Large Breed dogs, the MAXIS, are those whose adult weights range from 26 to 44kg. Excellent dogs for herding, tracking, rescue and guiding, they are faithful companions ever ready to accompany their master on sporting outings. Their growth should be monitored closely.
Guard dogs such as the German Shepherd Dog, search and rescue dogs such as the Belgian Shepherd Malinois, shepherd dogs such as the Briard, assistance dogs such as the Golden Retriever; in most cases large-sized dogs were originally true working dogs. Powerful, dedicated, sturdy, exceptionally versatile, they are also able to live in urban environments, provided that their high exercise and space requirements are met. Their growth extends over a period of 15 to 18 months. These puppies often have a more sensitive digestion than smaller-sized breeds.
During the first year, the large breed puppy will increase his birth weight by more than 80 times, whereas a mini breed dog (with an adult weight under 10 kg) will multiply his birth weight by only 20 times. These differences explain why skeletal growth disorders are almost exclusively found in large breed dogs; this is why the correct diet is so important in closely regulating the large breed puppy's growth. Insufficient protein or calcium intakes might affect bone formation. A diet containing too much energy will promote early weight gain or excessive growth rates, risking bone or cartilage disorders. Limiting the energy intake, combined with correct nutritional formula, ensures better control of the growth rate and therefore minimises risks.
At weaning, the puppy’s digestive system is still immature. It cannot yet tolerate very large quantities of food and is unable to digest starch properly. MAXI puppies show an increased digestive sensitivity due to their anatomy: their digestive tract is proportionally smaller than that of a small dog; also, they have a longer colonic transit time, which results in higher fermentation and poorer stool quality. To ensure optimal digestive security, a Health Nutrition food should contain highly digestible proteins and the correct levels of fibre, psillium and prebiotics to ensure the right balance of intestinal flora. A controlled energy intake ensures harmonious bone and cartilage development.
The owners of large dogs sometimes think that if they overfeed their animal, he will become a bigger adult dog. But it is not so! The dog will simply reach his adult size (and chiefly his weight) more quickly. However, this early rapid growth subjects the immature skeleton to excess pressures and may induce bone and joint malformations. It is not uncommon for owners of large breed or giant breed dogs to add to their puppy’s diet calcium-rich supplements. This practice is justified only if the dog is fed a homemade diet, i.e. specially prepared for the dog and based on meat, vegetables and other starchy foods.
If the dog is fed complete prepared food formulated for growth, and therefore with a controlled calcium intake, this supplementation practice is not only pointless, but dangerous. Research on calcium requirements in large breed dogs during growth has clearly established that excess calcium may interact with bone growth and lead to bone and joint malformations.