PREMIUM DOG FOOD SUITABLE FOR A GREAT DANE: LEARN HOW TO IDENTIFY THE REAL STUFF FROM THE CRAP
There are hundreds of brands of premium dog food on the market. Or more accurately, there are hundreds of products that label themselves premium. The sad truth is that much of it is crap with no nutritional value at all. Some breeds will at least exist on some of these products, but not the Great Dane. Don't own one if you can't feed it properly. Giant dogs need nutrition. If they don't get it, they WILL develop disease and they will die young - even for a dane.
A QUICK GLANCE AT WHAT A GREAT DANE NEEDS IN DOG FOOD
If you don't have time to dig into dog nutrition now (hopefully as a responsible Dane owner you will make the time later, so you understand the issues), here is a summary of what you need to consider.
The best dog food for Great Danes must contain a balanced mixture of digestible protein,healthy fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. For the first year of your Danes life,don't feed any premium food containing a total protein of more than 23% and keep the calories down so the dog always looks slim. If your Dane is overfed, muscle will grow too quickly for the bones to support body weight (the bones are developing as well). This will lead to skeletal deformities later on.
If you decide to feed wet dog food, keep in mind 75% of that is water so you will need much more food to meet nutritional requirements. This is a fairly expensive option (most Dane lovers using premium processed dog food diets feed kibble with a bit of canned wet mixed in for taste).
Your adult Dane will do well on formula dog food with up to 25% protein, 12% to 20% fat (depending on life style, activity level), no soy content and appropriate minerals and vitamins.
The best brand that most closely meets all the nutritional requirements of a Great Dane is the Eaglepack line.
But there are others we have examined (either by trying ourselves or watching the results as others have tried):
Back to Basics Chicken or Pork holistic formula, Solid Gold Mmillennia Beef and Barley Adult, WolfKing adult large breed, or Hund-n-Flocker adult dog food and Canidae all life stages dog food are all good quality processed food products that will meet the nutritional requirements of your Great Dane.
(NOTE: There are other premium canine foods that will meet the nutritional needs of the Great Dane. We have only recommended the ones we have first hand knowledge of.)
Now, with those general recommendations on record, lets drill into the detail of how to pick a premium food.
WHAT DOES YOUR DANE NEED FROM PREMIUM FOOD?
This article is not intended to be a detailed discussion on the different vitamins, minerals and other nutritional components that are necessary for the health of your Dane. Whole books have been written about dog nutrition (and we've read a couple - ouch!). The idea here is to try and simplify things and provide an overview that is useful without getting bogged down into chemistry and science detail.
We've already mentioned the importance of protein. Too much, and you're asking for medical problems later on. Too little, and your Dane doesn't get the protein it needs to build and maintain muscle and bone and you're asking for medical problems later on -never mind an animal who won't feel healthy or vibrant. Protein levels between 21 and 25% are acceptable.
Healthy fat content is another important component of any dog food recipe and your Dane uses this fat as one of the primary sources of energy it needs to play, exercise and live! Formulas containing healthy fats of between 12 and 20% will provide your Dane with this energy.
Carbohydrates are the second vital source of energy for your Dane. These are not usually measured in quantity, but rather quality. Look for whole grains vice fractionated. These grains should also not be the first ingredient listed - if it is, there is too much.
Minerals are also life sustaining and the two most important in the best dog food for a Great Dane are phosphorus and calcium. These are vital for bone growth and bone health and must be in balance with each other. Premium foods will contain the appropriate supplements of these two minerals.
And finally, the Dane, like any other dog (or human for that matter) needs a series of vitamins for a healthy life. They are listed on the labels of any dog food and should be checked. We aren't going into further detail here because this isn't much of an issue in even low quality dog food. Vitamins are not particularly expensive and all products meeting the AAFCO standard will contain the necessary content to support your Dane's health.
WHAT DO THE LABELS IN PREMIUM DOG FOODS MEAN?
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is responsible for setting the minimum nutritional standards in dog foods and defining a balanced diet. But this standard is about percentages of content and does not address quality. Beaks, feathers etc have a protein value. So does leather! But that doesn't mean it is of any value to your Dane. Dog food product labels will always have a line about meeting AAFCO standards - if they didn't, it is doubtful a retailer would sell them (although there's always one in every crowd...). For Dane owners, this means nothing. Our nutritional goals far exceed the minimum AAFCO requirement.
Ingredients must be listed in order of weight and volume. The key ones to focus on are the first five, or the ones listed before any type of fat content. These will be the ingredients that make up most of the formula. Having said that, also be on the lookout for multiple types of grain products. If there are many different grains listed, it could well be the case that there is more grain than anything else in the formula (when combined together). This is something to avoid (although most dry food is grain based, it should not be the largest single ingredient).
(Note though, that higher grain levels will be necessary for older dogs. When your Dane gets up to six or seven and starts showing the signs of age, too much protein will be much harder on the liver and higher grain content will become necessary)
"Meat byproducts" are normally made up of beaks, hooves, feathers etc and are of very little nutritional use - even if they are protein. So if a formula is listed as 23% protein and the first ingredient listed is meat byproducts, put that one in the crap category.
The first thing you want to see is meal. Meal (chicken meal, beef meal, lamb meal, salmon meal - it's all good) is all the good parts of the animal ground up - bones, meat and organs. This is an excellent source of the proper protein for your dane.
Some products will also list "meat" or specifically, "chicken meat" or "lamb meat" etc. This can be OK, but it is usually de-boned (which means calcium and phosphoros ratios need to be re-introduced with supplements) and it is also measured including the water content - about 75%. Be suspect of a product that uses meat but not meal.
A premium food formula will also identify the specific type of meal it contains. Be wary of labels that list "meat meal" instead of "chicken meal", "beef meal" etc. In terms of the type of meal, as long as the protein requirements are met, it is not important to prefer one over the other.
If the dog food label lists "meat byproducts" as one of the main ingredients, give it a pass. This means every part of the animal that couldn't be used for anything else.
There are two other supplements that should be highlighed when thinking about Great Dane dog food. One are probiotics, which is a type of enzyme that enhances digestion and in particular, reduces gas. Not only will it make your dane more pleasant, but it is a further tool in the fight to prevent bloat. The second is a joint/cartiledge supplement. Glucosamine supports healthy cartilidge and for a dog having to throw around 150 pounds or more every day, joint health is important.
Just about all the pet food companies - even the ones that make quality products like the ones we recommend here, will say that it is important not to feed your great dane anything else because to do so, will upset the carefully formulated balance achieved within the formula in the premium dog foods they are selling. They will also point out that dogs are different and can thrive on the same thing day after day, unlike humans who need variety.
There is no scientific evidence to support these claims and in fact, there is some research now supporting the idea of variety as a factor in reducing the chance of bloat. Our Dane does get bored with his food if he doesn't get variety. Who can blame him? Imagine having cereal three times a day every day of your life! (We know, we know, dogs are different and don't care....ours cares.)
There is nothing wrong with adding to a formulated diet, although any food additions shouldn't exceed more than about 15% of the processed dog formula. Surprisingly, many danes are quite partial to fruits and vegetables. Never feed union, grapes or spinach, but just about everything else is good stuff. Danes can't digest raw whole veggies, but after blending in a food processor, the resulting paste can be mixed up with the premium processed food. Some people mix in a raw egg a couple of times a week and others mix raw hamburger with kibble.
Again, there is no problem with this (despite the screaming from the dog food manufacturers) provided the food you mix is good quality, is raw and doesn't exceed 15% of your danes total diet.
Researching and developing a diet for our Dane was one of the most time consuming labors of love in educating ourselves to be Dane owners. But it was worth it. We can see the increased vitality and health he enjoys since we got smart about great dane premium dog food.
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