How do pet owners know what to feed a German Shepherd puppy, and when should they switch to adult food?
Why is it even important to know these details when you have a German Shepherd puppy?
The answer lies in the nutritional content of puppy food which is different from adult dog dietary needs.
Once you understand the dietary requirements of a growing dog and an adult’s maintenance needs, it makes sense why their diets are different.
Pets also love snacks as much as people, but people often forget that dogs can’t eat all human food.
This is one more aspect of keeping your puppy safe and healthy-knowing that some human foods are safe, and some are dangerous.
How Important Is Correct Puppy Food For German Shepherds?
Finding out what to feed a German Shepherd puppy can be a little like wandering through a maze. There is so much information available; things can get confusing.
There are some fundamental elements to look for when choosing puppy food to simplify your choices. Ensuring that you give them the best diet will have a big impact on your dog’s health.
#1 Protein content
Puppy food should contain high-quality animal protein of between 20 and 22%. As large breed dogs, the German Shepherd does most of its growth during the first three months, in which time it is essential to give them the right pet food.
Assuming that your puppy is transitioning to dry dog food, the protein content must be high to meet their nutritional needs. Most GSD owners recommend choosing whole protein sources, rather than animal by-products or ‘filler’ ingredients. A raw diet, which centres around raw meat, is sometimes chosen for dogs who suffer from bloat.
Proteins are vital to support the healthy growth of bones, muscles, tissue and organ growth, enzyme creation, and hormone development. High protein content also provides growing puppies with a rich source of energy.
#2 Essential fatty acid content
A healthy fat content in puppy food sits at around 8 to 10%. Essential fatty acids support digestion, enhance healthy bone and joint growth, and add to the puppy’s healthy skin condition. Many dog owners also give their pets fish oils, which contain Omega fatty acids, like Omega-3, which helps support healthy joints and the immune and cardiovascular systems.
There are certain Omega-3 fatty acids which are particularly important, like DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) which plays as large role in the development of puppies’ brains and eyes.
Without sufficient fatty acids, your puppy can suffer from developmental problems. Supporting digestion in early growth phases is critical, especially as German Shepherd dogs have a sensitive system.
#3 Carbohydrate levels
Carbohydrate levels must be between 6 to 8% of the overall food content. Carbohydrates also provide your puppy with the energy levels it needs for natural growth through its early life stages and activity levels.
Active dogs typically need a higher percentage of carbs in their diet.
Many GSD owners experiment with different sources of carbs, as some are known to cause bloat.
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that can’t be broken down and aids digestion by regulating sugar levels. When reviewing dog food, check for fiber content as well as probiotics, in order to maintain a healthy digestive system.
#4 Vitamin and mineral food content
All mammals rely on a balanced nutritious diet to meet their growing needs. This is especially valid in the early growth phases for a large breed puppy.
Your German Shepherd puppy’s diet won’t be complete without extra vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to maintain a healthy growth rate and strengthen its immune system.
Minerals like calcium and phosphorus are critical for bone and muscle growth, and these should be present in equal portions up to two years.
After reaching adulthood, calcium and phosphorus balance should be at 1 portion to 2.1 portions. Sodium is just as important for puppy health, and their food should contain 0.3% of the total content. Many foods contain glucosamine and chondroitin, which contribute to bone and joint health.
A puppy needs a mixture of moist and dry food while growing as moist food promotes healthy digestion. Fortunately, most dog food brands list their contents’ nutritional values, which serve as a good guideline for dog owners.
Choose foods that match your puppy’s age as their nutritional needs change as they grow. Purchasing adult dog food for a puppy who is three months of age will not meet its nutritional requirements and may cause needless harm.
Is There a Difference Between Puppy Food And Food For Grown Dogs?
Understanding what to feed a GSD puppy revolves around knowing that puppy and adult needs are vastly different. Puppies require extra nutrition to support growth, so each bite of food or dry kibble must be packed with nutrition.
Adult German Shepherds can be placed on maintenance diets at around two years once they have finished growing. Between one week and two years, though, the German Shepherd diet must match its dietary requirements.
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) provides parameters for puppy and adult food content. These parameters indicate how food content varies for puppies and adults as their dietary needs differ.
Feeding adult food to a German Shepherd puppy can cause nutritional deficiencies that can impact physical and mental growth.
The negative side effects of giving your pet the incorrect food can show up later in life as hip dysplasia, diabetes, or any number of health issues. Likewise, giving puppy food to an adult dog can promote obesity. There are also considerations about whether to feed your GSD food that contains grains or is grain-free.
There are minimum dietary requirement differences between puppy and adult food for dogs, which are evident from the details below:
- Protein content for puppies – 22% and adults – 18%.
- Fat content for puppies should be 8% and for adults – 5%.
- Calcium in puppy food should be 1% and 0.6% for adult dogs.
- Phosphorous content for puppies should be 0.8%, and for adults, 0.5%.
- Sodium levels should be at 0.3% for puppies and 0.06% for adults.
Remember that these are the minimum requirements present in quality food. If cheaper food does not specify these volumes, look further for food that will match your pet’s nutritional needs. Try to avoid preservatives and additives where possible.
Can German Shepherd Puppies Eat Human Food?
Pet owners must know what to feed a German Shepherd puppy, especially when it comes to human food.
Dog’s love snacking, and people love pleasing their furry friends, especially when their pets express such delight at receiving tasty snacks or being part of family mealtimes.
The problem arises when owners are unsure about which human foods are safe for pets and which food harms them.
Safe human foods to give your German Shepherd puppy
- Apples (seeded)
- Beef (lean)
- Bell peppers
- Bread in small bite-size amounts is okay for puppies now and then. Too much bread can slow their digestive systems, so only give them tiny bits of bread from three month old onward.
- Cantaloupe and honeydew melon
- Cashew nuts
- Corn – off the cob to prevent choking
- Green peas
- Milk (limited amounts due to possible lactose intolerance)
- Peanuts or peanut butter
- Rice (plain brown or white)
- Sweet potato
- Watermelon (seedless)
- Wheat and similar natural grains
- Yogurt (limited amounts due to possible lactose intolerance)
Remove excess fat and bones from protein snacks. Limit dairy products and fruits with high sugar content, such as strawberries. Ensure that pork and salmon, and similar proteins are well-cooked as these can contain parasites.
Only give puppies small amounts of human food as these are foreign to their digestive systems. Once the puppy is used to new treats, these can be increased in volume and frequency.
Always be cautious about the number of treats you feed your German Shepherd puppy, though, as ‘less is more’ while growing.
Foods that you should not give your German Shepherd puppy
- Fruit pits
- Grapes and raisins
- Ice cream
- Macadamia nuts
This list is not endless, so avoid taking chances with your pet. Take any adverse health effects after eating something different seriously.
If you do give your pet something different to eat and they are unwell, take them to the vet immediately.
When Should They Stop Eating Puppy Food?
What to feed a German Shepherd puppy changes as it matures. Weaning from mother’s milk onto solid food usually takes about three weeks, and typically takes place between three and five weeks of age.
Give the puppy dry mash mixed with warm water by slowly introducing this mixture into their diet. As your GSD puppy grows, eventually, dry and wet food should form a part of your dog’s diet.
Dietary needs continue to change as the puppy grows as it only reaches full maturity at two years. You can switch from puppy food to premium puppy food by following manufacturer recommendations.
Make this adjustment to new food over at least four days. Owners can later switch to adult food when the German Shepherd reaches 24 months.
Gradually mix the adult food with the puppy food over four to seven days until the changeover is complete, to avoid irritating sensitive stomachs.
A gradual change of food is important since it gives your pet’s digestive tract time to get used to the new formula.
Select AAFCO approved dog food for puppies and adult dogs for quality nutrition. AAFCO determines minimum amounts of nutrients in specific proportions for optimum growth and maintenance.
AAFCO has conducted trials to determine puppies and adult dogs’ nutritional needs. Your highest chance of giving your pet the best dog food available rests on these and similar trials.
Pet owners can confidently stop feeding their German Shepherd puppy food at 24 months and switch over to adult food.
Now that you know what to feed a German Shepherd puppy and why it is important, you can improve on your pet’s nutrition. Be on the lookout for large breed puppy food.
Also, you can appreciate that a dog’s dietary needs are different from an adult and that nutrition and the amount of food you give them must change when they mature.
If you don’t switch foods to match your pet’s age, they can suffer from developmental problems and diseases.
Feeding human food to your pet is another issue that few pet owners can resist. Some foods are safe, and some are not.
Informing yourself about your pet’s growing dietary needs means that you can prepare yourself for each stage of their life and avoid unpleasant pitfalls.