A unique breed, the German Shepherd was not so much bred as it was discovered. Purchased by veteran and animal enthusiast Max Emil Friedrich von Stephanitz at a German dog show in 1899, the first “German Shepherd” was chosen for its intellect, speed, agility, and impressive skill at herding. While this one dog is not the biological “father” of the modern German Shepherd, it was the standard that von Stephanitz’s breeding efforts would be held to.
Today’s German Shepherd is a cross of a variety of German herding breeds, slowly standardized over decades by von Stephanitz. Strikingly wolf-like, German Shepherds are large, thick-furred, and stoic–known for their drive to work, and often used as guide and service dogs, police and military dogs, and for other specialized canine work.
German Shepherds can also make great pets, but still need the same nutrition they would if they were a working dog–just in smaller quantities. Here, we’re sharing our top picks for the best dog food for German Shepherds that meets their biological needs and can work with your lifestyle!
German Shepherd Nutrition Needs
German Shepherds need the same nutrition as all dogs: a high-protein diet with a healthy amount of fat and dietary fiber. Dogs are carnivores, but not obligate carnivores like cats who exclusively consume animal protein for their dietary needs. Since dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years, they have adapted to easily process fibrous foods like fruits, vegetables, and grains.
When trying to decide “what’s the best food for my German Shepherd?” start by asking yourself these questions:
- Is your German Shepherd a puppy (3–20 months), an adult (Up to 7), or a senior (7+)?
- How big is your German Shepherd? Most are either large or extra-large.
- How active is your dog?
- Does your German Shepherd have any health concerns?
You will be able to narrow down your decision based on these four factors. Note that we will be covering foods for adult German Shepherds, but we’ll share some puppy and senior-specific dog foods in the FAQ section.
German Shepherd-Specific Health Concerns
While healthy German Shepherds can be incredible examples of athleticism, the breed is prone to a number of serious health concerns, several of which are quite common. In particular, German Shepherds are at risk for hip and elbow dysplasia. Some other health concerns to be watchful of if you have a German Shepherd include:
- Degenerative disk disease
- Cataracts & vision problems
Knowing the health concerns your dog’s breed could be prone to can help point you to the right dog food! For example, since German Shepherds are prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, you may want to make sure their food includes a healthy source of calcium. To reduce the risk of your dog developing bloat, diabetes, and degenerative disk disease, you should feed them plenty of lean protein and grains like wheat to prevent unwanted weight gain.
Best Dog Food for German Shepherds
Our recommendations are all made from high-quality ingredients, feature a high-protein formula, and meet the dietary needs of large breeds like German Shepherds. Whether you’re looking for the best grain-free dog food for German Shepherds, or want a grain-inclusive option, this list has options for you. We’ve included four options in four different categories, so without further ado, let’s dive in!
1.Best Raw: Raw Wild
Raw Wild is one of the only dog foods of its kind on the market and an amazing raw option for anyone interested in this method of feeding. Made from ethically sourced elk and deer, Raw Wilk also includes a specialty blend of nutrients to ensure your dog has everything they need to be happy and healthy.
We’ve chosen Raw Wild for our best dog food for German Shepherds list thanks to the addition of two key ingredients. First is calcium iodate, an important nutrient for proper hormone and metabolic function to help keep your German Shepherd at a healthy weight. Second, we love to see dicalcium phosphate, which works to support healthy bones.
- First 5 Ingredients: Elk, Deer, Sunflower Seed Oil, Wild Caught Alaskan Pollock Oil, Potassium
- Food Type: Raw, grain-free
- Guaranteed Analysis: 18% Protein – 10% Fat – 0.45% Fiber – 70% Moisture
- Feeding Instructions: Feed 1.8 lbs. per day, or 14.5 oz. per meal*
- Cost Per Meal: $8.74 per meal* – $465.12 for 48 lbs. (best option for savings)
- What Reviewers Say:
2.Best Air-Dried: Front of the Pack Beef Formula
If you’re looking for the best dog food for German Shepherds using only whole ingredients, this is it! Front of the Pack is about as wholesome as it gets and includes plenty of fibrous veggies in its 86% meat formula. For German Shepherds specifically, we love that Front of the Pack includes ingredients like:
- Kale–a healthy source of calcium for bone health
- Tart cherry–a healthy source of magnesium to reduce inflammation in the joints
- Kelp–a healthy source of iodine for proper thyroid and metabolic function
- First 5 Ingredients: USDA Grass-Fed Beef, Pumpkin Seed Oil, Organic Oats, Organic Guar Fiber, Organic Beats
- Food Type: Air-dried, grain-inclusive without wheat, peas, corn, or legumes
- Guaranteed Analysis: 30% Protein – 20% Fat – 4% Fiber – 15% Moisture
- Feeding Instructions: Feed 2 cups per day, or 1 cup per meal*
- Cost Per Meal: $4.65 per meal* – $167.99 for 10 lbs. or 46 cups (best option for savings)
- What Reviewers Say:
3.Best Fresh-Frozen: Nom Nom Turkey Fare
Fresh-frozen dog food looks (and tastes) like a home-cooked meal! All the perks of feeding your dog a tasty scramble of eggs, turkey, and veggies with zero of the work. If you’ve got a picky dog who only wants human food, Nom Nom might just convince them to try the canine stuff.
While Nom Nom offers a variety of recipes that feature different proteins, we’ve chosen the Turkey Fare formula for its extra lean protein content. All of Nom Nom’s formulas also include dicalcium phosphate and manganese gluconate which helps maintain healthy bone and joints, perfect for German Shepherds.
Nom Nom is also a contender for the best senior dog food for German Shepherds since it is easy to digest, offers your dog extra protein, and contains added nutrients for strong joints and bones.
- First 5 Ingredients: Ground Turkey, Brown Rice, Eggs, Carrots, Spinach
- Food Type: Fresh-frozen, grain-inclusive without wheat, peas, corn, or legumes
- Guaranteed Analysis: 10% Protein – 5% Fat – 1% Fiber – 72% Moisture
- Feeding Instructions: Feed 8.5 cups per day or 4.25 cups per meal* – Nom Nom creates a custom meal plan for every dog, so follow their instructions!
- Cost Per Meal: $5 per meal* – Nom Nom will give you a custom quote to show you exactly what it will cost to feed your dog.
- What Reviewers Say:
4. Best Healthy Kibble: Spot & Tango UnKibble Beef & Barley Recipe
UnKibble is Spot & Tango’s answer to kibble, and their recipes only contain whole, fresh ingredients. We like the Beef & Barley recipe for German Shepherds since it’s high in protein, contains plenty of Omega-3 fatty acids from the flax seeds and added fish oil to support joints, and has natural anti-inflammatory ingredients like carrots and blueberries.
UnKibble is also our pick for the best cheap dog food for German Shepherds since it starts at just under $3 per meal.
- First 5 Ingredients: Beef, Barley, Flax, Carrots, Green Beans
- Food Type: Kibble, grain-inclusive without wheat or corn
- Guaranteed Analysis (crude): 26.58% Protein – 16.43% Fat – 3.18% Fiber – 2.04% Moisture
- Feeding Instructions: Precise serving size customized according to your dog’s details!
- Cost Per Meal: $2.86 per meal* – $100 for two weeks of food*
- What Reviewers Say:
Best Food for German Shepherd with Sensitive Stomachs
Our recommendation for one of the best dog food brands for German Shepherds with sensitive stomachs is Nom Nom. The fresh-frozen formula is easier to digest than dehydrated dog food and helps to keep your pup hydrated. Nom Nom also includes gentle veggies in their fresh-frozen recipes to help aid digestion.
Best Dog Food for German Shepherds with Allergies
Dogs with food allergies are often sensitive to common proteins like chicken and beef. Because of this, our pick for the best dog food for a German Shepherd with allergies is Raw Wild. This unique formula is made from sustainably sourced elk and venison, novel proteins that dogs with allergies often do very well on.
Raw Wild’s recipe also includes Alaskan pollock oil, which is good for soothing itchy and inflamed skin.
What else do you need to know about feeding your German Shepherd? Here are a few frequently asked questions!
Any of the options in this guide will work wonderfully for an adult German Shepherd!
It would be difficult to narrow down the ultimate worst dog food, but we wouldn’t recommend dog foods that are high in grain and don’t include whole animal proteins in their formulas.
We recommend Spot & Tango for all your dry dog food and kibble needs!
Senior German Shepherds can be fed using any of the brands we’ve listed here! To help their food go down as easily as possible and to make sure they get lots of dietary fiber, we recommend a fresh-frozen option like Nom Nom.
Raw Wild includes wild Alaskan pollock oil in its unique raw formula, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids–a key nutrient for supporting healthy skin and coat. Because Raw Wild uses non-traditional proteins like elk and venison, dogs with allergies will also be less likely to experience allergic reactions to this brand’s ingredients.
This is a question that only you and your veterinarian can answer! While there are some breed-specific traits that you can consider when choosing dog food, your German Shepherd is first and foremost an individual with unique needs.
Any of the foods we’ve listed above would be a good option for a Pitbull German Shepherd mix.
Also, you can check Our Picks for the Best Dog Food for Pitbulls here!