Originally from Germany, German Shepherds are a large-breed dog with incomparable strength and stamina when compared to other dog breeds. This breed is trainable, brilliant, and super obedient to their owners; hence, the reason why they are in the police force and military. German Shepherds are ideal for active and outgoing pet owners who enjoy adventure and the outdoors.
A male German Shepherd weighs about 85 pounds while a female one approximately weighs 65 pounds once fully matured. With an estimated lifespan of about 10 -12 years, you can ensure your German Shepherd live a long and healthy life by eating a complete and balanced diet. Read on to discover how I found the best dog food for my German Shepherd.
I am proud to announce I am a proud owner of a fully matured German Shepherd Dog (GSD). I first got my GSD when he was about a year old, and it has been quite an eventful journey. From sleeping disorders to training to dietary requirements, my dog was not having anything less than what he deserved. I decided to adopt this breed because of its wolf-like features and beautiful black and tan coat.
GSDs require constant mental stimulation and physical exercise to ensure they fully utilize their intelligence, energy, and other talents. They are also quite rough in play as well as very protective of their environment.
So, you need to be mindful of strangers whenever they come around your dog. GSDs are huge dogs and grow to a maximum height of about 22 to 26 inches tall. As a result, they require a nutritious, protein-rich diet with plenty of calories to keep up with their muscular and athletic physique.
Specific dietary considerations for German Shepherds
Built for activity and exercise, German Shepherds enjoy a balanced diet with a high concentration of meat proteins to support muscle growth and essential fats to generate enough energy. According to the National Research Council of the National Academies, a GSD needs an average caloric intake of 1,740 -2100 calories per pound of body weight. However, the dietary needs of a GSD depend on their stage of life, metabolism rate, activity level, sensitivities, and health.
German Shepherd puppies grow quickly until they reach eight months. Their growth curve may continue until they attain 18 months of age, but do not expect any drastic changes. As a result, German Shepherd puppies require top-quality nutrients that support bone and muscle growth, healthy digestive system as well as an effective immune system. These puppies should have a minimum of 500 calories per day, but this amount increases as they continue to grow. Proper nutrition during the initial stages of a puppy reduces his risks of health complications later on life.
Puppies from this breed should be fed large-breed puppy formula designed with sufficient calories, carbohydrates, and calcium levels for their healthy growth and development. Small breed formulas possess low calorie and fat content. As a result, they will leave your GSD puppy malnourished and prone to several health problems such as allergies, hip dysplasia, and bloating; among others.
It is a proven medical fact that GSDs have a shorter colon than other large-breed dogs, meaning it is more difficult for them to digest food. As a result, adult German Shepherds require a precise and balanced diet to avoid allergies, sensitive stomachs, bloating, and hip dysplasia. Feed an adult GSD with a complete and nutritionally balanced diet of meat protein, carbohydrates, fats, fiber, minerals, and vitamins.
Generally, grain-free dog foods tend to be best for GSDs as they often have allergies to grains. To know if your dog is allergic to grains, monitor his stool, and if it is runny, basically he is allergic to grains. For extra nutrition, find a formula with chondroitin and glucosamine for joint health. Alternatively, you may opt to feed your canine with essential oil gel caps or Cosequin capsules for boosted joint health. Omega fatty acids are also vital in GSDs diet for healthy-looking skin and coat, mood improvement, arthritic pain, trainability, and inflammation control.
What nutrients should you look out for in a GSD’s formula?
Choosing the best dog food for your German Shepherd entails knowing what nutrients to look out for in the numerous GSD formulas available in the market. Here are some dietary needs to look out for and their benefits.
- High-quality animal protein: Pet owners should be on the lookout for wholesome meat proteins in particular recipes. Meat such as chicken, beef, lamb, and fish should be among the first few ingredients. Proteins can also come from meat meals, such as lamb meal, meaning they have a concentrated form of meat with no moisture. AAFCO recommends that German Shepherds should eat a minimum of 22% protein in each meal as puppies, and 18% protein as adults for optimum growth and development.
- Healthy fats: Healthy sources of fats include chicken fat, flaxseed, and canola oil. Fats provide a concentrated source of energy for GSDs, which enables them to perform their daily routines. AAFCO recommends German Shepherd puppies should consume at least 8% fat while adults should eat at least 5% fat. Fats also help in the growth of long and shiny coats as well as healthy skin.
- Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids: An adequate supply of essential fatty acids from foods, such as canola oil and chicken fat, also promotes the healthy growth of your dog’s coat and skin. DHA, one of the three Omega-3 fatty acids, also aids in brain development.
- Low carbs: GSDs are prone to blood sugar irregularities. As such, ensure his diet is low in carbohydrates or has an alternative for the low-glycemic form of carbs, like sweet potatoes.
- The right calcium to phosphorus ratio: Calcium and phosphorus are essential for the growth of healthy bone and muscle structure. Puppies should have a minimum calcium to phosphorus ratio of 1.2 parts calcium to 1 part phosphorus. Excessive or a deficiency in calcium in your pup’s diet may result in severe orthopedic complications, such as painful bone spurs.
GSDs need diets with high-quality ingredients that sustain their level of activity. Avoid formulas with animal by-products, artificial flavors or colors, and fillers. It is also best to avoid common dog allergens such as soy, wheat, and grains.
Our Favorite Dog Foods for GSDs
The best dog food for German Shepherd puppies
1. Orijen Puppy formula
Orijen puppy food is a meat-packed and protein-rich diet, ideal for your German Shepherd puppy. It provides your pup with the ‘biologically appropriate’ amount of proteins and other nutrients, optimizing the nourishment in their growing bodies.
This dry kibble from Orijen consists of high-quality protein sources such as chicken liver, herring, boneless turkey, boneless chicken, and chicken meal. It also features a diverse selection of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as 38% protein and 16% carbohydrates.
2. Wellness CORE Grain-Free puppy food
Coming in various flavors, Wellness CORE is one of the most trusted brands of pet food among vets and pet owners. This high-protein recipe contains high-grade animal proteins like deboned chicken, turkey meal, and chicken meal, offering your puppy muscle and bone strength.
This unique formula also includes fresh fruits and vegetables, including peas, as a source of additional nutrition. It also consists of probiotic and probiotic microorganisms that aid in the strengthening of your pup’s immune system and the optimal health of his digestive tract.
Furthermore, the grain-free formula reduces the risk of your German Shepherd developing allergies and experiencing a sensitive stomach. This Wellness CORE formula provides your growing furry friend with essential fatty acids from ingredients such as flaxseed, which supports the growth of their coat and skin. The availability of minerals and vitamins in the recipe from spinach, broccoli, carrots, and spinach also help in supporting the growth of a strong immune system.
3. Holistic Select Large and Giant Breed Puppy Food
With a variety of flavors including lamb and chicken flavor, Holistic Select Large and Giant Breeds Puppy Food provides the puppy with high-quality recipes full of natural and nutrition ingredients. The formula has DHA from probiotics, salmon oil, prebiotics, and digestive enzymes. It has live yoghurt cultures that are essential for the healthy development of a pup’s brain and eye function.
Specifically designed for large and giant breed puppies, this recipe has the right blend of animal proteins like lamb and chicken meal, and wholesome carbs from brown rice and quinoa. It also consists of cellulose, sources of protease that help in breaking down proteins, and alpha-amylase, which helps in breaking down starch.
4. Diamond Naturals Large Breed Puppy Real Meat Recipe
Diamond Naturals has come up with another top-grade meal for large and giant breed puppies made from lamb meat. Lamb meat is a much rarer cause of allergies than beef, making this recipe great for German Shepherd puppies since the breed is prone to getting allergies.
This top-quality formula consists of 15% fat and 27% protein, offering your pup with the necessary dietary requirements it needs. This top-quality formula consists of 15% fat and 27% protein, offering your pup with the necessary dietary requirements it needs. This kibble comes in small sizes for your puppy. It has essential fatty acids and a selection of probiotic and prebiotic microorganisms to ensure their guts are flowing well as they get older. One of its signature ingredients is intestinal flora, which aids in the maintenance of your pup’s GI tract bacteria, which can be a cause of health problems.
5. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Large Breed Puppy Food
Blue Buffalo offers dry puppy kibble based on the natural and wolf-like instincts of dogs. Their grain-free protein-rich recipe fully satisfies the carnivore cravings of a German Shepherd puppy. With main ingredients like boneless chicken, chicken meal, fish meal, and lamb meal, the formula ensures strong and healthy bone and muscle structure as they grow older.
The unique formula also features carbohydrates from sweet potatoes to provide your dog with sufficient energy to go about their days happily. It has plenty of antioxidants from blueberries, carrots, and cranberries, help in supporting his immune system, preventing any attack from illnesses.
The best dog food for adult German Shepherds
1. Taste of the Wild Sierra Mountain Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
There is nothing comparable to a venison-based dog recipe to keep your GSD healthy and nourished. With a single source of animal protein and easily digestible grain-free carbohydrates, this formula reduces the risk of your GSD getting allergies and intolerances.
It features fresh lamb and lamb meal as its primary ingredients, and roasted lamb as its source of supplemental proteins. In case you may want to switch it up, there is a wild boar based version available. The formula is also rich in essential fatty acids from canola oil and salmon oil, which aids in giving your dog a long and shiny coat.
There are also fresh fruits and vegetables in the recipe, supplemented with vitamins and chelated minerals for extra nutrition. Additionally, this kibble has dried fermentation products for support of probiotics, which are essential for healthy digestive systems.
2. Wellness Complete Health Adult Dog Food
If you are looking for a wholesome formula with no artificial additives for your dog, Wellness Complete Health Adult Dog Food is a perfect choice. Filled with high protein content (26%) and moderate calories (340 pounds) and fat (12%), this nutrient-dense recipe will provide balanced nutrition for your GSD.
The first ingredient in this formula is fresh chicken, a lean source of protein ideal for maintaining your dog’s lean muscle mass. It also contains wholesome grain-free carbohydrates like brown rice, oats, and barley, ensuring your dog does not gain too much weight. The recipe also has fresh fruits and vegetables for additional nutrition and a supply of antioxidants.
This kibble comes in a larger size but enriched with probiotic supplements for regular and healthy digestion. For optimal health, the recipe has chelated minerals and vitamins as well as unique nutrient ratio specifically made for large-breed dogs.
3. Now Fresh Grain-Free Large Breed Senior Weight Management
As your GSD gets older, their metabolism rate slows down, increasing their risk of obesity. As a result, it is vital to provide senior canines with a diet rich in protein but with low fats and calories to help them control their weight. Now Fresh Grain-Free Large Breed Senior Weight Management formula is excellent for senior German Shepherds.
This recipe features a variety of fresh and natural ingredients that deliver a punch of quality and balanced nourishment. It contains fresh turkey as its primary source of lean proteins as well as easily digestible and grain-free carbohydrates such as potatoes and peas for the regular dose of energy.
This formula is rich in essential Omega fatty acids that help your Shepherd’s skin and coat to look healthy and vibrant. It also has supplemental glucosamine and chondroitin for optimal joint support. If that is not enough, the recipe is also infused with fresh vegetables and fruits as well as antioxidants for supplemental nutrients.
4. Nutro Wholesome Essentials Large Breed Adult Farm-Raised Chicken Recipe
Essential nutrients and lean proteins are crucial in maintaining a healthy and nutritional diet in dogs. This Nutro Wholesome Essentials Large Breed Adult Farm-Raised dog food will provide your GSD with both. With fresh farm-raised chicken and highly digestible grain-free carbohydrates, this recipe is rich in lean proteins as well as a source for adequate energy for your mutt.
This recipe contains whole-grain sorghum and brown rice for the supply of supplemental fiber and energy. It is also rich in glucosamine and chondroitin for optimal joint health and healthy digestion. Vitamins and chelated minerals supplements ensure balanced nutrition while dried vegetables and fruits provide plenty of antioxidants. With the 21% protein and 13% fat and 330 calories per pound, this recipe will have your GSD living a long and strong life for years to come.
5. Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused Large Breed Recipe Dry food
Nothing compares to raw foods when it comes to the high-quality supply of nutrients. Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused Large Breed Dry Dog Food recipe offers an excellent blend of high-protein kibble and freeze-dried raw bites for your dog. The formula features fresh chicken, as its primary ingredient, mixed with freeze-dried chicken bites for good taste, nutrition, and texture.
The recipe also consists of highly digestible carbohydrates like potatoes and peas, as well as fresh vegetables and fruits as natural sources of key ingredients and supplemental fiber. According to its ingredients list, the meal will provide your dog with 38% protein, 17% fat, and 389 calories per cup.
How does food reduce common health issues experienced by German Shepherds?
Generally, German Shepherds are active and healthy dogs when they feed well and get enough daily exercise. However, there are specific health problems known to affect GSDs at various stages of their life mainly. Some of them include hip dysplasia, epilepsy, bloating, hemophilia, cataracts, and diabetes, among others.
Hip dysplasia involves dislocation of the joint in the hip area. As the dog continues to gain weight, the issue increases in severity and eventually immobilizes the dog. A proper diet with high-quality protein, carbohydrates, and fat helps in keeping your dog’s weight in check as well as providing him with essential nutrients for joint health. Choose foods that have a supply of chondroitin and glucosamine to aid in stimulating and repairing damaged cartilage, reducing the risk of developing hip and elbow dysplasia.
Bloating is an uncomfortable condition experienced in dogs when their stomachs are full of gas, causing it to flip over, and cutting off proper digestion. Often, bloating occurs in active dog breeds such as the GSD when they immediately get active after eating large amounts of food.
To reduce the chances of bloating, feed your dog small amounts of food at a time, at least 2 to 3 meals per day. Make sure your dog rests for at least 30 minutes after eating to help in digestion before they get active again.
Ensure you do not feed your GSD any fillers, artificial colors, or preservatives as it increases their chances of contracting health issues in the future. Similarly, avoid wheat, soy, and grains to prevent allergic reactions in your dog. Keep away from formulas with bone meal and corn syrup as well.
German Shepherds are large-breed dogs with super intelligence and plenty of energy. They respond well to training and tasks and are overly protective of their environment as well. If you want your GSD to live a long and fulfilled life, you must feed him with a complete and balanced diet with high-quality ingredients.
Be wary of expired products, proteins that are not fit for human consumption, as well as animal innards in the meals you feed your canine. Check your preferred brand for any history of recalls to prevent purchasing any harmful products for your furry friend. Consult your vet for any recommendation on the best dog food for your German Shepherd.
The foods discussed above are some of my top picks for my GSD. If you are not sure how to proceed, feel free to give any one of my options a try and attest for yourself how great these brands are for a German Shepherd.