To keep your German shepherd in great health, one of the most important things you can do is feed a nutritious diet. Although there is a lot of debate between dog lovers about how that is defined, and many factors that weigh into the decision of what to feed your dog, the bottom line is nutrition is important.
As a dog owner, your choices in commercial diets include:
• Dry, extruded
• Dry, cold pressed, baked
• Freeze dried
• Fresh cooked, home delivery
You can also opt to cook for your dog. The best, safest way to do this is to consult with a board certified veterinary nutritionist to ensure that your dog receives the best feeding options. In general, the nutritionist will evaluate your pet, perform, or review lab work, create a recipe, and prescribe supplements specific to your pet.
Most people feed a commercial diet. There are hundreds of dog food on the market and each one is fighting to capture your attention. Marketing trends play a huge role into how the nutritional value of dog food is perceived by owners, as well as their personal biases toward ingredients and manufacturers.
Couple that with the needs of individual dogs and suddenly choosing the right dog food can be overwhelming. What works splendidly for one dog may result in digestive upset, itching, yeast, hot spots, and more for another.
What to look for when feeding your German shepherd:
When choosing a dog food, the first thing to look for is the AAFCO, Association of American Feed Control Officials, nutritional adequacy statement on the pet food label. This is a statement will tell you if the food is complete and balanced for a particular life stage, such as growth, reproduction, adult maintenance, or a combination of these, or intended for intermittent or supplemental feeding only.
For nutritional purposes, dogs weighing 50 pounds, or more are generally considered large breed by many dog food manufactures. However, AAFCO defines a large breed puppies and dogs as any dog whose adult weight is expected to exceed 70 pounds. Since the breed standard for full grown male German shepherds is 65-90 pounds and females are 50-70 pounds, German shepherds are considered large breed dogs for nutritional purposes.
Feeding adult dogs:
When choosing dog food for your adult dog, you will look for one that is for “adult maintenance.” Preferably, large breed dogs.
Feeding large breed puppies:
When feeding large breed puppies, look for this statement:
Pet Food Name is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for growth/all life stages including growth of large-size dogs (70 lbs. or more as an adult).”
Pass up on any puppy foods that say:
“Pet Food Name is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for growth/all life stages except for growth of large-size dogs (70 lbs. or more as an adult).”
Choosing a food for your large breed puppy is very important. Dog foods containing the wrong calcium and phosphorus ratio can cause rapid growth that can lead to:
• Hip dysplasia
• Cruciate ligament injuries
• Stress on growing bones and joints
• Orthopedic problems
Protein requirements for puppies:
You can’t change your dog’s genetics, but you can control your pup’s diet. Large breed pups should consume diets that contain at least 30% high quality protein and 9% fat on a dry matter basis.
Calcium/phosphorus ratios in large breed puppy food:
The maximum amount of calcium for large breed puppies is 4.5 grams of calcium per every 1000 calories (kcals) in the food, or 1.8% calcium. The calcium/phosphorus ratios in your pup's diet should be between 1:1 and 1:3. Large breed pups eating balanced diets containing recommended amounts of calcium do not need calcium supplements.
How much should you feed your large breed dog?
Since calories counts in dog food vary wildly, you’ll want to determine how many calories to feed your puppy or adult dog and go from there. The most accurate way to determine if you’re feeding the right number of calories is to weigh the food. After you weigh a portion, you can easily measure out in a cup for ease of daily feeding.
How to feed senior dogs:
Senior dogs don’t require a specific senior diet. However, they can suffer from muscle wasting, cognitive decline, pain, stiffness, arthritis and weakened immune systems that can lead to inflammation and disease.
So, unless your senior dog has been diagnosed with a health problem and is on a prescription diet, it’s very important to reevaluate their food. As dogs age, changes to their metabolic function, energy requirements, nutrient requirements (fat, protein, carbohydrate, amino acids), and digestion take place.
Yet, they continue to require high quality protein, usually with less fat. There are many great senior foods on the market that can provide health benefits to promote a healthy weight, immune system support, and even help improve cognitive function.
We hope these tips help you find the right food for your large breed dog. As always, please feel free to share.
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