Large breed diets-fact or fiction?

Large breed dog food. Is it for real or is it just marketing?

Breeds such as a Labrador, or the “large breed” type, have been shown in studies to have needs for calcium of a certain range or they risk having bone deformities occur during their puppy year. Poodles were also tested on this same study platform and shown to tolerate very high levels of calcium with no ill effects, where if the large breed received the same diet they would end up with curved bones. If both types of dogs were given the same lower level of calcium in their diets they both grew normally. So, one level of calcium would be appropriate for both breeds.

As to protein levels it has been shown in other studies that the protein levels are not the critical thing to measure but overall weight. Heavy or overweight large breed dogs cause joint deformities to occur, such as elbow or hip dysplasia, by the shear fact they carry too much weight and damage the parts of the body are that are still ossifying (developing bone). Keeping them lean is the key here, not the protein level, per se. Don’t overfeed the large breed dog when they are in their puppy years, as that can influence onset of these issues; but there still is a genetic component that can cause these maladies, regardless,in some instances.

So what is a “large breed puppy food”? Maybe just the same as any other puppy food with a tick lower calcium level than a puppy food aimed for a poodle. But then again, studies have shown the calcium level for a poodle puppy can be all over the place and they grow just fine. So why not use the large breed puppy food for a small breed? It would be A-OK, but it seems manufacturers do want that shelf space.

And then there is large breed adult food. See, once a large breed dog is older than about 12-14 months, their bone growth plates have already closed, and that is the critical thing to make sure the calcium levels are proper for in a diet. So what is that LB adult food? I am still waiting for an answer that makes sense scientifically versus just more shelf space…and marketing.