10 Essential German Shepherd Diet Tips

If you just brought your beautiful GSD home, or you have had her for some time, but you’re a bit confused on what and what not to feed her, then you’re in luck. 

By Guest Blogger, Howie Robleza

Heidi, my German shepherd, is a majestic, beautiful dog who is loyal to a tee. She is very active, which is perfect for my athletic family. But this also means she needs a quality nutritious diet that can help maintain her energy levels.

With time, I have realized that, like other dogs, Heidi requires a specific diet that meets her immense appetite for food and nutritional needs.

If you just brought your beautiful GSD home, or you have had her for some time, but you’re a bit confused on what and what not to feed her, then you’re in luck. 

This article gives you ten tips that can help you choose the best diet for your GSD.

Enough proteins

According to AKC, your adult GSD should weigh between 65 to 90 pounds if he is male and 50 to 70 pounds if she is female. Much of this weight comes from your dog’s muscles and strong bones, so proteins are an essential part of your dog’s diet. 

Proteins keep your pup’s muscular body healthy and strong. Since this is also a high-energy dog, a diet rich in protein will support their energy requirement. 

A healthy German shepherd puppy requires at least 22% of proteins daily, while an adult GSD will need at least 18% of proteins in their diet. Some of the quality sources of proteins you can give to your dog include chicken, beef, fish, pork, and lamb, among others.

Don’t skip fats

By now, you know that your German shepherd has an insatiable appetite for food.  But this is expected due to her high energy and large body. 

According to AAFCO, the recommended fat content for an active German shepherd adult dog is 5%, while puppies require 8% of calories daily. Less active GSDs, such as senior dogs, require 20% fewer calories compared to adult dogs. A pregnant or lactating GSD will need more fat content than a senior dog who may spend all day lazing around due to joint pain. 

Be cautious of giving your pup too much fat as it can lead to unwanted weight gain, leading to conditions such as hip dysplasia or heart failure.

Grains, fruits, and vegetables

Although dogs are carnivorous, a past study indicates that many years of dog domestication have led them to adopt a starch-rich diet. 

Your GSD key nutritional requirements may be proteins and fats, but they also derive nutrients from grains, vegetables, and fruits. For instance, grains such as corn, wheat, and rice are a rich source of energy and fiber, while fruits such as bananas, apples, blackberries, apricots, mango, and melon are great vitamins and fiber. You should also feed your dog nuts and vegetables such as spinach, sweet potato, zucchini, and squash. Fish oils are also a good source of healthy fats and omega-three fatty acids. 

Some important tips to remember when it comes to giving your dog vegetables, grains and fruits include:

  • Fruits, vegetables, and nuts should make up 10% of your GSD daily calorie count.
  • Cook your dog’s vegetables first for easy digestion
  • Remove any seeds or pits from fruits to prevent cyanide poisoning
  • Feeding your dog too many nuts can lead to an upset stomach

Wet or dry canned food

Some GSD parents claim that dry food is the best for their dog, while others swear by wet food. Whichever type of food you decide to give your pet, ensure that the ingredients that your dog requires are found in the diet and the right proportions. 

The key advantage of giving your GSD dry food or kibble is that it’s easy to measure out. Thevets.com explains that kibble also contains less moisture than wet food, which means more nutrients for your dog. Dry food can also be preserved for longer, which results in less waste. Besides, kibble also helps clean your dog’s teeth, which is perfect if your GSD has dental issues.

On the other hand, wet food has a high moisture content that can be important if your GSD finds it hard to drink water independently. Wet foods are also ideal for an overweight pet as the added moisture fills your dog’s belly, helping them lose weight. A wet food diet may also be suitable for a picky eater such as a sick or senior dog as they may find this food more palatable.

Have a feeding schedule

Many dogs can eat once daily, but it’s better to feed your German shepherd several times a day. This helps control bloating and hunger in your dog. 

It’s also recommended that German shepherd puppies feed more frequently than adult dogs. For instance, puppies between 6 and 12 weeks should have four meals a day, while those aged between 12 and 24 weeks should feed three times a day. For a GSD who is aged 24 weeks and above, two meals daily are good enough.

Don’t change your dog’s diet abruptly.

If you need to change your GSD diet, do it gradually. Changing their diet abruptly can lead to an upset stomach. 

The transition to a new diet should occur over a 5 to 7 days period. Here’s how a transition diet schedule should look like:

  • Day 1-2 75% old diet and 25% new diet
  • Day 3-4 50% old diet and 50% new diet
  • Day 5-6 25% old diet and 75% new diet
  • Day 7 100% new diet

If your dog has a sensitive stomach or an allergy, they may require a more extended diet transition period. Always check for any concerning symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, or loss of appetite during the transition. In case you experience such signs, slow down or discontinue the new diet. If the symptoms persist, you can consult your vet.

Not every food is good for your GSD

There are some foods that you should avoid giving your GSD. Foods such as chocolate, garlic, grapes, raisins, and onions, among others, are toxic to your dog. 

Further, spicy foods can cause an upset stomach for your pet, while cooked bones can splinter and hurt your dog’s mouth. 

To get an idea of the foods your pup should avoid, check out this AKC article on the foods that are harmful to dogs. In case you suspect your dog has eaten something toxic, don’t induce vomiting. Rather, call your vet, Pet Poison Helpline, or the ASPCA Poison Control Centre for help.

Are bones good for your German shepherd?

Bones are a good source of calcium and prosperous for your German shepherd. Bones also help clean your dog’s teeth and strengthen their jaws.

However, your GSD jaws are powerful, which means they can easily crack or splinter small bones. Thus, small and cooked bones aren’t ideal for your dog as they can cause choking or injury. 

When sourcing bones for your GSD, go for the ones that won’t splinter easily, such as lamb or beef bones. Ensure the bone matches your dog’s size and it’s larger than her muzzle to discourage her from swallowing it.

Limit the treats

Limit your dog’s treats to 10% of their daily calorie intake. If you give your pet too many treats, they will have no interest in the nutritious food you give him. Besides, too many treats can lead to obesity. 

Always check the number of calories in your dog’s food so that you can estimate your dog’s daily calorie intake. You should also go for nutritious treats rather than ones that are full of fat and sugar. Homemade dog treats are also an excellent alternative to the expensive treats commonly found in the market.  

Water is important

Always have a filled-up water bowl for your dog. Ensure the water is clean and wash the water bowl daily. The amount of water your GSD needs depends on their size, activity level, weather, age, diet, among other factors. 

Without water, your dog will suffer from dehydration. So, ensure your pet gets enough water, especially on hot summer days. You also need to observe if your dog is drinking too much water than usual, as this could mean he is sick.

Final thoughts

In closing, your GSD nutritional needs are different from other dogs. This is why you need to get them the best quality foods. Hopefully, our ten essential GSD dietary tips will be of great help even as you continue taking good care of your beloved pet.

Let’s talk dogs, or even better, let’s learn about dogs.  Set aside some time to receive Spike’s dog blogs by Acme Canine.
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