As the new owner of a German Shepherd dog, one of the first questions you probably have is, “What should I feed my dog?” Providing your pup with a well-balanced diet and proper nutrition is the key to their well-being and overall health. To get an understanding of the best diet for German Shepherds, you first need to know their nutritional requirements, which we discuss below.
The Right Nutrients for German Shepherds
A growing puppy will need a minimum of 22% protein in their meals during their first few months. Adult dogs, on the other hand, will get enough nutrition by giving them 18% protein in each meal. Regarding fat, German Shepherd puppies will require 8% in their meals, while an adult need just 5% to meet its daily energy needs.
These large breed dogs will also need vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and water in order to survive. The best diet for adult German Shepherds contains a protein-rich and high-quality mix of vegetables, grains, and fruits. However, it must also have the right balance of fats, protein, and fiber to ensure optimum health, which can be derived from fish, meat, nuts, and eggs.
You will need to include all of the essential nutrients above in your German Shepherd’s diet since they’re all required for their body’s functions. Be sure to follow the nutritional guidelines provided by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) for commercial dog food.
Food Requirements Through Each Life Stage
New dog owners should also know that their German Shepherd will have varying nutritional needs that will depend on their energy levels, life stages, overall health, and size. For example, a growing and active puppy will need more calories compared to an adult German Shepherd, and a lactating or pregnant dog will also need more calories. Furthermore, elderly German Shepherds will need to consume 20% less calories compared to younger dogs.
But how many different dog life stages are there and what kind of diets should they have? According to the AAFCO, they are as follows:
- Gestation or lactation, also known as pregnancy or nursing
- Growth, which refers to the puppy stage
- All life stages
- Adult maintenance
But what do they mean by “all life stages”? A healthy diet for German Shepherds will be one that meets different nutritional needs at all life stages. As such, this diet will be great for all ages of GSDs. However, this diet will generally have more calories, so it’s best to look into your dog’s specific needs before choosing this diet.
For instance if you have an adult dog that has a low activity level or is overweight, you may want to consider the adult maintenance diet. However, working or active dogs will do well under the “all life stages” diet as a result of the extra nutrition and calories. A varying ratio of nutrients, feeding rates and quantities will work best depending on the stage of their development when looking for the best dog food.
When picking out the best food items for your dog’s diet, make sure to choose high-quality animal protein such as chicken, pork, lamb, beef, eggs, and fish. It’s also important to include plant-based proteins in their diet such as vegetables, legumes, and grains. The main requirements of a German Shepherd is protein, so they will need a lot of it since protein provides the following:
- Helps to build and repair muscle mass
- Provides energy
- Forms new hair, nail, and skin cells
- Keeps the musculoskeletal and immune system strong
Again, fat is also important for a growing German Shepherd puppy as it supplies energy for your pup. It’s also essential for the function and normal development of nerves, cells, tissues, and muscles.
What is the Best Food for a German Shepherd?
Now that you know which nutrients your GSD puppy needs, we can take an in depth look into what they can eat. As pet parents, we all want to provide our active dogs with the proper nutrition but because there are many options, we often get overwhelmed with the available choices. To give you an idea, many people prefer dry food for their dogs since it’s a practical choice for large breeds.
It’s also not as expensive as the other options, even in comparison to high-quality brands. But you can also opt for other diets like wet, home-produced, raw, and others. Many owners will feed their pup a combination of wet food and commercial dry food, but here are the primary kinds of food that you may include in your dog’s diet.
These are among the most popular kinds of protein sources for dogs, where you may choose from two different types; cold-pressed food and dry kibbles. While everyone knows what kibbles are, the former is quickly becoming popular around the United States and is being used throughout Europe and the UK. Cold-pressed food is known as kibble of a better quality as a result of their cooking process.
But what is kibble? It’s simply dry dog food that’s made through oven baking or extrusion, where the product is made under high temperatures and high pressure. All kinds of kibble are made through the same process with the same machines, even those that are made with premium ingredients.
On the other hand, cold-pressed dog foods are a type of dry food that’s made at low temperatures and is quickly cooked before they are pressed into small shapes. This unique process allows for the food to retain higher nutritional value, aroma, flavor, and essential nutrients. As such, all you need for the best canine nutrition is stored within these bite-sized pieces.
Dry foods also provide more nutrients in each bite compared to wet foods since they have less moisture, making them the better option. This means you won’t need to give your German Shepherd too much to feed their appetite and to achieve a proper diet. When it comes to costs, dry food will cost less for each serving and will come with less waste, since you can leave it in your dog’s bowl for longer compared to wet food.
Dogs can also benefit from dry foods if they have dental problems since it can help to clean gums and teeth. Moreover, dry foods are a more practical choice when it comes to big dogs, especially German Shepherds. Even so, dry food can come in a lot of sizes and shapes, so smaller dry foods can be a good choice for smaller dogs.
Wet dog food has a very high moisture level of around 75% and you should know that not every brand of canned food will provide the digestible protein that your dog needs. Furthermore, it has a higher water content and less nutrients which means that your pup will need to eat more to receive the nutrition its body needs. Having a large breed puppy can make wet foods become more expensive to maintain, but could be a good choice if your pup is happy to eat smaller portions.
Wet food can also be suitable if you have a puppy that is a picky eater or if you live with a senior dog that doesn’t eat as much as it used to and finds wet food to be easier on the gums. It’s also important to check the label on low-quality canned foods since these will often contain carbohydrates such as white rice, wheat flour, and other grains that won’t contribute to your dog’s needs.
Semi-Moist Dog Food
These kinds of dog foods aren’t as common as the others because they can be quite expensive while offering the least amount of nutritional value. This is due to manufacturers adding preservatives to increase their shelf life, which include salts and sugars. As a result, providing your German Shepherd with a semi-moist meal might not be suitable, especially if it’s heavier and may need to drop weight.
Furthermore, many of these will contain chemical preservatives, flavor enhancers, and artificial colors. But if your dog has a digestive system that finds it hard to digest certain foods, then this could be the ideal choice. Your pup may find that semi-moist food has a meatier taste that’s more palatable.
Semi-moist food is more convenient because they come in resealable pouches that allow you to simply pour the food into your pup’s bowl. But before you feed this kind of food to your German Shepherd, ask your vet for advice on the appropriate amount to feed your dog along with its calorie content.
There are also owners who choose to provide their German Shepherd pups with a homemade diet which consists of fresh food. There are many reasons why pet parents prefer to feed pups a home-cooked diet, such as:
- They’re looking for alternatives to commercially available pet foods because they’re concerned that these don’t provide the same nutrients found in “human foods.”
- Their pets don’t like the taste of commercial dog food and prefer to eat natural ingredients.
- They find that preparing meals for their pets helps to strengthen their bonds.
- Their pets require a meal prepared at home to aid in diagnosing health problems, such as an elimination trial.
- Their pets may need home-cooked meals to treat diseases that prohibit them from using commercially made dog food.
Unfortunately, there are a few disadvantages to making home-cooked meals for your dog. While it’s perfectly fine for you to do it, preparing meals every day will take plenty of work and dedication, and could also cost more compared to the highest-quality dog foods available. On the upside, homemade diets should provide your puppy with complete nutrition, but getting the right combination of dietary fats, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals can be a tricky thing to do for your German Shepherd.
If you want to cook your pup a home-cooked meal, be sure to consult a certified pet nutritionist or veterinarian with the experience to create a customized meal for your puppy. This is a much better approach compared to looking up dog food recipes online, which could be nutritionally incorrect. Make sure to cook every animal product that may contain bacteria that might make your pup sick.
Beans, grains, and vegetables full of starch should be cooked for easier digestion. Remember not to add foods that could be harmful to dogs, which include:
- Macadamia nuts
- And more
After 3 to 4 weeks, German Shepherd puppies can be fed a raw food diet. Raw feeding was a concept derived from the belief that this will help dogs get used to how they would normally eat out in the wilderness. There are times when a trend to feed dogs a raw diet will arise but it’s important to make sure that your puppy is getting every nutrient it needs to avoid health issues.
Here are two things to consider if you’re thinking about feeding your pup raw meat. First, you will need to provide your dog with a balanced and complete diet which plays an important role in raising a healthy German Shepherd. Unfortunately, formulating homemade diets is hard, which is especially true if your dog is sick, pregnant, or lactating, and will have a different nutritional requirement.
Because of this, it’s hard to guarantee that your puppy isn’t being underfed or overfed specific nutrients. Your second concern will be about food safety concerns that are related to parasitic or bacterial contamination. You must take food poisoning seriously, and you can’t underestimate the repercussions of feeding your pet raw foods.
If you’re looking to give your puppy raw dog food, be sure to follow the safety guidelines on how to handle raw foods properly and that you understand all associated safety issues. Dog owners who follow the raw diet claim that it has many benefits for their dog’s health, including stronger teeth, healthy skin, lower risk of heart disease, and a healthy life. However, it’s always best to consult a pet nutritionist or vet before trying this diet.
These are cooked in lower temperatures to eliminate a lot of the moisture and water. While it heats the food, it’s only partially cooked, so the enzymes and nutrients stay whole. They provide a whole diet and is referred to as one step above extruded kibble.
If you’re planning to use dehydrated dog food, you will need to combine them with warm water to make them edible. This results in a food that has a similar texture to canned food but isn’t as refined. These kinds of foods can be stored and prepared easily and possess a longer shelf life since they don’t require refrigeration.
Because of the gentle cooking method used on dehydrated foods, they can also be a great option for German Shepherds with sensitive stomachs.
These refer to foods from the raw diet but have been repackaged, where raw ingredients within these dog foods are frozen then put in a vacuum to change moisture into vapor. They are then sealed inside a container. But unlike the real raw diet, freeze-drying decreases the chance of getting bacterial infections like salmonella.
While these solid foods look like kibble, they don’t need to go through rehydration in order to be eaten, and large breed puppies will like them even more if you added small amounts of water. These foods will usually have a high protein content and will occasionally have vegetables and fruits. This diet is a great alternative to the raw diet if you don’t want to touch raw meat but wish to give your dog a less processed, and healthy diet.
You may also add freeze-dried food into your dog’s diet along with wet food or kibble. While these foods can be more expensive compared to regular kibble, they also have most of their moisture removed, making them nutritionally dense. As such, be sure to provide an appropriate amount to ensure the rapid growth of a healthy dog.
Below are some of the most commonly asked questions that new owners will often have about feeding their pups and giving their German Shepherd new food.
Is the German Shepherd an Omnivore?
Despite the popular belief that German Shepherds are carnivores, they’re actually omnivores, which is the result of adapting a starch-rich diet after the domestication of dogs thousands of years ago. Because of this, they can process both animal and plant food, while their teeth can grind both fruits and vegetables. While proteins make up most of their diet, these dogs also get nutrients from fruits, grains, and vegetables.
These foods are rich in fiber, as well as essential vitamins and minerals. Therefore, German Shepherds are able to thrive on many different foods as an omnivore.
Do They Need Vitamins and Supplements?
While humans may choose to take supplements and vitamins, German Shepherds don’t need them in order to be healthy as long as they eat complete, balanced, and high-quality pet food. It’s only advisable to provide your dog with supplements or vitamins if your vet recommends them.
Dogs suffering from hip dysplasia or joint problems will usually be given prescribed medication and some form of supplement. The vet may also suggest options that contain Chondroitin and Glucosamine to ease stiffness and provide joint support.
How Much Water Should You Give to a German Shepherd?
Depending on their activity level and health conditions, an adult German Shepherd will need to drink 30ml of water each day for every pound they weigh. Puppies in general, will consume more even when they’re smaller in size. However, there will be some variation in how much you should let them drink, which will depend on their size, age, type of food eaten, medication, or lactation.
Make sure that you keep your pup’s water bowl full and change it frequently throughout the day. Should you notice that your dog isn’t drinking enough water, here are a few things you can do instead to ensure it stays hydrated:
- Make ice pops for dogs
- Give your pup ice cubes
- Use the hose for playtime fun during summer
- Add some water to their dry food
The Best Diet for German Shepherds
While there are many things for you to consider when it comes to adult dog food, this guide has provided you with all the information you need to make an informed decision. Remember, when you’re choosing the best way to feed your pup, always consider your dog’s activity level and life stage. Once you’re able to figure the answers to these questions, ensure that you invest in the best quality foods to ensure that they live a long and healthy life.