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A Beginner’s Guide to Homemade Food for German Shepherds

Are you considering abandoning commercial dog food to start feeding your German Shepherd homemade food? Well, that includes you among the many dog owners discovering the benefits of homemade dog food and shifting from commercial diets. But what is it about homemade dog food that should convince you to make the change?

Homemade food for German Shepherds is a healthy alternative to commercial dog diets. The food is cooked with fresh human-grade ingredients, which makes it high-quality, nutritionally rich, and free of fillers and animal byproducts. It also allows variety and is free of preservatives.

This article is your beginner’s guide to homemade food for German Shepherds. I’ll tell you about the benefits of feeding your GSD with natural ingredients and which homemade foods are good for your dog. You’ll also find examples of recipes for homemade German Shepherd food, plus other important details about your dog’s meal plan.

Homemade German Shepherd Food. A German Shepherd Puppy with a bowl of homemade dog food.

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So, if you’re ready to learn all about homemade German Shepherd food, you won’t be disappointed. Let’s begin!

Why Feed Homemade Food To Your German Shepherd

Commercial dog foods are a popular feeding option among dog owners the world over. These foods come in many varieties, including dry kibble, wet canned dog food, and semi-moist.

They are generally healthy and contain all the nutrients required for your German Shepherd’s wellness. The foods are also tested by vet specialists and regulated by agencies like the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

While studies have confirmed that commercial dog food is generally healthy, some of these studies have also raised questions about the safety of commercial dog food.

For example, a study on the nutritional value and microbiological safety of store-bought dog food found that all the tested dry dog foods met the minimum protein and fat content required by the European Pet Food Industry Federation (FEDIAF).

However, the study also recorded the presence of microorganisms in the food: 

  • 50% had above 104cfu/g microorganisms.
  • 14% recorded the presence of staphylococci.
  • 19% had mold.

Considering this, the fear of feeding their pet contaminated food tops the list of reasons why German Shepherd owners (and other dog breed owners) are opting to give their pets homemade food in place of commercial options.

Key Reasons Dog Owners Opt for Homemade Food

Here’s the list of reasons why German Shepherd owners opt to feed their dogs homemade food:

  • Distrust in the safety of commercial dog foods. The perception that commercial dog foods are unhealthy and of poor quality is a big reason many opt for homemade food, especially when dog food recalls happen often.
  • The need to have more control over what your dog eats. For example, opting for natural ingredients over possible byproducts in dog food.
  • For health reasons. Whether for dogs with food allergies and intolerance or simply because you think homemade food is healthier for your dog, opting for homemade food due to health reasons is common, considering you know what’s in it.
  • For personal reasons. This could be for the fulfillment that comes with cooking for your furry friend, as a way of strengthening your dog-owner bond or simply to please a canine picky eater.
German Shepherd Homemade Dog Food. A GSD looking at some cooked meat.

Benefits of Feeding Your Dog With Homemade Food

Apart from the key reasons that many dog owners opt for homemade dog food, there are also many benefits associated with feeding your German Shepherd homemade food:

Homemade Dog Food Is Nutritionally Rich and Free of Fillers

Making your own dog food lets you include nutritionally-rich ingredients to you and your German Shepherd’s liking. You also have a chance to vary the cooking method, including:

  • Steam
  • Roast
  • Broil
  • Bake
  • Blend
  • Raw (when it’s safe)

In addition, you don’t have to include cheap fillers in commercial diets. These fillers just increase the quantity and don’t really add any nutritional value to your dog’s meal. They simply count as extra fiber.

Homemade Dog Food Is High-quality

While many commercial dog diets are made with meat byproducts, cooking for your German Shepherd at home gives you the chance to prepare healthy meats and whole-food ingredients. You can shop the ingredients yourself and determine which ones are best for your furry friend.

Homemade Dog Food Allows Variety

Your German Shepherd is a canine, but that doesn’t make your pet indifferent to routine feeding with highly processed food. Like us, dogs will enjoy a bit of variety and the taste of fresh ingredients in their daily meals, and making homemade dog food permits just that. 

Homemade Recipes Can Be Customized to a Dog’s Needs

If you have a sick or picky German Shepherd or one with food intolerances or weight issues, you can make your pet’s meal to fit these situations.

Besides, by working with a vet or vet nutritionist, you can develop recipes that uniquely respond to your dog’s nutrition and calorie requirements.

Homemade Dog Food Is Free of Preservatives

The safety of preservatives in dog and other commercial animal diets is controversial. While some say it’s safe at recommended levels, others say it can still cause harm.

The most commonly used animal feed preservative is Ethoxyquin. In 2015, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reported that their study didn’t make any conclusions on the safety of Ethoxyquin in animal feeds, even at what is considered safe levels. That leaves dogs and other animal owners in limbo: “Is it safe or not safe?”

Homemade German Shepherd food doesn’t include preservatives. So, if you don’t want to deal with the uncertainty of whether preservatives in commercial dog foods are safe or not, homemade food is definitely a safe option.

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What To Consider When Feeding Your GSD a Homemade Diet

In addition to the benefits in the previous section, there are several other tips and facts you should consider when feeding your German Shepherd with homemade food:

Always Work With a Vet/Vet Nutritionist

Working with a vet or a vet nutritionist is a must-follow guideline!

Whether you feed your dog with commercial diets or homemade food, the most important thing to remember is that the meal should include all the nutritional ingredients needed to keep your dog healthy.

Unfortunately, studies on the nutritional completeness of homemade dog food have suggested that most dog owners don’t feed their dogs with a nutritionally complete diet. For example, a study that assessed homemade dog food recipes reported that all had one or more nutrient deficiencies, and none included all the required nutrients.

Considering the risk of giving your dog a meal that lacks essential nutrients, the first thing to bear in mind is, that when feeding your GSD with a homemade diet, the recipe(s) should be created in consultation with a vet or a vet nutritionist. Doing this ensures that the diet is sound for your GSD’s wellness.

This also means that you should be wary of the readily available homemade dog food recipes on the internet or in other sources like magazines and books. Before using these recipes, run them through your dog’s vet first.

Cost

If you’re on a budget, you’ll want to consider the cost of homemade dog food. Switching to homemade food is often deferred by owners due to cost constraints as you’ll pay less for many store-bought diets, although some high-end commercial diets will be less expensive.

Do you want to know more about this topic? Check out this article, Is It Cheaper To Make Your Own Dog Food?

Bowl of Homemade Dog Food for German Shepherd

Switch to Homemade Food Gradually

If your German Shepherd has been feeding on a commercial diet and you’ve decided to shift to homemade food, it’s extremely important that you do so gradually over a few days. This will help your dog’s GI system adapt to the new diet and prevent digestion issues.

Some vets may advise you to mix the homemade food with the former commercial food, then gradually increase the amount of homemade food until you can feed your dog solely on the home diet.

Doing this helps your GSD’s stomach to adjust to the new diet. You can also observe any unwelcome changes in your dog’s digestive and excretory reactions and consult the vet if necessary. For example, any episodes of vomiting or diarrhea should be reported to the vet if it doesn’t clear up within 24 hours.

Beware of Ingredients That Are Toxic for Dogs

Feeding your German Shepherd with homemade food comes with the opportunity to include variety in the different nutritional areas.

However, you should also be conversant with readily available foods that you should never include in your dog’s diet because they’re toxic for canines. An example is those foods that contain xylitol.

Below is a tabled list of foods that are safe and unsafe for your German Shepherd:

Safe Foods for German ShepherdsUnsafe Foods for German Shepherds
Meat (chicken, beef, pork, turkey, lamb, etc.).Chocolate, tea, coffee, & caffeine.
Fish (whitefish, salmon, etc.).Onions and garlic. Wild mushrooms.
Rice (white or brown).Alcohol (foods and drinks with alcohol).
Vegetables (carrots, peas, green beans, broccoli, cucumbers).Avocados, grapes & raisins. Coconut oil (in large amounts). 
Fruits (apples, blueberries, bananas, watermelon).Macadamia and walnuts. Learn more about GSDs and nuts.
Xylitol-free peanut butter.Yeast.
Popcorn (plain).Salt (in high quantities).
Foods German Shepherds can and can’t eat

This list is not exhaustive and you can find a more comprehensive article here, 25 Foods German Shepherds Can’t Eat. You should also consult your pet’s vet whenever you’re not sure a particular food is safe for your dog.

Foods German Shepherds Can't Eat.  German Shepherd and some chocolates
My German Shepherd Willow – “I don’t think I should even be looking at these!”

Ensure You Have the Time

If you feed your GSD with commercial dog food, the most you need to do is order the food, have it delivered to your doorstep, scoop out the amount for a meal, and place it in your pet’s feeding bowl.

Making homemade German Shepherd food is time-consuming. You’ll have to spend time shopping for the ingredients, then prepare and cook while following a recipe before you can offer your furry friend a fresh meal. If you make food for several meals, you’ll also need to pack it in freezing bags and store it.

Not every dog owner has time to spend cooking. A previously mentioned study also found that many dog owners who started feeding their dogs homemade food gave up at some point and turned back to commercial diets.

You must be sure you have the considerable amount of time required to make homemade food for your GSD.

Beware of Risks and Inconveniences of Homemade Dog Food

Apart from the risk of not incorporating all the nutrients required by your GSD and including unsafe foods in your dog’s homemade food, there are other risks and inconveniences you should consider when deciding to make your own dog food.

Here are three possible risks and inconveniences of feeding your GSD with homemade food:

  • Homemade dog food can be cumbersome when traveling with your dog. Unlike commercial kibble, which is dry and would be easy to clean, homemade food has more water ratio than kibble and can be overly messy.
  • It’s more difficult to board your dog. If you often travel for work and would need to leave your GSD at a dog boarding kennel, a dog on homemade food will be difficult to shelter unless the kennel offers home cooking services, which is rare.
  • There are health concerns associated with homemade dog food. Although still under study, the FDA has previously expressed concern about a possible link between legume-rich, grain-free, high-fiber homemade dog food and dilated cardiomyopathy, a heart muscle disease. Specifically, homemade dog foods made mainly with peas, potatoes, lentils, and other legumes have been linked to this heart disease. However, remember that investigations remain ongoing.

Considering the advantages and possible risks of feeding your German Shepherd with homemade food, it’s evident that special attention should be taken to ensure the food is good for your dog.

What Homemade Food Is Good for German Shepherds?

Homemade food that’s good for German Shepherds incorporates the six essential nutrients required for a dog’s proper growth, body function, and health. These nutrients include proteins, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, fat, and water.

When making homemade German Shepherd food, it’s crucial to ensure that all these nutrients are included in their recommended amounts.

To determine the right amounts of each nutrient in your dog’s food, reference is usually made to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) guidelines and the Nutrient Requirements of Dogs (NRC) report.

Below are the nutritional guidelines for each of the nutrients that ensure good homemade food for your German Shepherd:

Proteins

Protein is crucial in your dog’s diet. It provides the essential amino acids that are key in the body’s processes that make blood glucose for energy creation. Quality proteins in your dog’s food have the proper balance of amino acids when provided in the right amounts.

The dietary recommendation for protein in your German Shepherd’s homemade food is as follows:

  • Puppies and nursing German Shepherds. 22.5% of the dry matter (56.3g for every 1,000 kcal ME).
  • Adult German Shepherds. 18% of the dry matter (45.0g for every 1,000 kcal ME).

Protein sources for your homemade German Shepherd food include: 

  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Beef
  • Salmon
  • Whitefish 
3 German Shepherd Puppies

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates provide the energy needed by your GSD for normal daily activities in conjunction with the amount provided by proteins and fats.

The energy amount needed by your German Shepherd dog can vary depending on its stage of growth, weight, amount of exercise, and if the dog is pregnant or nursing. Daily dog energy requirements are measured in terms of calories.

Here’s a tabled summary of your GSD’s daily energy requirements, considering the breed’s 50-90lbs adult dog weight range, age, and exercise level.

GSD Puppies (<50lb)GSD 50lb (22.7kg)GSD 70lb (31.8kg)GSD 90lb (40.8kg)
Puppies990 kcal------
Young Adult Active GSDs--1,451 kcal1,876 kcal2,264 kcal
Adult active GSDs--1,353 kcal1,740 kcal2,100 kcal
Pregnant GSD (4wks till delivery)--1,940 kcal2,570 kcal3,170 kcal
Senior Active GSD--1,093 kcal1,407 kcal1,700 kcal
Energy requirements for German Shepherds

****For nursing German Shepherds, the number of kcal will vary depending on the number of puppies and the weeks of lactation. Check details on the AAFCO Methods For Substantiating Nutritional Adequacy of Dog and Cat Foods or consult your dog’s vet.

Carbohydrates in your GSD home diet should also include 2.5-4.5% fiber. Sources of carbohydrates for your homemade German Shepherd food include: 

  • White/brown rice
  • Potatoes
  • Quinoa
  • Oatmeal
  • Sweet potatoes

Fats

Your German Shepherd gets dietary fats from animal and plant sources. Fats are the densest source of energy. They also provide fatty acids that serve as carriers of fat-soluble vitamins. In addition, fats enhance the taste of your GSD’s food and keep your pet’s coat glossy.

The daily dietary recommendation for fats in your GSD’s homemade food is as follows:

  • Puppies and nursing German Shepherds. 8.5% of the dry matter (21.3g for every 1,000 kcal ME).
  • Adult German Shepherds. 5.5% of the dry matter (13.8g for every 1,000 kcal ME).

Sources of fat for your homemade German Shepherd food include: 

  • Fish
  • Soybean
  • Canola
  • Corn 
  • Flaxseed
Homemade Dog Food For German Shepherd

Minerals

Minerals in your German Shepherd’s diet are essential for bone, muscle, nerve, impulse transmission, and cell signaling functions. The minerals are needed in small quantities, but their deficiency in your dog’s body can lead to problems in these body functions.

Dogs need these 12 minerals: 

  • Calcium
  • Phosphorus
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Sodium
  • Chlorine
  • Zinc
  • Iron
  • Copper
  • Selenium
  • Manganese
  • Iodine

The dietary recommendation for minerals in your German Shepherd’s homemade food varies for each mineral. Consult the AAFCO Methods For Substantiating Nutritional Adequacy of Dog and Cat Foods for details, or talk to your dog’s vet.

Sources of minerals for your homemade German Shepherd food include:

  • Broccoli, tofu, and green beans (Calcium).
  • Vegetables and whole grains (Magnesium).
  • Red meat and poultry (Iron).
  • Eggs, liver, and lamb (Zinc).
  • Seafood and kelp (Iodine).
  • Brown rice, meats, and vegetables (Selenium).
  • Whole grains, seafood, and seeds (Copper).

Vitamins

Vitamins are essential in your German Shepherd’s diet because they aid in many metabolic functions and are vital in preventing diseases and ailments. Dogs don’t need vitamins in large quantities, but they still need them. Also, some vitamins (such as vitamin D) given in high doses can be toxic for dogs.

There are at least 12 vitamins that your GSD needs in his daily meals: 

  • Vitamins A, D, E, K, B1, B6, and B12
  • Riboflavin
  • Niacin
  • Pantothenic Acid
  • Folic acid
  • Choline

The dietary recommendation for vitamins in your German Shepherd’s homemade food varies for each vitamin. Consult the AAFCO Methods For Substantiating Nutritional Adequacy of Dog and Cat Foods for details, or talk to your dog’s vet.

Sources of vitamins for your homemade German Shepherd food include:

  • Carrots and pumpkins (vitamin A).
  • Whole grains, green vegetables, and liver (Vitamin B).
  • Apples, watermelon, blueberries, and bananas (Vitamin C).
  • Meats and fish (Vitamin D).
  • Plant oils and leafy green vegetables (Vitamin E).
  • Vegetables and fish (Vitamin K).

Water

Water is an essential component of your GSD’s diet. Apart from ensuring consistent hydration, it’s also a core part of digestion and other body metabolisms.

You should ensure that your GSD always has clean, fresh water available. Experts suggest a daily intake of 2 to 3 times the amount of dry matter consumed. However, when always available at multiple sources, healthy German Shepherds can properly regulate their daily water intake.

There’s nothing my GSD likes more than a slurp (or two) of fresh river water as you can see in the below photo!

GSD Cooling Down In The River
My German Shepherd drinking fresh river water

How Much Homemade Food Should I Feed My German Shepherd?

Just like commercial dog food, homemade dog food should be given to your German Shepherd in the right amounts required to maintain a healthy weight and in consideration of your dog’s age and health.

The amount of homemade food you should feed your German Shepherd is determined by the number of recommended calories. As a general rule, the number of calories to feed your GSD should be calculated based on your dog’s weight: Daily caloric needs = 30 x weight in kg (or lb. divided by 2.2) + 70.

So, if your GSD is 60lbs (27.2kg), the number of calories needed will be (30x27.2) +70 = 886 calories per day.

This rule and general feeding guidelines for dogs can be confusing and impractical and requires consistent measuring.

As such, the safest way to determine how much homemade food to feed your German Shepherd is to have your dog’s vet or vet nutritionist calculate the number of calories. The vet will do this depending on the pet’s weight, lifestyle, and body condition score.

Homemade German Shepherd Puppy Food and Meal Plan

If you’re feeding your German Shepherd puppy homemade food, it’s important that the meal has all 6 essential nutrients in the recommended amounts.

From our discussion earlier in the article, your German Shepherd puppy will need the six nutrients in these amounts:

NutrientRecommended Amount
Protein22.5% of the dry matter (56.3g for every 1,000 kcal ME).
Carbohydrates990 kcal
Fats8.5% of the dry matter (21.3g for every 1,000 kcal ME).
Minerals & VitaminsSee recommended daily allowance for each mineral/vitamin here.
WaterPlenty of clean, fresh water should be available throughout the day.
Homemade GSD Puppy meal plan

Even with homemade food, it’s crucial that your German Shepherd puppy follows a feeding routine, just as with commercial diets. Growing GSD puppies will need to eat more frequently and in larger amounts than adults.

The following could be a possible meal plan for homemade German Shepherd puppy food:

  • 6 to 8-week puppies. 4-6 meals a day (every 3-2 hours).
  • 6-month puppies. 2-3 times a day (morning/after waking up – (midday) – evening/before bed).

The most crucial thing is that the puppy consumes the required number of calories, regardless of how many portions the entire daily homemade food amount is divided into.

Homemade Dog Food for German Shepherd made in batch

When a Home Cooked Meal Benefits Your GSD Short Term

While you can decide to feed your German Shepherd with homemade food for the reasons discussed earlier in this article, a home-cooked meal can also benefit your German Shepherd short term in the following situations:

1. You’ve Ran Out of Dog Food

If you lose track of your dog’s food stock and find out you have no or little food left for your furry friend, you could treat your dog to homemade food for the days before the new supply is delivered.

To be on the safe side, you might want to start this before the commercial food is completely depleted and mix the homemade food with a bit of the commercial diet. This will help your German Shepherd adapt better to the change.

2. Your GSD Is Sick or Has Decreased Appetite

If you’ve been sick, you know how that can go with your appetite and cause you to prefer some foods over others. The same is true for your German Shepherd. The fresh and flavorsome taste of homemade food can promote your sick German Shepherd’s appetite and help the pet feed better.

Also, though some commercial foods today are made specifically for dogs with certain conditions, making your dog’s food at home can help you incorporate the special nutrients a sick GSD needs and include them in the vet-recommended amounts. Take, for example, the high-protein, low-carb diet for diabetic dogs.

3. Your GSD Is Recovering From Illness or Surgery

As with humans, post-surgery recovery for dogs always comes with special diets. This is more true when the surgery is directly done on the stomach or adjacent organs. A homemade diet is opportune in this case. You can give your recovering GSD a bland diet to help the GI system return to normal function gradually.

Unlike daily homemade diets, bland diets are easier to make and will not involve the complex calculation of nutrients. Examples are boiled chicken, white rice, and bone broth. Check out this article for more ideas on what to feed, What Do You Feed a German Shepherd With Diarrhea?

4. You Want To Give Your GSD a Change

Eating the same kibble can become monotonous even for your GSD. Besides, it means drawing essential nutrients from the same food source always. A change with homemade food is good. It could be your dog’s weekend treat when you have the time to cook or a different dinner a couple of evenings in the week.

Your dog may show some resistance to diet change initially, but that doesn’t mean the pet can’t take to the change. Just ensure you do it gradually, so your dog doesn’t experience GI distress.

Homemade German Shepherd Food Recipes

The best homemade German Shepherd food recipes are those created by your dog’s vet or vet nutritionist. Custom-made German Shepherd home food recipes are made specifically for your dog’s nutritional needs, which is why they’re the most recommended.

The following are examples of homemade dog food recipes you can consider for your German Shepherd, and they’re borrowed from websites belonging to vet clinics or are written by professional vets. These are only examples and should be passed through your dog’s vet before being used for cooking your GSD’s food.

Sample Recipe for a 60lb German Shepherd

  • Meat (chicken, beef, turkey, etc.) – ¾ lb (340 grams)
  • Brown rice – 3 cups
  • Peas & carrots – ¾ cup
  • Vegetable oil – 3 tablespoons
  • Potassium chloride (as a salt substitute) – ¾ teaspoon

The recipe by Founders Veterinary Clinic also proposes daily mineral or vitamin supplements such as calcium citrate or bone meal powder (1/2 teaspoon or 250mg).

Sample Recipe for a 35lb German Shepherd Puppy

  • Ground turkey (85% lean, 15% fat) – 202g (71/8oz).
  • Brown, long-grain rice – 220g (11/8 cup).
  • Green beans – 85g (5/8 cup).
  • Corn, all-purpose oil – 11g (2 and 3/8 teaspoons).
  • Canned applesauce (unsweetened, with no added ascorbic acid) – 61g (1/4 cup).

The recipe is from NaturalPetsHQ and recommends 9.1g (3 and 5/8 teaspoons) supplementation with Balance IT® Canine. The food amount is for a day’s meal.

You can also check out the below video showing you how to make highly nutritious homemade dog food in quick and easy steps:

How to make highly Nutritious homemade dog food in Quick & Easy steps || Monkoodog

Final Thoughts

This beginner’s guide to homemade food for German Shepherds is a general guide. It works as a good starting point for German Shepherd owners seeking general information about making their own food for their pets.

I recommend that you work with your GSD’s vet or a vet nutritionist when deciding to feed your dog homemade food. Your pet’s vet knows your dog well and has the best advice, unique to your dog’s nutritional requirements.

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