The 5 Best Dog Foods for Senior German Shepherds, Backed by Science

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The best dog foods for senior German Shepherds not only meet the specific nutritional requirements of an aging dog but provide an essential formulation to reduce health problems due to old age.

Don’t be fooled by all the flashy marketing and cheap offers for dog foods for your senior companion…

Your golden oldie is still a working dog breed that needs a precise blend of vitamins and proteins to meet its health standards. 

Nutrition is the foundation of your German Shepherd’s health.

Let’s take a look at the best dog foods for senior German Shepherds, according to science and research. 

What is the Best Dog Food for Senior German Shepherds?

what is the best dog food for senior german shepherds
Choosing the best dog food for a senior GSD relies on knowing a few facts.

For senior German Shepherds, the best dog food means more than just a tasty meal. It’s the backbone of supplying your aging dog with a healthy balance of protein to support muscle mass and keep its fat ratio in check. Too much fat and your GSD will suffer from joint issues or disease related to excess weight; too little fat and he won’t have enough energy to keep him warm and cushion his aching bones.

Additionally, omega fatty acids found in the best dog foods for German Shepherds promote optimal skin health and coat growth in your senior dog.

And it doesn’t stop there…

Senior German Shepherds need dog food that helps prevent joint pain and keeps them performing at their best.

With so many choices on the shelves and millions spent on consumer marketing, the list of choices can become overwhelming and downright frustrating.

But, here’s the deal…

This guide covering the best dog food for a senior German Shepherd will put your worries at ease and give you a crash course in nutrition for your aging companion.

After careful consideration and analysis of ingredients, as well as the nutritional value and owner reviews, I ended up with several premium-quality brands that are the best for senior German Shepherds.

Best Dog Food for Senior German Shepherds

The best dog food for senior German Shepherds, based on nutritional analysis for a dog over 7 years of age are:

  1. Best Overall: Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind Large Breed Chicken & Rice Formula
  2. Best Grain-Free: Blue Buffalo Wilderness Senior Chicken Recipe
  3. Best Beef-Based Formula: American Journey Beef & Sweet Potato Recipe
  4. Best for Healthy Weight Loss, Reduced Calories: American Journey Healthy Weight Chicken & Sweet Potato, Grain-Free
  5. Best Freeze-Dried Raw Coated: Canidae Grain-Free PURE Ancestral Red Meat Formula

Now, let’s jump right into the nutritional food requirements for senior German Shepherds and then review the top picks in more detail below.

Senior German Shepherd Nutritional Requirements

senior german shepherd nutritional requirements
What does a senior German Shepherd need to eat to stay healthy?

Senior German Shepherds with no preexisting conditions do best on dog food with a guaranteed analysis of 24% – 30% protein, 10% – 15% fat, and 3% – 7% fiber. Calorie intake can range from 1,300 for a very sedentary German Shepherd to 1,700 for a more active German Shepherd. Look for recipes with added supplements for brain, joint, or skin health. Keep in mind if your dog is overweight or underweight, as the manufacturer’s caloric content can vary widely.

Senior German Shepherd Nutritional Profile

Crude ProteinCrude FatCrude Fiber
24% – 30%10% – 15% 3% – 7%
Dog food for senior German Shepherds nutritional profile.

As a general guideline for estimating daily protein needs for a German Shepherd, provide ~1 gm protein/lb of body weight (2.55 grams protein/kg bodyweight for metric measurements). This level of protein intake will minimize the risk of protein deficiency by providing a minimum intake level.

But, here’s the important part…

Applying that formula will just give you the minimum level of protein, not the level needed for your dog to thrive.

Senior dogs may need up to 50% more protein than this calculated amount!

That’s right…

50% more protein than the general guidelines.

This is due to the fact that protein requirements increase with age due to increased protein turnover and reduced protein synthesis. Therefore, healthy senior German Shepherds don’t benefit from protein restriction and may be harmed by limiting their dietary protein.

Low-protein diets (below 24%) are NOT in your senior German Shepherd’s best interest.

What the Science Says About Protein and Senior Dogs

What the Science Says About Protein and Senior Dogs
Veterinarians recommend higher protein levels for senior dogs.

Studies have shown that higher-protein diets for senior dogs don’t cause kidney problems in healthy German Shepherds. And higher-protein helps to maintain lean muscle mass as they age.

Senior dogs do well on up to 30% protein on a dry-matter basis and, at a minimum, 24% protein based on dog nutrition research. If your German Shepherd is overweight, higher levels of protein are important to aid in weight loss.

High protein levels in a food DO NOT cause kidney damage in the normal, healthy dog (source).

Protein restriction of senior German Shepherds could be more detrimental than protein deficiency in younger animals.

But, don’t only focus on the protein amount, focus on the quality of the protein included in their diet.

Here’s a short nutrition breakdown of what your aging German Shepherd needs in their daily diet.

the foundation of your GSD's diet
Your GSD needs water, proteins, carbohydrates, fiber, and fats as part of their diet.


Proteins are found in meats, grains, and vegetables, but meat proteins are easier to digest for sensitive German Shepherd stomachs. Proteins provide your dog with energy.

When reviewing the ingredients of dog food for your German Shepherd, consider that animal sources are more digestible than vegetable sources. 

This table of the most common dog food ingredients and their digestibility levels will give you a quick breakdown of the best protein sources for your GSD.

Digestibility Index of Common Ingredients in Dog Foods

Food SourceDigestibility Index
Egg Whites100%
Muscle Meat92%
Organ Meats90%
Soy Protein75%
Digestibility Index of Common Ingredients in Dog Foods

The digestibility varies quite a bit but, as a whole, the main portion of calories for your older GSD should come from animal sources. Even though fish has a lower digestibility rating than other meats it contains vital fats that are beneficial to reduce inflammation. 

So, don’t count out fish protein sources entirely if your GSD prefers them or has digestion issues with other meats.


Carbohydrates come from plants and are another energy source. Common sources of carbohydrates include wheat, rice, corn, and soybeans. Less common sources include white and sweet potatoes, and sometimes even peas.


Fats help to keep your aging German Shepherd’s hair and skin healthy and supple. Fats also stabilize their body temperature and encourage healthy digestion.


german shepherds, fiber, and constipation
Does your German Shepherd suffer from constipation? Fiber could help!

For senior dogs who have concerns with constipation, a diet higher in fiber may help them stay regular. On the flip side, some senior foods may have less fiber than usual.

Large breed dogs, such as German Shepherds, often have a poorer stool quality than small breeds (source). If your elderly German Shepherd is prone to diarrhea, consider that crude fiber on product labels only describes insoluble fiber, the type that adds bulk to the stool. 

But, too much soluble fiber can aggravate their diarrhea.

Some insoluble fiber, like what occurs in veggies such as green beans or broccoli, is beneficial. You’ll need to look closely at the ingredient label for soluble, or prebiotic, fibers (For example fructooligosaccharides, chicory root, inulin, and fruit pectins).

If your senior large breed pet is having digestive problems, your vet can help recommend a food with extra insoluble fiber to help them.


water for health
Older GSDs are sensitive to dehydration, so keep an eye on their intake.

Keep in mind that older dogs are susceptible to dehydration, especially if they’re suffering from arthritis or other mobility issues that make getting to their water dish difficult.

Always ensure your dog has access to fresh, clean water at all times, and remember to clean their water and food dishes daily to avoid contamination.

Adjust their water bowl’s height if your dog isn’t able to drink comfortably and consider food products higher in moisture (like canned foods) to help them get the hydration they need.

Micronutrients: Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins and minerals are called micronutrients because your dog needs only small amounts of them. However, failing to get even those tiny quantities nearly guarantees disease. 

Vitamins and minerals also enable a dog’s body to process the protein, carbohydrates, and fats, called macronutrients, discussed previously.

They also help keep your senior GSD’s immune system healthy, support coat quality, and prevent many dog-related health problems.

We’ll cover more on the best vitamins and mineral food supplements for your senior German Shepherd later in this article.

The Best Senior Dog Food for German Shepherds: Detailed Guide

Shepherd Sense PicksBrand NameCrude ProteinCrude FatCrude FiberCaloric ContentFirst IngredientTypeGrain-FreeKibble SizeGlucosamineOmega-3’sOmega-6’s
Best OverallPurina Pro Plan Bright Mind Adult 7+ Large Breed Chicken & Rice Formula Dry Dog Food29%14%5%451kcal/cupChickenDry KibbleNoApproximately 12 millimetersYesYesYes
Best Grain FreeBlue Buffalo Wilderness Senior Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Dry Dog Food30%12%7%387 kcal/cupChickenDry KibbleYes15 x 8 millimetersYesYesYes
Best Beef-Based FormulaAmerican Journey Beef & Sweet Potato Recipe Grain-Free Dry Dog Food30%14%5%380 kcal/cupBeefDry KibbleYes12 x 5 millimetersYesYesYes
Best for Healthy Weight, Reduced CaloriesAmerican Journey Healthy Weight Chicken & Sweet Potato Recipe Grain-Free Dry Dog Food30%10%10% (please note this formula is a bit higher in fiber to help your dog feel full on fewer calories)337 kcal/cupChickenDry KibbleYes12 x 5 millimetersYesYesYes
Best Freeze-Dried Raw CoatedCANIDAE Grain-Free PURE Ancestral Red Meat Formula Freeze-Dried Raw Coated Dry Dog Food28%13.5%5%429 kcal/cupLambFreeze-Dried RawYesSimilar in size to a pea.NoYesYes
The best dog food for senior German Shepherds – detailed profile and nutritional analysis.

Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind Large Breed Adult 7+ Chicken & Rice Formula Dry Dog Food

purina proplan bright mind large breed chicken and rice formula

Overall Best Dry Dog Food for Senior German Shepherds

Nurture your German Shepherd’s intellect and help him feel more like he did when he was younger with Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind Adult 7+ Chicken and Rice Formula dry dog food. 

This specially made senior dog food formula is enhanced with botanical oils that are useful as an additional energy source to keep the bounce in your companion’s step. In trials, the addition of these botanical oils was shown to promote attention, memory, and even trainability.

So, you can teach your old German Shepherd new tricks!

This premium dry dog food also includes chicken as the first ingredient, which delivers a high-quality source of protein that is easily digestible.

With the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) you can feel good about feeding your working breed dog a recipe created to deliver top-tier nutrition. As the overall best dry dog food for senior German Shepherds, this research-backed kibble will give your golden oldie a bit of pep in their step!

Key Benefits

  • Enhanced botanical oils boost mental sharpness and alertness in seniors age 7 and older within 30 days.
  • Contains quality chicken as the first ingredient for owners who prefer a poultry-based diet.
  • Glucosamine and omega-3 fatty acids support joint health and mobility in greater amounts made specifically for large-breed dogs.
  • Fortified with certified live probiotics for immune health and digestive fitness.
  • Linoleic acid and vitamin A nourish your dog’s skin and coat to maintain luster, shine, and thickness.

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Senior Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Senior Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Best Grain-Free Senior Kibble

Nourish your senior companion with Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free, Natural Senior Dry Dog Food. With protein-rich chicken, this dog food is packed with real ingredients to sustain energy and provide him with the mouthwatering meat his inner wolf desires.

This carefully formulated blend is packed full of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals to reinforce his immune system. And your German Shepherd’s joints get support from additional supplements, all while maintaining a delicious flavor your dog is sure to drool over. 

Key Benefits

  • A protein-rich food specially developed to support your senior dog, made with real chicken.
  • Includes unique Blue Buffalo LifeSource Bits—a distinct combination of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals to keep your German Shepherd’s immune system healthy.
  • Includes omega 3 and 6 fatty acids to encourage a shiny coat and smooth skin.
  • Grain-free and made without corn, soy, wheat, meat by-products, or artificial flavors and colorings.

American Journey Beef & Sweet Potato Recipe Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

American Journey Beef & Sweet Potato Recipe Grain-Free Dry Dog Food for Seniors

Best Beef-Based Senior Formula 

American Journey’s Beef & Sweet Potato Recipe Grain-Free Dry Dog Food formula showcases real, deboned beef with the protein your senior dog needs for lean muscles and a flavor profile your German Shepherd naturally craves.

With wholesome fruits and veggies like antioxidant-boosting carrots and blueberries, your dog gets valuable fiber and phytonutrients. Omega fatty acids are abundant, including an omega-3 that supports the healthy development of the brain. 

Key Benefits

  • Grain-free dog food that’s free of corn, wheat, and soy.
  • Make especially for food-sensitive dogs to avoid fillers that might irritate their stomach.
  • Nutritious fruits and vegetables along with dried kelp supply essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for an immune boost.
  • High-protein dog food with real, deboned beef packed full of amino acids that help preserve lean muscle mass.
  • Salmon oil and flaxseed provide omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, which support your dog’s fur and skin health to keep them looking their best.

American Journey Healthy Weight Chicken & Sweet Potato Recipe Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Best Dry Dog Food for Healthy Weight Maintenance, Reduced Calories, and Overweight Senior Dogs

Your German Shepherd can get a head start toward a healthy weight with American Journey’s Healthy Weight Chicken & Sweet Potato Recipe reduced-calorie kibble in every meal. 

To help your dog reach their goal weight, this kibble is formulated not only for weight reduction but with L-carnitine to support fat metabolism and keep lean muscle mass strong. With added fiber, your dog will feel fuller while not packing on the pounds. 

And every meal supports a complete and balanced diet featuring real chicken as the first ingredient. Along with essential vitamins and minerals, nutrient-dense carbohydrates keep your dog happy and satisfied in the stomach.

Key Benefits

  • Grain-free and reduced-calorie food is crafted to help dogs reach a healthy weight while they enjoy a lip-licking flavor.
  • With natural sources of fiber to help your dog feel fuller this research-backed recipe supports a healthy weight.
  • Contains L-carnitine to help maintain an active lifestyle so your senior can enjoy their adventurous days.
  • Glucosamine and chondroitin support joint health and general mobility, so your companion can keep up with his day-to-day exercise regime and training.
  • Prepared using only nutrient-dense ingredients – never any grains, wheat, corn, soy, chicken, or poultry by-product meals.
  • Absolutely no artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors – just wholesome ingredients.

CANIDAE Grain-Free PURE Ancestral Red Meat Formula Freeze-Dried Raw Coated Dry Dog Food

Best Freeze-Dried Raw Coated Dog Food

With CANIDAE Grain-Free Pure Ancestral Red Meat Formula your adult dog can have the red meat they want, plus so much more!

With 6 regionally sourced red meat ingredients—lamb, goat, wild boar, pork, bison, and venison – your dog can tap into its ancestral origins. This freeze-dried kibble is formulated without grains, corn, wheat, soy, chicken, or fish for sensitive German Shepherds. 

Canidae’s HealthPLUS Solutions—a nutritional trio of probiotics, antioxidants, and omega 6 and 3 fatty acids give your golden oldie a charge up of health-boosting ingredients. 

And, if that’s not enough, each batch is raw-coated with freeze-dried raw lamb for a taste that even the finickiest of pets are sure to love!

Key Benefits

  • Incorporates 6 regionally sourced red meat ingredients—lamb, goat, wild boar, pork, bison, and venison for dogs with allergies to more traditional proteins.
  • Prepared for your adult dog with HealthPLUS Solutions—a trio of probiotics, antioxidants, and omega fatty acids that sustain healthy digestion, along with a beneficial immune system while nourishing their skin and coat.
  • Especially raw coated with freeze-dried raw lamb for great-tasting nourishment that will have your canine’s tail wagging with excitement – great for those picky German Shepherds who you just can’t seem to please.
  • Manufactured with your dog’s health in mind, so it’s free of grains, corn, wheat, soy, chicken, and fish.

How Much to Feed a Senior German Shepherd

How Much to Feed a Senior German Shepherd
Knowing your dog’s activity lifestyle will help you figure out how much to feed a senior German Shepherd.

When deciding how much to feed your senior German Shepherd first determine how active they are during their day. A low activity senior German Shepherd’s diet aims for around 1,300 – 1,500 calories daily, spread across 2 to 3 meals. While moderate to highly active senior German Shepherds should consume anywhere from 1,400 – 1,700 calories, depending on their activity level. 

Determine your dog’s average calories per day by their activity levels:

  • Low Activity Senior German Shepherd: 1,300 to 1,500 calories per day
  • Moderate to Highly Active Senior German Shepherd: 1,400 to 1,700 calories per day

As a general rule of thumb here are the cups of kibble for a German Shepherd that needs to adjust its weight:

  • For weight gain: Aim for more than 450 calories per cup for kibble
  • For weight loss: Aim for less than 350 calories per cup for kibble

How many cups of food to feed your senior German Shepherd?

How many cups of food to feed your senior German Shepherd?
First, check the dog food bag for the number of calories per cup.

The number of cups to reach your German Shepherd’s feeding amount varies on the particular brand of food you’ve selected. Use the manufacturer’s calorie information printed on the container of food to determine how much to feed your senior German Shepherd. 

Then, adjust the amount if you notice your dog gaining or losing weight.

Finally, don’t forget that snacks and treats are counted as part of how much you feed your German Shepherd, even if they’re seniors.

Deduct the approximate number of daily calories from feeding these extras. Remember, treats and snacks are not nutritionally complete and should be monitored so you don’t overfeed your GSD. 

Don’t feed more than around 10% of your dog’s daily calories from snacks or treats.

Here’s something else to know…

A 2011 study found that calories in senior foods varied greatly. Calories ranged from 246 to 408 calories per cup.

So, some brands of senior food may be a great choice if your dog needs to lose weight. While the same food isn’t a healthy choice if they need to gain weight.

How to Determine Your German Shepherd’s Energy Level

How to Determine Your German Shepherd’s Energy Level
Is your senior GSD a low, medium, or high-energy level dog?

Use this table as a general reference guide to select your dog’s energy level. Doing so will help you determine your GSD’s calorie needs.

Low Activity DogModerate Activity DogHigh Activity Dog
Less than 1 hour per day, e.g. walking on the lead 1-3 hours per day, e.g. playing off the lead, swimming, hikingOver 3 hours per day, e.g. working dogs, agility, Canicross
How active is your senior German Shepherd?

Spreading out the calories into smaller meals throughout the day helps prevent bloat.

Many German Shepherd owners prefer twice daily feeding, once in the morning and once at night, while some owners spread their GSD’s calories across 3 smaller portions during the day. 

Either way is fully acceptable based on your schedule and your GSD’s eating preferences. 

But, regardless of the feeding schedule you choose, avoid allowing your German Shepherd to exercise vigorously for at least 1 hour after consuming a large meal. This wait time helps to minimize problems with bloat, intestinal obstructions, and other serious digestive disorders that GSD’s as a breed are prone to (source).

Energy Needs of Older German Shepherds

what are the energy needs of older german shepherds?
What are the energy needs of older German Shepherds?

Because of their decreased physical activity and slowed metabolism, older German Shepherds need approximately 20% fewer total calories than middle-aged adult dogs. As GSDs age, they may tend to become overweight if their calories and physical activities are not monitored closely.

It also takes obese or severely overweight German Shepherds longer for their blood glucose concentrations to return to normal. This disrupted metabolism can lead to diabetes, along with further complications and other diseases.

Unhealthy weight gain exacerbates many age-related conditions – this is avoidable through the proper diet and caloric monitoring.

Variations in Calories

GSDs have varying calorie needs, depending on their activity level and how sedentary they are throughout the day. Ensuring that you provide them with the right amount of calories each day is one of the most important steps you can take to help them maintain healthy body weight.

Feeding your German Shepherd the right amount of high-quality dog food through each step of his life will go a long way to keeping your four-legged companion healthy. Just as eating amounts vary from person to person, eating amounts also vary from dog to dog. 

This is why consulting your vet is the best place to start.

Keep in mind the information provided here is simply guidelines. Health issues might age your dog faster, or he could remain vigorous well into his senior years. 

Monitor your German Shepherd’s health, choose high-quality dog food, and keep an open exchange with your vet to help you make the best choices to nourish your trusted companion through puppyhood and into his golden years.

Protein Vs. Calories

Diets for older German Shepherds should not only contain lower calories but also a higher percentage of protein. This is known as a higher protein:calorie ratio.

A higher protein:calorie ratio helps meet a GSD’s age-related nutritional needs.

You’ll find a senior-friendly level of the proper nutrients in the best dog foods for old German Shepherds discussed below in more detail.

Calorie Reduction and Your German Shepherd’s Lifespan

Calorie Reduction and Your German Shepherd’s Lifespan
Avoid unhealthy weight gain in your senior GSD to increase their lifespan and healthy years with you.

Results from a lifetime study performed in dogs indicated lower disease incidence, later onset of disease, and increased life span when they were calorically restricted. Dogs fed a 25% reduction of calories compared to dogs that were not given a calorie-restricted diet lived an average of 13.0 years compared with 11.2 years in the non-restricted group.

Consequently, maintaining energy balance and avoiding unhealthy weight gain is one of the most important health goals for senior German Shepherds.

Furthermore, the most prevalent joint disorder in dogs, osteoarthritis (OA), affects as many as one in four dogs, with OA increasing in occurrence and severity with advancing age. Being overweight or obese is recognized as a primary risk factor (source).

Anti-Inflammatory Dog Food Supplements

Anti-Inflammatory Dog Food Supplements
Look for omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants in your senior dog’s food.

Some senior dog foods have added supplements included for their anti-inflammatory benefits. This includes:

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids
  • Antioxidants

Let’s take a brief look at why you want to purchase dog food with these supplements included.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids show the greatest evidence for anti-inflammatory effects. You might have heard of these fatty acids if you’re seen the names EPA, DHA, and AA written on the dog food bags. 

These fatty acids have been shown to reduce the pain of osteoarthritis in dogs and provide some relief (source).

Marine oils (EPAs) are sometimes preferred due to their more effective anti-inflammatory effects compared to flax or other plant source oils. Diets formulated to help dogs with osteoarthritis have enriched concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA.

This combination is therapeutic for joints and may allow a reduction in prescription drug use.

Read more about the outstanding benefits of fish oils for improving your German Shepherd’s health. 🐠

Antioxidants and Your Senior German Shepherd’s Mental Health

Use brain-boosting environmental enrichment for German Shepherds
Combine antioxidants with brain-boosting environmental enrichment for German Shepherds to decrease mental dysfunction.

Did you know that as many as 68% of middle-aged to senior dogs are thought to experience cognitive dysfunction and mental decline?

Antioxidants may have potential treatment uses and work best when combined with brain-boosting environmental enrichment for German Shepherds.

The brain is especially susceptible to free radical damage and cognitive dysfunction, and multiple studies demonstrated improved signs of age-related cognitive changes in dogs fed antioxidant-enriched diets or supplements.

Senior Dog Food Types  

Senior German Shepherd Dog Food Types  
Dry kibble is the most popular choice for dog food. Adding warm water can help make the food easier to eat for senior dogs.

Commercial dog food for senior dogs can be canned, semi-moist, or dry. 

  • Canned
  • Semi-moist
  • Dry Kibble

Many GSDs prefer canned food, with its higher moisture, sugar, and fat content. But, it also tends to be the priciest and can stick to teeth and cause tooth decay.

Semi-moist food has the most fillers and preservatives to make it hold its shape and appear more palatable to your dog. But it’s better left to dogs with loose teeth or other mouth issues due to the fillers and preservatives

Kibble is the most convenient to feed your elderly German Shepherd and also keeps teeth and gums in good shape. It can also be left out during the day without spoiling.

Adding warm water to dry kibble and leaving it to soak for 5 – 10 minutes can help your aging German Shepherd eat their food more easily while providing a tasty gravy-like slush to entice their appetite.

Plus, there’s such a variety on the market you’re sure to find a formula that suits your dog’s unique palette and nutrition needs.

Feeding for Organ Health

Feeding for Organ Health
Your vet may need to prescribe a specific diet for health problems.

Other factors to consider are senior German Shepherd health problems such as heart and kidney disease. For both conditions, you’ll need low-sodium dog food. But, a study found that sodium levels in senior foods ranged anywhere from 33 to 412 mg/100 kcal.

Adding to the confusion, for kidney disease, you’ll want low phosphorus. But sometimes that’s not even mentioned on any label. And phosphorous levels can vary by up to threefold in senior foods. 

Prescription Senior Diets

Prescription diets are available for heart, kidney, and other diseases. These particular formulas take into account these special dietary needs. However, even those foods might have a wide range of nutrients. 

If your German Shepherd suffers from a preexisting condition it’s important to check with your vet first before changing their food routine.

Cost of Dog Food for an Elderly Dog

Cost of Dog Food for an Elderly Dog
Lower costs and cheap offers are not always a bargain considering the health of your GSD.

Cost often determines what owners feed their dogs. And, premium dog foods do cost more, but because they contain nutritious and well-balanced ingredients, German Shepherds typically require smaller quantities compared to canned wet foods or semi-moist foods. 

Cheaper foods can also still be balanced, complete, and meet a GSD’s basic nutritional needs. But thoughtfully consider that they also are prone to contain additional artificial colors, sugar, fillers, and other indigestible or unwanted components. 

Is premium dog food really worth the cost?

Low-cost senior dog food may be less expensive but it is not always a bargain.

Cheap Senior Dog Food

Cheaper foods might not provide optimum nutrition for your German Shepherd. But, high-quality dog foods usually provide 100% complete and balanced nutrition with consistently high-quality ingredients. This means from bag to bag or can to can, your dog will get consistent optimal nutrition.

In addition, these dog foods generally have a higher nutrient and energy density than the lower-cost foods. This translates into smaller feeding portions as the kibble is more nutritionally and calorically dense. Therefore, premium dog food gives you the best value while providing your dog with high-quality nutrition. 

Buy the highest-quality dog food for your senior German Shepherd that you can afford. 

When to Change to a Senior Diet

When to Change to a Senior Diet
Do you notice your German Shepherd taking more naps, sleeping longer, and moving a bit slower?

German Shepherds age at different rates. So, there’s no exact age or time when everyone makes the change to a senior diet. 

Some German Shepherds are still quite active at 10 years old, while others begin to slow down by 7 to 8 years of age.

You might wonder, then, what is considered “senior” for a German Shepherd?

Due to their larger size, a German Shepherd is considered a senior at 6 years, and geriatric at 9 years and older.

When you notice your GSD is spending more time resting and recovering from their usual activities, expending less energy, or perhaps is getting a bit heavier, that’s a good time to introduce senior dog food to them.

Senior Dog Food vs. Regular Dog Food

Senior Dog Food vs. Regular Dog Food
What’s the difference between senior dog food and regular dog food?

Is there more to senior dog food than just a name on the packaging and fancy marketing?

When comparing an adult or all-life stage diet to one labeled for senior dogs, you might not notice a difference. 

However, upon closer inspection of senior dog foods there are extra ingredients included to help not only fortify senior dog foods, but to improve digestibility, reduce inflammation, and support joint function.

But, don’t assume that all dog foods marketed for senior dogs are the right match for your German Shepherd. Moreover, some dog foods marketed towards all life stages are actually a great match for seniors.

You just need to know what to look for in the ingredients to make an educated decision.

The Problem with Dog Food for Senior German Shepherds

The Problem with Dog Food for Senior German Shepherds
Senior GSDs vary widely in their nutritional needs.

Yet, there are problems when it comes to feeding your senior German Shepherd. Neither the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) nor the National Research Council has determined official dietary requirements for aging dogs.

In part, because senior dogs vary so much in their individual needs. That may explain why commercial foods for elderly dogs vary so widely in nutrient levels.

Good thing there are lots of research articles backed by science so we can figure it out.

To help you through all the legal jargon and nutritional specification, this guide for choosing the best quality dog food for your senior German Shepherd will make choices for your dog’s health easier.

So, what’s the answer to choosing the right senior dog food for your GSD?

So, what’s the answer to choosing the right senior dog food for your GSD?

Use these steps to pick the best senior dog food for your German Shepherd:

  1. Try the formulas suggested on this list first if your German Shepherd is healthy.
  2. If your dog has any preexisting conditions, consult your veterinarian. 
  3. It’s alright if you need to change dog foods, just gradually introduce the new food to reduce stomach upset and diarrhea.
  4. Keep track of the difference in calories between the previous food and the new food, as calories can range greatly between brands, accidentally causing you to underfeed or overfeed your dog – both of which have unwanted consequences.

Senior Dogs and Chewing

Senior German Shepherds and Chewing
Your old German Shepherd still enjoys chewing to avoid boredom and destructive behavior.

Remember dogs, especially German Shepherds, have a need to chew and need a suitable outlet for this. Provide your senior dog with appropriate German Shepherd chew toys to fulfill this need.

Dogs don’t just eat for nutrition, they have a behavioral need to lick and chew so this need must be met by providing suitable chewing items. Aim for 30 minutes of chewing a day of a safe product or item made specifically for chewing sessions.

If you’re worried about giving your dog Nylabones or other chews to sink their teeth into, then supervise them and use stuffed KONGs to see how they handle them. Rotate chews regularly to keep your German Shepherd interested and keep their teeth healthier. 

Chewing also provides mental stimulation for your German Shepherd to avoid boredom and destructiveness.

Takeaway: The Best Dog Food for Senior German Shepherds

Nobody expects you to become a certified nutritionist simply to pick out a bag of dog food.

But you need to watch out for a few important factors that apply to most senior German Shepherds.

This guide will help you choose the best dog food for your senior companion.

Remember, older dogs, especially German Shepherds over 7 years of age, benefit from a diet formulated for their specific aging needs.

Senior German Shepherd diets often have higher protein, lower calories, less sodium, and fewer carbohydrates for the geriatric life stage. Many of these senior dog foods also contain ingredients such as probiotics and prebiotics for intestinal and gut health, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants to reduce inflammation, and glucosamine to promote joint health.

Choosing the best high-quality dog food for an older German Shepherd out of the hundreds of highly-marked brands and formulas is a challenge.

The dog nutrition industry is highly competitive, and many spend exorbitant amounts of money to convince buyers to purchase their dog food.

Let’s recap:

  • Feed a high-quality diet preferably with natural sources of glucosamine, chondroitin, and omega-3, to provide anti-inflammatory benefits for joints.
  • Don’t skimp on the protein quality or the amount, as healthy dogs shouldn’t have protein levels restricted.
  • Train, encourage, and reward your GSD with these healthy, high-value treats rich in meat and other superfoods.
  • Watch their weight – a healthy German Shepherd is a happy dog with fewer medical problems!

Keeping a balanced lifestyle with good nutrition, quality exercise, and lots of bonding time and love will save you time and money.

And using this guide will keep you on track to buying the best food for a senior German Shepherd so you have less worry down the road.

Here’s to many more happy years to come with your German Shepherd!

Additional Resources

Hutchinson D, Freeman L, Schreiner K et al. Survey of Opinions about Nutritional Requirements of Senior Dogs and Analysis of Nutrient Profiles of Commercially Available Diets for Senior Dogs. Int J Appl Res Vet M. 2011;9(1):68-70. 

Kealy RD, Lawler DF, Ballam JM, et al. Effects of Diet Restriction on Life Span and Age-Related Changes in Dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2002;220:1315-1320.

McMurray DN. Effect of Moderate Protein Deficiency on Immune Function. Compend Cont Educ Vet. 1999;21:21-24. 

Morgan, D. 2002, Feeding Your Dog for Life, Doral Publishing, Sun City.

Total Pet Ownership and Pet Population. In: U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook. Schamburg, IL: AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) Membership & Field Services. 2012:1-49.