Best Dog Foods for German Shepherds

Filed in Dog Health on December 28, 2021

Best Dog Foods for German Shepherds

Choosing the best food for your German Shepherd can seem like an overwhelming task. German Shepherds are large breed dogs and have specific nutrient requirements. Luckily, there are some great diets that can promote healthy growth and development in your dog.

In this article, I’ll discuss my recommendations for the best dog foods for German Shepherds, specific nutritional needs and the important role of nutrition in their long-term health.

I’ll also discuss the differences between puppy and adult food options and when to transition your pet.

While this article is written by a vet, please speak to your own vet about your dog’s specific situation since this advice is meant to be more general in nature.

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Understanding Dog Food Labels

Most dog owners rely on the pet food label to determine if a particular food is a good fit for their pet. However, it’s essential to understand what you should be looking for and what specific statements on pet food labels mean.

One of the most common statements you may see is “complete and balanced.” For a company to use this phrase, the diet must meet specific standards set by the Association of American Food Control Officials (AAFCO).

AAFCO works with the National Research Council (NRC) and nutrition experts to establish nutritional guidelines for pet food companies.

If a pet food diet meets the specific nutrient requirements set by AAFCO, they can market their product as “complete and balanced” or “AAFCO approved.”

Over the years, AAFCO has established nutrient profiles for dogs of various life stages, including growing puppies, adult dogs, and pregnant or lactating individuals.

However, numerous studies have shed light on specific nutritional concerns in large breed puppies, including German Shepherds. To address these concerns, AAFCO released new dietary guidelines for large breed puppies in 2016.

Nutritional Requirements of German Shepherds

german shepherd eating from a bowl

German Shepherds require a healthy balance of high-quality protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals. When looking for the best dog food for German Shepherds, keep in mind that adults and puppies have different requirements.

A breakdown of the requirements for some of these essential nutrients is listed below.

Protein

According to the AAFCO, an adult German Shepherd’s diet should contain at least 18% protein. You can verify how much protein is in your pet’s diet by checking the guaranteed analysis on the food label or looking for the AAFCO approved statement.

In comparison, growing German Shepherd puppies should consume a diet with at least 22.5% protein.

High-quality protein provides essential amino acids. These amino acids are required for healthy muscle growth and development. Remember that not all protein provides the same nutritious value, and high-quality protein diets may be more expensive.

While it is essential to meet your dog’s protein needs, excess protein can be harmful. Excess dietary protein can interfere with other essential nutrients such as calcium.

Calcium

Calcium is critical for your dog’s bone development and was one of the key nutrients of concern in AAFCO’s 2016 amendments.

Adult German Shepherds require a diet that contains 0.5-2.5% calcium. However, the accepted range for German Shepherd puppies is much narrower.

Large breed puppy diets should contain between 1.2% and 1.8% calcium. Too much calcium can cause issues with bone development and skeletal malformations.

Calcium to Phosphorus Ratio

Excess calcium can also interfere with other essential nutrients like phosphorus. Phosphorus is considered the second most important nutrient in healthy bone development.

This relationship between calcium and phosphorus levels is often referred to as the calcium to phosphorus ratio or Ca:P. In both adult and puppy diets, the ideal calcium to phosphorus ratio is 1:1 and should not exceed 2:1.

Fat

The fat in your pet’s diet contains essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins. Fat also serves as an essential source of calories. All dogs require a specific amount of calories to meet their energy requirements.

Since puppies have higher energy needs than adult dogs, their calorie and fat requirements are also greater. German Shepherd puppies should consume a diet with at least 8.5% crude fat. Adult diets should contain approximately 5.5% crude fat.

Best Dog Foods for German Shepherds

When choosing the best food for your German Shepherd, you’ll want to choose a diet that is appropriate for their life stage. Here are my recommended products:

Recommendations for Puppies

Purina Pro Plan Puppy Large Breed Chicken and Rice Formula

Purina has been a leader in the dog food industry for many decades. This diet is specifically designed for dogs such as German Shepherds who will weigh over 50 pounds as an adult.

Purina Pro Plan Large Breed Puppy food provides high-quality protein as the primary ingredient. This ensures your dog gets all of the essential amino acids required for healthy growth and development.

Additionally, this formula contains live probiotics to support digestive and immune health.

Royal Canin German Shepherd Puppy

Royal Canin offers a unique line of breed-specific diets. Their German Shepherd Puppy diet is designed to meet your dog’s nutritional needs from 8 weeks to 15 months of age.

Like all of the other recommended diets in this article, this German Shepherd Puppy diet meets AAFCO’s nutritional requirements for large breed dogs.

This puppy food contains key antioxidants to support your puppy’s developing immune system. The diet also contains glucosamine and chondroitin to support bone and joint health.

Recommendations for Adults

Royal Canin German Shepherd Adult

In addition to their breed-specific puppy food, Royal Canin also offers breed-specific adult food options. The German Shepherd Adult food is designed to meet your dog’s nutritional needs once they are 15 months of age.

This diet contains highly digestible protein and fiber to promote healthy digestion. The adult food formula also contains EPA and DHA from fish oil to keep your German Shepherd’s skin and haircoat healthy.

Hill’s Science Diet Adult 6+ Large Breed

German Shepherds over the age of 6 are considered senior citizens. As your dog reaches this age, their nutritional needs can change, and their risk for certain medical conditions may increase.

Hill’s has developed this diet to address the unique needs of aging large breed dogs. Since many aging dogs deal with heart and kidney issues, this formula provides a unique balance of minerals to support heart and kidney health.

The diet also contains glucosamine and chondroitin to support their aging joints.

The Importance of Nutrition on Your German Shepherd’s Health

German Shepherds are at increased risk of developmental orthopedic disease. While many factors contribute to this increased risk, nutritional factors can play a significant role in disease development.

Canine hip dysplasia is the most common orthopedic disease in German Shepherds. This condition results from abnormal development or growth of the hip joint.

Dogs with hip dysplasia typically experience joint laxity, joint instability, and malformation of the bones that create the hip joint. As dogs age, these issues can lead to osteoarthritis and severe pain.

One of the most concerning nutritional factors for German Shepherds is caloric intake. While puppies have high energy requirements, consuming too many calories can lead to weight gain and obesity.

Excess weight can put increased strain on your dog’s growing body and increase the likelihood of orthopedic issues.

Many research studies have been conducted to determine the relationship between nutrition and the development of orthopedic disease. One of these studies evaluated the effects of weight gain in German Shepherd puppies.

This study found that German Shepherds with rapid weight gain during the first 60 days of life were at a substantially greater risk of developing hip dysplasia.

Increased calorie intake can also promote rapid growth in puppies. If your puppy grows too fast, their bones may struggle to keep up. This can result in poor bone density, skeletal abnormalities, or other orthopedic problems.

To avoid these issues, your dog should eat a well-balanced diet and consume an appropriate amount of calories for their size and stage of development.

If you’re unsure how much food your dog should be consuming, follow the feeding instructions on the food label or consult with your veterinarian.

How and When to Transition Your Dog to an Adult Food

German shepherd puppy

Your dog should remain on a large breed puppy food until their body has reached maturity. This usually occurs between 1 and 1.5 years of age for German Shepherds.

At this time, your dog’s nutritional needs will change because their body is no longer growing. Because of this, it’s essential to transition your dog to a diet that’s appropriate for their new life stage.

Like any dietary change, transitioning your dog to adult food should be done slowly. This will help your pet adjust to their new food and decrease the risk of digestive upset.

Start by incorporating small amounts of adult food into their regular puppy food meals. Gradually increase the amount of adult food your dog receives every few days. The entire transition process should take around two weeks.

During the transition process, pay close attention to your dog’s bathroom habits. Transitioning your dog too quickly can be a shock to their digestive tract.

This can lead to an upset stomach, vomiting, or diarrhea. If you notice these symptoms or your pet appears uncomfortable, back down on the amount of adult food you are feeding.

In some cases, the new adult diet may not be a good fit for your dog, and you’ll need to try a different adult formula.

If you’re unsure whether or not your dog is ready to switch to an adult food diet, you can always schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.

They can assess your pet’s growth and help you pick a diet that meets your dog’s specific needs. Your veterinarian can also provide guidance if your dog is having a hard time adjusting to new food.

Final Thoughts on Best Dog Foods for German Shepherds

I hope this information will help you find the ideal diet and best dog food for your German Shepherd.

As discussed, a puppy and adult German Shepherd have certain nutritional needs requiring the right balance of high-quality protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals. You’ll need to keep this in mind when choosing the right food for your dog.

They also have a higher risk of certain developmental orthopedic diseases, so you want to ensure you feed the them the appropriate diet.

When selecting a diet, always remember to check the nutrition profile closely and look for an AAFCO approved statement.

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