While most people consider their dogs pretty great, few breeds have "great" included in their name. Of course, the Great Dane's name refers primarily to his size — in his native Germany, he's known as the Deutsche Dogge — but there are plenty of other great things about this gentle giant. The typical Great Dane is affectionate, calm, good with kids, and requires only moderate exercise. The worst thing about these dogs is their relatively short life span, which is just one reason you need to pay attention to Great Dane growth stages and feeding them correctly from the start is so critical.
Great Dane puppy food recommendations
There's an art and a science to feeding a Great Dane puppy. A Great Dane's skeletal development isn't complete until she's about 18 months old, and a diet too high in calcium or protein can result in orthopedic problems.
Your vet is your best source for a high-quality puppy food suitable for a Great Dane. It's also wise to choose a vet with a strong knowledge of the breed and its dietary requirements. Keep in mind that a Great Dane puppy can't eat conventional puppy food. She needs a puppy food created for the needs of large breeds.
You'll have to watch for Great Dane growth spurts from puppyhood and adjust feeding accordingly. Dogtime recommends feeding a male Great Dane puppy, aged 3 to 6 months, 4 to 8 cups of food daily, divided into at least three servings. Females of the same age should receive 3 to 6 cups of food daily. From 8 to 12 months, feed males 6 to 10 cups of food and females, 5 to 8 cups. Adolescent Danes, aged 1 to 2 years, eat more than at any other time of life: 8 cups of food daily for females and 9 to 15 cups for males.
Feeding the adult Great Dane
According to the Jerusalem Post, the average adult Great Dane requires approximately 2,500 calories daily. Older Great Danes may require somewhat fewer calories, while a younger adult with an active lifestyle may need roughly 3,000 calories per day. The dog's food should consist of a minimum of 23% protein and 12% fat. In terms of quantity, adult males should receive 8 to 10 cups daily and females, 6 to 8 cups.
Examine the contents of a quality dog food carefully before buying it for your big dog. You may want to go with a premium dog food designed specifically for large breeds. Because large breeds often experience joint problems, these foods usually include ingredients offering joint support.
Although you don't need to feed your grown Great Dane as often as you did when he was a puppy, he'll still need to be fed more frequently than other dog breeds. Figure on a minimum twice-daily feeding, but three times daily is preferable. As Maryland's Sykesville Veterinary Clinic notes, avoid free feeding of a Great Dane. This means your dog should never have access to food all the time.
Keep treats to a minimum and avoid giving your Great Dane table scraps. Make sure your dog's food bowl is at shoulder height when feeding, which helps limit digestive issues. Always wait at least an hour before or after exercise to feed your dog to reduce the odds of bloat, a digestive disorder that often proves fatal in affected canines.
The risk of bloat
Formally known as gastric torsion, bloat occurs when the stomach becomes distended with gas and then twists. The dog goes into shock and will die quickly without immediate veterinary treatment, which generally consists of surgery. Great Danes are prone to bloat, and feeding them once daily or immediately before or after exercise increases the risk. For vulnerable breeds, preventive surgery is available to tack the stomach to the abdominal wall so it can't twist.