As a German Shepherd owner, you want to make sure you’re feeding your dog the best diet to keep them healthy and happy. With their large size and active nature, German Shepherds have some specific nutritional needs. The good news is that they enjoy a diverse range of foods!
In this complete guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about your German Shepherd’s dietary preferences and nutrition requirements.
Here’s a quick answer: German Shepherds enjoy a wide variety of foods, but especially love high-quality proteins like chicken, beef, fish, and eggs. They also readily eat fruits, vegetables, grains, and small amounts of dairy as part of a balanced diet. Their favorites include bananas, apples, carrots, brown rice, and yogurt. Avoid unsafe foods like chocolate, onions, and grapes. Overall, German Shepherds have hearty appetites and will eat almost anything nutritious owners feed them.
A Canine Gourmand: What Do German Shepherds Like To Eat?
As a working breed, German Shepherds have hearty appetites and love mealtime. Their favorites foods include:
Meat: High-quality proteins like chicken, beef, turkey, lamb, fish, eggs
Fruits and Veggies: Bananas, apples, blueberries, carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes
Grains: Brown rice, oatmeal, barley
Dairy: Small amounts of yogurt, cheese
Essentially, your German Shepherd will gladly eat almost anything you put in front of them! As long as it’s safe for dogs, they are not picky eaters.
However, some discretion is required on your part as their owner. Just because your dog wants bacon and chocolate chip cookies doesn’t mean those should be daily menu items!
You need to feed them a balanced diet to meet their nutritional needs. Keep reading to learn exactly what that entails.
Key Nutrients for German Shepherds
All dogs have the same basic nutritional requirements. But German Shepherds are a large breed with high energy needs. Let’s discuss the key nutrients they require for healthy growth and activity levels:
As carnivores, protein should make up the biggest portion of your German Shepherd’s diet. Aim for around 20-30% protein. High-quality animal-based proteins provide amino acids for building and maintaining muscle mass.
Fat delivers energy and aids the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Moderately active adult GSDs need about 15-20% fat in their diet. Puppies and very active dogs can benefit from slightly higher fat.
While dogs can live without carbs, they do provide glucose for energy. Carbs should make up 40-60% of your German Shepherd’s diet. Choose unrefined, whole food sources like brown rice, barley and sweet potatoes.
Calcium and Phosphorus
These two minerals support bone growth and maintenance. As large breed dogs, German Shepherds need diets specifically formulated to have safe calcium levels around 1% for controlled bone growth.
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Now let’s look at some specific DOs and DON’Ts when it comes to feeding your German Shepherd.
Human Foods GSDS Can and Can’t Eat
Sharing tidbits from your plate is a common way for dog owners to bond with their pups. And your German Shepherd will happily accept anything you offer!
However, some people foods come with risks for dogs. Others make healthy treats or additions to their diet. Check out these lists so you know what’s safe and what to avoid:
Safe Human Foods:
- Shredded Cheese
- Peanut Butter
- Sweet Potatoes
- Plain Yogurt
- Lean Beef
Unsafe Human Foods:
- Grapes & Raisins
- Macadamia Nuts
- Bacon & Fatty Meats
- Caffeine Drinks
- Raw Bread Dough
- Cooked Bones
This is just a short list of common options—there are many more dog-safe fruits, veggies, proteins and grain sources they’d enjoy. When in doubt, check with your veterinarian about a new food.
Some owners opt to put their German Shepherd on a completely raw food diet. While fresh meats and produce can be very healthy, this requires careful formulation to meet all nutritional requirements. Work with an animal nutritionist if pursuing homemade meals.
Feeding Guidelines for GSDs by Age
German Shepherds are considered an adult dog breed around 18-24 months old. But they still have some different nutritional needs as growing puppies or aging senior dogs. Here are feeding guidelines tailored to life stage:
- 8-12 Weeks: 4 meals per day
- 3-6 Months: 3 meals per day
- 6-24 Months: 2 meals per day
During their rapid growth phase, large breeds like German Shepherds need highly digestible, animal-based protein sources. This aids muscle development while preventing too-quick bone growth which can lead to joint issues later in life.
Puppies also need extra calories for energy, in the realm of 1,100 per day. Measure your puppy’s portions so you avoid over or underfeeding during this crucial developmental time.
- 1-7 Years: 2 meals per day
For adult German Shepherds, most owners find it convenient to serve two larger meals each day. But you can divide their daily food into three slightly smaller meals if preferred.
Use an online calorie calculator or your vet’s guidance to determine the optimal food volume for your adult dog based on:
- Activity Level (German Shepherds need more calories than sedentary breeds)
Typically adults eat 600-900 calories per day depending on gender and lifestyle. Monitor your GSD’s body condition score and adjust as needed to keep them fit but not too lean or overweight.
Around seven years old, German Shepherds transition into their golden years. Their slowed metabolism and activity levels mean they need fewer calories overall.
But senior dogs still require all the same nutrients as they age, sometimes in higher concentrations. Look for dog foods designed specifically for senior canines with boosted glucosamine, antioxidants, omegas and proteins.
If your older German Shepherd is losing interest in dry kibble, try adding warm water, bone broth or healthy toppings to spark their appetite. Keeping them engaged around mealtimes prevents unwanted weight loss.
Supplements for German Shepherds
While a nutritionally balanced commercial or homemade diet should provide everything your German Shepherd needs, certain supplements offer added health support:
- Glucosamine/Chondroitin: For joint health
- Fish Oil: Provides omega fatty acids
- Probiotics: Supports digestive and immune function
- Antioxidants: Combats cell damage from exercise
Consult your veterinarian before giving your dog any supplement with dosages based on their size and age. Monitor for any reactions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Let’s wrap up with answers to some common questions German Shepherd owners have about diet and nutrition:
How often should German Shepherds eat?
Most adult German Shepherds eat two meals per day, spaced about 12 hours apart. Puppies need three to four feedings for their higher caloric needs.
Do German Shepherds have sensitive stomachs?
Some German Shepherds do struggle with gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea or constipation. This is often linked to food sensitivities. Stick to high-quality digestion dog diets.
What is the best dog food for German Shepherds?
Look for a complete and balanced commercial formula crafted for large breeds with controlled calcium and plenty of meat proteins. Wellness CORE Natural Grain-Free Dry Dog Food and Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Large Breed Adult Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe are excellent choices. Or consult your vet about homemade meals.
Should I change my German Shepherd’s food periodically?
There’s no need to continually rotate your German Shepherd’s diet as long as the current food keeps them in good condition and doesn’t cause any adverse reactions. Sticking to one reliable formula is preferable for digestive health.
When should German Shepherds transition to senior food?
Around seven years old, gradually transition your German Shepherd to a senior dog food formulated to keep aging dogs healthy and energetic even as their nutritional needs shift.
So there you have it—everything you need to know about feeding your German Shepherd! Understanding their dietary requirements and food favorites means you can craft a tasty, nutritious menu.
Remember to choose digestible whole food sources, feed appropriate serving sizes for life stage, avoid unsafe human foods, and supplement to support health. Your Shepherd relies on you for a balanced diet as the foundation of their wellbeing.
With an abundance of quality meats, fruits and veggies in their bowl, your German Shepherd will stay satisfied at every age. They might even reward you with a sloppy “kiss” for being such a great chef!