German Shepherd Feeding & Nutritional Needs

German Shepherd Feeding & Nutritional Needs

A normal life and working capacity of service dogs largely depends on their proper feeding. Correct feeding means nutrition that is carried out according to physiologically sound standards for nutrient requirements, complete and balanced diets subject to the feeding regimen.

Proper feeding has a decisive effect on health, growth, development, body type, and weight. A huge role is played by proper feeding in breeding in order to improve already existing, and to create new breeds and types of dogs.

Proper feeding of dogs is possible only by regulating quantity and quality of feed given, considering the physiological need for nutrients. Both inadequate nutrition and over-nutrition of dogs is harmful and unprofitable. It adversely affects germ cells, fetal development, a fetus, and offspring quality.

German shepherd’s nutritional needs

Service dogs require a certain amount of energy for life, protein and amino acids, carbohydrates, fats (lipids) and fatty acids, minerals (macro and micronutrients) and vitamins.

The need for energy

Energy is necessary for functioning of internal organs, maintaining muscle tone and movement, a certain body temperature, etc. Energy is generated from proteins, fats and carbohydrates and determines the overall level of nutrition, which is characterized by the amount of gross energy expressed in kilojoules (kJ). It was found that 1 g of protein during oxidation in body releases 16.7 kJ, 1 g of fat – 37.7 kJ and 1 g of carbohydrates – 15.7 kJ of energy (4.186 kJ = 1 kcal of energy).

The energy requirement depends on dog’s body weight, ambient temperature, coat condition, gender, age, constitution, muscular work, physiological state (whelping, lactation, etc.) Daily energy demand decreases during the hot season and increases by an average of 15 percent during the cold season. Male species spend more energy than females, and young dogs spend more than old ones. Dry, muscular dogs also spend more energy than dogs of a loose constitution and fat. The energy requirement of dogs with mild excitability is also greater than of phlegmatic.

Calorie intake should be increased for male and female speciesbefore mating, female puppies and lactating female species. The harder the work performed by a dog, the higher the energy requirement will be consumed. For example, the moderate work of service dogs increases energy costs by 20-30 percent. The amount of energy spent on work depends on the degree of training and the breed of a dog. The value of dogs’ energy needs is influenced by their reaction to surrounding space, landscape. The average energy requirements for dogs are presented in Table 1. The lack of energy in the diet leads to emaciation, while excess leads to obesity.

Adult dogs nutritional needs

Dog’s sizeLive weight, kgPer 1 kg of live weight, kJ
Very small1—5460
Large 20—30250
Very large30—60 220

Junior dogs nutritional needs

AgePer 1 kg of live weight, kJ
1-4 weeks920
1-3 months1110
3-4 months840
4-8 months570
8-12 months420

The need for protein

Protein for dogs is necessary for building protein and renewing worn body tissues, formation of milk protein for lactating purposes, etc. Due to the lack of protein in the diet, growth and development of puppies is delayed, breeding functions are impaired, nutritional nutrients are impaired, and body’s resistance to disease is reduced. Excess protein in the diet is also harmful to a dog. For dogs, the optimal need in protein is: for adults – 4.5 g, for juniors – 9.0 g per 1 kg of live weight. For service dogs,the need for protein with average work increases by about 30 percent. For adult dogs, the need for protein is affected by weakness, lactation of female species, increased sexual use of males, etc.

The need for carbohydrates

Carbohydrates (sugar, starch, fiber, etc.) serve as an important source of energy, in addition, fiberstimulates intestinal motility. The optimal dog’s need for carbohydrates is: for adults – 10 g, including fiber – 1 g, for junior – 15.8 g, including fiber – 1.5 g per 1 kg of live weight. For adult dogs, the need for carbohydrates is inversely proportional to the content of fat in the diet. Excess dietary sugar and starch leads to obesity.

The need for lipids (fat)

The value of fat in feeding is determined by the content of vital fatty acids in it, which are the part of the body’s cells, and its high calorie content. The optimal fat requirement for an adult is 1.32 g, for junior – 2.64 g per 1 kg of live weight. With the lack of fat in the diet, there are observed problems as growth retardation, impaired reproduction, hypovitaminosis, skin diseases such as dermatitis, hyperkeratosis, desquamation, hair depigmentation, etc. Excess fat in the diet is also harmful.

The need for vitamins

Vitamins A, D, E, K, group B, etc. must be also present in the diet. If they are deficient in food, severe diseases such as hypovitaminosis are observed. The need in vitamin A is 100-200 IE (IE – international units per gr.), D — 7-20 IE, E — 2.0-2.2 mg, C — 1-1.5 mg, B1-0, 02-0.03 mg, B2-0.04-0.09 mg per 1 kg of live weight (the minimum value for adult, the maximum forjunior).

Due to the lack of vitamin A in the diet, dogs have impaired vision, reproduction, growth retardation, and a decrease in resistance to various diseases. There is a lot of vitamin A in milk, fish oil, and liver. Plant foods (carrots, herbs, etc.) contain provitamin A – carotene, which in the wall of the small intestine converts into vitamin and accumulates in the liver.

Due to the lack of vitamin D, puppies may have rickets, adult dogs may have painful softening of bones and atrophy of bone tissue. D-vitamin deficiencies appear most often with the luck of sunlight. Vitamin D is abundant in fish oil and liver. In case of deficiency of the vitamin E, there could be such problems as a breach of breeding functions, which leads to infertility. In case of female species, soon after fertilization, subsequently, a fetus dies. The rich sources of vitamin E are vegetables, various greens, sprouted cereal grains, etc.

Due to the lack of vitamin K dogs may suffer from subcutaneous hemorrhage (hemorrhage in neck, chest, legs). Cabbage, spinach, pumpkin, and tomatoes are rich in Vitamin K. Vitamin C protects dogs from scurvy diseases (joint swelling, etc.). Sources of vitamin C are vegetables, sauerkraut, which is also included in the diet.

Due to the lack of B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, etc.), dogs may have muscle weakness, impaired coordination of movements, paralysis, cramps, hair loss and depigmentation, dermatitis, skin peeling, etc. Many B vitamins can be found in yeast, liver, cottage cheese, milk, wholemeal flour, potatoes, cauliflower, etc.

The need for minerals

Mineral elements are essential components of dog food. Dogs require macrocells: calcium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, chlorine, magnesium; of trace elements: iron, copper, cobalt, zinc, manganese and iodine. The need for adult dogs for calcium is 264 mg, phosphorus – 220, sodium – 60, chlorine – 180, potassium – 220, magnesium – 11, iron – 1.32, copper – 0.16, cobalt – 0.05, zinc – 0.11 and iodine – 0.03 mg per 1 kg of live weight. Young species need mineral elements 2 times more.

Due to the lack of calcium and phosphorus in the ration, puppiesmay suffer from rickets, adult species may have softening and brittle bones. The lack of sodium and chlorine (sodium chloride) causes loss of appetite, decreased secretion of gastric juice and impaired absorption of protein and feed energy. The need in table salt is: 375 mg for adults and 530 mg per 1 kg of live weight for young species. Due to the lack of potassium and magnesium in the feed, there is an increased excitability and an upset of cardiac activity. Dogs need iron, copper, and cobalt to form haemoglobin, as well as other blood components. Due to the lack of food for these elements, dogs may have anaemia. Deficiency in the diet of zinc, causes a sharp slowdown in growth and puberty, loss of taste and smell, dermatitis. Due to the lack of manganese feed, female species may give birth to dead or non-viable offspring. The iodine deficiency causes goiter (overgrowth of the thyroid gland) and, as a result, female speciesgive birth to weak puppies.

The common external sign of the deficiency of minerals in feed is a perverted appetite (eating various refuse, plaster, dogs gnawing stones, wooden objects, etc.).

The need for water

The lack of water is carried by a dog even harder than the lack of food. The need for drinking water is 40 ml for adult dogs, 80-120 ml per 1 kg of live weight for young dogs. The need for water depends on nature of feeding, the season of the year, work performed, etc. The need for water increases after hard work, as well as during the hot period of year.

Drinking water for dogs should be clean, transparent, odourless, not too cold. Water can be a source of infection for dogs with infectious diseases, therefore, it is not recommended to drink it from small standing reservoirs, small rivers flowing through settlements.

Feed products for dogs

For feeding purposes, there are mainly used meat and meat offal, cereals and bread, potatoes and vegetables. Puppies, young species, female puppies and lactating female species are fed with eggs, milk,and cottage cheese. In addition to these products, you can feed them with fish, table leftovers, canned food, and various feed additives. The composition and nutritional value of fodder products for dogs are given in Table 2.

Meat is the most nutritious food. The most often used food for dogs is horsemeat and lower grades of beef and lamb. Raw meat is healthier than boiled meat. It is better to use lean meat. Fatty meat (pork, etc.) causes dyspepsia. You can feed them with corned beef, but it should be soaked well and fed with boiled cereals and vegetables. Raw meat of sea animals is used to feed sled dogs. The daily norm of meat for dogs depends on age, sex, weight, physiological condition, and the work performed. The approximate norm of meat for adult service dogs with an average load is 400 g, 50-200 g for puppies starting from 20 days of age to two months, 200-400 g from two to four months, 400-500 g from four to six months, and 500-600 g per day from six months to one year.

Meat offal – liver, lungs, scars, heads, etc. have less nutritional value than meat in 1.5-2 times.

Bones are waste from sausage production which are fed to dogs from two to three months of age. A long absence of bones in the diet leads to a general weakening of the dog’s skeleton. Bones are used for boiling chowder, soup, as an additional food and raw treats.

Meat and bone meal is a source of high-quality protein and minerals. It is fed to adult dogs up to 100 g per day.

Milk can replace a part of meat, it is especially valuable for puppies, female puppies, and lactating female species, as well as sick and malnourished dogs. Milk is fed raw. Puppies are given milk starting from the age of 15 days (with insufficient milk yield of lactating female species and large litters – earlier) starting from 50 g and up to three months of age, the norm is brought to 400-500 g per day. Sheep and lactating female species can be fed with milk up to 1 litre per day. Skim milk (reverse) is fed to adult service dogs in pasteurized or boiling form up to 1 litre per day instead of meat.

They begin to give cottage cheese to puppies from the suction period and they gradually train them starting from 20 g per day and they increase the norm up to 50-100 g by six months. All dairy products cannot be stored in galvanized dishes.

Composition and energy value (nutritional value) of dog food (per 100 g of product, g)

Food productProteinsFatsCarbohydratesCelluloseEnergy, kJInedible part, %
Meat Category 2 20.27,060218
Canned whale meat 35,55,0804
Animal fats0,399,73753
Meat and bone meal47,78,52,91175
Cow’s milk2,83,24,7243
Low-fat cottage cheese18,00,61,5360
Private bream fish17,41,334745
Fish flour55,03,01057
Fish fat100,03980
Flour: Rye8,81,473,41,11356
Flour: Wheat11,01,372,30,81368
Flour: Barley10,01,671,51,51347
Bread: Rye5,60,944,40,7841
Bread: Wheat7,91,048,50,3946
Groats: Oat11,95,865,42,81444
Groats: Semolina11,30,773,30,21364
Groats: Rice7,00,677,30,41351
Groats: Millet12,02,969,30,71397
Groats: Barley10,41,371,71,41346
Oat flakes13,16,265,71,31485
Fresh potato2,00,119,71,034725
Fresh cabbage1,85,40,711720

Fish along with meat is the source of high-grade protein. Service dogs usually are fed with fresh, boiled, and sun-dried fish. While feeding dogs with fish, you should be careful about bones. Fish cannot completely replace meat products; this food should be alternated with meat. Dogs are fed with fishmeal. The one that is most suitable for feed contains not more than 10 percent fat and 22 percent ash. It is fed in limited quantities. Puppies are given no more than 20 g, adult dogs – 50 g per day. Vitamin-rich fish oil is also used to feed dogs. Most often it is given to puppies in order to avoid rickets. During puppy feeding period, it is given a few drops per day, at the age of two months – a teaspoon, then the dose is increased to a tablespoon per day. Fish oil is also fed to female puppies and lactating females in the amount of 30-40 g, for malespecies during the mating season – 20-30 g per day.

From animal feed, puppies, sick and lactating female species, sick dogs, and male species during mating are fed with chicken eggs.

Animal fats are lard, oil, and artificial food fat are given to dogs during the cold season, in addition to a diet of 20-30 g per day.

The standard of plant-based feeds in dog diets accounts for about 70 percent of daily calories.

Bread is fed both rye and wheat. The daily bread norm is 200-300 g for adult dogs, 100-150 g for puppies from one to six months. Bread is added to milk, stew, soup, and given in its natural form. It is better to feed stale bread. Rusks are slightly pre-soaked.

Cereals such as oat, semolina, millet, barley, rice, etc. are the basis of the diet. The best cereal is oatmeal. The daily norm of cereals is 300-400 g for adult dogs, 30-50 g for puppies during their feeding age, 80-150 g from one to three months, 200-300 g from four to six months. Before cooking, oat and barley groats are necessary to be crushed or soaked with cold water for 6-8 hours.

Potatoes and vegetables are carrots, beets, cabbage (fresh and pickled), as well as lettuce, sorrel, spinach, nettle, tops of young carrots and beets, etc., in dog diets should contain about 10 percent of the daily calories. They are sources of vitamins, easily digestible carbohydrates, minerals, organic acids, and fiber. Potatoes are fed boiled. Before cooking it must be washed. The daily dose of potatoes for an adult service dog is 200 g, 20-30 g for puppies in during their feeding age, 80-100 g from one to three months, 100-120 g from three to six months. It is better to feed potatoes in soup, stew, in the form of mashed potatoes. Carrots are given raw, beets are cooked. Salad, spinach, tops, young nettles are crushed, poured with hot water and fed as additives to the diet (soup). The approximate daily norm of vegetables and herbs (without potatoes) is about 100 g for adult dogs, 20-30 g for puppies in their feeding age, 50-70 g from one to three months, 80-100 g from three to six months. Vegetables and greens should be fresh, not sluggish, not mouldy, without extraneous odours. Before feeding, these foods should be washed well in clean water.

Food residues are fed to dogs according to mandatory compliance of sanitary rules. They should be fresh, not contaminated, from the remnants of home food or a certain dining room. They must be viewed, boiled and fed chilled. It is necessary to ensure that there are no sharp bones, a large amount of vinegar, mustard, pepper in the table remains.

Feed additives are yeast, vitamin preparations, bone meal, calcium phosphate, glycerophosphate, finely crushed dried egg shells, salt, etc. which are the sources of vitamins and minerals. Fodder, baker’s and brewer’s yeast contain B vitamins and are fed to male species during the mating period – 20-30 g, 5-10 g per day for puppies. Vitamin preparations are most often fed to female puppies and lactating female species, and male puppies in accordance with the instructions for their use. Bone meal is given to adult dogs 10–20 g per day, 4 g for puppies in their feeding age, 10 g from one to three months, 13 g per day from three to six months. Calcium phosphate (pre-cypitate), or glycerophosphate, or small-crushed eggshells are fed to males, female puppies and lactating female species, 2-3 g per feed, and 0.5-1 g per day to puppies. Salt is added to the diet in the amount of 10-15 g for adult dogs of average size, 20 g for large, 0.5 g for puppies in their feeding age, 5 g from one to three months, and 8 g per day from three to six months.

Canned food provides dogs with complete feeding, it is convenient for storage and does not require much time for preparation. They are meat, meat and cereal. Canned meat is fed to adult dogs as a part of a diet consisting of cereals, vegetables, and other products. Canned meat and meat products are used as a product that provides the dog with complete nutrients, except for vitamins, which are added to the diet according to the norms.

Rules and regimen for feeding dogs

Dogs are fed according to rations (Table 3). A ration is a daily set of feed products that provides a physiological norm for the need of dogs for nutrients.

For example, a service dog weighing 30 kg with an average work per day requires: energy of 7500 kJ plus 1500 kJ for the work to be done, protein 135 g, fat 39.6 g, carbohydrates 300 g, calcium 7920 mg, phosphorus 6600 mg, etc. In order to meet this need, a dog needs to feed: 400 g of horsemeat, 425 g of cereals, 200 g potatoes, 100 g of vegetables, 10 g of animal fat and 15 g of table salt per day.

Approximate feed ration for an adult dog (live weight 30 kg, average work):

Diet composition   The amount of edible feed per day, gr. The diet contains
Energy, kJ Proteins Fats Carbohydrates Calcium Phosphorus
Standard: Horsemeat Sea fish Oat groats Potatoes Cabbage Carrot Animal fat Bone flour Table salt — 300 100 425 150 40 40 10 30 15 9000 1506 347 6137 520 47 55 375 — — 135 62,7 17,4 50,5 3,0 0,7 0,5 — — — 39,6 12,3 1,3 24,6 0,1 — — 9,9 — — 300 — — 278 30 2 3 — — — 7920 39 27 272 15 20 20 — 7800 — 6600 555 216 1483 87 12 22 — 4200 —
Total: 8987 134,8 48,2 313 8193 6575

The correct diet is considered when after feeding dogs have average substance and constant body mass. If dogs lose weight, it means that there is not enough food, they are getting fat, then the ration should be reduced. Compliance with the requirements of the norms of feeding is the main condition for good nutrition.

It is necessary to monitor the appetite of dogs. Its deterioration testifies to the wrong diet. The diet should be diversified, this is achieved by changing meat products, cereals and vegetables. A weekly feed layout is used in order to diversify the diet.

Many departments of our country are guided by the following standards for feeding service dogs with feed products (per head per day, g):

Oat groats, wheat, etc.600g
Meat Category 2 or horsemeat400g
Meat offal of the 2nd category instead of meat or horsemeat1000g
Animal fat13g
Potatoes, vegetables300g
Table salt15g

The practice of feeding dogs established the following average norms of feeding per day for a service dog weighing 25-30 kg, with an average workload and keeping in an unheated room, 400 g of meat, 400 of cereal, 200 of potatoes, 100 of vegetables, 200 of bread, 20 animal fat, and 15-20 g of table salt. The dog’s need for food depends on its age, temperament, workload, season, gender, etc. In comparison with the summer period, even more food is needed during the winter period. The need for it increases during the period of intensive training. Female puppies and lactating femalespecies need more feed.

When replacing meat with offal, their amount increases by 1.5–2 times, considering calories. There are used more cheaper groats – oat, barley, and millet. Sick dogs are given rice and semolina.

Foods prepared for dogs should be tasty with an expressed goodsmell. This affects the digestion and absorption of nutrients in the diet. In conditions of group keeping in kennels and schools of official dog breeding, there are special kitchens equipped for preparing feed. The feed is prepared in the form of a thick soup and liquid porridge. Before distribution, it is cooled to the temperature of 30–35°C, during the summer period to the temperature of the outside air in shade. The amount of feed in one feeding depends on the size of a dog, its appetite and physical activity. Each dog must be provided with an individual feeding trough and a snare. For this purpose, departmental nurseries use the utensils made of stainless metal. Amateur dog breeders use an appropriate volume of aluminium or enamel bowls, fortified for stability in low wooden supports that are easy to make yourself (Figure 29).

Reinforced feeder and drinker
Reinforced feeder and drinker

Feeders are cleaned after each feeding, water traps are constantly kept, especially during the hot season. 

In camp conditions, when cooking is impossible, service dogs are fed with biscuits, canned goods and concentrates. The methods for handling these feeds are usually indicated in the attached instructions. For several days, for example, along the route, it is quite possible to feed a dog with bread, bread with milk, bread with water, and breadcrumbs soaked in water. It is necessary to strictly observe the feeding regime for dogs: the time and number of food cottages, as well as the quantitative and qualitative distribution of food during the day. Adult service dogs are fed 2 times a day, in the morning and in the evening, 1-2 hours before the start of their work and 1 hour after its completion. Feeding time for dogs is set depending on the daily routine of her work. If a dog works only early in the morning, it is advisable to feed it for the first time after returning from work, giving it a preliminary rest, and the second time in the evening.

Guard dogs that are set up at roadblocks at night are fed once in the evening, two hours before they are posted, and a second time in the morning, after being removed from the post and having a short rest. The weight separation of feed during the day is producedequally.

In the period of mating and lactation, females should be fed 3-4 times, young dogs at least 5 times a day. For example, with three meals a day during the summer period, the feed ration is distributed as follows: in the morning at 6 hours – 35 percent, in the afternoon at 12 hours – 25 percent, in the evening at 19 hours – 40 percent of the daily ration.

Feeding of breeding female species has its own characteristics. In the period of preparation for breeding, female species, especially those with excess live weight, should include more vegetable products (rap, rutabaga, carrots, cabbage, pumpkin, etc.), adding a small amount of meat and offal. From 5-6 week, the nutritional value of the diet for female species doubles, mainly due to meat products, fish, cottage cheese, and mineral supplements — a mixture consisting of calcium glycerophosphate, calcium lactate, feed chalk, phytin and activated charcoal. In the last two weeks of feeding, the frequency of feeding increases up to 4-5 times. The nutritional value of the diet of lactating female species in the first two weeks should be 2.5 times, and at 3-4 weeks 3 times higher than usual. The diet includes milk, cottage cheese, pumpkin, zucchini, tomato juice, herbs, ascorbic acid tablet with glucose and a mineral mixture of 1/2 teaspoon once a day with food

The only food for puppies in their first two weeks of life is milk of female species. In case of usual litter (3–6 puppies) and with abundance of milk from female species, feeding should be started at two weeks of age. As concerns large litters (8–12 puppies), feeding should be started at one week of age. A sign of puppy’s satiety is a calm sleep, while hungry puppies are worried, they crawl and whine.

The only food for puppies in their first two weeks of life is milk of female species. In case of usual litter (3–6 puppies) and with abundance of milk from female species, feeding should be started at two weeks of age. As concerns large litters (8–12 puppies), feeding should be started at the age of the week. A sign of puppy’s satiety is a calm sleep, while hungry puppies are worried, they crawl and whine.

People begin to feed puppies with fresh cow milk, warmed up to 25-30°C. 1 raw chicken egg per 0.5-1 liter is added to milk. First, milk is fed from a regular bottle with a pacifier, later puppies are taught to drink (lap) from a small bowl or saucer. From this time on, a little white bread is added to the milk and liquid milk porridges from semolina are given, adding one fresh chicken egg for 5-6 puppies.

The amount of milk must be normalized: first, give a little less faceted glass, then 1 glass, later 2-3 glasses.

From the age of two weeks, it is useful to feed puppies with raw fresh meat in the form of minced meat or thinly minced. In the first days people give them 15–20 g, gradually increase the meat norm and bring it to 40–50 g by the age of three weeks, and by 100 to one month. It is necessary to feed puppies with meat 3-4 times a day, in equal portions, after they had a milk from lactating female dog.

From the age of three weeks, puppies should be given a rice decoction, and liquid semolina porridge with milk starting from 30-50 g, brought to 200-250 g per day by one-and-a-half-month ageand fed in 3-4 doses.

From three to four weeks they begin to give meat broth, and then meat soup without meat 3-4 times a day. Starting from one month of age, puppies are given boiled finely chopped meat 2 times a day for 15-25 g. The puppies are taken away from female species at one-and-a-half-month age gradually over a period of 5 days. By this time, puppies should be accustomed to conventional feed products. Their feeding should be normalized by energy, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins. The diet includes full-fledged feeds: meat, fish, milk, rice, semolina, crushed oatmeal, white bread, etc. (see the section “Feed products for dogs”). As vitamin feed people give them vegetables, herbs, and fish oil. From mineral feeds, they give them bone meal, chalk, calcium phosphate or calcium glycerophosphate and vitamin D are added to the feed to prevent rickets. It is useful to give liver in small portions.

Puppies should be fed with benign food, a little, but often. Food should be prepared for each feeding and fed to puppies in the form of soup and liquid porridge. Until two months of age, puppies are fed 6 times of 150-200 g of feed, from two to four months 5 times of 300-400 g, from four to five months 4 times of 500-600 g and from five to six months 4–3 times of 600–1000 g of feed per feeding. Do not give to puppies hot or cold food, it should be a little warm. A puppy must eat a full portion of food. From the age of six months puppies are gradually transferred to the diet of adult dogs and fed 2 times a day.

One of the indicators of full puppy feeding is an age-related increase in their body weight.

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