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The German Shepherd is consistently ranked as one of the top three breeds in the United States according to AKC registration statistics. If you have any experience with this wonderful breed, you will not wonder why. Not only are these dogs beautiful with their thick black-and-tan coats, but they are devastatingly intelligent and hard-working. As one of the smartest dog breeds out there, the German Shepherd can be trained for a variety of jobs and different dog sports – this breed won’t be content to spend the day lazing away on your couch. This breed needs plenty of physical exercises as well as mental stimulation and human interaction on a daily basis.

In addition to being incredibly smart and trainable, the German Shepherd is also a very large dog. This breed typically stands between 22 and 26 inches tall at the shoulder and weighs between 50 and 90 pounds at maturity. Originally developed as a herding dog, the German Shepherd has very strong protective instincts but they are still very gentle and loving which makes them a wonderful family pet. As a large-breed dog, the German Shepherd has an average lifespan between 10 and 13 years which can be impacted by a number of health problems. This breed is prone to several musculoskeletal issues like hip dysplasia and various inherited health issues like degenerative myelopathy, epilepsy, and bleeding disorders. Responsible breeding practices including DNA testing are essential for this breed.

Because the German Shepherd is a large-breed dog, he needs plenty of calories (especially from protein) to maintain his well-muscled and athletic stature. This breed can also benefit from joint-supporting supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin as well as probiotics to support health digestion. The German Shepherd bred is also prone to food allergies, especially to grains and dairy products. The best way to ensure that your German Shepherd’s specific nutritional needs are met is to select a large-breed formula. Keep reading to learn more about the nutritional requirements for German Shepherds and to receive recommendations for quality dog food brands for this beautiful breed.

General Nutritional Recommendations for German Shepherds

All dogs require a balance of protein, fat and carbohydrate in their diet, though dogs of certain sizes may require a slightly different ratio than smaller dogs. Large-breed dogs like the German Shepherd, for example, may require more protein than smaller dogs to help support their lean muscle mass. Smaller dogs usually require more fat than larger dogs to support their faster metabolisms. As a large-breed dog, your German Shepherd’s diet should provide high levels of protein with moderate fat and limited carbohydrate content. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, adult dogs need at least 18% protein and 5% fat while puppies need 22% protein and 8% fat. If you want your dog to be as healthy as possible, however, you should choose a diet that provides more than the minimum for these nutrients.

3 Brands We Highly Recommend Feeding your German Shepherd

Orijen Dog Food
Overall, Orijen is one of the highest quality brands out there. Not only are they committed to creating biologically appropriate diets for cats and dogs, but they are very careful...Read full review
Whole Earth Dog Food
Overall, they are quality brand that is also very affordable. This brand markets itself as a natural pet food company and the health claims they make on their website appear to be founded in truth. Read full review
Blue Buffalo Dog Food
Simply put, this Company sets a standard for quality in pet food that all pet food manufacturers should strive to achieve. Not only do they use the freshest...Read full review

No matter what kind of dog you have, the first ingredient in his food should be some kind of whole animal protein like poultry, meat or fish. Animal-based ingredients are more biologically valuable for dogs than plant-based ingredients because dogs are primarily carnivorous animals – their digestive systems simply aren’t adapted to digest plant products as efficiently as animal products. This being the case, the main sources of fat in your German Shepherd’s diet should also come from animal sources. Named sources like chicken fat and salmon oil are preferable to unnamed sources like poultry fat or fish oil because it is difficult to judge the quality of unnamed sources. Look for a balance of omega fatty acids as well to promote your dog’s healthy skin and coat.

When it comes to carbohydrates for your German Shepherd, you need to be very careful. Do not choose a product that contains more than 5% crude fiber and make sure that any product you choose includes digestible carbohydrates – avoid products made with corn, wheat, and soy ingredients. Some examples of digestible carbohydrates include whole grains like brown rice and oatmeal. If your dog suffers from food allergies or sensitivities, you may want to consider a grain-free formula that is made with tapioca, starchy vegetables, or legumes as the primary carbohydrates. Any German Shepherd can also benefit from a dog food that includes chelated mineral or probiotic supplements. Chelated minerals are simply minerals that have been chemically bound to protein molecules which makes them easier for your dog’s body to digest. Dried fermentation products act as probiotics to support your dog’s digestion.

Special Dietary and Nutritional Concerns

Large and giant-breed dogs like the German Shepherd have a higher risk for developing musculoskeletal issues than smaller dogs. In many cases, the dogs that develop these problem in adulthood grew too quickly as puppies – excessive growth can put a lot of stress on your puppy’s developing bones and joints. There are two things you can do to reduce your dog’s risk for musculoskeletal problems. For one thing, you should feed your German Shepherd puppy a large-breed puppy formula until he reaches about 80% of his adult size then switch to a large-breed adult recipe. Large-breed formulas contain high levels of protein to support your dog’s lean muscle mass but have moderate fat content to avoid overgrowth. You should also look for a recipe that is supplemented with glucosamine and chondroitin to provide extra bone and joint support for your dog.

Sneak Peak into our Top Picks for the Best German Shepherd Foods

Recipe Cost First 5 Ingredients Rating
Wellness TruFood Earthborn Holistic Grain-Free Large Breed Dry Food:

Review | Buy Here

$1.89/lb Chicken Meal, Peas, Tapioca 4.5 stars

Use our 20% off and FREE shipping coupon on ALL brands to save even more money off the already low price @ Chewy.

BlueBlue Buffalo Basics Large Breed Adult Grain-Free Lamb & Potato Recip

Review | Buy Here

$2.20/lb Deboned Lamb, Potatoes, Peas 4.5 stars
Orijen Puppy Large Breed Dry Food

Review | Buy Here


Deboned Chicken, Deboned Turkey, Yellowtail Flounder

4.5 stars

When it comes to determining how much to feed your German Shepherd, there are a number of factors to consider. While your dog does require plenty of protein in his diet, you should select a dog food with moderate fat content to avoid giving your dog too many calories – this is particularly true if your German Shepherd tends to be a little lazy. On the other hand, if your dog is particularly active or if you are training him for a dog sport, you might need to find a product that offers higher fat content to support his higher needs for energy. A large-breed specific recipe is generally adequate for the average German Shepherd, but an active or working breed formula might be better for your dog if he is particularly active. No matter which type of food you feed your dog, follow the feeding recommendations to avoid overfeeding – like all dogs, German Shepherds are prone to obesity and obesity can contribute to a host of other health problems.

Another thing you should be aware of when feeding your German Shepherd is that large-breed dogs have a high risk for bloat, also known as gastric torsion. When large and deep-chested breeds eat too quickly they can swallow air along with their food which can cause the stomach to fill with gas and to expand and rotate, cutting off the flow of blood to the stomach and to other vital organs. This can also happen if your dog engages in strenuous exercise or drinks a large amount of water within an hour of eating. To prevent this from happening to your dog, you may want to consider buying a special dog bowl that will keep your dog from eating too fast – you should also restrict his water intake immediately after eating and divide his daily portion into at least two separate meals.

What is the Best Dog Food for my German Shepherd?

When shopping for a new dog food for your German Shepherd you need to find a product that offers complete and balanced nutrition from high-quality ingredients. Large-breed dogs need plenty of protein in their diets with moderate fat content, unless your dog is particularly active or trained for work. To make sure that your German Shepherd’s basic nutritional needs are met, start with a large-breed specific formula and see how your dog does on it for a few weeks. If he loses weight or appears to be low in energy, you may need to increase his daily ration or switch to an active breed formula. Below you will find reviews for several high-quality dog food formulas that could be a good choice for your German Shepherd:

Earthborn Holistic Grain-Free Large Breed Dry Food:

Designed with the principles of holistic pet nutrition, this Earthborn Holistic Grain-Free Large Breed Dry Food would be a great choice for your German Shepherd dog. This recipe is specifically designed for dogs that weigh more than 50 pounds at maturity and it is natural grain- and gluten-free. Made with chicken meal as the primary source of protein, this recipe offers 26% protein and 13% fat with just 5% crude fiber. In addition to being protein-rich, this formula is supplemented with plenty of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to support your dog’s skin and coat, as well as glucosamine and chondroitin for bone and joint support. It also contains fresh fruits and vegetables as natural sources for key vitamins and minerals that are easy for your dog to digest.

Fromm Heartland Gold Large-Breed Adult Dry Food:

For a high-quality diet designed with the unique nutritional needs of large-breed dogs in mind, consider this Fromm Heartland Gold Large-Breed Adult Dry Food. This formula is naturally grain-free and rich in protein, featuring premium ingredients like beef, pork meal, and dried whole eggs. In terms of carbohydrate content, this recipe relies on low-glycemic legumes like green peas, lentils, and chickpeas which are also highly digestible for dogs. With 24% protein and 12% fat, this recipe offers a healthy balance of nutrients for your large-breed dog without going overboard on calories. It also contains plenty of health supplements like flaxseed, taurine, and probiotics. As an added bonus, this formula is also rich in natural flavor that your German Shepherd is sure to love.

Blue Buffalo Basics Large Breed Adult Grain-Free Lamb & Potato Recipe:

Because German Shepherds are prone to food allergies and sensitivities, the Blue Buffalo Basics Large Breed Adult Grain-Free Lamb & Potato Recipe is a good option to consider. This formula is a limited ingredient diet which means that there is a smaller number of ingredients that have the potential to trigger food allergies. Made with deboned lamb as the single source of protein, this recipe is designed to support your large-breed dog’s lean muscle mass, helping to prevent him from gaining too much weight. This formula also contains plenty of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to promote healthy skin and coat, as well as essential antioxidants for a strong immune system. Like all of Blue Buffalo’s products, this formula also contains LifeSource Bits which consist of a special blend of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to ensure nutritional completeness and healthy oxidative balance. This recipe also contains glucosamine and chondroitin for joint support and a unique blend of calcium and phosphorus for strong bones and teeth.

What is the Best Dog Food for German Shepherd Puppies?

One of the most important things you need to remember for German Shepherd puppies is that they need to be protected from growing too fast. A dog that weighs 90 pounds or more at maturity will take somewhere between 18 and 24 months to reach its adult size and, during that time, growth needs to be controlled because if the puppy grows too fast it will put excess strain on the bones and joints, predisposing the dog to musculoskeletal issues as an adult. The simplest way to prevent this from happening is to start your German Shepherd with a large-breed puppy formula. Below you will find reviews for several high-quality dog food formulas that could be a good choice to consider for your German Shepherd puppy:

Orijen Puppy Large Breed Dry Food:

The Orijen brand is known for producing biologically appropriate diets for dogs that are inspired by the natural diet of wild wolves. Like all of their products, this Orijen Puppy Large Breed Dry Food is rich in quality animal proteins like free-run chicken, wild-caught fish, and nest-laid eggs. Made with 85% animal ingredients and 15% fruits, vegetables, and botanicals, this recipe is naturally grain-free and made without any artificial additives. This large-breed puppy formula offers a whopping 38% protein and 16% fat which is very hard to beat – furthermore, a full 2/3 of the meats included in this recipe are fresh or raw with no preservatives added! It is also worth noting that this recipe is formulated in keeping with Whole Prey ratios which includes not only fresh meats, but organs and cartilage as well for natural sources of key nutrients. Overall, this formula is designed to promote a healthy bodyweight in your large-breed puppy while also reducing stress on his developing bones and joints.

Holistic Select Large and Giant Breed Puppy Health Lamb Meal & Oatmeal Recipe:

For a high-quality diet specially formulated to meet the nutritional needs of large and giant breed puppies, give this Holistic Select Large and Giant Breed Puppy Health Lamb Meal & Oatmeal Recipe a try. This formula features lamb meal as the primary source of protein and is supplemented with digestible carbohydrates like brown rice, white, rice and oatmeal. It is also rich in omega fatty acids like DHA to promote healthy brain and eye development in your puppy as well as other essential fatty acids for skin and coat health. This formula also contains Holistic Select’s unique Digestive Health Support System which includes active probiotics, digestive enzymes, and healthy fibers. In short, this formula contains everything your German Shepherd puppy needs to grow big and strong.

Nutro Limited Ingredient Diet Large Breed Puppy Lamb and Rice Recipe:

If your German Shepherd puppy suffers from food allergies or sensitivities, you may want to consider this Nutro Limited Ingredient Diet Large Breed Puppy Lamb and Rice Recipe. This formula is made with Australian and New Zealand lamb, a novel source of protein, which will not only fuel your puppy’s health growth and development but will also reduce the risk for triggering food allergies. In addition to being protein-rich and full of natural flavor, this formula also contains plenty of omega-3 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat, plus essential antioxidants for immune support. As an added bonus, this formula is supplemented with glucosamine and chondroitin to support your puppy’s bones and joints as he grows into a large-breed adult dog.

Shopping for a new dog food can be difficult simply because there are so many different options available. If you take the time to learn about the basic nutritional needs of dogs and then take into consideration the unique dietary requirements for a particular breed, you can quickly narrow things down. For German Shepherd dogs, the best way to make sure that your dog’s nutritional needs are met in all life stages is to start with a large-breed specific puppy formula and then switch to a large-breed adult recipe when your puppy reaches about 80% of his maximum size. If you need help getting started with your search, consider one of the top recommended brands of large-breed puppy or adult dog food reviewed above.

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About The Author

Kate Barrington holds a Bachelor’s degree in English and is the published author of several self-help books and nutrition guides. Also an avid dog lover and adoring owner of three cats, Kate’s love for animals has led her to a successful career as a freelance writer specializing in pet care and nutrition. Kate holds a certificate in fitness nutrition and enjoys writing about health and wellness trends — she also enjoys crafting original recipes. In addition to her work as a ghostwriter and author, Kate is also a blogger for a number of organic and natural food companies as well as a columnist for several pet magazines.

One Response


    i have a german shepherd male dog aged 7. He has perennial hernia problem and he has to undergo surgery next week. He has to be supplemented with rich protein diet to build muscle mass for recovery and to prevent further tear in muscles after operation. Please suggest me best food for him


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