Feeding a St Bernard puppy too many daily calories, or a diet with too much protein and too little calcium, causes their bones to grow rapidly but lacking in strength and density.
Choosing the right meals helps them grow strong bones, which can support their full adult weight.
Feeding a St Bernard Puppy
The St Bernard is one of the most distinctive breeds of dog around.
If you are thinking of bringing one of these gentle giants into your family, their diet needs careful consideration right from puppyhood.
This article will discuss what to feed a St Bernard puppy, in what quantity and how often.
Swapping Puppy Food Brands
When you bring your (big) bundle of fluff home, the breeder should have given you information on what they had been feeding the puppy up until this point.
Some may even provide you with a small quantity of food to get you started.
But after some time, you may decide that you would like to swap to another brand of puppy food.
While this may seem straightforward, a little bit of care needs to be taken when swapping over.
If you can wait a couple of weeks before you switch your puppy’s food, your puppy will likely adjust a little better – a lot has changed for them in the last few days!
Swap the food gradually. A sudden change in diet can cause diarrhea and vomiting, which may be life-threatening if it is severe.
It is recommended to slowly introduce the new food by mixing it in with the food they are eating currently.
At first, around 75% of their meal should be the old brand, 25% the new brand.
After two or three days, adjust the proportions to 50/50 and continue with this mix for a couple of days.
Now, you can mix 75% of the new brand with 25% of the old brand.
After another two or three days, your puppy should be ready to eat a full meal of the new food.
The whole process should take seven to ten days.
Your puppy may still experience some mild diarrhea as the food is swapped, which is normal.
Keep a close eye on it, and if it gets worse or puppy starts to vomit or lose interest in eating altogether, stop the transition and contact your vet for support.
St Bernard Puppy Diets
Being a giant breed, the needs of a growing St Bernard puppy are unique.
All too often, they are lumped in with ‘large breeds’, but St Bernards are larger than large!
Studies have shown that it is dangerous for giant breed dogs to grow too fast in their puppyhood.
Because these puppies have the capacity to grow so quickly, if they are provided with excessive nutrients over a short period, their bones grow too fast and lack the density and strength needed to support their weight as the dog matures.
And as a result, the advice as to what diet to feed a St Bernard puppy is varied.
According to the St Bernard Club of America, a super-premium grade food that has no more than 25% protein is the best choice.
However, some veterinarians advise that feeding a large breed growth formula that has passed the AAFCO (American Animal Feed Control Officials) will ensure the correct growth rate, and portion control is the key to avoiding overnutrition. Enough food to keep a puppy in a lean yet healthy condition, or the amount that a puppy can eat in 10 minutes 3 times a day is recommended.
One thing both schools of thought agree on – if you are feeding your St Bernard pup a nutritionally complete diet, there should be no need to supplement their diet with vitamins.
How Feeding Changes as a St Bernard Puppy Gets Older
St Bernards reach physical maturity at around 18 months of age.
Another way to judge when to start feeding your dog an adult diet is when they reach around 90% of their expected adult weight.
It is at this point that the demands for nutrients and calories needed for growth slows down.
Now, attention needs to be given to keeping your young adult dog within a healthy weight range. This will help prevent injuries and illnesses throughout their lifetime.
According to the St Bernard Club, a diet of between 4 and 8 cups of food spread over the day in 2 or 3 meals is standard.
The size, activity level and condition of the dog, in conjunction with the quality of their food, will affect exactly how much you need to feed them.
Feeding a St Bernard Puppy Kibble
- Kibble is quick and convenient
- A high-quality kibble can provide your puppy with a nutritionally complete diet
- High in carbohydrates which could contribute to weight gain
- Some poor-quality options on the market
Peoples reservations regarding kibble include concerns that harmful chemicals are in the mix.
One such chemical is pentobarbital, an anesthetizing agent, which was reported to have been making its way into kibble.
The FDA investigated these claims. Ultimately, while pentobarbital was found in kibble, it was in very small amounts – not enough to cause any health concerns to pets.
Of course, you may want to investigate further if claims such as these concern you. However, ensuring the kibble you feed your dog has met relevant health and nutritional standards will go a long way to ensuring your dog will not suffer any ill effects from a kibble diet.
If you would like to find out more about the pros and cons of a kibble diet, you can read about it here.
Feeding a St Bernard Puppy Wet Food
- On dry matter analysis, wet food contains more protein than kibble
- In many cases, less processed than kibble
- High water content, meaning your dog will eat more to feel satisfied
- More expensive than kibble
A concern that is often raised about canned food is that the dog’s teeth do not get cleaned as they do when fed kibble.
However, there are also concerns that kibble can damage a dog’s teeth due to its high carbohydrate content.
Of course, you always have the option of mixing the two to get the benefits of both.
If you are concerned about your pup’s dental health, offering them raw, meaty bones is one solution, which leads us to the next diet.
Feeding a St Bernard Puppy Raw (BARF)
- A more natural diet with fewer preservatives and less processing
- Eating raw meat and bones helps to keep teeth healthy
- If not planned correctly, raw diets can be lacking in calcium and phosphorus, along with some other minerals.
Raw diets carry a significant risk of infectious disease. Both the human and animal family members are susceptible, particularly to salmonella infection.
Ultimately, there is limited research into the benefits and risks of a raw diet.
Solid knowledge of nutrition and careful planning is a must if you choose to feed your puppy a raw diet.
Practicing stringent food hygiene will lower the risk of contracting foodborne infections.
Feeding a St Bernard Puppy a Homemade Diet
As with raw diets, a homemade diet can be healthful if it is carefully planned and you have a sound knowledge of canine nutrition.
It cannot be stressed enough that as a giant breed that grows fast, getting the nutrition right while your St Bernard is a pup can have a great impact their health for the rest of their lives.
Aside from the knowledge, it takes to plan a nutritionally complete homemade diet, be sure to consider the cost both financially and time-wise.
Researching, planning and preparing a healthful homemade diet is truly a commitment.
How Much Should I Feed My St Bernard Puppy?
As each dog is different and will grow at different rates. It is impossible to provide exact amounts that a pup should be eating at each stage of their development.
Some state that when their puppy is full, they will stop eating, leaving a small amount in the bottom of the bowl.
However, many dogs lack this ability to self-regulate and will overindulge if left to their own devices. Particularly in giant breeds, allowing a pup to self-regulate could lead to overnutrition and its associated issues.
Usually, two or three pre-measured meals served at the same time each day is the best way to regulate the amount your pup consumes.
It is also worth remembering that the higher the quality of the food, the less your pup will likely have to eat.
Ultimately, one of the best ways to gauge the right amount to feed your pup is to adjust according to their condition, which we will look at now.
Is My Puppy the Right Weight?
To check the condition of your pup, feel their ribcage.
Their ribs should have a covering of fat; however, you should still be able to feel the ribs.
Adjust the amount you are feeding your pup according to their condition.
You can find a handy guide to dog body condition here.
My Puppy Won’t Eat
Bringing a puppy home is a time of excitement and change, especially for your puppy. As a result, they may feel a little nervous and unsure.
Don’t change their diet, particularly in the first couple of weeks.
If you are changing foods and your puppy seems disinterested, there is a chance your puppy is picky and staging a protest.
There are some things you can try, like mixing in some wet food, some rice, soaking their kibble in water, or putting their food in a puzzle toy to pique their interest.
However, if your puppy has already skipped a meal and is showing no interest in the next despite your best efforts, a call to the vet is recommended.
If your pup is also lethargic, vomiting, unwell or showing signs of discomfort, consult the vet straight away.
While adult dogs have reserves of fat at the ready, puppies’ bodies are not as resilient, and a period of fasting for any reason can become serious quickly.
There is also a real chance your puppy has picked up an infection, sustained an injury, or suffers a condition that may have been undetected until now which is causing their disinterest in food. Clearly, any of these issues will need prompt medical attention.
My Puppy Is Still Hungry
Your puppy might seem capable of guzzling down food all day – they have a lot of growing to do!
But as we have learned, it is important that you don’t overfeed your St Bernard puppy as this could lead to growth that is too rapid and may also set them up for obesity later in life.
A diet is broken up into properly measured, smaller meals throughout the day will keep their nutrition on target.
It is also one way to prevent bloat in larger sized dogs.
How Long Is a St Bernard Considered A Puppy?
As with many large breeds, a St Bernard remains a puppy longer than smaller breeds. It can take up to three years for a St Bernard to reach full maturity.
However, for the purposes of feeding, your St Bernard pup is ready to be fed as an adult at around 18 months of age.
What to Feed a St Bernard Puppy
St Bernards are beautiful dogs with a kind nature and a rich history, and the rewards of successfully raising one of these pups are many.
However, as with most rewarding experiences, there is some work required.
Making sure you feed your pup a diet which will ensure they grow at a healthy rate requires thought and planning.
So, while there might be quite a bit to consider when choosing the right diet for your pup, remember that you are setting up your furry friend for a life of health and happiness as a much-loved part of your family!
If you’re preparing for a new puppy, you’ll also need to read our guide to giving your puppy a bath!
MSD Veterinary Manual – Feeding Practices in Small Animals
The World Small Animal Veterinary Association – Body Condition Score
Larsen, J., “Optimal Feeding of Large Breed Puppies”
Schlesinger, D.P., et al, “Raw Food Diets in Companion Animals: A Critical Review,” The Canadian Veterinary Journal, 2011
Bierer, T.L., et al, “High-Protein, Low-Carbohydrate Diets Enhance Weight Loss in Dogs,” The Journal of Nutrition, 2004