Best Overall: Acana Singles Range
“Acana Singles Range is a grain-free dog food packed with healthy vegetables and fruits. It’s great if your German Shepherd has food allergies.”
Best For Puppies: Orijen Puppy Large
“Orijen Puppy Large is ideal for energetic German Shepherd puppies. It is loaded with healthy ingredients including protein and DHA for eye and brain development..”
Best For Dogs With Allergies: Canidae Pure Premium Dry Dog Food
“Canidae Pure Premium Dry Dog Food gives you more flexibility especially if your pup has food allergies. It has 10 or fewer ingredients so it is easy to avoid allergens.”
German Shepherds are one of the most popular breeds around, consistently making it into the top three according to American Kennel Club.
They’re goofy, very intelligent, beautifully fluffy, and very active, and make amazing companions and family pets as well as great guard dogs. Gorgeous and versatile!
Read on to find out the best dog food for German Shepherds if you’re the proud parent of one of these beauties. They have some quite specific dietary needs, so you’ll need to make sure they’re eating appropriately for their size, age, and activity level.
Table of Contents
- The Rundown
- 10 Best Dog Food For German Shepherds
- 1. Acana Singles Range
- 2. Orijen Puppy Large
- 3. Canidae Pure Limited Ingredient Premium Dry Dog Food
- 4. Diamond Naturals Adult Real Meat Recipe
- 5. Diamond Naturals Senior Dog Recipe
- 6. Orijen High-Protein Dry Dog Food
- 7. Canidae Life Stages Canned Dog Food
- 8. Nature’s Variety Natural Dry Dog Food
- 9. Diamond Naturals Skin & Coat Dry Dog Food
- 10. Stella’s Solutions Skin & Coat Boost Recipe
- 1. Acana Singles Range
- Testing Protocol & Criteria Used For Evaluation
- Questions & Answers
- What are the nutritional requirements of German Shepherds?
- How much should I feed a German Shepherd puppy, and when can I transition my GSD puppy to adult dog food?
- What should I look for in the best dog food for German Shepherds?
- Are there ingredients German Shepherds should avoid?
- What health conditions are common in German Shepherds?
- What are some good ways to exercise my German Shepherd?
- What are the nutritional requirements of German Shepherds?
10 Best Dog Food For German Shepherds
1. Acana Singles Range
Best Limited Ingredient
- Five different flavours to suit every taste and to help avoid any problem ingredients
- Contains DHA, EPA, and glucosamine
- Suitable for all life stages
- Grain-free and packed with nutritious vegetables and fruit
- Slightly pricey
- Slightly high in fat for less active dogs
For German Shepherds who suffer from food allergies, a limited ingredient diet is a good, simple way to reduce their chances of reacting badly to their kibble.
If you are aware of what particular ingredient your dog has trouble with, Acana Singles Range makes it easy to offer your pooch an excellent variety of flavours while still avoiding the problem food. If you aren’t sure what exactly your pooch is allergic to, switching to this range of limited foods will help you to narrow down what the allergy-inducing ingredient is.
The protein count is spot-on for both puppies and fairly active adults, and the fat (17%) is great for energetic dogs but may be a little much for less active pups. Every flavour contains DHA, EPA, and glucosamine, making this a supremely well-rounded limited ingredient food range.
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2. Orijen Puppy Large
Best For German Shepherd Puppies
- High in protein and with a decent fat count for bouncy GSD puppies
- Contains DHA for healthy brain and eye development
- Contains glucosamine and chondroitin to strengthen your puppy’s joints from the start
- Loaded with all-natural, biologically appropriate ingredients
- Not suitable for puppies who show sensitivities to poultry ingredients
- Slightly on the expensive side
Puppies need slightly different nutrients to adult dogs, especially large breeds. Orijen Puppy Large is not only biologically appropriate, meaning it’s made with ingredients that your puppy would be likely to eat if he were a wild dog, but it’s also packed with health-promoting supplements that help a puppy grow up the right way.
You’ll find a perfect calcium/phosphorus ratio for optimal bone growth, which is essential for large breed puppies. A great dose of glucosamine and chondroitin is also present, so your little one’s joints will be as well supported as their bones.
DHA is an amino acid that is critical for puppies. It helps the brain tissue and eyes to develop the way they should. EPA is another amino acid you’ll find here, which boosts the immune system and helps your little guy or girl stay healthy while growing up.
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- Variety of recipes to choose from, allowing for flexibility around food allergies
- Range of protein and fat counts makes this range suitable for all adult dogs
- High levels of glucosamine and chondroitin in all recipes
- Puppy and senior recipes available
- Somewhat pricey (although not unusual for a limited ingredient food)
For high-energy but sensitive-tummy fluffs like GSDs, Canidae Pure Limited Ingredient Premium Dry Dog Food is just about perfect. There are 11 different recipes, making it incredibly easy to avoid allergy-creating ingredients while still giving your dog a nutrient-rich, tasty meal.
There’s something for every type of German Shepherd here, from puppy to senior. The protein ranges from 25% to 32%, and fat from 14% to 19% (for adult recipes – 12% for puppies, and 10% for seniors).
They’re also loaded with all the necessary stuff for a Shepherd to thrive, including joint supplements, great Omega fatty acids, and DHA for the puppies.
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4. Diamond Naturals Adult Real Meat Recipe
Best Value For Money
- Less than a dollar per pound of food
- Contains no chicken or potato
- Good Omega fatty acid levels as well as glucosamine
- Includes superfood fruit and veggie ingredients
- Protein count may be too little for very active pups
For Shepherd parents who are looking for a premium quality but affordable food, Diamond Naturals Adult Real Meat Recipe is the perfect choice for you. At less than a dollar per pound (and 40 pounds is a nice sized bag), you can’t do better than this in terms of value for money.
There’s no hint of chicken or potato, which is great for GSDs who are sensitive to it, and it contains ingredients that are considered to be superfoods, which is unusual for a food of this price.
It’s filled with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and decent Omega fatty acid levels, as well as supplements to keep joints tough. You can’t find a better value-for-money kibble than this one, and your pup will be getting everything he or she needs to be healthy and happy.
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5. Diamond Naturals Senior Dog Recipe
Best For German Shepherd Seniors
- Extremely affordable and contains all a senior dog needs
- Added joint supplements and L-carnitine
- Great protein and fat levels for older dogs who are slowing down physically
- Impressive ingredient list with superfood ingredients
- Not suitable for dogs sensitive to poultry or egg products
The nutrients in Diamond Naturals Senior Dog Recipe are spot-on for German Shepherds who are getting older and starting to slow down physically. It still has a good level of protein (25%) to maintain muscles and ensure your pooch doesn’t lose muscle mass, while the joint-strengthening supplements become very important in this stage of life to reduce chances of joint dysplasia.
It also has a fairly moderate calorie count, which is helpful for older pups who are still hungry but burn less energy due to reduced exercise.
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6. Orijen High-Protein Dry Dog Food
- Three different flavours, something for every dog’s needs
- Biologically appropriate, all-natural nutrition
- High in protein and fats
- Contains useful supplements for joints and immune system
- Pricey option
- May not be suitable for less active dogs
You can’t go wrong choosing this food to nourish your German Shepherd. It’s packed with healthy, high-quality nutrition, and contains all the supplements a pup might need – adult, puppy, or active senior.
While Orijen High-Protein Dry Dog Food is aimed at adults, it’s versatile enough to be suitable for little ones and older pooches too. You’ll find supplements designed to keep eyes and brains sharp, which is great for youngsters and oldies, and pretty useful for the average adult.
There’s also stuff in there to support joints, as well as moderate Omega levels. The three flavours allow for avoidance of allergies while still giving your pup a bit of choice.
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7. Canidae Life Stages Canned Dog Food
Best Wet Food
- Lamb and chicken flavours available
- Nice Omega fatty acid levels for a canned food
- Good quality ingredients that provide a nice taste
- Easily digestible
- May have a strong smell
Healthy German Shepherds need quite a lot of calories per day, and Canidae Life Stages Canned Dog Food is usually split between two meals. If your pup is struggling to eat a very big meal of dry kibble, topping it with a high-quality wet or canned food can make all the difference.
Canidae’s All Life Stages canned food is a wonderful option. You can choose between lamb and a couple of chicken options, and they’re made with real meat, broth for extra moisture, brown rice, dried cranberries (which add a lovely little dose of antioxidants), and a couple of extra healthy ingredients depending on the recipe.
One of the great this about this food is that it shows the Omega fatty acid level on the food label, which is unusual for canned dog foods, but great to know your pooch will be getting an extra dose to shine up his skin and coat.
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8. Nature’s Variety Natural Dry Dog Food
Best For Highly Active GSDs
- Contains dry kibble and freeze-dried raw meat
- No grain, gluten, potato, corn, wheat, or soy
- Variety of flavours, some excluding chicken (salmon & venison)
- High in protein and fat, great for dogs who are very bouncy
- Most flavours contain chicken in the list, which may not be apparent at first
- Pricey option
- No joint supplements – you will need to get separately
If your German Shepherd is a typical, seriously lively, working dog type, they’ll need something to cater to those energy levels and make sure they can keep up their lifestyle while getting all their nutrients in. Nature’s Variety Natural Dry Dog Food delivers all of those things.
Every recipe is loaded with protein from various sources, and it is possible to find one without chicken for GSDs who can’t stomach it. The fat count is high (20%+ in every recipe), so active dogs will benefit greatly from that.
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9. Diamond Naturals Skin & Coat Dry Dog Food
Best Without Glucosamine
- Very affordable for its quality
- Good protein and fat levels for moderately active GSDs
- Impressive quality ingredient list including superfoods
- Good Omegas from salmon
- Contains potatoes, which may be an allergen for some
- “Fish meal” is a little vague
If you’re specifically looking for a kibble that doesn’t contain glucosamine (for example, if you are already feeding your pooch a glucosamine supplement), Diamond Naturals Skin & Coat Dry Dog Food is a wonderful choice.
It’s an incredibly affordable option, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s of lesser quality. You can be perfectly happy feeding this to your pup – they’ll be eating ingredients of the highest quality, getting a good dose of protein and fat, a nice dash of Omegas, and a splash of antioxidants and vitamins.
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10. Stella’s Solutions Skin & Coat Boost Recipe
Best For Skin & Coat
- High in protein, fat, and Omega fatty acids
- Contains biotin, which also helps nourish skin
- Also has Hip & Joint Boost formula, Immune Boost formula, and Digestive Boost formula
- Fairly limited ingredient, but all-natural and high-quality
- May be too high in fat for less active dogs, leading to weight gain
- Somewhat pricey option
German Shepherds have a beautiful, double-thick coat that tends to shed. Although they’re likely to shed year-round, fur loss and dry skin can be reduced quite significantly by feeding them a food that is high in Omega fatty acids to nourish their skin and coat.
If your GSD suffers from food allergies that affect their skin and coat, Stella’s Solutions Skin & Coat Boost Recipe is for them. Stella and Chewy are a raw food brand and this particular option is aimed specifically at dealing with skin and coat problems.
It’s a limited ingredient, high protein, super quality food, which not only contains a top level of fat (32%, making it best for Shepherds who get plenty of exercise), but also contains leading levels of Omega fatty acids. You’ll see a difference in your pup’s skin and coat just a few weeks after switching them to this healthy option.
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Testing Protocol & Criteria Used For Evaluation
Criteria 1 – Protein Count & Quality
German Shepherds are working dogs, and as such are generally full of energy. Because of their highly active nature, their muscles get plenty of exercise, so it’s essential that the food you choose for your GSD is high in great quality protein.
You’ll be looking for a named animal protein as the first ingredient on the list. More than one protein source is fine, as long as they are all identified. If you see something like “animal meat” or “poultry meal”, stay away – this is too vague and is hard to tell the quality of the product.
Plant protein sources are acceptable to see on an ingredient list as long as they are not the primary sources. The amino acids in animal protein are more easily digestible than plant proteins, and offer other benefits such as Omega fatty acids, too.
If your GSD is an energetic one, they would benefit from a diet containing 30% or more protein. Less active pups or seniors who are slowing down could do with a little less protein – between 24% and 30% is a good number.
Criteria 2 – Fat Count & Quality
Pups with plenty of energy don’t get it from carbs – the fat in their dog food is what powers them through their day. It’s the energy source that’s the quickest and easiest to access and use, which means that it’s something you need to pay attention to when looking for the best food for German Shepherds.
The fat content in a dog food should also be from premium quality sources, and animal sources are always the best bet. Chicken fat is a good source, even for pups with an allergy to poultry, as the component that causes the allergy is only in the meat. Pork fat is another common one to see, as is salmon oil. Plant ingredients such as canola oil and flaxseed are also quite acceptable.
Your energetic pooch will need around 15% fat to fuel him through his day. More than this is okay if your dog is very full of beans and can work it off, but if your GSD is getting a little round, you may want to consider lowering this number.
Criteria 3 – Joint-Strengthenings
These guys and girls are prone to joint problems, and their very busy lifestyles contribute to the chances of them suffering joint issues.
If they’re getting a good dose of protein in to keep their muscles tough and flexible, they also need a strong, solid skeletal system to support those muscles. Calcium and phosphorus are good things to see on the list, although they are more important in growing puppies.
What we really want to see in the best dog food for German Shepherds is a good dose of glucosamine and chondroitin, which will support and strengthen the joints and reduce the chances of hip, knee, and elbow dysplasia.
Many foods contain ingredients that naturally hold an amount of these two supplements, but we’ve made sure that the foods we’ve reviewed here have a high enough amount for it to be reflected on the guaranteed analysis list.
In the case of a food that doesn’t contain glucosamine but is still an awesome quality choice, we’ve noted that you will need to buy a separate glucosamine supplement.
Criteria 4 – Omega Fatty Acids
These fluffy pooches not only need a decent amount of fat to run off during the day, they also need it to keep their coats sleek and beautiful, and lower the chances of skin allergies, to which they are quite prone.
You want to see a food with a nice amount of Omega fatty acids in addition to the crude fat count. You’ll find Omega-3 and Omega-6 on a dog food label, and the numbers can vary widely. While there is no specific accepted number, especially considering the crude fat count can vary vastly too, you’ll want something where the Omega-6 number doesn’t dip below the 2% mark.
In the best food for GSD puppies you’ll also want to see a dose of DHA and EPA, which are essential additions that promote healthy development and reduce inflammation.
We’ve made sure the foods we’ve reviewed here contain fairly high levels of Omegas, although if you do decide to go with a food that has a lower number, it’s also fairly easily to find decent Omega supplements out there.
Criteria 5 – Affordability
We’re aware of how pricey it can be to be a parent (whether of pets or kids… Or both!). Part of our mission to make dogs happier involves keeping pet parents happy too – after all, a happy pet parent makes for a happier dog.
Our fluffs can pick up on our stress, so we’ve made sure there’s something here to suit every budget. Choosing a high-quality food for your GSD doesn’t have to break the bank or cause financial worry – there are some fantastic quality dog foods on this list that are surprisingly affordable and still provide your pooch top quality nutrition.
We’ve noted where we feel foods are slightly on the expensive side, and we’ve also let you know when we think they’re great value for money. Our Best Value For Money option is just as high-quality as the others on this list, so you can rest assured that your bank account and your GSD will both stay as healthy as possible.
Questions & Answers
What are the nutritional requirements of German Shepherds?
An adult German Shepherd will generally be super lively. Remember, these dogs are working dogs, so they are built to be active. A bouncy adult will require around 2200 calories per day, while a less active pooch will be all good with between 1500 and 2000.
Nutrients you should be aiming for when it comes to an energetic adult GSD is 30% or more protein, around 15% fat, and high levels of Omega fatty acids, as well as a nice dose of glucosamine and chondroitin. Pups that expend less energy can make do with between 24% and 30% protein and between 10% and 15% fat.
Puppies will need in the region of 500 calories a day, but this should be increased as the months go by. A GSD puppy only matures between 18 and 24 months, so it’s essential to keep feeding them puppy-specific food until this time, while slowly increasing the amount of calories to accommodate his or her growing needs.
A high protein content is good for puppies, and you can stick to a food around 30%. Contrary to popular belief, this won’t make your puppy grow too fast. A lower fat count is a better idea, between 8 and 12%. You’ll need to look for a calcium/phosphorus ratio of 1:1 to 1:3. It’s imperative not to go over this amount, as your puppy’s bones will become too brittle to support his or her frame.
How much should I feed a German Shepherd puppy, and when can I transition my GSD puppy to adult dog food?
This is an important consideration. Most GSD parents don’t realise that although their puppy grows super fast, he only reaches maturity between the ages of 18 and 24 months.
This means that in order to keep developing as he should, your German Shepherd puppy will need to eat a puppy-specific food until this age. Many pet parents make the innocent mistake of basing their puppy’s nutritional needs on his size rather than on his age, and boy, can GSDs grow fast.
No matter how big your German Shepherd puppy gets, you’ll need to keep them on their puppy kibble until they’re at least 18 months old, just increasing the amount you feed them as they get older. It’s best to err on the side of caution and only switch to an adult food at the age of 2 years if you aren’t sure.
With regards to how much to feed, a puppy will start off needing about 500 calories a day (once they’re onto solid food, which will be from about 4 weeks of age). This should be split between 3 or 4 small meals – never leave your puppy to free-feed. This calorie count should be upped slightly every week or so, until it reaches around 2000 in adulthood (this will require some mathematics on your part).
From about 6 months you can reduce the amount of meals per day to 2. Most dog foods have guidelines on their packaging which suits most dogs, so you can follow those to get a good idea of how much to give per meal.
What should I look for in the best dog food for German Shepherds?
First and foremost, you’ll want to make sure the food you’re looking at has an ingredient list packed with all-natural, wholesome, real food ingredients.
An identified animal protein source should be first up, followed by either gluten-free grains such as rice, barley, or oats, or fruits and vegetables (these should be present anyway, regardless of whether grains are included or not).
Once you’re certain that the ingredient list is up to standard, you can start looking at the nutritional values on the guaranteed analysis list. Of course, what exactly you’ll be looking for here does depend on the dog you’re feeding.
Protein values for a German Shepherd should be between 24% and in the 30s, depending on how active your pup is (and around 30% for puppies). Fats should be between 10 and 15%, once again depending on the amount of energy your pooch expends during their day. The carbohydrate amount is less important than making sure they come from quality ingredients.
DHA and EPA are essentials that a puppy food can’t do without, and are super to see on a senior-specific food too. Glucosamine and chondroitin are essential for German Shepherds of all ages. You’ll also want to look for a good dose of Omega fatty acids to give your Shepherd’s coat and skin a boost.
Are there ingredients German Shepherds should avoid?
German Shepherds are unfortunately prone to allergies, and one of the causes of these allergies can be the food they’re eating. It’s a very individual thing, though – one GSD could react badly to chicken, while another is great with chicken but doesn’t deal well with grains.
You’ll need to actually observe your pooch and see how they react to their food. If they show any signs of allergies (reluctance to eat their food, excessive scratching or licking, dry skin and dull fur), you may need to experiment a bit to try and eliminate the ingredient they’re reacting to.
Common allergens are chicken, beef, and potato, although there can be more. Some dogs don’t deal well with grains, although gluten-free grains are usually very healthy.
You definitely want to avoid corn, wheat, and soy, as these are hard for dogs to digest. Artificial or chemical ingredients need to be avoided too, as do any “by-products” and ingredients that are vaguely described, such as “animal fat”.
Apart from that, it’s really up to you to do some figuring out if your own Shepherd is allergic to any specific ingredients and stay away from those. You should know within a couple of weeks of removing an ingredient from your dog’s diet if there’s a noticeable difference or not.
What health conditions are common in German Shepherds?
These lovely pups are susceptible to certain health conditions, and it’s important to be aware of these so that you can make an effort to prevent them from the start.
As you will have seen above, joint dysplasia is one of the most common conditions in large breed, working dogs, and your German Shepherd is no exception. Arthritis is also common, and can cause a lot of pain. It’s recommended to dose your pup with glucosamine from a young age to reduce chances of this happening.
Food allergies and intolerances are another thing that can wreak havoc on your Shepherd’s health. They can show themselves in the form of an upset tummy, itchy ears or paws, or dry, scaly, itchy skin and a dull, lifeless coat.
Another common affliction, and the most potentially dangerous one on this list, is bloat. While this may just sound like the human condition of feeling too full or having a bit too much gas, it’s a life-threatening condition for a pup. It can be caused by eating too fast, and basically means that the stomach fills with gas and twists, cutting off blood flow to the area and the movement of food through the digestive system.
Bloat needs to be dealt with by the vet, and surgery is a definite possibility. This isn’t something you can deal with at home – if your GSD displays symptoms of this, get them to a vet immediately.
What are some good ways to exercise my German Shepherd?
German Shepherds are both highly active and super intelligent, so it’s a great idea to make sure they get enough exercise, not only physically but mentally too.
They were bred as working dogs, so it’s in their nature to be full of energy. A daily walk (even if it is just around the back yard) is essential to burn off some excess energy, and this should be the absolute minimum for a healthy adult German Shepherd.
It’s a super idea to take your Shepherd to some training classes, and this is a great mix between mental stimulation and physical exercise Learning new things is a good brain exercise for your pup, and they are quick learners.
Puzzle toys and scenting or tracking games are wonderful for these fluffs, again providing the balance of physical fun and mental work.
They also love some good bonding time with their owners, so games like fetch, tug-of-war, or a good wrestle (if you’re up for it with a large, heavy, fluffy canine) work wonders for exercise as well as affection.