Best Dog Food for German Shepherds: A Nutritionally Balanced Diet

Distinguished by their consistent reliability, excellent courage and great adaptability, German Shepherd Dogs are widely respected, admired and loved throughout the world.

German Shepherd Dogs, commonly abbreviated as GSD, are one of the most popular breeds in the world and widely utilized for their versatility, renowned for their intelligence, and loved for their devotion and loyalty toward their owners.

Originated in Germany, German Shepherds were initially used for herding and protecting sheep. They have great love for work and because of their keen sense of smell and amazing ability to work without getting distracted, they are now commonly used in various law enforcement agencies for search & rescue, as well as for tracking criminals.

German Shepherds are medium to large-sized dogs with strong muscular bodies. Because of their active lifestyle, which often involves an energy-consuming working routine, they have a large appetite for food.

To maintain their muscular health, they require a high-protein diet and completely depend on fat and carbohydrates in their meal for energy. They need to eat high-quality dog food to keep them sharp and healthy.

Due to the popularity of their breed, there are hundreds of commercialized dog food brands available in the market for German Shepherds, but the main question is “which brand should we trust and why?

So today, I am going to explore the possible options for best dog foods for German Shepherds and present two or three recommendations based on overall quality of dog food.


Our Picks for Best Dog Food for German Shepherds *

Note: Above ratings are based on our experience with the product and/or expert opinions. Click the link above to read customer reviews and see the current prices on Amazon.

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Nutritional Requirements of German Shepherds

German Shepherds are medium to large-sized dogs, usually 22-26 inches high and males usually weight between 66-88 lbs while their female dogs are slightly shorter and weight between 50-71 lbs.

Estimated Calorie Requirements for German Shepherds

As a relatively large dog, most of German Shepherds’ weight comes from solid muscles and strong bones. To support their physical health, athletic bodies and energetic lifestyle, they need protein-rich high-calorie diet.

The below calorie estimations are based on the average weight of the German Shepherd breed, which we estimated to be around 70 lbs. You must adjust the calorie requirement estimation depending on your dog’s weight, or better, consult with a veterinarian.

1250 Cal
Older GSD
1600 Cal
Typical Adult GSD
2100 Cal
Active/Working GSD

Note: Above estimated calorie requirements are primarily based on an average weight of German Shepherds. Before making any significant changes in your dog’s diet, please consult with your veterinarian.

To keep up on their physical and mental health while having an energetic and active lifestyle, National Research Council of the National Academies recommends a balanced diet of 1740-2100 calories per day for active and working dogs, while older and inactive dogs need less food and require between 1250-1550 calories per day.

An average adult German Shepherd dog needs to consume about 1600 calories daily to maintain his muscular health and body weight.

The breed is known for its large appetite, but they also have a fragile digestive system, which is why they should be fed only high-quality dog food and require constant monitoring for any side effects.

Just like people, excessive feeding will lead to many health related problems in German Shepherd dogs. They easily gain weight, which can lead to dental issues, obesity, bloat and even diabetes.


Micronutrient Requirements for German Shepherds

German Shepherd dogs are a bit different from most other dogs in terms of feeding practices.

Micronutrient Calorie Requirements for German Shepherds

Their puppies grow very quickly into 60-90 pound large dogs and, unlike other breeds, they are able to eat solid adult dog food in only 6 months and require relatively low protein and fat content in their daily diet.

It’s important to monitor their growth and feed them according to a nutritionally balanced diet plan with lots of exercises.


Eating proteins is important to rebuild muscle and maintain cellular structure.

Since German Shepherds have large muscular bodies, proteins play a vital role in their growth. That’s why they require a high-protein diet for healthy strong muscles, tissue repair and growth of strong bones.

Quality Protein Sources for German Shepherds

AAFCO recommends at least 18% of proteins in an average dog’s diet, while puppies and lactating mothers need a minimum of 22%.

Many nutritionists and experts recommend between 30-40% protein in a German Shepherd’s diet, while some German Shepherd enthusiasts encourage giving even more —as much as 40% or 50%. Research done by Dr. Dan Carey at Cornell University also advocates high-protein diet for dogs as it reduces physical injuries.

When looking at the proteins in a dog food, high quality protein sources are just as important as the amount of protein itself.

Meat is usually the main source of proteins in a German Shepherd’s diet and it’s your responsibility to make sure that it comes from lean sources, such as poultry, fish and beef, and not from meat by-products, bone or blood meals.


Fat is another source of energy in German Shepherds’ diet and it helps them keep their coats healthy and shiny.

According to AAFCO, adult dogs need at least 5% of fat in their daily diets, while puppies need a minimum of 8%. Almost every dog food contains more than the minimum required fat though, as it is added to enhance the flavor.

Ideally, a dog food containing 15-30% of fat should be good enough for your German Shepherd dog to keep him in robust health.

Vitamins and Minerals

Quality Vitamins and Minerals Sources for German Shepherds

A high-quality dog food always comes with a good amount of vitamins and minerals.

Vitamins help your dog maintain its healthy coat, preserve its immune system and prevent many behavioral problems, while minerals help with anemia and various bodily functions.

You must look for a dog food that contains lots of vegetables and fruits, as they are main source of vitamins and minerals. The more variety, the better.

Milk, eggs, liver and vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and green beans all provide enough vitamins and minerals for a dog’s diet.


Carbohydrates are an essential part of any dog’s balanced meal as they are the main source of energy. A diet that provides sufficient amount of carbohydrates will keep your dog’s body from eating its own muscles.

Grains are the primary source of carbohydrates and, unlike any other dogs, German Shepherds are good with wheat-based carbohydrates and other grains as they don’t usually show symptoms of wheat-based allergies.

However, it’s recommended to avoid wheat, corn and soy based carbohydrates in general because they are not easily digestible. On the other hand, sweet potatoes, barley, rice and oats are easily digestible grains and a great source of carbohydrates.

Peas are also a quality source of carbohydrates and rich in fibers.


Water for German Shepherds

Nutritionally balanced food is not the only necessary part of a dog’s diet to keep him healthy. Fresh and clean drinking water is also a very important part of your dog’s daily requirements.

Fresh & clean water is necessary to flush toxins out of your German Shepherd’s body, to aid digestion and absorb nutrients, while it also helps maintain a constant body temperature.

Due to their high energy levels and working lifestyles, German Shepherds lose a substantial amount of water from their body. If they remain thirsty for long, they can quickly become dehydrated and can die.

That’s why it’s important, for your German Shepherd’s health, to have access to clean and fresh water at all times. With the regular supply, they will be able to maintain the appropriate water balance in their body by drinking water whenever they need.

Drinking excess water is harmful for large dogs like German Shepherds, as it is known to cause bloat, which is fatal. Dogs suffering from bloat only have a 50% chance of survival.


Ingredients to avoid in dog food

German Shepherds have a large appetite and they can eat pretty much anything they are given, but there are some ingredients which do not sit well with them.

Before purchasing a dog food from the market, pay close attention to the top 5 ingredients and make sure none of them comes from low-quality meats and grains.

Ingredients to Avoid in Dog Food

First, check for any meat by-products in top ingredients. If a particular dog food contains meat by-product as its main source of protein, avoid it, since it is the lowest form of meat proteins and not at all healthy for dogs. Meat by-products contain animal parts that are not considered good for human consumption and sometimes even come from dead animals or expired supermarket meat.

The meat proteins must come from whole meat or better, meat meals which is essentially the same as meat, only without water. It has nearly 300% more protein than fresh meat.

Another thing to avoid in dog food is bone meal (or bone manure) as it is essentially a mixture of finely and coarsely ground animal bones and slaughter-house waste products. It is commonly used as an organic fertilizer for plants and is toxic for dogs to consume.

Also avoid foods that contain fillers like corn syrup and soy. Fillers are ingredients with zero calories and zero nutrients, as they provide very little to none nutrition to a dog. They pass right through a dog’s stomach and cause many gastric problems and allergies.

Food containing artificial preservatives, colors and flavors must be avoided as these are well known to cause many allergic reactions in German Shepherd dogs.


Common Health Problems in German Shepherds

German Shepherds are normally fit, healthy dogs with an average lifespan, but there are certain health issues they are prone to catching more often than other dogs.

We are only going to discuss some of the health issues and diseases here, ones that can be controlled and avoided by feeding high-quality dog food to your dog and giving it lots of exercise.


Bloat in German Shepherds

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus, commonly referred to as bloat, is a serious health issue and life-threatening medical condition for large deep-chested dogs, such as the German Shepherd dogs.

It’s basically a condition when a dog’s stomach fills with gas, food, or fluids, making it expand like a balloon and rendering it unable to escape gases. In some cases, the dog’s stomach will rotate or twist.

It is a fatal condition which, if not immediately treated by a veterinarian, can be life-threatening. Bloat is leading cause of death in dogs after cancer.

To help prevent bloat, it is best to feed a dog at least 2 small meals a day, instead of a single, large meal. Restrict the amount of water your dog can drink immediately after eating. Also avoid any type of exercise an hour before or after meals.

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia is the most common health condition in large dogs and it can be genetic as well as environmentally influenced. It is basically a joint problem in hips and elbows, and is considered the mother of all orthopedic diseases.

Dysplasia is a pretty serious condition and can get even worse if the dog is overweight or obese.

It can be treated by feeding nutritionally balanced food to the dog and having it do light exercises with less pressure on the affected joints. Keeping weight under control is the best remedy to avoid Dysplasia in German Shepherd dogs.

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia in German Shepherds

Other common health conditions that can affect your German Shepherds:

  • Cherry Eye: Health condition in German Shepherds caused by weakened tissues in the tear gland, resulting in the gland popping out in a cherry-like shape on the dog’s eye.
  • Intervertebral Disk Disease: A Back Problem in dogs.
  • Pyloric Stenosis: A Stomach Disease commonly confused with bloat.
  • Epilepsy: A genetic condition that can cause seizures in dogs.


Feeding Schedule for German Shepherd Puppies and Adults

German Shepherd puppies grow and mature very quickly, which is why monitoring their growth and switching to proper dog food at the right time is very important for their health.

Feeding Schedule for German Shepherds Puppies

Dam’s milk is the best diet for puppies younger than 3-4 weeks. At around 4 weeks of age, they can begin to transition from nursing to eating solid food.

Now they are old enough to eat and digest wet food, but are still not ready for solid food. You can now feed them dry puppy food, soaked with warm water and milk. Puppies need to eat at least 3-4 times a day.

At 8 weeks of age, you can slowly transition toward feeding your puppy solid food. This is the phase where your puppy’s growth will be rapid and it will gain weight very quickly.

To provide sufficient energy for the rapid growth of their bodies and bones, puppies should eat dry puppy food mixed with raw liver pieces. Pet owners should be discouraged from using the free-choice feeding method.

As soon as German Shepherd puppies turn 6 month old, they should be shifted toward high-quality adult dog food twice a day. Free feeding should not be allowed and occasional treats should be offered for training only.

When transitioning from one food to another, it’s important to do it gradually over a course of 7-10 days to avoid any stomach upsets. Both new and old food should be mixed well together with the newer brand’s ratio increasing every day.

Transitioning or Switching Your Dog to a New Dog Food


Top Recommendation

Merrick Classic Adult Real Beef


Merrick Classic Adult Real Beef

Merrick Classic Adult Real Beef is one of the best dog foods available for large dogs like German Shepherds. It has all the necessary ingredients for a nutritionally balanced diet.

Merrick is high in protein (35%) and most of it comes from deboned beef and pork meal. Beef makes 60% of this food and the rest of it is fresh produce and whole grains in equal parts.

It contains 30% fat, 35% carbs and 3.9% fibers. Barley and brown rice are the main sources of carbs.

I like the fact the Merrick is packed with lots of vegetables and fruit, such as peas, carrots, apples, blueberries and alfalfa.

Merrick Classic Adult Real Beef is an ideal choice for German Shepherds as it fulfills all the nutritional requirements of a balanced diet. It also does not contain any types of artificial preservatives, colors or flavors.

Overall, it is a great option for German Shepherds and we highly recommend it.

Our Analysis

  • High Protein Content
  • Lots of Meat
  • Lots of Moisture
  • No Added Salt and Sugar
  • No Synthetic Ingredients & Chemicals
  • No Fillers
  • Slightly High Fat Content
  • Organic Alfalfa (High in Plant Protein)

Merrick Classic Adult Real Beef is a meat-based dry dog food which uses beef and pork as its main sources of animal protein. It earns our 5 stars rating and a highly recommended dog food status for German Shepherds.

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Worth Mentioning

Fromm Grain Free Beef Frittata


Fromm Grain Free Beef Frittata

Fromm Grain Free Beef Frittata is just another great dog food for German Shepherds.

Although it contains a little less (31%) protein than Merrick Classic, all the protein comes from high-quality sources. Beef is the main source of protein along with beef liver, whole eggs and pork meat meal.

Fromm does not have any low-quality protein sources such as meat by-products or bone meal.

Since it is grain-free, it does not have ingredients like wheat, corn and soy. Most of the carbohydrates come from sweet potatoes and peas. Plus, they’re rich in natural fiber.

In addition to that, it has a lot of vegetables and fruit like carrots, apples, broccoli, green beans, cauliflower and cranberries. These are great sources of various vitamins and minerals for your German Shepherd’s physical and mental health.

Our Analysis

  • High Protein Content
  • Grain Free Food
  • Lots of Meat
  • Lots of Vegetables & Fruits
  • No Added Salt and Sugar
  • No Synthetic Ingredients & Chemicals
  • High Fat Content
  • Tomato Pomace (low nutritional filler)
  • Pea Flour (low nutrition)

Fromm Grain Free Beef Frittata is a grain-free meat-based dry dog food which uses beef, eggs and pork as its main sources of animal protein. It earns our 5 stars rating and also receives a highly recommended status for German Shepherds.

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When buying a dog food for your German Shepherds, always choose a premium and high-quality dog food. Buying premium dog food ensures that the ingredients are high-quality and not just by-products to fulfill the minimum level of required nutrition.

Along with nutritionally balanced food, your pup also requires regular exercise to release the excess energy or it’s sure to become overweight.

Feeding a balanced healthy food will not only improve the quality of your dog’s life, but also increase the lifespan and save you a substantial amount of money in vet bills.

Looking for more articles like this? Read our detailed guide on feeding a Boxer and dog food for Beagles.

Merrick Classic Adult Real Beef Dog Food was reviewed by Brian Hersh on Jan 03, 2016.

*Disclaimer: Our review on dog foods is based mostly on our expertise and the experts/veterinarians we consulted with and the information provided by the manufacturers. We do test many dog foods, but it’s not possible to test them all. As such, please remember the above recommendations are our opinions, and before making any changes in your dog’s diet, please consult with a local veterinarian.

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  1. Will Boyle

    We also use merrick classic too and our dog seems to love it so much that he finishes his food within 5 mins, tops. In past we had tried several other brands including switching to raw food but none of it made food interesting for him. Luckily our vet suggested merrick to us and I am glad we listen to him. Initially we thought he was just trying to promote a brand he get good commission from and probably he did but I am happy as long as our dog is happy and enjoys his food.

    1. Thanks Will for your feedback.
      Yes, we also found Merrick good for our dog. He likes it very much. 🙂

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