The Mastiff dog is as huge as they are adorable. You may be a bit worried when you first encounter these giants but they are good-natured and gentle creatures. They have a typical black-mask coloring on their face and stand at least 30 inches tall. They are very likely to be the heaviest member of your family! Thanks to their rectangular, thickly muscled body and a distinctive massive wrinkled forehead, they can look like a perpetually puzzled older person.
They are patient and loving dogs who will love your family and devote their lives to you. In turn, you must learn how to look after them properly and that includes feeding them the right diet. Because they are so huge, Mastiffs have a very short life expectancy which can be just six years but they can live for 10 years or even more if they are healthy. Their diet plays a large role in keeping them well so it is vital that you choose the best dog food for Mastiffs. To get you started, we’ve put together an easy-to-understand guide.
Best Dog Food For Mastiffs Buying Guide & FAQ
What to Look for When Buying Dog Food for Mastiffs
When you own a giant Mastiff, you cannot just grab the first food that you come across in your local store. You need to speak to your vet or an experienced breeder and be prepared to do some research yourself. It is important that you read the ingredients lists and check out the following.
- The protein content. Adult Mastiffs do well on a high protein diet which helps them to build lean and strong muscle.
- The fat content. Mastiffs need fat for energy and a healthy metabolism but not too much or they will put on weight.
- The source of protein. Animal sources of protein are best as they are more easily digested by dogs and provide higher quality amino acids.
- The total calories. Calories come from protein, carbohydrates and fats. Fats contain nine calories per gram but proteins contain 4 calories per gram so proteins should be the preferred source.
- Specific micronutrients. There are some specific nutrients that will benefit your Mastiff. The ratio of calcium to phosphorus is crucial for healthy bones. Glucosamine and chondroitin are very important for joint health and taurine promotes a healthy heart.
Related Post: Best High Protein Dog Food
Nutritional Needs of Mastiffs
There is no getting away from the fact that the Mastiff is a big dog! Inevitably, they will need to take on board a lot of calories every day to keep that giant body working. However, they don’t move around that much and so it is easy to overfeed them. Therefore, you need to keep their diet continually under review. Their food also needs to provide micro-nutrients and probiotics to maintain a healthy heart, strong bones and joints and an efficient digestion. The safest option is to choose a food that has been specifically designed to meet the nutritional needs of giant breeds.
- Nutritional content of the food
The protein content of the food should come from animal sources although this can be balanced with plant protein, e.g. from peas. A level of about 5% crude fiber is best because higher levels could cause digestive problems in Mastiffs. The carbohydrate content needs to be limited as too many carbohydrates will cause your Mastiff to become overweight. The carbohydrates that are present need to be easy to digest so brown rice and sweet potatoes are great options. Grain-free foods are also the best choice because they can trigger allergies.
The ratio of protein to fat in the Mastiff diet is also important. The protein content should be above 18% (but it’s great if it’s even higher) and the fat content should be between 5% and 15%.
Nutritional supplements are always needed so look out for added vitamins, chelated minerals and omega oils. Dried fermentation products like Lactobacillus act as probiotics and help with digestion and make sure that the gut is able to absorb nutrients efficiently. A food that is supplemented with glucosamine and chondroitin will help their joints support all of the weight that they need to carry around. Taurine is also useful to support heart function because, sadly, heart disease is common in Mastiffs.
- Quantity of food
When it comes to quantity, be prepared for your giant pooch to take on board a lot of food. You must be in complete control of their eating. They need meals that are evenly spaced throughout the day. Free eating is not appropriate. It will cause a pup to grow too rapidly, which brings health issues, and it will cause an adult to become obese which also has serious health implications. Pups that grow too quickly place too much strain on their young bones and will be at risk of musculoskeletal issues when they are an adult.
Mastiff pups will easily eat 4 cups of food every day but by the time they are an adult, they will be eating more like 12 cups a day! However, because all foods are formulated differently, it is better to look at calorie intake rather than simply the quantity. One food may deliver 350 calories per cup but another may deliver 500 calories per cup.
An adult Mastiff dog will need 20 calories per pound of their body weight. So, a typical 200 pound Mastiff male dog would need 4,000 calories a day. This is less than some of the more active larger breed dogs. Mastiffs need less because they simply don’t move around enough to burn it off!
Start off by finding out your dog’s weight and then look at the calorie information on the dog food label to work out how much you should be feeding them.
Ingredients to Avoid Feeding Your Mastiff
As is the case with all other breeds, Mastiffs can react badly to some ingredients in dog foods. Therefore, it is best to avoid the most common allergens. Some Mastiffs do have delicate digestions and they do produce a lot of poop! Therefore, it is wise to avoid any ingredient that is likely to affect the quantity or consistency of their poop.
- Poultry by-product meals
These are a common trigger for food insensitivities and allergies. You can never be completely sure of what is in the recipe and there could be something (hair or feathers) that could trigger a reaction in a Mastiff.
- Cereals and grains
Many dog food formulations now choose to eliminate cereals and grains from the recipe. Often you will see this written as ‘no corn, wheat or soy’. Whilst there is some nutritional benefit to these cereals (they have carbohydrates and proteins), they deliver a lot of calories with few micro-nutrients. They can be used as ‘fillers’ and are much cheaper ingredients than meat proteins and superfoods such as sweet potatoes.
- Artificial additives
There is no way of telling what effect these ingredients could have on your dog’s health. They could interfere with their digestive health and they could trigger allergic reactions. There is actually no need for modern, dry dog food to have artificial ingredients.
To keep your Mastiff’s diet as natural as possible, you may want to avoid ingredients derived from GMO. Often, the best dog food for English Mastiff dogs is labelled as non-GMO.
Potential Health Problems for Mastiffs
Mastiffs are very large dogs and many, but not all, of their potential health problems are associated with their size. They have a life expectancy of just six to 10 years.
Canine cancer is responsible for most Mastiff deaths and osteosarcoma (bone cancer) and lymphosarcoma are the most common types. There may be a genetic element to this so it may be worth asking your breeder about the pups grandparents but apart from that there is little that you can do to prevent it.
Gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV) is another leading cause of death in Mastiffs. The common name for this is bloat and it tends to occur in large breeds that have a deep chest. It happens when the dog’s stomach gets bigger and twists. This makes it impossible to burp or vomit and cuts off the blood supply to the stomach. The dog goes into shock and can die.
Heart disease is another major health issue for Mastiffs and a number of specific problems can occur including subaortic stenosis, cardiomyopathy and mitral valve disease. Regular heart examinations are essential and food containing L-carnitine and taurine is a good choice as it supports the function of the heart.
The Mastiff’s great size puts a huge strain on their bones and joints. They often suffer from ruptures of the cruciate ligament, osteochondritis and “wobbler’s” syndrome which affects the spine at the neck.
How You Should Feed Your Mastiff Puppy
A balanced diet is essential for any pup but for the rapidly growing Mastiff pup, getting the nutrition right is absolutely critical. They do not reach their full size until they are two years old so you need a special puppy food until they reach that age. However, you also need a food that has been formulated specifically for the needs of large and giant breed pups because they have very particular nutritional needs
A Mastiff pup needs to grow at a slow and steady pace. If their food is too full of calories and does not have the correct ratio of calcium to phosphorous, they can suffer from bone problems that could plague them for the rest of their life.
It is essential that you get advice from your vet or from an experienced Mastiff breeder when choosing the best food for Mastiff puppy health. They are likely to recommend a puppy (or adult) formulation that has a protein content of no higher than 26 %. The best dry food for Mastiff puppy will contain the correct calcium/phosphorous ratio which is around 1.2:1. Any AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials) approved food that has a protein content less than 20 % should be suitable. The overall calcium content of puppy food should be limited to 3g per 1,000 kcal of puppy food but always discuss this with your vet.
Because Mastiff pups grow so fast, their calorie intake needs to change quickly too and owners are left wondering what to feed a Mastiff puppy. Therefore, you have to keep their weight under review by taking them for regular weighing sessions with your vet. Then you can adjust their diet accordingly and adhere to the English Mastiff puppy food recommendations. Left to their own devices, Mastiff pups are likely to overeat so a strict feeding schedule should be adopted and free feeding is not a good idea.
With a large dog like the Neapolitan Mastiff, you can wean the pups straight onto dry dog food. However, when you introduce solid food into the Neapolitan Mastiff diet (at weaning), add a little warm water to it when they first try it and make sure that they always have plenty of fresh water nearby.
Our Top Pick
Our top pick of the best dog food for Mastiffs is a balanced food that is suitable for large breed adult dogs. It is nutritionally ideal with 32 % protein, a phosphorous level of 0.9 % and calcium level of 1.2 % for strong bones. It also contains 13 % fat.
The protein content is mainly provided by deboned chicken with some added chicken meal to provide the glucosamine and chondroitin that is so vital for healthy joints. There are complex carbohydrates provided by peas and sweet potatoes and fatty acids. It is free from grains and poultry by-product meals.