Saint puppies grow at an extremely rapid rate. At birth they usually weigh 1 ½ – 2 ½ pounds. By the age of 3 months they weigh around 30 to 40 pounds and will gain between 3 to 5 pounds a week for the next few months. This kind of growth makes proper feeding extremely important. Yes, it is expensive to feed a growing Saint pup, but if a high quality diet is not fed, the outcome can be disastrous.
Look for a premium to super premium grade food. Do not feed a general puppy food. Research has shown feeding puppy food, especially in giant breeds, has a detrimental effect on a puppy’s development by making him grow too quickly. Choose a food that is not too high in protein (no more than 25%). There are now many large breed puppy foods on the market, but large breed is not giant breed (dog food companies consider a large breed puppy to be any one that will be 50 pounds as an adult). Check those protein levels.
Mixing in a little canned food is fine, just a tablespoon or two. Most canned food is mostly water and very low in nutrition so use it only as a mixer. We add warm water to the food before feeding. This makes it more palatable and dog food experts feel feeding a dry food tends to make a dog require more water intake.
Very minimal supplementation is needed if a good quality dog food is used. In fact, more problems are usually caused than avoided by adding this and that (especially calcium and protein). I do suggest that 500-1000 mg of vitamin C be fed daily throughout your dog’s life. This is a water soluble vitamin which makes overdose difficult, and research has shown that it may be beneficial to good bone and muscle development. I also like salmon oil. This will provide all the good Omegas that just make the whole body function better. Puppies do not retain a residual of this product between doses (as adult dogs do) so it is important to give the proper amount on a regular schedule to get the benefits. If you stick with a good quality super premium food that is designed for the special needs of a growing giant breed puppy, not much else should be needed as supplementation.
Your puppy will do well on 3 feedings per day until he is 4 to 6 months old.
Start him out on 1-2 cups per feeding. This will depend on his age. You will know if you are feeding the proper amount for a young pup if he eats most of the food, but leaves a small amount uneaten. Adjust the amount you feed to accomplish this. When they are very young (up to 16 weeks old), we also leave some dry food (about 1 cup) with our pups during the night. Since this is not mixed with canned they will usually only eat this if truly hungry.
Never allow your puppy to become overweight. The ribs should be covered but felt when rubbing your puppy’s sides toward the head. The rib test is one to use throughout the Saint’s life. The majority of growth problems (Panosteitits, OCD, HOD, Dysplasia) can be eliminated or greatly reduced by following a proper feeding and exercise program and by not allowing your dog to become fat.
There will be stages when your growing pup will be eating more per feeding than an adult Saint. Gauge how much you feed by the pups condition – not by the “suggested amount” printed on the bag. Your puppy will go through growth spurts and you may almost double his intake at times. Do the rib test every few days and adjust your feeding accordingly. NEVER feed just prior to or just after exercising. Wait at least one hour. Avoid feeding in the hot part of the day. Gastric torsion (bloat) is a major killer in Saints and feeding multiple meals instead of one large one may help avoid this. The general wisdom was to also feed in elevated feeders but recent research has indicated that feeding this way may not be correct in preventing bloat. Cool water should be available all times but watch that your dog does not drink too much too fast.
ADULT – Once a Saint reaches adulthood – 18 months old for feeding purposes – the major growth concerns have been overcome. He can now be maintained on a good quality dry food following the same basic feeding guidelines. I feed my adult Saints the same food they were on as pups – my preferred adult dry food. Most Saints require between 4 and 8 cups of food per day – depending on activity level, size, and food used. Gas or diarrhea are the common signs for overfeeding or improper digestion. Usually, the better the quality of the food, the less you need to feed and the better the digestion. Divide the feedings into 2 meals. I continue to give 500 mg of vitamin C daily and salmon oil a couple times a week. Follow the same exercise restrictions and feeding when it is cool as with a pup.
OLD AGE – At around 7 years old, I consider my Saints as entering old age. There may not be many outward signs other than some graying of the muzzle but the body is slowing down. As long as they are doing well as they age, I do not change their food or feeding routine. One exception would be if the adult dog was being fed a diet high in lamb, a change to a nonlamb food would be advisable (older dogs have a diminished ability to manufacture their own taurine). Supplementing with salmon oil is very good for the older dog as it helps with regulation of a number of body functions and also acts as an anti-inflammatory.
Activity for the older dog will slow so be vigilant on preventing your Saint from becoming overweight. Also be aware if they seem to be losing weight – a possible sign of illness. Check their teeth often for tarter or breakage. Foods formulated for older dogs may or may not be something to consider. Usually the protein levels are lower – thought to be easier for the aging liver to process. But some experts think more protein is needed since the liver is not functioning as well. Unless there is a specific problem that needs to be addressed through nutrition, stick with the food that has worked for your dog throughout his life. Older Saints can be painful due to arthritis and this can affect them wanting to eat. If your old guy seems uncomfortable, check into the many options for pain control. Go the natural, more conservative route to start. Monitor water intake as excessive drinking can be a sign of illness.
Susan West, Utah