When shopping for a bed for your large dog, the materials used are the most important consideration. The sheer weight of larger dogs makes it critical to choose a bed made of materials that won’t ‘flatten’ over time and cause discomfort for your large best friend.
There are several types of materials used in dog beds but only a couple (well, actually only one!) is strong and supportive enough for large and giant dogs.
Common materials used include:
- Polyester fiber fill
- Memory Foam
- Polyurethane foam
- ‘Egg crate’ foam
- Cotton stuffing
- Cedar chips
We’re only going to cover the first two materials on the list: polyester fiber fill and memory foam. The other materials are not at all appropriate for large dogs. You will eventually, if not immediately, regret buying a bed made with these materials if you own a large or giant dog.
Please do not consider any material other than polyester fiber fill or (preferably) memory foam. Other materials will, without exception, flatten out over time with the weight of larger dogs, resulting in discomfort and the worsening of any existing joint or bone problems with your dog.
Polyester Fiber Fill
Polyester fiber fill is by far the most common material used in dog beds. It’s inexpensive and and normally made from polyester, specifically polyethyline terephthalate (PET), a material commonly used in plastic products such as bottles.
It’s made by melting the polyester and then mixing it with other fibers such as linen, cotton, and wool. This creates a fluffy material commonly referred to as ‘fiber fill stuffing’, ‘polyester fiber fill’ or simply ‘fiber fill”. It has the advantage of being resistant to mildew, microorganisms, moths, etc.
When a thick enough amount is used in a well-made bed, polyester can be an acceptable material for dogs weighing up to, perhaps, 75 pounds or so. Just don’t expect it to last for years without eventually flattening out. It can also shift when your dog stands up, which can aggravate hip and joint problems.
By far, memory foam is the best bedding material for large dogs and the only material you should buy for dogs in the 75 pounds and up weight range.
Memory foam was developed in the 1960’s by NASA scientists for use in aircraft cushions. In later years it was extensively used in hospital beds to prevent bed sores and reduce the possibility of gangrene due to decreased blood flow caused by pressure points over bony regions.
Unlike other types of foam (e.g. egg crate foam and polyurethane foam), memory foam is denser and constructed of what is called ‘open cells’. These cells open and close to allow air to move between cells and adjust to weight and temperature.
Memory foam is firm in normal temperature and then reacts to your dog’s temperature once your dog lays down. This distributes the weight equally and cradles your dog in support and comfort. Pressure points are thus avoided and your dog sleeps in a more orthopedically correct position.
Once your dog gets up and the weight is lifted, the air is once again evenly distributed and the foam reverts back to its original shape. Thus the term ‘memory foam’.
Memory foam quality is measured by its density, which basically translates to its weight. Weight varies from three pound foam to five pound foam and is determined by a one foot square piece of foam. The denser and heavier the material, the firmer it is to the touch. Increased density causes higher manufacturing and fabrication costs and thus high quality memory foam beds do cost more.
You’ll find two types of true memory foam used in dog beds: shredded memory foam and solid memory foam.
Shredded memory foam beds are made of cut up pieces of foam. They can be comfortable and soft but have little body support and are not appropriate for large dogs, extra large dogs or dogs with orthopedic issues. This is what you will generally find in lower cost memory foam beds.
Solid memory foam is constructed of a solid slab. The thicker the slab, the more supportive the bed. You can usually tell if a bed is made from solid memory from the description – they will say so loud and proud! If it doesn’t specifically say solid memory foam, then it isn’t.
For large, extra large and giant dogs, solid memory foam is really the only material that will ensure long lasting comfort and relieve and help prevent many orthopedic issues.