whole-foods that provide nutrition the way nature intended.
Their large breed puppy food, specifically, contains just the right amount of macro and micronutrients to support the healthy growth of large breed dogs while still providing quality whole-food nutrition to set them up for a long and happy life.
Orijen Puppy Large Ingredient Analysis
This large breed puppy food takes the number one spot on our list due to a variety of factors, the most important of which is their use of high-quality, biologically appropriate, whole-food ingredients.
Here is a closer look at the ingredients you will find in this large breed puppy specific kibble:
- Fresh Chicken Meat – Fresh chicken is packed with protein and lean fat to keep your pup energized and to support brain development and steady growth.
- Fresh Turkey Meat – Like chicken, this fresh meat provides plenty of protein while adding a slightly different micronutrient profile to the overall recipe.
- Fresh Cage-Free Eggs – Eggs provide healthy fats that help support brain development and overall health. They are also easily digestible and contain a different nutrient profile than most animal ingredients.
- Fresh Chicken Liver – Like many organ meats, liver is packed with vitamins and minerals, including iron and b vitamins. It also provides many essential amino acids that your dog cannot synthesize on their own.
- Fresh Whole Flounder – The inclusion of whole fish adds more than just protein and healthy fats, it also provides a natural form of calcium which is important for bone growth in puppies. Whole fish also includes many nutrient-dense organ meats.
- Fresh Whole Herring – Like flounder, this whole fish ingredient provides a long list of macro and micronutrients that even young dogs can easily digest and utilize.
- Fresh Turkey Liver – This is another organ meat ingredient chock-full of nutrients that the canine body was made to process and use.
- Fresh Chicken Neck – This bone-heavy ingredient provides calcium, glucosamine, and chondroitin–all important building blocks for healthy bones and joints.
Following these first eight ingredients are seven more animal-sourced foods including dehydrated meats and more nutrient-dense organ meats. In total, the meat and animal ingredients used in this diet make up over 81% of the total ingredient mass, an important feature considering canines are made to process nutrients from meat sources rather than plants.
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The remaining list of ingredients includes some legumes, some additional quality animal products, and plenty of plant superfoods that add very specific nutrients to the overall diet. This food only utilizes a single non-whole-food additive (copper chelate). All remaining vitamins and minerals are provided via whole-food ingredients.
This food contains a very high 38% protein to support large breed puppy growth, and a standard 16% fat to help reduce excess weight gain without robbing your pup of important fats that aid in brain development and growth.
Like their wolf ancestors, large breed dogs require high-protein diets made largely from animal-sourced ingredients. Orijen dog foods utilize a larger variety of meats and meat meals than any other kibble on the market to assure your pup gets everything they need to grow up healthy.
Dogs Who Will Benefit from Orijen Puppy Large
This puppy food is designed with a calcium/phosphorous ratio meant specifically to support the growth of puppies who will be over 70 pounds when fully grown. The majority of puppies who fall into this weight class would benefit from being on such a high-quality diet.
Highly active adolescent medium and large breed dogs would also likely benefit from the higher protein and calorie content of this food, even after growth has stopped. Working dogs and dogs who compete in dog sports would do well on this food if the Orijen Original diet did not provide quite enough calories to support them.
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Dogs Who Should Avoid Orijen Puppy Large
Because this food is specifically designed to support but slow the growth of large breed puppies to avoid overtaxing joints with rapid growth, this food would not be a good choice for smaller medium and small breeds. These smaller puppies would be much better off on Orijen’s Puppy food which is more calorie-dense and has a slightly different calcium makeup to support more rapid growth.
Many large breeds see their calorie needs drop significantly once they reach adult size. For most, switching to a high-quality adult diet would be more appropriate than continuing on this high-calorie puppy food.
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Overall Rating for Orijen Puppy Large
Overall, Oijen Puppy Large is packed with more meat ingredients than most of the rest of this list combined. These biologically appropriate foods are easier on the canine system and provide more complete and balanced nutrition than anything synthesized in a lab.
This food has a higher than average protein content to support the fast metabolism of growing puppies but is still created with a nutrition profile specific for large and giant breed puppies.
- Loaded with quality meats and animal ingredients
- High protein and average fat
- Sourced and made in the USA
2. Instinct Large Breed Puppy
Instinct’s Raw Boost line combines protein-packed kibble with nutrient-dense raw bites for a complete meal like few others on the market.
This same quality can be seen in their large breed puppy recipe but with a balanced nutrient profile to help your growing giant thrive now and well into adulthood.
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Instinct Large Breed Puppy Ingredient Analysis
This large breed puppy food utilizes multiple quality protein sources with nutrient-dense plant foods and added vitamins and minerals for a complete and balanced diet that rivals most others on this list. But what has us choosing Instinct as the second-best puppy food for large breeds is their use of raw ingredients to deliver nutrition in the form canine systems were meant to utilize.
Here is a closer look at the ingredients in this quality puppy food:
- Chicken – Fresh chicken is loaded with protein and lean fats to aid in healthy, sustained growth.
- Chicken Meal – Meat meals are made from the muscle meat, organs, and bones of animals. They are more nutritionally dense than fresh meats and provide a wider range of amino acids and micronutrients.
- Peas – Peas are a protein-dense legume that also provide fiber and starch for binding the kibble together. While this plant-ingredient is better tolerated than some grains, the protein it provides is less biologically available than protein that comes from meat.
- Egg Product – Eggs are easily digestible and contain a ton of unique nutrients. “Egg product” can refer to any combination of ingredients of various quality from human-grade eggs to eggs that failed to hatch in chicken hatcheries.
- Tapioca – This is a starchy extract made from the root of the cassava plant. It is largely used as a binding ingredient and provides little in the way of nutrition for the canine system but is generally well tolerated and easier to digest than many carbohydrates.
- Chicken Fat – This quality animal fat provides growing dogs with plenty of energy and important fats for brain development.
- Ground Flaxseed – This plant-sourced ingredient also provides plenty of healthy fats like amino fatty acids, but in a less biologically available form than those from fish or other animals.
- Dried Tomato Pomace – This ingredient is a by-product made during the processing of tomatoes into sauces and paste. While it does provide some fiber and nutrients, it is largely used as a filler ingredient.
The remaining ingredients in this diet include some notable, nutrient-dense animal ingredients like menhaden fish meal, lamb meal, and dehydrated chicken, as well as some plant superfoods like dried kelp and blueberries.
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This diet does include added synthetic vitamins and minerals to help achieve the goal nutrient ratio for growing large breed dogs.
Instinct large breed has less protein than our first choice, but still more than the average puppy food at 33.5%. It also has a slightly higher fat content at 18.5%.
You love your large breed. Make sure you show that love with what you put in their bowl. Quality diets like this one from Instinct may cost more upfront, but they will save you money on vet bills down the line as your giant begins to age.
Dogs Who Will Benefit from Instinct Large Breed Puppy
Like all our choices on this list, this diet is tailored to puppies who will be over 70 pounds when fully grown. Because it has a slightly higher fat percentage than our first choice food, it is an especially good choice for very active pups and those who struggle to maintain weight.
Since this food is more calorie-dense, it may also be a better choice for those looking to save a little money while still feeding a premium food. With this food, you will be able to get away with feeding a little less than you would with a lower calorie food.
The tasty raw bites included in this food act as in-bag toppers and not only provide extra bioavailable nutrition but work to entice picky dogs to eat better, making this food a great choice for fussy eaters.
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Dogs Who Should Avoid Instinct Large Breed Puppy
The higher fat percentage of this food may work to a disadvantage for puppies who are more prone to weight gain and obesity. A slightly lower fat/calorie food may be more advantageous to these dogs than Instinct’s large breed recipe.
Because this food lists peas as the third ingredient, it may be worth using caution and choosing a different diet if your breed is especially prone to diet-related DCM. Recent reports by the FDA suggest that diets high in legumes may exacerbate the risk of DCM in some dogs. Since many large breeds are prone to this issue, feeding this diet in addition to a raw meat diet or choosing a grain-containing, low-legume diet may be a better choice.
Overall Rating for Instinct Large Breed Puppy
Overall, Instinct large breed puppy provides plenty of quality protein from animal sources and contains the added benefit of some raw nutrition. It is formulated specifically for the needs of growing large breed dogs and utilizes both whole food nutrients and some added vitamins and minerals to create a balanced diet.
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We happily recommend this food for most large breed dogs whose owners are able to afford the higher expense.
- High protein and fat
- Includes dehydrated raw nutrition
- Quality ingredients
- Contains higher amounts of legumes
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3. Wellness CORE Large Breed Puppy
Our third choice is another grain-free large breed puppy food packed with quality animal proteins and just the right mix of micronutrients.
Wellness’s CORE line is one of their highest quality lines. These recipes bring an extra dose of protein and more animal-sourced ingredients than many of their other foods. You can read more about this great brand in our Wellness dog food review.
Wellness CORE Large Breed Puppy Ingredient Analysis
Like our number two choice, this large breed puppy food is a meat-first recipe with legumes and other easily digestible plant and animal ingredients meant to help support the steady growth of large breed dogs. While this recipe has a few more protein-heavy plant ingredients than we like to see, it is still a quality food at a slightly more affordable price than those we have reviewed so far.
Here is a closer look at what ingredients make up this diet:
- Deboned Chicken – This fresh meat ingredient is packed with protein and amino acids all dogs will benefit from.
- Chicken Meal – Rendered muscle meat, bones, and organs make up meat meals. While they may not sound appetizing to us, ingredients like chicken meal are actually more nutrient-dense and provide more protein than fresh meat like deboned chicken.
- Peas – This protein-packed legume is easily digestible and filled with fiber, but is less beneficial than protein from meat.
- Dried Ground Potatoes – Potatoes provide starch to bind dry kibble and are important for processing but are less important for your dog’s health. They provide some energy in the form of carbohydrates but this is not the preferred fuel of the canine system.
- Lentils – This is another legume that is easy on the tummy and provides some nutrients and protein, but in a less valuable form than meat.
- Turkey Meal – Here is another high-quality, nutrient-dense meat meal that provides a slightly different macronutrient profile than the chicken meal listed above.
- Ground Flaxseed – Flaxseed provides a lot of healthy omega fatty acids which are important for brain development. Ground flaxseed is processed to allow for easier digestion.
- Tomato Pomace – This ingredient is a byproduct of the processing of tomatoes for sauces and paste. It provides some fiber and nutrients but is largely used as a filler.
The reaming ingredients include a few notable quality fat sources like chicken fat and salmon oil as well as some nutrient-dense superfoods including broccoli, spinach, kale, and blueberries. This food also has added taurine, an important amino acid that some large breeds struggle to make in adequate quantities.
In addition to added taurine, this diet does include some added vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients to build a complete and balanced diet.
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This food has a slightly higher protein content compared to our number two choice at 35% but with a more average fat content at 14%.
It may seem counterintuitive, but large breed dogs actually need to grow at a slower rate than their smaller counterparts in order to develop healthy, strong joints and bones. Large breed specific puppy foods like this one from Wellness, are designed to provide plenty of nutrition but at a lower calorie density than other puppy foods to restrict growth without depriving pups of the vitamins and minerals they need.
Dogs Who Will Benefit from Wellness CORE Large Breed Puppy
This food is specifically crafted for growing large breed pups and contains the AAFCO recommended amount of calcium and phosphorus, making it a great choice for most large breed puppies.
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The higher protein content combined with a slightly lower fat percentage makes this diet the perfect choice for growing pups who need more food to fill their tummies but are prone to excess weight gain.
Dogs Who Should Avoid Wellness CORE Large Breed Puppy
Again, this is a diet that contains a higher than average amount of peas and lentils, which may negatively affect some breeds that are prone to diet-related DCM. Luckily, this recipe does contain added taurine which is meant to offset this still not-well-understood process.
However, if you have a breed such as a Golden or Great Dane who is especially prone to this condition, you may want to consider a lower-legume food until the link between diet and DCM is better understood.
Overall Rating for Wellness CORE Large Breed Puppy
Overall, CORE large breed puppy provides higher than average amounts of protein, a good amount of fat, and plenty of biologically available micronutrients to support your large breed’s growth. And it does all of this at a lower price than our first two choices.
We would recommend this diet for the average large breed puppy with the exception of those breeds with higher than average rates of DCM.
- High protein
- Multiple meat meals
- Added taurine
- High in legumes
- Some nutrient-dense filler ingredients
4. Wellness Complete Large Breed Puppy Food
The Complete line from Wellness brand dog food is a less expensive version of their higher protein CORE line.
While this large breed puppy formula from Wellness might not have quite the same benefits to offer in terms of total meat content and macronutrient profile, it still delivers a lot of quality ingredients and for a price that is lower than most of the other foods on our list. And that is an important factor when choosing a diet for a pup whose stomach is only going to keep growing.
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Wellness Complete Large Breed Puppy Ingredient Analysis
This diet from Wellness features many of the same ingredients as their CORE puppy food but with a lower meat content and the addition of a few nutritious, easily digestible grains. This food also contains fish, which adds a big boost of healthy fats that are missing from the higher-priced line.
Here is an in-depth look at the ingredients that go into making this more affordable quality large breed puppy food:
- Deboned Chicken – Fresh meat provides a healthy dose of protein, fat, and biologically valuable nutrients.
- Chicken Meal – This ingredient provides all the same benefits of fresh meat, plus even more nutrition in the form of valuable amino acids like taurine and minerals like calcium.
- Peas – This easily digestible legume provides some starch for binding and extra protein, but in a lower quality form for dogs than meat.
- Ground Brown Rice – Ground rice provides plenty of vitamins and minerals. Brown rice delivers more fiber than white but can be harder for many dogs to digest than simple white rice.
- Salmon Meal – This fish meal provides all the benefits of most meat meals on top of the super-healthy omega fatty acids that salmon is famous for. These fats are very important for brain development and growth.
- Oatmeal – Oats are high in fiber and valuable nutrients and are one of the easiest grains for dogs to digest. Oatmeal is processed to be even easier for the canine system to break down.
- Barley – Like oatmeal, this grain is easy on the stomach and contains a higher nutritional profile than other grains.
- Oats – Oats are simply the whole form version of oatmeal. They also provide fiber and nutrients but are added to the recipe as whole grains instead of processed flour.
With three quality meats listed in the first eight ingredients and chicken fat and salmon oil listed further down the list, this recipe includes plenty of biological valuable nutrition for growing puppies.
In addition to the added vitamins and minerals, this diet also includes plenty of nutrient-dense superfoods like spinach, sweet potatoes, and blueberries.
According to the guaranteed analysis, this diet contains 29% protein and 13% fat.
The term “large breed” includes any pup that will grow up to be over 70 pounds. These kinds of dogs require special diets so they grow up slow and steady rather than gaining too much mass all at once. Dogs like this Leonberger will grow into more healthy adults if fed a size-specific life stages food like this one from Wellness.
Dogs Who Will Benefit from Wellness Complete Large Breed Puppy
Even though this food contains less protein than the others listed so far, it still has more than the average dog food. And, with the exception of peas, all of the protein-heavy ingredients used are quality meats and meat meals, which means the vast majority of protein comes from biologically appropriate sources.
All this is to say, that this large breed puppy food would be a great choice for most medium to giant breed puppies. Especially considering the lower price tag.
The lower than average fat levels combined with the only slightly higher than average protein makes this food an especially good choice for puppies who have struggled to maintain a lighter weight on other types of puppy food.
Dogs Who Should Avoid Wellness Complete Large Breed Puppy
As peas are listed as the third ingredient in this diet, we would caution against using it for dogs especially prone to DCM. However, like Wellness’ other large breed puppy food, this one does include added taurine to help reduce the likelihood of a taurine deficiency.
It may also not be appropriate for puppies who require a high-calorie diet to maintain an adequate weight. Any puppy who has shown sensitivities to grain would likely do better on one of our grain-free choices listed above as well.
Overall Rating for Wellness Complete Large Breed Puppy
Overall, this diet contains a lot of quality meats and meals as well as some easily digestible grains. While it may not have as much protein as we would prefer to see for a growing large breed pup, it does have a considerable amount for the price tag.
Given the overall nutrient profile and quality of ingredients used, we would definitely recommend this as a quality diet for growing puppies.
- Higher than average protein
- Multiple meats and meals
- Some protein from peas
- Lower fat
5. Solid Gold Wolf Cub Large Breed Puppy
The Solid Gold brand focuses on holistic recipes that feature less common plant and animal ingredients that tend to work especially well for dogs with sensitive stomachs and allergies. However, the use of high-quality ingredients and biologically appropriate proteins make these recipes a great choice for any dog.
This is not a grain-free food, but it does rely on easily digestible grains like oatmeal and barley as well as non-grain nutrient-dense plant ingredients.
Their large breed puppy food is made specifically to support the growth and needs of medium and large breed pups.
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Solid Gold Wolf Cub Large Breed Ingredient Analysis
If your puppy has not done well on more traditional diets, this large breed pup food from Solid Gold might be the answer. While it does still rely on some more common ingredients like chicken fat, the majority of the foods that make up this recipe are more exotic and easier on sensitive stomachs.
Here is a closer look at the ingredient makeup of this particular recipe:
- Bison – Fresh bison meat adds a ton of protein, taurine, and other important nutrients to this diet. This less-common meat may be easier on the system of dogs with poultry or beef sensitivities.
- Ocean Fish Meal – Fish meal is another great, easy-on-the-tummy ingredient that is packed with everything a growing dog needs. Fish meal provides healthy fats, calcium, and protein.
- Brown Rice – Rice is an easily digestible grain that provides some nutrients. Brown rice is less biologically available than white, but does provide additional fiber that can aid in digestion.
- Oatmeal – This is one of the highest quality grains to include in dog food due to how easy it is to digest and its high-nutrient profile.
- Peas – Whole peas provide fiber and protein but are considered a less-quality source of amino acids for dogs than meat.
- Pearled Barley – Like oatmeal, barley is easy to digest and packed with vitamins and minerals.
- Pea Protein – Pea protein is a cheap processed ingredient that helps up the overall protein percent of a food without actually adding much in the way of biologically appropriate nutrition.
- Dried Eggs – Eggs are full of protein and other nutrients that are less common in meats but still exist in a form that the canine system was made to utilize.
The remaining ingredients include a few quality fat sources and added vitamins and minerals. In addition to the pea protein and whole peas listed above, this recipe also includes pea fiber. Overall, the amount of legumes and grains in this recipe is higher than what we saw in the previous choices, but this diet still provides plenty of quality animal protein to balance out the nutritional profile.
This diet has one of the lowest protein contents on our list at just 26% and one of the lowest fat contents at 12%.
Some breeds, like this Labrador, may grow up to weigh less than 70 pounds or they may be more. Looking at the dog’s parents may give some clues to their eventual size, but if in doubt, it is better to feed a large breed puppy food than a normal puppy diet. Most medium breeds will do just fine on a larger breed food but larger breed pups may suffer from the higher calorie density of normal puppy foods.
Dogs Who Will Benefit from Solid Gold Wolf Cub Large Breed
Despite having a lower macronutrient profile than some other foods on our list, this diet is still a quality choice for most growing large breed dogs.
It would be an especially smart choice for puppies who have had problems with weight gain or growing too fast, or otherwise need to maintain a lighter weight.
Puppies with sensitivities to other foods with more common ingredients may also benefit from the stomach-friendly ingredients and less common meats used in this recipe.
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Dogs Who Should Avoid Solid Gold Wolf Cub Large Breed
This diet would not be the best choice for dogs who require a lot of protein, such as puppies who will one day be used as working or competition dogs. While the amount of protein is adequate for companion animals, it may not provide enough nutrition for a high-performance dog whose bones and joints will take more abuse throughout adulthood.
Because of the low-fat content in combination with the about average protein levels, this would also not be the best choice for puppies struggling to gain weight or who are failing to grow at a high enough rate.
Overall Rating for Solid Gold Wolf Cub Large Breed
Overall, this is a lower protein and fat diet, but one that would still work well for most dogs. Considering the quality of the ingredients used and the price tag, this is still easily one of the better large breed puppy foods on the market.
We would recommend this diet for the average companion large breed puppy.
- Easily digestible formula
- Less common meats and grains
- Low protein
- Low fat
- Higher in grains and legumes
Jen Jones is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with more than 25 years of experience. As the founder of ‘Your Dog Advisor’ and the ‘Canine Connection’ rehabilitation center, she applies a holistic, empathetic approach, aiming to address root causes rather than merely treating symptoms.
Well known for her intuitive and compassionate approach, Jen adopts scientifically-proven, reward-based methods, encouraging positive reinforcement over punishment. Jen specializes in obedience training, behavior modification, and puppy socialization. Her innovative methods, particularly in addressing anxiety and aggression issues, have been widely recognized. Jen has worked with many of the world’s leading dog behaviorists and in her free time volunteers with local animal shelters and rescue groups.