The Best Dog Food for German Shepherds

By Adrienne Farricelli

The German shepherd requires a special diet that supports the breed's frail digestive system, maintains the coat in top shape and keeps in consideration the breed's predisposition to debilitating joint problems. To grant a good start in life, it's very important to feed German shepherd puppies a diet that prevents rapid growth. A dog food that specifically targets this breed's health and developmental requirements provides extra benefits. Learn to read food labels so you can look for the correct amount of calories, protein and other nutrients for this active breed.

What a Big Mouth You Have

Your German shepherd's long muzzle is equipped with a set of strong teeth. To keep those teeth in good shape, look for foods providing an abrasive action so to keep the buildup of tartar at bay. Those teeny kibbles crafted for small dogs won't likely help. While it's true that large kibble won't necessarily reduce tartar, its larger size promotes longer chewing times which can help reduce tartar, explains Dottie P. Laflamme, of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition. (Reference 2) Look for kibble that is the appropriate size for a German shepherd's large mouth.

What Vulnerable Joints You Have

Rapid growth in German shepherd puppies predisposes them to orthopedic problems such as panosteitis, osteochondritis dissecans, hypertrophic osteodystrophy, and elbow and hip dysplasia. To lower your puppy's chances for developing these debilitating conditions, skip energy-dense foods containing grains, suggests Karen Becker, author and veterinarian at Natural Pet Animal Hospital in Bourbonnais, Ill. Look instead for foods promoting a slow but steady growth, with lower calorie density and containing correct amounts of calcium. Formulas specifically designed for large breed puppies or all life stages may help these youngsters, while older German shepherds may benefit from foods enriched with chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine hydrochloride and fatty acids to help those aging joints.

What a Frail Digestive System You Have

German shepherds are notorious for having quite a fragile digestive system that may lead to soft stools and digestive upset. They're prone to exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, small-intestinal bacterial overgrowth and their deep-chested conformation also predisposes them to bloat. Look for a diet with highly digestible proteins to maximize absorption, additives that help maintain a healthy gut population and ingredients that limit fermentation so to reduce water in the colon and minimize bacterial overgrowth.** If your German shepherd suffers from a digestive issue, consult with your vet for the most appropriate diet.

What a Nice Coat You Have

The German shepherd breed comes with an attractively long, double coat but this breed's skin is quite vulnerable. German shepherds have lower concentrations of immunoglobulin A, antibodies meant to protect the skin, explains Brent Mayabb, veterinarian and director of corporate affairs at Royal Canin. Nutritionally, you can help protect your German shepherd's coat by feeding formulations enriched with eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic fatty acids which are known for reducing inflammation and repairing dry, dull skin.

What a Great Diet You Have

Finding the best diet for your German shepherd may feel overwhelming because there seem to be so many choices. When choosing kibble, you'll need to carefully read labels. While home-made diets and raw diets are quite popular, it's important to prepare them correctly. It's challenging to cook a balanced diet for a growing German shepherd because of the impact it can have on growth. Also, there's little information out there concerning feeding raw diets during growth, points out Joe Bartges, a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine and professor of medicine and nutrition at at the College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Tennessee. Without a nutritionist's guidance, you risk feeding your German shepherd an unbalanced diet that isn't nutritionally complete. Prepackaged raw foods that are nutritionally complete may cut out a good part of the guesswork and reduce preparation times.