What Is the Right Amount of Protein for a Large Breed Dog Food to Have?

Smaller dogs need more calories per pound than larger ones.
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All pups require animal-based protein in their diets. These proteins contain the amino acids they need to sustain their health. While it was once believed that too much protein could cause skeletal issues in large and giant dog breed puppies, this was proven untrue through scientific research. Instead, it's actually too many calories that can negatively affect the development of large breed pups and cause them to become obese as adults.


Your large breed pooch needs protein in his diet because his body uses it to regulate hormone production and build muscles, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, hair and nails, according to the Iams website. Although dogs are omnivores and can obtain protein from both animal and vegetable sources, only animal-based proteins provide him with all 10 of the essential amino acids his body needs to function properly, according to PetMD. High-quality sources of animal proteins in your pup's diet include meat, poultry, fish, venison, eggs and lamb. Organ meats and meat byproducts can all provide your pooch with the protein he needs and are preferable to grains.


The Association of American Feed Control Officials have found that most adult dogs need a minimum of 18 percent protein to maintain their health, while puppies need around 22 percent, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Research specifically into the diets of large dog breeds by Purina has found that a more ideal amount of protein for them is actually around 25 percent, reports the VCA Animal Specialty Group. In fact, diets with as high as 31 percent protein on a dry matter basis showed no detrimental effects when fed to large breed puppies, according to an article published in the Integrative Veterinary Care Journal.


Most adult large and giant breeds range in size from 50 to 160 pounds, according to Hill's Pet Nutrition. It's important to follow your dog food manufacturer's guidelines for your pooch's size or, as a general guideline, feed him as much as much as he can eat in 10 minutes, three times daily, recommends Dr. Jennifer Larsen of the University of California at Davis. Feeding your large breed dog excess calories can cause him to become obese, putting pressure on his joints, and can lead to rapid growth in puppies during their first year of life. Obesity and the rapid skeletal growth can lead to issues with hip or elbow dysplasia, osteochondrosis dissecans and hypertrophic osteodystrophy in large and giant dog breeds, warns the SkeptVet website.


While high-protein diets won't necessarily harm your large breed dog, they are generally more palatable because of the increased amount of meats in them. This means your pooch will be tempted to chow down on them more often and, unlike foods high in fibrous grains, they won't keep him feeling full for very long. For this reason, it's important to feed your pup portion-controlled meals and never allow him to free-feed during the day. Eating too much of his food not only causes Fido to become obese, but it can also lead to the ingestion of too much calcium, which can contribute to skeletal and joint issues in large dog breeds, especially growing pups.