You want the best for your German Shepherd, and that includes the best dog food. Your dog’s diet plays a massive role in their overall health and happiness, so it’s not something you want to skimp on. But there are so many dog foods on the market – how can you find the best one?
Our Top Picks
- 1Nutro Wholesome Essentials Adult Large-Breed Dog Food
- 2Taste of the Wild High Protein, Premium Dry Dog Food
- 3Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets Dry Dog Food
- 4Merrick Large Breed Grain Free Dry Dog Food
- 5Blue Buffalo Wilderness Adult Dry Dog Food
- 6CANIDAE PURE Limited Ingredient Premium Dry Dog Food
- 7ORIJEN High-Protein Dry Dog Food
- 8Instinct Raw Boost Natural Dry Dog Food
- 9Holistic Select Natural Dry Dog Food
- 10Wellness Complete Health Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food
There is no one best food for all German Shepherds because each dog has unique nutritional requirements, health issues, and food sensitivities. However, we’ve gathered the 10 best dog foods for German Shepherds to help you find the best dog food for your pup.
What to Look for in German Shepherd Food
How can you tell if a dog food is good for your dog or not? Here are some things you should look for.
High-Quality Protein Is the First Ingredient
While dogs aren’t strict carnivores like cats, they still do best on a meat-based diet. Any food that has a grain as the first ingredient is essentially junk food sprayed with artificial vitamins. Look for high-quality animal protein sources as the first ingredients. Whole or deboned meat is generally better than meat meal, and you should avoid by-products anywhere in the ingredient list.
No or Whole Grains
Dogs weren’t meant to digest grains. If wolves eat any grains, it’s from the partially digested stomach contents of their prey. Grains make a convenient filler for dog food. Not all grains are bad, though, and some vets recommend against grain-free diets for dogs. Still, if you choose a grain-inclusive food, look for one that uses whole grains rather than by-products like corn gluten meal.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin
Sadly, German Shepherds are prone to several joint conditions that can cause chronic pain. You may have heard about people taking glucosamine and chondroitin supplements for joint pain. They’re just as helpful for dogs, so make sure any food you select for your German Shepherd includes glucosamine and chondroitin.
Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are crucial for a healthy skin and coat. While omega-6 is common in most dog foods, look for high levels of omega-3, too, because too much omega-6 in relation to omega-3 can lead to inflammation.
Probiotics help with digestive health, so they’re an important ingredient in dog food. Not all dog foods include probiotics, so you can be sure that dog foods that do are high-quality overall.
German Shepherds are prone to bloat, and one thing that can contribute to bloat is gulping food without chewing it first. Large kibble encourages dogs to chew their food, so that’s an essential part of finding a good food for a German Shepherd.
Made in a Country with High Safety Standards
Unfortunately, not every country has the same rigorous health and safety standards when it comes to making dog food. Stick with food produced in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, or New Zealand to reduce the likelihood of contamination.
Additives and artificial ingredients are not necessary in dog food and may trigger sensitivities in some dogs. Look for foods with natural ingredients and without any artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. Your German Shepherd doesn’t care what color their food is, anyway.
Avoid Animal By-Products
Did you know that animal by-products are all the parts of an animal that humans won’t eat? That doesn’t just include organ meat and bones – that can consist of feathers, beaks, and hooves, too. Those are all made primarily from keratin, which is the same thing your hair and fingernails are made from – it contains no nutritional value and merely serves as a cheap filler ingredient.
The Best Dog Food for German Shepherds
1. Nutro Wholesome Essentials Adult Large-Breed Dog Food
If non-GMO ingredients are important to you and your family, you’ll appreciate Nutro Wholesome Essentials Large Breed Adult. It’s made with non-GMO ingredients, is antioxidant-rich, and is a grain-inclusive formula with whole brown rice.
First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal (source of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate), whole brown rice, brewers rice, split peas
Customer Reviews: This food occasionally has some quality control issues, with dogs getting sick after eating a new bag of the same food they’ve been eating. And, as with any food, some dogs didn’t like the taste or got sick. Overall, most dogs like this food and do well on it.
Our Take: This grain-inclusive formula is a good choice for German Shepherds who aren’t sensitive to chicken or grains.
2. Taste of the Wild High Protein, Real Fish, Premium Dry Dog Food with Real Salmon, Superfoods, Probiotics and Antioxidants
Taste of the Wild has been a leader in grain-free nutrition for pets for many years. Now, they also offer ancient grains formulations of their popular recipes, including Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream with Real Salmon. The addition of probiotics makes this food highly digestible.
First 5 Ingredients: Salmon, salmon meal, ocean fish meal, grain sorghum, millet
Customer Reviews: There are many quality-control issues reported with this food lately, including bags with bugs or a dead mouse. Most dogs do well on this food, though, especially those with allergies.
Our Take: While there is a chance you could get a bad bag, both the grain-free and ancient grains versions of this food are excellent options for a German Shepherd.
3 Natural Balance LID Limited Ingredient Diets Large Breed Bites Dry Dog Food with Grains
If your German Shepherd has food allergies, check out Natural Balance LID Limited Ingredient Large Breed with Grains. With lamb and rice as the main ingredients and no hidden chicken, this food is an excellent option for dogs with food sensitivities.
First 5 Ingredients: Lamb, brown rice, lamb meal, brewers rice, rice bran
Customer Reviews:This food went through a recent formula change, and some dogs who had been on this food for years didn’t handle it well. Most dogs do well on this food, though, and seem to enjoy the flavor.
Our Take: As long as you transition your dog to this food properly, there’s a good chance your German Shepherd will thrive on this limited ingredient food.
4. Merrick Large Breed Grain Free with Real Meat + Sweet Potato Dry Dog Food
When it comes to high-quality ingredients, Merrick Large Breed Grain-Free with Real Meat + Sweet Potato is hard to beat. Deboned chicken is the first ingredient, and this food includes superfood ingredients like blueberries for natural antioxidants.
First 5 Ingredients: Deboned chicken, chicken meal, peas, sweet potatoes, potatoes
Customer Reviews:The main complaint about this food is that the kibble is relatively small, which encourages large dogs to swallow without chewing first. However, most dogs love this food and are thriving, with shiny fur as proof.
Our Take: This is one of the best foods you can find for German Shepherds. It includes high-quality real ingredients and leading levels of glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health.
5. Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein, Natural Adult Dry Dog Food
Vitamins and minerals tend to get destroyed during the cooking process, so Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein overcomes that by cooking their LifeSource Bits at a lower temperature to retain more nutrients.
First 5 Ingredients: Deboned salmon, chicken meal (source of glucosamine), peas, pea protein, menhaden fish meal (source of omega-3 fatty acids)
Customer Reviews: There are a fair number of complaints from people whose dogs got sick after eating this food, along with some dogs who didn’t like it. Still, most customers say their dogs enjoy this food and are doing well on it.
Our Take: This high protein food is a good choice for many active German Shepherds, although it’s important to note that the second ingredient is chicken meal, which some German Shepherds are sensitive to.
6. CANIDAE PURE Real Lamb, Limited Ingredient, Grain Free Premium Dry Dog Food
If you’re looking for a premium dog food for a German Shepherd with food sensitivities, look at Canidae Pure Limited Ingredient. There are many varieties to choose from, including lamb and pea; duck and sweet potato; and chicken, lentil, and pea.
First 5 Ingredients: Lamb, turkey meal, chicken meal, sweet potatoes, garbanzo beans
Customer Reviews: Many of the complaints are about quality control issues. There are also the usual dogs who didn’t like the taste or got sick. However, most dogs liked it and experienced allergy symptom relief.
Our Take: With several flavors to choose from, this is a good grain-free option that many German Shepherds should do well on.
7. ORIJEN High-Protein, Grain-Free, Premium Quality Meat, Dry Dog Food
For a high-quality, high-protein premium kibble, look no farther than Orijen Grain-Free. The first five ingredients are all meat or eggs, including real chicken, so you know your German Shepherd is getting plenty of meat-based protein.
First 5 Ingredients: Deboned chicken, deboned turkey, yellowtail ﬂounder, whole eggs, whole Atlantic mackerel
Customer Reviews: Along with the usual complaints about dogs getting sick or not liking the taste, there are a fair number of complaints about poor quality control. Most people say their dogs love this food and are doing well on it, and they don’t mind paying for such high quality.
Our Take: This is an ultra-premium dog food with a price tag to match, and some German Shepherds don’t do well with food that has a high protein content. Still, this is an excellent protein-rich option if you can afford it.
8. Instinct Raw Boost Grain Free Recipe Natural Dry Dog Food
For the convenience of kibble with the benefits of raw meat, check out Instinct Raw Boost Grain-Free. There are several different flavors to choose from, and each includes pieces of freeze-dried raw meat.
First 5 Ingredients: Duck, chicken meal, peas, egg product, turkey meal
Customer Reviews: One of the biggest complaints is about the price. Otherwise, it’s the usual complaints about dogs who didn’t like the taste or had digestive issues after switching to this food.
Our Take: If you want to dabble with freeze-dried raw ingredients, this is an excellent choice for your German Shepherd. Just pay attention to the ingredients if your dog has food sensitivities, as chicken meal may be included.
9. Holistic Select Natural Dry Dog Food Large & Giant Breed Adult
Are you looking for a grain-inclusive food with probiotics for your dog? You may like Holistic Select Natural Large & Giant Breed. It’s formulated with the nutritional needs of large breed dogs like German Shepherds and contains probiotics and prebiotics for digestibility.
First 5 Ingredients: Chicken meal, ground brown rice, ground white rice, oatmeal, chicken fat (preserved with natural mixed tocopherols)
Customer Reviews: The handful of complaints about this food range from people upset about the design of the bag to complaints about the price. That’s in addition to the usual dogs who didn’t like it. Mostly, though, dogs do well on this food and enjoy it.
Our Take: This is a good grain-inclusive option that many German Shepherds should do well on.
10. Wellness Complete Health Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food Large Breed Chicken
Wellness is focused on ingredients that benefit your dog’s overall health. For German Shepherds, we like Wellness Complete Health Natural Grain-Free Large Breed Chicken. It has guaranteed levels of omega fatty acids for a healthy skin and coat.
First 5 Ingredients: Deboned chicken, chicken meal, peas, potatoes, chickpeas
Customer Reviews: Like any food, this one has complaints about dogs who got sick or didn’t like the flavor. Overall, though, most dogs enjoy and do well on this food.
Our Take: This food is a good option for German Shepherds and is more affordable than some of the other grain-free options on our list.
Should German Shepherds Eat Grain-Free Dog Food?
There’s a lot of controversy surrounding grain-free dog food these days. In July 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a potential connection between grain-free dog foods and an increased risk of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a heart condition.
They haven’t proven that grain-free food causes DCM; they have just suggested that there may be a connection. The incidence of DCM is still extremely low, and the risk seems to be low.
Some veterinarians recommend that people avoid feeding their dogs grain-free food, while others still suggest it (at least in some cases). Dogs don’t need carbohydrates in their diet, so they shouldn’t necessarily need grains, either.
If you have any questions about whether or not to feed your German Shepherd a grain-free diet, you should talk to your vet.
Wet Food Vs. Dry Food for German Shepherds
While this list only includes dry dog food, there is nothing inherently wrong with wet dog food. It’s an excellent option for dogs with dental problems or who don’t drink enough water.
However, wet food can be cost-prohibitive for large breed dogs like German Shepherds, and not all canned food is designed to provide complete and balanced nutrition. If you like to add wet food to your pup’s diet, follow the same rules for ingredients mentioned at the beginning of this article.
As always, if you have questions about which type of food is best for your German Shepherd, you should talk to your veterinarian.
Feeding Adult German Shepherds Vs. Feeding German Shepherd Puppies
German Shepherd puppies have special dietary requirements and should eat puppy food designed for large breed dogs. On the wrong food, your German Shepherd puppy could grow too quickly, which may lead to bone and joint problems that can last a lifetime.
You can select a food that’s designed for all life stages. That’s the most convenient when you have dogs of different ages because it contains the essential nutrients that all dogs need. However, large breed puppy nutritional requirements are so specific that it’s usually best to choose large breed puppy food until your dog reaches adulthood.
Additionally, puppies need to eat more often than adult dogs. When you first bring your puppy home, you should feed them 4 times a day. When they reach 4 months old, you can start feeding them 4 times a day. At 6 months old, your puppy is ready for twice-daily feedings.
Adult German Shepherds should be fed twice a day. Eating one large meal each day may cause bloat, a life-threatening condition where the stomach rotates on its axis. Free-feeding can make it harder to notice when your dog stops eating or track how much they eat.
Common German Shepherd Health Issues
Unfortunately, German Shepherds are prone to a variety of health issues. Some health problems may be caused or worsened by diet, so it’s important to know what issues they’re prone to and how diet may affect those issues.
Food Allergies and Intolerances
German Shepherds are slightly more prone to food allergies or sensitivities than some other dog breeds. The most common dog food allergens include chicken, beef, eggs, wheat, dairy, pork, lamb, fish, rabbit, and soy.
Symptoms of food allergies include itching, hives, chronic ear infections, hot spots, and yeast infections.
Some people confuse food allergies with food sensitivities. A food allergy involves the immune system, while a food sensitivity involves the gastrointestinal tract.
Food sensitivities in dogs include symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, and gas.
Either way, if your dog is experiencing food allergies or sensitivities, the best thing to do is to figure out which ingredients your dog is sensitive to and find foods without those components.
Sadly, German Shepherds are one of the breeds most at risk for hip dysplasia, a painful condition where the thigh bone doesn’t sit properly in the hip joint.
Growing too quickly as a puppy may contribute to hip dysplasia, so it’s crucial to feed your German Shepherd puppy a food made specifically for large breed puppies. It contains different nutrients than other puppy food or adult food.
Just like humans, dogs are prone to developing arthritis as they age. Also like humans, glucosamine and chondroitin can help maintain or improve joint health. Even if your German Shepherd is young and healthy now, you should select a food with glucosamine and chondroitin to help keep their joints healthy for as long as possible.
Bloat is a life-threatening condition where a dog’s stomach fills with gas and rotates on its axis. It can cut off the blood supply to your German Shepherd’s intestines. Without emergency surgery, bloat is fatal in about half of all dogs that get it. Even with surgery, one out of three dogs who get bloat will die.
Swallowing a lot of air can lead to bloat, so you want to prevent your dog from eating too quickly. Large kibble helps your dog to take more time to eat. Food puzzles are also a great way to get your German Shepherd to eat slower, reducing their risk for bloat.
We’ve given you lots of information here. Hopefully, you can use it to find a dog food that your German Shepherd loves and thrives on. The best dog food can help add years to your dog’s life and life to their years. After all, we get so precious little time with our dogs; we want to have as many quality years with them as possible.