The German Shepherd is easily one of the most energetic and endearing dog breeds around.
They have many good qualities which contribute to their overall popularity, but you probably know this already.
Instead, let’s talk a little bit about proper canine nutrition. Mealtime is actually one of the most important times of the day and is great for bonding with your pet.
A good diet will enable your German Shepherd to live a long and healthy life. With that in mind, let’s look at eight of the best dog foods that we could find online.
At a Glance: Our Top 8 Picks
Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein
Diamond Naturals Dry Food for Adult Dogs
Instinct Raw Boost Grain-Free Dog Food
Blue Buffalo is easily one of the most respected brands on the market, and there are plenty of reasons for that
When it comes to a price-per-pound basis, this food came in at the top of the list
Wild dogs never cooked their food. As such, there is a lot of appeal in the idea of feeding raw foods to our canine friends.
Made with whole chicken instead of by-products
Quite cheap when compared to the others
Made with whole freeze-dried raw chicken
Possible shelf life issues
Might be some concerns with spoilage or salmonella
Best Overall Product
Blue Buffalo is easily one of the most respected brands on the market, and there are plenty of reasons for that.
Although this product is not going to be easy on your wallet, it offers many benefits for your canine friend.
Like all other products made by this company, everything is sourced from organic and natural substances with a bare minimum of processing.
This alone is probably the main explanation for the brand’s good reputation.
We like the fact that this food is made with real chicken. Most of the time, dog food is made with meat by-products that are purchased cheaply from slaughterhouses.
These companies don’t take a lot of care with their waste products, so the risk of contamination is greater.
On the other hand, Blue Buffalo has a pretty good track record for being truthful about this kind of thing, which is always a plus.
This dog food contains generous amounts of chondroitin and glucosamine, two substances that have been proven to improve bone/joint health in dogs and humans.
- Made with whole chicken instead of by-products
- No grains whatsoever
- “Lifesource” bits give extra nutrients
- The manufacturer is well-regarded by most
- Chondroitin and glucosamine for joint health
- Slightly expensive
- Some dogs will avoid the “life source bits”
Best Budget Product
When it comes to a price-per-pound basis, this food came in at the top of the list. It offers most of the features that a responsible dog owner would want, and it offers them at a pretty reasonable price.
Of course, it should be noted that our list only includes high-end dog foods, so this is still more expensive than most.
However, we have done things this way because this article is intended for those who want to give their dog the best.
Apart from its great value, dogs seem to like the taste of this food very well. It’s sourced from beef meal, which means that it is coming from a by-product.
However, dogs don’t seem to mind that fact. As long as the ingredients are pure and processed cleanly, you probably have nothing about which to worry.
This food has a high level of omega fatty acids, which are good for various things.
Their anti-aging properties are well-documented, and numerous reviewers have said that it helped their dog re-grow lost hair or whiskers.
We also like that it contains some probiotic enzymes that help your dog maintain optimal gut health.
When we look for complaints, we find two: One minor and one major. The minor complaint is gas, AKA flatulence.
Some say this stuff will cause terrible odors, but that is only an annoyance. We are far more concerned with the reports of a moldy product being delivered to online customers.
Although these reviews are a small minority of the whole, they are too consistent to ignore.
We recommend that you not buy this brand through the mail and discard it immediately if your dog refuses to eat or becomes ill after eating.
Again, most buyers reported no such problems, but it never hurts to play it safe.
- Quite cheap when compared to the others
- Plenty of omega fatty acids
- Contains probiotics for gut health
- Most report new hair growth
- Dogs love the beefy taste
- Possible shelf life issues
- Some report issues with gas
Best Grain-Free Option
Wild dogs never cooked their food. As such, there is a lot of appeal in the idea of feeding raw foods to our canine friends.
Sure, we humans can’t usually eat raw meat without getting sick, but dogs don’t have that problem.
That brings us to the most distinctive feature of this product: It contains pieces of a whole chicken that have been freeze-dried while raw.
Because the chicken has never been cooked, it has not experienced the nutrient loss that normally occurs when something is heated.
The idea behind freeze-drying is to preserve the item and lock in its nutrients without using heat.
According to the analysis, this one has plenty of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and omega fatty acids. We will go over the benefits of these substances in greater detail later.
This one is very high in protein, coming in at 36%. This makes it the highest-protein food on our list, but we aren’t sure about its fat content.
We don’t see a guaranteed analysis on the label, and that could be a bad sign. In addition, because it contains no known source of carbs, we are concerned that this food won’t have enough for an active dog.
More importantly, dog food made from raw chicken bits will naturally be more vulnerable to spoilage and contamination. We recommend using this as a secondary treat rather than a primary diet.
- Made with whole freeze-dried raw chicken
- No grains, potatoes, corn, wheat, or soy
- Plenty of antioxidants and omega fatty acids
- Can be mixed with water to make a nice gravy
- Very high in protein (36%)
- Might be some concerns with spoilage or salmonella
- May contain insufficient carbohydrates for an active dog
Best with Deer Meat
This is the only product on our list that contains venison (deer meat), and it is blended with turkey to create a tasty and enticing mix.
We should note that both of these meats tend to be quite lean, so this food should be a good choice for dogs that need to lose weight. They will get plenty of protein without a large amount of fat in the bargain.
This one is sourced from corn and meal, but they do at least avoid using food industry by-products. They might not be using whole meat, but at least it comes from a trustworthy source.
We can’t really expect more because this food is priced more reasonably than most high-end brands. Thus, it’s a great middle-shelf option for those who can’t afford the premium choices.
This dog food is relatively soft, and the darker-colored bits are even softer. As such, older dogs should find it easier on their teeth and gums than most others.
If you add a little bit of liquid and let it sit for a few minutes, it becomes almost as moist as canned food.
At the same time, we don’t like seeing soy flour on that list, as there is no reason for it to be there. We do understand why they included glucosamine, as it’s good for bones and joints.
But, at the same time, there isn’t enough there to make much of a difference.
- Good mix of deer and turkey meat
- Price is reasonable for a high-end brand
- Not sourced from the food industry by-products
- Easy for dogs to chew
- Plenty of protein without much fat
- Should not include soy flour
- Not enough glucosamine to help anything
Best Breed Specific Dog Food
Royal Canin German Shepherd dog food is a breed-specific food specially designed to meet all the nutritional needs of your purebred German Shepherd, who is 15 months of age and older.
It features an exclusive kibble shape designed for the German Shepherd’s long muzzle and encourages chewing.
This dry dog food contains highly digestible proteins and fibers to promote optimal stool quality and aid digestion.
In addition, this dog food for German Shepherds supports healthy skin and coats because it contains EPA and DHA from fish oil.
These reinforce the barrier of the skin, providing it with the essential nutrients it needs.
Furthermore, this dog food also helps maintain your dog’s bone and joint health. This is because it contains glucosamine and chondroitin that are often used to support strong bodies.
- Unique kibble shape that encourages chewing
- Targets the breed’s specific dietary needs
- Provides complete and balanced nutrition
- Promotes a shiny and smooth coat
- Much higher price point compared to similar brands
Best for Sensitive Stomachs
Purina is a household name when it comes to the top dog food brands. Purina Pro Plan for large breeds is ideal for dogs who have sensitive stomachs and skin.
The food is made with real salmon as the first ingredient and is fortified with live probiotics to encourage digestive and immune health.
This dry dog food for German Shepherds also contains an oat meal that is easily digestible and gentle on your pup’s digestive system.
The natural prebiotic fiber nourishes specific intestinal bacteria for healthy digestion, and the sunflower oil is rich in omega 6 fatty acids to promote a shiny coat and healthy skin.
It also helps with joint health and mobility.
This product is made without corn, wheat, or soy products, making it a great addition to your dog’s diet.
- Helps with sensitive stomachs and dogs with digestive issues
- Good food for a dog with food allergies
- Promotes a healthy and shiny coat
- Helps eliminate hot spots for some dogs
- Food has a strong salmon smell
- Higher price point
Best Protein-Rich Dog Food
If you are looking for a protein-packed dog food option for your growing German Shepherd, then Wellness Core grain-free dog food is a good choice.
This food contains deboned turkey, turkey meal, chicken meal, peas, dried ground potatoes, lentils, chicken fat, and other nutritious and delicious ingredients your adult dog or puppy needs.
This advanced nutrition formula is balanced with nutrient-rich superfoods that offer your dog a complete and balanced diet. The taste is also something your dog will love as it is savory.
It promotes leaner body mass and muscle tone because of the high concentration of protein.
The inclusion of omega fatty acids comes from the flaxseed and salmon oil and supports healthy skin and coats.
This dog food provides whole-body health with antioxidants, glucosamine, probiotics, and even taurine for heart health.
Finally, it contains no meat by-products, fillers, artificial preservatives, or flavors, making it the ideal food if your dog has food allergies or experiences any stomach sensitivity issues.
- Provides balanced nutrition
- Promotes healthy skin and coats
- Good for sensitive stomachs
- High concentration of protein with no meat by-products
- Some dogs don’t care for the taste
- Not recommended for dogs with weight problems
Best Food for German Shepherd Puppy
We didn’t want to finish off our review of the best dog food for German Shepherds without including at least one option for a German Shepherd puppy.
This puppy food offers your pup complete and balanced nutrition up to 15 months old.
This German Shepherd puppy food supports muscle growth and bone health in active puppies and provides them with high-quality animal protein for improved calcium and phosphorous levels.
In addition, this puppy food also supports healthy brain development and contains clinically proven levels of DHA for smarter puppies who are easier to train.
The energy comes from the fat and carbohydrate levels the food offers, which are beneficial for a growing puppy. The chicken used is of the highest quality and is listed as the first ingredient of this food.
- Complete and balanced nutrition for a growing pup
- Supports muscle growth and bone health
- Gives them energy for growth and playtime
- Contains cornmeal and by-products
At this point, we have offered our 8 top picks for the best dog food for German Shepherds.
These products are some of the most popular, all of which seem to offer good nutrition and sustenance for German Shepherd dogs.
We have attempted to give you all the information you need to choose the right one. However, that is not enough.
In this section, we will go into some of the specifics of canine nutrition, emphasizing the German Shepherd breed.
This discussion may get a bit technical, but we will attempt to keep things as simple as possible.
Contrary to popular belief, dogs are not pure carnivores. Rather, they are omnivores who prefer meat (much like us). That being said, there is a reason that most of their diet consists of meat.
Meat is the main component of their diet in the wild, while plant-based foods are merely a supplement.
For these reasons, all dogs require a diet that is high in protein. However, the issue is not a simple one because too much protein is also a bad thing.
Some dogs will experience digestive problems like diarrhea from extremely high-protein food, and protein overdose can occur.
This is usually the result of eating too much lean meat, and the phenomenon is usually referred to as “rabbit starvation.”
Let’s look at two sources to determine the optimal level of protein for a German Shepherd dog. First, let’s read this article from a respected pet products supplier.
Here, we can see that the recommended amount of protein is 18-22% of their total diet.
Most mainstream sources seem to echo these numbers, but we suspect that the info is generic to all dogs and not specific to the German Shepherd.
To determine how much protein a German Shepherd needs, it makes sense to see what owners and breeders have to say on the matter.
This popular GSD forum should give us a good start. But, unfortunately, most of the people commenting here seem to recommend a higher level of protein than recommended for most dogs.
Considering that this breed is known to be very active, and because of its large size, this should not be surprising.
Based on what we see here, a dog of this type should be given a dog food that is 25-30% protein.
Some people believe that older dogs need less protein, but this may not be the case. For example, consider this study, which was performed on senior cats and dogs.
Although this one was done to advance human health, its lessons are still quite valid.
They found no evidence suggesting that older dogs or cats suffered from a reduced ability to digest protein and recommended that senior dog diets be roughly the same as adult diets.
Your dog’s carbohydrate intake is not quite as important a factor as protein, but it still warrants careful consideration.
While protein provides the body with building materials for construction and repair, carbohydrates provide the body with the short-term energy needed for daily activity.
Protein takes a long time for the body to fully process, which is probably why nature has developed carbohydrates as a stop-gap measure.
Unfortunately, there is no standard amount of carbohydrates that can be given to all German Shepherds confidently.
Still, we can look at this veterinary study to get a few ideas. The energy requirements of both German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers were assessed and compared, with some interesting results.
The researchers found no significant difference between the breeds, but some enlightening trends could be seen among the test subjects.
They found that overweight dogs did not need as much energy because adipose tissue (fat, basically) uses less energy than muscle tissue.
The dogs in the study did not lose any weight and even gained a very small amount (roughly 9 grams per day), so it’s safe to say that they were getting enough energy.
Thus, we can see the obvious answer to this issue: Your dog’s carbohydrate intake should depend on how active they are.
At the same time, you also need to consider the source of your dog’s carbohydrates.
Cheaper brands of dog food will often use corn or low-grade wheat as a filler, reducing the cost of the product and thus, increasing their profit margin.
Naturally, this is not the ideal choice and should only be bought if you have a tight budget.
Of course, there is no need to freak out about some corn in your dog food.
For some good information, we might look at this article from the American Kennel Club (which is about as authoritative a source as you can get on this subject).
Although they confirm that corn is safe and nutritious for dogs, they caution the reader to avoid large amounts. Rice is generally a better source, as are oat meal, rye, and millet.
At this point, we need some specific recommendations as to the percentage of carbs that should be present in a German Shepherd’s food.
For the most part, we recommend that you get food containing 40-50% carbs, with puppies being on the high end of the scale.
For a second opinion, let’s go back to the GSD forum. The general opinion here seems to be that corn is fine but that these dogs should get most of their energy from protein and fat.
Only one poster thought that corn is always bad, and their opinions didn’t seem very well-proven.
That’s probably why everyone else was contradicting that person, suggesting that most German Shepherd owners haven’t found corn to be a big problem.
This is another important group of macronutrients, and they are more important than most would guess.
For the record, these three substances (protein, carbs, and fat) are called macronutrients because they are the three most common and important in nature.
You probably don’t want your German Shepherd to be fat, but you need to understand that fat is an essential part of their diet.
In the wild, canines eat all parts of the animal, and the fat represents an important energy source that would be foolish to overlook.
Because of their wild past, dogs can process fat more efficiently than humans. That is why they are less likely to become overweight.
As we can see from this veterinary comparison study, dogs have significantly less colon mass than the other animals studied.
Because the colon contains many microorganisms, it is one of the main centers of fatty acid production and use.
We have already mentioned that all creatures need a certain amount of fat to process protein. Without this, the protein will eventually build up in the system and poison the dog or person involved.
This condition can even be fatal if it is allowed to progress too far. For humans, it is recommended that protein should make up no more than 35% of your diet. But are those figures the same for dogs?
The following study should prove to be helpful. These researchers cite other studies showing that dog food should be about 12% fat.
However, the actual percentage of fat found in dog food may vary from that shown on the label.
There are different ways of measuring the fat content, with percentage-by-weight being the most common. However, they also warn that high-fat dog foods are always lower in protein and/or carbs.
As noted in that study, some types of dog food contain more than 40% fat, especially canned food, and certain freeze-dried foods.
That’s why these foods should constitute an occasional treat and nothing more.
Yes, dogs will indeed eat a lot of fat in the wild, but it’s also true that wild dogs might go days or even weeks without making a kill.
Fat is also important to the proper functioning of the brain, both in canines and humans.
In particular, omega fatty acids play a large role in brain function, so it’s good to look for a dog food that contains at least some of them.
This is particularly important for older dogs who will definitely need a little bit more help in this department. A diet rich in omega fatty acids will help a dog to remain fully coherent well into old age.
This study is just one of many that have proven omega fatty acids to be helpful for brain function.
For this experiment, they gave 26 beagles a daily dose of omegas derived from a type of algae called Schizochytrium.
This alga contains a powerful omega fatty acid called DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and it contains quite a lot.
The results of this study were quite encouraging. All of the dogs showed measurable improvements in cognitive performance.
The group that was not given omega fatty acids (the control group in the study) consistently scored lower on cognitive tests, showing what a big difference this stuff can make.
Fish and nuts are some of the best natural sources of omega fatty acids, which is why so many popular brands of dog food will incorporate fish oil as an ingredient.
There doesn’t seem to be a big difference between omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids, so don’t worry too much about that matter.
The Importance of Raw Foods
It has been said that the German Shepherd is more like a wolf than any other dog breed. While this is debatable, there is no doubt that this statement is rooted in fact.
When we think about this, it makes sense that these dogs would do better with raw foods.
After all, no wild dog ever built a fire to cook his meat, and that might make more of a difference than previously believed.
We took a look at this comprehensive study, which seems to have been very thorough.
The researchers measured the incidence and effects of canine hip dysplasia and attempted to draw connections between this condition and the diet of the dogs involved.
On a more humorous note, raw food diets were abbreviated as “BARF” in this study, which is an acronym for “Bone And Raw Food.”
Anyway, the results of this study were pretty conclusive. All of the dogs that ate the BARF diet showed a much lower rate of hip dysplasia.
Of the dogs given commercial dry food, about 69% showed signs of the condition, while about 61% did not.
Based on this, we can see that dogs in this category had roughly a 50% chance of developing hip problems.
On the other hand, the dogs fed the BARF diet had a rate of hip dysplasia that was only about 5%.
These numbers do not reflect the general population because the researchers specifically looked for dogs with existing problems.
Still, it does illustrate the importance of raw foods in your dog’s diet. After all, the study didn’t find any other significant trends.
Some people prefer a raw food diet for their dogs, but this has positive and negative aspects. On the one hand, we have already shown that a raw food diet is a more natural and healthier alternative.
On the other hand, it’s a lot more expensive and introduces a much greater risk of food poisoning. For this reason, many veterinarians are cautious about endorsing such a diet.
As a compromise between the warring factions, we suggest that you use raw foods as a supplement and a treat.
Most of us cannot afford to feed our dogs raw foods daily, and many people are not properly trained in food safety. Just remember this general rule: If you wouldn’t eat it, they probably shouldn’t eat it either.
Vitamins and Minerals
Many brands of dog food will talk about all the “vitamins and minerals” that they contain. As with humans, dogs can certainly benefit from the inclusion of these valuable nutrients.
For a quick reference, we might look at the AKC’s guidelines on this subject.
Vitamin A is essential for dogs because it is used to maintain the eyes, bodily growth, fetal development, and the proper functioning of the immune system.
Dogs that suffer from a vitamin A deficiency will appear weak and listless and will often manifest as problems with the skin and coat.
Fish, liver, and egg yolks are all good sources of vitamin A, so look for a dog food that incorporates at least one of those things.
Vitamin B is essential for dogs because it is used for quite a few different things. The B-type vitamins are a large and diverse category, including vitamin B6, vitamin B12, thiamine, pantothenic acid, and folic acid.
They are used to activate brain cells, glucose production, hormone regulation, immune response, and energy metabolism in general.
Vitamin C is essential for dogs because it is a powerful antioxidant. Surprisingly, dogs can produce vitamin C in their livers, but they often do not produce the optimal amount.
As such, a little bit of supplementation can go a long way. In addition, antioxidants slow the gradual decay of the body, which gives them anti-aging properties.
This vitamin also tends to reduce inflammation, making your dog a little bit happier. However, according to this source, sick or injured dogs will often have extremely low levels of vitamin C in their bodies.
Thus, a dog in this condition will need some kind of vitamin C supplement. Fruits will generally make the best source but be sure that you pick something not toxic to them.
Avoid grapes and anything with a large pit in the center.
Vitamin D is essential for dogs because it is used for the balance of nutrients within the body.
It allows the dog to absorb more calcium from their food by enhancing the ability of the gut/kidneys to process this substance.
It is sometimes called the “sunshine vitamin” because mammalian skin can absorb a certain amount of Vitamin D from the sun.
At the same time, you need to be careful with this one. Dogs do not need large amounts of vitamin D, and large amounts can even be toxic to them.
Do not underestimate this danger, as it can lead to death if the problem is severe enough.
Vitamin E is essential for dogs because it is used for vision, reproductive health, brain function, and immune system health. Deficiencies of this sort are rare in dogs but can certainly occur.
It is usually derived from plant sources like coconut and safflower. More importantly, however, Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant (much like Vitamin C).
You probably don’t need to supplement this mineral, but make sure your chosen dog food contains at least a little.
Vitamin K is essential for dogs, but they don’t need a large amount. It is an essential vitamin because it is used to promote the proper clotting of the blood.
As such, it is sometimes used as a treatment for accidental poisoning.
Many rodent poisons will use anti-coagulant substances, which can also kill a dog if the rodenticide is eaten. However, a strong dose of vitamin K has been shown to reverse the effect.
This one shouldn’t be a huge cause for concern, but it’s still good to make sure your German Shepherd gets a small amount in their diet.
Choline is essential for dogs because it is used for liver and brain function, among other things.
This nutrient is among the newest to be discovered and has only been categorized as an essential nutrient since 1998.
You probably know that all living things are constructed of cells, but you may not know that the outer membranes of those cells are (usually) made of choline.
In dogs, it has been shown to impact the brain’s dopamine production, which is why it has been linked to emotional and mental well-being.
What to Look for in High-Quality Dog Food
Now that you know how important complete nutrition and a balanced diet are for your dog to maintain a healthy weight and good overall health, let’s take a quick look at how to find high-quality dog food.
Try to find dog food brands that are made in the US or Canada. There are much stricter food protocols in place in these countries, and if the food ends up on a recall list, you are sure to hear about it.
Protein as the First Ingredient
As you saw from our reviews above, some of the best dog foods for German Shepherds have protein listed as the first ingredient.
Having a whole-protein source listed first shows that the food quality is much higher than those brands that use fillers and by-products.
Look for dog food that is made without any harmful additives like artificial coloring and flavoring.
This is especially important if your German Shepherd pup is prone to pet food allergies and intolerances and has a sensitive stomach, as many German Shepherds do.
Look for foods for your adult German Shepherd that contain omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids because they have proven to be valuable additions to the German Shepherd’s diet.
They promote good joint health and encourage a healthy coat and skin for your large breed dog.
Probiotics are also great additions as they improve digestive functions and help with frequent gastrointestinal issues.
Wet Food vs Dry Food
While we reviewed the best dry food options, it can also be beneficial to feed your German Shepherd pup wet food as well.
Wet dog food can give your dog a much-needed boost of hydration, and dry food can support dental health.
Each food type has its own benefits, so you can also consider mixing your dry dog food with some wet food to meet all your dog’s nutritional needs.
It provides your dog with a well-rounded and balanced diet that targets each of its needs.
Concluding Thoughts: Best Dog Food for German Shepherds
So, there you have your answers. This is not a simple subject, so we hope we haven’t gone over your head with all this medical talk.
At the same time, our goal as dog owners is to help all of our readers become experts with the same level of knowledge that we have. To accomplish that, you will have to put in a little bit of work.
If it seems like a waste of time, just take a look at your lovable canine friend one more time and then tell us that they aren’t worth a little reading! Chances are, you cannot do that anymore than we can.