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Best Food For German Shepherd To Gain Weight

Best Food For German Shepherd To Gain Weight

There are many reasons why your German Shepherd may need to gain weight. The food your dog eats is key to their overall health, and there are some foods that will better help your dog gain weight. This article will explore the best food for a German Shepherd to gain weight as well as what to look for in a dog food for weight gain.

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of the links I get a small commission at no additional cost to you 🙂 .

German Shepherd Weight Milestones

German Shepherd walking in grass

Every dog is different and they don’t all grow at the same rate. But since German Shepherds have long been a standardized breed, there are established growth milestones they’re expected to achieve for every month of puppyhood and for each year of adulthood until they’re about three years old. 

According to the German Shepherd Dog Council of Australia, GSD males reach peak growth at around 3-4 years old, which is when they should weigh between 79 and 88 pounds.

On the other hand, females are considered fully grown at 2-3 years old, weighing approximately 57 to 70 pounds. As puppies, they’re expected to gain weight at the following rates:

Age in WeeksAverage Growth Rate per Week (in lbs.)
Male GSDFemale GSD
12-202.2 - 2.751.65 – 2.2
20 - 261.65 – 2.21.1 – 1.65
26 - 321.1 – 1.650.5 – 1.1
32 - 351.1 – 1.65

These guidelines are useful because they provide a measurable basis for any German Shepherd’s health. Of course, some German Shepherds may fall outside of these ranges but this is a good guide to start with.

When you care for a GSD, you need to monitor their weight regularly and use the breed standard’s chart to determine whether they’re underweight or overweight. 

If you have any concerns about your German Shepherd being underweight, talk to your vet to be certain.

Reasons Why Your German Shepherd May Need to Gain Weight

If your dog is underweight, your veterinarian should be able to help you determine the root cause and address it.

In most cases, it is only a matter of dietary adjustments. You’ll either need to give your dog more food or shift to one with a better nutritional profile.

Unfortunately, sometimes, a German Shepherd’s inability to gain weight is a sign of an underlying health condition. They could have an illness that causes a lack of appetite, or, they could have parasites that deprive them of their food’s nutrition. Sometimes, dental problems also lead to being underweight. 

GSDs can also be underweight for a variety of other reasons. For example, stress caused by a change in their environment could affect not only their appetite but also their digestive system.

Additionally, dogs tend to eat less when they’re older, so senior German Shepherds might need to shift to a more appropriate food variant.

Issues Associated With Underweight German Shepherds

Some GSD parents are partial to leaner dogs because they simply prefer the appearance or because lighter dogs are more agile. That shouldn’t be an issue unless the dogs fall behind on their weight milestones. If they do, they might suffer from serious health issues associated with being chronically underweight.

Being underweight can compromise a German Shepherd’s immune system. This won’t just lead to problems with their skin and coat but also makes them more susceptible to infections. Also, their wounds will heal more slowly, which further increases their risk of infections. 

A chronically underweight dog is also susceptible to muscle loss.

Often, that’s both because their diet isn’t providing them with the right nutrition that will support muscle growth and also because malnutrition causes weakness, which leads to a reduction in physical activity. Over time, that could also affect your dog’s bone density.

Your German Shepherd’s hormones are also severely impacted by malnutrition and being underweight.

A hormonal imbalance won’t just cause infertility and reproductive issues but will also affect various essential processes in the body. For example, proper hormonal balance is required for water regulation, which affects every organ in the body.

Overall, malnutrition leads to a shortened life expectancy and possibly inferior quality of life. So, when a GSD doesn’t hit their growth milestones, the most common recommendation is to make dietary changes. More specifically, they should be given food that will help them gain weight.

Things to Look for in a Dog Food for Weight Gain

Black GSD puppy outside

When you’re looking for the best dog food for German Shepherds to gain weight, the first thing you need to look at is the calorie content.

You’ll want to find something that will increase your dog’s daily calorie consumption. So, check how many calories they’re consuming through their current diet and find something that will give them more. 

After calories, the most important thing you need to consider is the protein content. A high protein diet gives your dog access to the amino acids essential to maintaining healthy muscles, tissues, skin, and hair.

Also incredibly important is the dog food’s fat content, which is essential to energy production, nutrient absorption, and cellular health.

Your dog food’s carbohydrate content is also something you need to pay attention to. You’ll also want to find something that doesn’t contain filler carbohydrates. These are ingredients that add bulk to your dog’s diet without contributing any significant nutrition.

Carbohydrates should be an excellent source of energy and dietary fiber needed for a healthy digestive system. If carbohydrates are a principal concern for your dog’s health, you might even consider switching to a grain-free diet.

Top 5 Dog Food Choices for German Shepherds to Gain Weight

The best dog food for your German Shepherd to gain weight will depend on the above factors, their nutritional needs and taste preferences. Here are the top 5 you should consider:

1) Crave – Adult Dog Food (Chicken)

Crave is a premium dog food brand that prides itself in its recipes that most closely resemble the diet dogs would have had in the wild. That means more animal proteins that’s as close to fresh as possible.

Crave Dog Food for GSD weight gain

The beef variant of Crave’s adult dog food is among their most popular products. It boasts a formulation that lists real beef as its first ingredient.

Additionally, it is grain-free, so it doesn’t contain any soy, wheat, or corn. Instead, it uses carbohydrate sources like peas and potatoes. It is also nutrient-rich and calorie-dense, so it’s an excellent dog food for weight gain.

Nutrition Facts - Crave – Adult Dog Food (Beef)
Top IngredientBeef
Main Protein SourceBeef
Crude Protein (min)0.34
Crude Fat (min)0.17
Crude Fiber (max)0.035
Calories454 kcal/cup


  • High in calories
  • High in protein
  • Grain-free
  • Carbohydrates mainly from peas and potatoes
  • 4 flavor options: beef, lamb, chicken & salmon

Potential Cons:

  • 22 pound bag is the largest size
  • Contains chicken meal – chicken can be a common allergen in dogs

2) Bully Max – 30/20 High-Performance Dog Food

Bully Max is an entire brand dedicated to helping dogs not just gain weight but also bulk up in the healthiest way.

The American Bully, which is known for its lean yet brawny physique, is the inspiration for their brand. But, they formulate their products to suit all breeds across all life stages.

Bully Max dog food for GSD weight gain

The 30/20 High Performance Dog Food is Bully Max’s best-selling product and is used specifically for dogs to gain weight or maintain a muscular body. That’s because it is one of the most calorie-dense kibble you can find today.

For protein, it lists chicken meal as its chief ingredient and uses chicken fat to provide a particularly high crude fat of 20%. Its primary carbohydrate sources include brown rice, dried beet pulp, and ground sorghum.

Nutrition Facts - Bully Max – 30/20 High Performance Dog Food
Top IngredientChicken Meal
Main Protein SourcePoultry
Crude Protein (min)0.3
Crude Fat (min)0.2
Crude Fiber (max)0.038
Calories535 kcal/cup


  • Extremely high in calories
  • Good protein content
  • High in natural fat
  • Option for large 40-lb bag size

Potential Cons:

  • High fat content may be harmful to dogs with poor digestion and pancreatic issues.
  • Not suitable for dogs requiring a grain-free diet (Contains brown rice, ground sorghum, and pearled barley).
  • Poultry is one of the most common allergens in dogs.

3) Purina – Pro Plan Sport Performance 30/20

Purina has long been a trusted pet food brand. And, through their Pro Plan line, they provide advanced formulations meant to address not only dogs’ different flavor preferences but also their varying nutritional needs. 

Pro Plan Dog Food for GSD weight gain

The Purina Pro Plant Sport Performance 30/20 Chicken & Rice Formula was specifically developed to address the needs of large, agile dogs like German Shepherds.

One of its major benefits is to boost oxygen metabolism, which increases dogs’ energy and physical endurance. But, it is also high in both protein and fat to help your dog gain weight and lean muscle

Additionally, it contains essential fatty acids and glucosamine to support your dog’s bone and joint health as they grow heavier.

Nutrition Facts - Purina – Pro Plan Sport Performance 30/20
Top IngredientChicken
Main Protein SourcePoultry
Crude Protein (min)0.3
Crude Fat (min)0.2
Crude Fiber (max)0.03
Calories475 kcal/cup


  • Formulated for active dogs.
  • High in calories.
  • Good protein content.
  • High in animal fat.
  • Supports bone and joint health.

Potential Cons:

  • Not suitable for dogs requiring a grain-free diet (Contains corn gluten meal, brewer’s rice, whole grain corn, and corn germ meal).
  • High fat content may be harmful to dogs with poor digestion and pancreatic issues.
  • Poultry is one of the most common allergens in dogs.

4) Instinct – Raw Boost Grain-Free Recipe

Instinct is known for harnessing the nutritional value of raw food. In their pet food formulations, they use freeze-dried raw meats from top quality sources rather than animal by-products. 

Instinct Dog Food for GSD weight gain

The Instinct Raw Boost Grain-Free Recipe is composed of a nutrient-rich kibble that’s high in protein and enhanced with pieces of freeze-dried cage-free chicken.

It is a grain-free recipe that uses tapioca and chickpeas as its primary source of carbohydrates.

Additionally, it has DHA for brain and eye health as well as phosphorus and calcium for strong bones and teeth. It also has the nutrients necessary for healthy joints.

Nutrition Facts - Instinct – Raw Boost Grain-Free Recipe
Top IngredientChicken Meal
Main Protein SourcePoultry
Crude Protein (min)0.36
Crude Fat (min)0.16
Crude Fiber (max)0.04
Calories478 kcal/cup


  • High in calories
  • High protein content
  • Balanced fat content
  • Grain-free
  • Suitable for senior dogs
  • Supports hip and joint health
  • No preservatives and artificial colors

Potential Cons:

  • Contains eggs, which some dogs might be sensitive to
  • Poultry is one of the most common allergens in dogs
  • 21-pound bag is the largest size

5) Victor – Hi-Pro Plus

Victor prides itself in its pet nutrition expertise as well as its superior production standards. Among the values that make them unique is their commitment to sourcing local ingredients for most of its pet food recipes.

Victor Dog food for GSD weight gain

Although Victor’s entire line of dog foods has met incredible success, its Classic Hi-Pro Plus is a favorite among parents of all breed sizes. More specifically, it is a variant that supports the needs of high-energy dogs.

Although its caloric density is much lower than what you could get from other brands, its digestibility makes it superior. Additionally, its protein comes from a variety of sources (beef, pork, chicken, and fish) and it uses only gluten-free grains.

Nutrition Facts - Victor – Hi-Pro Plus
Top IngredientBeef Meal
Main Protein SourceBeef, Chicken, Pork, Fish
Crude Protein (min)0.3
Crude Fat (min)0.2
Crude Fiber (max)0.038
Calories406 kcal/cup


  • High protein content.
  • High in animal fat.
  • Suitable for high-energy breeds.
  • Superior digestibility.
  • Uses gluten-free grains.
  • Option for large 50-lb bag size

Potential Cons:

  • Other brands have higher-calorie foods.
  • Not suitable for dogs requiring a grain-free diet (Contains sorghum and millet).
  • High fat content may be harmful to dogs with poor digestion and pancreatic issues.
  • Poultry is one of the most common allergens in dogs.

Feeding Strategies to Increase Weight Gain

Apart from switching to a dog food that could better support weight gain, these are some things you can do to help your dog achieve their growth milestones:

Feeding more frequently

Reducing their meal size but adding an extra meal time per day could be an excellent way to increase your dog’s daily consumption.

For example, if they currently eat 4 cups of kibble per day over two meals, you can feed them 4.5 cups over 3 meals. That way, you don’t risk indigestion and stomach upset due to larger meal sizes.

Giving healthy snacks

If you like giving your dog treats and snacks throughout the day, go for nutritious options like those that are high in protein or fiber.

Home-made or natural treats are also an excellent option.

For example, you can make your own fishy dog treats. Or, you can keep it simple by giving them dog-safe fruits like apples and bananas.

Adding to their meals

Topping their kibble with nutritious home-made foods is an effective yet inexpensive way to help your dog gain weight. You can add some rice or vegetables like squash and sweet potato.

You can even add boiled eggs, which is a wonderful source of protein and fatty acids, as well as several essential minerals.

Final Thoughts

Although there are health risks involved when your German Shepherd is underweight, there’s no need to panic and try to have them gain their entire weight deficit all at once. A gradual weight gain is best so that the rest of their body can adjust and catch up properly.

As with any other health concerns, it’s always best to work with your vet. Any veterinarian should be equipped with the right knowledge to help develop a healthy and realistic diet plan or supplement for your underweight pup to gain weight.

How did you help your underweight GSD gain weight safely? Let me know in the comments!

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