How To Care for Large Dog Breeds

Girl loving her pet

Large breed dogs generally weigh more than 50 lbs. and include a variety of breeds such as German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, Greyhounds, and Golden or Labrador Retrievers. Large breed dogs make wonderful pets, but because of their size, there are some special considerations for their pet care.

  1. A good diet of high quality food specifically made for large breed dogs is essential. It contains the correct nutritional balance necessary for the large dog metabolism, frequently has additives for joint health, and the larger kibble size promotes proper chewing and satisfaction. When choosing a dog food, keep in mind your dog's age, weight, and activity level. Large breed puppy food should be given to large breed puppies for the first 18 months because of their slow maturation rate and enormous growth. Large dogs reach old age sooner than small dogs, therefore at 5-6 years of age, a large breed dog should be fed a senior type dog food. If you are unsure about which type of food is right for your dog, ask your veterinarian. Be careful not to feed your dog too much. While obesity is harmful for all dogs, it can be even more so in large dogs whose joints are already stressed and may be predisposed to heart disease. Use a measuring cup to accurately determine meal portions and practice moderation when giving your dog treats or table scraps.
  2. See the veterinarian once a year for a check-up and vaccinations. Certain medical conditions occur more frequently in large breed dogs. These include:
    • Hip Dysplasia - A hereditary condition where the hip joint is unstable, leading to degeneration of the joint itself and causing pain, stiffness, and abnormal gait when walking.
    • Osteoarthritis - The considerable size and weight of large breed dogs stresses joints, leading to osteoarthritis.
    • Bone Cancer - Bone cancer is found almost exclusively in large breed dogs. It usually develops first in the leg, causing limping, then spreads to other organs.
    • Hypothyroidism - Hypothyroidism causes hair loss, lethargy, and weight gain.
    • Heart disease - Aortic stenosis and dilated cardiomyopathy are two types of heart diseases that occur more frequently in large breed dogs and result in the heart's inability to adequately pump blood to the rest of the body.
    • Bloat - Bloat occurs in deep-chested large dogs and is caused by the stomach filling with gas and possibly rotating. This is a life-threatening condition that occurs within hours of feeding. It may be prevented by feeding your dog smaller meals throughout the day rather than one large meal and by not exercising your dog within an hour of feeding.
  3. Be sure your dog gets plenty of exercise to prevent or treat many of the medical problems found in large breed dogs as well as to curb obesity. Frequent exercise alleviates the boredom, anxiety, and restlessness which can cause destructive behavior in dogs. A discontent large dog can do quite a bit of damage to the house or yard.
  4. Take your dog to an obedience training class. For a large dog, good training not only will prevent injury to themselves and others, but will teach good manners for interacting with humans and other dogs. When a small dog jumps up on someone to greet them, it can be cute, but when a 70 pound Golden Retriever does it, someone could get hurt. Most large breed dogs are quite social and crave regular interaction with the family so they wouldn't do well relegated to a doghouse in the backyard.
  5. Your large breed dog will need some special supplies for his care. An elevated dog feeder will make it more comfortable for your large dog to eat as well as reduce gulping of air which could lead to bloat. Be sure your large dog's leash and collar are durable enough to resist breaking when he pulls and the collar is wide enough to prevent cutting into the skin. Since you can't bathe a large dog in the sink, a handheld sprayer for the shower or outdoor hose is convenient for bath time. Buy your large breed dog big, durable balls, toys, and chews that don't pose a choking hazard. For example, balls should be no smaller than a tennis ball, perhaps even larger, depending on the size of your dog.

Large breed dogs tend to be loyal, friendly, and highly social animals, and, with the proper care, can be a wonderful addition to your family.


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