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Lovingly referred to as gentle giants, Great Danes are a massive breed. These dogs take as long as three to four years to fully mature and, once they do, you can expect them to weigh a minimum of 100 pounds (they can grow up to 200 pounds). Though their size presents certain challenges, a friendly personality and family-oriented demeanor makes them a great choice as a pet.
From the moment you bring your Great Dane puppy home, he will be your best friend and most faithful companion. Return the favor by providing him with the best dog food for Great Danes that you can to give him a long and healthy life.
What You Should Know About Canine Nutrition
Though there are thousands of years between them, your Great Dane is technically related to the wild wolf and his evolutionary nutritional requirements remain very similar.
Dogs have been described as scavenging carnivores which means they do best on a meat-based diet but have the ability to digest plant material. This separates them from obligate carnivores like cats who are biologically and anatomically designed to eat only meat.
Protein is the foundation of a healthy diet for dogs. It supports growth and development in puppies and helps adult dogs maintain lean muscle mass. Fat is a concentrated source of calories and helps your dog absorb fat-soluble vitamins. Your dog has no nutritional requirement for carbohydrates (though healthy sources can provide essential nutrients) and he needs a collection of vitamins and minerals as well.
Most commercial dog foods provide for the minimum nutritional requirements of dogs, but not all dog foods are created equal. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has created dog food nutrient profiles to establish minimums for nutritional adequacy but it’s important to keep in mind that these are bare minimums. An AAFCO statement of nutritional quality is not necessarily an indication of quality.
The information you find on a pet food label can be misleading, so be sure to check the guaranteed analysis and ingredients list for yourself to evaluate a product’s quality.
Feeding Requirements for Large and Giant Breeds
All dogs have the same basic nutritional requirements, but you can’t feed all dogs the same way.
Small breeds like Chihuahuas and Yorkshire terriers may be tiny but they have very fast metabolisms and need frequent meals to prevent low blood sugar. Large and giant breeds like the Great Dane burn calories at a lower rate but need a higher number of calories overall.
The average dog needs about 30 calories per pound of body weight, though it may be closer to 25 for giant breeds. At an adult size ranging from 100 to 200 pounds, your Great Dane may need anywhere from 2,500 to 3,000 calories a day.
The key to feeding your Great Dane is to choose a high-protein, moderate-fat diet with between 350 and 450 calories per cup. You’ll need to adjust your dog’s feeding amount according to his age and activity level, but moderate calorie content ensures that he won’t have to eat a large volume of food to meet his calorie needs. Large meals can increase the risk of bloat in large breeds, a deadly condition in which the stomach fills with gas and twists on itself, causing your dog to go into shock.
In fact, bloat is the #1 killer of Great Danes! You can help prevent bloat by feeding your dog scheduled meals instead of free feeding and taking steps to ensure he doesn’t eat too quickly or too much at once.
Choosing the Right Food for Your Great Dane
The best dog food for Great Danes varies based on your dog’s age. Puppies need a higher concentration of protein and calories than older dogs, but you want to keep your Great Dane puppy from growing too quickly because it could increase his risk for developmental orthopedic diseases.
When shopping for Great Dane puppy food, look for an absolute minimum of 22% protein but ideally something between 25% and 30%. The ideal fat range for puppies is about 12% to 18%; avoid going too high or the excess calories might contribute to overgrowth. Adult Great Danes can benefit from high protein content as well to maintain lean mass, but their fat intake should be a little lower once they reach full size and they don’t need as many calories for development.
Here are some general things to look for in Great Dane food:
- Real meat, poultry, or fish as the first ingredient
- Two animal proteins within the first three ingredients
- Moderate content of animal-based fats (like chicken fat)
- Low concentration of digestible carbohydrates like whole grains and veggies
- Natural sources for key nutrients balanced with supplements
- No artificial additives (like dyes, flavors, and preservatives)
The best way to meet your Great Dane’s specific nutritional needs is to choose a recipe formulated for large and giant breeds. These recipes offer the right balance of protein and calories to support healthy weight maintenance with optimal calcium to phosphorus ratios for bone and joint health.
Change your dog’s diet from large breed puppy food to large or giant breed adult food when his growth starts to slow; this usually happens between around 18 months for Great Danes.
The Best Dog Food for Great Danes
With so many options out there, choosing the right dog food can be a daunting task. Fortunately, we’ve done the hard work for you to bring you our recommendations for the best dog food for Great Danes.
Give your Great Dane puppy a healthy start to life with this all-natural, holistic canned food featuring fresh chicken and salmon as premium sources of real animal protein.
Formulated for the needs of growing large-breed puppies like your Great Dane, this biologically appropriate dry food contains 85% animal ingredients including fresh meat, organs, and bone.
Loaded with animal protein with moderate fat and calorie content, this recipe is designed specifically for large and giant breeds to deliver wholesome, natural nutrition through high-quality ingredients.
This all-natural canned food is moisture- and protein-rich, packed with wholesome ingredients like real fish and turkey. You’ll also find fresh fruits and veggies as natural sources for key nutrients.
Ideal for giant breeds like your Great Dane, this holistic natural recipe features a unique digestive health support system with prebiotics, probiotics, digestive enzymes, and natural fibers.
Featuring real avocado as a rich source of healthy fats, this canned food is also packed with protein from fresh chicken and ocean fish. Rice, potatoes, and carrots offer digestible carbohydrates and biologically valuable sources of essential nutrients.
Made with chicken meal and oatmeal as the top two ingredients, this holistic large breed formula is a little more concentrated in fat and calories than some recipes, so it may be the ideal choice for a young or active Great Dane.
Formulated for the changing needs of your senior dog, this healthy weight formula contains plenty of animal protein with whole brown rice and whole-grain millet as nutritious and digestible carbohydrate sources with healthy fat for energy.
Rich in moisture and easy on senior dog teeth, this pate formula features the premium animal proteins of chicken, lamb, and salmon as well as nutrient-rich superfoods.
The Great Dane is a massive breed, so you should expect a few challenges as a dog owner. That being said, they are also very gentle and patient which is what makes them great family companions. Learn more about this larger-than-life breed in our new owner’s guide for Great Dane parents.