- What nutrients do German Shepherd puppies need?
- What nutrients do adult German Shepherds need?
- What types of food are good for German Shepherds?
- Which food is best recommended for German Shepherd puppies?
- Which food is best recommended for adult German Shepherds?
- Which food is best for a German Shepherd with a special diet?
- How can food alleviate common health issues in German Shepherds?
- What food should a German Shepherd NEVER eat?
We all want the best for our German Shepherds. They’re sweet, fun-loving dogs who love being a part of our lives. Unfortunately, the breed is known for sensitive stomachs and skin allergies. Finding a dog food to best fit their diet may be more difficult than expected. Not to worry, this guide breaks down all you need to know about properly feeding your German Shepherd! Whether he’s a young pup or an aging senior – we have recommendations for you. Please remember, we are not veterinarians with expert knowledge, so please consult with your vet for definitive answers to your feeding questions.
What nutrients do German Shepherd puppies need?
German Shepherd puppies grow rapidly until they are 8 months of age. Puppies may continue to grow until they are 18 months old but their growth rate is not as rapid. Therefore, German Shepherd puppies require high-quality nutrients to support bone and muscle growth, a healthy immune system, and a strong digestive system. Proper nutrition during the puppy stage can reduce common health issues later in life, such as hip dysplasia, arthritis, obesity, bloat, and allergies.
Be sure to feed your German Shepherd puppy the food designed specifically for his breed type: large breed puppy formula. Large breed puppy formulas are designed with calorie, carbohydrate, and calcium content levels so that puppies grow strong and healthy. Small breed formulas will have lower calorie and fat contents, which will leave your German Shepherd puppy malnourished. Likewise, adult formulas for large breeds have lower calorie and calcium levels (again, leaving your puppy malnourished) and are made into larger kibbles which your puppy will not be able to eat or digest easily. It is pertinent that you feed your German Shepherd puppy large breed puppy formula.
How many calories does a puppy German Shepherd need?
German Shepherd puppies need the right balance of protein, fat, calcium, and phosphorous. Ideally, puppy formula will have a protein content of 18% to 22% and a fat content of 8% to 12%. The formula should also have a 1/1 calcium to phosphorous ratio. German Shepherd puppies should have 500 calories per day at an increasing level as they grow. Once the pup is a young adult, he should consume 1,500 to 1,700 calories per day.
Be wary of formulas with too high protein content. Puppies can be sensitive and may get an upset stomach or loose stool. Additionally, never supplement extra calcium into a large breed puppy’s diet. Too much calcium encourages hip dysplasia earlier in life.
How often should you feed my German Shepherd puppy?
Puppies younger than 4 months old should eat 4 small meals each day. From 4 months to 9 months, puppies should eat 3 small meals each day, and after 9 months puppies can eat 2 or 3 meals per day. Total amount of food each day will vary by the brand of food, so read the label and check with a veterinarian to be sure of the correct amount.
DO NOT free feed your German Shepherd puppy! This means do not fill their bowl with the entire day’s amount and let them eat as much as they want. Puppies do not know how to control themselves or the consequences of eating such a large amount of food and they will eat the entire bowl. Eating so much at once can cause vomiting or worse – bloat.
No matter what brand or type of food you feed your puppy, be sure to closely monitor his weight and overall appearance. A little baby fat is acceptable when the puppy is very young but as he reaches 5 months he should slim down and start to build muscle tone. Reduce your puppy’s feeding if he remains chubby as he grows closer to 6 months of age. Additionally, if your puppy develops patchy fur, itchy skin, or loose stool, he may have a food allergy and need a different formula. We will discuss food for allergies and sensitive stomachs later in this article.
What nutrients do adult German Shepherds need?
German Shepherds have a shorter colon than other large breed dogs, meaning it is more difficult to digest food. Therefore, German Shepherds need a precise diet to avoid sensitive stomach, allergies, hip dysplasia, or bloat. Adult German Shepherds should eat a balance of meat protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. A high-quality dog food – regardless of type – will have the necessary balance of each nutrient.
How many calories does an Adult German Shepherd need?
An active or working adult German Shepherd should consume 1,700 to 2,400 calories per day while a senior or less-active adult German Shepherd should consumer only 1,300 to 1,600 calories per day. A good quality food should contain 18% to 24% protein and 14% fat level. The protein should come from meat (pork, beef, lamb, chicken, fish) or meat meal (real meat without the moisture for a higher concentration of protein). Food should also have 5% healthy fat from chicken, canola oil, or flaxseed. Carbohydrate levels should be low or should be a low-glycerin carbohydrate alternative such as sweet potato to keep blood sugar levels steady. DHA is good for brain and eye development. The calcium to phosphorous ratio should be 1.2 parts to 1 part, respectively.
Carbohydrate and fat levels are less of a concern in active and working German Shepherds because they easily burn the energy and avoid gaining weight. Senior, arthritic, inactive, and overweight German Shepherds should eat a formula with a lower fat and carbohydrate content.
Grain-free food is generally best for German Shepherds, as many have allergies to grains. You will know if your German Shepherd has a grain allergy when he has loose stool after eating food containing grains.
For a healthy boost, look for a food formula that contains glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health as well as omegas 3 and 6 for inflammation control, arthritic pain, trainability, mood improvement, heart and kidney boost, and skin and coat maintenance.
If you find a food you and your German Shepherd like, but it doesn’t contain glucosamine or chondroitin, you can give your dog Cosequin capsules or essential oil gel caps for a boost of joint health.
DO NOT feed your German Shepherd a cheap formula with corn, wheat, oats, or rice. German Shepherds are at high risk of Gastric Dilation-Volvulus (commonly known as bloat), which is caused by these ingredients. Bloat can be fatal. Feeding your dog a corn, wheat, oat, or rice formula is not worth the price of the food.
Generally, an active adult German Shepherd can eat 2.5 to 3 cups of food per day, twice a day. This is a solid starting point but check with your veterinarian and the guidelines of the food brand to get the most accurate measurement.
What types of food are good for German Shepherds?
1. Dry kibble Dog Food
Dry kibble is one of the most popular types of food for German Shepherds. It comes in a large bag, it’s easy to store, and does not require refrigeration. Dry kibble contains all the essential nutrients German Shepherds need and is palatable enough that dogs are eager to eat every meal. For the picky eaters, dry kibble is available in so many flavors and formulas that nearly every dog will find a brand they love.
Dry kibble may not be the best food for senior dogs who have trouble eating the hard morsels. If you prefer the kibble formula, you can add water to the dry kibble each time you feed your German Shepherd to soften the morsels.
2. Wet Canned Dog Food
Wet canned food is a great option for owners of recently-born German Shepherd puppies. The wet food is easier to chew and digest for a puppy who was recently weaned from its mother. Wet food contains up to 80% water and allows quicker digestion of nutrients, which is crucial in such young puppies. The same goes for adult German Shepherds as well – quick digestion of nutrients is highly beneficial.
Wet food has pros and cons: it does not go rancid, but it does require refrigeration. Another pro being you can mix wet food with dry food to accommodate the picky eating pups out there. Wet food has more of a natural, meaty flavor, which dogs will eat enjoy. Mixing boring dry kibble with wet food makes kibble more interesting!
3. Semi-moist Dog Food
Semi-moist dog food, similar to wet canned food, is another option for picky eaters or dogs who have trouble chewing dry kibble. Semi-moist food has a water content of 60% to 65%.
It is not, however, the best option for all dogs due to high sugar, salt, and chemical levels in some brands. Be careful of what brand you buy and how much salt and sugar are in the food. Avoid cheap brands of semi-moist food that fill their food with chemical additives, preservatives, and artificial colors. German Shepherds should not have any of either of these ingredients.
4. Freeze-Dried Dog Food
Freeze-Dried food is a new concept on the market of dog food. You may not likely find freeze-dried dog food at your grocery store or even a specialty pet store, but there are several brands available online. Freeze dried dog food is made from real cooked food put through a special process to remove nearly all the water content. The result of this process is a light and airy food packaged in an air-tight container for future use.
Freeze dried dog food will last for years in an undamaged package. How is that possible? Micro-organisms need water to survive so when all the water is removed from the food, it is not at risk of spoiling.
When you’re ready to feed your German Shepherd, simply open the package and add some water to reconstitute the food.
5. Frozen-then-thawed Dog Food
Frozen-then-thawed food could greatly improve or strengthen the health of your German Shepherd, but it does require premeditation, preparation, and safe handling. Frozen food needs to stay completely frozen, even during the trip from store to home, whether it’s cooked or raw. If you have a car with a cooler, you should be able to keep the food frozen. If you do not travel by car to the grocery store, keeping food frozen with freezer packs may be difficult and heavy, especially in warmer weather. If you can get the food home safely, though, the nutritional benefits are greatly worth the effort.
Each day you’ll need to thaw a portion of the food for the next set of meals. Always thaw food in the refrigerator and allow for 12 hours of thawing time. Frozen raw food comes in 2 forms: patties and medallions. Patties resemble a large burger patty. Medallions resemble a meatball or slider patty. Both thaw at the same rate.
Experts say the benefits of frozen food makes it one of the best possible options for German Shepherds (and dogs in general) because of the minimal processing involved. The minimally processed meaty diet keeps dogs looking and feeling young with high longevity – perfect for an active German Shepherd.
6. Organic Dog Food
Organic food comes in various forms to best fit your dog’s preferences. Dry kibble for young German Shepherds who are full of energy, for example. Wet food for a senior German Shepherd with difficulties eating. Freeze dried food for the German Shepherd owner who likes to stock up on food. No matter the type, organic is always best for a German Shepherd. As little processing as possible means more nutrients being absorbed into your dog’s body.
7. Dehydrated Dog Food
Dehydrated Food is made from raw, natural ingredients that go through as little processing as possible and then being slowly dehydrated of all water content. Warm air blows the moisture away from the food. Without any preservatives in the food, your dog gets all the nutrients and enzymes he needs.
Dehydrated food is different from freeze-dried food in that dehydrated uses warm air to remove moisture vapor while freeze-dried food uses extremely cold temperatures to turn liquid into solid – no vapor.
Like freeze-dried food, dehydrated food only needs an amount of water to re-establish and ready it for consumption. These types of food are great for dog owners who live in areas with frequent natural disasters. The food is lightweight, packaged airtight, and can last 10 years so people can pack it in emergency kits if the family would have to evacuate for weather.
Which food is best recommended for German Shepherd puppies?
For these recommendations, we chose the food (regardless of type) with the most natural and organic ingredients, the highest nutritional benefit, and the overall reputation of the company. Like we said earlier, puppies need high levels of protein, moderate fat levels, small amounts of fiber, and a balanced calcium to phosphorus ratio.
5. Instinct Raw Boost Large Breed Puppy Food
Instinct has created a highly nutritional dry food for large breed puppies with all the right ingredients and nutrients. The formula boasts high animal protein with freeze-dried bites of real chicken. Cage-free chicken is the first ingredient on the list. The recipe is strictly grain-free for the well-being of your German Shepherd puppy. It does have a good balance of poultry, fish, and meat proteins for healthy exposure, as well as DHA from chicken eggs for brain and eye development.
This food contains 495 kcal/cup with 33.5% crude protein, 15.5% crude fat, and 4.5% crude fiber. Calcium is at 1.2% and phosphorus is at 1% – exactly where it should be.
Overall, this food is an extremely good choice for your German Shepherd puppy.
4. Holistic Select Large and Giant Breed Puppy Food
Holistic Select offers a dry puppy food formula in lamb flavor or lamb and chicken flavor. Both flavors are grain-free. The formula includes DHA from salmon oil, prebiotics and probiotics, live yogurt cultures, digestive enzymes, fruits and vegetables, and antioxidant-rich superfoods. Lamb meal and chicken meal are the first 2 ingredients on the list.
Holistic Select Large and Giant Breed puppy food contain 25% crude protein. Crude fat is 16% and crude fiber is 4.5%. The calcium to phosphorus ratio is 1.3% to 1%, respectively. Calorie counts results at 433 kcal/cup.
Overall, another solid choice for your German Shepherd puppy.
3. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Large Breed Puppy Food
BLUE Wilderness® offers a dry puppy food inspired by a dog’s natural wolf-like instincts. The grain-free protein-rich formula feeds the true carnivore inside your German Shepherd puppy. Main ingredients include deboned chicken, chicken meal, and fish meal for all your puppy’s protein needs. Sweet potatoes provide the carbohydrates your puppy needs for energy. Blueberries, cranberries, and carrots provide the antioxidants needed to stay healthy again illness.
The analysis of Blue Buffalo Wilderness Large Breed Puppy Food contains 35% crude protein, 14% crude fat, and 6% crude fiber. The calcium and phosphorus ratio levels out at a perfect 1.2% and 1%, respectively.
Overall, one of the best choices of puppy food for a German Shepherd.
2. Wellness Complete Health Large Breed Puppy Food
Wellness Complete Health delivers a delicious chicken, rice, and salmon recipe that your German Shepherd puppy will love. Key ingredients include deboned chicken, chicken meal, peas, ground brown rice, and salmon meal. Everything a puppy needs to grow strong and energetic. Puppies will grow strong bones, sharp brains, a shiny coat, and healthy eyes.
Analysis of Wellness Complete Health includes 29% crude protein, 13% crude fat, 5% crude fiber, and a balanced calcium/phosphorus ratio of 1.3% to 0.9%. This food contains 367 kcal/cup.
Overall, Wellness Complete Health is a great choice for a German Shepherd puppy who loves lots of flavor in his food.
1. Wellness CORE Grain-Free Puppy
Wellness CORE created the best of the best with a high-protein puppy food containing deboned chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal, potatoes, peas, potato protein, and chicken fat. All of which are super healthy for the growth and development of a German Shepherd puppy! The grain-free formula reduces the chances of allergies and sensitive stomachs. Vitamins and minerals from bananas, spinach, broccoli, and carrots builds the strong immune system your puppy needs to stay healthy all its life.
The analysis of Wellness CORE includes 36% crude protein, 17.5% crude fat, and 5% crude fiber. The calcium and phosphorous ratio is perfectly balanced at 1.5% to 1.2%. The calorie count comes down to 417 kcal/cup, so your pup will have lots of energy to burn as he grows.
Overall, Wellness CORE is a top choice for a growing German Shepherd puppy.
Which food is best recommended for adult German Shepherds?
For the adult food recommendations, we based our choices on similar aspects to the puppy formulas. We chose the food with the most natural and organic ingredients, the highest nutritional benefit, and the overall reputation of the company. Adult German Shepherds do not need as much protein or fat as a puppy since they are done growing. However, we still searched for the highest-quality adult food with the proper balance of protein, fat, fiber, and calories for an active adult German Shepherd.
5. Purina Beyond Grain Free Adult Canned Dog Food
Purina delivers on flavor with this wet food. Available flavors include Alaskan Cod, Texas Beef, Beef/Potato/Green Bean, Chicken/Carrot/Pea, Chicken/Lamb/Spinach, Ocean Whitefish/Salmon/Sweet Potato, Turkey and Sweet Potato, Beef and Spinach, Chicken and Sweet Potato, Turkey and Green Bean, Chicken and Pea, and lastly Chicken/Pacific Cod/Carrot. Your German Shepherd will love the variety of flavors, full of vitamins, minerals, and protein.
The analysis of Purina Beyond breaks down to 9% crude protein, 6% crude fat, 1.25% crude fiber, and 390 kcal/can.
The only downside to this wet food is the possibility of soft stool in older German Shepherds.
4.BLUE Wilderness® Adult Large Breed Grain Free
BLUE Wilderness® large breed adult formula contains absolutely no grains or by-products. The high-protein formula gives your German Shepherd the strength and energy to stay active and healthy for its entire life. Deboned chicken, chicken meal, and fish meal supply the protein source. Sweet potatoes, peas and potatoes provide healthy carbohydrates. Blueberries, cranberries and carrots support antioxidant-enrichment for a healthy immune system.
The analysis of Blue Wilderness breaks down to 32% crude protein, 13% crude fat, and 7% crude fiber. The formula also includes glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health.
Overall, Blue Wilderness is one of our favorite dry foods for German Shepherds.
3. Taste of the Wild Wetlands Grain Free Dry Dog Food
Taste of the Wild Wetlands made our top favorites because of the wild game proteins in the recipe. Roasted quail, roasted duck, and smoked turkey provide rich flavor and highly digestible protein. K9 Strain Probiotics are developed specifically for dogs and added after the cooking process to ensure viability. Dried chicory root provides the prebiotic fiber to fuel your German Shepherd’s energy supply.
The analysis of Taste of the Wild Wetlands breaks down to 32% crude protein, 18% crude fat, and 4% crude fiber. This food contains 375 kcal/cup.
Taste of the Wild Wetlands hits many of our strong points for an adult German Shepherd food.
2. Wellness Complete Health Natural Grain Free
Wellness Complete offers an adult formula similar to the puppy formula. The grain-free natural recipe contains a balance of protein, healthy fats, grain-free carbs and fuel for energy. Glucosamine and chondroitin built maintain strong joints. Vitamin A and calcium build strong teeth and sharp eyes. Fiber and probiotics keep the digestive system healthy and efficient. Key ingredients of chicken, tomatoes, and flax seed provide a base of protein, vitamins, and carbohydrates that each German Shepherd needs.
The analysis of Wellness Complete Health breaks down to 30% crude protein, 12% crude fat, 6% crude fiber, and 402kcal/cup.
Overall, we are very pleased with the formula and the company as a whole.
1. Orijen Adult Dog Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Dog Food
Orijen hits all our requirements for a top-quality adult food for German Shepherds. Freeze-dried free-run chicken and turkey, wild caught herring and flounder, and nest-laid eggs top the ingredient list for powerful protein. Low-glycemic fresh fruits and vegetables maintain good digestive health and limit carbohydrates. The recipe does not contain synthetic protein or added fat. The formula is biologically appropriate and all ingredients are regional and fresh. Orijen is never outsourced.
Orijen freeze-dried grain-free contains 36% crude protein, 35% crude fat, and 5% crude fiber. 800 mg/kg of glucosamine and chondroitin keep your dog’s joints healthy and strong. Dried chicory root, ginger root, peppermint leaf, dandelion root, and summer savory mirror the instinct to forage for grasses and weeds.
Orijen is definitely our favorite adult food for German Shepherds.
Which food is best for a German Shepherd with a special diet?
Seeing as German Shepherds are known for sensitive stomachs, you may need to find a special diet food for your dog. He may have other dietary needs that can be assisted with food, such as allergies or overweightness.
Sensitive stomach and allergies can usually be solved by one formula. Dog food companies generate recipes that solve both or either problem. Experts say more dogs have allergies in the past 10 to 15 years due to low-quality dog food companies marketing their ill-designed food to gullible or ill-informed consumers. Luckily, high-quality brands can step in to solve the problem.
Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach and Skin Dog Food is a great way to battle both itchy skin from allergies and a sensitive stomach. Simple, minimal ingredients allow for easy digestion and a settled stomach. A boost of Omega 6 fatty acids and Vitamin E help nourish skin and build a glossy coat. Vitamin C and E build a stronger immune system so that allergies are diminished.
Diet food may be necessary if your German Shepherd becomes overweight. Extra weight must be lost as soon as possible to avoid complications from hip dysplasia. A special weight management formula is a good idea, along with close monitoring of other foods being consumed by your dog. If you feed him excessive amounts of treats or “people food” he will gain weight. In order to effectively lose weight and maintain a healthy weight, your German Shepherd must not eat too many treats or table scraps.
Blue Buffalo Large Breed Adult Healthy Weight Dry Dog Food could solve the issue of excess pounds on your German Shepherd. Not only is this food designed with protein for energy, but it is also designed with glucosamine and chondroitin for joint support as your dog loses the weight. Typically, large breed dog food contains a few extra calories for energy to burn. But this formula cut out the extra calories so your dog burns fat faster.
Senior food is a good formula to feed your German Shepherd when he begins to slow down. For some German Shepherds, they may remain highly active until they are 10 years old. Other German Shepherds may start to slow down around age 7. No matter what, transitioning to a senior formula with higher glucosamine and chondroitin levels will aid in joint health and hopefully ward off hip dysplasia.
Nutro Ultra Senior Dry Dog Food does a great job of supplying aging dogs with the proper nutrient levels they need. Nutro Ultra Senior contains 26% crude protein for moderate energy levels, 11% crude fat to avoid weight gain, 4% fiber to aid in digestion, and only 314 kcal/cup. The formula includes a boost of glucosamine and chondroitin for joint support. The recipe’s main ingredients include chicken, chicken meal, whole brown rice, brewers rice, rice bran, lamb meal, and salmon meal. We recommend this food as a great source of protein and healthy fats for older German Shepherds.
How can food alleviate common health issues in German Shepherds?
German Shepherds are commonly known for hip dysplasia and bloat. Both of these health issues can be alleviated with proper feeding.
Hip dysplasia is a malformation of the hip joint. The issue increases in severity as the dog gains weight. High-quality food will contain the proper levels of protein, fat, and carbohydrates to keep your dog active and lean. Food containing glucosamine and chondroitin – as stated earlier – stimulate and repair any damaged cartilage and reduce the chances of developing hip dysplasia.
Bloat is a fatal condition in which the stomach fills with gas, flips over, and cuts off digestion. Bloat occurs when a deep-chested dog such as a German Shepherd is very active just after eating a large meal. To reduce the chances of bloat, feed your German Shepherd 2 or 3 small meals each day. Definitely do not free feed! Additionally, you can ensure the dog rests for half an hour after a meal so food has a chance to digest before activity begins.
What food should a German Shepherd NEVER eat?
As stated before, you should never feed your German Shepherd animal by-products, fillers, preservatives, grains, soy, or wheat. These ingredients will make your dog sick or develop allergies. Do not feed your dog a formula with bone meal or corn syrup, either.
Check to make sure you are not feeding him expired meat, animal innards, or protein not fit for human consumption. This is especially important in a raw frozen diet.
Be wary of untrustworthy companies! Check your brand for a history of food recalls. Additionally, some companies break down bad ingredients into multiple groups to make them look healthier. Ask a veterinarian to be sure your choice of dog food is acceptable.
Lastly, if you notice any digestive issues such as hair loss, itchy skin, or lack of appetite, check for bad ingredient or possible allergens. Always consult a veterinarian, too.