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Known for his sharp intelligence and protective instincts, the German Shepherd is a popular choice for police and military applications but also makes a wonderful family pet. These dogs are fiercely loyal to their families and do very well with children. They do shed quite a bit and have fairly high needs for exercise, but they’re very trainable and highly adaptable.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the German Shepherd’s nutritional needs. You’ll also see our top picks for the best German Shepherd dog food.
All dogs require a healthy diet that provides the right blend of protein, fat, calories, and essential nutrients. What you need to remember, however, is that the specific nutritional needs of large-breed dogs differ somewhat from those of smaller breeds.
German Shepherds grow to an adult size of 50 to 90 pounds, sometimes more. Though this is a fairly active breed, German Shepherds have slower metabolisms than dogs that weigh under 20 pounds at maturity. This being the case, you may need to control your dog’s intake of fat and calories to prevent him from gaining an unhealthy amount of weight.
As a puppy, you need to control your German Shepherd’s growth by feeding him a large-breed puppy food that’s rich in protein with limited fat and calorie content. Growing too quickly can put your puppy at a higher risk for developing bone and joint problems in adulthood.
Every German Shepherd is unique and your dog’s age, body weight, and activity level will determine his calorie needs. Generally speaking, however, the German Shepherd is an active breed that requires a more calorie-dense diet than many large breeds. Protein is also extremely important to help these dogs build and maintain lean muscle mass.
Here are some important qualities to look for in good dog food for German Shepherds:
- High in animal proteins like meat, poultry, and fish (at least 22% for puppies and 18% for adults)
- Rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat
- Digestible carbohydrates like whole grains and vegetables with up to 5% fiber
- Complete and nutritionally balanced according to AAFCO nutrient profiles
Avoid any dog food that doesn’t list an animal source of protein as the first ingredient or one that contains a high percentage of plant-based ingredients. Don’t buy anything that contains fillers, by-products, or artificial additives and be wary of products with very long ingredients lists.
Many dog owners mistakenly believe that because wolves are carnivores that dogs can’t digest grains. There’s also a common misconception that grain-free dog food is somehow inherently healthier than grain-inclusive dog food.
The fact of the matter is that whole grains are actually a highly nutritious source of energy, fiber, and essential nutrients for dogs. The only time to consider a grain-free diet is if your veterinarian diagnoses your dog with an allergy to one or more grains. Even then, you can get around the issue by choosing a limited ingredient diet free from the offending ingredient.
You should also be aware that the FDA is investigating a potential link between grain-free diets and an increased risk for dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). This is an inherited heart problem that most commonly affects large breeds. As large breed dogs, German Shepherds are more prone to DCM than other breeds.
This being the case, you should think carefully before feeding your dog a grain-free diet and only do so with your veterinarian’s approval.
The best diet for a German Shepherd is rich in high-quality animal protein with plenty of healthy fats and the optimal balance of essential nutrients. To help you choose the best dog food for your dog, we’ve compiled a list – here are our top picks:
A holistic, natural recipe featuring premium animal proteins and a unique digestive health support system, this dry food is a great way to get your German Shepherd puppy started on the right foot.Buy Now on Amazon
Made with deboned chicken as the main ingredient with wholesome brown rice for carbohydrate support, this nutritious recipe comes in a larger kibble size for German Shepherd puppies.Buy Now on Amazon
Like every Blue Buffalo recipe, this formula puts real animal protein first and includes LifeSource Bits to provide a rich blend of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for balanced nutrition.Buy Now on Amazon
Made with 23% premium animal protein, this recipe is completely free from fillers, by-products, and artificial additives but does contain plenty of omega fatty acids and probiotics for digestion.Buy Now on Chewy
This recipe contains 24% protein from holistic, all-natural whitefish with a rich blend of omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat, not to mention 4% fiber for regular digestion.Buy Now on Chewy
From Chewy’s in-house brand, this large-breed formula is highly affordable but still made from quality ingredients like fresh deboned salmon, menhaden fish meal, and brown rice.Buy Now on Chewy
Featuring farm-raised chicken, whole-grain brown rice, and sweet potatoes, this formula is uniquely designed to support your large-breed dog’s health and wellness.Buy Now on Amazon
Formulated for all ages, breeds, and sizes, this canned food formula contains plenty of premium animal protein and is simmered in a delicious broth to ensure maximum flavor.Buy Now on Amazon
If your German Shepherd suffers from food allergies, a limited ingredient diet like this formula might be a good option because it’s made with a single source of animal protein and no low-quality ingredients.Buy Now on Chewy
Featuring a trio of premium animal proteins and a rich blend of superfoods, this large-breed formula is nutritionally complete and balanced for your German Shepherd.Buy Now on Chewy
If your dog prefers wet food, this large-breed chicken recipe provides high-quality nutrition from natural ingredients like real chicken, carrots, brown rice, oatmeal, and sweet potatoes.Buy Now on Chewy
Made with a rich blend of fresh chicken, turkey, and brown rice, this wholesome, natural recipe is completely free from fillers, by-products, and artificial additives.Buy Now on Amazon
This recipe comes in a larger kibble size and features premium, all-natural ingredients like chicken, oatmeal, pumpkin, and cranberries.Buy Now on Amazon
This is just a small sampling of the many dog foods well-suited to the German Shepherd breed. To see more options, check out our guide to the best dog food for large breeds.