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German Shepherd Puppy Eating

Best Grain Free Dog Food For German Shepherds

Gut issues are common in German Shepherds. Their sensitive stomachs can sometimes lead to diarrhea, bloating and other signs of digestive distress.  Some GSD owners have found that switching to a grain-free or limited ingredient dog food provides relief.  It definitely worked for my girl!

This article will review the best grain-free dog food for German Shepherds as well discuss why you may want to consider this diet for your GSD.

*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 ? .

Why should you consider grain-free dog food?

Regular commercial kibble often contains grains like wheat, corn, rice, barley, oats, rye, and soy.

These ingredients serve as sources of carbohydrates and fiber, which are essential to a balanced canine diet and a healthy digestive system. These grains are safe and even healthy for most dogs.

In some dogs – especially those that are already predisposed to gastrointestinal distress – these grains can be difficult to process. Apart from frequent stomach issues, continued feeding of such dog food could cause other health problems related to chronic inflammation and malabsorption.

German Shepherd licking lips

What is grain-free dog food?

Grain-free dog foods use alternative carbohydrate sources like sweet potatoes and pea flour. Some manufacturers might also use whole fruits and vegetables like butternut squash and apples.

The philosophy behind this movement is that dogs more easily digest such carbohydrate sources.  Additionally, they release sugar more slowly than refined grains do. That allows for a lower risk for excess fat storage.

Overall, kibble variants made with those ingredients promote better gut flora, improved absorption of nutrients, more energy, a reduced risk for obesity, and a generally healthier constitution.

What is limited-ingredient dog food?

Most dog foods are made with a variety of ingredients, each one contributing its own nutritional benefit. But, when dogs have adverse reactions to their food, the extensive list of ingredients makes it difficult to trace their allergies or intolerances.

Limited-ingredient dog food provides a complete nutritional profile using fewer ingredients.

That reduces the risk for food sensitivities and also makes it easier to trace when dogs show signs of those sensitivities. Additionally, fewer ingredients might also be easier to digest.

When is it time to switch to a grain-free or limited-ingredient dog food?

Food allergies in dogs aren’t very common. But, when they do happen, grains could be a culprit.

Take note, though, that canine allergies don’t always manifest in the skin. Sometimes, they show up as gastrointestinal issues like frequent vomiting, gas, bloating, and diarrhea.

When these are issues you observe in your German Shepherd, it might be time to consider either a limited-ingredient dog food or a grain-free kibble.

Apart from obvious signs of allergies as well as digestive issues, other signs that your GSD might benefit from grain-free dog food include lack of energy, chronic infections, bad breath, dull coat, and dry skin.

Additionally, because commercial kibble often uses refined grains, they can cause chronic inflammation in the body. That’s something you want to avoid if you have an aging German Shepherd or one that’s already exhibiting inflammatory issues like joint pain and arthritis.

How can grain-free or limited-ingredient dog food help my German Shepherd?

A whole lot of health issues can be addressed with a grain-free diet. For German Shepherds, a healthier gut and a stronger digestive system will be the most apparent benefit.

You’ll notice fewer incidences of vomiting, bloating, indigestion, and diarrhea. Over time, that leads to a healthier gut flora, which enhances the absorption of nutrients.

When your German Shepherd’s gut health is optimal and they’re fully absorbing nutrients provided by their premium dog food, you’ll also notice many other changes, including healthier gums, skin, and coat.

Plus, they’ll appear to have more energy and be less prone to infections. Also, because you’ll have their intolerances in check, they’ll be less prone to inflammation.

Consequently, the risk of serious illnesses like cancer is reduced. Likewise, joint and hip issues that are common to the breed are also minimized.

Best Grain-Free Dog Food for German Shepherds

Taste of the Wild and Royal Canin are some of the most popular dog food brands in the US today. But, when it comes to grain-free options, there are plenty of others you might want to consider.

Here are the 5 best grain-free dog food for German Shepherds that are loved for their ingredients, nutritional profile, and palatability:

1) Natural Balance – Grain-Free Limited Ingredient Chicken & Sweet Potato Formula

This is a personal favorite because Natural Balance is what helped my German Shepherd’s stomach. They have different flavor varieties, but my girl loves Chicken & Sweet Potato.

Natural Balance was founded by Dick van Patten who, apart from his acting chops, was known as a staunch animal welfare advocate.

It was his sincere love for animals that spurred the development of high-quality dog foods over three decades ago.

Now, Natural Balance is especially known for its L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets formulations, which provide whole nutrition while limiting the number of potential allergens and intolerances your dog is exposed to.

Among the most favored L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets variants is the Grain-Free Chicken & Sweet Potato, which provides energy-giving carbohydrates through alternative sources like sweet potatoes, potatoes, peas, and garbanzo beans.

Nutrition Facts - Natural Balance – Grain-Free Chicken & Sweet Potato Formula
Top IngredientChicken
Main Protein SourcePoultry
Crude Protein (min)0.21
Crude Fat (min)0.1
Crude Fiber (max)0.05
Calories365 kcal/cup

What I Love:

  • Single animal protein source (Chicken only).
  • Filled with natural fibers to aid digestion.
  • No artificial coloring or flavors.
  • Fortified with vitamins and minerals for healthy skin and coat.
  • Produced in California, USA.
  • Both grain-free & limited ingredient

Potential downsides:

  • Poultry is one of the most common allergens in dogs.
  • Relatively low protein content.

2) Blue Freedom – Grain-Free Chicken Recipe

Blue Buffalo’s history is fairly short, but one that has a meaningful place in premium animal care.

blue freedom for german shepherds

In 2003, Blue Buffalo was founded on the belief that the best canine diet is one that is made mostly of real meat and has no gluten-containing grains.

Today, their Freedom line of grain-free formulas has been a staple in many households caring for pets with special dietary needs.

Not only is the product line free of common grains, but it is also formulated without any unhealthy artificial preservatives.

Its most popular variant is the Grain-Free Chicken Recipe, which uses potatoes, peas, and tapioca as its primary sources of carbohydrates.

They also have beef and lamb flavors if chicken just doesn’t suit your dog’s taste buds.

Nutrition Facts - Blue Freedom – Grain-Free Chicken Recipe
Top IngredientDeboned Chicken
Main Protein SourcePoultry
Crude Protein (min)0.24
Crude Fat (min)0.14
Crude Fiber (max)0.06
Calories373 kcal/cup

What I love:

  • Made of real chicken (not by-products).
  • Contains healthy fruits and vegetables.
  • Enhanced with Blue Freedom’s trademark LifeSource Bits, which is a carefully developed blend of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants meant to support dogs’ overall health.
  • Produced in Connecticut, USA.

Potential downsides:

  • Some dogs don’t care for the taste of this dog food.
  • Poultry is one of the most common allergens in dogs.

3) Merrick – Grain-Free Real Bison, Beef + Sweet Potato Recipe Merrick Pet

Merrick was founded in 1988 as a means to address the need for genuinely natural dog food. They believe that our beloved pets are entitled to premium, natural foods made of fresh, whole, and high-quality ingredients.

Merrick for german shepherds

Through this philosophy, they have continually developed foods that are meant to produce noticeable results in your dog’s health.

The most favored variant in Merrick’s grain-free line is the Real Bison, Beef + Sweet Potato Recipe. Like others in the product line, it boasts a formulation of 70% real meat and 30% whole, fresh produce

The main carbohydrate sources in this specific flavor are peas, sweet potatoes, and potatoes. It also contains apples and blueberries, which help boost its nutritional and antioxidant profile.

Merrick – Grain-Free Real Bison, Beef + Sweet Potato Recipe
Top IngredientDeboned Bison
Main Protein SourceBison, Poultry, Beef
Crude Protein (min)0.38
Crude Fat (min)0.17
Crude Fiber (max)0.035
Calories393 kcal/cup

What I Love:

  • High protein content from bison, chicken, turkey, and beef.
  • Formulated with Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat.
  • Contains glucosamine and chondroitin for optimal joint health.
  • Produced in Texas, USA.

Potential downsides:

  • The bag is not resealable and could work on their packaging in general.

4) Acana – Meadowland

Acana is a dog food brand developed by Champion Petfoods, a company that is trusted all over the world for their development of biologically appropriate foods.

Acana for german shepherds

Their products were formulated to mirror the ancient diet of the gray wolf from which all domestic dogs evolved. Additionally, they use fresh regional ingredients cultivated and produced by nearby, trusted farmers and ranchers.

While the Acana brand has a variety of products, its Regionals line is among the most favored.

The Meadowland flavor, in particular, is popular among German Shepherd lovers because it is made of 70% premium animal ingredients (chicken, turkey, catfish, eggs, and trout) while its carbohydrates are from vegetables, fruits, and botanicals.

Nutrition Facts - Acana – Meadowland
Top IngredientDeboned Chicken
Main Protein SourcePoultry
Crude Protein (min)0.33
Crude Fat (min)0.17
Crude Fiber (max)0.06
Calories392 kcal/cup

What I love:

  • High in protein.
  • 50% of meat sources are fresh or raw.
  • Fortified with zinc for immune system support.
  • Contains beneficial botanicals, including chicory root, turmeric, rosehips, and juniper berries.
  • Produced in Kentucky, USA.

Potential downsides:

  • Contains poultry meat and eggs, which are common food allergens in dogs.
  • Bag is not resealable.

5) Orijen –Six Fish

Like Acana, Orijen is a line of premium dog foods that are developed with Champion Petfoods’ ideals for biologically appropriate formulations using fresh, regional ingredients.

Orijen for german shepherds

While the philosophies and standards for quality are the same between the two companies, Orijen recipes tend to contain more protein sources (between 85% and 90%).

While many of Orijen’s recipes are consistent with the needs of German Shepherds and other dogs that are predisposed to digestive distress

The Six Fish variant is especially popular because it doesn’t contain any ingredients known to cause food allergies in dogs. 85% of the formulation is composed of wild-caught fish, while the remaining 15% is made of fruits, vegetables, and botanicals.

Nutrition Facts - Orijen – Six Fish
Top IngredientFresh Whole Pacific Pilchard
Main Protein SourceFish
Crude Protein (min)0.38
Crude Fat (min)0.18
Crude Fiber (max)0.08
Calories465 kcal/cup

What I love:

  • High protein content from wild-caught mackerel, herring, monkfish, redfish, flounder, and silver hake.
  • Fortified with zinc and copper for a healthy immune system and minimizes the risk for tendon and ligament issues.
  • Enhanced with freeze-dried cod liver for better taste an additional source of Omega fatty acids.
  • Produced in Kentucky, USA.

Potential downsides:

  • Distinct fishy smell.
  • High in calories, which can more quickly lead to weight gain.
  • Bag is not resealable.

How to Transition Your German Shepherd to Another Dog Food

When switching to another dog food, it’s essential to do it slowly. Switching too fast could lead to digestive issues. Or, they could simply dislike the change and refuse to eat.

While most dogs can transition to another food safely over the course of a week, it’s a good idea to take it even more slowly if you have a German Shepherd.

Here’s a table you can use as a guide to transition your dog over two weeks:

DaysNew Dog FoodOld Dog Food
Days 1 to 40.250.75
Days 5 to 100.50.5
Days 11 to 140.750.25
Days 15 & onwards10

Please note that some situations call for an immediate switch. That includes a recall for your current brand due to potentially dangerous contamination.

You might also need to change your dog’s food right away as a response to a newly identified allergy or medical condition. In those cases, however, consult your veterinarian for the best timing.

Final Thoughts

Grain-free dog food can address many health and stomach issues, especially for German Shepherds. But, it shouldn’t take a sick dog to consider the switch. All dogs deserve top-notch nutrition to achieve their body’s optimal condition.

Also, don’t forget that you need to be just as picky with dog treats. By feeding them premium dog food and treats, you’re giving your GSD the best chance at a long and happy life.

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