The Ultimate Guide to What German Shepherds Can (And Can’t) Eat

I love German Shepherds, and I love to eat. If I get a German Shepherd one day, I want to be able to know what it is that they can and can’t eat. I decided to do some research to figure that out.

So, here is the ultimate guide to what German Shepherds can and can’t eat. German Shepherds are bigger, typically carnivorous dogs, and so a diet heavy in protein is recommended. German Shepherds also need a good amount of fat. They are still able to eat other foods once in a while, however.

Below is a guide to the different food groups and what exactly a German Shepherd can and can’t eat from each of them.

Proteins

YES NO  MAYBE
Meat (chicken, beef, pork, lamb, duck, etc.) X
Fish
X
Shrimp X
Liver X
Eggs X

German Shepherds require a diet heavy in protein. Vets recommend that about 22% of a German Shepherd’s diet should be protein. These are bigger, energetic and active dogs. Protein helps keep up their energy and strength as they run and play. It also helps keep their skin and fur healthy.

When it comes to protein, a German Shepherd can eat almost anything. Any meat from a bird is safe. These provide the necessary protein, fat, and other nutrients that a German Shepherd may need.

Most people recommend raw meats, as they contain the nutrients and vitamins a German Shepherd needs without getting cooked out. Cooked meat won’t harm the dog, however. Cooked meat is best by baking it or boiling it. Bones should always be given raw, though, so that they don’t splinter and cause intestinal problems.

Here’s a cute video of a German Shepherd enjoying a bone.

With fish and other seafood such as shrimp, as long as it is cooked it if safe for a German Shepherd to eat. Fish contains healthy amino acids that can help your dog.

Salmon is especially great for dogs. Just be sure no small bones get fed to your dog because those can be choking hazards.

Raw fish could contain salmonella and listeria, so it’s best not to give your dog raw fish. And it shouldn’t eat fish more than twice a week, because they are typically fatty and don’t provide all the vitamins that a German Shepherd needs.

Liver and other organ meats such as gizzards and beef kidneys contain many nutrients and vitamins. These are good to feed a German Shepherd in small amounts. Too much or too quickly introduced to a diet can cause loose stools, however.

Eggs are safe as well. It’s still recommended to be careful with eggs because raw egg whites could give it a biotin deficiency. Some people have managed to feed their dog raw eggs, and been fine, however, so just talk to a vet and watch how your dog reacts when it comes to eggs.

It may be good to give a puppy raw eggs at a certain time so that it can ease into other types of food. Cooked aeegs are typically okay.

Fruits

YES NO MAYBE
Apples X
Avocados X
Apricot, Cherry, Peach, Pear X
Bananas X
Blueberries X
Coconut X
Grapes and Raisins X
Mango X
Melon X
Oranges X
Papaya X
Persimmons X
Pineapple X
Plums X
Raspberries X
Strawberries X
Watermelon X

When it comes to fruit, there are some that are great for dogs, some that are bad, and some that you need to be cautious about. German Shepherds don’t actually require any fruit in their diets, but fruit can still be a nice treat for them in moderation.

With fruits like apples, apricots, cherries, peaches, and pears, the fruit itself is typically safe to eat. The danger comes with the seeds and pits. These contain cyanogenic glycosides which can give your dog cyanide poisoning, which could potentially kill them if not handled correctly.

Avocados won’t kill a dog in very small doses, but too much or too often, and it creates a health risk. It contains a fungicidal substance called persin that is dangerous for animals and can cause vomiting or diarrhea.

Grapes and raisins are known to be especially toxic to dogs. These can cause diarrhea in small doses, and kidney failure or even death in larger amounts.

The reason grapes are toxic is still not completely known, but the effects are there, so avoiding grapes in important to keep your German Shepherd healthy and safe.

Fruits like bananas and melons are safe to eat as long as your dog doesn’t eat the peel or rind. Peels and rinds can cause problems for humans, and the same goes for dogs. Make sure your trash or disposal system is out of reach of your dog so it doesn’t get into it accidentally.

Fruits such as different types of berries are safe as they are, but only in small amounts, as with most other fruits. They have healthy vitamins and antioxidants, and they can be a fun occasional treat for your German Shepherd.

Oranges are high in vitamin C and are safe for dogs generally, but some may not react as well as others, because they have a high amount of citric acid. They should be eaten in small amounts, and you should watch your dog after feeding it an orange to make sure it digests it properly.

Fruit should be eaten sparingly for a dog, but it can be a great treat at times. You can also freeze a few fruits together with water in a nice mold and create a yummy frozen treat for your German Shepherd.

This is nice because they can get especially hot in the summer months and might appreciate the occasional frozen snack, as long as no extra sugar is added!

Vegetables

YES NO MAYBE
Asparagus X
Beets X
Bell Peppers X
Broccoli X
Carrots X
Celery X
Chives X
Corn X
Cucumbers X
Garlic X
Green Beans X
Leeks X
Lettuce X
Peas X
Potatoes X
Onions X
Rhubarb X
Spinach X
Sweet Potatoes X
Tomatoes X

With vegetables, there’s mostly some that are safe for a dog to eat and some that aren’t, and not much in between. German Shepherds also don’t need to eat a lot of vegetables, as with fruit, and moderation is key for any vegetables you want to give your dog.

It’s also good to vary what kinds you give your German Shepherd so that they can get the different vitamins and nutrients provided.

Members of the Allium family, such as garlic, onions, chives, and leeks, are especially dangerous to dogs. These contain thiosulphate and can cause anemia in dogs. This means the blood bursts while circulating through the dog’s body and can cause an elevated heart rate, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, or collapse.

All forms of onions are especially dangerous, and a dog could eat less of an onion than it could of garlic to have problems. Keep these items away from your dog and don’t feed them anything seasoned with these items.

With tomatoes, the stem, leaves, and green parts can be dangerous for German Shepherds and other dogs. These contain solanine and can induce tremors, seizures, or cardiac effects. However, red and ripe tomatoes are generally safe.

These should still be given in moderation, and your dog should be monitored afterward to ensure they are fine, should you choose to give them a tomato.

“Many of the foods, such as fruits and vegetables, that humans digest just fine can wreak havoc on a dog’s body, causing severe health problems.” 

-American Kennel Club

Potatoes are also related to tomatoes and raw ones can contain solaline as well, and so should not be given to a German Shepherd.

Cooking potatoes in only water, with no butter, oil, or salt, can be okay for a dog. But potatoes are high in carbohydrates and can result in obesity for dogs, so moderation is key for these as well.

Carrots are a safe and healthy snack for dogs. Many dogs, German Shepherds included, enjoy munching on them, and they can improve a dog’s dental health as well. They are also a gourd source of vitamins and fiber. Some sell these in dehydrated packages as an easy and healthy treat.

Corn is commonly found in dog food and is perfectly safe for dogs to eat. However, the cob can be a choking hazard, and so if you give your dog corn, it should be off of the cob.

Celery and cucumbers contain several vitamins and minerals that are good for dogs as well. Bell peppers contain good antioxidants but should be eaten in smaller amounts because the taste can be strong for a dog.

Pumpkin is high in fiber and is very digestible and so it is good for dogs.

Several other vegetables are safe for a German Shepherd to eat, but all should be given in small amounts and not too often. Dogs should not be vegetarian, especially German Shepherds. They require large amounts of protein and vegetables should be given more as the occasional treat or vitamin boost.

Nuts

YES NO MAYBE
Almonds X
Brazil Nuts X
Cashews X
Chestnuts X
Hazelnuts X
Macadamia Nuts X
Peanuts X
Pecans X
Pine Nuts X
Pistachios X
Walnuts X

Nuts are a treat that can be easy to give and that many dogs love. They provide a protein boost and are a tasty snack that many German Shepherds enjoy. However, nuts are also high in fat and calories, and so dogs should not be given too many so that they can avoid gaining weight, potential heart problems, and other health risks.

All nuts are small and could create a potential choking hazard. Luckily, German Shepherds are larger dogs and so their risk of choking is less than smaller breeds, but it is still important to watch them and make sure they are able to safely swallow a nut when one is given to them.

Peanuts and hazelnuts are safe for dogs, and peanuts are a popular treat for dogs. They should be out of their shell and should be free of salt, caramelization, or other toppings.

Almonds and pine nuts are not toxic to dogs, but they can be difficult for them to digest. A few almonds, free of coating or salt, should be okay, but keep an eye on your German Shepherd to make sure it doesn’t have any stomach problems after eating them.

The same goes for pine nuts, and a dog should not eat many, as it could develop urinary tract complication.

Brazil nuts are also not toxic to dogs, but they are extremely fatty and if eaten long-term they can cause pancreatitis in dogs. Your dog should avoid eating these, although it won’t kill it to eat one.

Cashews and chestnuts are safe as long as they are roasted. If these are raw, they contain a toxin similar to poison ivy that can be dangerous for dogs. But so long as they are roasted and cooked well, your dog should be okay eating these nuts.

Pecans and pistachios can have aflatoxin, a substance that can cause liver damage in dogs. It’s best to avoid these nuts in order to avoid those problems.

Macadamia nuts are extremely dangerous for dogs. Even consuming one can harm your dogs. Like grapes, scientists know that these are toxic, but don’t have the exact reason as to why right now. Dogs who’ve eaten macadamia nuts can experience weakness, shivering and fever, and vomiting or diarrhea.

Contact a vet if your German Shepherd has eaten these on accident.

Walnuts are toxic to dogs and contain fungi that can cause seizures or neurological complications. These nuts should be avoided as well.

Giving your dog a few safe nuts can be a fun treat. Nuts should not be used as their only treats, however, especially when it comes to training or other activities. They should be used on sporadic occasions, which will also help your German Shepherd appreciate them more!

Other Foods

YES NO MAYBE
Bread X
Caffeine X
Cheese X
Chocolate, Cocoa X
Cinnamon X
Honey X
Ice Cream X
Milk X
Peanut Butter X
Popcorn X
Quinoa X
Salt X
Wheat/Grains X
Yogurt X
Xylitol X

Besides the main options of meat, fruit, and vegetables, there are other food options that German Shepherd owners should be aware of when it comes to feeding or treating their dog.

Bread has no real nutritional value for dogs but is not dangerous to feed them. Homemade bread is best because store-bought bread can contain preservatives that might harm your dog or are simply unnecessary and bad for their overall health.

Caffeine is toxic to dogs and should be avoided. It can cause rapid heart rates, hyperactivity, cardiac arrhythmia, seizures, or even death. Caffeine can be found in many things, including candy, soda, and tea, as well as coffee. It can also be found in chocolate.

Chocolate and cocoa products are also especially toxic to dogs. Chocolate contains a substance called theobromine that is a diuretic as well as a cardiac stimulant. This means a German Shepherd who consumes chocolate may urinate often, be extremely, vomit or have diarrhea.

It may also create seizures, irregular or rapid heartbeats. Dogs have actually died from eating chocolate.

Typically, the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is, but all chocolate is still toxic to dogs. It’s best to keep all chocolate and cocoa products out of reach of your German Shepherd for their safety.

With dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt, this all depends on your individual German Shepherd.

Some dogs are lactose intolerant, and so they have difficulty digesting these products. It’s important to watch how your dog reacts to these food items after giving it to them, and if it upsets their stomach or digestion, don’t give them any more.

If your German Shepherd handles it fine, then you can give these products to your dog safely in small amounts as a treat.

Ice cream is similar in that way, as some dogs may be able to digest it better than others. However, ice cream is less recommended as a treat because it contains a lot of sugar, which can lead to health and weight problems in your dog. Also, any ice cream with chocolate as an ingredient must be avoided. A better frozen treat for your dog may be frozen fruit.

Cinnamon is not inherently toxic to dogs, but it should still be avoided. Cinnamon can make a dog feel sick and irritate the inside of their mouth, and cause coughing or trouble breathing. It can also cause diarrhea, vomiting, and a change in their heartbeat.

Honey is a perfectly safe treat for a German Shepherd. It actually also comes with many benefits as well, such as several vitamins and antioxidants. It may also help with allergies. Pure honey is always better than honey infused with artificial sweeteners, however.

Peanut butter is many dogs favorite treat. People often use it to disguise medicine or to treat their dog for fun. The more raw, natural, and unsalted, the better. Some types of peanut butter have artificial sweeteners that can be dangerous, so make sure you check the label.

Popcorn is fine so long as it is unbuttered and unsalted. It should also be popped all the way in order to help prevent choking. Popcorn contains riboflavin, thiamine, and iron, and it can help promote digestion and eye health.

Quinoa and other types of wheat and grains are safe for German Shepherds to eat. Many of these are used in certain types of dog food, and they contain fiber and other benefits.

However, as German Shepherds need plenty of meat, grains should not be used as a substitute and should be more of a once in a while food item. They may also get a lot of this already if they eat dry food.

Some of these foods listed are safe in their raw and natural forms, but can become dangerous when artificially sweetened. One artificial sweetener used in many products, including peanut butter, candy, gum, and ice cream, is xylitol.

Xylitol is perfectly safe for humans, but it is dangerous for dogs. It causes a rapid release of insulin and a decrease in the level of blood sugar. This can cause vomiting, weakness, seizures or tremors, a lack of coordination, and potentially even liver failure.

If you think your German Shepherd has consumed any of the food items that are toxic for them, call a vet and the Pet Poison Helpline at 800-213-6680 for help. If you catch the symptoms early enough, there’s a good chance your dog will end up just fine.

Wet or Dry Dog Foods

When it comes to feeding a German Shepherd something other than dog food, it can be hard to decide what exactly they should eat.

With dry dog food, it can be cheap, convenient, and comes in a large quantity. It also helps a German Shepherd’s teeth by making them stronger and reducing plaque and tartar buildup. It lasts longer and is easier to preserve than wet or canned food as well. The chewing of dry food may reduce your German Shepherd’s urge to chew on furniture and shoes.

There are some issues with dry dog food, however. It doesn’t have much water, and so can potentially cause dehydration or liver problems. It also contains preservatives, and many carbohydrates, which could harm a German Shepherd’s health. It also may not fulfil the protein requirements for a German Shepherd.

Wet food contains plenty of hydration. It also more protein and fat, which is what a German Shepherd needs. It also can be a complete diet for a German Shepherd and can benefit their urinary tract and urinary functions.

Drawbacks to wet food are that it doesn’t help keep teeth clean and the soft texture doesn’t fulfill a German Shepherd’s chewing requirements, which could make it more likely to chew on furniture. Wet food also is more expensive and doesn’t last as long. If left out for over 2 hours, it could get bacteria, and should be thrown out.

Many vets recommend that a German Shepherd receive both wet and dry dog food as a part of their diet. That way they can get the benefits of both and your dog will have a complete diet.

With a dog food diet, it can still be nice to give your German Shepherd a dog-friendly treat every so often. This will help diversify their diet, give them a vitamin and nutrient boost, and be enjoyable!

Typical Feeding Requirements for German Sherpherds

German Shepherd puppies need more food than an adult German Shepherd. This is because they have boundless energy, and they need plenty of good calories to keep them healthy, happy, and to keep that energy up.

When a puppy is weaned, it’s good to start it with wet food, at around 8-10 weeks old. Puppies also need to eat about three to four for smaller meals a day for about six months, and then that can be reduced to one to two meals a day.

At about 12 weeks old, if you decide you want to feed your German Shepherd dry food, you can start transitioning. Start with about 10% dry mixed in with the wet, and then increase that by about 10% each week.

Ensure that you are feeding your puppy food that is specifically made for puppies, as those provide the necessary vitamins and nutrients for them to grow up healthy and strong.

At about four months old, a German Shepherd puppy can be introduced to live animal products, such as bones, pieces of liver, and eggs. Remember to not give them too much, though, because that can mess up their digestion and health.

“Puppy food is a lot different than adult food because manufacturers put more emphasis on the different nutrients puppies need while they’re developing their internal, muscular, and skeletal systems.”

-Shepped

By six months, they should be able to eat fewer meals a day and give them a bit more live animal products. At around eight months, you can start weaning the puppy off of its puppy food in 10% increments weekly, just as it was done when introducing them to dry food.

By a year old, your German Shepherd should need less food, as their metabolism should be slowing down a bit. You can try cutting them back to eating only one larger meal a day, although many people still choose to feed their dog two regular-sized meals in the mornings and evenings.

An older dog will also be better able to digest other foods, so those can be introduced more often. Remember, German Shepherds require a large amount of protein, and a fair amount of fat as well.

German Shepherds are energetic and active dogs, so be sure to feed them proportionate to their level of physical activity. A dog that goes running with you often may need more food than one who only exercises for a few hours and spends plenty of time at home. And don’t forget to give them plenty of water as well!

Related Questions:

How much should a German Shepherd eat a day? A German Shepherd that weighs between 60 to 90 pounds should eat about three to five cups of dog food a day, and this is typically split up between morning and evening feedings. However, this can vary depending on the individual needs of each dog.

Can raw meat make a dog aggressive? There is no correlation between raw meat and aggressiveness in a dog. German Shepherds may become aggressive due to poor training and treatment, but not due to their diet. In fact, it is good to give raw meat to a German Shepherd because it contains many vitamins and nutrients.

Can I feed my dog raw meat and dry food? It’s not good to mix raw meat and dry food together in the same meal, because they digest at different rates and can cause issues. If they are given for separate meals and spread apart in time, then it will be okay.

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