Best Dog Food for Large Breeds: Top 5 High-Quality Affordable Picks to Keep Your Dog Healthy

By Ashley Turner     Last Updated June 14, 2022

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We all know that not all dog foods are created equal. However, you may not be aware that the size of your dog has a significant impact on the type of dog food they should have. Large breed dogs have their own nutritional needs that help to ensure a long and healthy life. However, most high-quality dog food can be expensive. For this reason, many pet owners settle for a cheaper and usually less nutritious option.

For this reason, we are going to review what it is exactly that you should be looking for in a quality dog food for your large breed pet as well as our pick of the five brands that are the best dog food for large breeds without breaking the bank.

Our Top Food Picks for Your Large Breed Dog

Need-to-Know Nutrition Information for Large Dog Breeds

Healthy large breed hunting dog

Just as with any pet, knowing what your dog needs for a healthy and balanced meal and what factors you need to consider will make picking the right brand of dog food a lot easier. Here are some factors that affect the health of your large puppy, and our wallets, and should be taken into consideration before you buy any foods.

Nutritional Needs

Feeding your dog a balanced and complete commercial diet is a reliable option for ensuring your big baby is getting all of the nutrients they need. High-quality options include all of the fiber, carbs, vitamins, proteins, and minerals that make digestion easier.

While most of the ingredients found in food for large dogs are also in food for other sizes, large breed dogs need special diets and monitoring in order to help prevent health risks that are associated with nutrition. That is why you should look for a puppy food that is designed for large breeds and have:

  • Lower levels of vitamin D.
  • Lower levels of phosphorus.
  • Lower levels of calcium,
  • Lower levels of fat.

Having these ingredients in higher levels can lead to issues with our next topic….


Another nutritional concern for dogs from large breeds has to do with their rate of growth. Large puppies grow into very large dogs in as little as 18 months of age. A fast growth rate makes your large breed dog sensitive to caloric and nutritional intake.

An unbalanced diet, too many calories or not enough calories can adversely impact the health of your large breed puppy. Accelerated growth has also been linked to DOD, developmental orthopedic disease.

With that said, the growth of your puppy should be monitored and controlled to the best of your ability. That is why selecting a dog food that offers the right amount of nutrition and without being excessive is important.


Dog foods created for older dogs has only been on the market for a short time, comparatively. At the time of this writing, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Association of American Feed Control Officials has not approved any senior stage dog foods. While these types of dog foods have not been tested on the same stringent levels as approved dog foods have, it does not mean that they are not a good option for your older large breed dog.

In some cases, senior large breed dogs may require a prescription diet. These foods have been veterinary-approved and have been created solely for the health needs of your older dog. If you think this is an option that your pet could benefit from, talk with your vet and let them decide.

Large vs. Giant Breeds

This may seem like a familiar topic but knowing the actual size your dog is capable of reaching is something else you need to consider. “Large”, for the majority of dog food companies, is a category that includes all dogs that weigh 50 pounds or more when they reach adulthood.

However, that is a very broad comparison. A Great Dane can weigh 200-pounds as an adult and a Retriever can weigh 75-pounds. Do you think a 125-pound weight difference impacts the nutritional needs of either of these examples? Possibly.

The good news is that it is safe to assume that a large breed dog food can be fed to giant and large breeds alike. Just check the packaging to make sure that it does not state otherwise. To address this variance, some companies create dog foods that are designed specifically for giant breed dogs.

Ingredients You Want

Just as with most dogs, the main ingredients you should look for are fat and protein. They should come from good sources and without being excessive. There should be ideally two or three types of meat proteins and can be either meat meals or whole meats.

The included fats should be quality sources such as chicken fat and fish oil. Younger large breed pups would benefit from DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) while older large breed dogs could use medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs).

Try to avoid foods containing wheat, corn, and soy. Other grains, such as oats, rice, and barley should be fine for adding dietary fiber for most dogs. Dog foods containing sweet potatoes are ideal options for those that want to avoid grains altogether.


While providing our pets with the best possible nutrition is the goal of every pet owner, we have to look at price as a deciding factor. We have other financial responsibilities besides our pets so the price can be a deciding factor.

That’s one of the reasons we have taken the time to find quality dog foods for our large breed buddies that won’t break the bank.

Common Questions About Large Breed Dog Food

Is Large Breed Dog Food Necessary?

If you have a large breed dog, you need large breed dog food to ensure that your dog has adequate support for their growth. This is especially important when your large breed dog is a puppy because this is the stage that they're prone to developing skeletal problems.

Large breed dog food helps to ensure that your large breed dog avoids these problems, and they have different formulas that include different levels of vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and more. It's also important that you feed your dog the appropriate breed size food throughout their lives, and not just in the puppy stage.

This helps to ensure that you end up with a happy and healthy dog.

How is Large Breed Dog Food Different?

Since large breed dogs are prone to skeletal problems like hip dysplasia, you want to feed them large breed puppy food that contains a very carefully balanced ratio of phosphorus and calcium. Additionally, the food should also be slightly less energy-dense than you'd get with smaller breeds because your large breed dog can eat more in one sitting.

Most large breed puppy foods aren't as calorie-dense as small breed food because having food too high in fat can cause your puppy to grow faster than their bodies can handle. The key is to give your large breed dog a balanced food that promotes steady growth until they reach their final size.

When this hit this size, you should feed them food that supports muscle and bone health with essential vitamins and nutrients. Things like vitamin D, vitamin A, manganese, zinc, and copper are essential, as well as antioxidants to help keep your dog's cells and tissues healthy.

Large breed food also typically contains things like glucosamine and chondroitin to help support healthy joints. This is especially important when your dog starts to get older because large breed dogs tend to have problems with arthritis.

Do Large Breed Dogs Need Glucosamine?

Since Glucosamine is essential for joint health and large breed dogs have problems with their joints, yes. Your dog food should have Glucosamine listed as an ingredient.

Glucosamine helps to reduce any inflammation around the joint, and inflammation is a hallmark symptom of arthritis and cartridge problems. Giving your large breed dog this joint supplement in their food throughout their lives can have a positive impact on their quality of life.

Glucosamine can also help keep cell tissue strong and protect it from damage due to stress. This is very important as your large breed dog grows because they tend to grow at a very rapid pace. Glucosamine helps to ensure consistent growth for all of your dog's systems.

Can I Feed My Large Dog Small Breed Food?

You can feed your large breed dog small breed dog food, but you shouldn't because it has different nutritional content. For example, it has a higher fat content and more calories that can cause your large breed dog to grow too fast.

This faster pace can cause their joints and skeletal system to have issues that negatively impact their quality of life. Additionally, the smaller kibble size allows your dog to eat quicker. This can increase their risk of choking or having digestive upset.

The bacteria levels fluctuate between the two dog food styles as well, and small breed dog food has fewer bacteria because smaller dogs don't need as much. This means that your large breed dog won't get enough bacteria from their food to support optimal digestion, and this is where you see upset stomach, runny stools, or constipation.

So, can you feed your large breed dog small breed dog food? The answer is no.

Our Top 5 Picks for the Best Large Breed Dog Food

Now that we have covered what to look for in large breed dog food for your pet, let’s take a look at the five options we have reviewed and were found to be good choices. Our selections had to meet specific criteria, such as affordably priced and will provide the necessary nutrition a large dog breed needs to stay healthy.

1. Purina Pro Plan Shredded Blend Large Breed Formula

Purina Pro Plan Large Breed Dog Food

This high-end member of the Purina line of dog foods features a lot of nutrients and vitamins that large breed dogs need in their diets. The primary ingredient is whole chicken and is an excellent source of protein.

The formula is designed to be easily digested by your pet and also features prebiotic fiber to help with digestive health and supports beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract. To ensure your dog is not getting too much or too little of protein and fat, Purina uses a tailored protein-to-fat ratio that helps to maintain an ideal weight.

The kibble is a mix of hard pieces that help with dental health and tender pieces that most dogs enjoy.

Each bag contains 26 percent crude protein and 12 percent crude fat, along with other helpful ingredients. People with previous experience with Purina Pro Plan Shredded Blend have reported improved weight management and consistency in the quality of the product.

Things We Liked
  • One of the best values we have seen conducting this review
  • Has an ideal protein-to-fat ratio
Things We Didn't Like
  • There are plenty of healthy ingredients, however, this formula contains wheat bran and DHA, both of which are looked down on by many pet owners

2. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula

Blue Buffalo Life Protection

Named after the owner’s Airedale, Blue, the chicken and brown rice formula is designed for adult dogs. All of the included ingredients have been selected specifically to better support the nutritional needs of our pets as they age. There is no corn, soy, or wheat added and uses whole chicken as the primary protein source.

BLUE also has more condition and size-specific foods than most of the other manufacturers of natural dog foods. The process BLUE uses to make their kibble, cold-forming, helps to retain a higher level of antioxidants and vitamins that are lost in hot-forming methods.

The kibble includes BLUE’s LifeSource bits that are a blend of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants that help to ensure your dog is getting all of the nutrition that it needs. The maker uses seven different fruits as the source of the antioxidants.

While not the cheapest of the quality large breed dog foods, it is also not the most expensive. Customers that have switched to this Blue blend has reported fewer instances of skin rashes that were related to ingredients found in lower quality dog foods. They have also reported their pets achieving and maintaining a healthier weight.

Things We Liked
  • Even though this is designed for large breeds, owners of small and medium breeds have reported success with their pets
  • High level of nutrients do to the manufacturing process
Things We Didn't Like
  • While not the most expensive we have seen, it is still on the pricy side and could be an issue for those on a tight budget

3. Canidae All Life Stages Formula Dog Food

Canidae All Life Stages Dog Food

For the pet owner with multiple age ranges in the home, the CANIDAE All Life Stages dog food might be a good option. Even though the bag is labeled for large breeds, the vet formulated food is ideal for dogs of all sizes and ages and can take the hassle out of having to prepare several different meals.

Your puppy can start using this formula from the very beginning and can use it for their senior life stages. There is no corn, soy, or wheat and meat meals provide a concentrated protein source. This product also contains sage, brown rice, peas, and papaya to balance out the formula.

This food is more expensive however, if the adage of “you get what you pay for” is correct, then you would expect to get a quality product. From what we have seen with this brand, quality food that helps keep your four-legged baby healthy is what you get. Improved energy levels, healthier coats, and fewer instances of skin-related issues after using this brand.

Things We Liked
  • All natural formula that was created by veterinarians
  • Uses concentrated meat meals as the primary protein source
Things We Didn't Like
  • The price is kind of steep and could be a limiting factor for households on tight budgets

4. Nutro Wholesome Essentials Large Breed Puppy Dog Food

Nutro Wholesome Essentials Large Breed Puppy Dog Food

The next brand we reviewed was Nutro Wholesome Essentials. While dogs of any life stage could benefit from this formula, it is primarily formulated for large breed puppies. Along with farm-raised chicken, sweet potatoes, and brown rice, the makers have included a nice dose of calcium to help your growing puppy develop stronger bones.

This dog food also contains vitamin E and other antioxidants to help boost your pup's immune system. You can also find plenty of omega 3 fatty acids that provide additional help with the growth of your puppy. From 10 pounds to 200 pounds, this could be a potential lifelong option for your pet.

This food is in the middle of the pack as far as price. However, it does provide everything the growing puppy needs to ensure they are healthy, strong, and happy. After using this Wholesome Essentials product, customers have reported their pets have softer and healthier coats.

Things We Liked
  • Great option for you new member of the family
  • Plenty of nutrients a growing dog will need
Things We Didn't Like
  • Even though we have reviewed brands that are more expensive, this one is still on the steep side
  • Contains DHA, something you may be hesitant to give to your pet

5. Hill's Science Diet Adult Large Breed

Hills Science Diet Large Breed Food

This dog food from Hill’s is designed for dogs that weigh more than 55 pounds. Along with a long list of beneficial nutrients, this formula also includes chondroitin and glucosamine for healthy joints and improved mobility and omega 6 fatty acids that help to promote a healthier coat and skin. This is another dog food that can be a part of your dog's life from early on and into their senior years.

Not really the most expensive but not the cheapest either. Those that have used Hill’s Science Diet have reported their pets have fewer GI issues and healthier coats.

Things We Liked
  • Great option if you want a product you can use for the entire life of your pet
  • Has the right amount of nutrition for your large breed dog
Things We Didn't Like
  • Per pound price makes this a limited option

Our Top Pick

Picking a clear winner for this post was a challenge. They all provide your large breed pet with the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals they need to grow and stay healthy. However, when we look from a budget point-of-view, the competition narrows.

Looking at it this way, the winner would have to be Purina Pro Plan Shredded Blend Large Breed Formula. With a budget-friendly price and all the nutrition large breed dogs need, this Purina brand would make a fine addition to any dog's diet.

We hope you have enjoyed this article covering the best dog food for large breeds and look forward to hearing from our readers. As pet owners, you have a plethora of experience and could know of some other dietary options that could have possibly made our list. So, we love feedback and can’t wait to see your ideas and suggestions.