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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. Once they do, you can expect them to weigh a minimum of 100 pounds—and they can grow up to 200 pounds. It takes a lot of calories to sustain that kind of growth, and what you feed just is as important as how much. That’s why we’ve rounded up a shortlist of the best dog food for Great Danes.
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. In fact, 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 a pup 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. The best thing you can do as a pet parent is 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, your Great Dane may need anywhere from 2,500 to 3,000 calories a day.
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. Bloat is 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 number one 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 Dog 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; rapid growth could increase his risk for developmental orthopedic diseases.
When shopping for Great Dane puppy food, look for an absolute minimum of 22% protein. Even better, choose something between 25% and 30% protein. The ideal fat range for puppies is about 12% to 18%. Avoid going too high, since excess calories can contribute to overgrowth. Adult Great Danes can benefit from high protein content as well to help them maintain lean mass. However, their fat intake should be reduced once they reach full size and no longer need as many calories.
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 help your pup maintain a healthy weight. They’re also formulated 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 18 and 24 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. We’ve rounded up vet and pup favorites in this list of 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. Your pup will love the savory flavor, and you’ll appreciate the affordable price point.Shop on Amazon Shop on Chewy Shop on Petco
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. Like all Orijen recipes, the first five ingredients are always fresh or raw animal ingredients.Shop on Amazon Shop on Chewy Shop on Petco
Loaded with animal protein with moderate fat and calorie content, this recipe is designed specifically for large and giant breeds, which makes it an excellent dog food for Great Danes. It’s made with high-quality ingredients to deliver wholesome, natural nutrition, including probiotics to support healthy digestion.Shop on Amazon Shop on Chewy Shop on Petco
This all-natural canned food is moisture- and protein-rich, packed with wholesome ingredients like chicken and chicken liver. You’ll also find fresh fruits and veggies cooked in a flavorful formula free from artificial additives.Buy Now on Amazon Shop on Chewy Shop on Petco
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. With plenty of omega-3s, this recipe also supports your dog’s skin and coat.Shop on Amazon Shop on Chewy
Featuring avocado as a rich source of healthy fats, this canned food also contains fresh chicken, chicken liver, and cod. Potatoes and carrots offer digestible carbohydrates and biologically valuable sources of essential nutrients in this flavorful stew.Shop on Amazon Shop on Chewy
Made with chicken meal and oatmeal as the top ingredients, this holistic large breed formula is more concentrated in fat and calories than some recipes. It may be the ideal choice for a young or active Great Dane with higher energy levels.Shop on Amazon Shop on Chewy
Formulated for the changing needs of a senior dog, this healthy weight formula contains plenty of animal protein. It’s supplemented with whole brown rice and whole-grain millet as nutritious and digestible carbohydrate sources, making it a smart dog food for older Great Danes.Shop on Amazon Shop on Chewy
Rich in moisture and easy on senior dog teeth, this pate formula dog food features a trio of premium animal proteins. Great Danes benefit from leading animal proteins like chicken, lamb, and salmon, as well as nutrient-rich superfoods.Shop on Amazon Shop on Chewy