The Average Cost of Feeding a Large Dog

Some expenses for large breed versus small breed dogs don’t vary much. Examples are licenses, baby gates, adoption fees, some medications, teeth cleaning, etc.

Unfortunately, food is probably the one thing that varies the most in cost based on the size of your dog. As you might suspect, the cost to feed a large dog will be considerably more than to feed a small or medium size dog.

That said, the food you feed your dog is one of the most important, if not the most important, thing that determines the health and happiness of your pet.

If you don’t already own a large breed dog, you’ll need to carefully consider what it costs to provide a high-quality diet. As a rule of thumb, you can expect the monthly cost of feeding a 75-pound dog to range between $25 per month (for the low-quality supermarket brand) to $80 per month or more (for the quality food you should feed your dog).

That’s a large range, so let’s take a look at where those numbers come from.

How much should large breed dogs eat?

As you might suspect, the cost of feeding a big dog is largely determined by its weight, activity level, and life stage.

The first thing you’ll need to know to determine how much to feed your dog is how much it weighs. This is particularly important because pet obesity is a huge problem today, both in the United States as well as in many other countries.

Tracking your dog’s weight is important for other reasons. An overweight dog is harder for your veterinarian to examine, and the quantity of medications prescribed is frequently based on body weight.

All dog food bags will have recommended feeding amounts, which is a good starting point. Below is a commonly recommended feeding table found on many dog food brands. It’s important to note that these amounts are the total for each day, not each feeding.

Adult Dog Size (lbs)

Cups of Dry Food to Feed Per Day

26 to 50

2 to 2-2/3

51 to 75

2-2/3 to 3-1/3

76 to 100

3-1/3 to 4-1/4

100+

4-1/4 plus 1/4 cup for each 10 lbs of body weight over 100 lbs

However, keep in mind that these are the recommended amounts for a healthy adult dog and the food ranges can be pretty wide. For example, the amount to feed a 75-pound dog is considerably more than what a 51-pound dog should eat.

Puppies and senior dogs need different amounts.

These amounts should be a bit less for senior dogs, given their lower activity and energy levels. In addition, senior-specific food is probably necessary as your dog enters old age. Your vet should be able to recommend one appropriate for your dog.

Puppies, due to their rapid growth, need twice as much as adult dogs. As with senior dogs, age-specific food is best to support the rapid growth of a large breed puppy.

To fine-tune these recommended quantities even further for your particular dog, here is an online dog food calculator that will help you.

Also, these recommendations assume that your dog is at an acceptable weight. If your dog is overweight you don’t want to feed them based on their actual weight. Conversely, if your dog is seriously underweight, you’ll need to adjust the recommended amount upward.

The best advice we can give you is to ask your veterinarian what the ideal quantity of food is for your particular dog. You can then be sure to feed your dog the correct amount based on their breed, weight, life stage, health, and activity level.

How often should you feed your large breed dog?

For the large breeds, two main factors determine how often they should be fed: age and activity level

Age

Adult large breed dogs, which means over five months of age, should be fed twice a day, not once a day. Feeding once a day can cause bile and stomach acid to build up, causing nausea and vomiting. You wouldn’t want to eat only once per day and the same is true for your dog!

Puppies should be fed three to four times per day, evenly spread out. Their activity levels are higher and they need more calories to support their rapid growth.

Many vets recommend four times evenly spaced over 24 hours. This helps support a potty training schedule because puppies will usually need to go potty 10-15 minutes after eating.

Senior dogs should also be fed twice a day but with a smaller amount due to their lower activity level. You should check with your veterinarian as to exactly how much to feed your senior dog and if you should be using special senior dog food.

For all ages, it’s best if you consult with your vet about feeding if your dog has any known health issues.

Activity Level

Some large breeds – such as Dalmations, Huskies, Weimaraners, and others – are very active and athletic. This means they burn more calories and as a result, need to eat more food than less active breeds.

This also means they may need to be fed more than twice a day to avoid bloat and other gastrointestinal problems. It can be dangerous and even fatal for a large active dog to overeat and then immediately do something extremely active.

Okay, So What Can You Expect to Pay to Feed a Large Dog?

As we’ve explained, the cost of feeding your large breed dog depends heavily on two things: the weight of your dog and the cost of the food you choose.

We’re only going to discuss the price of kibble (dry) dog food. Dry food is easier to store, requires less clean-up, and chewing it is good for your dog’s teeth. Canned food can be extremely expensive for large breed dogs, although an occasional can of high-quality canned food will be a treat your dog will enjoy.

There are also human-grade dog foods, which can be almost as much trouble to prepare as cooking a meal for your family. The cost is extreme – $200 to $300 per month or more for a 75-pound dog. While this is the highest quality food choice, premium dry food can be just as good for the overall health of your big dog.

Are Premium Brands Worth the Extra Cost?

We’ll say right up front that you should be feeding your dog a premium brand. Yes, the more expensive premium brands can be as much as three times the cost of low and medium-quality brands (frequently called supermarket brands). But the long-term health of your dog will very likely suffer.

In fact, the cheapest brands found in the supermarket aisle will most certainly be made from ingredients you should not feed your dog. With this food, your dog is guaranteed to have a greasy coat, bad skin, and long-term health problems.

The challenge is that the most expensive brands are not necessarily the highest quality brands. The high cost for some may be for things such as marketing and advertising, rather than better quality.

To make things more confusing, a study by Consumer Reports found that higher prices can mean better quality control and better ingredients. But this same study also stated that pets can become sick from expensive food or thrive on inexpensive food.

So how do tell if a particular brand is truly high quality?

First and foremost, look for information on that label from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) commenting on the intended use for the food. If you see the phrase “complete and balanced nutrition”, that’s your first indication of a good choice.

Also, look for an “Organic” label. The only terms regulated by the FDA and USDA are the “Organic” dog food labels. If organic is important for you, this means you can at least be assured that the brand is made using 100% organic ingredients. However, 100% organic is not required for dog food to be high quality.

Next, check the ingredients.

Ingredients to Look For

  • Whole proteins: fish, chicken, beef, duck, liver, eggs. It’s important that the type of meat be identified (e.g. beef, chicken, fish) and not just the generic “meat” or “meat meal”.
  • Whole grains, such as oats and quinoa
  • Additional health ingredients: glucosamine, chondroitin, omega-3 fatty acids
  • Preferred labels, such as “certified organic”
  • Natural preservatives – vitamins C & E
  • Good-for-dogs fruits and vegetables – sweet potatoes, peas, carrots.

Ingredients to Avoid

  • Dangerous chemicals – BHT, BHA, propylene glycol, ethoxyquin, sodium selenite.
  • Generic product terms – “meat”, “meat meal”, “by-products”
  • Unhealthy grains and fillers – wheat, corn, soy, beet pulp
  • Unregulated or poorly regulated ingredients – products from China or from rendering plants
  • Bad-for-dogs fruits and vegetables – grapes, onions, garlic, avocados

Ideally, a meat item should be the top ingredient, although being number two or three can also be okay if all other ingredients are top quality.

There is a growing trend for grain-free dog foods, based on the premise that grains are simply filler and not as easy to digest as meat. However, these are not absolutes and low to medium amounts of grains will not harm your dog.

We also have to tell you that the AKC has identified a possible problem for large breed dogs with grain-free food. Golden Retrievers are specifically mentioned. Our advice is to use a with-grain food so long as it’s not a major ingredient and other ingredients are of high quality.

Monthly Cost for 17 of the Best With-Grain Dog Foods

Below are the monthly costs for the 17 with-grain dog foods most recommended by Dog Food Advisor, which is our go-to site for the best-detailed information about dog food.

These numbers are for a 75-pound dog, based on a daily feeding of 3 1/3 cups, which equals 101 cups per month. The bag sizes are frequently different, making it hard to compare the cost of the various brands, so we’ve calculated a cost per cup for each brand in order to give you an apples to apples comparison.

You’ll notice that while the first three brands are significantly less, they are still recommended as a ‘quality’ brand. Even though the proportion of quality ingredients may be less than the more expensive brands, they will still provide good overall nutrition for your dog.

BRANDCOST PER BAG# CUPSCOST PER CUPMONTHLY COST
Diamond Naturals Dry Dog Food$41 for 40 lbs160$.26$26
Iams ProActive Health Dog Food$36 for 30 lbs120$.30$30
Victor Purpose Dog Food$56 for 40 lbs160$.35$35
Taste of the Wild
Ancient Grains Dog Food
$55 for 28 lbs112$.49$50
Nutra Ultra Dry Dog Food$60 for 30 lbs120$.50$51
Eagle Pack Dog Food$60 for 30 lbs120$.50$51
Whole Earth Farms Dog Food$50 for 25 lbs100$.50$51
Canidae All Life Stages Dog Food$63 for 30 lbs120$.53$54
Annamaet Dog Food$85 for 40 lbs160$.53$54
Blue Buffalo Life protection$64 for 30 lbs120$.53$54
Dr. Tim’s Dog Food$92 for 40 lbs160$.58$59
Merrick Classic Dry Dog Food$80 for 33 lbs132$.61$62
Purina ProPlan Large Breed$116 for 47 lbs188$.62$63
Farmina N&D Ancestral Grain$80 for 26.5 lbs106$.75$76
Natures Logic Dry Dog Food$80 for 25 lbs100$.80$81

How to Cut Down on Food Costs

If you’re looking for ways to save money on dog food, there are some things you can do.

First, make sure you’re buying quality food. It’s better to spend a little extra now than to pay much more later when your pet has an expensive medical condition.

Look for coupons and sales. Many pet food stores regularly offer price discounts on certain brands. Also, many pet stores have rewards cards that can save you considerable money if you buy there regularly. It pays to look around.

Check out the online pet store websites, as well as Amazon and the website for your particular brand. Some offer a sizeable discount on your first order and an additional discount (usually at least 10%) if you sign up for automatic shipments. Since you’ll need dog food regularly, automatic shipments are a no-brainer in our opinion.

Check with your veterinarian. They may be able to recommend a less expensive food that is of equal quality and nutrition. They may also have relationships with some premium brands that let them offer discounts to their patients. Just bear in mind that your vet may only carry a few brands and they may be brands for which they receive a commission, rather than the brands they may otherwise recommend.

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