Many people believe that they need to add calcium to their large-breed puppy’s food but that is a myth. Do not try to add calcium to your puppy’s bowl (in the form of eggshells or any calcium supplement you might find) because it can actually backfire and weaken your large breed dog’s bones! For many years there was a misconception that a large-breed dog needed more calcium when she was growing because she was going to have big bones. Whether in humans or animals, calcium does not work alone in the body—it requires phosphorus to build bones.

This is an essential reason why veterinary nutritionists (and I!) recommend using a high quality dry (and wet) food made by a trustworthy company like Halo throughout a dog’s life because all dog foods are formulated with a specific ratio of calcium to phosphorus. If people were to add calcium to the carefully designed formulas in premium dog foods it would upset the balance between the two supplements. In fact, giving too much calcium to a large breed puppy during growth will actually lead to large but weak bones that lack the density needed for strength. The result could be bone and joint disorders down the road.

Many pet nutritionists recommend feeding large-breed puppies the food developed for them—but contrary to what you might think, these foods do not pack a “bigger punch” just because the dog is going to be bigger. Quite the opposite is true: both formulations should have the same amount of protein and calcium, but it may surprise you to know that the calorie content of large breed puppy food is actually lower than in regular puppy food!

A large-breed puppy should be getting fewer calories than other breeds as they grow. Specialists suggest feeding a large-breed puppy a brand of food that has the lowest calorie density – which you can determine by reading and comparing the labels – and measuring out the quantity carefully. After six months, you can transition your huge dog to Halo adult food and keep an eye on the quantity you feed, basing it on keeping that big pooch as lean as possible for a lifetime of health.

This is excerpted from my book THE DOG BIBLE: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know

Tracie Hotchner, author of The Dog Bible and The Cat Bible, guest blogs here every Thursday on healthy, natural choices for pets.

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