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What he eats now will lay the foundation for his health for the rest of his life.

In this excellent article from Hilary Watson, pet nutrition expert, she writes that the most critical time to give your puppy the high quality nutrition he needs is from birth to four months old. This is when his most rapid growth and development are happening.

It is impossible to make up for bad puppy nutrition later.

It is impossible to make up for bad puppy nutrition later.

Read on for our expert advice on choosing the best food for your pup.

Best German Shepherd Puppy Foods Comparison

Decoding Your German Shepherd Puppy’s Nutritional Needs

The nutritional needs of your GSD puppy are unique. As a large breed, his growing body demands more of some essential ingredients than other dogs. Let’s look at a few key factors vital in his diet.

  • Protein — to form strong muscle; promotes organ and tissue growth.
  • Carbohydrates — will give him energy and contains fiber to promote “full” feeling.
  • Fat — to provide complex energy and absorb vitamins; also for healthy skin and coat.
  • Vitamins and minerals — necessary to lay the foundation for great health at the cellular level.

Proteins

The fantastic website DogFoodProject.com says that protein makes up about half of the dry body mass of dogs. Think about that. Half of your GSD puppy needs high quality protein for his body to develop properly.

For protein to be most usable to a dog nutritionally, it must come from another animal. Beef, lamb, poultry, fish…these are all good sources.

Meat protein should make up at least 27% of the puppy’s diet. Too much protein is not healthy, however. No more than about 33% of the diet should be from protein sources.

A named meat (beef, turkey, lamb, salmon, etc.) or meat meal should always be the first ingredient on your GSD puppy’s food package. Ingredients are listed in order of quantity…the first listed is the most used in the food.

What is meat meal, you ask? It is the product left over after the moisture has been removed from raw animal tissues. Meal contains about 10% moisture. It is the most concentrated form of animal protein available in dog foods. High quality meat meal is a very important part of your puppy’s nutritional needs.

Carbs

Carbohydrates in your GSD puppy’s diet are important for a couple of reasons. Carbs provide energy to your puppy in the form of glucose.

They are digested easily from the small intestine and provide heat when metabolized. Also, carbohydrates from whole grain provide slower-digestible fiber. This fiber helps promote growth of probiotic bacteria in the gut, according to Susan G. Wynn, DVM, of VetNutrition.

Fats

Your puppy needs dietary fat to provide most of his energy. The energy from fats in his diet is more important than what comes from protein or carbs. Dogs convert fats into glucose. This resource from PetMD.com has lots of great info on how important fats are in a healthy dog’s diet.

Remember that puppies need up to twice as much energy as adult dogs. All that growing is hard work!

Good sources of omega-3s and omega-6s, which are essential fatty acids, are also necessary.

Omega-3s to look for are fish oils, like herring and salmon. Others are plant-based, such as flaxseed oil and canola oil. Vital omega-6s are poultry fat, safflower and sunflower oils, and vegetable oils.

Vitamins

Vitamins are necessary at the cellular level of your puppy for proper development. Minerals are involved in your puppy’s basic body functioning. They are important ingredients for bone and teeth growth, too.

Your puppy’s body does not produce vitamins and minerals on its own. Both of these important elements should be provided in his diet. This source from the ASPCA says giving supplements of vitamins and minerals is not a good idea. There is a risk of poisoning your puppy with these supplements.

Supermarket Brands vs. Super Premium — How to Choose?

GSDfoodpuppy

Walk down the pet food aisle of any supermarket and you’ll see lots of familiar brand names. Flashy packages with smiling dogs and people shout out their promises. “Fresh Breath!” “No More Shedding!” “Complete and Balanced Nutrition!”

Most of the brands are slightly different variations of the same thing. Cheap cereal full of fillers, chemicals, and junk with almost no nutritional value. These are definitely not what you want your precious GSD puppy to eat.

To make your puppy feel satisfied with grocery store brand dog food, you would have to feed a massive amount. Some manufacturers advise feeding up to 6 cups of food per day!

Our experience reveals if that much goes in, approximately double that will come out the other end.

Why is that? Because of the very poor quality ingredients in the food. Puppies can’t use the bad contents in cheap pet food, so their body eliminates it.

The old saying, “Garbage in, garbage out” definitely applies here.

Premium pet food is mostly sold in pet specialty stores. The ingredient lists are full of things you can actually pronounce: chicken, blueberries, peas, flaxseed, etc.

Many manufacturers use components approved for humans to eat. Some are even grown and processed organically.

Better ingredients mean more nutritionally solid pet food. More nutritious food means you don’t have to feed as much as the inferior food.

Better food isn’t just about a difference in purchase price. You will also notice results when visiting the vet. Since nutrition is the foundation of a healthy dog, your puppy will thrive while eating food that’s good for him. A healthy puppy means less need to visit the vet for illness.

Should I Feed Him Wet or Dry Food?

You’ve heard advice from friends about the pitfalls of feeding your new GSD puppy wet food instead of dry food.

“Wet food will make his teeth rot”, they say. “Best to start with dry food and stick with it. There’s no need to ever feed wet food.” We believe this advice is meant well, but is flawed.

Wet food can be a very good solution for several reasons:

  • Finicky eaters can almost always be enticed to eat by the smell of canned food.
  • Canned food has a high moisture content, helpful to dogs who don’t drink enough water.
  • Most premium canned food contains more meat protein and natural fats than other ingredients.
  • There are fewer preservatives added to canned food.

Here you can find our recommended wet puppy food choices.

Many German Shepherd experts encourage a mix of wet and dry food when feeding puppies. This is because of their special need for diets rich in protein and fats. Wet food can be a great incentive for some dogs. It can also give added nutrition where needed.

Cost can be a factor when deciding whether to use wet food vs. dry food. Generally speaking, premium canned food is more expensive than its dry twin.

The old reasoning about wet food being bad for your dog’s teeth has finally been debunked. This article from the experts at Whole Dog Journal says wet food contains fewer carbohydrates than dry kibble.

It’s the carbs that form plaque on your puppy’s teeth. Most dogs do not chew kibble well enough to do any good work of scraping plaque off their teeth. Bones or special dental chews are needed for that, but only while supervised, of course.

Our 4 Best Food Choices For German Shepherd Puppies

Narrowing down the best food for your GSD puppy is hard work. There’s so much at stake! We’ve done the work for you and present our top four here, in order of preference.

28% protein and 14% fat, minimum. Available in 4-pound, 15-pound, 28.5-pound bags.

Solid Gold Hundchen Flocken Holistic Dry Dog Food, Lamb, Brown Rice & Pearled Barley, Moderately Active Puppies, Small & Medium, 28lb Bag
  • Holistic whole grain dry dog food ideal for small and medium breed puppies
  • Formulated with 20 nutrient rich superfoods like carrots, pumpkin, cranberries, blueberries, broccoli, almond oil, kelp and lentils

Last update on 2017-11-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

  • Pros

We have chosen Solid Gold as our top choice for best food your German Shepherd puppy. Many reasons have gone into the pick.

We love that this company, Solid Gold Pet, uses an holistic approach to produce their excellent line of pet products. They were first included in the Whole Dog Journal 2014 Approved Dry Dog Food List.

Their super nutritious ingredients are sourced from around the world, but nothing ever comes from China.

Their super nutritious ingredients are sourced from around the world, but nothing ever comes from China. All Solid Gold products are manufactured in the United States. None of their products use corn, wheat, or soy. Artificial colors and preservatives are never added. The lamb and brown rice puppy formula is our top choice because:

  • Uses the finest New Zealand lamb for high density protein.
  • Contains super-food ingredients like carrots, lentils, and blueberries…packed with nutrients!
  • Includes vitamins C and E as antioxidants for immune system support.
  • Contains natural probiotics and prebiotics to support digestive health.
  • Egg is included to provide high-quality protein and fat.

Reviewers rave about Hundchen Flocken puppy formula. Many report their puppy’s dry coat and flaky skin cleared up soon after starting the diet. People say their dog loves the taste of the food. Great customer service from Solid Gold was also a frequent plus. The company provides samples and coupons to customers when requested.

  • Cons

One voluntary recall of two products in the Solid Gold pet food line in 2012. The foods were not found to contain salmonella after testing.

Deboned Chicken, Brown Rice & Salmon Meal — 26% protein and 12% fat, minimum. Available in 15-pound and 30-pound bags.

Sale
Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Large Breed Puppy Food, Chicken, Salmon & Rice, 30-Pound Bag
  • COMPLETE HEALTH: complete and balanced everyday nutrition for your large breed puppy.
  • LARGE BREED PUPPY FORMULA: Larger kibble size, made with delicious deboned chicken with regulated calories and added DHA for healthy bone, brain and eye...

Last update on 2017-11-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

  • Pros

Wellness has developed the "Controlled Energy Intake" for your German Shepherd puppy’s unique growth needs.

Large breed puppies have a longer growth cycle. Their diet must be regulated to ensure steady growth. These puppies are considered to still be growing up to 24 months of age. Specific ingredients in this Wellness formula include:

  • Precise levels of calcium and phosphorus for controlled bone development.
  • DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) for eye and brain development.
  • 26% protein with 4 animal protein sources to develop lean muscle for big dogs.
  • Live active probiotics added after cooking to promote digestive health.
  • Omega 3 & 6 mix for healthy cellular function.

Reviewers are very happy with Wellness Large Breed formula. Reports are dogs love the taste. Many people say their dogs have never been healthier. Some think they save money at the vet because their dogs are eating the Wellness brand. One reviewer even says her dog "glows with good health".

  • Cons

Consumers have reported dogs experiencing runny stools after eating this food. The inclusion of green tea extract in the food has caused concern to some reviewers due to its toxic nature to dogs.

Also, the tomato pomace included has caused dark tears under the eyes of white dogs. People have complained recently that the company is now using GMO products in their pet foods.

28% protein and 17% fat, minimum. Available in 5-pound, 15-pound, and 30-pound bags.

Sale
Taste of the Wild High Prairie Puppy Formula with Bison and Roasted Venison Dry Dog Food, 30-Pound Bag
  • This grain-free formula provides digestible energy and excellent nutrition for your growing puppy
  • Made with real roasted meat and a blend of protein sources, this hearty formula offers a taste sensation like no other

Last update on 2017-11-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

  • Pros

All Taste of the Wild formulas are grain-free. The company believes the nutritional benefits of this practice are many…fewer allergy-related symptoms, less shedding and shinier coats, and more energy for your pup and less digesting. Other benefits include:

  • Buffalo listed as first ingredient on the package.
  • Zero grain and more meat protein means feeding less to help your puppy feel full.
  • Tomatoes, blueberries, and raspberries included as powerful antioxidants.

Customers have indicated in reviews that feeding this formula has eliminated their puppy’s chronic diarrhea.

People also mention the improvement of skin and coat conditions. All reviewers agree their puppy loves the taste of this food. One reviewer describes the size of the puppy kibble as half the adult formula kibble.

  • Cons

Large dog and cat food recall in 2012. The products recalled contained salmonella. Reviewers report puppies with diarrhea and vomiting while eating this food. Some also stated their dogs developed itchy skin after eating it for a short time. Both of these problems stopped after the product was discontinued.

Last update on 2017-11-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Chicken, Chicken Liver & Flaxseed Recipe— 32% protein, minimum; 17% fat, maximum. Available in 3-pound and 18-pound bags.

  • Pros

Wellness TruFood Living Nutrition pet foods are slow baked in small batches at low temperatures. The company says this method delivers 70% more raw protein than similar diets.

Adding whole-food ingredients ensures your puppy gets food based nutrition rather than from supplements. Great ingredients in this Wellness puppy food include:

  • DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) from natural sources, which supports cognitive growth.
  • Whole-prey protein and fat sources (no meat by-product).
  • Contains probiotics, ginger, and parsley to promote digestion.
  • Antioxidant rich superfoods like blueberries and beets.
  • Cons

Reviewers report their pets dislike the taste of this food. Even the most nutritious food isn’t worth much if you can’t get your puppy to eat it. People also complain about the cost of this Wellness formula as compared to others in the company’s line.

Dogs apparently also don’t like the vegetables in it. One person says the food becomes a gooey mess in the dog’s mouth when wet. Another says the kibbles are too hard for their puppy to chew.

About the author

Carol Cornwall has loved animals from the time of her first childhood pet, a duck named Fluff. From then, it's been a steady parade of dogs, cats, rabbits, chickens, horses, cows, goats, and sheep. In addition to writing, she's worked as a vet tech, cow hand, and owned a dog boarding facility. She now shares her home with three very spoiled dogs.