Feeding Your German Shepherd a Holistic Diet: What You Need to Know


German Shepherds are a special breed of their own. And if you are a proud parent to one of them, you may wonder if you are feeding them a diet that suits their individual needs.

With holistic diets becoming a trend, it’s no wonder that this style of life has made its way into the dog food world. In this article we will discuss what a holistic diet is, if it’s a proper diet for your German Shepherd, and the best ways to implement this diet into your GSD’s daily intake.

What is considered a holistic diet?

A holistic diet is about nourishing the body with balanced food and personalizing each diet to fit individual needs.

When offering your German Shepherd a holistic diet, you are giving them foods that are filled with beneficial nutrients. Depending on each dog’s lifestyle, you can adjust their food to bring them optimal comfort and health.

Holistic diets are created with the purpose of each ingredient in mind. By doing this, you are able to create a diet that benefits specific health purposes.

Whether your GSD is a growing puppy, has a sensitive stomach, or is riddled with arthritic pains, there is a way to craft their diet to fit their needs with healthy and whole foods.

What’s wrong with normal dog kibble?

All dog kibble is not created equal. Some dog kibbles are healthier than others, but it can be difficult to tell these brands apart.

When feeding your GSD dry kibble, you are running a risk of feeding them poor quality ingredients, or missing out on essential nutrients that could provide them a better quality of life.

Low quality foods often focus on higher production versus quality ingredients. By feeding these foods to your Shepherd, they can experience symptoms that match up with nutrient deficiencies. Some of these symptoms include:      

  • Dry and flakey skin
  • Lackluster hair coat
  • Dull eyes
  • Itchy skin
  • Flatulence
  • Obesity
  • Lack of energy
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Joint pain (German Shepherds are already prone to arthritis in older years)
  • Food allergies (skin irritation, redness, gastrointestinal upset, etc)

Is there a link between poor diet and health problems in GSD’s?

Just like in human health, a poor diet can result in a list of medical issues for you dog. By feeding your German Shepherd a holistic diet filled with beneficial nutrients, you can help to prevent medical conditions that have been linked to poor nutrition and diet imbalances.

Some of these conditions include:

Kidney disease: While this can certainly happen in a dog’s senior years, it can be exacerbated by poor quality dog food. Kidney disease in German Shepherds can be brought on by diets with extremely high protein levels, high sodium, or diets lacking hydration.

Pancreatitis: This is a disease in which the pancreas releases digestive enzymes that activate prematurely before they reach the small intestine (their intended destination for release). This causes damage to the pancreas and surrounding tissues and organs.

When this happens, these prematurely activated enzymes can actually begin to digest the pancreas itself, which is very painful to your dog.

While this is often brought on by the ingestion of fatty foods, it can also be caused by low-quality dog foods that are high in fat.

Growth disorders: German Shepherds that receive a low quality diet can have issues with bone growth. This can lead to fragile bones, joint pain, and abnormal growth.

Heart disease: Congestive heart disease can certainly happen no matter a dog’s diet. And just like in humans, an improper diet can also lead to heart disease in German Shepherds. Diets including excessive salt or fatty foods have been linked to heart disease in dogs of any breed.

Gastrointestinal upset: An improper diet can lead to a variety of gastrointestinal symptoms in GSDs.

Some of these symptoms include:

  • Flatulence
  • Excessive bowel movements
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal discomfort

By offering your German Shepherd a holistic diet filled with proper nutrients, you can help to postpone and even reverse some of these degenerative diseases.

While most of these conditions can still develop no matter your pet’s diet, it’s best to give them every tool possible to help prevent these issues.

What are the health benefits of holistic diets in GSD’s?

We’ve covered the possible health issues that can result from an unbalanced diet, but what are some of the benefits to a nutrient filled diet?

  • Skin health: Oils that are found in nutrient-rich food can help to hydrate the skin, resulting in overall skin health. Healthy skin can help to prevent flaking, itching, irritation, or inflammation of the skin.
  • Coat health: Oils that are found in nutrient-rich food can help to promote shine in your German Shepherd’s coat, as well as prevent excessive shedding of unhealthy fur.

    While GSD’s will always shed, a diet filled with healthy oils has been shown to significantly decrease shedding and promote glossy and shining fur.
  • Gut health: Holistic diets tend to be high in foods that contain natural probiotics. Probiotics help to regulate gut health and promote healthy digestion.

    They can help to prevent flatulence, gastrointestinal upset, and other intestinal issues. Some dog kibbles contain fillers which pass through a dog’s intestinal tract without being absorbed. This can result in increased bowel movements.

    A well-balanced diet with easily digestible ingredients will regulate your GSD’s bowel.
  • Cardiac health: Just like humans, a diet filled with fatty foods can also result in cardiac disease and other complications of a dog’s heart. A healthy diet that contains lean meats and lacks unhealthy fats will result in a healthier heart.
  • Energy: When you eat an unhealthy meal that is filled with unhealthy fats and carbs, you are often left feeling drained and uncomfortable.

    If you continue to eat this way for every meal, and you will find yourself with chronic fatigue. This is no different for your German Shepherd when eating an unbalanced diet. Nutrient filled food will help them feel energized after each meal.

What foods fit into a holistic diet for your German Shepherd?

If you have decided to introduce a holistic diet to your beloved companion, you may be researching which foods are considered healthy and balanced for your GSD. Some nutritional foods include:

PROTEINCARBSVEGETABLESOILS
lean chicken
lean turkey
lean beef
cooked egg
lean duck
brown rice
sweet potato
carrots
green beans
pumpkin
sweet potato
broccoli
zucchini
fish oil
coconut oil
flaxseed oil

What does a holistic diet have that other diets don’t?

What is it that makes a holistic diet so beneficial for your German Shepherds overall health? Holistic diets are formulated with your dog’s health in mind, and are created with these key factors:

  • Balanced ingredients: A balanced diet helps to create overall well-being for your pup. By having a balanced diet, you are covering all bases within your GSD’s specific needs. Each diet can be adjusted, helping you to create the right mixture with your dog in mind.
  • Human grade ingredients: To identify food as “human grade,” the food must only include products that can be consumed by humans. If it is not good for you, then it should not be in your dog’s holistic diet.
  • Whole & nutritious ingredients: A holistic diet should only include foods that are healthy, easily digestible, minimally processed, and without hormones or pesticides.
  • Vitamins and fatty acids: Holistic diets will often include healthy minerals and vitamins in the vegetables and fruits that are included, as well as healthy oils and fats.

How do I know if a specific diet is right for my German Shepherd?

While whole and nutritious foods will always be a great choice for your GSD, it’s recommended to speak to your vet before switching your dog to any new diet.

Some medical conditions require certain nutrients, so getting a clean bill of health from your vet is best before deciding what food works best for them.

By speaking to your vet before starting your dog on their new diet, you can speak to them about each ingredient, and learn if these ingredients are actually beneficial to your Shepherd.

It’s important to remember that even when a store brand says “veterinarian recommended,” it’s still best to discuss the option with your personal vet.

Are there any human foods I should avoid in my German Shepherd’s diet?

It’s important to keep in mind that just because a food is healthy for us to consume, does not always mean that it’s safe to give to your furry friend. Some healthy foods that are actually toxic to dogs include:

  • Grapes & Raisins: Grapes and raisins can lead to acute kidney failure in dogs when eaten. Even scarier is that it can take up to 72 hours to see visible symptoms (vomiting, lethargy, anorexia), which can make it difficult to treat when detected.
  • Avocado: Avocados contain an ingredient called persin, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs.
  • Onions & garlic: Onions and garlic can destroy red blood cells in dogs, leading to severe anemia. Some dogs even require blood transfusions if they have ingested large amounts.
  • Dairy Products: Milk and milk-based products can cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs. Dairy products have also been known to trigger allergies in dogs such as skin itching and skin redness.
  • Macadamia nuts: Macadamia nuts can cause a dog to become severely ill with muscle tremors, vomiting, unsteady gait, and fever.
  • Yeast dough: Yeast dough can swell in a dogs stomach when ingested, leading to severe abdominal pain. Also, when yeast ferments, it creates alcohol. This can then lead to alcohol poisoning.
  • Cherries: Substances in cherries have been known to lead to vomiting and diarrhea in dogs. Also, a large consumption of cherry pits can cause an intestinal blockage.

You can find a detailed list of these foods and more in this article about foods that you should never give to your German Shepherd.

Are there supplements or oils that I can add to my GSD’s holistic diet?

Healthy oils and fats are known to hydrate skin and promote a healthy coat in dogs. Some oils you can add to your German Shepherds holistic diet include:

  • Fish oil: Fish oil contains DHA and EPA and omega-3 fatty acids. These ingredients can help to lubricate painful joints and reduce inflammation caused by multiple inflammatory conditions. They can also hydrate the skin and promote coat health.
  • Coconut oil: Coconut oil is a healthier alternative to other processed trans fats. Coconut oil has been known to relieve dry skin in dogs, promote coat health, and has even been linked to improving bad breath in dogs.
  • Flaxseed oil: Flaxseed oil is high in alpha linolenic omega-3s, which has been known to promote heart health in dogs. This oil also reduces inflammation, relieves joint pain, and promotes skin and coat health.

While these oils can be incredibly beneficial to your canine friend, it’s important to remember that overuse of these oils can cause loose stool and diarrhea. Make sure to only use small amounts in addition to your dog’s regular diet. (use individual capsules in meals once a day, or a 1 teaspoon at a time when not in a capsule form)

Are there recommended recipes for a homemade holistic diet for GSD’s?

While each recipe can be tweaked to fit your dog’s personal interest, here are a few nutritious recipes that my GSDs seem to love!

Turkey, rice & veggies #1

  • 6 cups water
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 2 cups uncooked brown rice
  • 1/2 16-ounce package (8 ounces) of frozen broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower (available as a mix)

Total: Makes approx. 12 cups (or 96 fluid ounces)

Directions

  1. Place the water, ground turkey, and rice into a large pan.
  2. Stir the mixture until the ground turkey is broken up and evenly distributed.
  3. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low.
  4. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. Add the frozen vegetables and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat and cool.
  7. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Turkey, Rice, and veggies #2

  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked brown rice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 pounds ground turkey
  • 3 cups baby spinach, chopped
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1 zucchini, shredded
  • 1/2 cup peas, canned or frozen

Directions 

  1. In a large saucepan of 3 cups water, cook rice according to package instructions; set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add ground turkey and cook until browned, about 3-5 minutes, making sure to crumble the turkey as it cooks.
  3. Stir in spinach, carrots, zucchini, peas and brown rice and cook until the spinach has wilted and the mixture is heated through, about 3-5 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and cool.
  5. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Crockpot Ground Chicken Recipe

  • 3lb lean ground chicken
  • 1 cup butternut squash
  • 15 oz can kidney beans drained
  • 1 cup peas
  • 1 cup green beans
  • 1 cup carrots sliced or diced
  • 1 1/2 cup uncooked rice
  • 4 cups of water

Directions 

  1. Just throw everything in crockpot. Cook on high heat for 4 hours or low heat for 6 hours, stirring occasionally.
  2. Cool and serve, that’s it!

Can you purchase pre-made holistic diets or kibbles for your GSD?

While a homemade diet would be optimal for your German Shepherd, we understand that this takes time. Luckily, there are some diets that veterinarians recommended for their nutritional values, and that fit into a holistic lifestyle for your pet. Some of these include:

  • Holistic Select Natural Dry Dog Food
  • Nutro Max Natural Adult Dry Food
  • Darwins
  • Honest Kitchen Dehydrated Raw
  • Stella and Chewy’s Frozen Raw
  • Merrick
  • Canidae

When choosing a store bought holistic diet, it’s recommended to do your own research on each brand, and look for any previous recalls for that particular brand.

We also recommend speaking to your vet about individual diets, in case they have any specific concerns. With these steps combined, you can find a holistic diet that you feel comfortable feeding your GSD.

Final thoughts

Overall, a holistic diet can benefit your GSD’s overall health in a number of ways. By nourishing their bodies with whole ingredients, you can help to ensure a happy and healthy life for your beloved companion. German Shepherds are special in their own way, so they deserve a special diet as well!

Hunter Reed

I've owned and trained German Shepherds for over 18 years now. I'm originally from Indiana, though I've lived in many different states and traveled extensively. The places change, my dogs don't. German Shepherds have been my constant companions. I love every aspect of training them and simply just having them around. I also enjoy sharing my knowledge about German Shepherds with the world, and I encourage all future dog owners to consider one as a companion as well. Read my story here.

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