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Good Food For German Shepherd Dogs

Updated on June 6, 2021
Sam Shepards profile image

Sam is an experienced German Shepherd owner and has learned how to optimize the breed's health and wellness.

German shepherds have a number of special dietary requirements. These large, loveable dogs, when they are purebred, especially from some families, especially in North America, can have hereditary health problems, ranging from allergies and food sensitivities, to more serious issues like hip dysplasia.

Because of their size and their high energy level (there are many breeds that are just as large, if not larger, that are much lazier than the German shepherd), these dogs need special kinds of food, to make sure that they get the nutrients and the calories they need. Here’s what you need to know about great food for your German shepherd dog:

High Caloric Intake German Shepherds

The best food for your dog is ultimately going to be the food that keeps him happy and healthy. German shepherds have relatively high caloric intake needs, on top of their special nutritional needs. The average adult German shepherd will need about 1600 calories a day. A dog that is particularly active will need upwards of 2100 calories a day.

Older dogs, those that have started to slow down, will need around 1200 calories a day. These are, of course, just estimates. How many calories your dog needs will be based on his age, size, and lifestyle. If you want a very accurate estimate of how many calories your dog needs, ask your vet for a calculations based on your dog’s metabolism and size.

Health Issues to Know About

A well-bred German shepherd will hopefully have relatively few health problems. Most live long, happy lives, and only encounter issues later in life. These are usually the same health issues that humans experience and that come with being large animals; issues like arthritis. But there are a few health problems that are more common in German shepherds, even those that are in good health.

Poor absorption of nutrition is one of those issues. This is something that not many people know about German shepherds, but they actually have relatively shorter colons than most other breeds. This means that they have less time to absorb nutrients from their food before it is eliminated. One good way to make sure that your German shepherd has the nutrients he needs and can absorb them is to make sure that he is getting enough fiber. Checking to make sure that he has high enough fiber levels in his food should rectify this problem.

Bloat is another common issue, one that lots of large dogs have to deal with. While this is not something that buying a certain type of food can help you with, it is something that you can be aware of and something that you can prevent, by feeding your dog smaller portions of food or making sure that they do not exert themselves for about an hour after eating.

Hip problems are probably one of the most well-known issues in German shepherds. Like humans, the relatively large size and weight of the body causes strain on the skeleton, making it far more likely that they will experience problems like arthritis. There are some things that you can do to make sure that you put off arthritis and other skeletal issues for as long as possible, including making sure the food that you choose has high levels of glucosamine and chondroitin. For older dogs, you might want to actually add these supplements to whatever food you feed your German shepherd.

Types of Food to Buy

There are almost innumerable dog food brands out there on the market. Finding the right one for your dog might seem like a chore, but making the right choice will ensure that he lives the healthiest and happiest life possible. Here are a few brands to consider as you look for the perfect dog food for your German shepherd:

Honest Kitchen

Honest Kitchen is a little bit different from most brands of dog food. It is neither wet food, nor kibble. Instead, it is actually dehydrated. All you have to do to prepare it for your dog is to add water to the dry food. One of the draws of Honest Kitchen is that all of their ingredients are human-grade. This means that they only make their food out of ingredients that you would eat yourself. This sounds obvious, but many brands do not use quality ingredients. It is almost entirely organic, every meat and vegetable that they use is free of hormones, and there are a wide variety of greens and meats to choose from, so you can select a recipe that it right for your German shepherd and his dietary needs.

Fromm Four Star Dry Dog Food

With a protein content of upwards of 30%, this dry dog food is just about right for most German shepherd owners. Their protein also comes from beef, chicken, pork, and eggs not from some processed protein meal or other low-quality protein that you’ll find in lower-quality brands. They use real ingredients, mixing in healthy carbs from sweet potatoes, apples, cauliflower, green beans, broccoli, etc., in order to provide your dog with a wide variety of foods. According to German shepherd owners, their dogs love this variety of food!

Ziwipeak Air Dried Dog Food

The biggest draw of this brand? Everything they use to make their food is natural and it is specially formulated to include nothing that could be harmful for German shepherds. This means no potatoes, no preservatives, no sugar. Instead, they use real, grass-fed beef, which is very unlikely to harm the stomachs of dogs with even the most sensitive stomachs. While it does have some modicum of vegetables, its veggie content is not as high as some other brands, so if your dog is in need of more fiber or more carbohydrates, this brand might not be the best for you. It is, however, a good option for those looking for ethically sourced ingredients and absolutely no ingredients that your dog might be allergic to.

Merrick Classic

Merrick is a very popular brand among dog owners, and their real beef food is a favorite among German shepherd owners. It provides a very high protein content (more than 60%) and the main ingredient in this dry food is beef. The food is rounded out with barley, which is a safe grain for most dogs, and carrots, providing a wide variety of nutrients to your dog. There are also carrots, applies, and even alfalfa in this recipe. It does contain brown rice and fish, so if you do not want to give your dog rice or fish, do not choose this variety.

More brands to cover

There are lots of different brands to choose from when it comes to feeding your German shepherd. I also tried Royal Canin, Eukanuba before. Other things to consider is the age of your dog, puppies vs older dogs. You have a lot of choices, even if you do only want to choose organic, natural, and ethically-raised ingredients. When it comes to picking a food for your dog, make sure you are selecting one that meets his dietary needs and that he actually likes to eat.

Ingredients to look for

It's important that you know what to look for in terms of ingredients. That way you’ll be able to make a decision that best promotes your dog’s health. If you get a food that’s high in nutrients that comes from low-quality sources of ingredients, then you compromise the health of your dog and the development of a good outward appearance.

There are people who just buy food after looking at the nutritional makeup, seeing that it is a good source of protein and fat. While this is still better than buying food without checking the nutritional information, your best bet is to make sure you find a food with a good nutritional makeup that comes from good ingredients.

When you’re looking at a type of food that’s high in protein, consider the source of that protein, which you should be able to find on the ingredients list if it’s not advertised on the front of the bag. Good sources of protein should come from whole meats, such as beef, fish, poultry, and other organ meats.

  • Foods that are made with chicken often contain lots of byproducts and aren't able to meet the protein requirement for your dog without including lots of unpleasant additives and ingredients that aren’t good for them.

When you’re considering the source of fat, you’re going to want to make sure that the fat source is also healthy. Look for foods that contain fish oil and vegetables that include omega-3 fatty acids; foods that are made with fish as their main protein source probably already have enough healthy fats from the fish alone and should make great food for your dog.

In terms of carbohydrates, you should make sure that the food supplies whole, complex carbohydrates. These are digested slower and thus provide a longer-lasting source of energy and keep your dog feeling full for longer when compared to empty carbs, like those found in white bread. Look for food that contains whole grains, barley, sweet potatoes, or other vegetable sources of carbohydrates.

Also, in regards to vitamins, it’s better to find a food that contains vitamins as a result of the ingredients that are included in the food. Many products add vitamins at the end of the processing period, which is still better than having no vitamins whatsoever, but vitamins that are less processed are much better.

Pro tips for feeding your dog

Your dog needs to get fed properly. Just like people, dogs are reliant on food as a prerequisite for having energy and for growing properly. It’s important that you get the right information and feed your dog properly so they can grow up to be strong and healthy.

Here are a few tips that could help to make sure you know what you’re doing when it comes to feeding your dog.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask a professional what knowledge and experience they have with dog food brands. Veterinarians or dog breeders are often able to give the best first-hand advice regarding the brand and quality of dog food that you should buy for your animal - but remember it’s always a good idea to get a second opinion.
  • Make sure you do some research online before committing yourself to a brand. See the reviews that other customers have left on certain products to see if they really live up to the standards that they promise.
  • Don’t let the price be a huge determining factor in the type of food that you’re buying. If you save money now by buying low-grade food, your dog might develop a serious allergy due to the low-quality ingredients that are used. They might also develop stomach problems. Both of these issues will end up costing you a lot more money down the road, and it’s also important to note that if your dog develops these issues then you’re going to have to end up paying for high-quality food in the end anyways.
  • Pay attention! Don’t just buy the food, throw it in a dog bowl, and say “that’s that.” Pay attention to the way your dog treats their food. You should be able to tell right away if they like it or don’t like it. It's also important that you make sure they don’t develop any allergic reactions or have any other adverse problems as a result of the food.
  • If you’re unsure about your dog’s reaction to the food, it’s alright to take them to a veterinarian or at least to tell one that you’re experience. Chances are you should give them a different food in the meantime to ensure that their strange reaction isn’t anything bad. However, it’s important that you introduce them to new foods slowly so you don’t end up triggering another allergic reaction or health problem as a result.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2016 Sam Shepards


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