This post may contain affiliate links. This means we may receive a small commission if you click on a link and make a purchase; however, all opinions are our own. Clicking these links won't cost you anything extra, but it helps keep our site running.
Updated April 4, 2019
Smart, beautiful and loyal, the German Shepherd (GSD) is a very popular breed (they rank second among all dogs, according to the
AKC), who excels in a wide variety of contexts, from police work and agility trials to lovable family pet.
But if you want to give your German Shepherd the best chance at a long, healthy and happy life, you’ll need to make sure you provide him with the nutrition he needs.
We’ll identify the
best dog foods for German Shepherds below, explain what makes them so well-suited for your dog, and recommend a few good options for shepherds with a few of the most common health issues common to the breed. The German Shepherd Diet: Things to Consider when Picking a Pet Food
Any time you pick a dog food, you’ll want to make sure it exhibits a few important characteristics – regardless of your dog’s breed. Not all of these characteristics should be considered imperative, but you’ll definitely want to select a food that satisfies the bulk of the requirements listed below.
It should be made in a country with good safety and quality standards.
You certainly don’t want to provide your beloved pet with a food that will make him sick, so it is wise to stick to foods produced in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand or Western Europe. This won’t completely eliminate the chances of getting contaminated foods, but it is the single best way to protect your dog’s safety.
It should feature a whole protein at the top of the ingredient list.
Dogs are carnivores, so it is very important that their food contains high-quality, whole proteins. In fact, a whole protein – such as chicken, beef, pork, lamb or venison – should be the very first thing listed on the ingredient list. Supplemental proteins should usually be included farther down the list too.
All meat meals and meat byproducts should be clearly and completely identified.
Meat meals and meat byproducts don’t sound particularly appetizing to people, but they are very good for your dog. Most dogs will even find these ingredients tasty. However, it is critical that you avoid foods with improperly or incompletely labeled versions of these products. In other words, avoid foods containing “meat meal,” but those with “chicken meal” are fine.
It should be made without any artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.
Artificial colors, flavors and preservatives are unnecessary in foods that are made with high-quality ingredients. And because these items can trigger food allergies and other health problems, you’ll want to avoid foods containing these types of items.
It should contain plenty of brightly colored fruits and vegetables.
Brightly colored fruits and vegetables, such as pumpkin, spinach, blueberries, cranberries, carrots and kale, are often rich in antioxidants. These antioxidants can help keep your dog’s immune system functioning properly, which will help your dog fight off diseases. Also, these ingredients often make foods quite palatable, thereby increasing its overall value.
Common Health Concerns of German Shepherds
Anytime you are selecting a dog food, you’ll want to consider the common health concerns that afflict your dog’s breed. Then, you can select a food that addresses these issues and will hopefully allow your dog to side-step them and remain healthy.
Some of the most common health problems that German Shepherds experience include:
Hip Dysplasia Hip dysplasia occurs when a dog’s hip joints fail to form properly. The condition varies in terms of severity, but most dogs will experience pain in their hips while running and jumping, and some may even suffer pain all of the time. This can significantly reduce your dog’s quality of life, so it is important to treat the problem as best you can.
Severe cases of hip dysplasia may require surgery or prescription medications, but mild cases may be treatable with supplements such as chondroitin or glucosamine. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids may also help combat the inflammation that occurs in German Shepherds with hip dysplasia.
Osteoarthritis can afflict any dog breed, but it is often most common among larger dogs, whose bulk places significant demands on their joints. The best way to avoid osteoarthritis is by preventing your dog from stressing his joints unnecessarily, so don’t let him jump off high places or run on hard surfaces for extended periods of time.
You’ll also want to keep your dog from becoming overweight, which means not only feeding him a nutritious food but feeding him a food with plenty of fiber, which will help him feel full without ingesting too many calories. Also, as with hip dysplasia, foods containing chondroitin, glucosamine and omega-3 fatty acids may also be helpful.
Food Allergies Food allergies are quite common among GSDs, and like most other breeds who suffer from food allergies, the primary symptom they experience is itchy skin. However, they may also suffer from poor coat health or even intestinal issues in some cases.
You’ll have to identify the ingredient to which your dog is allergic in order to treat a food allergy. But because most dogs are allergic to a relative handful of ingredients, you can often be successful by simply opting for a “hypoallergenic” recipe. These recipes leave out the ingredients which are most commonly harmful.
Bloat Bloat in dogs is a serious medical problem that requires immediate veterinary attention. Bloat occurs when a dog’s stomach fills with gas and twists on its axis, thereby trapping the air inside. This will lead to excruciating pain, and, if not treated promptly, tissue death, as the stomach and intestines can be robbed of their blood supply.
Veterinarians disagree about the exact reasons bloat occurs and the best way to prevent it. However, most agree that forcing your dog to slow down at meal times is a good strategy. You can do that by utilizing a food bowl (such as
this one) that makes it a bit more difficult for your dog to wolf down his food quickly. Digestive Issues
German Shepherds are prone to developing a variety of different digestive issues. Some suffer from food intolerances, which makes it difficult for them to digest some proteins, while others may suffer from
perianal fistulas – small tunnels that form near the anus. Other German Shepherds may suffer from inflammatory bowel conditions, which cause symptoms similar to those of humans with Crohn’s disease experience.
The best way to avoid some of these issues and to keep your pet’s digestive system operating smoothly is by selecting a food with moderate to high fiber content. It is also helpful to select foods that contain probiotics or to
administer supplemental probiotics if your preferred food lacks them.
Image Product Our Top Pick Our Top Pick BLUE Wilderness Rocky Mountain Large Breed Recipe Deboned beef is the first ingredient listed No corn, wheat or soy is included in the recipe Made in the USA Check on Amazon EUKANUBA Breed-Specific Adult Dry Dog Food – German Shepherd Chicken is the first listed ingredient Fortified with glucosamine and chondroitin to help protect your dog’s joints Contains L-Carnitine which supports heart health Check on Amazon Taste of the Wild: Sierra Mountain Recipe Real lamb is the first listed ingredient (and lamb meal and roasted lamb appear farther down the ingredient list) Made without grains, artificial flavors, artificial colors or artificial preservatives Made in the USA Check on Amazon CANIDAE Grain Free PURE Bison Recipe Bison is the first listed ingredient Sweet potatoes, peas and chickpeas are the primary carbohydrates in the recipe Made in the USA Check on Amazon Rachael Ray Nutrish Just 6 Made without common allergens like corn, wheat, soy or gluten No artificial flavors or artificial preservatives Made in the USA Check on Amazon Fromm Gold Large Breed Puppy Recipe Real duck is the first listed ingredient Delicious proteins and fats, including salmon oil and cheese, are included to improve the food’s palatability Made in the USA Check on Amazon Purina Pro Plan Focus Sensitive Skin and Stomach Formula Salmon is the first listed ingredient Made with glucosamine-rich ingredients to protect your dog’s joints Made in the USA Check on Amazon Wellness Core Large Breed Recipe Deboned chicken is the first listed ingredient, but chicken meal and turkey meal provide additional protein Potatoes and peas provide the carbohydrate content, rather than grains Made in the USA Check on Amazon Best Dog Food for German Shepherds – General Recommendations
The three best overall dog foods for German Shepherds are detailed below. Note that these are the best options for typical GSDs, who are neither very young nor very old, and are generally in good health. Any of these three should serve as a good starting point, and help keep your dog healthy and well-fed.
BLUE Buffalo manufacturers a number of different high-quality foods, and almost every single recipe in their product line is popular with dog owners. However, their Rocky Mountain Large Breed Recipe is the ideal choice for many German Shepherds, as it not only provides the kind of taste and nutrition all dogs deserve, it also addresses many of the issues that are common to the breed. Noteworthy Features and Characteristics: Deboned beef is the first ingredient listed No corn, wheat or soy is included in the recipe Made in the USA Top Ingredients: Deboned Beef, Chicken Meal, Tapioca Starch, Peas, Pea Starch, Pea Protein, Menhaden Fish Meal (source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids), Pea Fiber, Natural Flavor, Flaxseed (source of Omega 6 Fatty Acids), Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Potatoes, Fish Oil (source of EPA-Eicosapentaenoic Acid), Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Dicalcium Phosphate, Deboned Lamb, Deboned Venison. User Reviews: Blue Wilderness Rocky Mountain Large Breed Recipe has received glowing reviews from most owners (it is one of the best-rated foods available). Most dogs seem to love the taste, and because it contains multiple fiber sources and five probiotic strains, most dogs digest it very easily. Some owners even noted that it appeared to improve their dog’s mobility. Bottom Line: There’s very little not to like about Blue Wilderness Rocky Mountain Large Breed Recipe. It provides all of the things owners could want in a dog food and it boasts one of the most impressive ingredient lists around. Blue Wilderness recipes aren’t the most affordable options on the market, but this shouldn’t be surprising, given their quality.
If you want to feed your dog one of the best foods available, it makes sense to start with one that is specifically designed to address the health issues and challenges common to the breed. EUKANUBA makes this easy with their breed-specific recipes. Their German Shepherd formula addresses the breed’s issues in a number of ways, but the most notable is likely the inclusion of more than one ingredient that will help keep your German Shepherd’s joints healthy.
Noteworthy Features and Characteristics: Chicken is the first listed ingredient Fortified with glucosamine and chondroitin to help protect your dog’s joints Contains L-Carnitine which supports heart health Top Ingredients: Chicken, Corn Meal, Ground Whole Grain Sorghum, Chicken By-Product Meal (Natural Source of Chondroitin Sulfate and Glucosamine), Chicken Flavor, Brewers Rice, Dried Beet Pulp, Fish Meal, Dried Egg Product, Potassium Chloride, Fish Oil (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols, a Source of Vitamin E). User Reviews: Most owners who tried EUKANUBA’s German Shepherd Recipe found that it suited their pet very well. Most dogs seem to love the taste, and a few owners reported improvements in their dog’s mobility after making the switch. A few owners did complain about the food’s price, but others didn’t mind paying slightly higher prices to obtain a food specifically formulated for their breed. Bottom Line: EUKANUBA German Shepherd Recipe is an excellent choice for most German Shepherds, and it features most of the things you’d want in a high-quality dog food. It doesn’t have many antioxidant-rich fruits or vegetables, which is disappointing, and it lacks probiotics, so you’ll probably want to purchase a separate probiotic supplement.
Note that although EUKANUBA’s German Shepherd Recipe is targeted at only a single breed, it is also a good option for Belgian Malinois and other breeds closely related to German Shepherds.
Taste of the Wild foods are designed to provide your dog with the kind of nutrition his wild ancestors enjoyed. And while any of their recipes may make a good choice for your pet, their Sierra Mountain Recipe is one of the best choices for German Shepherds, as it is made with lamb – a protein that rarely causes allergies – and potatoes, which often help soothe sensitive stomachs.
Noteworthy Features and Characteristics: Real lamb is the first listed ingredient (and lamb meal and roasted lamb appear farther down the ingredient list) Made without grains, artificial flavors, artificial colors or artificial preservatives Made in the USA Top Ingredients: Lamb, lamb meal, sweet potatoes, potatoes, peas, egg product, canola oil, roasted lamb, tomato pomace, natural flavor, salmon oil (a source of DHA), salt, choline chloride, mixed tocopherols (a preservative), dried chicory root, taurine, tomatoes, blueberries, raspberries, Yucca schidigera extract, dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried Bifidobacterium animalis fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus reuteri fermentation product, vitamin E supplement. User Reviews: Most owners find Taste of the Wild to be an excellent choice for their dog. Most praise the food’s impressive ingredient list and note that skin and coat problems often go away after switching to a Taste of the Wild recipe. Additionally, dogs seem to find these recipes quite palatable and easy to digest. Bottom Line: Taste of the Wild is packed with nutritious ingredients, including high-quality whole proteins, plenty of supplemental protein sources, an array of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables and three different probiotic strains. And despite being a premium food, Taste of the Wild recipes are generally more affordable than their direct competitors. Best Dog Food for German Shepherds with Skin Allergies
Skin (food) allergies are incredibly common among GSDs, so owners must often select foods that are made without any of the most common allergic triggers. You’ll have to determine your pet’s specific allergic trigger to ensure he won’t suffer from itchy skin, but most dogs with food allergies will experience relief if fed a high-quality limited-ingredient diet.
CANIDAE Grain-Free PURE Bison Recipe is one of the best limited-ingredient diets on the market, and it is made with real bison – one of the best novel proteins to try when battling food or skin allergies. And to help further reduce the chances of triggering allergic reactions, this recipe is based on seven primary ingredients.
Noteworthy Features and Characteristics: Bison is the first listed ingredient Sweet potatoes, peas and chickpeas are the primary carbohydrates in the recipe Made in the USA Top Ingredients: Bison, lamb meal, sweet potatoes, peas, chickpeas, canola oil, suncured alfalfa, natural flavor, minerals (iron proteinate, zinc proteinate, copper proteinate, ferrous sulfate, zinc sulfate, copper sulfate, potassium iodide, manganese proteinate, manganous oxide, manganese sulfate, sodium selenite). User Reviews: CANIDAE Grain-Free PURE Bison Recipe enjoys some of the best ratings of any food on the market. It not only helped to resolve the food and skin allergies of many dogs, it also appears to be quite tasty. In fact, many owners of picky dogs reported that their dog loved the taste of this recipe. Bottom Line: CANIDAE isn’t one of the most affordable brands on the market, so it may be out-of-reach for some owners. However, those who don’t mind paying premium prices for a premium product will likely love this recipe. It provides almost all of the things you’d want in a dog food while being based on a relatively simple ingredient list that should help dogs with food or skin allergies to feel better.
Unless you’ve been able to identify your dog’s specific triggers, the best way to address food or skin allergies is by providing your dog with a limited-ingredient recipe, which is based around a novel protein, such as lamb. Rachael Ray’s Nutrish Just 6 fits this bill perfectly, as it is based on six basic ingredients, which are unlikely to cause your dog’s skin to itch.
Noteworthy Features and Characteristics: Made without common allergens like corn, wheat, soy or gluten No artificial flavors or artificial preservatives Made in the USA Top Ingredients: Lamb Meal, Brown Rice, Ground Rice, Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Natural Chicken Flavor, Poultry Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Sodium Chloride, Potassium Chloride, Di-Calcium Phosphate, Zinc Proteinate, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (Source of Vitamin C), Vitamin E Supplement. User Reviews: Many owners were very pleased after switching their dog to Rachael Ray Nutrish Just 6 and reported that it helped to improve the condition of their dog’s skin and coat. It also appeared to help eliminate the itchy skin that often accompanies food allergies. And despite the fact that it lacks a whole protein, most dogs seem to find it quite tasty. Bottom Line: Unfortunately, you’ll have to make some sacrifices when selecting a food to stop your dog’s skin allergies. In the case of Rachael Ray Nutrish Just 6, a whole protein represents this sacrifice, as the recipe relies on lamb meal as the primary protein source. Nevertheless, this recipe provides nearly everything else you could want for a GSD suffering from food allergies, and it may help your pet feel much better after making the switch.
Note that Purina Pro Plan Focus and Taste of the Wild Sierra Mountain Recipe (both reviewed above) may also work for German Shepherds with skin allergies.
Best Food for a German Shepherd Puppy
Like most other breeds, German Shepherd puppies (those who are less than about 6 months of age) should be fed a food designed to meet the needs of a growing puppy. The two foods listed below are both excellent options, which are not only packed with nutritious ingredients, but tasty too.
Fromm is a bit of a boutique dog food manufacturer. They aren’t as well-known as some of the other manufacturers, but they make some of the most nutritious and best-tasting foods available. And they’re so dedicated to producing high-quality foods that they make all of their recipes in very small batches, in their own US-based kitchens.
Noteworthy Features and Characteristics: Real duck is the first listed ingredient Delicious proteins and fats, including salmon oil and cheese, are included to improve the food’s palatability 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: Despite Fromm’s relatively small footprint in the dog food category, owners that try their recipes almost always fall in love with the brand. Most owners love giving their dog such a nutritious (and delicious) recipe, and many noted improved health (including the reduction of skin and coat problems) after switching to the bran. Bottom Line: Fromm foods – including their Large Breed Puppy Recipe – feature some of the most impressive ingredient lists of any food, and they include several unique items that help make them stand out from the crowd. It is slightly off-putting that they don’t identify the probiotics used in their formula, but this probably shouldn’t stop you from trying this recipe with your dog. Unfortunately, Fromm’s Large Breed Puppy Recipe is a bit pricey, but so are most other super-premium foods.
Note that some foods reviewed earlier – including Taste of the Wild – are actually formulated for dogs of all ages and life stages. This means that they will not only work for adult dogs but puppies too. So, be sure to consider these recipes too when picking a food for your German Shepherd puppy.
Best Dog Food for German Shepherds with Sensitive Stomachs
German Shepherds can suffer from a variety of digestive issues, and many will experience diarrhea, constipation and other problems when provided with normal dog foods. Fortunately, there is at least one great recipe designed to address these problems and help your dog digest his food properly.
Purina is one of the oldest food manufacturers in the business, and they’ve only managed to stay competitive for so long by producing very high-quality, yet supremely affordable, foods. This particular recipe is designed to be easy to digest, yet still provide all of the nutrition your GSD needs. It will also help to eliminate many of the skin problems that some German Shepherds experience.
Noteworthy Features and Characteristics: Salmon is the first listed ingredient Made with glucosamine-rich ingredients to protect your dog’s joints Made in the USA Top Ingredients: Salmon, Barley, Ground Rice, Canola Meal, Oat Meal, Fish Meal (Source of Glucosamine), Animal Fat Preserved with Mixed-Tocopherols, Brewers Dried Yeast, Salmon Meal (Source of Glucosamine), Natural Flavor, Sunflower Oil, Chicory Root Inulin, Salt, Fish Oil. User Reviews: Most owners who’ve tried Purina’s Sensitive Skin and Stomach Formula reported that it helped to eliminate their dog’s digestive issues, and many also explained that it improved their coat and skin condition too. Most dogs appear to find it tasty, and owners love the food’s very reasonable price tag. Bottom Line: While owners seeking a grain-free food will probably want to pass on Purina’s Sensitive Skin and Stomach Formula, owners who don’t mind feeding their dog a food containing barley, ground rice and oatmeal will likely find that it is an excellent choice. It appears to help settle the stomachs of most German Shepherds, thereby making it a great choice for many dogs and their owners.
We would recommend picking up a supplemental probiotic to use along with this food, as none are included among the ingredients.
Best Grain-Free Dog Food for German Shepherds
Most of the foods we recommend are made without grains and without any artificial additives, but these criteria mean more to some owners than to others. Nevertheless, there is one all-natural, grain-free dog food that stands head-and-shoulders above the competition.
Wellness Core makes a number of super-premium dog foods that are not only popular with owners, but their dogs too. Made with only the finest all-natural ingredients around, Wellness Core seeks to nourish your dog without resorting to synthetic additives or potentially problematic ingredients, such as corn, wheat or soy.
Noteworthy Features and Characteristics: Deboned chicken is the first listed ingredient, but chicken meal and turkey meal provide additional protein Potatoes and peas provide the carbohydrate content, rather than grains Made in the USA Top Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Potatoes, Peas, Tomato Pomace, Dried Ground Potatoes, Ground Flaxseed, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Natural Chicken Flavor, Pea Fiber, Potassium Chloride, Spinach, Broccoli, Carrots, Parsley, Vitamins [Vitamin E Supplement, Beta-Carotene, Niacin, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement User Reviews: Owners rave about most Wellness Core recipes, and their large breed option is one of their most popular. Many report that it helped clear up their dog’s skin and coat issues, as well as provide their dog with more energy. It also helped many enjoy smoother digestive function, thanks to the included probiotics. Bottom Line: Wellness Core’s Large Breed Recipe satisfies almost every criteria owners could have for a dog food. It features high-quality proteins, it is made without any artificial additives, and it is fortified with glucosamine, chondroitin and four different probiotic strains. It also features a number of antioxidant-rich ingredients, including carrots, broccoli and parsley.
Wellness Core isn’t the most affordable option on the market, but it is easily one of the best foods available and deserving of serious consideration by German Shepherd owners.
German Shepherds are amazing dogs, who deserve the best food their owner can provide. Any of the foods recommended above should work for your pet, but be sure to select a food that addresses any health concerns your dog has. Additionally, make sure that you always work closely with your veterinarian to keep your dog as healthy as possible. In fact, it is often wise to consult your vet before making any significant changes to your dog’s diet.
Have you found a food that works particularly well for your GSD? Have you tried any of the foods we’ve recommended above? Let us know about your experiences in the comments below.
You May Also Like… German Shepherd Training: Basic Strategies and Helpful Hints How to Train a German Shepherd Puppy Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd: What are the Differences?
All About The Misunderstood Black German Shepherd