Should Great Danes Have Grain-Free Food?

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A big part of owning a Great Dane is feeding them.

Afterall, these giant dogs can eat between 8 – 10 cups of food per day, according to Dog Advisory Council. That’s a lot of kibble!

But as a dog parent, you have probably wondered, “Should Great Danes have grain-free food?”

In fact, it seems the term “grain-free” has become something of a buzzword in the dog community these days.

Now more than ever, Great Dane owners are paying attention to what ingredients make up their pup’s bowl. I know my friends in the Great Dane community are always talking about the latest information regarding what to feed our beloved pups. 

So, today let’s discover why going 100% grain-free is recommended for some dogs, but not usually Great Danes.   

Written by Jen, proud owner of a 3-year-old Great Dane/Poodle mix named Luna, who is her once in a lifetime “heart dog.”

Jen specializes in the care and training of large dog breeds. She particularly enjoys working with Great Danes (for their big, goofy natures) and Poodles (for their intelligence).

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What’s the Difference Between Regular vs. Grain-Free Dog Food for Great Danes?

Pet food is a very trendy topic. Everyone – from big brand pet food companies to your dog loving friends and veterinarian will likely have an opinion on grain-free dog food.

That’s why it’s so important to follow the science.

Unlike other dog breeds, Great Danes have very specific nutritional requirements.

Their bones and bodies need certain amounts of calcium, protein, and fat.

Plus, they’ll eat between 2,500 – 3000 calories per day. It can be tricky finding a high-quality dog food that meets these targets!

For Great Danes, the main difference between regular vs. grain-free dog food comes down to the content.

When looking at the label on a bag of dog food, check to see if the following grain ingredients are listed: wheat, corn, rice, oats, millet, and barley. Spot any? Then no, it’s NOT grain-free.

On the other hand, grain-free dog food with be loaded with carbohydrate heavy ingredients. PetMD shares that potatoes, lentil, peas, and quinoa often serve as substitutes. 

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What Human Food Can Great Danes Eat?

Those considering the grain-free diet also often wonder what human food their Great Dane can safely eat.

While most human foods are too fatty, sugary, and salty for canines, moderately feeding your pup veterinarian-approved foods is okay.

As a Great Dane parent myself, I regularly feed Luna human food. However, when I do it’s always 1) in small amounts and 2) approved by her vet or a canine nutritionist who I know and trust. 

Human foods that are usually given the go ahead include:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Cooked eggs
  • Lean meat (chicken, turkey, beef)
  • Fish (tuna or salmon)
  • Dried unsalted sardines (Luna’s absolute favorite!)
  • Shredded carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Green beans
  • Pumpkin puree

For a more extensive list, visit the American Kennel Club.

Common Misconceptions About Grain-Free Dog Food

Now, the question at the root of the debate is this: Why would anyone choose a grain-free diet for their Great Dane?

For most pet owners, it’s because they believe grain-free dog food is a) healthier or b) will reduce allergy symptoms.

However, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC), grains do not actually cause allergies…

This is a common misconception amongst dog owners.

If your Great Dane has been suffering from allergies, talk to your veterinarian about possible causes before making a food switch.

Likewise, if your Great Dane is doing well and maintaining a healthy weight on regular food, changing to grain-free is not always a superior choice.

In fact, it could be harmful.


Read on to find out.

Devastating Heart Problems Found in Great Danes

Great Dane doggy parents are no strangers to heart problems.

Sadly, these gentle giants are prone to multiple diseases and health conditions, including heart disease and a life-threatening condition called “dilated cardiomyopathy” (also known as DCM).

This is where the heart becomes too large and weak, thus preventing the pumping of blood.

What does this have to do with grain-free food, you ask?

Well, in the past few years, veterinary cardiologists have found that many dogs who eat a grain-free diet develop DCM – though no official link has been proven as it is still being investigated by the Federal Drug Administration.

The website Hello Danes has also documented this issue extensively.

When left untreated, DCM kills Great Danes. Typically, via triggering a heart attack.

Don’t Believe Everything You Read

It is therefore recommended to do extremely in-depth research and talk to several canine nutritionists if you are on the fence about going grain-free with your Great Dane.

When it comes to feeding a Great Dane, we want nutritionally balanced dog foods made with high-quality ingredients specifically intended for giant breeds.

That way, we will all have happy, healthy, and long-lived Great Danes!

Photo by Kalh.