When you bring a new German Shepherd puppy home for the first time, how do you prepare? If she is your first puppy, you research everything and consult with everyone you know and trust.
You collect bedding, toys, leashes, collars, training books, and brushes. And then you hit the wall that is the overwhelming subject of food.
It seems no matter how many puppies you have, a new dog always involves a mad rush to figure out exactly how to feed her.
How much to feed a German Shepherd puppy is not an exact science. However, various models support feeding your German Shepherd pup about 2 cups of dog food daily at the age of two and three months. Once your pup hits 16 weeks, food intake jumps to approximately four cups a day spread over two to four meals. Your puppy’s metabolism will mature and slow to adult levels around nine months of age. At this time you will start feeding five or six cups of food per day or about 1300 calories for a 60-pound dog.
We address three methods to determine how much to feed a German Shepherd puppy. We also cover why concerns other than basic nutrition are important for growing puppies.
Why do you feed your German Shepherd puppy?
The two most obvious goals of feeding your German Shepherd are for health and growth.
How fast do German Shepherds grow?
German Shepherds are medium-large dogs and therefore grow at a fast rate over the first six or seven months of age when they approach adolescence. Adult German Shepherds are 22 to 26 inches tall and weigh 50 to 95 pounds.
Animalso.com weight charts say Your German Shepherd puppy will have attained three-quarters of her weight over this time frame. When you consider that when you bring your puppy home he will probably only be eight inches tall and weigh 11 to 20 pounds, it is a lot of growing to accomplish in five months.
By 12 to 15 months old, a German Shepherd is within an inch or less of their adult height and has reached 98% of his weight by a year and a half, according to Thehappypuppysite.com. Therefore, your male German Shepherd will be 23 to 25 inches tall and weigh 59 to 93 pounds by his first birthday.
How does diet affect the health of growing Shepherds?
Recently it has to come to light that nutrition in puppies does more than prevent malnutrition.
Many orthopedic problems such as hip and elbow dysplasia have a strong hereditary component. However, people often discount the role of diet in bone developmental issues.
You probably easily recognize the link between obesity in puppies and the resulting exacerbation of hip, elbow, and back problems.
However, your German Shepherd pup does not have to be overweight to suffer a myriad of health challenges. Merely creating an oversized puppy, as is often the case for show animals and people fixated on large dogs, can lead to several painful disorders.
- Hip dysplasia
- Elbow dysplasia
- Panosteitis – Generalized inflammation of the long bones in puppies; common in German Shepherds.
- Wobbler’s – More common in Great Danes and Dobermans, Wobbler’s is a condition whereby the spinal canal is too narrow, causing neurologic instability.
According to Dogcathomeprepareddiet.com, overnutrition and over-supplementation of certain vitamins and minerals lead to paradoxical malnutrition of the bone and subsequently improper development. Nutritional experts have modified their recommendations regarding the diets of large-breed dogs.
Many nutritionists and veterinarians advocate feeding German Shepherd and other large puppies an adult or professionally-formulated homemade diet to limit the occurrence and severity of developmental problems. Pet food manufacturers have caught onto the concept of overnutrition in puppies, and most carry special diets for large-breed growing animals.
While some sources continue to promote additional vitamin and mineral requirements of puppies, we recommend you work with a professional to formulate a diet that limits the growth rate and your puppy’s size during his early months.
Also, do not supplement your puppy with vitamins, minerals, or proteins without veterinarian direction as their excessive use will disrupt bone and cartilage growth and harm the growth plates. Limiting calories and slowing your puppy’s growth rate in the first eight months of her life will not affect her mature size in any way.
How should you feed your German Shepherd pup?
The most pressing questions you probably have about your new puppy is how much to feed her and how often.
There are two ways to determine how to feed your pup.
Many people use the food bag as a starting point to decide how much to feed their dogs. However, a label on commercial food is one of the easiest ways to overfeed your growing puppy.
Dog food labels may raise feeding guidelines by up to 25% to ensure the diet meets or exceeds NRC, or Nutritional Research Council, requirements. It is much more accurate and healthier for your puppy if you calculate and measure meals yourself.
Feeding your puppy always requires you to be able to regularly evaluate her weight. You need to assess how close your pup is to her ideal weight just by looking at her. Weight charts are useful guides but do not account for an individual’s variations from the norms.
Always include treats in your calculations for daily food allowances. If you give a lot of food treats during training, for example, you need to account for it by decreasing meal size according to your pup’s weight or body condition.
Assessing Body Condition
Drake Center for Veterinary Care uses a body scoring system modified from Purina’s charts and other sources.
- Silhouette from the side – a slight tuck just pat the ribcage where the abdomen slightly lifts towards the hips. Note, that some breeds do not have an abdominal tuck, but the German Shepherd does.
- From above – Clear waist; should see an hourglass shape from rib cage to hips
- When you palpate – You should feel the ribs under a thin layer of fat without having to prod very hard.
Puppies will vary in their body scores and may change rapidly within a few days. Pups often lose their abdominal tuck right after a meal. Puppies under 16 weeks old commonly have a pot-bellied appearance without much abdominal tuck.
Persistent abdominal distension could indicate intestinal worms, so be sure to check in regularly with a veterinarian during your pup’s first six months.
It is difficult to keep growing puppies at a specific body score, but it is always better that they be slightly underweight or even thin rather than overweight. Thin dogs will show more visibility of ribs, waist, and pelvis without appearing emaciated or unhealthy.
If your puppy eats well but fails to grow or gain sufficient weight, consult a medical professional. German Shepherds can be susceptible to rare cases of pituitary gland dwarfism or a deficiency of enzyme production from the pancreas.
The easiest way to determine how much food to give your Shepherd pup is to figure out how many cups she needs in a day and divide it by the number of feedings. You can adjust volume based on how your puppy’s body condition fluctuates from one week to the next.
According to Allshepherd.com and numerous sources we checked, German Shepherds eat about four cups of food daily from 16 weeks of age to nine months or a year regardless of weight. The volume accounts for the relatively high caloric requirements of the young growing animal.
Once your dog reaches maturity at nine months, you will rely more on the weight and activity level of your pet. German Shepherds over a year old may need as much as five to eight cups of dog food.
Other references, like Thegermanshepherder.com, use weight rather than age. Pups eat one cup of food daily per 15 to 20 pounds. Dogs over 100 pounds receive five cups of kibble plus an additional half a cup for every extra 20 pounds. Like all models, more active dogs need to eat more food. You will make adjustments up or down based on body scoring.
Calculating your puppy’s caloric requirements is the most accurate means to determine how much to feed. You can estimate the volume to feed your German Shepherd pup once you find the conversion rate.
Dry dog food bags and wet food cans usually have the kilocalorie equivalence of each cup of product. If you feed a raw or homemade diet, you have to figure out the caloric content of each ingredient you use.
To determine the ideal caloric range of requirements for your puppy, it is helpful to know the anticipated adult weight.
The number of calories you feed your Shepherd depends on how close to her adult weight she is.
- Shortly after weaning: 11 to 17 pounds (0 to 20% of adult weight) >>10 calories per 10 lbs body weight
- 4 to 5 months old (40 to 50% of adult weight) >> 50 to 100 calories per 10 lbs body weight
- 6 or 7 months old (50 to 60% of adult weight) >> 40 to 50 calories per 10 lbs body weight
- 7 to 9 months old (60 to 80% of adult weight) >> 30 to 40 calories per 10 lbs body weight
- over 9 months old >>20 to 25 calories per 10 lbs body weight
Caloric requirements, again, vary depending on the individual, and you still need to be aware of your puppy’s changing body condition.
The when: how often should you feed your German Shepherd?
If you have the added challenge of acquiring your Shepherd pup when he is under six weeks of age, you may have to prepare a mash of his kibble for him and should feed him every few hours.
Once your puppy reaches six weeks old, you may still have to feed him a mash but can decrease meals to four a day.
German Shepherd puppies between the ages of 12 and 16 weeks can eat three or four times daily, while most dogs over four months of age decrease to a frequency of two or three times a day.
Although many owners are eager to decrease their pup’s mealtimes to one or two times daily for convenience, there are a couple of important reasons not to dip under multiple feedings a day.
It will require a few months to completely housetrain your puppy. Young puppies eliminate frequently. Centering a few potty breaks around meals that stimulate their intestinal tracts, anyway, helps develop consistent habits.
Your German Shepherd puppy will begin to develop a deeper chest combined with significant size by four to six months of age. Both physical characteristics put your puppy at additional risk of gastric dilatation and volvulus compared to smaller breeds.
Four months is the age at which most pups will see a significant increase in their meal sizes. Studies have linked large meals with GDV, or bloat, life-threatening distension, and rotation of the stomach.
Increasing the number of feedings greatly reduces the incidence of GDV. We recommend at least two meals a day for your dog, even as your Shepherd approaches adulthood.
Meals are one of the largest gifts you provide for your German Shepherd puppy’s health, well-being, and vitality.
How much to feed a German Shepherd puppy is part of a broader equation that includes why to avoid overfeeding, how to calculate amounts, and how to schedule appropriate mealtimes.
Note the puppy does not have much of an abdominal tuck at this age. However, a fat or pudgy puppy is not a look anyone should encourage. This puppy looks in good shape, but you would need to feel his ribs to be certain.
You can see the amount this pup has grown compared to the eight-week-old puppy.
It illustrates the rapid rate of growth of the German Shepherd and is the point of the largest increase in food intake. The enhancement of German Shepherd growth through nutritional excesses is neither necessary nor desirable.