Knowing how to feed your German shepherd properly is one of the first basic things you have to get right as a German shepherd’s owner. Failure to do it right can expose your dog to a number of health-related concerns such as hair loss, skin disease, and infection.
While there is no hard and fast rule for feeding a dog, there are some general best practices that all vets and animal healthcare professionals agree on. Here are the most common questions new and experienced German shepherd owners have about feeding German shepherds and their answers.
General Nutritional Requirements for German Shepherds
The first thing you need to remember is to feed your German shepherd dog food that meets their nutritional needs. I know this might sound obvious, but it is an easy mistake to make and can cost your dog a lot of trouble in his or her life.
When I consider the food feed to my German shepherds, I always think about their health issues first. A German shepherd is a medium to large breed dog, which means that he is at a higher risk for certain health problems, with bones and hips problems being the most notorious ones.
Genetics plays an integral part in the likelihood of them developing joint diseases, and too much rapid growth is another factor that can make these problems worse.
This is why, although German shepherds need basic nutrients—such as protein, fat, carbs, and other vitamins and minerals—just like other dog breeds, you want to be careful with dog foods that are too rich in nutrients as they can promote dangerously quick growth.
Aside from health issues, there are also other things that you need to take into account, including the size, age, and activity level of your dog.
Finding The Best Dog Food for Your German Shepherd
The day has long gone when choosing a dog food as simple as picking one available in the pet section of your local supermarket or pet supply store. Today there are a myriad of pet food brands available, and each brand can have multiple formulas. Enough for every dog owner, even the most experienced ones, to get confused.
The good news is pet food producers have done an excellent job of creating products that help a dog thrive. They have created a precise formula for each life stage and every breed of dogs. This actually makes your job easier when you think about it.
In general, you just need to pick a dog food that is breed and age-appropriate. In the case of our German shepherds, we are going to pick a food made for medium to large dogs according to our dogs’ current life stage.
Of course, you’ll still need to do a bit of analysis, which I described in detail in my best German shepherd foods review and buying here. As long as you follow my guidelines there, you should be able to choose which food works best for your German shepherd dog.
Should You Feed Your German Shepherd Dry or Canned Food
Commercial dog food is available in three forms: dry, canned, and semi-moist.
Commercial dry dog foods normally contain about 10 percent moisture. They have a longer shelf and are the least expensive option than other forms of dog food. Not forget to mention they also promote healthy teeth and gums.
In the past, there were many complaints about the palatability of dry foods. But this issue seems to be more of a past issue as the competition among pet food manufacturers has driven the taste of dry food products more enticing than ever. All of these pros make them a wildly popular choice among dog owners.
Out of the three, wet foods (canned) are the tastiest food for dogs. They have a high moisture content, which helps to keep your dog hydrated. They are very convenient because they are easy to store and they contain very few preservatives.
The downside is they are the most expensive choice; they spoil quickly and don’t provide the chewing necessary to keep a dog’s teeth clean.
Semi-moist foods are the less favorable option because many dogs have difficulty digesting these foods. They contain high levels of sugars to keep the morsels soft. They also include food coloring to make the foods more visually appealing to humans but don’t benefit dogs at all.
So, what type of food should you feed your dog? Most shepherd breeders suggest a combination of dry and wet food. The ratio of dry to wet food itself can be varied depending on your dog’s age, activity, weight, and health, but generally, the ratio is 3 to 1. To be sure, check with your vet for the exact balance.
Feeding a German Shepherd Puppy
Nutritional requirements for German Shepherd puppy
German shepherd puppies grow quickly, and they need all the nutrients they can get to support their growth spurts. On average, a 30-pound German shepherd puppy needs somewhere between 1,600 to 2,000 calories per day. However, the actual amount can vary for each individual puppy.
How much to feed a German Shepherd puppy per day
Once you have decided what dog food to feed your GSD, the next step is to determine how much you should feed your German shepherd puppy. To figure this out, let your German shepherd puppy eat as much as he wants in a thirty-minute period. Pick up the bowl after your puppy is full and measure how much kibble is left in the dog bowl. Do this for several days to get the right amount of food.
As your puppy enters growth spurts, you’ll find that his appetite increases drastically. At this point, observe your pup carefully. If he always seems hungry and looks thin, you may need to put more food into his bowl. If he appears to be chubby or has diarrhea, you should slightly cut back on the amount of food he eats.
How often should I feed my German Shepherd puppy
It is equally critical that you know how many times a day your German shepherd puppy should eat. Most breeders recommend feeding a puppy three or four times a day.
These two factors—frequency and amounts—go hand in hand to ensure that your shepherd puppy has enough food. A well-fed puppy is happier and healthier and won’t develop behavioral issues such as aggression and eating feces.
How long do you keep a German shepherd on puppy food
Some breeders recommend keeping German shepherds on puppy food until they reach six months to one year old. After that, you can transfer your puppy from puppy food to a leaner adult dog food later to prevent overgrowth. This arrangement allows your puppy to get all the essential nutrients that he needs in his early stage of development.
Feeding an Adult German Shepherd
Nutritional requirements for German Shepherd
As your puppy grows into adolescence, his nutritional needs will change. He no longer needs as many nutrients as when he was a puppy. At this age, your dog needs to eat adult formula food, and ideally, the food should also contain joint supplements to keep his arthritis under control.
Check at the dog food bag and see if there is wording such as “Complete and balanced nutrition based on AAFCO guidelines for adult maintenance.” Most German shepherds that are primarily pets will be fine eating an adult maintenance dog food formula.
But suppose your German shepherd is a competition dog that actively participates in recreational or competitive canine sports. In that case, he will be better off with a formula for all life stages.
What if your dog is underweight? Consuming a high-calorie dog food together with some additional calories and protein such as cheese and egg might be the best answer. What if your dog is overweight? Then his diet should probably consist of food that provides good nutrition but with more fill so that he can meet all his nutritional needs and lose weight.
How much to feed a German Shepherd
There is no definite answer to “how many cups of dog food should I feed my German shepherd?” as it would depend on many factors. Nonetheless, here are some simple guidelines to help you get started.
- A 60-pound German shepherd should eat 3 cups of kibble per day.
- A 70-pound German shepherd should eat 3 1/2 cups of kibble per day.
- An 80-pound German shepherd should eat 3 3/4 cups of kibble per day.
- A 90-pound German shepherd should eat 4 1/4 cups of kibble per day.
Even though these numbers serve as a good starting point, you might still need to make an adjustment based on how active and how obese your dog is. Please also note that these are generic recommendations only; make sure to check the food bag for specific feeding instructions.
How often should I feed my German Shepherd
Once your dog reaches an adult stage, you will need to increase the amounts you feed him but decrease the frequency of feedings. So, how often should you feed your German shepherd?
Starting from 1 year of age, you should reduce his feeding frequency from 4 times a day to 2 times a day. The exception is for pregnant female German shepherds (also read: how long does a German Shepherd stay pregnant?). They may be fed an extra time depending on how hungry they might look.
Do remember, though, that reducing the quantity of the food does not mean compromising on the quality of the food.
Feeding a Senior German Shepherd
Nutritional requirements for Senior German Shepherd
The fact that your German shepherd is growing older doesn’t mean he is getting any less hungry. On the contrary, because older dogs tend to lose body mass, they need as much, if not more, protein than younger adult dogs to repair the muscle tissue.
To put it in other words, if your German shepherd is healthy and his appetite still remains high, you don’t need to change his food. On the other hand, if your dog has become less active due to a health problem, you may need to switch to a senior formula that gives your dog more nutrition in each bite.
If your dog has a kidney problem, you should immediately switch your dog off his current diet to low protein dog food. It is true that protein doesn’t cause kidney problems, but it can worsen your dog’s existing kidney problem.
How much and how often to feed a senior German Shepherd
Senior German shepherds tend to experience weight fluctuation, meaning that the amount of dog food your dog should eat varies greatly depending on your dog’s body condition. Generally, senior dogs will be benefited from eating more often with less portion size.
By feeding your dog more often without giving him more to feed on, you will help him stay fuller for a longer period of time. What I usually do is increase my dog’s feeding frequency to one time more than my dog’s previous feeding schedule.
Let’s say if I used to feed my dog twice a day, then I would feed him three times a day during his senior year. Three meals per day is a maximum you should give unless your vet specifies otherwise.
As for the portion size, I would suggest speaking to your vet to get an optimal ration. One last thing that I’d like to add is that water is an essential part of your dog’s diet. It’s necessary to aid in digestion, flush the toxins out, and maintain a body temperature, so don’t forget to provide easy access to clean, cool fresh water at all times.