When there are so many varieties of dog food around, it's not easy to know which one is best for your German Shepherd.
In order to know which one to choose, you need to have a good idea of the specific needs of your German Shepherd, as how active she is and any health problems she may have will affect her nutritional requirements.
That's where I can come in to give you a helping hand. Read on to find out which brands of food are a good choice for your dog.
Here is a peek at my top 4 recommendations of dog foods for German Shepherds:
- Taste of the Wild
- Whole Earth Farms Grain Free Recipe with Pork, Beef & Lamb
- Orijen Original Grain-Free
- Wellness Large Breed Complete Health Adult (Deboned Chicken & Brown Rice)
I will go into more detail about why I have chosen these, but first let's look at what German Shepherds need in their diet, and why.
Contents & Quick Navigation
- Here is a peek at my top 4 recommendations of dog foods for German Shepherds:
- How many calories does your German Shepherd need?
- How many calories does your German Shepherd puppy need?
- Common health problems in German Shepherds - how diet can help them
- Nutritional requirements for German Shepherds – a macronutrient breakdown
- Best dog food for German Shepherds
How many calories does your German Shepherd need?
German Shepherds were bred to work all day herding livestock, which makes them high-energy dogs who are active both physically and mentally. This means that adult German Shepherds need a high-calorie diet (of at least 1,500 calories) to give them the energy to run as well as stay sharp.
For a large breed with an average weight of around 70 lb (32 kg) the calorie suggestions* are:
*These estimates are based on an average weight for this breed using Train Pet Dog Make sure you talk to your vet to get an accurate amount for your dog.
How many calories does your German Shepherd puppy need?
As your German Shepherd puppy grows (and seems to have an endless energy supply), she needs a calorie-rich diet. According to the National Research Council of the National Academies, a puppy needs twice as many calories per pound of body weight as an adult of the same breed.
Let’s work that out. So, an adult German Shepherd weighing 70 lb needs about 20 calories per lb per day. That would mean that a German Shepherd puppy who will reach 70 lb as an adult needs 40 calories per lb per day.*
*Theses are just guidelines. I advise you to discuss this with your vet and work out an accurate amount for your puppy.
How often should I feed my German Shepherd puppy?
As for a feeding schedule, once your pup is on solid food (at about 4 weeks old), you should be feeding her 4 meals a day.
At 4 months old, you can reduce this to 2 or 3 meals a day, and continue with this routine into adulthood.
Common health problems in German Shepherds - how diet can help them
Elbow and hip dysplasia
Unfortunately, the primary health concern for German Shepherds is hip dysplasia, which is a malformation of the joint. It is a condition that can get worse if your dog is overweight or obese, so keeping her at a healthy weight is imperative. If your dog is overweight*, you should choose a dog food that uses a weight management formula, which will be lower in fat.
Another thing that can help this condition (though, of course, will not cure it) is to look for dog foods that contain glucosamine and chondroitin (which are both natural substances), as they stimulate the body to repair damaged cartilage.
*Females can weigh up to 71 lb (32 kg), while males usually weigh up to 88 (40 kg).
Large dogs like German Shepherds can suffer from bloat, which is a serious and sometimes fatal condition. It occurs if your dog is very active just after eating, or if your dog eats a very large amount in one go.
For this reason, it is highly important that you feed your German Shepherd 2 or 3 small meals during the day instead of in one large sitting, and let her rest for at least half an hour after eating before letting her play or do any physical exercise.
Nutritional requirements for German Shepherds – a macronutrient breakdown
So how can we tell which is the best dog food for German Shepherds? Well, we need to look at a breakdown of what the nutritional requirement is for the breed regarding how much protein, carbohydrates, fat and vitamins and minerals she needs.
Here they are, in descending order:
Dogs that are large, muscular and active like the German Shepherd need especially high amounts of protein, as they use it to keep their muscles strong and can also burn it off as energy.
It is also essential for your German Shepherd's coat health. Her coat (which is double, and usually long) is mostly made up of proteins, so she needs a high amount for it to grow and stay healthy.
How much protein does she need?
It is recommended that your German Shepherd's diet consist of at least 18% protein. If she is a working dog who is active all day, she will do well with a high protein diet (between 30 – 40%)*. A German Shepherd puppy should get at least 22% protein, as her growing body needs all the extra she can get to develop.
Dog foods that have the AAFCO label (Association of American Feed Control Officials) will meet these basic nutritional requirements.
*This is just an estimate based on our expertise. You must check with your vet to get an exact figure for your dog.
German Shepherds needs at least 5% fat (8% for growing puppies), which is just the minimum. Many dog foods contain up to 12% fat, which is a better choice if your dog is very active (since fat provides twice the energy of proteins and carbohydrates).
German Shepherds also need the right amount of fat to keep her long coat shiny and her skin well-moisturized. Not only this, but such an intelligent dog will benefit greatly from those omega fatty acids, which aid her cognitive function.
As already mentioned German Shepherds are active, so some carbs should be present in her dog food.
Many dogs, including the German Shepherd, can have allergies to grains like corn, soy, and wheat, however, so I would advise you to go for a dog food that sources their carbohydrates elsewhere.
You could try her on whole grains like brown rice, barley, and oats, which are all good quality carbs. If you find these don't agree with her either, go for a grain-free food that uses vegetables such as sweet potatoes as the source of carbohydrates.
Vitamins and minerals
Your German Shepherd needs vitamins and minerals to keep her coat and immune system healthy. Not only this, but the antioxidant properties found in Vitamin C and E also serve as good brain food for her.
Just as we do, she can get these from fruits and vegetables. A good choice of dog food will contain a variety of these.
Best dog food for German Shepherds
So, now I'm sure you want to know about my recommendations. I narrowed it down to 4 of what I think are great choices of high-quality for German Shepherds.
Here they are:
#1 Taste of the Wild: High Prairie Canine Formula with Roasted Bison & Roasted Venison
This dog food is packed with a variety of high-quality protein sources (buffalo, lamb, chicken, bison, venison, beef and fish), making it a brilliant choice for active dogs like German Shepherds. In total, it contains 32% protein.
It is also grain-free, so no worries when it comes to grain allergies. The carbohydrates come in the form of potato, sweet potato, and yucca, and there is a variety of fruit and other vegetables including berries, tomatoes, and peas to provide high levels of vitamins and minerals.
Taste of the Wild uses only natural preservatives, and they steam dry their food with purified water to ensure it is free from chemicals. Pretty fancy, eh?
When it comes to price, it is more affordable than Orijen, which makes its overall rating just that bit higher.
- High-quality, varied protein sources
- Variety of fruits and vegetables
- Though it seems rare, some customers have complained about allergic reactions
#2 Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Recipe With Pork, Beef & Lamb
Whole Earth Farms provides varied, high-quality protein sources, though it is lower in protein than the Taste of the Wild and Orijen, containing 26%. This makes it less suitable for highly active German Shepherds, but a good choice if your dog is less active. It is grain-free; the carbohydrates come from potatoes and sweet potatoes.
While the only fruit in the recipe is blueberries, it does contain lots of vitamin and mineral supplements. Something I love about this dog food is that they take the care to add herbs like rosemary, sage, and thyme for your dog to enjoy a more flavorsome meal.
Another factor that got this brand in the top four for the German Shepherd is that it contains chondroitin and glucosamine.
Whole Earth Farms is the most affordable option of the four.
- Contains ingredients that help with bone and joint health
- Contains herbs for flavor
- Lowest price
- Only contains one fruit ingredient
#3 Orijen Original Grain-free
What I love about this brand is that they focus on quality. Their meats are cage-free, their fish wild-caught, many ingredients are fresh and local, and they include infusions of freeze-dried meats for flavor enhancement. Plus, there isn't even a hint of preservatives.
Orijen is much more costly compared to the others on this list, but many customers rate it highly for dogs with sensitive stomachs, which is likely due to the high-quality ingredients, lack of fillers, and the fact that it's grain-free. It also has a reputation for enticing fussy eaters, which must mean it tastes good! If your German Shepherd falls under either category, Orijen is an excellent choice.
This is also a good choice for senior German Shepherds or those suffering from hip dysplasia, as it contains chondroitin and glucosamine, which, as I mentioned earlier, help maintain bone and joint health.
This brand also focuses on the importance of protein. It consists of 85% meat and contains the most protein of all four, at a respectable 38%.
Just to top it off, this food is also packed with vitamins and minerals from naturally sourced ingredients, and none of their ingredients are GMO (genetically modified).
This product would have made it to number 2 if it wasn’t for its high price. If you can afford it, I think it’s a fantastic dog food for your German Shepherd.
- Quality ingredients
- High protein content
- Good for fussy eaters
- Contains ingredients that help maintain bone and joint health
- High price
- Orijen recently changed their recipe and some customers have reviewed it negatively
#4 Wellness Large Breed Complete Health Adult (Deboned Chicken & Brown Rice)
Coming in fourth is Wellness Large Breed dog food specifically designed to meet the needs of large breed dogs.
It contains four high-quality protein sources, but, like Whole Earth Farms, is lower in protein than the top two (26%). This makes it suitable for less active dogs.
Another plus is that Whole Earth Farms also includes glucosamine and chondroitin for your German Shepherd's bone and joint health.
This dog food also contains a range of fruits and vegetables, including, spinach, tomatoes, carrots, apples and sweet potatoes, which makes the formula very vitamin-rich.
Wellness products are also free from preservatives, chemicals, additives, and by-products, as well as common allergens like corn, soy, and wheat.
This product lacks most common allergens. However, it does contain rice, which may still cause allergic reactions in some German Shepherds.
- Varied, high-quality protein content
- Contains ingredients that help with bone and joint health
- Free from preservatives and additives
- Free from common allergens
- Contains rice, which may be an allergen for some German Shepherds
So, the clear winner: Taste of the Wild (which, may I just say off the record, is a fantastic brand name.)
The varied, high-quality protein content is what won it over for me, not to mention that it is grain-free and packed with vitamins and minerals.
I also highly recommend Whole Earth Farms and Wellness Large Breed dog food for less active or senior dogs. Finally, Orijen is another great choice for German Shepherds, especially if your dog is a picky eater.
Got any questions? Leave a comment below!