Dog lovers are hard-pressed to find a pup as reliable and dedicated as the German Shepherd. The German Shepherd dog, or GSD (as vets like to call them), have been one of the most popular dogs in the USA for over 50 years. To raise a healthy GSD, you'll need to know all about the proper training this breed requires, potential health issues and the best dog food for German Shepherds.
In 2016, the German Shepherd took the honor of the second most popular dog in America. As a veterinarian, GSDs are one of my most common patients, and most vets usually have to study this breed extensively. Behavior, predispositions and nutritional needs have been documented through the years and help keeping GSDs healthy.
Proper nutrition is key to having a healthy dog, and finding the best dog food for German Shepherd is especially important. These dogs are active breeds that love to work. They need to be fed a diet that will meet their nutritional needs to keep the body in top shape.
In this article, I will further discuss the nutritional needs of German Shepherds, what this dog breed is like, my personal experience as a vet with them. We'll mostly focus on how to feed a German Shepherd dog and review top best dog foods for German Shepherds:
|Dog Food Brands||Price||Value||Rating|
|ROYAL CANIN German Shepherd Puppy Food||$$||$1.93/lb||4.5/5|
|Hill's Science Adult Large Breed Food||$||$1.33/lb||4.5/5|
|EUKANUBA German Shepherd Food||$$||$2.36/lb||4.3/5|
|ROYAL CANIN German Shepherd Food||$$||$1.86/lb||4.5/5|
|EUKANUBA Senior Dog Food||$||$1.30/lb||4.6/5|
* Click on the German Shepherd dog food brand for information and prices. Or scroll down below for more details.
Understanding German Shepherd's Needs
The German Shepherd Dog is a large-breed canine with a long back, erect ears and large eyes. They are one of the most recognizable breeds on the planet, are known for their excellence in military and are often fed like a canine athlete (depending on the workload).
GSDs are “jack of all trades.” They excel as loyal family dogs, service dogs, and are the most famous police working dogs. On average, a German Shepherd dog lives about 12 years.
In order to extend their lifespan as long as possible, you need to pick the best dog food for German Shepherds that will cater to this canine's individual needs, ensure preventative health care plan is in place, and have a general plan for their physical and mental stimulation.
There are a lot of best German Shepherd dog food reviews online, but the problem with some of those is that they do not address the specific requirements of this breed, which is mostly due to their resting metabolism and activity level as working dogs.
As with any breed, you'll have to update your German Shepherd's diet depending on his age, activity level and health condition. German Shepherd puppies require much different nutrients than senior dogs, and GSDs that are working dogs need to eat more calories per day with a specific protein to fat to carbohydrate ratio with added vitamins and minerals.
The best thing that you can do for your GSD is to work with your veterinarian or a canine nutritionist, which will help you find not only the best German Shepherd dog food, but a brand of pet food that's perfect specifically for your individual dog. This is an ongoing process. Your pet's diet will likely change numerous times over the course of his life.
READ MORE: German Shepherd Dog Breed Profile
Exercise Requirements for German Shepherds
Before we get into the best German Shepherd dog food reviews, one thing I must mention, as it's common for pet owners to ignore. While food is one of the keys to a healthy GSD, play time and exercise are especially important for this dog breed.
Dog owners looking to adopt a GSD should know is that a German Shepherd is a very high energy animal that requires daily exercise; it's non-negotiable if you want to have a healthy dog. Because GSDs are a smart breed, like other herding breeds, they require a “job” to live life to the fullest, which provides them with sufficient mental stimulation.
The GSD will keep you on your toes, ready for anything. Playing dog Frisbee, fetching balls, performing in obedience training and agility trials, or even just playing on the beach – if you’re game, they’re game. And you better be game!
With this out of the way, let's talk about how to feed a German Shepherd for health, what is the best dog food for a German Shepherd dog, and what are their nutritional needs.
The Best Dog Food for German Shepherds
8 Vet Recommended Brands (puppy, adult, senior)
How to Feed a German Shepherd Dog
Before switching your dog to any new diet, always consult with a veterinarian. Remember that no article on the internet, including this one, can replace a consultation with a vet.
German Shepherd dogs tend to require more calories than the average large-breed dog. This is attributed to their high energy level which we've discussed above. Even at rest, the GSD isn’t a couch potato – he’s going to be where the action is.
However, it is possible for some German Shepherds to be lazy and prone to obesity. This is especially true if the dog is older or has an underlying health condition that causes excess weight gain. It is important to not overfeed GSDs and feed the best dog food diet for German Shepherds that is appropriate for their life stage and health condition.
Below, I will take a look at the three life stages and two common health conditions of German Shepherds and the type of dog food they will require at that point. These are my most recommended brands, but we'll also take a look at the best German Shepherd dog food reviews from pet owners to see what they have to say after switching to a new diet.
German Shepherd Puppies
Large-breed German Shepherd puppies are more susceptible to malnutrition and developmental orthopedic disease compared to small-breed pups. Many GSD owners are familiar with diseases that are common to German Shepherds, which can include:
- hip dysplasia
- osteochondrosis (OCD)
- hypertrophic osteodystrophy (HOD)
While there is a genetic component to these diseases, there are significant nutritional risk factors that play a part during puppyhood in GSDs. In particular, these risk factors are rapid growth and excess dietary calcium intake.
It is important to find the best dog food for German Shepherds that provides just enough of the right balance of nutrients – not too much, and not too little. Because German Shepherd is a large working dog, large-breed specific puppy dog foods are a great safeguard to help prevent these issues in GSDs.
Here are my two favorite choices to recommend to owners:
Royal Canin has done all the legwork for us in creating their German Shepherd-specific puppy food. GSDs are a more slowly maturing breed, and it is recommended to feed this puppy food until your German Shepherd puppy is 15 months of age.
The calorie content and mineral balance in Royal Canine's German Shepherd puppy food are optimal for preventing developmental orthopedic diseases. German shepherd puppies are always in a hurry, so the kibble is specifically designed to be chewed by “hoovering” puppies with big teeth.
It's easily one of the favorite of German Shepherd owners and my top recommended best dog food for German Shepherd puppies. Reading the reviews of this dog food, it's clear that a large majority of GSD owners are satisfied with the results from this dog food, but not all. This is why it's important to consult with your vet beforehand.
Hill’s Science Diet has been a leader in pet nutrition since the early 1900's. Their large-breed puppy formula has been tweaked over the years, but provides consistent quality nutrition to promote healthy growth in German Shepherds puppies.
It's one of my favorite best dog food for German Shepherd puppies because it's fortified with omega-3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA to promote healthy brain, joint and skin development. All Hill’s Science Diet products are made in the USA with North American raw materials and sourced in North America.
I've previously talked about Hill's Science as one of my best vet recommended dog food brands in general due to their dedication to precise nutrition and the large variety of formulas they offer to dog owners. Looking at the opinions on this brand, it appears that most dog owners are also very satisfied with this popular dog food brand.
Adult German Shepherds
If you are looking for the best dog food for an adult German Shepherd dog, or are transitioning from puppy food to adult dog food, I especially recommend consulting with a veterinarian in this case. Your vet can help determine your German Shepherd’s current body condition score. Then, you can decide which Maintenance adult diet is best.
Some possible high-quality dog foods for adult German Shepherds are:
This best dog food for German Shepherds from EUKANUBA is specifically formulated to meet the breed's unique nutritional needs. It is designed to help maintain lean, strong muscles and healthy bones. Additives and vitamins in this formulation support healthy joints.
EUKANUBA has also included their specialized fiber system in this diet. It promotes nutrient absorption and healthy digestion in large breed adult dogs (like GSDs). It's made with the brand's 3D DENTADEFENSE System, which they claim will reduce tartar buildup in just 4 weeks; however, I have not seen any evidence of that, so… a grain of salt.
It's a reasonably priced dog food for German Shepherds, and the nutritional balance is perfect for them. The brand is popular among GSD owners, with a large majority praising the formula. However, as I'm reading more responses, some owners seem to have switched to the below mentioned Royal Canin brand due to changes in the dog's coat.
Their different dog food formulas meet the nutritional needs of some of the most popular breeds. This food is specially designed for GSDs over 15 months of age, and it's one of the best dog foods for German Shepherds.
The unique design of the kibble has a harder texture than most similar dog food brands, and the size and shape encourage GSD to chew. This is ideal for the German Shepherd because they have a long snout, strong teeth and extremely powerful jaws. This food is also formulated to support proper digestion and maintain the health of the skin, coat, bones and joints.
Senior German Shepherds
German Shepherd dogs are considered “senior” or “geriatric” around 8 years of age.
As a GSD ages, their nutritional requirements change as well. Joints start to ache and mental function can start to decline. Active ingredients in my top best dog foods for senior German Shepherds should help your dog go strong for as long as possible. However, additional supplementation such as fish oil for dogs may be a good idea as well.
Here is another high-quality option from a reasonably priced EUKANUBA brand. They aren't the cheapest best dog food for German Shepherds, but this manufacturer has a great track record for quality products and high quality control standards. Lamb is the first ingredient in this formula, as the protein (amino acids) helps to maintain strong muscles and bones in seniors.
This dog food brand also contains glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate for healthy joints, and a high level of antioxidants, which can help support proper cell function in aging dogs. However, be mindful that while glucosamine and chondroitin are helpful for senior dogs' joints, the amount added in any dog food is very small, which probably doesn't have a big impact; additional dog joint supplementation may be good.
This top-shelf dog food has also been proven to reduce tartar buildup on teeth by 46%, according to the manufacturer, but I have yet to see the actual study (again). That said, the reviews of this dog food brand have been glowing so far.
German Shepherds with Normal Body Condition
If you or your vet have assessed your German Shepherd's body condition and it's somewhere around “Normal/Standard”, then a great place to start for the best dog food for German Shepherds with normal body weight is this brand:
This adult formula for health nutrition is not the same as the one I've mentioned above from Royal Canine, but it's one of the best dog foods for German Shepherd that's aged between 15 months of age to 7-8 years of age.
Royal Canin provides the right balance of nutrients to optimize a lean body condition over a lifetime.
Once again, the unique design of the kibble has a harder texture than most other similar dog food brands, therefore, its shape and size encourages chewing in German Shepherds. Similar to the above mentioned Royal Canin formula, this dog food is also formulated to support proper digestion and maintain the health of the skin, coat, bones and joints.
Underweight German Shepherds
Some German shepherd dogs tend to be on the thinner side and may have digestive issues from time to time. If your GSD is mildly underweight, and after a visit to the vet’s office for a check-up, you'll probably be recommended this dog food brand:
I’ve had many patients do well on the Hill's Science diet, especially when it comes to body weight problems (underweight or overweight). This unique formulation is easy to digest and contains helpful ingredients like omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) and Vitamin E as well as other antioxidants to promote a healthy gut and healthy skin.
Chicken, apples, carrots and cranberries make this diet tasty for most dogs – tempting even for the pickiest of eaters. This diet does not contain any artificial colors, preservatives or flavoring, obviously, and the reviews of this popular dog food brand are largely positive, particularly when it comes to German Shepherds that are picky eaters (and thus, underweight).
German Shepherds with Sensitive Stomachs
The German Shepherd dog, like many pure-bred dogs, can be predisposed to certain diseases. Some of these diseases may require a special diet for the GSD. Specifically, if you have concerns about his digestive health, work closely with your veterinarian to make sure your dog gets what he needs and hopefully, a proper diagnosis.
Notable diseases that are prevalent in this breed and which may affect the type of best dog food for German Shepherds you choose include:
- inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI)
- antibiotic-responsive diarrhea (ARD) (formerly known as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO))
These diseases tend to cause GSDs to lose weight or not be able to gain weight effectively. In general, small, frequent meals are best (3-6 meals per day) for dogs with “sensitive stomachs”. Ask your veterinarian about diets like Royal Canin Gastrointestinal High Energy Dog Food, as it may help your GSD gain weight if he has those problems.
There's also an article listing 15 best sensitive stomach dog foods, and a lot of these can be applicable for GSDs with a stomach upset or diseases. Bring those names up with your vet. I recommend you also read this article on upset stomachs from Dana Brown, DVM.
The Doggy Bag – A Take Home Message
German Shepherds tend to live the longest, healthiest lives when they are kept in a leaner body condition, receive life-stage-appropriate balanced nutrition, plenty of exercise and routine veterinary care. This is why working with your veterinarian to find the best dog food for German Shepherds is so vital to your pet's overall health and well-being.
Regardless of which dog food you choose for your furry family member, it is important to follow feeding instructions carefully, You should also consult with your veterinarian if you are ever concerned about your German Shepherd’s health or nutrition.
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