Expert advice from Baileys’ canine nutritionist on choosing the best diet for giant breeds

Q: I have recently taken over looking after two Great Danes, who were being cared for by a friend who has had to go into hospital for a short time.

Although they are by no means neglected in any way, I am concerned about their weight as I think they are looking a bit thin.

Please could you advise what kind of food large breeds are best suited too and how much food to allow – up to now they have been fed on complete food.

Liz Bulbrook replies: There could be a number of reasons as to why your Great Danes are not carrying as much weight as you would like.

First of all ensure that they have been regularly wormed so that they can get the best out of the diet they are being fed.

You do not mention how old they are, but traditionally larger breeds of dogs and in particular the giant breeds are slower to mature, still growing and maturing at 18 months and beyond.

If they are young dogs it is advisable to ensure that the complete feed they are receiving is one that has been specifically formulated for this life stage – usually marketed as “junior” or similar so as to distinguish from puppy foods.

It is essential that the young growing Great Danes receive quality,balanced nutrition to support the large bone structure and developing frame.

If your dogs are mature Great Danes receiving moderate levels of exercise then I would check the type of food and how much they are receiving.

Great Danes can be quite finicky with their food, and unlike many large breeds that have a tendency to be overweight, they do not hold weight as well as some other breeds, possibly because they are fussy about how much they eat.

Dogs weighing more than 40kg can require in the region of 2000-2400 kilocalories per day to satisfy theirenergy requirements depending upon their size and activity level; but don’t worry, you do not have to start counting the calories in your dog’s diet as most manufacturers will have done this for you.

The products will have their energy content calculated by taking into account the amount of protein, fat and carbohydrate in the foodstuff and then guideline quantities given according to the weight and breed type of the dog.

Typical feeding rates for quality complete dog foods with protein contents in the region of 22-26% and fat levels of 10-15% will have feeding rates of 575-800 grams per day.

The fat coated museli mixes such as Baileys Working Dog are ideal to tempt fussy feeders because they combine cereals withchicken based nuggets and are coated with a tasty poultry fat.

However these museli mixes are not as energy dense as many of the premium extruded complete dog foods, and if you are having trouble getting the dogs to eat the required quantity then try feeding to a more nutritionally concentrated diet.

The higher protein and fat diets will satisfy the nutritional needs but in a smaller volume – ideal for limited appetites.

Try to feed the dog’s regular meals at least twice a day, in order to promote digestion and utilisation of the diet.

With large breeds then raising the feed bowl up off the floor can be beneficial, as the dog tends to eat and chew its food rather than gulp, particularly as Great Danes areone of the breeds more susceptible to bloat.

Improved eating positions have been sited as benefiting digestion and placing less strain on neck and back muscles.