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German Shepherd Puppies Need Special Food: Here’s How to Pick the Right One

German Shepherds are one of the most popular and versatile dog breeds worldwide. They are obedient, confident, intelligent, and trainable, excelling in roles such as police work, military service, search and rescue, rehabilitation, and companionship.

However, as large-breed canines, German Shepherds have specific nutritional needs. Their bones, muscles, joints, and immune system require a high-quality, balanced, and complete diet that provides adequate protein, fats, calcium, and other nutrients.

Choosing the best puppy food for German Shepherds can be challenging, given the abundance of options on the market.

How do you determine which food is appropriate for your German Shepherd puppy? What characteristics should you look for in the ingredients? How much and how often should you feed them? Which brands and products are highly recommended?

In this article, we will address these questions and more to help you find the best puppy food for your German Shepherd.

BestForPets will discuss what to look for in German Shepherd puppy food, how to feed them appropriately, and the brands and products that are highly recommended.

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Deborah R. Fletcher (DVM)


The information provided is current and up-to-date, in line with the latest research conducted in the field of veterinary medicine.

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1. What Are the Nutritional Needs of German Shepherd Puppies?

German Shepherd puppies are large-breed dogs that reach adult size between 12 and 24 months of age. They require a diet that promotes muscle growth, energy, coat health, bone and joint health, the immune system, and digestion.

Protein is one of the most essential nutrients for German Shepherd puppies. Proteins are the building blocks of muscles, organs, skin, hair, and nails. Additionally, they facilitate hormone production, enzyme activity, and immune function.

The first ingredient in German Shepherd puppy food should be a high-quality protein source, such as poultry, beef, lamb, or salmon. According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) guidelines, the protein content should be at least 22% for dry food and 10% for wet food.

Fat is another essential nutrient for German Shepherd dogs. Fat provides energy, promotes brain and eye development, and improves skin and coat health. Additionally, it aids in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.

According to AAFCO guidelines, German Shepherd puppies require a moderate amount of fat in their diet, approximately 12% for dry food and 5% for wet food. The fat source should be rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and derived from animal or plant oils.

Calcium is also an essential nutrient for German Shepherd dogs. Calcium is necessary for bone and tooth formation, muscle contraction, nerve transmission, and blood clotting. It also helps maintain the body’s pH balance.

The calcium content of a German Shepherd puppy’s diet should be optimal, with neither too much nor too little. In large-breed dogs prone to hip dysplasia, excessive calcium can lead to excessive bone growth and joint problems. Insufficient calcium can cause bone fragility and fractures.

According to AAFCO guidelines, the optimal calcium content for German Shepherd dogs is between 1% and 1.5% for dry food and between 0.3% and 0.45% for wet food. The calcium should be derived from natural sources, such as bone meal or eggshell powder.

In addition, German Shepherd dogs benefit from antioxidants, probiotics, glucosamine, and chondroitin. Antioxidants protect cells from damage caused by free radicals and strengthen the immune system. Probiotics aid in maintaining healthy gut flora and enhancing digestion. Glucosamine and chondroitin help maintain healthy cartilage and prevent joint problems.

Fruits, vegetables, yogurt, chicken cartilage, and green-lipped mussels are natural sources of these nutrients. They can also be added to certain dog foods as supplements or additives.

2. How Much and How Often to Feed German Shepherd Puppies

The amount and frequency of feeding for German Shepherd puppies depend on their age, weight, metabolism, and activity level.

Until they reach six months of age, German Shepherd puppies should be fed three to four times per day, and then twice per day until they are one year old.

Depending on their size and growth rate, German Shepherd puppies require a daily caloric intake ranging from 500 to 900 calories.

You can determine the precise amount of food your puppy needs using a nutrition chart or calculator provided by the food manufacturer or your veterinarian.

Always measure the food with a cup or scale, and adjust the amount according to your puppy’s body condition score and growth curve.

Additionally, monitor your puppy’s weight regularly and consult your veterinarian if you notice signs of obesity or malnutrition.

Provide your puppy with fresh water at all times and avoid giving them human food or treats that can cause gastrointestinal distress or allergies.

Here are some general guidelines regarding the amount and frequency of German Shepherd puppy feedings:

2.1 8 to 12 weeks of age

German Shepherd puppies begin consuming solid food and are weaned from their mother’s milk. They should be fed a high-quality, large-breed-specific puppy food three to four times per day.

The amount of food per feeding should range from 1/4 to 1/3 cup, depending on the calorie density of the food and the puppy’s size and appetite.

2.2 3 to 6 months of age

German Shepherd puppies are rapidly developing and require an increase in calories and nutrients. They should continue to be fed three to four times per day with high-quality, large-breed-specific puppy food.

The amount of food should be gradually increased to approximately 1/2 to 2/3 cup per feeding, depending on the calorie density of the food and the puppy’s size and appetite.

2.3 6 to 12 months of age

German Shepherd puppies have reached their adult size and weight and require fewer calories and nutrients. They should be fed twice daily with high-quality, large-breed-specific puppy food.

The amount of food should be gradually decreased to between 3/4 and 1 cup per feeding, depending on the calorie density of the food and the puppy’s size and appetite.

2.4 12 months of age or older

German Shepherd puppies are considered adults and can be transitioned to a large-breed-appropriate adult dog food.

They should continue to be fed twice daily with high-quality adult dog food that contains sufficient protein, fat, calcium, and other nutrients for their health and maintenance.

The amount of food per feeding should be between 1 and 2 cups, depending on the calorie density of the food and the dog’s size, activity level, and metabolism.

3. What to Look for in Puppy Foods for German Shepherds

The first component of the best diet for German Shepherd puppies should be high-quality protein from sources such as chicken, beef, lamb, or salmon. This will provide the necessary amino acids for muscle development and growth.

In addition, the food should contain a balance of healthy sources of fat, easily digestible sources of carbohydrates, and essential fatty acids for vitality, skin and coat health, and mental well-being.

The food should also have appropriate levels of calcium (between 0.7% and 1.5%) and a calcium-to-phosphorus ratio of approximately 1.2:1 to prevent excessive or deficient bone growth, which can contribute to hip dysplasia and other joint issues.

Furthermore, the diet should include sources of antioxidants, probiotics, glucosamine, and chondroitin to support the immune system, digestive health, and bone and joint health.

The food should not contain any digestive irritants or allergens, such as artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, or additives.

Here are some of the most important components to look for in German Shepherd puppy food:

3.1 Protein from high-quality meat sources

The first ingredient should be a named source of meat, such as chicken, beef, lamb, or salmon. Meat protein contains the amino acids necessary for muscle growth and development. It also aids in maintaining a healthy weight and lean body mass.

3.2 Healthy sources of fat

Fat is an essential source of energy and essential fatty acids for growing German Shepherds. Fat also aids in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and promotes healthy skin and coat.

On a dry matter basis, the fat content should range between 12 and 18 percent. Animal or plant-based fats, such as chicken fat, fish oil, flaxseed oil, or canola oil, should be used as the fat source.

3.3 Healthy sources of carbohydrates

Carbohydrates provide German Shepherd puppies with energy and fiber. Carbohydrates can be derived from whole grains or grain-free sources, including rice, oats, barley, sweet potatoes, and legumes.

Whole grains are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, whereas grain-free sources are appropriate for canines with grain sensitivities or allergies. On a dry matter basis, the carbohydrate content should range between 30 and 40 percent.

3.4 Appropriate levels of calcium

Calcium is an essential mineral for German Shepherd puppy bone growth and development. Additionally, calcium facilitates muscle contraction, nerve transmission, and blood coagulation.

The calcium concentration should be moderate, between 0.7% and 1.5% on a dry matter basis, and in balance with phosphorus at a ratio of approximately 1.2:1. Calcium deficiency or excess can result in bone deformities or fractures in large breed dogs.

3.5 Sources of antioxidants

Antioxidants are substances that protect cells from free radical-induced oxidative injury. Antioxidants also promote the health of the immune system and prevent inflammation.

Antioxidants can be derived from either natural or synthetic sources, such as fruits, vegetables, and botanicals, or vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium.

3.6 Sources of probiotics

Probiotics are beneficial intestinal microorganisms that aid in digestion, nutrient absorption, and the elimination of harmful pathogens. Additionally, probiotics support the immune system and prevent diarrhea and constipation.

Natural sources of probiotics include yogurt, kefir, and fermented foods, while synthetic sources include desiccated fermentation products and supplements.

3.7 Sources of glucosamine and chondroitin

Glucosamine and chondroitin are compounds that support the structure and function of cartilage, which buffers and protects the joints from friction. Glucosamine and chondroitin also promote joint health and mobility and prevent joint pain and arthritis.

Glucosamine and chondroitin can be derived from natural sources such as chicken cartilage, beef trachea, or green-lipped mussels,or from synthetic sources such as supplements.

4. What to Avoid in Puppy Foods for German Shepherds

playful and cheerful german shepherd puppy

It is essential to choose high-quality puppy food for German Shepherds, and it is equally important to avoid certain foods that can be harmful to your puppy.

Some of these foods can be toxic, while others can cause allergies, digestive problems, or obesity. Here are some types of food you should avoid or feed in limited quantities when feeding your German Shepherd puppy:

4.1 Chocolate

Chocolate contains stimulants such as theobromine and caffeine, which can affect your dog’s heart, nervous system, and kidneys. Chocolate can cause vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, seizures, and even death.

The darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is. Never feed your dog chocolate or anything containing chocolate, including cookies, pastries, candy, and cocoa powder.

4.2 Grapes and raisins

Grapes and raisins are toxic to dogs, and even small quantities can cause kidney failure. It is unknown what the precise mechanism of toxicity is, but it appears to affect some dogs more than others.

Grapes and raisins can cause vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, dehydration, and decreased urine production in dogs. Contact your veterinarian immediately if your puppy ingests grapes or raisins.

4.3 Onions and garlic

Onions and garlic contain thiosulfates, which can cause red blood cell damage and anemia in your puppy. Onions and garlic can also irritate or upset a dog’s digestive tract.

Onions are more toxic than garlic, but both should be avoided or fed in limited quantities when feeding your puppy. This includes fresh, processed, dried, and powdered forms of onions and garlic, as well as foods such as soups, sauces, and seasonings that contain them.

4.4 Xylitol

Many sugar-free products, including gum, candy, toothpaste, mouthwash, and baked goods, contain the artificial sweetener xylitol. Xylitol can cause a rapid drop in your dog’s blood sugar level, leading to hypoglycemia.

Xylitol can also cause liver injuries and bleeding disorders in dogs. Xylitol can cause vomiting, lethargy, seizures, coma, and even death in dogs. Always check the labels of the products you give your puppy, and avoid giving him anything containing xylitol.

4.5 Raw potatoes

Raw potatoes contain solanine, which is toxic to dogs when consumed in large quantities. Solanine can cause dogs to experience vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, confusion, and lethargy.

Potatoes that have been cooked and are not seasoned with salt, butter, or other potentially toxic ingredients are harmless for dogs.

4.6 Bones

Multiple factors make bones hazardous for German Shepherd puppies. Bone fragments can result in suffocation, intestinal obstruction, and perforation. Bones can also injure your puppy’s teeth and gums.

Bones may also harbor pathogens or parasites that can cause infections or diseases in your dog. Bones can also cause constipation or diarrhea in dogs. If you want to give your puppy something to chew on, choose a puppy-specific chew toy or treat that is safe and appropriate.

4.7 Moldy foods

Moldy foods may contain toxins or particles that are dangerous for your German Shepherd puppy. Dogs can experience vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, seizures, and organ failure as a result of eating moldy food.

Moldy food can also cause allergic reactions or respiratory issues in dogs. Never feed your puppy any spoiled, expired, or moldy food. Always store your puppy’s food in a cool, dry, and airtight container, and dispose of any leftovers promptly.

These are some types of foods to avoid or feed in limited quantities when feeding your German Shepherd puppy. By doing so, you can prevent many health issues and ensure the well-being and happiness of your puppy.

5. How to Choose the Best Puppy Food for German Shepherds?

German shepherd puppy

To choose the best diet for your German Shepherd puppy and provide them with the necessary nutrients, follow these guidelines:

Consider purchasing a puppy diet specifically formulated for large-breed dogs or German Shepherds. These diets meet their unique nutritional requirements and prevent health issues such as hip dysplasia and constipation.

Check the label for the AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement. This statement ensures that the food meets the minimum requirements for puppy growth and development.

Choose a grain-free or grain-inclusive diet based on your dog’s sensitivities and allergies. Some dogs may be allergic or sensitive to grains such as wheat, corn, or soy, in which case a grain-free formula may be preferable. However, grains like oatmeal and brown rice can provide fiber and carbohydrates for your puppy.

Do not feed your puppy adult dog food or human food. Adult dog food may not have enough protein or fat for your growing puppy, while human foods may contain too much sodium, sugar, or seasonings and can cause digestive issues, obesity, or nutritional deficiencies.

Consult your veterinarian for recommendations on the optimal puppy diet for your German Shepherd. Your veterinarian can help determine the proper amount, frequency, and type of food for your puppy based on their age, size, activity level, and health status.

6. Conclusion

2 month old german shepherd puppy

Selecting the best puppy food for German Shepherds is not a simple task, but it is worthwhile for their health and pleasure. When purchasing puppy food, you must consider their nutritional requirements, age, size, activity level, and preferences.

Look for a high-quality product with high-quality meat protein as the first ingredient, a balanced amount of fat and calcium, and additional healthy nutrients such as antioxidants, probiotics, glucosamine, and chondroitin.

We have reviewed some of the Best Puppy Foods for German Shepherds that meet these criteria, have positive reviews from customers, and are highly rated by experts. You can choose one of these products or use them as a guide to finding your own.

Here are some suggestions for feeding, storing, and introducing a new puppy food:

Feed your puppy according to the feeding instructions on the label or your veterinarian’s recommendations. Adjust the dosage and feeding schedule as your puppy grows and develops.

Store your dog’s food in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and moisture. To maintain freshness and prevent contamination, use an airtight container or reseal the bag after every use.

To transition to a new dog food, mix a small amount of the new food with the old food and gradually increase the ratio of new to old food over 7 to 10 days. This will prevent gastrointestinal distress and refusal.

We hope this article has helped you find the best food for your German Shepherd puppy. If you have any questions, comments, or personal experiences with puppy diets for German Shepherds, please share them in the section below.

If you are interested in purchasing any of the products we have reviewed, please use the links provided to find the best prices and support our efforts. You can also read our additional articles on canine nutrition and care.

Thank you for reading, and enjoy your puppy’s meal!

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Dr. Barry Buttler

Dr. Barry Buttler, DVM, MS, DACVIM, is an experienced veterinarian who specializes in the care of small animals, specifically dogs. Dr. Barry K. Buttler is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and holds multiple certifications in small animal emergency medicine and geriatric pet health.

Veterinarian (DVM) Dr. Barry Buttler


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