Great Danes are sweet and affectionate companions. Once used for hunting in Europe during the Middle Ages, they are now considered a family pet. At birth, they way around two pounds. Weighing anywhere from 100 to 190 pounds and standing around 30 inches tall or taller when full grown, they are one of the largest breeds of dogs.
Even though they are so big, they are great with children. They can be protective when they need to be, having a bark loud enough to scare off any threat. Unfortunately, they have a short lifespan of approximately 7 to 10 years, but making sure they are getting the best possible diet can help ensure that you have done all you can to avoid unnecessary health problems.
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The Great Dane’s Diet
For a dog that weighs that much, you probably think they could eat an elephant; however, they actually only require between 2500 and 3000 calories a day depending on the age and activity level of the dog.
Full grown Great Danes actually require fewer calories than Great Dane puppies because adult Great Danes may be more sedentary, preferring to spend time relaxing with their companions rather than playing outside with other dogs.
Growing puppies and young adult dogs of this breed need more calories because they are growing and they are likely more active, getting more exercise.
Unfortunately, because of their size, these dogs can easily develop musculoskeletal disorders and joint problems.
This is one reason why their activity levels need to be monitored. It’s great for them to be active and get a moderate amount of exercise, especially when they are young and growing, but it should be monitored in order to minimize the risk of developing these issues.
Other health problems that these dogs face include various developmental orthopedic diseases. These include Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy, Panosteoitis, or Osteochrondritis Dissecans.
These various orthopedic problems can cause limb deformities, muscular development problems, and joint issues.
Feeding Great Danes a proper diet is important for keeping them in good health and for preventing musculoskeletal disorders.
Puppies grow very quickly and don’t stop growing for a long time.
Since they grow so quickly during a time period known as the rapid growth stage, they actually need a different type of puppy food than what puppies of other breeds would eat in order to regulate their rate of growth.
A Great Dane puppy’s food should have less protein and fat, which are nutrients that help puppies grow, because growing too quickly can cause other health problems.
Foods with calcium and phosphorus are also good for your growing puppy.
The best thing to do is to feed them puppy food that is made especially for giant breed puppies.
How and What to Feed your Great Dane
Just as you would likely be aware of the foods you are feeding your own child, you should take the same consideration with your pets. Great Danes in particular have dietary needs that are different from those of small or medium-sized dog breeds.
Before you settle on a brand of dog food, it is good to understand what nutrients dogs need and how to read the food labels.
Frequency of Meals
Since Great Danes are a large dog with large, deep chests, they are prone to a condition known as bloat. This occurs when gas dilates in the chest and causes the intestines to twist which can be fatal if the dog isn’t seen by a vet immediately.
If this occurs in your dog, try not to leave so much time between meals. Instead of feeding him larger portions a couple times a day, feed him several smaller portions throughout the day.
Dogs should not be allowed to free-feed, which means keeping their food dish full and letting them graze all day. They also should not be allowed to eat table scraps.
How to Choose Suitable Dog Food
One of the main things to take into consideration when choosing a dog food is the ingredient list. Dog food companies are required to list ingredients by weight, so you should take into consideration the first five ingredients listed as those are the ones that make up the largest percentage of the food.
Keep in mind, though, that if ingredients are listed by weight, this could still include water weight in that ingredient. Be aware of this as you read labels.
The second thing to take into consideration when choosing the best dog food is your own dog’s particular needs.
While Great Danes overall may have general diet guidelines to follow, your particular dog may have different specific dietary needs.
The most important nutrient for dogs is protein because they are by nature a carnivorous animal. Protein should be the first ingredient in any dog food. Good proteins include sources such as meat, poultry, fish, and eggs.
Protein from animal sources is the best protein to give dogs because these proteins include all ten essential amino acids that a dog’s body cannot create on its own.
Plant proteins are not bad for dogs, but they are not as nutritional.
Great Danes and other large breeds will benefit from a high-protein diet to help them maintain their lean muscle and healthy body weight.
Fat is the second most important nutrient for dogs. One reason is because some vitamins are best absorbed with fat. Again, animal sources are best, which would include salmon oil or chicken fat. Fish oil, flaxseed oil, and canola oil are also good options because of the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
These particular nutrients will keep their coats healthy and looking shiny.
Since dogs are naturally carnivorous, their bodies are not designed to efficiently digest carbohydrates. Finding a dog food that does not have any type of grain in it at all is difficult, and if you find one, it is likely to be pretty expensive.
With that in mind, when you choose a dog food, you want to choose one that has the grains listed lower on the ingredient list, which means there is less of that than the foods listed prior to it.
Some grains should be avoided altogether, such as any grain involving corn because it is difficult to digest.
Brewers rice, feeding oat meal, cereal food fines, potato products, soy products, and any fermentation products are all grains that should also be avoided. The best carbohydrates for your dog will be whole grains, starchy vegetables, beans, and legumes since these are easier for dogs to digest.
It is best to read the food ingredient label on dog food to make sure that the dog food does not contain any fillers or cheap carbohydrates.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate
These two nutrients are not necessary to include in a dog food, but some quality dog food will include these nutrients because they help with overall joint health.
Since Great Danes are a giant breed dog and are known to have musculoskeletal issues, finding a dog food with these two nutrients would be very beneficial for them.
In addition to this, you could also include a glucosamine and chondroitin supplement,
In an ideal world, nobody – human or animal – would have to take supplements because our diet would naturally include all the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that our bodies need.
That is not the case with human diets, and it is also not the case for animals. Since even the best dog food available may still be lacking in some nutrients, you can offer them fresh fruits or vegetables.
Synthetic supplements are an option, but it is best to find one whose label says that it has “chelated minerals,” which means the minerals are chemically bound to the protein molecules and will be much easier for dogs to digest.
Just as probiotics can benefit human bodies, they can benefit dog’s bodies as well.
This healthy bacteria helps with digestion and nutrient absorption. It will aid in keeping harmful bacteria from growing in the intestines and colon, which can create digestive problems.
A healthy internal flora balance will also help fight off diseases and improve the immune system.
Meat meals, although the name sounds undesirable, are actually a good source of nutrients for dogs. Meat meals are compacted in that they already have the water removed from them, which results in a more concentrated form of meat and, therefore, a more concentrated form of protein.
Dog food companies are required to list ingredients by weight.
For example, chicken that has water in it would possibly be listed first, but if that chicken has water in it, it is not as nutritious as meat meal.
If you are considering a brand of dog food, make sure that the term “by-products” is nowhere to be seen.
Dog food companies know all about how to make their bags of dog food look attractive. The dogs are beautiful and excited, the carrots pictures of fruits and vegetables look appealing, and the meats all look tender and juicy.
Unfortunately, the bags may look pretty, but this does not necessarily mean that the product inside is a quality product.
That is why it is so important to look closely at the ingredient list and to pay attention to the order of the ingredients listed.
Don’t Forget the Treats
Treats should not be left out of the mix. You will, of course, want to give your Great Dane treats on occasion.
While treats don’t have to be completely healthy, they should still follow similar guidelines as the dog food you give your dogs.
You want treats with good quality ingredients and not just fillers.
Caution! Avoid These!
When combing through the ingredient list, there are some things you should definitely avoid.
Poor Protein and Fat Sources
Sources of protein and fat need to come from good, healthy sources.
This means that protein should come from animal sources rather than plant sources, such as soy. Good fat sources include chicken fat, flax oil, sunflower oil, and canola oil.
Ingredients split up and Double Listed
Sometimes manufacturers will include something in the ingredient list, such as brown rice, as two different ingredients, calling it by a different name (in the case of brown rice, it could also be called brewers rice) even though it is basically the same thing.
This is how a manufacturer gets out of putting that ingredient higher up on the list.
Dogs are carnivores and therefore do not need large amounts of fiber, which is found in carbohydrates and grains. Find out how many carbohydrates your particular dog needs based on their size and choose a dog food with a suitable amount of carbohydrates without overdoing it.
You will also want to avoid anything with the word “corn” in it because it is very difficult to digest and has a poor nutritional value.
In much the same way that we don’t want by-products in our hot dogs, you shouldn’t want them in your dog’s food either. By-products in dog food basically means all the stuff that wasn’t used in human food.
Many people would consider their dogs to be a part of their family. When you think about that, you would not only treat them as family but feed them as family, too. Make sure that you find the best dog food you can for your Great Dane in order to keep him in the best health possible.
Please comment below if you have any questions.