There are a number of different types of food available for dogs. The most important factor in choosing a suitable food is that the food is complete, i.e. provides correct nutrition for your dog, and that it is appropriate for the dog's age. This is very important in particular while your puppy is growing, as getting too much or too little of certain nutrients can cause problems that will affect your dog later in life. For this reason, I do not recommend making your own food at home to feed your puppy, unless there is a genuine veterinary reason why no prepared foods are suitable and you have the support and guidance of a qualified vet.
Extruded food: This kind of food has been around for a long time and is very popular. It is made by combining the ingredients into a paste and squeezing it through a heated tube and cutting it into pieces. The pieces are then baked at a high temperature. The quality of the food depends a lot on the ingredients used, with very good quality extruded food being comparable to say, a roast dinner (roast dinner is delicious and nutritious, but cooking at a high temperature isn't the healthiest way to prepare the food) and with poor quality food made from not-very-nice ingredients and with additives being comparable to fast food and things like bacon and sausages. The problem with heating food to a high temperature is that certain substances undergo chemical reactions: starches become acrylamide, and heterocyclic amines form in meats. Both these substances are carcinogenic, which is why roast dinners should generally be enjoyed as an occasional part of a balanced diet. With extruded dog food, this is more difficult, since as they are popular there is a lot of choice compared to other foods, and a lot of very good foods are made this way. Extruded food sometimes gets referred to as 'kibble' a term that seems to have come from America and that I have only really heard used by detractors of this type of food.
Examples of good extruded foods: Applaws: made in the UK -- a large breed puppy formula is available. Barking Heads: a UK company that uses local ingredients and clear labelling, and offers a large breed puppy food. Purizon German food, puppy variant is appropriate for large breed pups. Field & Trial (Turkey, Duck, or Lamb) & Rice: An inexpensive food aimed at working gundogs and made in the UK. Not as nice quality as above, but cheap and widely available. Fishmonger's Finest Available in Pets at Home. Nice quality, reasonably priced, poodles love it... but I find it makes their breath smell fishy. Wolf of Wilderness another German food and good quality, although all the varieties they offer are essentially a 'chicken' food and their labelling as being duck, venison, etc. is somewhat misleading.
Tinned Food: This kind of food, like extruded food, has been around a long time, and there is generally more choice than other types of food, although not as much as with extruded food. The food ingredients are mixed together and the food is then sealed in a sterile process in tins or other airtight containers with pressure and heat to prevent bacteria from contaminating it. The food does not need to be dried and is not exposed to as high a temperature as with extruded foods, meaning it is much less likely harmful substances will form. Depending on the quality of the ingredients, tinned food can be like a healthy steamed/boiled meal or stew, or like a tin of cheap spam. Some concerns have been expressed about substances lining tins leaching into food, although it's not really understood how significant this is at present, but there are some foods prepared by pretty much the same method sealed in packets or plastic containers. A good example is Lukullus a tinned food from Germany made primarily from meat and offal of named species. The 'junior' version they make is suitable for large-breed puppies. Wolf of Wilderness wet food.
Cold-Pressed Food: This food is made by dehydrating and grinding up the ingredients to make a powder. The powder is then compressed into hard pieces. These pieces can be stored for a reasonable shelf life (although not as long as extruded food) so long as they don't become wet. Because cold-pressed foods are not treated with as high a temperature as extruded food or even tinned food, the chemical composition is largely unchanged, and ingredients that benefit from cooking can be boiled or steamed separately before they are combined. Currently the vast majority of cold-pressed foods are made in Germany, and there is unfortunately not a great deal of choice. Compare with foods like jerky and dried fruits. Good cold-pressed foods are Lukullus which is available in a puppy formula suitable for large breed puppies, Lupo, Markus Mühle.
Frozen Food: These foods are frozen to prevent them from spoiling, which means any drying and heating is unnecessary. The foods are minced up and put in plastic containers or plastic sausage tubes which are bought frozen. Although these foods are generally thought of as uncooked, they may contain boiled or steamed ingredients such as vegetables, potatoes, or rice, as the cooking of these ingredients makes their nutrients more available. As the meat is not usually cooked in these foods, good quality meat has to be used, and the freezing step is important as some kinds of meat and fish can harbour parasites which the low temperature destroys. These foods have become increasingly popular and there is a reasonable amount of choice. Unfortunately, however, there are not at present any specifically suitable for large breed puppies. Think of this food like sashimi and raw steak with a salad or steamed vegetables. Good examples of these foods are Natural Instinct: a complete frozen food in the UK made from lovely ingredients. A lot of frozen minces marketed as dog food are complementary foods, i.e. they are not complete foods and should not be relied upon as a dog's only food long-term as they are not nutritionally balanced or have not been tested. They can, however, be high quality, particularly when they sold from butchers and farm shops and made from local meat, and your dog can enjoy them as part of a varied diet. In the Wiltshire area, Jon Thorners butcher sells an inexpensive complementary offal mince. You can also buy cheap complementary mince online from 'They Love It' and if you mix together the chicken mince with bones with the tripe mince in a 50:50 ratio, it makes a meal that is roughly balanced and your dog can eat one meal per day of if the other meal is a complete food.
Feeding guides and correct nutrition for growing puppies: Puppies need food with a suitable amount of protein, to enable them to grow, and large breed puppies need controlled energy intake to make sure they don't grow too quickly and put strain on their bodies. Large breed puppies also need an appropriate proportion of calcium in their food; too little or too much has been linked to skeletal development problems, a possible one that can sometimes affect poodles being hip dysplasia. You can read a publication that reviews the studies that have been done and provides guidelines here (click the link to 'nutritional guidelines'). A food for large breed puppies needs to have a protein content of 25% and a calcium content of at least 1% and not more than 1.6% -- 1.2-1.4 is ideal as we don't want to be close to either extreme. The phosphorus content of the food should be in a similar ballpark to the calcium content, and ideally a little lower. These values are measured as dry matter. For cold-pressed and extruded foods, if a percentage is given it is easy to see if the food meets these guidelines. For other kinds of food, we need to convert to dry matter in order to compare the numbers.
As an example, if we look up the Lukullus puppy food on Zooplus, the cold-pressed Junior chicken and salmon is 28.5% protein, 1.25% calcium, and 0.95% phosphorus, which we can see at a glance is ideal. The Lukullus Junior turkey and lamb tinned food is given as wet matter, and contains a rather confusing and offputting statement on the description about the food containing extra calcium. We can convert the percentages to dry matter like so:
The calcium content of the food including the moisture is 0.3%. That means that in 100 g of food, there is 0.3 g of calcium. But in that 100 g, only 25 g is dry matter.
Therefore there are 0.3 g of calcium in every 25 g of food when the moisture is excluded.
0.3/25x100=1.2% calcium as dry matter content, which is ideal, despite what the description says.
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Do NOT feed your dog, and seek veterinary advice if you have reason to think your dog may have eaten:
Grapes, including grape products such as raisins, wine, or grape juice
Chocolate (dark chocolate is most dangerous)
Anything containing caffeine: tea, coffee, Red Bull, some brands of fizzy pop
Anything containing xylitol: this substance used to be occasionally found in products like mouthwash and medicines, but more recently it is increasingly being used as a substitute for sugar in food items. It is EXTREMELY poisonous to dogs even in small doses and very dangerous since the things it is likely to be found in are obviously food objects and likely to be attractive to a dog that encounters one. Because of the very serious dangers of xylitol, I would recommend checking everything you buy and avoiding anything containing this substance as much as possible.
If you think your dog has eaten xylitol, chocolate, or grapes/raisins these are particularly dangerous and getting them out of your dog as fast as possible could mean the difference between life and death. To do this, you need to induce vomiting:
Hold the dog's mouth open, point the syringe down into the back of the throat, and discharge the hydrogen peroxide. Hold the dog's mouth shut to make sure it is swallowed.
Either get another person to watch your dog, or keep your dog with you and phone your emergency vet to explain what has happened. The dog should vomit and you need to be able to see this has occurred and what has come out in the vomit. If you are confident everything the dog ate has come out, the vet may not need to see your dog, but it is always a good idea to check. If the dog is not sick within ten minutes, or it is sick but you don't think the dangerous thing has come out in part or at all, you can give the dog another dose of hydrogen peroxide. If the dog is sick (including in the car on the way to the vet) you need to prevent it from re-eating any vomitus.
In addition, do not feed your dog salty, sugary, or spicy foods, cooked poultry with bones in it (without bones is OK), onions and onion-type things such as shallots (can cause anaemia if consumed frequently), booze, nuts, or Bakers dog food (contains sugar and colourants that have no nutritional value). Do not give your dog plastic chews, rawhide, or those green things that look like toothbrushes and are sold in pet shops. These things are indigestible and if your dog swallows them they could cause a bowel obstruction. Instead you can give your dog an antler, an uncooked bone such as a rib from a cow or sheep ('They Love It' the company selling minces for dogs mentioned above, also sells sheep and cow ribs which are excellent chews for dogs), or some dried natural chews such as the Dibo dried chews from Zooplus which are all sourced from EC slaughterhouses (can you tell I really like Zooplus?!).