At 6 months old my GSD puppy almost died.
From about 24 weeks (6 months) he just went off his food.
I tried every brand of food on my vet's shelf…
But every time I'd fill his bowl with food he'd look at it and move away slowly like it was a loaded gun.
At one stage I was sitting on the floor, tears rolling down my cheeks, trying to hand feed him.
I was a nervous wreck and he was losing weight – fast.
If he did eat, it wouldn't be long before he'd vomit it all up again. And he had the most terrible runny tummy too. Plenty of it, and it stank!
In the background, I'd already started researching the best raw food for German Shepherds.
And the longer this drama continued the more I became convinced that something had to change. But more about that in a minute…
I was terrified to make the switch to feeding a raw diet, but the more I researched, the more scared I became of feeding my dogs' kibble…
I often get emails from German Shepherd owners dealing with similar issues. These emails usually go something like this one sent in by Jeff recently…
“I have a 10 week old GSP (…German Shepherd Pointer…) that has lost interest in her kibble. I don't have much confidence in the quality of the food and am looking into an alternative. Every time I think I've found a good brand I see negative reviews and it's back to the drawing board. What would you recommend feeding my pup?”
Or comments from concerned readers like Donna…
“…She eats the same food but I'm changing it bc I've read horrible things about it on other sites and she has been throwing it up on occasion undigested hrs later.”
If you're new to the idea of raw feeding, the easiest way to make the switch is to rely on high-quality premade, frozen meals.
And that's how I started off almost 7 years ago. I've done everything from premade frozen meals to grinding and mixing my own.
And today I follow a more whole prey or frankenprey model of feeding.
I no longer follow the above feeding protocols. Instead, I now feed for nutrients, making sure my dogs are getting the exact nutrients they need.
In this article, I'll share the best raw food for German Shepherds in terms of premade meals.
At the end, I also share a short guide as an introduction to raw feeding to give you a high-level overview of how raw feeding works.
So keep reading to find out everything you need to know to ensure that your GSD gets the nourishment they need from the best foods out there.
Use the links below and be magically transported to any section you're interested in.
Quick Navigation Menu
- Where to Find the Best Raw Food for German Shepherds
- Raw Paws Pet Food Review
- Raw Wild Dog Food Review
- Why are Dog Owners Questioning Commercial Dog Food
- Why are Ingredients Important?
- Why I Feed my Dogs a Raw Diet?
- 9 Benefits of a Raw Diet for Dogs
- So What is the Best Raw Food for German Shepherds?
Where to Find the Best Raw Food for German Shepherds
Okay, so you're convinced that raw feeding is the way to go for you and your German Shepherd.
You'll be happy to know that you can get high quality, healthy meals delivered to your door.
Although, there are very few companies out there that can be trusted with the nutrition of your dog.
Raw Paws is one of those companies…
I've checked them out from tip to toe and reviewed them for your convenience.
As a raw feeder myself I think there are a few must-haves when it comes to creating a nutritional meal plan for your dog…
Where to Start with a Raw Food Diet for Your GSD
Raw food recipes for dogs are all over the internet. And dog owners like you can prepare their dog’s raw food diet from scratch with careful planning and time.
But as I mentioned, there are frozen raw diets on the market that help make raw feeding easier for you.
These diets are delivered frozen or freeze-dried to your door. Some have everything you need rolled into one.
Ingredients like vegetables, vitamins, and fruits already mixed in. Or you can buy them separately.
Raw Paws Pet Food Review
Raw Paws Pet Food
Raw Paws offers premade raw food that's grass-fed, certified organic, GMO and hormone-free! They offer a range of diets from beef to chicken to duck, goat and lamb. If you're looking for variety, Raw Paws has what you want.
Who is Raw Paws?
Raw Paws is one of the suppliers that provide frozen raw food diets to dog owners like you. So let's take a closer look at a few of their products.
All of Raw Paws products are sourced from local farms that treat their stock ethically. This means Raw Paws is a small scale manufacturer.
What this means for you and your dog is healthy meat, free from toxins.
RawPaws ship their food frozen in styrofoam containers filled with dry ice. And it's guaranteed to reach your door within 48 hours – still frozen rock solid.
From my research, there have been no complaints about the food being thawed on arrival.
On a side note, their website is super easy to navigate with all kinds of great information.
There's no guesswork on your part when it comes to portion size or how to transition your dog from a cooked diet to a raw food diet.
I like the fact that Raw Paws offer an auto-ship service. This means you'll never end up with an empty freezer and a sad dog, looking at a bowl of kibble!
You can get 20% off your first Auto-Ship by using this code: AUTO. Plus you'll get 10% off all your future auto-shipments.
And they offer free shipping all across the United States – that's a serious bonus!
Transitioning to the Raw Paws Diet
- Are you on a budget?
- Do you want to feed a mix of raw and kibble?
- Are you unsure of how to create a nutritional raw diet for your GSD?
- Does your dog have food allergies?
Raw Paws offer a free meal planning service where they will create a meal plan for you based on the needs of you and your dog.
Raw Paws also has some great advice on transitioning your dog to a raw food diet.
Making it super easy for both you and your dog. Start with a mixture of 75% of current food and 25% raw food.
If your dog is particularly sensitive to food changes, you should start with a 90% to 10% ratio and increase incrementally.
It could take several weeks to transition your dog to their new raw food diet, so be patient!
Although, here I have a different approach. I believe in fasting a dog for 12 hours and then transitioning 100% to raw.
Many dogs vomit up their first raw meal, but that's totally normal. This is because they're so stunned and excited about the raw meat.
Making them gulp down the meal. But at the next go, they take to it like a duck to water.
Raw Paws Preparation and Food Safety
Raw Paws have left no stone unturned and give great advice on how to prepare and handle their raw food.
They recommend transferring the food into the freezer immediately. And you should only thaw a portion for 3 days worth of feeding.
If you read between the lines here, you can tell their food contains no preservatives. If it did, it would last much longer when thawed.
This is a fantastic and healthy benefit for your dog. And a point of peace of mind for you.
When it comes to thawing, Raw Paws suggests doing this in the refrigerator not on the counter or in the sink. Of course, this ensures there's no room for bacteria to breed.
Once the food is portioned for thawing, wrap the remaining food tightly and place it back in the freezer.
Tip: Use separate cutting boards and utensils to prepare the food.
This, by the way, is the same protocol for handling the raw foods that we cook for ourselves and our families.
For storing food in the refrigerator, keep raw food stored in a plastic bag or a bin and store it on the lowest shelf to prevent cross-contamination.
After handling raw food, wash your hands and clean all preparation surfaces with a disinfectant such as bleach.
How to Serve Raw Paws Pet Food
Raw Paws suggests serving a raw food diet out of stainless steel bowls rather than plastic or ceramic. Stainless is non-porous and will never trap food or bacteria.
You should feed your dogs on a floor or solid surface that is easy to clean and disinfect.
Once a portion is served, return any remaining food to the refrigerator. If your pet leaves any food over, place it back into the fridge.
If any food sits out for more than two hours, toss it.
Wash your dog’s bowl after every feeding, and disinfect any surfaces that have come in contact with raw food.
Wash your hands often during the preparation and clean up of raw food.
Raw Paws Signature Blend Food
I really like the Signature Blend from Raw Paws. It's great to serve as the main part of a raw food diet for dogs. And it offers balanced nourishment for your dog.
The meat they source is human-grade, high quality, and sourced from family-owned farms in Indiana. In fact, it's probably healthier than the meat you eat every day.
Many commercial farms use growth hormones in their herds. And some even use genetically modified growth hormones.
In humans, these can cause all kinds of problems from developmental disabilities, reproductive issues, to breast and colon cancer.
And the same can be said for the problems caused in our dogs.
Antibiotics that are regularly used on commercial farms trickle up the food chain and contribute to antibiotic-resistant superbugs.
But Raw Paws only use meats that are:
- Certified organic.
- USDA inspected.
- 100% natural.
- Antibiotic-free and hormone-free.
Their foods also contain no fillers or additives. And they are minimally processed. All of the beef used in Raw Paws products are locally sourced from farms in Indiana.
Earlier I mentioned that mixing up the meats equals a healthy diet. So I like that the Signature Blend comes in a variety of proteins like:
Raw Paws has also taken great care to ensure the proper ratio of meat, bone, and offal. I can't stress how important these ratios are to optimal nourishment.
Getting this wrong can cause problems so it's great that Raw Paws have taken the guesswork out of it.
Raw Paws Green Tripe
Green tripe is THE superfood for dogs. Tripe is the stomach lining of cows, bison, sheep, and buffalo. It's called green because it's unbleached and in its natural state.
Green Tripe contains enzymes and probiotic bacteria that aid these grazing animals to digest grass. And it has great benefits for our dogs.
It helps with digestion, eases constipation, and improves appetite. Not to mention the benefits for your dog's immune system.
And if your dog suffers from seasonal allergies Green Tripe is a natural way to help soothe their discomfort.
Tripe is definitely one of the foods that you DO NOT WANT TO PREPARE yourself! It stinks!
And I'm not exaggerating! But dogs LOVE it! I recommend you use this product as a supplement to the signature blend.
Raw Paws Raw Meaty Bones
Raw Paws offers a nice variety of raw meaty bones (RMB). This means you don't need to try and source these from a butcher.
Which can be difficult since most butchers remove all the meat from bones.
Beef marrow bones are a great source of protein, chondroitin, collagen, calcium, and phosphorous.
Bone marrow releases adiponectin which is linked to a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It also builds immunity and supports kidney function.
Although I don't recommend marrow bones for anything other than recreation for your dog. They are too hard to break and can cause damage to their teeth.
The other bone choices on offer are an excellent variety. There's everything from:
- And Duck.
And you'll find everything from:
- And quarters.
You can add these to your dog's diet by substituting 1 or 2 meals a week with RMB which is what I do.
Or you can opt to feed your dog a prey model raw diet using these very meaty bones.
And like I mentioned before, RMB are a wonderful way to stimulate your dog's need to rip, chew, and tear. And not to mention the natural teeth cleaning RMB offer!
I've said this before and I'll say it again…
Whether you opt for a ground BARF diet or a whole prey model, you're heading in the right direction.
The only question on your lips should be “what are the best ingredients, and where can I find them?”
You can source them yourself. Or you can go with a company like Raw Paws to help you feed your German Shepherd the best raw food.
Raw Wild Dog Food
The folks at Raw Wild care about small-batch nourishment. Their food is human-grade, organic, GMO and toxin-free. If you're looking to the highest quality will game meat – check out Raw Wild!
Who is Raw Wild
A few years back, there were very few companies I'd recommend for premade raw dog food.
But thankfully more and more dog guardians are making the switch to species-appropriate food. And companies are committed to giving pooch parents what they want.
Enter Raw Wild!
Raw Wild is a brand of complete and balanced, premade fresh food for dogs. They offer frozen, premixed raw food to dog owners across the United States.
And they stand out as a brand that has some serious boasting rights – here are a few of those…
Raw Wild is:
- Human grade meat.
- Growth hormone-free.
- 100% wild game meat.
- Made in the USA.
- Filler and grain-free.
Raw Wild is a family-owned business that believes in “small-batch nourishment.” This is the first and most important benefit of Raw Wild dog food. Here's why…
Small-batch manufacturing means:
- Ingredients are traceable back to the source.
- Individual batch testing will quickly reveal any problems.
- Attention to detail, care, and craft.
- A higher level of sustainability and ethics.
And when you consider the mass-produced dog food recalls of the past two decades, you can see why a company that believes in small-batch manufacturing is so valuable.
Plus, instead of using a mass packaging system, Raw Wild hand packs their food. This adds an extra layer of attention to detail that makes this family-owned business so unique.
The company also guarantees your satisfaction, and if you're not 100% happy, they'll refund your payment in full if you let them know within seven days.
But this is dependent on which shipping method you use.
I just love this short video from Raw Wild – warm fuzzy feeling for sure!
To help dog owners like you fill their freezer with wholesome, complete meals for your dog, Raw Wild offers free shipping on all recurring orders through their auto-ship subscription plan.
So you're guaranteed that you'll never run out of food. And you can log into your account at any time to modify your auto-ship settings.
It's worth noting that if you're on the east coast of the United States, shipping is not free.
This is because shipping to these states is by air and not ground to guarantee the highest standards of freshness.
What's in Raw Wild Dogs Food?
Raw Wild specializes in dog food made from Elk and Deer. The source of their protein is from the forests of the western Rocky Mountains.
These animals are wild, spending their lives grazing on pesticide-free grasses and plants. And they drink from clean springs and other water sources.
This kind of meat is healthy, fresh, and toxin-free, which is vital for the health of our dogs.
Raw Wild works with hunters who ethically source and hunt healthy animals for their own families.
So you can be sure they use no dead, dying, diseased, or disabled animals. Yes, all their meat is human-grade.
This also means you don't have to be concerned about Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).
And their food is prepared in a human-grade facility that prepares wild game meat for the human food chain too.
Their food consists of 99.4% Elk and Deer meat and .06% proprietary blend of vitamins and minerals.
Now, you might be wondering…
- Why does Raw Wild add a premix of vitamins and minerals?
- Does Raw Wild meet minimum standards to be a complete and balanced food?
I was curious about this myself, so I went digging for the answers…
Why Does Raw Wild Add a Premix of Vitamins and Minerals?
Maybe you're familiar with the hunting tradition of field dressing…
Field dressing is when a hunter removes the internal organs of the prey animal. And although a lot of what they leave behind is highly nutritious for our dogs, field dressing is crucial for these reasons:
- Cooling the carcass.
- Slows bacterial growth.
- Preserves the meat.
So since the nutritious organ meats are left behind, Raw Wild adds a blend of vitamins and minerals carefully developed by an “industry-leading specialist,” according to their website.
Raw Wild chose not to add organ meats from domestically raised animals or slaughterhouses.
The reason that these options can potentially contaminate their product, and it makes sense.
Also, Raw Wild only uses meat from Elk and Deer. They don't add any bone. So to be balanced, they need to compensate for the calcium and other mineral requirements.
Raw wild goes to great lengths to ensure that nothing in their vitamin and mineral mix comes from China.
Everything is sourced in the United States, except for vitamins A, D, and E – these are sourced from Switzerland.
Does Raw Wild Meet Minimum Standards to be a Complete and Balanced Food?
Yes, Raw Wild formulates its food to meet the nutritional standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).
And their food meets the dog food nutrient profiles for all life stages.
Raw Wild offers an impressive Guaranteed Analysis of:
- Crude Protein, minimum – 18.0%
- Crude Fat, minimum – 10.0%
- Crude Fiber, maximum – 0.45%
- Moisture maximum – 70.0%
When I look that the guaranteed analysis of diet I formulate for my dogs using Animal Diet Formulator, it's in the same range.
So I'm happy with what Raw Wild offers here in terms of guaranteed minimums.
Transitioning to the Raw Wild Diet
Transitioning to a raw diet can be stressful for dog owners. But unless you have a finicky eater, you should be able to make the transition smoothly.
Raw Wild recommends the following steps to transition a puppy to the Raw Wild diet:
- Go “cold turkey” and switch out your puppy's kibble for Raw Wild.
- Feed your puppy three times a day until around six months of age.
- Reduce feeding to twice a day from 6 months old.
- Feed your puppy 2 to 3% of their ideal adult body weight.
- For mixed breed pups with an unknown adult body weight, feed 10% of current weight.
- Always monitor weight and adjust meal sizes accordingly.
For adult dogs, Raw Wild recommends making the transition like this:
- Try the “cold turkey” method and feed 1/2 of your dog's daily Raw Wild ration twice a day. My advice is to feed it separately from kibble.
If after two days your dog is still resisting the new food, do the following:
- Return to feeding kibble.
- Replace a percentage of the kibble with Raw Wild – for example, 90% kibble 10% Raw Wild.
- Gradually increase the amount of Raw Wild, while reducing the amount of kibble until you are feeding only Raw Wild.
Keep in mind that many dogs vomit up their first raw meal. My Charley did precisely that and promptly ate it again.
So don't stress out if it happens, it's normal and likely because they wolfed their new dog food down too quickly.
Raw Wild Preparation and Food Safety
The first step is to transfer Raw Wild into your freezer as soon as your delivery arrives. According to their website, if it's slightly thawed, you can refreeze and use it as needed.
But I have not found any complaints from customers saying that Raw Wild arrived even slightly thawed. But it's still vital that you transfer the food into your freezer asap.
Raw Wild dog food should be handled like you would any other raw meat. Use clean utensils and containers.
And once you're done, wash everything (including your hands) with hot, soapy water.
I highly recommend thawing Raw Wild in your fridge and not on the counter or in the sink.
Also, place the package inside a bowl or on a plate to catch any meat juices released during thawing.
This juice is high in water-soluble vitamins and free amino acids. It's good stuff! You should add some to your dog's bowl – don't throw it away.
How to Serve Raw Wild Pet Food
Being a raw feeder for going on seven years, I've learned a lot about bowls and bowl hygiene.
My first recommendation is to feed your dog's raw food from either a stainless steel bowl that is not from China or India.
Alternatively, use a name brand glass, or ceramic bowl that you can trust has no hidden toxins.
Once you have portioned your dog's meal, place the remaining food in the fridge for the next meal.
After your dog has finished eating, wash their bowl with hot soapy water and rinse with hot water and apple cider vinegar, then leave to air dry.
Also, make sure to clean and disinfect the floor area where your pooch eats after every meal.
I love feeding wild game meats to my dogs. I know they are toxin and antibiotic-free.
It's excellent that Raw Wild is so particular about what goes into their food and that they meet AAFCO standards.
I would have liked to see real game organ meats used instead of a premix of vitamins, but I know the logic in why Raw Wild does this.
Feeding only Raw Wild is not something I recommend since I do think it's essential to provide a variety of proteins to our dogs.
My dogs eat a diet made up of a variety of wild meats like antelope and ostrich, as well as duck, rabbit, and wild-caught fish.
Raw Wild is an outstanding food, in my opinion. It's clean, toxin-free, and organic.
And I love that it's made in small batches and that none of the ingredients come from questionable sources.
Whether you are feeding a DIY diet or you feed other premixed dog food brands, I strongly recommend adding some Wild Raw to your dog's diet for variety.
Why are Dog Owners Questioning Commercial Dog Food
Nutrition is an important topic, so I've decided to share how I manage the nutritional needs of my dogs. And from the title of this article, you can already tell I feed my dogs a raw diet.
If the thought of feeding your GSD a raw diet is scary, you're not alone. There's a ton of information out there.
Some good, some bad, and some dangerous. And because you love your dog it's natural for you to be cautious.
I was cautious too. I needed to be 100% sure I was choosing the best raw food for my German Shepherds.
But the more I researched, the more scared I became of feeding my dogs' kibble…
First, I want to say that this is not about making kibble feeders feel bad. I was a long time kibble feeder too.
Feeding a raw diet might not be for you. And that's okay. You can still opt for kibble, but with a few changes…
- Switch to grain-free kibble.
- Choose a kibble that's certified organic and made with whole foods.
- Go with a company that manufactures in small batches. These foods usually have a shorter shelf life, which is good.
Or better yet, start cooking for your dog. It's way better than any kibble diet in the world.
For years large commercial food manufacturers have been filling their products unknown to us. Packaging it up all pretty. And selling it as “a complete diet”.
But you're not here to read about my rant. You're here to find the best raw food for German Shepherds. Right?
Why are Ingredients Important?
Here's a list of ingredients of a large breed puppy food from a well known high-end dog kibble…
Chicken Meal, Whole Grain Wheat, Whole Grain Oats, Whole Grain Sorghum, Corn Gluten Meal, Whole Grain Corn, Pork Fat, Chicken Liver Flavor, Flaxseed, Dried Beet Pulp, Fish Oil, Lactic Acid, Pork Flavor, Iodized Salt, Potassium Chloride, Dicalcium Phosphate, Choline Chloride, vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), Niacin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement), Taurine, minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), Oat Fiber, L-Carnitine, Mixed Tocopherols for freshness, Natural Flavors, Beta-Carotene, Apples, Broccoli, Carrots, Cranberries, Green Peas.
Firstly, anyone will tell you, the fewer ingredients the better. More ingredients mean the food has been messed around with and processed loads. This list has 46 ingredients!
Also, the rule of thumb with any ingredient list is…
The higher up in the order, the more of it there is. So let's do a quick analysis…
So just looking at ingredients 2 through to 6 and what do you notice?
Yup, that's right wheat, oats, sorghum, corn, and corn again.
And nowhere in the first seven ingredients do so see anything that resembles muscle meat!
Chicken meal makes up the majority of the food. What's Chicken meal?
Note: Chicken meal, or other animal meal, is fine if it forms part of the protein (not all of it). So for example, if the ingredients were Chicken, chicken liver, chicken heart, chicken gizzards, chicken meal.
According to the AAFCO meal “is the dry rendered product from a combination of clean chicken flesh and skin with or without accompanying bone, derived from whole carcasses of chicken, exclusive of feathers, heads, feet and entrails.”
And “Chicken meal is mainly used in pet foods.”
So what's a rendered product? According to Wiki, “Rendering is a process that converts waste animal tissue into stable, value-added materials.”
So the majority of this kibble is made up of animal (in this case chicken) waste products.
Next up are grains I just mentioned…
We've got whole grain wheat, whole grain oats, whole grain sorghum, corn gluten meal, and whole-grain corn. These ingredients are used as fillers.
Bulking up the food this way is much cheaper than using actual whole meats fit for human consumption.
Yes, these are also sources of protein but they are incomplete proteins and your pooch is not designed to need grains.
That tells you your dog is getting a whole bunch of stuff they don't need and are not designed to digest.
Next, we have pork fat…
I'll admit, I love fried bacon. And I especially love dipping my toast into the fat.
Of course, our dogs need fat – it's essential for their health, so I'm not dissing fat but I do question the quality of the fat used.
And here's the kicker about fat…
It's an essential part of a dog's diet, but once it's been through the processing required for kibble, it reduces the shelf life of any product dramatically. So to keep that kibble from rotting it's baked at insanely high temperatures. This process makes the kibble sterile.
The next shocking ingredient is salt. Seriously, they add iodized salt to our best friends' food. Of course, sodium chloride is vital for health, mineral balance, and much more.
But I'm not a fan of iodized salt. I'd much rather see a more natural Himalayan rock salt or natural sea salt.
Okay, I'm not going to go through all the ingredients and in all honesty, I can't even pronounce some of them. But you get the picture.
Ingredients that Really Matter
Now check out the last 5 ingredients…
Apples, Broccoli, Carrots, Cranberries, and Green Peas. Those are the only ingredients that are remotely healthy, and they are right at the bottom of the list.
They don't even feature in the greater scheme of things. And even if they did, the kibble is still sterile and so are these ingredients.
Here's a rundown from Dr. Becker from best to worst dog food types.
Why I Feed my Dogs a Raw Diet?
That's an easy question to answer…
- Simply because I want to control the ingredients that are going into my dog's bodies.
- Ingredients I can eat too – not that I'll ever eat green tripe though!
- I want ingredients that promote the optimal health of my dogs.
And unfortunately, as you've seen, with kibble, that's not always the case.
Now I want to move on to a positive note…
9 Benefits of a Raw Diet for Dogs
My 3 dogs have been enjoying their 100% raw diets for almost 4 years. And there are several amazing health and other benefits that I've noticed.
My 3 musketeers have lush, shiny coats. Sure, their coats had a shine while they ate kibble.
But not like this.
There's a sheen to them now that is obvious even when they're not in the sun. Even the lighter, tan parts shimmer.
Their coats are sleek and soft to the touch. The outer coat of the GSD tends to be naturally rougher.
This is because it serves as a waterproof to keep the undercoat dry. While the undercoat's function is to keep them warm.
Grooming is easier. Especially working with their undercoats because the hair clumps together easily so brushing them out is a breeze.
Keeping the skin of a German Shepherd healthy is extremely important. And it's more difficult to do than with dogs who have only one coat.
Charley my 9-year-old GSD struggled a lot with her skin. I'd regularly wake up to find her with swollen and inflamed hot spots on her hindquarters.
These had developed overnight and were roughly the size of golf balls.
I tried a bunch of different natural remedies but once they showed up there was no getting rid of them.
The only solution was to treat the symptoms with conventional drugs like cortisone.
After changing her diet – and riding out the detox period (more on that later), Charley has had no hot spots since.
Although my dogs had regular grooming and bathing, they always had the ‘doggy smell'. Especially when they were wet.
Since eating a raw diet I'm happy to tell you, they smell a whole lot better!
Ensuring your dog has healthy eyes is important because acute eye discharges can lead to blindness.
When Lexi my
18-month-old now 4.5-year-old GSD-Collie mix turned up at my doorstep she had dull eyes covered in gunk. And the whites of her eyes were dark brown.
After eye treatment for a bacterial infection from the vet, the gunk cleared up. And I'm happy to report that those beautiful eyes are bright and shiny.
Doggy breath makes me feel queazy. And as much as I love my 3, I could never quite get used to them breathing anywhere near my face.
Now I can't say their breath smells like nothing because that's not possible. Even if a human's breath doesn't smell bad, it still has a smell.
I'm happy to say, all my dogs now have great smelling breath! So now I can enjoy those face kisses without feeling dizzy from the smell.
Dental health is one of the most important things to care for in dogs. Bad teeth cause gum disease which leads to other problems like heart disease.
And if you've ever taken your dog for dental work, you know how expensive it is. None of my dogs have ever had dental work done.
I don't brush their fangs and they don't eat those unhealthy dental sticks either.
Here's a picture of Charley's mouth. For a 9-year-old dog who ate kibble for the first 6 years of her life, she has pretty healthy gnashers.
The 2 young ones have beautiful pearly whites too!
Recently we had a visit to the vet for their yearly check-up. I was smiling from ear to ear when the vet listened to their hearts and said, “Geez, your dogs are fit!”
I'm not saying dogs who eat kibble are not fit. But imagine if your diet was Burger King twice a day.
Would you be fit enough to do a minimum of 1.5 hours of exercise a day? I definitely wouldn't!
Zè was the one who struggled with his gut most. Each month he'd either be vomiting or have a runny tummy.
There were a couple of mornings I woke up to find he'd puked all his food up during the night.
I can't remember the last time he puked up his food. The only time he pukes is when he's munched on a plant in the garden!
Poop patrol is my least favorite thing. But someone's got to do it! Kibble poop was big, smelly and A LOT! And often runny.
Sure, I have 3 dogs but I'm sure their poop was equal to that of 6 dogs!
Raw food poops are well-formed. They go hard and turn white within a day so they're easy to scoop up. And if I accidentally miss one, by the next day it's turned to powder.
Okay, so if you're still reading you're interested to find out even more. So let's dive into the in's and out's of raw feeding for your German Shepherd.
You might already know this, but there are a lot of myths surrounding raw feeding for dogs.
I won't go into these here. But if you're interested, check out this article I wrote on a fellow blogger's site about 9 of these myths.
No More Poop Eating
Yes, my boy Zè was also a regular poop eater! Yuk!
Poop eating is actually a thing, it's called Coprophagia. I literally tried everything possible to get him to stop. Pineapple and bitter sprays.
It also turned out he has Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) which just made things worse. But treatment and the raw diet keeps him healthy and the EPI under control.
I even scooped the poop after every toilet break but if I missed just one piece, he'd find it and eat it. After switching him to a raw diet the poop eating stopped and we've never had the problem again.
My views on how to create raw diets have changed considerably over the years. Therefore, consider the remainder of this article as outdated. I will be updating it shortly.
So What is the Best Raw Food for German Shepherds?
Before you decide on the best raw food for your German Shepherd there are some ‘tricks of the trade' you'll need to know about first…
Different Kinds of Raw Diets
Essentially there are 2 schools of thought in the raw feeding community.
I'll say right off the bat, there's a lot of politics and bickering about which one is the best.
If you can give you any advice, don't get wrapped up in it. If you do, you'll never make the change. Just stick to the facts and focus on the benefits.
Over the years and through my formal education in canine nutrition, I have learned that BARF diets, ratio diets, and prey model diets are not as balanced as the status quo would like us to believe. I am currently working on updating this part of the article with new science-based information.
The BARF Diet
I feed my dogs a BARF diet. Although I do replace 2 meals a week with Raw Meaty Bones.
I know, the word BARF conjures up pictures that border on disgusting but don't let that put you off.
The BARF diet was championed by an Australian vet named Dr. Ian Billinghurst. In the beginning stages of BARF Billinghurst advocated a lot of bones.
But over the years the diet has been improved. So if you come across websites with this information, ignore it.
Many moons ago BARF stood for Bones And Raw Food. But today it's known as Biologically Appropriate Raw Food.
And that's what it boils down to. Food that's appropriate for your dog based on their biological makeup.
With the BARF diet, all the whole foods are prepared by grinding them up. This includes all the muscle meat, bones, organ meats, fruits, and veggies.
The BARF diet also includes ingredients like;
- Eggs and eggshells
- Seeds (like flax)
- Oils (like olive, cold-pressed sunflower and even coconut)
- Herbs (like rosemary, thyme, parsley, alfalfa)
- And root plants like ginger.
Although BARF feeders believe that dogs are carnivores. In the wild, wolves are opportunistic hunters.
But they will also scavenge, given the chance. This means they will eat what they can when they can.
The Whole Prey Model
The whole prey model is just that, feeding your dog a whole prey animal or part of it. For example a chicken.
Some prey model feeders will offer their dog the chicken with the head, feet, feathers, fur, and all.
Other prey model feeders prefer to offer the prey animal already cleaned. Similar to what you would buy for your own meal at the grocery store.
As a rule, the whole prey model does not include ingredients like fruits, veggies, yogurts, herbs, and other root plants.
This is because whole prey feeders believe dogs are carnivores, biologically designed to eat only meat.
Interestingly though, wolves will sometimes eat whatever vegetation is left in the stomachs of their kills.
BARF v. Whole Prey
Like I mentioned before, there's a lot of politics between the 2 groups. But I know of many raw feeders who successfully feed a mix of BARF and Whole Prey.
And in my opinion, it doesn't matter which one you go with. The end result is the same. A dog functioning at their optimum level mentally and physically.
At the end of the day, all we want is the best raw food for German Shepherds. Whether it BARF or Whole Prey is a personal choice and what works best for your GSD.
How Raw Feeding Works
The first thing to remember with raw feeding is, everything is balanced out over time.
Think of your own diet, do you painstakingly calculate the nutritional value of your daily food intake? Probably not. You eat healthily, take enough water and your body takes care of the rest.
And the same applies to your dog's diet. Don't split hairs over it.
That said, there are a few feeding guidelines to follow…
The calcium to phosphorus ratio should be 1:1. Meats provide the phosphorus and bones to provide the calcium.
Foods like eggs with shells, green tripe, and whole chicken are pretty balanced in these ratios.
Some fish, like Salmon, have a good balance too. And of course, if you're going to feed a whole prey animal, you're guaranteed a good 1:1 ratio.
Organ meats like kidneys and livers are important ingredients. But these should only make up 15% of your dog's diet. Feeding too much of these meats can cause runny, black poop.
Feeding the yucky parts of prey animals is okay too. Hearts, lungs, chicken or turkey feet, and green tripe are all great ingredients.
I don't feed fish or pork. But you can. If you do, just deep freeze these meats for at least 3 days.
Never feed the intestines of any prey animal. If there are any internal critters, that's where they'll be.
Cooked bones are off-limits. Raw bones are great! They are soft, flexible, and easily digested. The rule here is, the bone should be the size of your dog's head.
Weight-bearing bones are off-limits too. These bones are too hard and can damage your dog's teeth.
ALL meals involving whole bone must be supervised. And you should remove any bones when they start to break up. (To clarify here, if you're offering heavier bones for entertainment, these must be taken away when they begin to splinter.)
But if you're feeding say for example a duck carcass, you can let your dog enjoy the entire thing.
How Much to Feed
This is where I became unstuck…
When it came to feeding my dogs, all I knew was scooping the recommended amount of kibble from the bag and pouring it into their bowls.
But the feeding guidelines for raw are actually very simple!
The key is to always focus on the ideal adult body weight. And then adjust from there based on activity levels and age.
And the starting point is usually 3% on the IDEAL body weight.
So for example…
Lexi weighs 23 kg. So 3% is 690 g of food per day.
Zè weighs 36 kg. So 3% is roughly 1 kg of food per day.
When you're starting a puppy on a raw diet your focus should be on their ideal ADULT body weight.
Raw Food Ingredients
Like I mentioned earlier, no one meal is complete. But with healthy eating, a diet balances out over time.
Diversity is the key to balance, and it's easier than you think. And you'll be happy to know that diversity equals a whole bunch of saving for you.
This is how…
Pick up whatever meat cuts, veggies, and fruits that are on special. As long as you're opting for human-grade you're good to go.
Muscle meats are the same meat you and I eat. And these meats are your go-to for a raw diet. The great thing is your options are endless.
- Greet Tripe
These are mainly liver and kidneys. I lump hearts in here too, although it's muscle meat. The reason for this is because hearts can't be fed exclusively as muscle meat.
Yes, I've added grains here. I don't feed grains, but many raw feeders do. The difference is that the grains are human grade and you can control the portions.
Your dog's raw diet will still be made up primarily of meats and not grains.
Eggs are a superfood when it comes to calcium. You can feed the shell and all. Some raw feeders like to crush the shells. But my dogs love eating them whole.
Veggies and Fruit
Picking seasonal fruits and veggies are a great way to save money and diversify. Dark green veggies are especially healthy for the same reason they are for us – vitamin B.
These superfoods also help your dog to get the most from the food you're nourishing their bodies with.
Your dog's body can't fully digest veggies. So I put the raw veggies and fruits through the processor with the other ingredients. But you can steam or juice them too.
It's a fact that our bodies and our dogs are designed to get the most nutrition from seasonal fruits. And here you also have a ton of options.
Bones are not an optional extra, they are essential to your dog's raw diet. Remember that 1:1 ratio? Well, bone makes up the one half.
You can feed whole Raw Meaty Bones (RMB). But I send all the bone through the processor.
Bones are not only a great source of calcium, but they also stimulate your dog's need to rip, tear, gnaw, and chew. Because of this, I substitute 2 meals a week with a big RMB.
What to Expect
Making the switch is not rocket science but there are a few things you can expect. It's not to say these will happen, but I'll give you a heads up so you don't stress.
Firstly, fast your dog for 12 hours before feeding their first raw meal. This gives the stomach time to rid itself of the kibble and bring the stomach juices into balance.
Your dog might puke up their first raw meal. This is normal so don't split hairs. If they do vomit. Don't feed them again until their next meal. Charley and Lexi puked up their food but Zè kept his down. So it really depends from dog to dog.
You might see detox symptoms. This could possibly happen. Charley experienced detox but my young ones didn't. I believe it's because Charley lived on a kibble diet for the first 6 years of her life, while Lexi and Zè were on raw from 12 and 16 weeks.
Here are some of the detox symptoms:
- Gunky eyes.
- Smelly ears that needed regular cleaning.
- Smelly coat, more smelly than usual.
- Itchy skin, we managed to sooth this with natural dog shampoo.
Pre-Made Raw Food v. Home Made
This is a decision only you can make. Of course, it's more convenient to opt for pre-made raw food. And there are one or two trustworthy companies where you can buy your supply.
Opting for a homemade diet is more work and more commitment. It'll also cost you an initial financial layout for equipment that can handle the job.
But you will save money by sourcing your own ingredients. So at some point, the equipment will have paid for itself.
Preparing a homemade diet is what I opted for. I make around 76 kg (168 lbs) per month. Wow! That's a lot, I know.
But I'm in a routine now so it's rote. And I rope my hubby in to help!
So there you have it. This is my personal take on the best raw food for German Shepherds.
As you can see, I don't prefer the one over the other. Like I said earlier, you get the same results via different routes.
Quick Checklist to Judge a Premade Raw Dog Food and Company
You can safely use this short checklist to find the best raw food for German Shepherds.
- The ingredients must be human grade.
- All ingredients must be ethically sourced.
- Preferably small scale farmers or wild meat from remote areas.
- Companies that are able to tell you exactly where their ingredients come from.
- Companies that manufacture their food in small batches.
- Foods free from additives, hormones, and toxins.
I'm passionate about canine nutrition and I'm constantly studying new research and development in the field. I'd like to help you if you have any doubts or questions. So feel free to drop them in the comments below.