Finding a good dog food is incredibly difficult under the best of circumstances. You have to compare labels, scan lengthy ingredient lists, and decide if you’re really willing to spend all that money on dog kibble — and then, once you find a winner, you bring it home only to find that your dog won’t touch it.
It’s even harder when you have a large breed dog, as they have special health considerations you have to take into account when buying food.
To take some of the pressure off your buying decision, we put together the following reviews to break down some of the best large breeds dog foods based on criteria like nutritional content, taste, and variety of vitamins and nutrients.
If your dog won’t eat one of these foods, he can just go hungry (oh, who are we kidding — we all know you’ll share your dinner with him).
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites (2022 Updates)
The 11 Best Dog Foods for Large Breeds
1. The Farmer’s Dog Chicken Recipe Fresh Dog Food – Best Overall
Feeding a large dog can be costly, so you want to make sure you’re getting the most out of your money. Out of the three most popular flavors The Farmer’s Dog offers—chicken, beef, and turkey—the chicken recipe is the best overall.
It’s packed with flavor and protein, thanks to the chicken and chicken liver. Chicken is a protein source that can cause allergies in some dogs, but if your dog has had chicken before and had no adverse reactions, this recipe will be fine for him.
The Farmer’s Dog uses “real food”, and by that, we mean no “meal”. All recipes are created using the AAFCO guidelines to ensure the safety of your dog without compromising on quality, taste, or meeting your dog’s needs, and it contains no preservatives or unnecessary fillers.
It includes nutrient-rich vegetables like broccoli, bok choy, and Brussels sprouts. The only downside to this is you may find it will cause your dog gas if they’re not used to veggies. There is also the benefit of fish oil, which adds in those healthy omega fatty acids. Omega oils are essential for a healthy heart, skin, and coat, a well-balanced diet, joint support, and digestion, among other benefits.
All in all, we think this is the best dog food for large dogs available on the market today.
2. Rachael Ray Nutrish Dry Dog Food – Best Value
The first ingredient in Rachael Ray Nutrish is farm-raised chicken, which is somewhat surprising given how inexpensive it is. You wouldn’t normally expect a quality protein source to be listed first in a budget food, which is why we chose this as the best dog food for large breeds for the money.
It’s not just about the protein with this food, either. There’s beet pulp inside, which is an excellent source of fiber and helps keep dogs regular. We also like the addition of foods like cranberries, carrots, and soybeans, all of which are filled with healthy antioxidants.
The manufacturer added taurine in as well, which is good for heart health. Since big dogs have tickers than need to work harder than their smaller counterparts, every little added nutritional boost helps.
Our biggest quibble with this food is with the quantity of the protein, not the quality. It’s only 24% protein, which isn’t bad, but could certainly be higher. That may not be realistic at this price point, though.
It’s not enough for us to penalize Rachael Ray Nutrish too severely, and it slots comfortably into the #2 spot here.
3. Holistic Select Natural Dry Dog Food
Holistic Select Natural is another premium dog food that goes to great lengths to keep all sorts of undesirable ingredients — like wheat, gluten, or artificial colors and flavors — out of the kibble. It’s interesting to us, then, that they wouldn’t be as strict about what they put in.
The first ingredient is chicken meal — not real chicken. Now, this isn’t entirely bad, as chicken meal has some nutrients that aren’t found in higher-grade chicken. It’s still fundamentally lower-quality meat, though, and not something you’d expect to find in a kibble this expensive.
The rest of the ingredients list gives us little to fret over, though. There’s flaxseed and cranberries for omega fatty acid, beet pulp and pumpkin for fiber, and probiotics for gut health. It’s definitely a solid list.
Holistic Select Natural is a very good food that falls just shy of being great, but until it uses better protein, it won’t have much luck climbing these rankings.
4. NUTRO MAX Adult Dry Large Breed Dog Food
NUTRO MAX is very similar to the Holistic Select Natural food above, right down to its flaws. This food adds a drawback or two of its own, though, which is why it slots in below the other.
Like the other kibble, this is a pricey food that nevertheless uses chicken meal as its first ingredient. Again, nothing wrong with that per se, but it’s not what we’d expect to find in a premium food. It also has a relatively paltry amount of protein overall.
Now that we’ve covered what we’d like to see improved with NUTRO MAX, let’s talk about what the food does right: namely, it includes a lot of vegetables. There’s sorghum, rice, alfalfa, flaxseed, peas, and more inside, so your pup should get a wide range of nutrients in each serving.
There’s added biotin as well, which should keep his hair and nails in tip-top shape.
We like NUTRO MAX, but until they make some changes to the protein they use, it’s unlikely we’ll love it anytime soon.
5. Purina Pro Plan SAVOR Dry Dog Food
Purina Pro Plan SAVOR combines regular kibble with large chunks of meat, encouraging your dog to scarf it down while also ensuring he gets plenty of protein as he does. This helps keep him full without adding a lot of extra weight, which can be a problem for bigger pups.
There is an emphasis placed on including glucosamine, and there’s additional chicken and fish products inside to add as much as possible. This helps keep his joints in good shape while potentially staving off issues like hip dysplasia.
Beyond that, there are also live probiotics mixed in, which should reduce the chance that any digestive issues will occur. We like the vitamin pack that’s included as well, which should have everything he needs to develop a shiny coat, healthy brain, and formidable immune system.
The kibble is extremely crumbly, though, which can cause quite a mess. Dogs don’t seem to mind it, and you can add water to help keep it together, but it would be nicer if it was better-contained. Then again, it makes it easier for dogs with dental issues to eat.
6. Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food
After the last two entries, it’s nice to find another kibble that uses real chicken, and Hill’s Science Diet does just that.
The first ingredient is chicken, and there’s also pork fat and chicken meal thrown in for more nutrients. Beyond that, there’s beet pulp, flaxseed, and soybean oil for fiber and omega fatty acids.
Unfortunately, in addition to all that good stuff, there’s a massive amount of wheat and grain inside, too. While that may not be a problem for some dogs, it can cause digestive issues in others, and it tends to add empty calories, which aren’t ideal for larger dogs.
They make up for it by adding a variety of vitamins, like biotin, taurine, and vitamin A, but that’s not quite enough to overcome the food’s other issues.
Hill’s Science Diet is a quality food, but you’re taking a bit of a risk buying it. If you’re willing to risk having to spend more time working the Pooper Scooper, it’s worth a shot.
7. Diamond Naturals Dry Dog Food
If you want something other than basic beef or chicken, Diamond Naturals uses lamb meal as its protein source. We’d prefer if it used real lamb, but we’ll take what we can get.
There is some chicken inside — specifically chicken fat, which has glucosamine and other important nutrients. There’s also something called “egg product,” which presumably adds protein (and we probably don’t want to know what else).
There are quite a few so-called “superfoods” inside, like kale, chia seed, and blueberries. These are filled with important antioxidants that help create a powerful immune system, but they’re not exactly delicious.
It has more salt than we’d like to see, and the overall protein level is low. There’s a fairly high level of fiber inside, though.
All in all, Diamond Naturals is a food that has about as many positives as negatives. It’s not a bad food, but you can probably do better if you shop around.
8. Iams Proactive Health Dry Dog Food
Iams Proactive aims to give big dogs all the food they need without also skyrocketing their risk of suffering from obesity. It has L-carnitine to boost metabolism, so your pooch can eat his fill without building a paunch.
It has both chicken, chicken meal, and chicken fat, giving your pup all the best parts of the bird (not to mention a boost of chondroitin and glucosamine). There are other healthy foods like carrots and beet pulp as well to round out the nutritional profile.
It’s not a perfect food by any means, though. There’s lots of grain inside, as well as artificial coloring, so mutts with sensitive tummies might not handle it very well. Also, each piece of kibble is huge, which increases the risk of choking.
If your pet struggles to watch his waistline, then Iams Proactive might be a smart weight-control option. Otherwise, you’re likely better off feeding him one of the higher-ranked foods on this list.
9. Blue Buffalo Protection Dry Dog Food
Blue Buffalo’s Life Protection series pairs a protein source with either rice or oatmeal so as to offer a balanced nutritional profile. While we appreciate some of the choices they made when putting the recipe together, they also added some foods that we think would have been better left on the cutting board.
The first two ingredients are chicken and chicken meal, so while your pooch may not get the highest-quality meat available, he’ll at least get plenty of it. There’s also pea protein and chicken fat added in, giving this food a high overall protein count.
We liked the addition of fish oil, which is fantastic for a dog’s coat, immune system, and brain development. It also gives the food a strong odor, unfortunately, which may turn your dog away immediately.
The manufacturers also added potatoes, which can give many dogs gas. It doesn’t add much in the way of vitamins and minerals, either, so it’s a food that’s better left out.
Blue Buffalo Life Protection pairs good ideas with questionable decisions, which is why it only merits inclusion on the bottom portion of this list.
10. Eukanuba Adult Large Breed Dog Food
Eukanuba Adult takes joint health seriously, and it’s loaded with glucosamine and chondroitin. Given the concern shown to a big dog’s skeletal system, we don’t know why they’d also throw in so many empty calories.
The second ingredient is cornmeal, and corn usually serves one purpose in a dog food: to add calories as cheaply as possible. Unless you fear your pup is dangerously underweight, you’re much better off looking for foods that make every calorie count.
It has quite a bit of sodium inside, too, which can lead to water retention and exacerbate certain health issues. Like the Blue Buffalo above, this stuff has fish oil — and all the positives and negatives that come with it.
You’ll need to feed your dog quite a bit of this food for him to get all his recommended nutrition, so one bag won’t last very long. Given that you’ll be scooping out several cups of Eukanuba Adult every day, we’d prefer if it weren’t loaded with useless calories.
11. Wellness Complete Health Dry Dog Food
Our favorite thing about Wellness Complete Health is all the varied protein sources inside. It has chicken, salmon, whitefish, and chicken meal, giving your dog lots of fuel for building strong, healthy muscles.
Beyond that, though, there’s not a lot we’re wild about.
It has quite a bit of grain inside, which could cause both digestive issues and weight gain. The kibble is huge as well, and may be difficult for some dogs (especially older ones) to get down.
It tends to go stale fairly quickly, so it’s odd that there’s no way to seal the bag. This is especially frustrating given the relatively high price.
Wellness Complete Health comes close to the mark in a lot of important ways, but it has a lot of work to do if it wants to rise from the bottom of these rankings.
Related Read: 10 Best Dog Foods – Reviews & Top Picks
Buyer’s Guide – Choosing the Best Large Breed Dog Food
Buying dog food for any dog can be confusing, but what about when your pet is the size of a small horse? Does that change anything? The answers to these and other questions can be found in the guide below.
Does My Dog Really Need a Special Food?
“Need” is a difficult word to define here. Will your dog drop dead if you feed him a food that’s not specially-designed for large breeds? No, but it could shave some time off his life expectancy, while also making his senior years less comfortable.
Any high-quality large-breed dog food will be filled with the nutrients that big dogs need to address their most common health complaints. These are often missing from other foods, and while there’s no guarantee that giving your dog the proper nutrition will prevent issues like hip dysplasia, it certainly boosts your odds.
Of course, the wild card here is your vet’s advice. If they tell you to feed your dog a special food, you should probably listen, regardless of how big your pooch is.
What Should I Look For in a Large-Breed Food?
There are certain things you should look for in any dog food, like high protein count, plenty of fiber, and a lack of filler ingredients. Those are just as important in large-breed foods.
Beyond that, though, you’ll need to be on the lookout for a few other things. One of the biggest is the addition of vitamins like glucosamine, chondroitin, and taurine.
The first two are vital for joint health, and since big dogs often suffer from arthritis and other painful conditions, you’ll want to nip that issue in the bud. Meanwhile, taurine is vital for heart health, and your pup’s ticker has to work hard than a smaller pooch’s. Give it all the support you can.
You should also look for foods that derive most of their calories from protein. Big dogs are often prone to obesity, and protein-rich foods can keep them feeling full without packing on the pounds. Foods rich in carbohydrates, on the other hand, often provide empty calories that will expand his waistline without satiating him in the process.
You may even want to switch to a food that’s specially designed to keep his weight under control. Again, defer to your vet on this.
What Constitutes a “Large Breed” Dog?
Most experts will tell you that a large breed is any dog that weighs at least 50 pounds and stands at least 24 inches tall. Once the dog hits about 100 pounds and 26 inches, it’s considered a “giant breed.”
Do Giant Breeds Need a Different Food Than Large Breeds?
Typically, no. However, everything we’ve told you about feeding a large breed dog goes double for giant breeds.
You’ll want to be extra certain a giant breed dog gets plenty of protein, takes all the necessary vitamins, and keeps off any excess pounds.
However, price and portion sizes may become more relevant as you try to feed a giant breed dog. These dogs eat a lot, and most high-quality foods are expensive, so you’ll need to determine what the best food you can afford is.
Does It Matter How Old My Dog Is?
Yes. Typically, dogs are divided into three life stages: puppy, adult, and senior. Each has different nutritional needs, and you’ll want to feed your dog a food designed for the stage that he’s in.
Puppies need more calories than fully-grown dogs, and you have to be careful to give them all the nutritional support they need to grow up strong and healthy.
Once your dog becomes an adult (which typically happens between 12 and 24 months for big dogs), you’ll want to cut down on the calories slightly. You still want to feed a diet heavy in protein and filled with the necessary nutrients, though.
Senior dogs need less calories than the other two life stages, both because they’re less active and because obesity is a bigger problem for older dogs. You’ll also need to ramp up the nutritional support, and you might even need to add new vitamins to his diet, depending on any health conditions he may have.
Should I Feed My Dog Dry Food or Wet?
As a general rule, wet food is much more calorie-dense than dry food. It’s also packed with moisture, which makes it less filling.
Large dogs typically need a food that will fill their massive stomachs without adding too many calories. As a result, dry kibble is almost always the better choice.
That doesn’t mean you can’t feed your pooch wet food as a treat, or add a wet topper to his meals. Just be careful to monitor his calorie intake, and cut back if he starts looking a little chunky.
How Can I Tell If My Dog Will Like a Food Before I Buy It?
There’s no guaranteed way to determine that. Just like with people, different dogs have different tastes, and just because your neighbor’s Mastiff wolfs down a certain food doesn’t mean your Great Dane will touch it.
That said, you can look at other foods he’s enjoyed in the past as a guide to what he might enjoy going forward. It’s not foolproof, but it’s better than taking shots in the dark.
How Can I Tell If a Food Agrees with My Dog?
We’d like to give you an answer to this question that isn’t gross, but there isn’t any.
You’ll have to monitor his poop and his gas. If either gets worse, it may be a sign that the food doesn’t agree with your dog.
That being said, sometimes dogs get upset stomachs when transitioning to a new food, so make the change slowly and give it at least a week before drawing any conclusions.
Also, look for other telltale signs like hair loss, lethargy, or bad breath.
In second place was Rachael Ray Nutrish, which was filled with high-quality ingredients despite being one of the least expensive options on the market. It has everything your pup needs to stay big and strong without bankrupting you in the process.
We know it’s not easy to find a food that both you and your dog can agree on, and we hope these reviews have made it easier to do just that. After all, just because your pup is big doesn’t mean he’ll eat just anything — and if he gets much bigger he can just start eating off your plate and daring you to do something about it.
Featured Image Credit: Mat Coulton, Pixabay