To feed large breed or not to feed: that is the question
March 25, 2013 4:13 PM   Subscribe

YANMV, however, I am waiting on a call back from my vet and as I am impatient and prone to obsessive behavior, I shall ask the same of the hive to see the consensus. Should I be feeding my 4 1/2 month old puppy large breed puppy food? Details inside.

We adopted a lab terrier mix (our so we were told) in February. When we took him in to look at puppy food the clerk at the holistic pet store said that because Churchill has short stocky legs and knobby knees (like a basset hound), we should feed him large breed puppy food to prevent future joint complications. At the time, based on his paw size we also assumed he would be over 50 pounds. I asked my friend, who used to be a vet tech, and she confirmed as much. I painstakingly went about the process of deciding on a LB puppy food, and finally went with Holistic Select Large breed puppy. Two weeks ago we went for his final round of shots, and he only weighed 20 pounds. The rescues vet seemed to think that he may not even surpass 40 pounds full grown. So here's the thing: should he still be on the large breed food even though he isn't going to be a large dog per those guidelines. As it stands he is about to bottom out of the feeding guidelines for his food. Because of the Bassett knees should he still stay on the large breed for joint reasons? Here is the best picture I could manage to show what I am talking about with regard to the knobbiness. Any suggestions?
posted by Quincy to Pets & Animals (8 answers total)
Response by poster: This is just a shameless adorable photo of our puppy that serves no other purpose.
posted by Quincy at 4:20 PM on March 25, 2013 [5 favorites]

Our 10 month-old Akita pup has been at 75 Lbs and about 24" at the shoulder for the last two months. Our her vet just told us that, while this might be as big as she gets, she might not stop growing until she's three years old.

I don't really buy that but I've often heard it said that larger breeds often don't stop growing until they're two.

I don't think it will hurt at all to go with large breed puppy food.
posted by VTX at 6:13 PM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

I find that clerks in pet stores (especially places like PetSmart) often don't know WTF they're talking about on this level.

That said, I doubt any harm will come to your dog if you continue to feed him Large Breed food, nor would you be at any significant risk if you fed him something else until you figure out what his adult needs are. It's a dog, not Hapsburg royalty.
posted by Sara C. at 6:24 PM on March 25, 2013

I am not a vet, but I have a large breed dog and do pretty exhaustive dog food research.

In general, the difference between large-breed food and regular-breed food is that compounds thought to help joint health (such as glucosamine), and Omega-3 fatty acids which can help skin and other systems. Although Omega-3 can be very helpful for dogs, there are other (often less-expensive) ways to give this to dogs - we give our dogs a human-grade fish oil pill every day instead. As for glucosamine and joint health, there isn't a lot of scientific evidence for helpfulness, although there is quite a bit of anecdotal evidence. Again, instead of LB-specific food you can just give human-grade glucosamine, and it might end up cheaper and more effective in the end as you can control dosage (750 mg/kg is maybe about 200 mg/cup - for large dogs, they often recommend closer to 1000 mg per day).

So I would say that even if you did have a dog prone to joint problems, you don't necessarily need or want to feed large-breed food. And if you don't have a dog prone to joint problems, you're not doing any harm.
posted by muddgirl at 7:09 PM on March 25, 2013

Large breed puppy food is formulated to have a lower amount of calcium and phosphorus than other puppy foods, as well as fewer calories. This is intended to prevent excessive growth of the long bones and to keep their weight low to prevent skeletal and joint problems.

Keeping your puppy at a normal weight by controlling its food intake is the absolute best thing you can do to prevent orthopedic issues later in life.

So, your dog probably doesn't need large breed food, and it is worth noting that there is a lack of peer-reviewed evidence that glucosamine is beneficial to joint health.

Cute pup!
posted by Seppaku at 7:56 PM on March 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

I agree with Sara C - it probably won't make a difference. Honestly, I'd go with a normal puppy food as I've never considered a bassett hound a large dog and the large breed food is probably designed for breeds like St. Bernards and Great Danes. If you're going to stick with the large breed food, you might want to ask the vet if you should use a calcium supplement. And one benefit of the large breed food is that since it's lower calorie, you can feed him more volume.

Additionally, if you're happy with the Holistic Select brand, you could always just switch to the regular puppy food. (You could even by both and mix them half and half).
posted by maryr at 9:20 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that glucosamine and fish oil is good for joints - although I will grant that there is a lack of conclusive evidence in humans, let alone dogs.

That being said - supplementing with it won't harm your dog. We get our fish oil and glucosamine pills from Costco - way, way less expensive then going with a animal-specific brand.

We'll pierce a fish oil capsule with a knife and squirt it into the evening kibble, and twist open the glucosamine pill and dump the powder in as well. The dogs love the taste of the fish oil, and don't seem to mind the powder. Granted, we have beagles and a very food-motivated cocker spaniel, so it has to be particularly revolting to be refused by them.
posted by PGWG at 8:51 AM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

There is no harm in feeding it (and "large breeds" are any breeds which are over a certain weight or have certain body types, like Bassets, which actually are quite large dogs anyway, they're just short). The main benefit is going to be making sure your pup grows slowly - and you can do that with any kind of food - you want a lean, almost scrawny-looking puppy, not a roly-poly one. The size a dog ends up at is determined by genetics (unless it is severely malnourished as a puppy, and I mean severely), how quickly it reaches that size is determined by environment, and slow growth is healthier, for all breeds but especially large ones or ones with a long and low body type. That said, rotating foods is what I do with my dogs, there is zero reason to stick to just one food all the time.
posted by biscotti at 2:42 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

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