As someone with a rapidly aging German Shepherd, I know just how challenging it can be to find a dry dog food suitable for a senior German Shepherd that is healthy and suitable for their life stage.
You may also know that German Shepherds don’t always like the food you select for them, especially if you have a fussy eater. That’s why I wrote this article about the best dry foods you can offer your senior GSD.
As you can see from the criteria section, I have not included any dog food that does not meet my high standard for quality regarding a senior German Shepherds’ nutritional needs.
What is the Best Dry Food for Senior German Shepherds?
If we ignore brands and manufacturers for a second, we can think about the food itself. For any dry food or kibble to qualify as the best for your senior German Shepherd, it must contain the correct nutrition, particularly enough protein to sustain muscle mass and enough fat to insulate him and provide energy. It should additionally have some omega fatty acids to promote proper skin health and coat maintenance in your senior German Shepherd.
But before you make your buying decision, you should at least know what the other top options are and how they compare against each other. That’s precisely what I’ll cover in the rest of this article. It includes a detailed review and comparison of the following four best dry dog foods for your senior German Shepherd:
- Royal Canin German Shepherd Adult Breed-Specific Dry Food
- Eukanuba German Shepherd Dry Dog Food
- Diamond Naturals Senior Dog Food
- Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Senior Dog Food
Before we compare the top options, we need to look at the criteria based on which I pass my verdict. A senior German Shepherd needs over 18% protein and 5% fat in his diet to maintain good health. Simultaneously, your GSD needs fewer calories as he is less active than his younger counterparts. This is also why you cannot feed your senior GSD the same food you have given him all his life.
Ideally, you would not want the calories per day to exceed 1,600. If you’ve had your German Shepherd for a while, you’ll know that it’s best to feed twice a day to prevent bloat. Therefore, each serving must not exceed 800 calories. With the criteria established, let’s look at the best dry food for senior German Shepherds.
If you’re in a rush and quickly want to know my recommendations, here’s my “Too Long; Didn’t Read” verdict…
The best dry food for senior German Shepherds is Diamond Naturals Senior Dog Food because it is formulated specifically for older dogs with a slower metabolism. It contains the correct ratio of proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and fiber and has fewer calories to help an aging dog stay lean.
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The Royal Canin brand has a history dating back to 1968. The brand’s longevity lends one the sense of comfort that a business would not dilute its product’s quality or make false promises as the brand’s reputation is of higher priority than short-term profits. I give the brand an 8 out of 10 instead of a perfect ten because it hasn’t focused entirely on dogs.
The brand’s promise is quite broad: promoting pet health through nutrition. Royal Canin produces food for cats and dogs, and though the company is big enough to have specialized research and development into each species and breed, it does not reflect well on the brand overall. However, there is only a lack of perceived specialization and the brand’s actual products, including the dry dog food, are breed-specific.
The German Shepherd dry dog food offered by Royal Canin comes in two varieties: for younger puppies and adult dogs. The adult dog variety caters to canines over five years old, making it strange that the energy per cup does not exceed 400 Calories (ME). GSDs are considered seniors halfway through their sixth year.
In their 7th year, they’re less active and therefore need lower calories. But as established earlier, this calorie count can go up to 1600. That’s why I don’t believe it would be suitable for a five-year-old dog as he needs more nutrition. A senior dog can do with over 650 Calories per serving, so if you purchase this variety, get comfortable pouring two cups per serving.
Despite having a smaller calorie count, this product receives an eight on nutrition because of the quality of calories and density of its macros. It satisfies both the markers of having over 18% protein and more than 5% fat. I do have my reservations with the fat concentration being well over 5%, but that has to do with the food being more for dogs over five years of age than for dogs that are seven years old.
- Minimum Crude Protein 23%
- Minimum Crude Fat: 17%
- Metabolizable Energy: 321 Calories per cup
With the essential nutrition and brand trustworthiness covered, let’s look at what this product offers that sets it apart from other dry foods for senior German Shepherds.
Formulated Specifically for GSDs
Many brands get lazy with their dog food. There’s a general practice of swapping out brand names on the same product to market to different people. As established in the brand section of this product, we can trust Royal Canin when it asserts that this product is formulated specifically for German Shepherds. I also noticed that the nibbles are shaped to compliment GSD’s snout shape and jaw strength.
Packed With Nutrients
Just because the product isn’t pumped with empty calories, I could tell that it was packed with nutrients. A little research into this hunch proves me right: it includes collagen, which is excellent for senior German Shepherds’ bones and cartilage. There’s also significantly lower phosphorus per serving. That’s great for your dog’s kidneys.
Your Dog May Be Allergic
The recipe is chicken-based and has such a diverse variety of ingredients which unfortunately means your GSD might have an allergic reaction to one or more of the product’s ingredients. But fret not; I’ve done the math. From all the public reviews (over 1100 at the time of writing this), less than 2% have complained about their dog’s refusal to eat or an allergic reaction.
This comes with a caveat. The price per serving is just fine for the market rate, but since the product comes only in bulk, you have to cough up good money before your German Shepherd takes his first bite. I can understand why some people might not want to buy 28 lbs of dog food at the heels of an allergy scare before knowing if it sits well with their GSD.
The Verdict: 8/10
This product gets an 8 out of 10 verdict because of its incredible nutritional value and specific attention to German Shepherds. It loses a point because of roughly 1.75% of customers complaining about their dogs not wanting to eat the food or having a minor allergic reaction to it.
Since the product comes in a big pack, I recommend buying it if you have multiple GSDs or have a friend with a GSD who can claim the package if your dog happens to be among the 1% who don’t like the food.
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I am not like the math teacher who wouldn’t give full marks because “No one is perfect.” The Eukanuba brand deserves a perfect ten, at least on the brand side, because it has focused entirely on dog nutrition since 1969. More importantly, it has made the right alliances which speak for its quality.
The brand is a partner of American Kennel Club, Super Retriever Series, North America Diving Dogs, Squaw Valley Meadows, Canine Companions for Independence, and Delta Waterfowl. This makes me trust the assertions made by Eukanuba on behalf of its products.
Eukanuba’s partnerships with dog athletics are an indicator of the brand’s focus on an active lifestyle. This makes it no surprise that its crude protein and fat are both well over the minimum for a senior German Shepherd. Its calorie content per cup is a standard 314 calorie half-serve. Just like the Royal Canin variety, you should pour two cups per serving.
The nutrition content for this product embodies “too much of a good thing,” as it might fatten up your senior German Shepherd. While the calories per serving may not exceed your dog’s requirements, the protein and fat percentages are well over 18% and 5%, respectively.
- Minimum Crude Protein: 23%
- Minimum Crude Fat: 13%
- Metabolizable Energy: 314 Calories per cup
Let’s look at what Ekanuba’s dry dog food offers your German Shepherd aside from high-quality calories, significant protein, and fats per serving.
The brand asserts that its German Shepherd dog food is breed-specific. I cannot verify this from the food shape as it seems like any other dry dog food on the surface. But since the brand has a long enough history, I lean towards trusting this assertion. When buying food for your senior German Shepherd, you may prefer to purchase breed-specific food.
Reduces Tar-Tar Buildup
The dog food uses Ekanuba’s proprietary 3D Dentadefense, which fights plaque buildup in 28 days. This is a tested and proven assertion, but the tests haven’t been independently verified. That said, I have yet to encounter any challenge against this assertion which is why I’m inclined to take it at face value.
Good For Your Dog’s Skin and Coat
The presence of Omega-6 fats and Omega-3 fatty acids means this product promotes healthy skin and can help your GSD maintain a nice coat. This advantage is quite nice, but you must keep in mind that it doesn’t set this product in a league of its own mainly because there are many dry dog food products with Omega-6 fats and Omega-3 fatty acids.
Your Dog Might Not Like It
Your senior German Shepherd has accompanied you for most of his life. He can barely go for the walks he once enjoyed. The least you can do is to provide him with food he can enjoy. Unfortunately, for all its pros, the Eukanuba brand fails to bring you the type of dog food every GSD likes.
From a sample of under 300 reviews, a whopping 4% of people complain about their dogs not enjoying the food. While no complaints of allergies are brought up, the 3% higher dissatisfaction than Royal Canin makes one think twice.
It Might Fatten Up Your Dog
While this specific product has fewer calories per cup than Royal Canin’s 5+ year variety, it is too generic for adult GSDs and, therefore, leans towards activity enhancement. Generally, German Shepherds need a lot of calories. However, your 7+ year German Shepherd might not do so well with receiving such activity-oriented nutrition.
The Verdict: 7/10
Despite hitting most individual marks, this product falls short in a significant way: catering to low activity levels. If your German Shepherd, despite being a senior, can go on one walk a day, you can use this dry food. But if your GSD can barely walk around your backyard, relying on such a dense product might lead to obesity.
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Schell & Kampeter, Inc. has been in business since 1970 and does business as Diamond Pet Foods. I give it a nine on the brand because it specializes in dry foods for dogs. When it comes to brands, I appreciate specificity as it indicates commitment. Since the company is big enough to have a dedicated Bloomberg profile while having a history dating back to the 70s, I can take its assertions about its products more seriously.
The only reason the Diamond Pets brand gets a -0.5 on its total is that it has been in the market for a slightly shorter period than the other brands, but when we’re talking about decades of doing business, one can overlook a two – three year gap.
Despite being explicitly formulated for senior dogs, the calorie contents of this product do not seem to differ much from adult dry dog foods on the market. This also meets my minimum standards of over 18% protein and 5% fat, and with two cups per serving (or 4 cups per day), your senior German Shepherd can remain well-fed throughout the day.
The difference (or care for old dogs) shows more in the added vitamins and nutrients discussed in the pros section. In terms of the macronutrients and calorie count, this product is remarkable but not very different from other items in this post.
- Minimum Crude Protein: 25%
- Minimum Crude Fat: 11%
- Metabolizable Energy: 318 Calories per cup
It Comes In a Small Enough Pack
This product is significantly better than others because it comes in a small enough pack with options for bigger ones. I like this a lot because you never know how well your German Shepherd will adjust to a specific variety of dry food. You don’t have to spend a hundred dollars to find that out. You can start with a mere 6 lbs pack.
On the heels of having a small pack for purchase, this product is also significantly cheaper on a per-lb basis when compared to the other items in this post. For the same calorie count and macronutrients, it makes sense to opt for Diamond than the more expensive alternatives.
Cruelty-Free (Kind Of)
Made with cage-free chicken, this non-vegan dog food is as cruelty-free as it gets. The birds aren’t raised in captivity, which means a lot to many people. Even if you’re not a vegetarian, it still strikes as a positive knowing that the suppliers didn’t raise the animals used for this product in horrible conditions.
As Natural as It Gets
The “naturals” in Diamond Naturals reflect that this product does not contain artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. Keep in mind that this is the brand’s own assertion. I choose to trust it because the company backing the product is big enough. False advertising wouldn’t be wise for such a brand. It is also based in the United States, which reduces the risk of false claims.
The same company owns the first two items listed. Mars Petcare owns Royal Canin and Eukanuba (yes, the same Mars as Mars Chocolate). Despite being distinct brands with different origin stories, the conglomerate ownership rubs off the wrong way. To me, Diamond Pet Foods stands out because it is family-owned. And I wouldn’t just applaud a family-owned business for being family-owned only.
Family ownership here results in a specific set of advantages for the consumer. Corporations are under pressure to turn a quarter-end profit for shareholders. Family businesses are in it for the long haul. That’s why Diamond Petfoods has its strict quality control. They work with limited suppliers, and the final product is made in the USA (although ingredients are sourced globally).
Diamond Naturals food for senior dogs includes probiotics and other ingredients that help your old dog digest the food better. A fatty acid blend is good for your aging German Shepherd’s skin and natural minerals alongside superfoods and antioxidants that make this product ideal for your senior doggo.
No product is all milk and honey, not even honey-flavored milk. While Diamond Naturals dry food is excellent, it isn’t without its shortcomings. So, what are the drawbacks of one of the best senior dog foods on the market?
Might Give Your Dogs the Runs
If you remember, the product pros mention “pro-digestion.” Well, too much of a good thing can mean your German Shepherd gets diarrhea. But less than 2% of a whopping 2000+ sample size has this complaint. In fact, over 2,000 reviews place it at 4.6 out of 5 stars. Still, some dogs got the runs after switching to this. Order a small bag just to see if this is for your GSD.
May Get Moldy
While you’re ordering small batches to test, I would recommend sticking to the small batches since there are complaints of the large bags getting moldy halfway through. Unfortunately, that’s the price of having an all-natural, meat-based product. You cannot store it in bulk. However, the good news is that small packs don’t vary in price significantly from the larger portions.
The Verdict: 10/10
Diamond Naturals dog food for seniors gets the perfect ten because it is all-natural, budget-friendly, and is made in the US with strictly sourced ingredients. It has the right calorie content and provides sufficient protein and fats.
The fact that an estimated 1.5 in 1000 dogs get loose stools from it, therefore, doesn’t take away from the overwhelming positives of this product. All that remains for owners is to order a small batch and see for themselves if the product is compatible with their elderly German Shepherd.
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The Brand: 7.5/10
Blue Buffalo has a heartwarming origin story that begins with a family dog, but the brand doesn’t have a long enough history to receive the same rating as the names backing the other items in this post. This brand was launched in 2003, which makes it a very young company.
Still, it has well over a decade of experience in the market. I would trust the company’s management to care for its reputation enough to properly advertise and manufacture its nutrition. Therefore, I give it well over the average 5 out of 10. I hesitate to give it a rating of 8 or beyond because the specificity is lost for such a young brand.
Blue Buffalo doesn’t just represent dog food; it has ventured into cat food as well. All in all, the brand is young and strong, and its owners’ interest in animal philanthropy earns it points of trust. Just not enough compared to brands that have stayed consistent since the late 60s and 70s.
The dog food hits my minimum protein requirements mark right on the head and has double the minimum fat requirements for a dog. Despite this unremarkable yet acceptable combination, the dry food manages to pack more calories than most options on this list, putting your senior German Shepherd at risk of obesity if you go easy on portion control.
- Minimum Crude Protein: 18%
- Minimum Crude Fat: 10%
- Energy: 430 Calories per cup
With my honest take on the product’s nutritional content, you may wonder why I bothered putting it on the list of the top foods in the first place. That’s because even if it pales in comparison to the other items in the post, it is still among the best dry foods on the market. Here are some of its unique advantages:
- It doesn’t include poultry by-products – Most dog food companies pump their “chicken-based” foods with chicken by-products and subpar poultry meals. This product doesn’t contain such fillers.
- It contains brown rice, a holistic carbohydrate source – This is also responsible for the high-calorie density of the product. On the one hand, it gives your dog a lot of energy, but it also puts inactive dogs at risk of obesity. If your GSD still goes on walks, then this is a plus.
- Has glucosamine and chondroitin, which are good for joints – Joint and hip health is vital for senior dogs. The presence of glucosamine and chondroitin is, therefore, a significant advantage.
The main drawbacks of this product are already covered in the nutrition section. It has too many calories and barely enough protein density to show for it. The fat levels are lower than other items, but that doesn’t make the overall nutritional value better than any other items in this post.
The Verdict: 6.5/10
Blue Buffalo Senior Dog Food makes it on my list because it meets the minimum standard I have set for great nutrition for dogs of advanced age. However, I don’t like the product’s marketing; the use of “life protection” in a product meant for senior dogs just doesn’t sit right with me.
The product description boasts “LifeSource Bits,” which is again a marketing-savvy name for antioxidants present in almost every other product on the list. The brand is relatively young and seems too eager to stretch the perceived greatness of what is at its core a good but not excellent dry food for senior German Shepherds.
Which Dry Food for Senior GSDs Should I Pick?
When you shop for dry food for your senior German Shepherd, you should look for two things: the minimum required nutrition and your dog’s enthusiasm towards the specific food. I have included the top food items your dog can try.
I’d definitely go for Diamond Naturals Senior Dog Food as your first choice as it ticks all the boxes, especially for quality and value for money. But if your looking for a breed-specific product and are prepared to spend a bit more, then choose the Royal Canin German Shepherd Adult. Ultimately what matters is that your dog enjoys what he eats and that it isn’t unhealthy.
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