Feeding German Shepherds a quality breed appropriate diet will assure a healthy adult dog.
Feeding German Shepherds - Adult Dogs
Seems German Shepherds can do about anything, guess the term "working breed" was coined just for them? I can probably name a dozen different jobs this breed takes on without even thinking for a minute.
This magnificent large breed dog is so diverse, it can coddle a small infant and jump to defend an attacker on command. Sniff out a millionth of a particle on a drug bust, lead a blind person and even better, be a lifelong companion and pet!
Seems most large breed dog breeds come with their own set of health issues and the Shepherd is no different. Good for us, we can better our odds for a long lived dog by Feeding German Shepherds a breed appropriate diet and that's what we're here to talk about. In addition, we'll discuss the best diet for German Shepherd puppies because yes, it absolutely makes a difference!
Best Diet For German Shepherds
German Shepherds grow to a large size dog breed between 60 to 90 pounds that is well muscled, slightly tapered, angular and longer than deep chested when fed a breed appropriate diet. Adult German Shepherds require 1,300 to 1,600 calories per day of high quality dog food for senior or less active dogs, and from 1,700 to 2,400 calories daily for active or working dogs.
If choosing a dry kibble diet, select a a quality formula like these Recommended Dog Food Brands with protein level around 24% and fat levels around 14%. Shepherds require quality protein which should come from a named meat source. Most premium kibble formulas work and Raw Dog Food is even better. Grain free kibble is another option but is very calorie dense and high in protein. We mention this with caution as some German shepherds seem to have difficulty tolerating grain free kibble and end up with soft and runny stool. For excellent insight on choosing a quality kibble to feed your German Shepherd, take a look at our Feeding Dry Dog Food section.
Help to Avoid Bloat
As with many large breeds, Shepherds are particularly at risk of bloat, (Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus). Although scientific data has not specifically linked what we are feeding German Shepherds to bloat, it's widely agreed that grains and cereal based foods may promote the condition. More specifically, cheap commercial kibble filled with carbohydrates and formulated with grains like corn, wheat, oats and rice can cause excess gas in a dog's stomach which can trigger bloat. Grain free kibble formulas use alternative plant based protein and carbohydrate sources such as sweet potatoes, beans & lentils so theoretically are a safer bet if you can source a formula that agrees with your dog.
Carbohydrate and fat levels of quality dog food are lesser a concern with active Shepherds but low carbohydrate diets should be fed to overweight, inactive, aged, or arthritic dogs to keep them lighter on their paws.
Don't forget to check out our Feeding Dry Dog Food articles which focus on selecting a quality kibble for your German Shepherd dog. And, if there's another large breed dog in your family, Feeding Large Breed Dogs provides access to a library of large breed specific feeding guides.
German Shepherds, just as many large breed active dogs, will benefit from a diet that includes supplements which add additional reassurance towards overall health & well being. For joint health, look for kibble that includes chondroitin and glucosamine. Omega 3 helps control inflammation, lessen arthritis pain, improve mood, improve trainability, plus benefit the heart and kidneys. Omega 3 fatty acids work to maintain healthy skin and shiny coat plus help dogs fight infections.
If you're feeding raw or have chosen a kibble that doesn't include these supplements, you can easily provide chondroitin and glucosaminefeed separately with a product such as Cosequin. And, by squeezing a gel cap of essential oils over your dog's meals, provide important Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids.
In summary, for adult dogs, feeding German Shepherds about 2.5 to 3.5 cups of quality kibble per day, twice a day, is a good starting point. Modify amount fed as required based on your dogs size, weight, age and overall daily activity. When feeding a calorie dense high protein grain free kibble such as Origen, you'll be feeding slightly less.
Feeding German Shepherds - Puppies
Quality formulated all life stages food and three to four small meals a day for German Shepherd puppies.
German Shepherd puppies grow rapidly through the first six to eight months. With any large breed puppy that is susceptible to bone growth issues such as hip dysplasia, feeding a quality all life stages, large breed puppy formula, or Raw Dog Food is the best method to regulate growth.
You should not feed a GSD puppy, or any large breed puppy, kibble dog food made for mid size or small breed puppies. Most puppy kibble formulas are high calorie, high carb with jacked up calcium levels to get "non large breed" dogs pushed to adult size within 6 months.
Shop for specific kibble dog food formulated specifically for large breed puppies, or quality formulated all life stages dog food like the brands We Recommend here. It's critical to grow our German Shepherd dogs slowly to help avoid bone and joint problems later in life. A high quality formulated all life stages kibble will contain the right nutritional balance for a GSD puppy if you cannot find large breed puppy formulas.
Young dogs can be sensitive to elevated protein so choose a food with moderate protein and fat levels, somewhere around 22% and 12% fat respectively. Also, a lower calcium formula is preferred with calcium to phosphorus ratio as close to 1/1 as possible. Never, ever supplement extra calcium to a large breed puppy!
Shepherd puppies can eat three or four regulated small servings per day, do not free freed. We recommend to follow nutritional feeding guideline label provided for your chosen Kibble Dog Food Formula and increase or decrease amount fed based on your dog's appearance and body weight.
From age 9 months or so, the growth phase of you GSD should slow and their appetite may decrease as metabolism slows. Your GSD will continue to mature in height until a year and a half of age. You've made it through the critical puppy stage and your German Shepherd can begin their adult diet safely. This may includes higher protein foods if you decide to go grain free, or a raw diet.
Puppies raised on all life stages formula or raw dog food will just continue with the same. As with both puppies and adult German Shepherds, keep a watchful eye on your dog's weight. A good indicator of healthy body weight is always being able to feel your German Shepherd's last rib. Adjust amount fed per serving accordingly to maintain that perfect German Shepherd picture of health.
And as a reminder.. and I hate this disease! With all large breed dogs that are prone to bloat, feeding German Shepherds several small meals a day is a safer bet than free feeding, or one HUGE serving!
Additional Shepherd Feeding Info
All the best to you and your German Shepherd! For help choosing kibble dog food for your Shepherd plus more information about raw feeding, visit our Homepage for quick banner access to the major sections of our website!