Do I Need To Use A Puppy Food?
In my Puppy
Feed Programs for Large/Giant Breeds,
I have provided the only puppy
food options that I approve of for large/giant breed growth. But
once in a while someone lives far (over 50 miles) from where these
can be purchased. I have provided you with a criteria and it will
take making some phone calls to the companies to get some of the info,
if it is not on the bag. Remember, sales clerks are not nutritionists,
you can't always rely on them to sell you the right thing so you need
to come prepared.
CRITERIA FOR PICKING A PUPPY FOOD
Do I Need to Use A Puppy Food or Large/Giant Breed Puppy Foods?
Many people are confused about whether or not they should use a puppy food for the large/giant breeds, or use a large/giant breed puppy formula. In order to answer this question, lets look at what happens in Mother Nature, in regards to a puppys diet.
In the wild, the nursing puppies would normally get a high level of nutrition, that means a diet that is high in fat and high in protein because of the nutrient density of mothers milk. Once a puppy is weaned from the mother (6-8 weeks) the puppy would not consume a high fat/high protein diet. Since they are too young to hunt on their own and they rely on the mothers resources for food, the puppies would start getting less nutrition, or moderate caloric intake during the major growth stages. It would not be until the puppies are old enough to hunt on their own that they would consume a higher level of nutrition. So in the growth stages between weaning and young adult, a puppy would receive the "leftovers" from mom or the pack. This would involve regurgitated food (meat/bone/predigested vegetation, feces etc.) from the mom and what was left behind from the killed prey, particularly the bones.
With that information in mind, lets look at how we feed our puppies. We start weaning our puppies around weaning 3 1/2 - 4 weeks of age, and they are generally weaned from the mother by 6 weeks of age, at least for nutritional purposes. At 31/2 - 4 weeks, humans start to manages the feeding process by selecting the diet for the puppies. Due to clever marketing techniques, we are taught that it is critical to feed puppies a high protein and high fat diet, which translate to a high calorie diet.
Then we continue to feed these high calorie commercial puppy foods for several months of the dogs development, and this is in direct opposition to what would naturally occur in the wild. During the critical growth stages in the wild, mother nature has provided a way for them to consume a moderate level of nutrition for the growth period of development. This allow the puppies go grow slow and evenly, avoiding many of the orthopedic problems that we encounter with our "calorie dense" commercial diets of today.
After the National Bone Disease Survey in Great Danes 1986-91, it became evident that a very high quality diet, but one of moderate caloric intake, was the best suited for the large and giant breeds. This is when people started using Adult Formulas, instead of Puppy Formulas to try and avoid any growth diseases. However, not all adult formulas are appropriate for growth, because the dog has to consume far to many calories to obtain the suitable amounts of vitamins, minerals and amino acids necessary for proper wellness.
Based on the number of calls/emails I get regarding orthopedic problems in giant breeds, and based in 34 years of raising Great Danes, it is my opinion some of the Large/Giant breed formulas on the market are very problematic due to high calories and low calcium levels which cause uneven growth patterns. In short - .9% levels of calcium are FAR TOO LOW and that info is based in antiquated research information from 1974-1991! The design of these foods is based on minimal research, but through careful marketing techniques by dog food companies and a vigorous attempt to influence the veterinary community, for the purpose of promoting sales of these formulas, vets now push these low calcium diets on to their clients with large and giant breeds. Vets have little or now training in nutrition, let along understand the quirks of giant breed growth!
The majority of the emails and phone calls I receive these days are from owners with puppies being fed Large/Giant breed formulas. The problem is many of the foods are "designed" in the laboratory and have never had extensive feed trials done using these formulas on large and giant breeds for a long period of time. Only after extensive testing over a long period of time will they know if these foods work for growth. Most companies are far to eager to get these products out on the market to get their share of the customer base, instead of doing what is best for the dogs.
For 22 yrs, the only large/giant breed formula ever tested on giant breeds, for extended periods of time, and in multiple giant litters was Eagle Natural Pack but now that the company is no longer owned by Eagle, this food is no longer a viable option for pet owners and breeders.
When trying to decide which commercial adult formulas are appropriate for growth, there are very specific things the consumer must consider. Not all the information may be listed on the bag or in words that you are familiar with, so this means you must contact the company directly. These are the 10 most essential items I look for when recommending an adult formula to my puppy buyers, that is suitable for growth for the large and giant breeds.
A Word About Lamb/Rice Diets
For some reason, owners/breeders seem to think that a "straight" Lamb/Rice diet is the "end-all and be-all" in commercial pet foods. Again, this notion is due to clever marketing and the fact that many of our dogs "appear to have allergies. (see systemic yeast infection article).
The actual occurrence of "food" allergies is very low in our animals. What appears to be an allergic reaction, is often a response to poor nutrition, dietary enzymes missing from the diet and allergies which can be due to a systemic yeast infection or they are the "symptom" of a compromised immune system. When the yeast problem or immune deficiencies are address, the allergies generally go away.
Note: I generally do not recommend a straight Lamb/Rice diet for growth. Most Lamb/Rice diets do not have enough taurine (amino acid) and l-carnitine in the food to support adequate muscle growth, again remember the heart is the largest muscle in the body. With the number of heart problems in our dogs, remember not all heart problems are genetics. You will be hearing more about this in the future and I suspect several companies will be adjusting their formulas to correct this problem.
I believe straight Lamb/Rice diets are useful, but should only be used as an isolation diet for allergies, not for the prevention of allergies, but for treatment after an allergy has been diagnosed by the veterinarian. Eagle Natural and Eagle Large and Giant Breed Puppy has a lamb component to the formula but they are not considered a straight lamb/rice diet due to the other proteins; chicken, fish, eggs, in the formula making them ideal for growth.