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Have you recently brought an active German Shepherd puppy into your life? Maybe you’re thinking about adding one to your family. German Shepherds are one of the most popular breeds in the United States, and they’re the cutest fluffballs as puppies.
Unfortunately, German Shepherd puppies are prone to develop a lot of health problems as adults. Luckily, feeding a good diet and proper nutrition can help prevent or manage many of those health conditions.
We know you want to give your large breed puppy the best start to life that you can. That’s why we’ve created this complete guide on the best food for a German Shepherd puppy.
Have an adult German Shepherd? Be sure to check out our guide: The Best Dog Food For German Shepherds.
German Shepherd Puppy Diet Requirements
German Shepherd puppies have specific dietary requirements. Make sure to keep these in mind as you look for dry dog food.
Protein (But not too Much) and Fat from Quality Sources
German Shepherd puppies should eat a diet that is approximately 22% protein and 8% fat. As adults, German Shepherds should have 18% protein and 5% fat.
What’s the importance of this? You might think that more protein is better. However, with large dog breeds like German Shepherds, too much protein is actually a bad thing.
You see, protein helps German Shepherd puppies grow. However, too much protein can cause a puppy to grow too quickly.
Why is that a bad thing?
Large breed dogs who grow too quickly are far more prone to bone and joint problems. German Shepherds are highly prone to hip dysplasia and arthritis. Growing too quickly may not cause the conditions, but it can certainly make them worse.
So, you don’t want a puppy food that is too high in protein. However, you should feed a food where the protein comes from quality sources.
Many cheap puppy foods get their protein from animal meal or by-products. By-products are the worst protein source. By-products are the parts of the animal with the least nutritional value. That includes things like beaks, feet, and hooves.
Meat meal is somewhat better than meat by-products. Meal is made primarily from ground bones. While it’s better than meat by-products, it isn’t as nutritious as a whole meat.
In short, you should look for a puppy food for your German Shepherd that gets its protein from whole meat sources.
Omega-3 is a fatty acid that’s crucial for healthy skin and coat. Puppy food without enough omega-3 can cause your German Shepherd puppy’s coat to be dry and flaky.
Salmon oil, fish oil, and flaxseed oil are the best natural sources of omega-3. At least one of those ingredients should be in your puppy’s food.
DHA is a specific type of omega-3. DHA is responsible for brain and eye development. That makes it a crucial ingredient in food for a German Shepherd puppy.
Proper Calcium to Phosphorus Ratio
Just like too much protein can cause a puppy to grow too quickly, so can too much calcium or phosphorus. Puppy food for a German Shepherd should have a calcium to phosphorus ratio of about 1.2 parts calcium to 1 part phosphorus.
Too many carbohydrates can cause a German Shepherd’s blood sugar to fluctuate. That can lead to health problems like diabetes. Some carbohydrates are worse than others, like wheat, corn, and soy.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin
Glucosamine and chondroitin are crucial ingredients for building and maintaining cartilage. Cartilage is the material in your dog’s joints that prevents the bones from rubbing together.
Since German Shepherds are prone to joint pain and problems, glucosamine and chondroitin are crucial ingredients in your puppy’s food.
Other Important Factors
Cheap dog foods often include filler ingredients like wheat, corn, or soy. These filler ingredients provide no nutritional value. They are designed to keep your dog full, and they keep food costs low.
However, since fillers have no nutritional value, you often need to feed your dog more of the cheaper food for them to get proper nutrition. Since more expensive food has more nutrition, you often need to feed less.
Best Food for a German Shepherd Puppy
(Our Top Pick)
Fromm is one of the lesser-known dog food manufacturers. However, they take great care to make the best dog food possible and make everything in small batches. Their USA-based kitchens produce some of the best-tasting and most nutritious food products around.
- Contains delicious proteins and fats like duck and cheese
- Real duck is the first ingredient in this formula
- Made in the USA
Top Ingredients: Duck, Chicken Meal, Chicken, Oatmeal, Pearled Barley, Brown Rice, Menhaden Fish Meal, Lamb, Potatoes, Dried Tomato Pomace, Dried Whole Egg, Chicken Fat, Salmon Oil, Cheese, Flaxseed, Brewers Dried Yeast, Alfalfa Meal, Carrots, Lettuce, Celery, Chicken Cartilage.
User Reviews: Many owners reported that their dog’s health improved after switching to this large breed puppy food. Their puppies love the taste, too.
Verdict: Fromm is an ultra-premium food with a price tag to match. However, they use some of the best ingredients in the industry, and most dogs thrive on this formula.
With all the recent concern about grain-free dog foods, how could we not recommend this healthy grains formula? It has no potatoes and lists deboned chicken as the first ingredient. Guaranteed levels of omega-3 and omega-6 should help your German Shepherd puppy have a healthy skin and coat.
- No potatoes
- Contains glucosamine and chondroitin
- Deboned chicken is the first ingredient in this formula
Top Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Peas, Barley, Oatmeal, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), Pea Protein, Quinoa, Natural Flavor, Salmon Meal, Chicken Liver, Carrots, Apples, Salmon Oil (source of Omega-3 fatty acids), Blueberries, Chia Seed, Organic Dried Alfalfa Meal
Customer Reviews: While some puppies got diarrhea after eating this food, most dogs thrive and have plenty of energy with healthy skin and coats.
Verdict: If you’re concerned about grain-free diets, this could be the perfect with-grains food for your German Shepherd puppy.
This food not only supports a healthy immune system, but it’s easy to digest. It’s formulated specifically for large and giant breed dogs, and salmon oil provides DHA for healthy brain and eye development.
- All-natural ingredients
- Digestive support with prebiotics, probiotics, and digestive enzymes
- Has antioxidant-rich superfoods
Top Ingredients: Lamb Meal, Chicken Meal, Oatmeal, Brown Rice, Barley, Peas, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Oats, Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Salmon Oil, Flaxseed, Pumpkin, Cranberries, Apples, Brewers Dried Yeast, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Papayas, Taurine, Choline Chloride, Blueberries, Pomegranates, Vitamin E Supplement, Inulin, L-Carnitine, Dried Kelp.
Customer Reviews: Some puppies didn’t care for the taste of this food. However, this formula is super gentle on a puppy’s tummy, and most puppies had better digestion after switching to this food.
Verdict: This food is less likely than most to cause diarrhea in your German Shepherd puppy. If your puppy has had diarrhea on other foods, you should definitely try this one next.
- Plenty of antioxidants
- First 3 ingredients are all meat
- No wheat, corn, soy, meat by-products, or artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives
Top Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Whitefish, Chicken Meal, Oatmeal, Ground Peas, Ground Barley, Ground Brown Rice, Salmon Meal (a source of DHA – Docosahexaenoic Acid), Tomato Pomace, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols, a natural source of Vitamin E), Tomatoes, Natural Chicken Flavor, Ground Flaxseed, Salmon Oil (a source of DHA – Docosahexaenoic Acid), Carrots, Spinach, Sweet Potatoes, Apples, Blueberries.
Customer Reviews: Some comments mentioned their puppies struggle with diarrhea on this food, while others thrive.
Verdict: If it agrees with your German Shepherd puppy’s tummy, it’s a great food.
- Superior nutrition for balanced muscular and skeletal growth
- Easy to digest
- Ideal protein and fat amounts
Top Ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal, brown rice, white rice, barley, corn gluten meal, oatmeal, beet pulp, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), natural flavors, fish meal (a source of fish oil), flax seeds, sunflower oil.
Customer Reviews: Most comments complained about shipping problems rather than the puppy food. Generally, puppies love the taste of this food, and they have solid poop and healthy skin.
Verdict: This is a pricier food, but most people insist that it’s worth the price.
- Contains healthy antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables
- Contains deboned chicken, chicken meal, and turkey meal
- Great for puppies of any size
Top Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Potatoes, Peas, Potato Protein, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Dried Ground Potatoes, Tomato Pomace, Natural Chicken Flavor, Salmon Oil, Ground Flaxseed, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Vitamins [Vitamin E Supplement, Beta-Carotene, Niacin, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin, Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Pyroxidine Hydrochloride, Thiamine Mononitrate, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Biotin, Folic Acid].
Customer Reviews: Owners reported that puppies loved the taste and had improved energy, reduced anxiety, and shinier fur after switching to this food.
Verdict: This premium puppy food has whole meat, grain-free carbohydrates, salmon oil, probiotics, and fruits and vegetables. It’s one of the best choices for German Shepherd puppies.
- Made with pasture-raised lamb
- Easy to digest
- Contains probiotics
Top Ingredients: Lamb, lamb meal, ground white rice, peas, pea flour, cracked pearled barley, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), egg product, dried yeast, tomato pomace, potato protein, flaxseed, natural flavor, salmon oil (source of DHA), salt, DL-methionine, choline chloride, taurine, dried chicory root, L-Carnitine, kale, chia seed, pumpkin, blueberries, oranges, quinoa, dried kelp, coconut, spinach, carrots, papaya, yucca schidigera extract.
Customer Reviews: This dry dog food is more affordable than others on the list. Some dogs had digestive or allergic problems with this food. However, most dogs do well on this food.
Verdict: This is an affordable dog food that your German Shepherd puppy will do well on, as long as they don’t have problems with it.
What to Look For in a Dog Food for German Shepherd Puppies
There are a lot of things you should consider when looking for the best large breed food for your German Shepherd. Paying attention to the following things will help you find the right food.
1. Whole Protein as the Top Ingredient
The first ingredient in your German Shepherd puppy’s food should be whole meat. Avoid foods where the first ingredient is a meat meal or, worse, a carbohydrate. These are just fillers – your dog’s food should contain more real meat than any other ingredient.
2. Made with High-Quality Standards
Unfortunately, some countries don’t have high safety or quality standards. Foods made in these places may be more prone to quality control issues and recalls. Look for puppy food made in the USA, Canada, Europe, or Australia.
3. No Artificial Colors, Flavors, or Preservatives
There is no good reason for dog food to contain artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. These ingredients scream low quality, so avoid puppy food that lists artificial anything in the ingredients.
4. Meat Meals and By-Products Should Be Identified
Your German Shepherd puppy’s food shouldn’t contain any by-products, and it’s good to avoid meat-meal when you can. However, if you do find these ingredients in your puppy’s food, they should be identified.
For example, “turkey meal” is an acceptable ingredient, while “animal by-product” is not. If the meat is not identified, it could come from anywhere, including horses, roadkill, or euthanized pets.
In fact, that’s one theory behind how pentobarbital – the drug used to euthanize pets – wound up in some dog foods and led to a recall in 2018.
5. Should Contain Fruits and Vegetables
Dogs are omnivores rather than carnivores. That means they don’t need a strictly meat-based diet. They should have some fruits and vegetables in their diet, and that includes in their kibble. Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
German Shepherd Health Problems (and How Food Affects those Problems)
Sadly, German Shepherds are prone to a variety of health problems that can affect their lifespan. Here are some of the most common health problems that they face and how food may affect those problems.
Hip or Elbow Dysplasia
Hip and elbow dysplasia are caused by malformation of the joints. These problems are highly genetic. However, growing too quickly can make the conditions worse.
That’s one reason why it’s so important to monitor the protein levels in your German Shepherd puppy’s food. Too much protein now can lead to a lifetime of pain down the road.
This is a condition common in many large breed dogs where the stomach fills with air and rotates on its axis. Cheap dog food with fillers that cause gas may be one factor that causes bloat.
This condition causes progressive paralysis of the back legs. It’s primarily a genetic problem. However, proper amounts of vitamin E may help prevent it.
German Shepherds are prone to a wide variety of allergies, from environmental to food. Many common proteins, like chicken and beef, are starting to cause allergies in dogs. If you’re worried about your puppy developing allergies, look for unique proteins, like bison or fish.
How Much Food Should German Shepherd Puppies Eat?
It’s hard to know how much you should feed your German Shepherd puppy. Each pet food manufacturer will have a different recommendation, because you may need to feed more of a dry dog food with extra fillers. Additionally, you will constantly be increasing how much you feed your German Shepherd puppy as they grow and become more active.
The best thing to do is to talk to your veterinarian and get their recommendation based on the food you feed and your puppy’s weight.
Increase the amount of food you give gradually. For example, feed just shy of a cup for a while, then an even cup, then an overflowing cup, and so on.
How Often Should I Feed My German Shepherd Puppy?
When you first bring your German Shepherd puppy home, you should feed them 4 times a day. Puppies need lots of calories to help them grow, but they have tiny stomachs when they are little.
When your German Shepherd puppy reaches about 4 months old, start feeding them 3 times per day. At 6 months, start feeding them twice a day; continue feeding twice a day for your dog’s life.
Healthy Weight Guidelines for German Shepherd Puppies
How much should your puppy weigh? That’s hard to say, as males and females grow to be different sizes. Different lines of German Shepherds also grow to different sizes and at different speeds.
However, we can say this. Puppies shouldn’t be as roly-poly as you think. At any stage of their growth, you should be able to feel (but not see) their ribs. If you can’t feel your puppy’s ribs, you should cut back on how much you are feeding them for a while.
Remember that growing too quickly can cause bone and joint problems in German Shepherds. Obesity is also a major health problem in all dog species. If you have questions about your German Shepherd puppy’s weight, you should talk to your veterinarian.
Kibble, Canned, or Something Else?
There are so many different types of food to choose from – how do you know which one is best?
Our recommendations here are for kibble. However, we want to give you information about all the types of food you could feed your German Shepherd puppy.
Kibble is, by far, the most common type of dog food. It’s easy to feed and transport and, as long as it’s certified by AAFCO, it’s nutritionally complete. That’s why our food recommendations for German Shepherd puppies are all kibble.
However, kibble isn’t the only way to feed your puppy. In fact, you may decide that it isn’t even the best way.
Here are some other types of food for your German Shepherd puppy.
Sometimes, puppies don’t like the taste of kibble. You may also be concerned that your dog isn’t drinking enough water.
These are two good reasons to consider adding canned or wet dog food to your puppy’s diet. However, canned food isn’t always nutritionally complete, so it shouldn’t be the only food you give your German Shepherd puppy.
Freeze-Dried Dog Food
Raw diets have become extremely popular lately. Unfortunately, they are messy, inconvenient, and may contain bacteria that could sicken your dog or your family. That’s where freeze-dried raw dog food comes in.
Cooking dog foods can destroy a lot of nutrients. By freeze-drying the ingredients instead, more of the natural nutrition is left in the food.
Freeze-dried dog food comes in a bag like kibble. All you have to do is add water and wait 15 minutes. Then, your dog has a moist, healthy meal.
Frozen-then-Thawed Dog Food
Frozen dog food can be either raw or cooked (food from fresh dog food delivery services is cooked, then frozen). If you have the freezer space, frozen-then-thawed dog food can be a great way to feed your dog fresh cooked or raw food.
However, you need to make sure to thaw out each meal 12 hours ahead of time. Frozen food can also take up a lot of freezer space, especially if you have one or more large dogs.
Dehydrated Dog Food
Dehydrated dog food is similar to freeze-dried food. However, dehydrated dog food is created with warm air, while freeze-dried food is created with cold air. Like freeze-dried food, you will typically add water to rehydrate the food before feeding your dog.
One great benefit to dehydrated dog food is that it has a long shelf life. If you like to be prepared for emergencies, dehydrated dog food is perfect for a go-bag and won’t need frequent replacing, like kibble.
Grain-Free or Not?
Grain-free diets have been in the news recently. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is exploring a link between grain-free dog foods and a heart condition called dilated myopathy.
There is no definitive link yet between grain-free food and this heart condition. As of right now, the decision to feed grain-free dog food or not is still an owner’s decision, without much scientific evidence on either side of the debate.
How to Avoid Bloat
One common condition that German Shepherds face is bloat. Bloat is a deadly problem where a dog’s stomach fills with air and rotates on its axis. This can cut off blood flow to the intestines.
Half of all dogs that get bloat will die from it. Even with emergency surgery, 1 out of 3 dogs dies from bloat.
So how can you help your German Shepherd avoid bloat?
The best way to prevent bloat is to feed your German Shepherd at least twice a day. Gulping one giant meal is more likely to cause problems.
You should keep your dog calm for a while after they eat, too, as exercise can agitate the food in your dog’s stomach and cause gas to build up.
If your German Shepherd likes to gulp their food, look for ways to slow them down. That may include putting a clean rock in their food bowl, buying a puzzle feeder, or giving some of their kibble in a treat ball.
German Shepherd Puppy Food FAQs
Here are answers to some of the most common questions about the best food for German Shepherd puppies.
When Should I Switch my German Shepherd Puppy to Adult Dog Food?
You should switch your German Shepherd puppy to adult dog food when they stop growing. This happens around 1 to 2 years of age. When in doubt, ask your vet when they recommend making the switch.
How Often and How Much Should I Feed My German Shepherd Puppy?
It is best to feed your German Shepherd puppy 4 times a day until it is 4 months old, 3 times a day until it’s 6 months old, and twice a day after that.
The amount you feed your German Shepherd puppy will depend on your puppy’s weight and the brand of food. Talk to your veterinarian about a more specific recommendation.
How Do I Change my Puppy to a New Food?
Switching your puppy to a different puppy food or from puppy food to adult food can be tricky. Suddenly changing your puppy’s food can cause an upset stomach.
You should start by adding a little of the new food to a lot of the old food. For example, your puppy’s meal should be ¼ new food and ¾ old food. After a few days, you can add more new food and less old food. Gradually increase how much new food you add until your puppy is only eating the new food. This process should take a week or two.
Wrapping Up Dog Food for German Shepherd Puppies
We’ve given you a lot of information here. Hopefully, our tips help you find the best food for your German Shepherd puppy. In the end, there is no one food that’s right for feeding all German Shepherd puppies; you must find the one that’s most appropriate for your budget and your puppy.