We are asked daily both by Rottie owners and by owners of other breeders about canine nutrition. Here at Guardian Rottweilers, we take choosing the correct food for our dogs and puppies very seriously. Nutrition is very important for any breed or species, but especially crucial in large breed dogs. A Rottweiler will grow from less than a pound at birth to 80-100+ pounds in the very short space of 12 months. This is one of the greatest contributors to many of the joint problems that plague Rottweilers, especially hip and elbow dysplasia. It is very important that you have a genetically strong dog/ bloodlines to help prevent hip and elbow dysplasia, but the dogs diet also plays a major role. It is important that the puppy have a diet that is high in glucosamine and chondroitin to help protect the joints, and equally important that the diet have an easy to digest protein source that is in correct balance to ensure a fluid growth rather that huge growth spurts that can be damaging not only to the joints, but also to large muscles including the heart.
We have tried MANY foods over that last decade, and have found that there are a few out there that are of merit, but unfortunately, many that are far from adequate. I have also found that popularity or price often have little to do with the quality of the food. Many of the more popular or more well known brands (Eukanuba, Purina, etc.) are often popular only because of aggressive marketing, sponsoring loads of dog shows, and offering big incentives to breeders, handlers, trainers and veterinarians to use and recommend their products.
I will try to break down the things that I have learned to look for in good dog food to include or exclude, through my research and by trial and error. I would never assume to tell anyone what to feed their dog. I am not a veterinarian or a nutritionist. I am simply a breeder and owner who loves her dogs and has put nearly 2 decades of my life into trying to find the best for my babies. The information found here is not shaded based on incentives or kick-backs and I have nothing to gain by recommending or not recommending any brand or company. I have found that good, honest, no bias information on canine nutrition is nearly impossible to find. The information on this page will evolve as my knowledge and experience grows, just as what I feed my own pack is constantly evolving with the ever changing medical and clinical research. Any professional in any field that ever thinks they “know it all” is not fooling anyone other than themselves. I always welcome input and and always willing to learn new ways to be and do better for my dogs. They are my heart and soul and finding the best nutrition for them is just as important for me as finding the best for my own kids.
I hear all the time from owner that they use inferior brands because “my dog loves it.” My response has always been, well, I LOVE Doritos but that does not mean that my diet should consist of corn, salt, sugar and added flavor.
First, lets go over what to EXCLUDE.
One of the most prolific allergies among Rottweilers (both skin and digestive) is wheat. So I would steer clear of any foods that contain wheat.
Another controversial ingredient is corn. I have read and had explained to me by vets, manufacturers and other breeders arguments both pro and against. To the best of my understanding, whether or not it poses any nutritional value as opposed to being just a filler may have to do with how it is processed. A filler is an ingredient that provides little to no nutritional value, but just “fills” the dog up. Corn is not only another common ingredient associated with allergies, but it is also more difficult to digest. Because it is an ingredient seen in such a negative light more often than not and because there are so many other, better options for a carbohydrate or energy source, and because of the association with so many digestive and growth issues, you should avoid any dog food containing corn.
By Products. We are all educated to avoid by-products. But what exactly is a by-product? Plain and simple, by products are the products left over after any “usable for human consumption” meat has been removed. By products are a non-specific term and can mean anything from feathers, intestine, skin, feet, bills, etc. to even scarier items such as parasite and disease infested tissue, tumors, etc. In other words, stuff that I really don’t want to feed my best friend. Also, if the meat source is not specifically identified (i.e. if it says “poultry” instead of chicken or “meat” instead of beef or venison) then I avoid it as well. I am sure you would not feed your family some random “meat” without knowing what it came from and where.
Fillers. The term “fillers” is another very ambiguous term used often in what to avoid. A filler is just that- an ingredient added that is inexpensive and used mostly to just fill the dog up. Fillers have little to no nutritional value and should also be avoided. A dog food that is higher in fillers will require a dog to eat several times as much to get half the nutrition it requires. And of course, if a dog is eating 2-3 times more, guess what else he is doing 2-3 times as often in your back yard. I have often explained it like this: We have all been to a Chinese buffet where we eat like 3 plates of food- way more than we should 😉 and we think we are absolutely stuffed when we walk away. However, in about 2 hours, we are hungry again- after we just ate more than we should have for the whole day! Why is this? Because we filled up on “fillers”, empty carbohydrates with little nutritive value which are quickly broken down by the body and leaving the body still unsustained. Conversely, if you were to sit down with a porterhouse steak, you would be full for the whole day even if, volume wise, you consumed far less than you 3 plates at the Chinese buffet. Your body was able to use most of what you consumed, or, as my grandma used to say, “it stuck to your ribs.”
Dogs are carnivores so ideally, you want 2 of the top 4 ingredients to be a specific meat source- i.e. chicken, duck, lamb, venison, etc. And if one or more of the meat products is a “meal” (i.e. chicken meal, duck meal, lamb meal, etc.) it will actually have a higher lever of protein than the actual meat (chicken, lamb, etc.) The products are listed on the label in order of weight BEFORE cooking, so most meat (chicken, beef, etc.) is 70% moisture. Once the moisture is cooked out, the amount of actual chicken, lamb, beef, etc. in the dog food is significantly less and therefore the amount of actual protein also. Meal, on the other hand, is already in concentrated form with most of the moisture removed, so it is much more accurate in volume and weight. I prefer to see both on the dog food label- both the meal so that I know I really am getting enough animal protein, and the meat (chicken, duck, lamb, etc.) so that I know my dog is getting enough of the actual animal.
PROTEIN LEVELS, FATS, CALCIUM, PHOSPHORUS Once upon a time, all of the nutrition research for large breed dogs said that protein levels were extremely important in growing large breed dogs. What we did not realize is that the reason protein had such a significant impact on proper development was because of how it effected the calcium and phosphorus ratios. Unlike adults, puppies do not adequately regulate calcium absorption. Although we all know that calcium is vital for strong bones, an excess of calcium can lead to bone developmental issues. The ideal calcium: phosphorus levels are 1:1 to 2:1 Fat levels are also important. If the diet is too rich in fat, then the puppy can grow faster than his skeletal development can accommodate. About half of the calories a puppy consumes goes directly towards skeletal development and tissue growth. It is vital that the calories your puppy does consume are nutrient dense and in balance. You do NOT want your Large Breed Puppy growing too quickly! Excess protein and fat in your large breed puppy’s diet not only causes huge growth spurts that can cause bone and joint damage, but can overall detrimental effects on growth and development. Too much protein, fat or calcium can be a huge contributing factor for hip and elbow dysplasia as well as other joint issues such as FCP, HOD, and OCD.
Salmon or Salmon Oil. Rottweilers are a breed that tends to suffer more from dry skin. Having enough Omega 3’s like those found in salmon and salmon oil are essential to a healthy, shiny coat and good skin. We add salmon oil regularly to our dogs diet especially when they are being shown or are working.
Pre and Probiotics. I also look for a food that contains prebiotics and probiotics (Live bacteria cultures like those found in yogurt). You see them a lot in the media finally getting recognized for their effective aid in improving digestion, well, they work for our beloved canines and felines also. And if anyone needs help with digestion and settling upset tummies I would think it to be those who drink out of the toilet bowl, lick their bums, and pick-up everything in the yard :)’ We travel a lot with our dogs and digestive inconsistencies can occur when going over seas or after competitions. I love to see a dog food that takes an active step in helping prevent that.
Finally, I look for a food that has a specified amount of glucosamine and chondroitin, and a food that has a specific Large Breed Puppy formula. As stated above, large breed dogs like the Rottweiler really need to eat a dog food that not only has the necessary vitamins and minerals to promote healthy growth, but it is also essential that they be on a food that has the correct balance of proteins so that they have an even, steady growth rather than large growth spurts. Be warned, not all “large breed puppy” formulas are really formulated for large breed puppies!! Some dog food companies simply market it as a large breed puppy formula without really taking the steps to ensure the food is what a growing large or giant breed puppy needs. They call this “clever marketing.” A true “large breed puppy” formula will be lower in protein and fat and have a specified level of calcium, glucosamine and chondroitin. Also beware of “puppy” formulas as these are the worst thing you can feed a large breed puppy. “Puppy” formulas and “Large Breed Puppy” foods should be quite different from one another as “puppy” foods are typically formulated for small puppies who will have very different nutritional requirements than large breed puppies, and are often way too high in protein and fat for large breed dogs.
Also be aware of protein sources. Many cheap dog foods will use very low quality protein sources so that they can claim to have a certain protein level. Corn gluten, soy, pea protein, and poor quality meets (like by products) will raise the protein level of the food but are difficult for the dog to digest so are largely unusable to your dog.
We currently feed our dogs RAW. I like a rotational diet where the dog is not fed the same food day in and day out. It is nearly impossible for one food to have everything needed- poultry will be naturally higher in glucosamine and chondroitin; red meat will be naturally higher in iron and other essential vitamins; salmon and other fish will be naturally lower in fat and higher in omega 3’s and 6’s. Fish is also considered one of the easiest protein sources to digest. It is important to note that just like there is no one diet that works for all humans, not all dog food will work the same for all dogs and breeds. Individual dogs will have different nutritional requirements, and you will have to adjust what you feed accordingly. The information provided on this page is for educational purposes only and should never take the place of vet recommendations or you dog’s specific needs.
Other foods we have tried and liked were:
• FROMM. I fed FROMM for several years, but after some integrity issues with my representative of their company, decided it was not a good food for my fur-babies. I will never feed my kids, 2 or 4 legged, something I cannot trust, and if I cannot trust the company, it does not matter how good the food is. For a puppy, we prefer the Gold Large Breed Puppy. Fromm does have a nice verity of both gourmet canned and dry food. We have been using FROMM for years and have had great success with it.
*UPDATE* unfortunately, due to integrity issues, we no longer use or recommend FROMM products. Truly a pity as this food was part of our dogs lives for the last decade and I have recommended it to THOUSANDS if not TENS OF THOUSANDS of people over the years (considering my website has had nearly 3 million hits in the last 3 years since we put the counter on there, and, for the last decade it was a food that I RAVED about and attributed some of the great qualities of my dogs too- I dare say, likely millions of people). After some pretty significant allergies were reported from clients after starting a new bag (even though they had been using FROMM for months or years) as well as too many reports of digestive upset to be ignored, the integrity issues I then faced with my FROMM representative, Manny Zelles, were the proverbial straw that broke the camels back.
• Solid Gold. Solid Gold is a great quality food. They have several verities to suit just about any dog. I love the Millennia Beef and Barley for a puppy that is growing too fast and needs a low protein, low fat diet or for an adult that tends to pack the weight on a bit too much. Solid Gold also manufactures a great line of supplements and we love SeaMeal.
• Darford is another brand that I really like and have a lot of respect for. I love their Zero G line of treats and food. Darford is made by our neighbors to the north (Canada) and my dogs love it.
• Redpaw. A good friend of mine who is a breeder in Canada turned me on to this product a nearly 2 decades ago and I am so excited it is finally available here in the US with greater regularity. Redpaw was initially made for sled dogs and is high in quality protein. It is great for dogs that are very active and hard to keep weight on. We also used it for our pregnant and lactating bitches as it offers higher protein and fat levels which are essential when nursing fat puppies 😉
• Addiction. This product is manufactured in New Zealand and we LOVE it! “Little Bit” (Jahzara) was born premature and was a picky eater. She LOVES raw food, but is not a big fan of kibble. We started her on their Raw Dehydrated Food to supplement her raw diet and she wolfs it down (pun intended! :D). This food is a little pricey, but if you have a picky eater, or do not have an entire herd to support and the price tag is doable, it is worth considering.
• Merrick. Merrick is another great product, we especially like their “Before Grain.”
• Pet Curean. Another food that I have heard great things about. I love their NOW! Grain Free products, for adults.
• Also liked Innova, Evo (Evo Red Meat is excellent for a very active dog or one with a high metabolism like our Dunjo). We used Evo Red Meat before we switched to RedPaw for our dogs that had higher protein and fat requirements and really liked it.
• Native. This is another natural, holistic food that I found at a pet expo in North Carolina. Quality ingredients and everything is made right here in USA.
• Instinct Raw Boost. This is a newer food that we researched for a client. I like the concept and the ingredients seem very good quality. They also have some pre-made raw that you can find in the refrigerated/freezer section at your pet store which also makes them a nice option if you are interested in raw, but not confident on making your own.
• Stella & Chewy’s. They have a nice range of raw coated kibble, freeze dried food, raw dehydrated food, and even treats and wet food.
• Billy & Margot. Tried this brand on a couple of pups the owners wanted us to switch from raw to kibble before they went to their new homes. The pups thought it was delicious and I love the quality ingredients. Nice array from kibble to frozen, and even some kangaroo!
• Honest Kitchen. I have not tried this brand yet, but have several clients and friends who use it and love it. It can be a good alternative making your own raw, or it can help supplement what you are feeding.
Not our favorites, but worthy of honorable mentions and certainly better than Pedigree, Purina, Eukanuba, Pro-Plan, etc.:
• We used Royal Canin for some time when we first started breeding, however, the more I learned about canine nutrition, the more I realized it was not the food for me. Love the high levels of glucosamine and chondroitin and general quality of their ingredients, but wish they had a corn free and wheat free formula.
• Canidae (again, wish it was not just an “all life stages” formula, but respect the quality of the ingredients).
• Life’s Abundance (this holistic dog food is shipped right to your door and is free from many of the preservative that other manufactures have to use. I wish that they had a Large Breed Puppy formula and that they had specified levels of glucosamine and chondroitin, but other than that, decent ingredient list. This is a popular dog food with many breeders because they offer a lot of incentives and kick-backs, however, for my pack, it was just not enough of the quality nutrients they needed. I really wanted to love this product as much as my wallet did, but some had dull coats and/or dry skin, and really struggled to keep weight on the workers.
AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE:
Diamond. Anything Diamond- which includes Taste of the Wild. Because Diamond has had so much bad press from the numerous recalls and dog deaths, they tried to re-market themselves as Taste Of The Wild (TOTW), but do not be fooled- this is still Diamond and carries the same risks.
Evangers. Found this food at a Pet Expo in Illinois and thought it look super. Loved that everything was made right here in the good ol US of A. Ordered a bunch to try on my pack. Biggest mistake I ever made!! I will post photos of the rotten can inside of a can that my daughter found. This dog food not only made 2 litters of my puppies gravely ill- it took them WEEKS to recover! but unfortunately also claimed the lives of 3 of my babies. We sent one of the babies to Purdue for a Necropsy (Autopsy)- no parasite, negative for all viral cultures, no other problems other than complications associated with e.coli and salmonella poisoning! Evangers offered to replace the dozens of cases we pitched- NO THANKS!! I will NEVER touch ANYTHING Evangers EVER again!!
My kids helped me pitch everything we had on the shelves- about $3200.00 worth of food- but of course, even with a a dozen extra zeros added onto the price tag, still no where near worth the risk!! As Tahlia went to chuck one of the cans into the trash, it made a ‘clink’ noise. Curious, she opened it. When my daughter opened the large can of their Chicken formula, there was a very nasty, foul smell coming out of the can and the lid dropped down into the can about a half an inch. When she fished the lid out, there was a layer of black goo and under that another unsealed can of rotten food :/ SOOOO gross!!!!! Speaks volumes to quality control as the 2 cans of food were not even the same food and should have been processed in different parts of the factory, so how did it get in there?? If you could only have smelled the nauseating order that fill the entire building!! It was absolutely awful!
!!ALSO OF NOTE!! I cannot emphasize enough how important nutrition is in developing puppies. We understand how vital good nutrition is for people. If a balanced diet, quality food, and necessary nutrients are important for a child that will take 2 decades+ to full develop mentally and physically, how much more significant is what we feed for an animal that will take only 10% of that time to accomplish the same amount of growth? Feeding any of the foods listed on here that should be avoided, or any food that is not a quality food, specifically formulated for large breed pups/dogs, will void your health guarantee! We do not tell you what you have to feed, but we do require it to be competent quality. This requirement is not meant to restrict what you feed, but rather it is done because we care deeply for every single Rottweiler and we want to do our best to ensure they have everything they need to succeed.
As always, check with your vet before changing your dog’s diet, and when looking for a new food, always consider the individual needs of your dog. When switching dry dog foods, always remember to do so gradually either by following the direction on the bag of food or using our guide:
Day 1-2: 1/4 new food and 3/4 old food
Day 3-4: 1/2 new food and 1/2 old food
Day 5-6: 3/4 new food and 1/4 old food
Day 7: ready for 100% new food.
When switching to or from RAW, there is no need to switch gradually, cold turkey is the best way.
Although grains have no place in a dog’s diet, the ‘grain free’ dog foods are just replacing one starch (cereal grains like corn) with another starch (potatoes and legumes- peas, lentils, etc.) The high starch and low meat content is causing a Taurine deficiency. For decades we have understood the importance of Taurine in the diets of cats– taurine deficiency causes serious and significant issues including blindness and dialated cardiomyopathy. But because dogs were known to synthesize their own taurine in the pancreas from meat, we had not considered the possibility of their diets being deficient. Because this is an unfortunately newly discovered issue, or at least the correlation between diet and increased risk of DCM (Dilated Cardiomyopathy), there is a lot of conflicting information out there. I have included a couple of links I found helpful when I first started researching this topic after becoming enlightened myself while going over the GR Puppy Contract with a very informed veterinarian who ended up getting Pax from our P Litter with Goliath and Ina! Thank you again Zachery for sharing such valuable information!