Appropriate Nutrient Levels for Skeletal Development in Large & Giant Breed Puppies

Feeding Large & Giant Breed Puppies

When focusing on nutrition needs of large & giant breed puppies, you want to feed a quality and balanced diet, ensuring the amount of energy being provided is appropriate. Large and giant breeds need to be fed according to their current weight with consideration of their energy requirements but not based on energy requirements. This is because of their propensity towards growth disorders.
Too much energy grows a pup too fast. Larger breeds take longer to reach their full growth so keeping their diet balanced and the puppy fed for a medium/moderate rate of growth is ideal. It is important to monitor them and check weight and height every two weeks so you can make the appropriate changes to their meals according to their nutrition needs.
Critical Information: It is crucial to learn about your large or giant breed so you can provide the correct diet for the nutrition needs of large & giant breed puppies. Not all dogs are the same and some breeds are predisposed to growth problems that can be avoided through proper nutrition during the first two years of life.

Energy & Protein

You want optimal growth not maximum growth to protect the skeletal structure of your growing puppy. Use nutrition standards as guides and ensure you feed within the recommended range, applying them according to your dog. The minimum proportion of energy that should be supplied by protein for large/giant breeds dogs is lower than the recommended percentage for a smaller breed dog. However, the actual % of protein is not as important as the balance of energy to protein when it comes to raw feeding growing large and giant breed puppies.
Critical Recap: You want to feed large & giant breed puppies for optimal growth not maximum. 

raw feeding large and giant breed puppiesCalcium Metabolism

Puppies younger than six months old cannot fully regulate calcium absorption yet. Too little calcium can affect a puppy’s growth rate + their bone mineral content & strength; while too much can increase the risk of Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy (HOD). The requirements for calcium depend on breed and age. 
The skeleton acts as a calcium buffer in which 99.5% of the body calcium is present. The calciotropic hormones parathormone, calcitonin and vitamin D are the most important factors, which particularly affect the processes of absorption, resorption and accretion of calcium. A prolonged abnormal calcium intake will result in skeletal changes, particularly in young dogs.

Critical Recap: Supplementing with too much calcium or phosphorus can increase a dog’s susceptibility to diseases. Large and giant-breed dogs fed excess calcium are more likely to develop osteochondrosis.

Critical Tip: Calcium & Phosphorus supplements should not be added to a growing large or giant breed puppy’s balanced diet. Adding these types of supplements to a balanced diet can contribute to skeletal issues due to changing the balance of Ca:P. The ideal ratio for large/giant breed pups is 1.2:1.


Vitamin D

Vitamin D is composed of a group of sterol compounds that regulate calcium and phosphorus metabolism in the body. There are two pro-vitamin forms of this vitamin.

  • Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol)
    • D2 is formed when the compound ergosterol is exposed to ultraviolet radiation (UV Rays). D2 is found in many plants and the conversion is only possible in harvested or “injured” plants, not living plant tissue.
    • D2 is only of significance to ruminant & non ruminant herbivores eating sun-dried or irradiated plant materials. D2 is used less efficiently than D3 by dogs.
  • Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol)
    • D3 is of great nutritional importance to dogs, and they are dependent on getting it via dietary sourcing because they have limited ability to convert 7-dehydrocholesterol in the skin to chloecalciferol.

Vitamin D’s functions are intricately involved with normal calcium and phosphorus homeostasis in the body. At the site of the intestine, vitamin D stimulates the synthesis of calcium-binding protein, which is needed for efficient absorption of dietary calcium & phosphorus. Vitamin D affects normal bone growth & calcification by acting with Parathyroid Hormone (PHT) to mobilize calcium from bone and by causing an increase in phosphate reabsorption in the kidneys. <—- What does all that mean?! It means vitamin D’s actions in the intestines, bones, and kidneys creates an increase in plasma calcium and phosphorous, to the level needed for normal mineralization of bone.

Dietary sources of vitamin D3 for dogs are relatively low. Moderate amounts can be found in foods such as Atlantic mackerel, Atlantic herring, whole egg, turkey liver, beef liver, beef kidney, domesticated duck meat, and turkey heart. Fish liver oils and cod liver oil are two concentrated food sources of vitamin D.

Critical Recap: Vitamin D plays an important role in regulating calcium and phosphorous metabolism. A deficiency in vitamin D can impact bone mineralization and cause skeletal issues.

National Research Council, Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats, 2006.
Canine and Feline Nutrition, A Resource for Companion Animal Professionals, Third Edition.
Calcium Metabolism in Dogs Abstract, Tijdschrift Voor Diergeneeskunde, 
Association of American Feed Controls Officials : Pet Food Regulations.

7 thoughts on “Appropriate Nutrient Levels for Skeletal Development in Large & Giant Breed Puppies

  1. I want to learn how to make my own raw food for my dogs but it seems extremely complicated. I have read several articles but calcium percentages etc, make absolutely no sense to me. I currently rotate Primal frozen raw.

  2. I seen this posted in the raw feeding community on Facebook and have a mastiff puppy we feed raw to. Should I use the bone calculator to lower the % ? We don’t feed by calories so I was thinking if I used the calculator it would lower the calcium right? Thank you for any help.

  3. I wondered about the calcium to phosphorus for bigger dogs being skewed by the supplement tabs my breeder has us giving. Thank you for this article it is helpful.

  4. This is so true. Lower calcium for big puppies helps keep their bones healthy. People don’t think they need to watch the vitamin D either.

  5. Thank you for this Amy! One of the companies we have here in SoCal pushes adding Nuvet to her products but her food is AAFCO complete and balanced and she owns giant dogs too. This was a great read for me this morning.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *