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Best Dog Foods For German Shepherds: Puppies, Adults & Seniors

Emma Braby

Last Updated: April 19, 2020 | 11 min read

Best Dog Food For German Shepherds

German Shepherds are the second most popular dog breed in America, but with so many of them about it is believed that less than 10% of dog owners are confident about their pup’s nutritional needs. And this is where we come in! We have compiled a guide full of important information about the German Shepherd’s nutritional needs, how different foods are appropriate across all age ranges, and all of this research has meant that we can offer you recommendations for natural dry dog food, and amongst our recommendations, you will undoubtedly find the perfect food for your German Shepherd.

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) have put forward guidelines regarding nutritional content in dog food, and all reputable manufacturers produce food that follow this guideline, and all of our recommendations in this guide follow this as a minimum too. 

So, if you are about to welcome a German Shepherd puppy into your home, or you already have a German Shepherd who needs a change in diet, you have come to the right place! So, grab yourself a coffee and stick with us to learn all the important information you need to know about the nutritional needs of the German Shepherd.

At a Glance: Our Favorite Foods For German Shepherds

Puppies: Blue Buffalo Wilderness Puppy Formula
Adults: Orijen Adult Formula
Seniors: Blue Buffalo Life Protection

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German Shepherd Puppy Nutrients

All puppies need extra nutrients to help them grow, and they grow super quick within the first 8 months of their lives. They then continue to grow up until the age of 18 months, but at a much steadier rate. He needs the best quality nutrients to make sure he not only develops properly, but it will also help him to reduce the chances of having predisposed health issues.  You also want to make sure your pup has the nutrients it needs to help keep their coats nice and shiny.  Regardless if you have a white german shepherd, black coated GSD, or a GSD with a fluffy coat, you’ll need to make sure you are using a high-quality food to keep their coats soft and shiny.

He specifically needs high-quality kibble that is specifically aimed at large breed puppies, as they have a higher number of calories, carbohydrates and calcium levels which will provide his growing body and bones with everything that it needs. Standard puppy kibble which is aimed at dogs of all sizes may not contain enough nutrients that this big boy needs so it is important to feed him food for large breeds.

Ideally, German Shepherd puppies should have 500 calories a day which gradually increases to around 1,600 once he reaches around 15 months old. The kibble should include a protein content anywhere between 18% and 22% and a fat content between 8% to 12%. Be sure not to feed your German Shepherd puppy any calcium supplements as too much calcium can increase the chances of both Elbow and Hip Dysplasia in later life, so the puppy formula will have just the right amount in it.

Adult German Shepherd Nutrients

Adult German Shepherds also need age-appropriate food, so it is important that when he reaches the age of 15 months or so, he should be transitioned from a large breed puppy formula to adult formula as his nutrient requirements change (see our transitional feeding table below). A high-quality adult kibble should include 18% to 24% protein and around 14% fat content.

Similar to the Siberian Husky’s food needs, an average adult German Shepherd should consume anywhere between 1,700 calories and 2,400 calories a day, dependent on his size and energy levels. If he is a less active German Shepherd or an elderly German Shepherd, then he will need much less energy, and he should only consume between 1,300 and 1,600 calories.  

Both adult and puppy German Shepherds generally do better on grain-free kibble as they are commonly allergic, or intolerant to, grains and most Veterinarians would suggest putting your pup on this straight away to save any dietary upset or the need to change his diet in the future. However, not all owners and experts agree on a totally grain-free diet, so this is a personal choice as there are pros and cons to each argument, so therefore we have included a mix of grain-free and grain inclusive recommendations.

Senior German Shepherd Nutrients

As German Shepherds age, they start to lose mobility in certain areas of their body, most notably their rear legs and rear joints.  Hip dysplasia is very common in this breed due to their gait and how they are genetically built.  As your GSD ages, it will require different nutrients than as an adult or as a puppy.  Most GSD’s aren’t prone to getting overweight because the breed is so active, but this is still something that should be monitored.

As your German Shepherd ages, it’s also possible that your vet may advise you to put your pup on a high fiber dog food, or a food that’s specifically made for sensitive stomachs.  Things that your GSD used to eat may no longer be tolerable for your pup as they age, so you’ll want to monitor any potential health issues that may arise with their diet.


Best Foods For German Shepherd Puppies

Best Foods For German Shepherd Puppies
German Shepherd puppies have very different nutrition requirements from adults and seniors.

Below are five of our natural dry dog kibble recommendations that are made from natural ingredients, and all have the best overall nutritional content as guided by the AAFCO. We have also considered the overall product rating given by dog owners across the world, as well as the reputation of each brand, so that you know you are choosing the best products from expert companies.

 
Royal Canin
Eukanuba Puppy
Blue Buffalo
Taste of The Wild
Science Diet
Protein
28%
26%
36%
28%
24.5%
Fats
14%
14%
16%
17%
12%
Fiber
3.8%
3.7%
5%
5%
3%
Moisture
10%
10%
10%
10%
10%
Kcal/Cup
331
357
423
334
373

Royal Canin GSD Puppy Formula

Royal Canin German Shepherd Puppy Breed...
  • Royal Canin German Shepherd Puppy dry dog food is designed to...
  • Exclusive kibble shape designed specifically for a German...
  • Helps protect a puppy’s developing immune system and natural...
  • Aids digestive health with highly digestible proteins and...

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This kibble has been specifically designed with the German Shepherd puppy in mind. It has highly digestible proteins and specific fibers that maintains his digestive health, which will aid his soft stools. Glucosamine and chondroitin also support healthy bones and joints as your puppy grows into a big boy. It has a variety of antioxidants and minerals, such as Vitamin E which help to develop his immune system, as well as Taurine which keeps his heart healthy.

We love that the biscuits are designed specifically for a German Shepherd pup, whose mouth is smaller than an adult, and the smaller shape encourages chewing and slows down his eating, and therefore he is less likely to experience bloat.


Eukanuba Puppy Formula

Eukanuba Puppy Large Breed Dry Dog Food, 33...
  • Eukanuba Puppy Large Breed dry dog food is complete and balanced...
  • Supports muscle growth and bone health in active pups with...
  • Supports healthy brain development with clinically proven levels...
  • Provides concentrated energy from fat and carbohydrate levels...

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This kibble has been specifically designed for large breed puppies who will exceed 55 pounds on maturity – which the German Shepherd definitely will. It has the optimal level of calcium and phosphorus to ensure that his joints and bones have the best nutrients to reduce the chances of him developing Elbow and Hip Dysplasia in later life. It also boasts clinically proven DHA levels for their brain development, which will encourage smarter and more trainable puppies.

We love that the first ingredient is chicken, so you know that this high-quality kibble has the very best protein source.


Blue Buffalo Natural Puppy Formula

Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain...
  • PACKED WITH REAL CHICKEN: A recipe made to satisfy your puppy’s...
  • GRAIN FREE PUPPY FOOD: BLUE Wilderness grain free puppy food is...
  • WITH LIFESOURCE BITS: This formula contains BLUE’s exclusive...
  • NATURAL DOG FOOD: BLUE dry dog food is formulated for the health...

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Blue Buffalo have created this puppy food with the finest natural protein ingredients to promote strong muscle growth, and it is 100% grain-free for German Shepherd puppies who suffer with grain allergies. It also includes fatty acids such as DHA and ARA, which are also found in his mothers’ milk, which supports cognitive development and eye health. It’s ingredients also include Taurine and L-carnitine, which support cardiac health.

We love that Blue Buffalo have infused this kibble with their own ‘Lifesource Bits’ that not only add extra vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which are great for your puppy’s health, but they are packed full of flavor too!


Taste of the Wild Puppy Formula

Taste of the Wild Grain Free High Protein...
  • A Taste of the Wild with roasted bison & venison; real meat is #1...
  • High quality protein recipe with smaller kibble; tailored for...
  • Ingredients from TRUSTED, SUSTAINABLE sources around the world;...
  • High protein ingredients with added vitamins & minerals; nutrient...

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Taste of the Wild offer what it says on the tin (or package!), as it really is a taste of the wild. With Bison being the first ingredient, it offers rich protein that is important for strong muscle growth as well as being high in amino acids. The kibble is designed to be smaller for puppies, but it is still packed with antioxidants and DHA, which are important for cognitive development and vision. It is 100% grain free for those pups with allergies and it is full of canine probiotics which make it highly digestible.

We love that it is based on his wild ancestor’s diet that is high in natural and tasty protein that your German Shepherd puppy will love.


Science Diet Puppy Formula

Hill's Science Diet Dry Dog Food, Puppy,...
  • A large breed puppy food specially made with an optimal level of...
  • Uses a balanced set of minerals to promote strong bones and teeth...
  • Uses DHA from fish oil to support healthy brain and eye...
  • High-quality protein helps your large pup build and maintain lean...

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More than 220 canine nutrition professionals have created Hill’s Science Diet. The puppy kibble has the optimal level of calcium for controlled bone growth, which is important for the German Shepherd and his Dysplasia issues. It has fish oil that provides your pup with the nutrients he needs for brain and eye development. It is made with 100% natural ingredients, it has no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives in it, but it does have added vitamins and amino acids for your pup’s development.

We love that this is voted as the Number 1 dry dog food by Veterinarian’s across America – so you know this kibble must be something special!


Best Foods For Adult German Shepherds

Dog Food For Adult German Shepherds
Adult German Shepherds should have less nutrient-dense food and will have different protein needs.

Just like our puppy food recommendations above, the below choices for your adult German Shepherd are based on natural dry food ingredients, with the best overall nutritional content that follows the AAFCO guidelines.  Your Adult German Shepherd will need a higher calorie count than they did as a puppy, but the food shouldn’t be as nutrient-dense.  If you continue the puppy formula as an adult, you’ll be likely to have an overweight pup on your hand.  As your Adult graduates, below are some of our favorite foods for your German Shepherd Adult.

 
Royal Canin
Diamond Naturals
Blue Buffalo
Orijen Adult
Instinct Adult
Protein
22%
22%
30%
38%
37%
Fats
17%
12%
15%
18%
20.5%
Fiber
5.5%
5%
6%
4%
4%
Moisture
10%
10%
10%
12%
9%
Kcal/Cup
321
320
393
449
491

Royal Canin GSD Adult Formula

Royal Canin German Shepherd Adult Breed...
  • Royal Canin German Shepherd Adult dry dog food is designed to...
  • Exclusive kibble shape designed specifically for a German...
  • Aids digestive health with highly digestible proteins and...
  • Supports healthy skin and coat with EPA and DHA from fish oil and...

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Royal Canin, just like their puppy food, have developed this with the adult German Shepherd specifically in mind. It is designed for his digestive health with specific fibers that aid his unique digestive system and stool softness. With fish oil and DHA he will have a healthy and shiny coat, as well as maintaining his strong and healthy bones thanks to glucosamine and chondroitin. Taurine is on the ingredient list too which means his heart will receive the amino acids that it needs.

We love that the biscuits are designed specifically for the German Shepherd, whose muzzle is long and strong, and the shape encourages chewing and slows down his eating, and therefore he is less likely to experience bloat.


Diamond Naturals Adult Dog Food

Diamond Naturals Adult Large Breed Real Meat...
  • HIGH quality PROTEIN made with real PASTURE RAISED lamb; tailored...
  • Premium ingredients with added vitamins & minerals; SUPERFOODS...
  • Nutrient rich and HIGHLY DIGESTIBLE with PROPRIETARY PROBIOTICS...
  • FAMILY OWNED & run, MADE in the USA choosing ingredients from...

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Diamond Naturals’ recipe is enhanced with nutrients and superfoods, such as kale, papaya and blueberries, for optimal nutrition. It is also boasts a guaranteed 80 million colony forming units of live probiotic cultures, per pound of kibble, which is great for the German Shepherd’s digestive system. Lamb meal is the first ingredient on the list, which supports his strong muscles for this working and energetic dog.

We love that it has active and live probiotics that aids the German Shepherds particularly sensitive digestive system.


Blue Buffalo Wilderness Adult Formula

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Rocky Mountain Recipe...
  • PACKED WITH REAL BEEF: A recipe inspired by the Rocky Mountains,...
  • GRAIN FREE DOG FOOD: BLUE Wilderness grain free adult dog food is...
  • WITH LIFESOURCE BITS: This formula contains BLUE’s exclusive...
  • NATURAL DOG FOOD: BLUE dry dog food is formulated for the health...

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Blue Buffalo have created this recipe inspired by the German Shepherd’s ancestor, the wolf, and his protein rich diet which promotes strong muscle growth. It is 100% grain free for German Shepherds who suffer with grain allergies. It has healthy carbohydrates such as sweet potato and peas that will keep his energy up throughout the day. It also includes omega 3 and 6 fatty acids which promote a healthy and shiny coat, as well as their exclusive ‘Lifesource Bits’ that provide your German Shepherd with a precise blend of antioxidants and minerals to provide a healthy oxidative balance.

We love that the Bison, Rabbit and Red Meat recipes are chicken and poultry free, and grain free, as some German Shepherds can be intolerant of chicken which is regularly found in dog food.


Orijen Adult  Dog Food

ORIJEN Dry Dog Food, Original, Biologically...
  • ORIJEN Original dog food delivers a diet rich and varied in...
  • With 85% quality animal ingredients, ORIJEN nourishes dogs...
  • Using fresh and raw animal ingredients, including meat, organs,...
  • Our Fresh Regional Ingredients are supplied by people we know and...

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This protein rich recipe is one of the richest around, with 85% of the ingredients being poultry, fish or egg products. Approximately two thirds of the meat content in this recipe are all fresh or raw, meaning that your German Shepherd will be getting his nutrients in the most nourishing form. It is 100% grain and gluten free and it is packed with a variety of fruit and vegetables to provide your German Shepherd with his vitamins and minerals. It also comes in three different flavors; the Original, Regional Red and Six Fish, so if you have a fussy pooch then there a few choices for him to choose from, and all of their recipes have whole fish in which helps to maintain a healthy heart.

We love that this is biologically appropriate, in that the recipe is based on a ‘whole prey’ diet that mirrors the ratio of a wild diet. It incorporates a balance of meat, organs, bones and cartilage, and while that might not sound too appealing to you, your German Shepherd will love it!


Instinct Raw Boost Adult Formula

Instinct Raw Boost Grain Free Recipe with...
  • GRAIN FREE DOG FOOD WITH FREEZE DRIED RAW CAGE FREE CHICKEN:...
  • NATURAL DOG FOOD PLUS FREEZE DRIED RAW PIECES: Raw Boost is high...
  • THE FIRST RAW BOOSTED KIBBLE: Raw Boost mixes high protein, grain...
  • POWER OF RAW INGREDIENTS: Our dog food is made with the pure,...

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This recipe is made without grain, potatoes, by-product meals, corn, wheat, soy, artificial colors or preservatives. Only 100% natural ingredients are used with bites of freeze-dried raw chicken, which not only adds high protein for your German Shepherd’s strong muscles, but extra tasty bits to keep him interested. It is packed with extra nutrients and antioxidants which not only boosts your pup’s immune system, but also keeps his digestive system in tip top condition.

We love that this recipe boasts of being the first kibble with raw toppers included, so you are getting two for one in this bag of kibble!


Best Foods For Senior German Shepherds

Senior German Shepherd Food Needs
Senior German Shepherd pups have different food needs than adults or puppies.

Is your Senior German Shepherd Overweight? Has your pup started to get a sensitive stomach as they have gotten older? As your best friend continues to age, their nutritional needs are going to change.  While German Shepherd dogs aren’t typically prone to being overweight, any breed can put on extra pounds without the right amount of exercise as they age.  It’s also possible that your pup develops a more sensitive stomach, so your vet may recommend a food designed to aid your pup in proper digestion.


Blue Buffalo Life Protection

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Healthy...
  • REAL MEAT FIRST: Blue Buffalo foods always feature real meat as...
  • WEIGHT MANAGEMENT DOG FOOD: Formulated with reduced calories from...
  • WITH LIFESOURCE BITS: This formula contains BLUE’s exclusive...
  • A NATURAL DOG FOOD: BLUE dry dog foods are made with the finest...

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In order for your German Shepherd to lose weight, or simply maintain it if he is less active, then feeding him a natural dry dog kibble with less fat content than normal kibbles is your best bet, and Blue Buffalo offer the perfect solution. Follow the package guidelines closely and be sure to continue his exercise as directed by the Veterinarian, as he still needs to be active to lose that extra fat.

Weight control will not only help to reduce the risk of heart disease, but it will also decrease the pressure on his hip and elbow joints. So, if he is a bit on the chunky side feeding him a less calorific diet will benefit his health significantly.


Science Diet Sensitive Stomach Formula

Hill's Science Diet Dry Dog Food, Adult,...
  • This adult dry dog food promotes digestive health while...
  • A source of prebiotic fiber to support a balanced gut microbiome...
  • This dog food is formulated to be highly digestible for optimal...
  • Packed with vitamin E & Omega-6 fatty acids to help your grown...

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Does your German Shepherd suffer from sensitive skin or a sensitive stomach? Hill’s kibble for sensitive skin and sensitive stomachs is the perfect recipe for both problems. As the German Shepherd has a sensitive gut and digestive system this offers a gentle recipe of probiotic fibers. It is also grain free which often is the best recipe for dogs with allergies, and it is packed full of omega-6 fatty acids and vitamins that nourish his skin and fur for a healthy coat. It is voted by Veterinarians across America as the best kibble for dogs with specific needs, as the recipe really is based on science. When you pair the right food for sensitive skin, with the right shampoo, you’ll have a quick fix for many skin-related issues.


Never Feed Your GSD These

You should never allow your beloved pooch to eat the following food and drink products:

  • Chocolate: this contains theobromine, which is extremely toxic to dogs.
  • Candy and Gum: these contain sweeteners made from xylitol which can be fatal.
  • Grapes and Raisins: these cause kidney failure very quickly, so keep them out of reach.
  • Onions and Garlic: eating these in any form, either raw, power or paste, will cause anemia.
  • Tomatoes: these can affect his cardiac system very quickly.
  • Avocado: the whole avocado is poisonous to dogs.
  • Caffeinated Drinks, such as Coffee and Soda: caffeine can be deadly to a dog in any amount.
  • Alcohol: this is poisonous to your pup’s liver and brain, so keep it out of reach.

Final Thoughts

The German Shepherd is prone to certain health conditions, but this can all be alleviated by the right nutrition, so it is important to get it right. Puppy and adult German Shepherds have different nutritional requirements, so you will need to choose one dry kibble from each of our lists. However, once you do get the combination right you will see that your German Shepherd is a happy and healthy dog, all thanks to the nutritional decisions you make for him.

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