German shepherds are a very popular breed, and it’s easy to understand their appeal.
Shepherds are intelligent, loyal and easily trained dogs, with impressive builds. But like with all other breeds, they require a high-quality food (as well as plenty of exercise and proper veterinary care) to enjoy a long and healthy life.
Read further for our guide on what to look for in a quality dog food for GSDs, or check out our quick guide below on the top German Shepherd dog foods!
Best Dog Food For German Shepherds
- Taste of the Wild Sierra Canine [Pick #1] Grain-free formula featuring lamb and lamb meal as first two ingredients. Also includes probiotics to aid in digestion. Smaller kibble size should also help prevent bloat.
- Wellness Complete Health [Pick #2] A grain-free formula with whitefish as the #1 ingredient and sole animal protein. No wheat, corn, soy, artificial flavors, colors or preservatives which could trigger allergies.
- Purina Pro Focus Sensitive Skin & Stomach [Most Affordable] Salmon-and-rice formula with glucosamine-rich ingredients and no corn, wheat, or soy.
Core Health Concerns for German Shepherds
Most German shepherds are healthy dogs, but the breed is more susceptible to a number of few health concerns than other breeds are.
Many of the problems that afflict German shepherds are congenital, and therefore out of your control. However, other health issues develop in response to your pup’s environment or lifestyle, and you may be able to treat these in part by selecting optimal foods for your pup.
Some of the most common ailments that afflict German shepherds include:
Perianal fistulas are small tunnels that form around a dog’s anus that connect the anal glands to the outside world. They are terribly painful, subject to infection, and often exude puss (let’s hope you aren’t eating while reading this). These fistulas are more common in German shepherds than any other breed.
German shepherds are notorious for developing food allergies. Typically, food allergies manifest as dry, itchy skin, ears or paws; but some dogs also exhibit gastrointestinal symptoms.
Canine food allergies occur when a dog’s body misidentifies a harmless protein as a pathogen, which causes an unnecessary immune system response.
Unlike food allergies, which usually cause skin problems, food intolerances make it difficult for German shepherds to digest some proteins like they should. This can cause them to vomit or experience diarrhea.
Hip dysplasia is common among many larger dog breeds, and German shepherds are no exception. Hip dysplasia can be quite painful, making it hard for your pup to get around.
Like many other large breeds, German shepherds often develop osteoarthritis as they age. Osteoarthritis causes joint pain, which can limit your dog’s mobility.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Many German shepherds suffer from inflammatory bowel disease, which manifests in these dogs much like Crohn’s disease does in humans. There is some evidence that suggests inflammatory bowel disease and perianal fistulas may be interconnected in the breed.
German shepherds are at high risk of developing bloat, like most other deep-chested breeds are. Bloat is a potentially fatal condition, which occurs when your dog’s stomach or intestines becomes twisted, trapping gasses inside.
Although the exact causes for bloat remain poorly understood, it is probably wise to encourage your dog to eat slowly instead of gulping her food down.
Always consult with your veterinarian if you suspect your dog is suffering from any of these conditions. But whether your dog is suffering from these problems or not, it makes sense to select a dog food that may help you prevent them from developing.
What to Look For in High-Quality Dog Foods
Before discussing the specific characteristics that are desirable in a German shepherd food, it is important to outline some of the ingredients and traits that characterize all high-quality dog foods and are desirable when selecting a food for any breed.
Select dog foods made in the USA, Canada, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand, as foods made in these countries are usually subject to stricter food safety protocols than those made in other places. By purchasing foods from these “western” countries, you’re less likely to see it show up on a recall list or make your dog ill.
Look for a high-quality protein as the first listed ingredient. A few high-quality foods list a carbohydrate as the first ingredient, but most of the best foods feature a whole-protein source first.
It’s always a good idea to avoid foods with unnecessary and potentially harmful additives, such as artificial colors and flavors, but it is especially important to avoid feeding such foods to breeds prone to food allergies and intolerances, such as German shepherds.
Meat-meals are not necessarily poor ingredients, despite the claims of some. Many of the products used to make meat-meals provide great nutrition for your dog – even if some of them seem gross to humans. However, it is important to avoid foods that do not indicate the species from which the meal was obtained.
Byproducts are less desirable than meat-meals, but they are not necessarily a deal-breaker. They should, however, always identify the species from which the byproduct was derived, rather than simply labelling the ingredient as “animal byproduct.” Unidentified byproducts should be completely avoided.
Important Factors for German Shepherd Dog Foods
In addition to selecting a product that possesses the characteristics you’d want in any good dog food, there are a few additional factors you should consider when purchasing food for your German shepherd. This will help you address the specific needs of your dog.
Some of the most important things to look for in a food include:
- Because German shepherd often develop food allergies, it may be helpful to select foods that do not include some of the most common allergens, such as corn, wheat, chicken and beef.
- Because German shepherds may develop osteoarthritis and other joint maladies, you should look for products containing glucosamine and chondroitin, which may help treat or prevent such problems.
- Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are valuable additions to your German shepherd’s diet, as they are believed to help promote joint health and good coat condition, as well as reduce inflammatory responses by the body.
- Foods that include probiotics may be able to help soothe your German shepherd’s digestive system and improve its function. This is especially important given the breed’s frequent gastrointestinal issues.
- To help further avoid digestive problems, it is wise to provide your pup with a food that your dog seems to digest well. Unfortunately, you’ll never know how a given food will affect your dog until you try it. However, it may be helpful to seek out ingredients most dogs digest well – such as lamb and rice – at the outset.
- Because German shepherds often suffer from bloat, it is wise to encourage your dog to chew rather than gulp, and eat slowly. Your pup is more likely to chew larger kibble pieces, so try to compare the sizes of various options when making your selection.
5 Best Foods for German Shepherds
Below you will find five great options for feeding your German shepherd. Note the differences between these options and try to select the one that best suits your dog and her particular needs.
Note that while there are a few dog foods available that claim to be specifically formulated for German shepherds, most have problematic ingredients, which make them less desirable than the foods detailed below.
1. Taste of the Wild Sierra Mountain
High-protein, lamb-based recipe
USA-made with lamb and lamb meal as the first two ingredients, along with beneficial probiotics and dried chicory root.
About: Taste of the Wild Sierra Canine Formula is a lamb-based dog food, made from high-quality ingredients. Taste of the Wild is designed to mimic the presumed diet of wild canids, so it is made without any grains.
- Formulated with probiotics to help promote proper and problem-free digestion
- Taste of the Wild is made in the USA, under some of the strictest food safety requirements in the world
- Made with real, antioxidant-rich fruits, such as blueberries raspberries
- Contains both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, which may promote skin, coat and joint health
Taste of the Wild is usually well-received by owners and their dogs, and is considered a pet owner favorite. Most dogs appear to enjoy the taste, and owners report a number of health benefits, including increased energy, improved coat quality and problem-free stools. In short, this lamb-based, grain-free, pro-biotic fortified is an excellent choice for most shepherds.
Taste of the Wild kibble is relatively small – many owners have compared it to the size of puppy kibble. This may encourage your shepherd to gulp rather than chew, which is less than ideal. Additionally, some owners have reported their dog’s teeth do not remain as clean while using this food.
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, iron proteinate, zinc proteinate, copper proteinate, ferrous sulfate, zinc sulfate, copper sulfate, potassium iodide, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), manganese proteinate, manganous oxide, ascorbic acid, vitamin A supplement, biotin, niacin, calcium pantothenate, manganese sulfate, sodium selenite, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), vitamin B12 supplement, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin D supplement, folic acid.
2. Wellness Complete Health Whitefish & Sweet Potato
Whitefish-based, limited-ingredient formula
A grain-free formula with whitefish as the single meat protein. No wheat, corn, soy, artificial flavors, colors or preservatives which could trigger allergies.
- Fortified with vitamins and minerals to help ensure a balanced diet and avoid nutritional deficiencies
- Contains no wheat, corn, soy, artificial flavors, colors or preservatives which may trigger food allergies
- Made without meat byproducts or unidentified meat-meals, so you know exactly what your dog is eating
- Made in the USA, so you can rest assured it is made in accordance with prudent food-safety practices
Rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and fortified with antioxidant-rich ingredients, Wellness Complete contains a number of the characteristics you’d expect in a high-quality dog food. Additionally, most owners report that their dog found the food palatable, and several report that it helped improve their dog’s stools.
Although Wellness Complete claims to be fortified with pro-biotics, none appear on the ingredient list, which is somewhat disappointing. Nevertheless, given the product’s reasonable price and premium ingredients, it still represents a good value for your dog-food dollar.
Whitefish, Ground Barley (de-hulled), Rye Flour, Menhaden Fish Meal, Ground Pearled Barley...,
Sweet Potatoes, Canola Oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols, a natural source of Vitamin E), Tomato Pomace, Natural Fish Flavor, Ground Flaxseed, Dicalcium Phosphate, Calcium Carbonate, Potassium Chloride, Minerals [Zinc Sulfate, Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Ferrous Sulfate, Copper Proteinate, Copper Sulfate, Manganese Proteinate, Manganese Sulfate, Sodium Selenite], Vitamins [Beta-Carotene, Vitamin E Supplement, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Vitamin A Supplement, Niacin, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin, Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Thiamine Mononitrate, Folic Acid, Biotin, Vitamin B-12 Supplement], Mixed Tocopherols (a natural preservative), Choline Chloride, Taurine.
3. Natural Balance L.I.D. Lamb & Brown Rice Formula
Mid-priced limited-ingredient dog food
LID grain-inclusive dog food made with real lamb and brown rice, with lamb as the single animal protein source.
About: Natural Balance Lamb and Brown Rice Formula is a limited ingredient diet, based on easy-to-digest lamb protein and brown rice.
Limited ingredient diets are ideal for dog’s that suffer from food allergies, and they may also be a good proactive strategy for avoiding them entirely, for breeds that frequently suffer from food allergies.
- Made without unnecessary ingredients like artificial flavors, colors or preservatives
- Fortified with canola oil, which is an excellent source of both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids
- Formulated for dogs of all life stages, making it a suitable selection for German shepherds of all ages
- Natural Balance is backed by a 100% satisfaction guarantee
Natural Balance is a high-quality food that is rated as a 4- or 5-star product by 88% of reviewers. Most dogs appear to find the food tasty, and owners appreciate the use of high-quality ingredients. Additionally, because of their tendency to suffer from food allergies, German shepherds often benefit from limited ingredient diets, like Natural Balance.
Unfortunately, Natural Balance does not include any probiotics among its ingredients.
Lamb, Brown Rice, Lamb Meal, Brewers Rice, Rice Bran...,
Brewers Dried Yeast, Sunflower Oil (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Natural Flavor, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Choline Chloride, DL-Methionine, Taurine, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin Supplement, D-calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement), Minerals (Zinc Proteinate, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Sulfate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Sulfate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Iodate), Rosemary Extract, Green Tea Extract, Spearmint Extract.
Special Note: There has been some uncertainty about the location in which Natural Balance is manufactured. When asked via chat, a company spokesperson offered the following:
Please know that all of the plants which manufacture the Natural Balance Dry, Canned, Treats, Rolls, Pouches are located in the United States, with the exception of our Delectable Delights Stews and Wet Cups which are manufactured in Thailand by a state-of-the-art USFDA-approved plant.
4. Purina Pro Plan Focus Sensitive Skin & Stomach
Food for sensitive skin
This salmon and rice-based recipe blended with vitamins and minerals is great for dogs suffering from allergies or sensitive stomachs.
About: Purina Pro Plan Focus Sensitive Skin & Stomach is a salmon and rice-based food designed for dogs that are suffering from food allergies or sensitive stomachs. Salmon and rice are typically easy for dogs to digest, and most dogs find them to be tasty ingredients.
- Fortified with glucosamine-rich ingredients, which can help protect your shepherd’s joints as she ages
- Contains few common allergens, such as corn, wheat or soy
- Fortified with vitamins and minerals to help ensure your dog receives a balanced and complete diet
- Manufactured in company-owned factories, located in the USA
Purina Sensitive Skin & Stomach is an affordably priced dog food that features high-quality ingredients that bely its low price. Unlike many other foods at this price point, this recipe includes glucosamine and added vitamins while leaving out corn and other low-cost grains.
Purina Sensitive Skin & Stomach does not contain any probiotics, but it does feature fiber sources (known as prebiotics) that nourish the beneficial bacteria already living in your dog’s stomach. Additionally, some owners complain that the food has a strong fishy odor, but this is a relatively minor concern.
Salmon, Barley, Rice, Oat Meal, Canola Meal, Fish Meal (Source Of Glucosamine)...,
Beef Fat Preserved With Mixed-tocopherols, Salmon Meal (Source Of Glucosamine), Dried Yeast, Natural Flavor, Sunflower Oil, Chicory Root Inulin, Fish Oil, L-lysine Monohydrochloride, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Dl-methionine, Vitamins [Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin (Vitamin B-3), Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B-5), Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B-1), Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B-2), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B-6), Folic Acid (Vitamin B-9), Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Vitamin K), Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Biotin (Vitamin B-7)], Calcium Carbonate, Minerals [Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite], Choline Chloride, L-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (Vitamin C), Dried Bacillus Coagulans Fermentation Product.
5. CANIDAE Grain Free PURE Dry Dog Food
Premium dog food made with just 10 ingredients
This recipe features protein-rich real lamb, turkey meal, and chicken meal as the first three ingredients in a limited-ingredient formula with no corn, wheat, soy, or fillers.
About: CANIDAE PURE Dog Food is a grain- and soy-free dog food that contains a variety of protein sources and easy-to-digest carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes, chick peas and peas. Real lamb is the first ingredient listed, which most dogs will find delicious and easy to digest.
- Fortified with four different pro-biotics to help support proper gastrointestinal function
- Formulated with supplemental antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to ensure a complete, balanced diet
- Contains ingredients that are rich in both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, for skin and immune system health
CANIDAE contains both animal-based protein sources, such as lamb, as well as several protein-rich vegetable sources, such as chickpeas, peas and alfalfa. Additionally, CANIDAE is one of the relatively few dry foods that contains probiotics, which may help your shepherd digest her food more easily. CANIDAE packs an impressive protein punch, with the first three ingredients composed of meat or meat meal!
While lamb is the first ingredient, CANIDAE also includes chicken meal and chicken fat, which are common allergens.
Lamb, turkey meal, chicken meal, sweet potatoes, chickpeas...,
peas, chicken fat, menhaden fish meal, potatoes, sun-cured 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), vitamins (vitamin E supplement, thiamine mononitrate, ascorbic acid, vitamin A supplement, biotin, niacin, calcium pantothenate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, vitamin B12 supplement, riboflavin, vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid), choline chloride, dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus casei fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus plantarum fermentation product, dried Trichoderma longibrachiatum fermentation extract, mixed tocopherols (a natural source of vitamin E)
Whether your German shepherd is the picture of health or she suffers from several different health problems, you should be able to find a food to suit her among those listed above. Just be sure to take her specific needs into account before making your selection.
Have you found a food a perfect food for your shepherd? Tell us all about it in the comments below.