How Much to Feed a German Shepherd Puppy & Dog? Amount They Eat
Fitness and wellness coaches emphasize time and again that you are essentially what you eat. If you try to reminisce the memories of your childhood – what did you eat?
While some of us thrived on nutritious porridges, others weaned on their mothers’ milk for years. It was only after three to four years that most of us changed our diets from the usual mashed foods, soups, lots of milk and cereals, to more complex protein and tougher carbs.
As a teenager, anyone can tear effortlessly through chunks of chicken meat, mutton, and beef. Likewise, in adulthood, our nutritional and metabolic requirements have gone higher, and our more complex digestive systems can tolerate all kinds of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.
Even though we don’t feed on the same kibbles as our lovely pets, we share one thing – our feeding requirements. Just as kids don’t eat beef and grilled corn, puppies below eight weeks completely rely on their mothers’ milk for nutrients.
Besides, breeders and owners only change their pups’ diets when they grow older, slowly introducing more complex foods as they rush toward their senior years.
However, take note that a German Shepherd’s feeding requirements are only beneficial when applied at the right time and in the right quantities.
While young puppies require more calories and proteins for faster development, older Shepherds survive perfectly on fewer meals and reduced calories.
Regardless, German Shepherd feeding needs vary depending on their health conditions, ages, activity, and body size. That’s why owners must observe their dogs’ feeding habits and responses after meals, to prevent malnutrition from underfeeding or obesity from overfeeding.
Nutritional requirements of German Shepherds
Nutrition is a natural process where organisms assimilate foods and use them for growth and development. What are nutritional requirements? These are the essential needs of each living organism according to their varying metabolic needs.
From this definition, it’s evident that a human’s nutritional requirements will vary from a German Shepherd’s, and a Beagle’s favorite food won’t make a cat any fatter.
German Shepherds require high protein content in their diets, especially in their early life. Averagely, experts recommend 22% protein in a growing German Shepherd’s regular diet, unless otherwise stated by a vet.
Experts also recommend no more than 8% fats in any dog’s diet. Too much fat will cause obesity and heart problems, while too little will be insufficient to produce enough natural oils for the Shepherd’s skin.
Raw meats are also worthwhile considerations, but should only be included after enough consultation with the veterinarian.
Introducing a raw diet at an early stage will help in the formation of stronger bones and fighting diseases. Besides, raw meats are often responsible for shinier fur and healthy coats.
The only nutrients German Shepherd owners should include in moderation are carbohydrates. Carbs don’t help a dog that much in bodybuilding, and protection against diseases – instead, too much carb can increase blood sugar levels, which isn’t too good for your pup’s early life.
Also, exclude fillers such as grains and corn syrup.
Despite being the most common dog food, some dry kibbles, especially the cheap quality versions lack the right amount of balanced nutrients needed for proper growth.
Always ensure you acquire high-quality kibbles that satisfy all the nutritional requirements of your German Shepherd.
The only way to know how to properly feed your Shepherd is by understanding their feeding requirements. These, just like nutritional needs, variate from one species to another.
In simpler terms, they indicate how GSDs should be fed at their different ages, by checking their health situation, metabolic rates, sizes, lifestyles, and health requirements.
A pup’s feeding needs differ from an adult Shepherd’s requirements. More proteins are thus needed in puppies to hasten their growth and maintain their normal body temperatures.
You’ll find that it’s pretty easier to determine what to feed your dog when you fully comprehend their needs at different stages of their development. We’ll therefore look at the different factors or considerations influencing a German Shepherd’s feeding requirements.
Age and size
German Shepherds are typically large dogs. A mature male GSD can weigh more than ninety pounds and reach as tall as twenty-six inches. They require lots of foods to sustain their large bodies and match their ever-dynamic nature.
When purchasing your GSD’s food, ensure you are acquiring the recommended packets for large dogs, because their requirements differ slightly from other medium and small-sized dogs.
Avoid cheap foods that are designed explicitly for marketing and hardly cater to the customer’s needs. These include poor quality kibbles and grain-filled foods containing more fillers than nutrients.
It’s better to spend more money investing in high-quality foods than buying poor-quality stuff that affects your Shepherd’s health in the long run.
Besides, makes sure the food you purchase is the right one for your puppy or adult Shepherd – feeding a puppy adult food won’t help her grow faster, because their feeding requirements don’t match.
According to age, we can break down a German Shepherd’s requirements into three main stages: when they are puppies when they are adults, and during their senior years.
A puppy’s requirements
Puppy Shepherds will always require more proteins in their diets than adults and seniors. Calcium also helps in strengthening their teeth and bones.
In a nutshell, puppies require more nutrients than any other Shepherd, because their bodies develop fast. They need enough food to keep them at the peak of growth and give them a strong foundation for better health and immunity in their adult life.
Pups also eat in stages, and gradually advance to adult food as they near full maturity. To guarantee their healthy growth, we recommend that you feed your puppy differently according to the recommended feeding guidelines we’ll discuss shortly, and in between these three phases:
- Birth and four months old.
- Four to six months.
- Six months to one year.
Between birth and four months old
Straight from birth to around eight weeks old, German Shepherd puppies are usually nursed by their mothers’ milk.
Vets advise owners and breeders to allow their pups to continue weaning on milk for the entire eight weeks or so (depending on the pup’s growth rate), before introducing them to puppy mush.
Puppy mush is considered to be a pup’s first food. Preparing puppy mush isn’t a complex task – you only need warm water and high-quality pup kibble.
Mix the kibble with warm water and stir consistently until you achieve a soupy paste. Make sure enough kibble (but not too much to make a thick paste) dissolves in the water – puppies that haven’t grown their teeth yet can find it difficult munching undissolved kibble.
From the ninth to twelfth week, you can begin to progressively make the kibble solution a bit drier, thicker, or slightly undissolved, especially when you notice your puppy’s teeth popping.
Sometimes breeders take charge of the weaning process – when you acquire a pup that is already on her weaning schedule, ensure you stick to the breeder’s routine and only introduce new foods gradually.
We advise caregivers to adjust the meals bit by bit, and not change at once, because the sudden shifting can cause gastrointestinal problems to the young Shepherds.
Also, don’t forget to watch your puppy while eating – keep out an eye for choking signs. Besides, sometimes the pups don’t know how to feed, and might easily dip their whole bodies into their feeding bowls.
To know if your Shepherd pup is full and satisfied, check the belly for a firm and round shape. Firm bellies indicate satisfaction.
The recommended feeding schedule for puppies between eight weeks to sixteen weeks is four to six feeding sessions a day.
Between four to six months
When your pups enter this stage, they are more developed and the wiser step is to plan on slowly reducing their daily feeding sessions.
However, this doesn’t mean you should restrict your pups from gobbling up their kibble when they aren’t satisfied – the best way to know for sure is to observe your Shepherd’s belly for that firm touch.
From the six sessions in their earlier feeding schedule, we recommend slashing the three to remain with three or a maximum of four feeding splits a day.
The key factor to consider at this stage is quantity – make sure you don’t overfeed your puppy because it can cause obesity, liver, and heart problems.
At five months, it’s also essential that you observe your pup’s activity levels and feed them as per their energy requirements.
At the same time, your feeding plans should correspond with your dog’s weight. Take, for example, if your male pup weighs fifteen pounds, he’ll need one cup of meal throughout the day. Likewise, a Shepherd weighing thirty pounds needs two cups of quality kibble each day.
You can divide the one cup into four quarters, which amount to four sessions, or the two cups into four halves, four sessions.
Between six months to one year
The daily feeding sessions keep reducing as your puppy nears maturity, specifically because these older pups require fewer calories than younger pups. Any mistake in overfeeding can quickly escalate into a case of obesity or a future health complication.
Professionals recommend feeding your puppy two to three meals at this point. You can also start transitioning from puppy foods to adult foods.
As usual, vets prohibit the immediate shift – the easiest and most beneficial way is to gradually reward your puppy small portions of adult food when they accomplish tasks during training. This way, your Shepherd slowly adjusts to the adult flavor.
You can fully introduce adult foods to your puppy at twelve months – however, make sure to seek your vet’s counsel about the matter before graduating your puppy into the adult zone.
Adult Shepherd’s requirements
Mature Shepherds will thrive on adult foods. However, the meals should contain all the balanced nutrients to work effectively.
We wouldn’t recommend anyone to feed their adult Shepherds puppy foods for various reasons – first, as we previously mentioned, adult and puppy Shepherds have different feeding requirements.
The other reason is that puppy foods contain high protein amounts – if adults routinely consume the meals, there is a high likelihood they will suffer from obesity and severe health problems affecting critical organs such as the liver and kidney.
The feeding frequency should be kept between once or twice, although the latter option is more recommended.
If you are busy with work and can’t physically make it home for your dog’s feeding, there’s no need to worry – you can invest in automatic dispensers or feeders that apportion the right amounts of adult food to your dog at the right time.
For their healthy development, adult Shepherds require foods rich in proteins, especially animal-based proteins. Other vital nutrients include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that facilitate a richer, healthier, and shinier coat.
Calcium is also integral in the adult GSD’s diet because it aids in forming stronger and healthier bones.
Senior Shepherd’s requirements
German Shepherds are considered seniors when they reach six years old – typical Shepherds live for an average of ten years. At the onset of this last stage, Shepherds move around less and their general body activity decreases.
Due to their low metabolic rates, senior Shepherds need foods with less caloric content. Also, look for high-fiber foods that will help with their digestion, because at this stage, even the digestive tract works overtime.
When your Shepherd becomes a senior, it becomes the most critical moment of their remaining lives, and the best time to stay close to the vet.
Vets will be very helpful in recommending the right diets for your aging friend, and the different ways to keep a senior Shepherd comfortable and healthy.
Routine checks at the vet’s station are a must – they’ll help you detect any upcoming health problems and how to treat them accordingly.
Because of the many predispositions they are exposed to, senior dogs do better with evaluated and vet-recommended diets.
The health question
Balancing your dog’s meals is one way to guarantee them better health and immunity from diseases. Minerals such as calcium prevent malnutrition, while phosphorous creates stronger teeth and bones.
Proteins are essential in all GSD diets. However, when included in excess, proteins can cause kidney complications – we thus recommend feeding them in higher but moderate amounts.
Also, fats should be considerably lower in the diet because they cause heart problems and pancreatitis when involved in large amounts.
If you are unsure about how to balance meals, don’t hesitate to talk to the vet for his expert opinion and future recommendations.
While charts provide detailed information, vets possess all the knowledge and expertise to gauge your Shepherd’s needs, by examining them, doing tests, and checking their overall activity.
German Shepherds are big dogs. Because of their sizeable bodies, they can’t survive entirely on dry kibble – they need a consistent supply of high-quality foods.
Besides, German Shepherds are particularly active working and hunting dogs that love playing and exercise. They will require a lot of quality food to regain lost energy in training and practice.
When Shepherds grow older, they become less active – they don’t play as much and only move around for convenience. Older Shepherds feed on lesser calories because their bodies have no additional need for extra energy.
Feeding time and frequency
A normal German Shepherd feeds for ten to fifteen minutes. However, the duration can sometimes differ because older dogs eat lesser amounts of food.
Make sure you observe your dogs during their feeding times for any abnormalities.
Bloat is likely to affect dogs that feed faster. In such cases, we recommend investing in slow feeder bowls that help reduce the dog’s feeding pace.
On the other hand, if your Shepherd eats slower than normal, ensure you take him to the vet – he could be suffering from digestive problems or not, either way, visiting the vet is the only way to know.
Water is life!
Hydration is important for all animals including German Shepherds. Younger puppies get most of their hydration from puppy mush but it’s still important to feed them additional water once every two meals.
Mature Shepherds will require more water depending on their activity levels. However, don’t give your Shepherds too much water just to be on the safe side – they could vomit, show signs of nausea, or stagger due to water intoxication.
The best way to give dogs water is to place it in clean slow feeding bowls, from which they can lap easily. Always check your Shepherd for panting signs – this way, you’ll know if they need water.
Alternate feeding guidelines and requirements
Shepherd owners often ask, can I feed my dog raw meats or cooked foods?
While I might recommend specific raw diets for German Shepherds and even cooked meals, vets may state otherwise. According to professionals, some raw meats are nutritious and perfect for the dog’s metabolism.
Others can be quite harmful, especially if they are foods for humans that weren’t recommended by the vet. Always ensure you consult your vet before feeding your dog any raw diet, cooked or home-made food.
You can include supplements in the Shepherd’s diet such as canine supplements and vitamins – however, before including them in meals, all supplements should be approved by the vet as safe and healthy.
When it comes to feeding the German Shepherd, it’s often a challenge for many owners to find the right advice.
Sometimes researching the feeding requirements on your own helps, because online guides are quite straightforward and direct.
However, there’s still a huge chance you could be missing key feeding details and unique needs specific to your Shepherd alone – that’s why consulting the vet is as critical as the healthy feeding process.
All in all, there are some general requirements you need to adhere to – feeding the dog the right quantities, avoiding bloat, checking the top five ingredients on dog food packages, visiting the vet for advice and checkups, investing in high-quality foods, and avoiding filler elements.
An active and healthy Shepherd is a happy and amazing companion. Besides, better health guarantees an improved lifespan, so, invest in feeding your German Shepherds quality food, and you will enjoy every moment keeping them as pets!