There’s a range of foods that different dog owners may choose to feed their German Shepherd, but some owners may be interested in a homemade diet (for a range of reasons).
Homemade diets have their own set of of potential pros and cons to consider for each individual dog – so make sure you do your own research and consult your dog’s vet beforehand.
Below we’ve put together a list of things a dog owner might consider with homemade diets for dogs.
(NOTE: this is a general information guide only, and is not professional advice, or a substitute for professional advice. A qualified vet or animal expert is the only person qualified to give you expert advice in regards to your pet/s)
9 Tips For Making Homemade Food For Your German Shepherd
The guide below is divided into three sections:
– General Considerations About Dog Food
– Potential Pros and Cons Of Homemade Dog Food Diet
– 9 Considerations For A Homemade Dog Food Diet
First, Be Aware Of Some General Considerations For Dog Food, & What Vets Might Say About Homemade Dog Food Diets In General
General Considerations For Dog Food
What Some Vets Say About Homemade Dog Food Diets
Different vets might say different things about homemade dog food diets.
A couple of different vets had this to say about homemade dog food diets:
Home prepared meals for your dog may not always be nutritionally complete
Home cooked meals must be nutritionally balanced
Second, Be Aware Of Potential Pros & Cons Of A Homemade Dog Food Diet
You’ll have to do your own research on the potential pros and cons of a homemade dog food diet for your diet, and consult with your dog’s vet.
But, general pros and cons might include …
Being able to control exactly what ingredients your dog is consuming (as opposed to having to rely on commercial dog food formulas)
Being able to customize a diet for dogs with special health or nutrition requirements.
Can sometimes be more expensive
Take more effort and time to prepare than commercial dog food – especially dry dog foods
There can be potential issues with making sure a dog gets balanced and adequate nutrition (commercial dog food formulas might be developed around minimum nutritional requirements, and come with a guaranteed nutritional analysis that lets an owner know the nutrition of the food).
Some breeders and individual dog owners use a homemade dog food diet for their dogs, and swear by it.
But, for other owners, there may ultimately be drawbacks and risks.
It’s going to depend on the individual dog, and other variables (which you should speak to an animal expert about) as to whether homemade is best.
Now, onto the 9 tips/considerations for homemade dog food diets …
1) Get it approved by your vet
Pretty obvious one – your vet is the first person you should speak to about creating and maintaining a home made dog food diet for your German Shepherd.
They will be able to help you formulate a schedule and list what home made foods your dog can eat (things like allergies and general dog diet requirements can be taken into consideration).
Although, not all vet recommended home made dog food diets are perfect, so ask your vet to also give your a referral to a qualified dog nutritionist.
Dogs with health conditions, deficiencies or other health requirements might need special diets catered for their individual health.
A vet should be able to help you with advice for having a nutritionally balanced and adequate diet for your dog.
2) Get a recommendation for recipes by vet approved experts in dog or pet nutrition
Someone certified in dog or pet nutrition would be best to give you recipes for homemade dog food.
As mentioned above – your vet can point you in the right direction.
Proteins (animal meat, seafood, dairy, or eggs)
Fat (from meat or oil)
Carbs (grains or vegetables)
Calcium (from dairy or an ingredient such as egg shells)
And, essential fatty acids (from certain plant oils, egg yolks, oatmeal, and other foods)
Natural ingredients and a lower concentration of artificial preservatives can be a good thing.
But, it also needs essential nutrients like iron, copper, calcium, and zinc.
This is where well balanced commercial dry dog foods have an advantage – it’s pre-made for you.
Vet Nutrition are an example of veterinary nutrition specialists (you can view more information about them at vetnutrition.tufts.edu)
3) Follow the vet approved recipe exactly, and use the exact ingredients listed
Swapping out ingredients like using different oils that the ones listed for example might be the difference between adding or leaving out certain nutrients or calories.
If the recipe says to use canola oil for example – use canola oil and don’t swap it out for another oil.
4) Be careful of how you prepare and/or cook the food
If you’ve ever looked into a range of foods that different dog owners may choose to feed their German Shepherd, you’d know that raw meat, if not prepared and served properly, can carry harmful bacteria that your dogs might ingest.
Cook all animal products to kill bacteria, and cook grains, beans, and starchy vegetables for better digestion.
5) Watch the calories
Similar to watching the ingredients and sticking to the recipe – you want to watch the calories in the meals you are cooking closely.
German Shepherds in particular are prone to obesity like a lot of large dog breeds if they are overfed.
Find out beforehand what you GSD’s daily calorie intake is, and make sure the meals you prepare fit within that calorie range.
Make sure you take into consideration variable like exercise which can impact calorie intake.
Don’t overfeed your dog – make sure the servings/portions fit in with the requirements of an individual dog.
6) Stay away from dangerous/toxic human foods and ingredients for dogs
There’s a range of human foods and ingredients that can be toxic or harmful for dogs. Be aware of these foods.
Some of these types of foods might include (but isn’t limited to):
Certain types of chocolate – mainly the darker and bitter types of chocolate
Xylitol – can be found in gums and candies, and toothpaste and baked goods which contain sweeteners
Raisins, Grapes, sultanas, and currents
Onions, chives, leeks and garlic
Coffee, tea and caffeine
Avocado (contains Persin)
Fat trimmings, and cooked bones
+ Anything which might cause your dog allergies, or other health problems specific to your dog
7) Consider a transition period from your dog’s current dog food to homemade dog food
If puppies or dogs change types or brands of food too quickly, they can experience internal digestive issues.
When transitioning from one food to another, it’s a general rule of thumb to transition over the course of 7-10 days (or whatever your vet recommends)
You can start with 25% homemade, 75% commercial for example, and reverse the %’s gradually until you are on full homemade after 7-10 days.
Ask a vet for advice on transitioning a dog between different food types.
8) Monitor your dog, and their stool/poop closely for the first few weeks on the new diet
Although you’ve made your best effort to make the new homemade dog food diet healthy and safe for your dog, there might be unexpected variable that cause the diet to not quite agree with your dog’s stomach or body.
Look for signs of this over the first few weeks after switching diets.
Signs might include not eating, diarrhea, vomiting, allergies and anything else out of the ordinary.
If you notice persistent or serious side effects, take your dog to the vet immediately.
9) Unless you are experienced or qualified, be careful of putting puppies on home made diets
Again, your vet is the best person to make the final decision about this.
But, you might carefully consider holding off on feeding a puppy a homemade diet – at least in the first 6 to 12 months.
Puppies are developing and growing in the initial stages, and have different nutritional requirements to full grown dogs whose bodies are more in maintenance.
For example, German Shepherd puppies are going through teething up until about 6 months old, and they don’t reach physical maturity until about 1.5 to 2 years old.
A puppy might do best on a commercially labelled ‘puppy’ stage food product.
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