The German Shepherd puppy is a popular addition to many households. Sometimes called the Alsatian puppy, the German Shepherd was initially developed for herding and now commonly used as a working dog or pet. This is your guide to providing all the nutrients your new puppy needs.
Many types of food can be provided. However puppy foods designed for large breed dogs are essential for puppies. This will help to avoid health problems caused by overly-rapid bone growth.
Read on to find out the ins and out of what’s best for your German Shepherd puppy!
Swapping Puppy Food Brands
You should initially feed the same diet the puppy was eating before you adopted them.
Consider continuing with this diet and then with the equivalent adult dog formulation.
If you plan to change to a different food do not do so in the first few weeks.
Then gradually include increasing proportions of the new food over a period of two to four weeks.
German Shepherd Puppy Diets
Many decades ago it was discovered that large breed puppies that grow to quickly develop more health problems affecting their bones and joints.
Such problems include malformed hips (‘hip dysplasia’).
German Shepherd puppies should be fed a diet designed for large dog breeds or specifically for German Shepherds.
How Feeding Changes as A German Shepherd Puppy Gets Older
Your puppy should be fed three or four times a day up to the age of four months.
After this age, two larger meals at regular times will be sufficient.
As your dog approaches 80-90% of its estimated adult size, around one year of age, they should be moved to a diet for adult dogs.
What to Feed A German Shepherd Puppy
You will find there are a lot of different opinions about what kind of food is best.
Unless your dog (or other members of your family) have special needs, all of the following are acceptable options.
Be sure to consult with your vet to see if your dog has any dietary needs.
Feeding a German Shepherd Puppy Kibble
There are many good quality kibble diets, but they aren’t always the best choice.
The FDA recently issued a notice alerting dog owners to a potential increased risk of a serious heart condition. This is called canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).
The risk is in dogs eating foods that include peas, lentils, or potatoes instead of grains.
Some of these cases of DCM were in German Shepherds.
The underlying cause of these cases is not clear, but the FDA note suggests that caution should be used in selecting foods with these ingredients for German Shepherds and other large dogs.
Head over to our article on the pros and cons of feeding kibble to know more.
Feeding a German Shepherd Puppy Raw (BARF)
BARF stands for ‘biologically appropriate raw foods’. These diets do not include cooked or otherwise processed foods.
There is some evidence that German Shepherds fed a raw (BARF) diet may have a reduced risk of hip dysplasia.
However, it may be more difficult to regulate a BARF diet to ensure a slow and steady growth rate in young puppies.
If you find this option intriguing, you can check out our article on feeding your dog a raw diet.
Feeding a German Shepherd Puppy a Homemade Diet
Research has shown that in the past, poorly balanced homemade diets have been harmful to German Shepherd puppies.
There is now abundant information available to anyone who is willing and able to produce a safe and balanced diet. Also, diet “bases” can be purchased to add to homemade diets, This should help to provide all the important nutrients that your puppy needs.
However, modern cases studies have shown that well-meaning owners may still over-feed or create an unbalanced diet.
Many people can fall for the idea about some particular element of the food that: “if some is good, more is better!” Reports have shown that serious disorders can result from feeding a diet too rich and calcium or phosphorus. So, this is an area where you really can have too much of a good thing.
As with commercial foods, homemade diets must be properly formulated for a large breed dog. Do not deviate from recommended recipes as provided by a veterinarian. If possible, preferably a vet with a board certification in veterinary nutrition.
Recipes published in popular magazine and websites may not be nutritionally complete or suitable for a large breed puppy.
How Much Should I Feed My German Shepherd Puppy?
To begin with follow the guidelines provided by the feeder, the feed manufacturer, or by your veterinarian.
For example, you could expect to start feeding your puppy a total of around 3 cups a day of a high-quality kibble.
However this will vary depending on how calorie dense the food is and how it is formulated.
Puppies will quickly develop individual needs for food types and amounts based on their size, activity level, and other factors.
Is My Puppy the Right Weight?
You can also refer to German Shepherd puppy growth charts to see if you puppy is gaining weight and within the normal range.
However, keep in mind that some dogs will be unusually small or large but still be perfectly healthy.
Do not try to maximize growth rates as this can lead to health problems later.
But if you puppy is not showing a steady increase in size, or your puppy lacks appetite, consult with a veterinarian.
Ensure that you are familiar with how to assess the body condition of your puppy. You can ask about your puppy’s condition at veterinary wellness examinations.
My Puppy Is Still Hungry
If your puppy seems excessively hungry provide more frequent but smaller meals. Young puppies cannot tolerate going without food for extended periods.
With older puppies you may wish to experiment with foods that help them feel more full, and provide low calories treats.
Keeping a health puppy active and occupied will help prevent them from becoming overly focused on anticipating their next meal.
My Puppy Won’t Eat
A puppy may lose his or her appetite for a brief period after moving to a new home.
If you have had to change foods, the puppy may be temporarily put off by the unfamiliar food.
If a puppy shows a loss of appetite you can make the food more tasty with dog-safe treats and seasonings.
You might also consider swapping to a different food that they find more appealing.
If your dog misses more than two meals, is vomiting, or otherwise seems unwell, taken them to your veterinarian immediately.
How Long Is A German Shepherd Considered A Puppy?
A German Shepherd should be fed a puppy diet until around 12 months of age, or as advised by your veterinarian based on their growth and development.
Adult German Shepherds are somewhat prone to obesity, which can contribute to the skeletal disorders they are prone to.
You should continue to monitor body condition and modify feeding to keep their weight moderate or somewhat lean.
Our complete guide to the best food for German Shepherd Dogs of all ages will help you find more delicious meals as your puppy grows and grows.
Make sure you read our German Shepherd facts to find out even more about these unique dogs!
References and Resources
- Dobenecker, B. (2011). Factors that modify the effect of excess calcium on skeletal development in puppies. British Journal of Nutrition, 106(S1).
- Eldredge, D., & Palika, L. (2012). Your German Shepherd Puppy Month by Month. Penguin.
- Greco, D. S. (2008). Nutritional supplements for pregnant and lactating bitches. Theriogenology, 70(3).
- Grundström, S. (2014). Influence of nutrition at young age on canine hip dysplasia in German Shepherd dogs.
- Freeman, L. M., Stern, J. A., Fries, R., Adin, D. B., & Rush, J. E. (2018). Diet-associated dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs: what do we know?. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 253(11), 1390-1394.
- Hawthorne, A. J., Booles, D., Nugent, P. A., Gettinby, G., & Wilkinson, J. (2004). Body-weight changes during growth in puppies of different breeds. The Journal of nutrition, 134(8).
- Morn, S. (2009). The German Shepherd. Eldorado Ink.
- National Research Council. (2006). Your Dog’s Nutritional Needs-A Science-Based Guide For Pet Owners. National Academies.
- O’Neill, D. G., Coulson, N. R., Church, D. B., & Brodbelt, D. C. (2017). Demography and disorders of German shepherd dogs under primary veterinary care in the UK. Canine genetics and epidemiology, 4.
- Richardson, D. C. (1992). The role of nutrition in canine hip dysplasia. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract, 22(3),
- Kasström, H. (1975). Nutrition, weight gain and development of hip dysplasia: an experimental investigation in growing dogs with special reference to the effect of feeding intensity. Acta Radiologica. Diagnosis, 16(344_suppl).
- KAWAGUCHI, K., BRAGA III, I. S., TAKAHASHI, A., OCHIAI, K., & ITAKURA, C. (1993). Nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism occurring in a strain of German shepherd puppies. Japanese Journal of Veterinary Research, 41(2-4).