If you are one of those who is bringing home a Great Dane puppy, kudos to your choice. You have chosen one of the largest and noblest dog breeds. Great Danes are often referred to as gentle giants. Their nature and temperament have helped in this nomenclature. Their huge size and stature might seem daunting for many people. However, they are among the gentlest of canines and make the most wonderful pets. They are social animals who love being with children and being surrounded by humans. Their initial diets play a very important role in shaping their overall growth, health, and activity level.
Let us take a look at how much and what to feed a Great Dane puppy and everything else related to this.
- 1 Origins of the Great Dane
- 2 Orthopedic requirements for Great Danes
- 3 Exercise routine for Great Dane puppies
- 4 Nutritional needs for Great Dane puppies
- 5 Feeding schedule
- 6 Best Food Composition for Great Danes
- 7 Top food brands for Great Danes
- 8 Growth Chart
- 9 FAQs
Origins of the Great Dane
To know what to feed your Great Dane puppy, it is good to go slightly back and trace their roots. An understanding of where they come from and for what purpose they were bred helps. These massive dogs were originally bred for hunting wild boar and are descendants of Mastiffs. In their current form, Great Danes are way more elegant than mastiffs.
They are tall, muscular, and athletic dogs with huge heads. Their size can scare the best of folks although they are not ferocious at all. Only people who have owned them or known them well enough would not be daunted by their size. Add to this their deep voice and bark and the combination is quite overpowering.
Having said that, it is fitting to say that they are very people-oriented in disposition. And contrary to what many people assume, Great Danes do not eat huge amounts of food. They do need exercise which any breed of dog needs. What Great Danes truly need is lots and lots of space, given their size. From the dog collar to the crate to the feeding bowl to having a large vehicle to take them around, everything needs to be Dane size, so to speak.
Orthopedic requirements for Great Danes
Given their huge size, the Great Danes have a huge skeletal structure. These are gangly and tall dogs that have long bones and joints that are prone to damage if proper nutrition is not provided. A point to note here is that their bones keep growing for quite a while. It takes time for the bone structure to become stable in Great Dane puppies.
This means care needs to be taken for this breed in terms of their bone health from an early stage. By this, we mean both in terms of their exercise and physical activity regimen as well as nutrition needs.
Exercise routine for Great Dane puppies
As stated, their bones continue to grow for quite some time. Too much jumping or vigorous impactful exercise is not recommended for them. These could subject their bones and joints to undue stress. As puppies, their bones are yet to attain their final structure and solidity. Great Dane owners must be careful not to take their puppies along for jogging activities. This should be adhered to at least until the puppy is 18 months old.
Orthopedic problems are quite common in these dogs which can lead to lameness and distress. This is why the focus is on how to handle the puppies to prevent such occurrences in the future.
Nutritional needs for Great Dane puppies
Goes without saying that in the growing stage, a Great Dane puppy needs appropriate food to support its bone structure. This is essential to have a healthy puppy and also to prevent bone-related complications in the future. They should not be fed regular puppy food and instead opt for those for bigger breeds. Also, it is advisable not to supplement their food with anything, especially calcium. It can be tempting for owners to add calcium to the puppy’s diet considering their big bones but they should refrain.
The correct amount of food is essential in order to control the growth curve of Great Danes. Putting on weight too fast can place undue pressure on bones and joints. This in turn can cause orthopedic issues in the future. In fact, an overweight Great Dane can potentially suffer from bowed legs, hypertrophic osteodystrophy, knuckling over, osteochondritis dissecans, and other such conditions.
This brings us to a proper feeding schedule for Great Danes. The following feeding chart will provide a guide for new owners of this gentle giant.
|Age (in months)
|Food (in cups)
|Meals per day
Let us break this chart up for easier understanding for Great Dane parents. The total food suggested per age should be equally divided over meals. For example, when we say 2-4 cups of food for a little puppy and 3 meals, we mean to say 2-4 cups amount of food should be equally divided into 3 and served for each meal.
Two to four months
At this age, Great Dane puppies can eat 2-6 cups of food per day spread over 3 meals. Usually, female puppies are on the lower end of the consumption chart. As can be seen from the table above, number of cups of food increase gradually over this time period for these puppies. This increase has to be gradual and as tolerated. Great Dane puppies in this age bracket are energetic, very active, and growing rapidly. They need this food to support their growth.
Five to eight months
In this time period, Great Dane puppies go through 5-9 cups of food per day divided equally over 2 meals. As can be seen, from the fifth month their meal frequency gets cut down. Portion size increases as per chart. Of course, all of this has to be a gradual increase and not sudden. Puppies are now increasing in size and growing every day. Special large breed food will support this growth amply.
Nine to twelve months and beyond
By the time your Great Dane puppy is past 9 months old, it begins to get into a full-grown pattern of food. Males and females will both begin to stabilize in their growth pattern. They will also have a firm bone structure by now. They need 7-10 cups of food per day spread out equally over two meals a day.
At 12-18 months old, a Great Dane puppy is a young adult and used to a food routine. This schedule will continue through their adult life. However, a Great Dane must never be fed only one meal a day unless it is unwell. It is a big breed and cannot sustain on less than two meals a day.
How will you know if your Great Dane is well-fed enough?
Great Danes have growth curves that keep going on until the dog is well into their third year. They keep putting on weight and grow in size until this time. Just because one knows that this breed grows big does not mean plying the puppy with lots of food.
Sticking to the meal schedule outlined above is the most standard one for feeding Great Dane puppies. They should ideally be on the light side until they are two years of age. Neither too lean nor too fat is the goal for these puppies. An easy visual check of correct bodyweight is when one can see the last rib in their standing Great Dane. Anything more or less than this means the dog is too lean or being fed too much.
Either way, diet, and exercise can be adjusted to rectify the situation and reach the correct body weight. Owners of Great Danes need to be very mindful of this situation.
Best Food Composition for Great Danes
The best food for your Great Dane puppy would be something that is not typical ‘puppy food’. Standard puppy foods are easy to use for owners, no doubt about that. However, they often contain additives to push growth, something that a Great Dane surely does not need. It has the potential to grow embedded right in its genes.
Typical formula foods can cause joint problems or growth diseases in the puppy and are to be avoided. If one is using store-bought puppy food at all, then care must be taken to choose those specific for large breeds. What is ideally needed for Great Danes is a balanced food, where the operative word is balanced.
This kind of balanced food will allow for normal growth and development of bones and muscles in the Great Dane puppy. The ideal composition one is looking for would be 26% protein and 12-20% of fat for the best results. While protein fat ratio is very important, micronutrients play a very important role in dog food composition. This is especially true for big breeds. They need a diet balanced in calcium and phosphorus as well. Puppy foods should contain about 1% calcium ideally and the same percentage of phosphorus. At best this ratio can be 1.5:1 of calcium to phosphorus.
Top food brands for Great Danes
As discussed above, the constitution of dog food must be along the baseline mentioned for Great Danes. Premium brands of dog food will generally meet all of these requirements. In addition, vets generally advise against corn-based fillers and made of natural ingredients.
One may choose from kibble to raw diets to canned foods. And then of course owners can cook for their loved pets. Having said that, the best choice of food for Great Danes would be premium quality kibble. Some top dog food brands for Great Danes are:
- Diamond Naturals Large Breed Adult Chicken & Rice.
- American Journey Large Breed Salmon & Brown Rice.
- Purina ONE SmartBlend Large Breed.
- Wellness Large Breed Complete Health Adult Deboned Chicken & Brown Rice.
- Health Extension Large Bites Chicken & Brown Rice.
All of these brands mentioned above adhere to strict quality standards and are considered some of the best in the industry.
Dealing with Eating Problems in Great Dane Puppies
Even with knowing exactly the kind of food one must give or the feeding amount, there might be some feeding issues with the puppy.
- Change in the brand – for any reason whatsoever, if you need to change the brand of puppy food, there is a systematic way of going about it. Switching brands all of a sudden is so not done. Incremental change is the best way. Slowly decrease the percentage of the previous brand and make up the amount with the new one. Let the puppy get used to this and then keep increasing the percentage of the new brand until there is a complete switchover. The transition must be smooth. Ideally, this transition should happen over three days in the ratio of 50:50, 25:75 of old to new, and then 100% of new.
- Puppy not eating – This is very typical of Great Danes who are known to be choosy eaters. They might gobble down one meal and then just sleep over the next. There is no reason to worry too much if this is a one-off occasional thing. Simply remove the feeding bowl after some time and then continue with the next meal. If there is vomiting or lethargy, then it might indicate a trip to the vet.
Below is a growth chart for Great Danes that is pretty standard for this breed. Great Dane parents can follow these and track the growth of their puppies:
Remember these are huge dogs who will grow to these massive heights and weights without needing extra growth factors. Balance is key in the way they are fed from puppies to adults.
Common Medical Problems Ailing Great Danes
Every dog lover knows that their pets are prone to illnesses of different types. For Great Danes, there are mainly four types of ailments that trouble them. This is what makes proper diet and nutrition very important for these creatures.
- Hip dysplasia: This problem is believed to be inherited and happens when the thighbone does not fit into the hip joint. There are not many outward signs most times. With age, arthritis develops in these dogs.
- Gastric torsion: Bloating is a common problem in Great Danes. Any large meal can induce bloating. This issue manifests more in older dogs. If the dog eats too rapidly or drinks too much water, it can cause bloating. This is very distressful to the dog and can at times be such as to need medical attention. Vet attention is often needed to get the dog out of distressed situation.
- Bone cancer: This is the most common form of tumor found in dogs, and Great Danes are no exception. This affects large and giant breeds more. This is an aggressive form of cancer that manifests as lameness. Subsequent x-rays can determine the cause.
- Heart ailments: Cardiomyopathy is just one of the many different heart ailments that affect Great Danes. Like humans, they too have issues with mitral valves, tricuspid valves, right aortic arch to mention a few.
How big do Great Danes grow? Great Danes are 26 to 34 inches measured at the shoulder and weigh between 100 to 200 pounds. No wonder this breed is also known as Apollo of dogs.
Are Great Danes easy to train? Indeed, they rate very high on the trainability quotient! Great Danes are intelligent creatures that are very loving as well. They are extremely kid-friendly and affectionate dogs. This makes an ideal combination for having them as house pets.
Will novice owners be able to handle this breed? It is better if experienced dog owners go for Great Danes as pets. While they are lovable and easy to train, it is their sheer size and the challenges associated with a big breed that demand more experience.
Do Great Danes need a lot of exercises as they grow? Great Danes are huge creatures who carry a lot of weight. There is a lot of pressure on their skeletal systems. To keep these dogs healthy, it is important to provide them lots of exercises. They have high energy levels which need to be channeled into exercise.
Great Danes are big canines who are large-hearted and loving creatures. This breed, however, has a life span of 7-10 years in general. It becomes even more important to spend every loving minute with your pet from its puppy stage and make the most of it.