The best puppy food for one dog breed may not be right for another dog breed.
There is no one-size-fits-all recupe that will meet the needs of all puppy breeds equally, which means you need to choose your puppy’s food with great care!
In total, your puppy needs six categories of nutrients to thrive: water, protein, fat, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins.
Puppies also need more of these nutrients than same-breed adult dogs to ensure they grow up into healthy adult dogs.
Let’s take a look at the best puppy food options for your new dog.
The Top 5 Puppy Foods
- Pedigree Complete Nutrition Dry Recipe
- Wellness Complete Health Natural Canned Puppy Food
- Hill’s Science Large Breed Dry Recipe
- Purina Pro Plan Dry Puppy Food
- Orijen High Protein Grain Free Variety
Click the links above to jump straight to information about these brands. Or keep reading for a full overview of the best dog food for puppies.
Best Puppy Food Contents
- How much should a puppy eat?
- Puppy dietary requirements
- Wet puppy food
- Dry puppy food
- Grain-free puppy recipes
- Puppy food for large breeds
- Puppy food for small breeds
- Sensitive stomach puppy food
- Raw feeding puppies
Now let’s start by taking a look at how much a puppy should eat.
How Much Should a Puppy Eat?
For general purposes, newborn puppies typically require up to two times as much caloric energy as they will when they become adult dogs.
But the number of daily calories needed can vary tremendously between small breed puppies and large breed puppies!
For this reason, the best small breed puppy food will be formulated to support a puppy that will grow to reach her full adult size quite quickly – typically within the first 12 months of life.
In contrast, the best large breed recipe will be formulated to support a puppy that may take longer to reach his full adult size, which can sometimes take up to two or even three years.
Here, one of the main dangers is in feeding your puppy too many calories, thinking too much food is better than too little food. This is a very common but dangerous new puppy owner mistake!
We will discuss this more, further on in the article.
Puppy Dietary Requirements
As we mentioned before, your new friend needs six categories of nutrients to thrive: water, protein, fat, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins.
Ratios between each nutrient must also be complementary for your puppy’s growth to progress smoothly.
Protein and Vitamin D
Protein is one of the most essential nutrients for your puppy’s healthy growth.
Too little protein intake can impact how well your little pup’s skeleton grows. This is because protein contains all 10 of the essential amino acids your puppy needs but can’t manufacture on his own.
However, your pup also needs sufficient Vitamin D to metabolize these essential amino acids, so simply focusing on protein intake won’t be sufficient to ensure a healthy adult dog.
Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, which are largely derived from animal protein, play an essential role in developing eyesight, memory and other functions.
Having sufficient fatty acids is vital so your puppy is able to absorb and use the various vitamins and minerals necessary for her development.
For this reason, puppyhood is not a time to put your pooch on a low-fat diet, although you should also be wary of over-feeding dietary fats.
Carbohydrates are the most readily available source of energy for your puppy. Excess carbohydrate calories will be stored in the body as fat reserves.
Vitamins and Minerals
Your puppy also needs a variety of different vitamins and minerals in specific quantities to ensure proper growth and development.
Calcium, phosphorus, sodium, chloride, potassium and magnesium are among the most important minerals. Vitamins A, D, E, K, C and B-complex are some of the most critical vitamins.
Best Wet Puppy Food
The typical wet puppy food is loaded with moisture – as much as 80 percent with some brands. It usually comes in tins or pouches. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular options.
Wellness Complete Health “Just for Puppy” Natural Wet Canned Dog Food
This Wellness recipe has a very simple ingredients list: just natural protein, easily digestible fruits and veggies and vitamins and minerals.
This food is made in North America, and has no fillers or artificial preservatives.
Plus, it is available in various sizes – 24 x 6 ounce cans, or 12 x 12.5 ounce cans.
Hill’s Science Diet Wet Puppy Food
This Hill’s Science Diet puppy food is designed so you can transition your puppy seamlessly to the adult version at the age of one year.
This recipe is formulated to help your medium-sized puppy maintain ideal body weight all throughout puppyhood. If you have a miniature breed, or larger breed puppy, the size-specific sections further in this article may be more helpful.
NUTRO Puppy Natural Wet Food
The NUTRO puppy natural wet food comes in chicken or lamb flavors, and has a special third recipe designed for large breeds.
The main ingredient of this food is farm-raised protein. And each recipe has no wheat, corn, soy, or artificial colors and preservatives.
Best Dry Food for Puppies
Short of tasting your puppy’s kibble before you serve it, the best way to make sure you hit a home run on both is to purchase it in smaller quantities until your puppy picks a favorite.
Pedigree Puppy Food Growth and Protection
Pedigree puppy food is a trusted name, with a recipe that reflects the unique caloric and nutrient needs of puppies.
This food includes calcium, phosphorus, Omega-3 DHA and plenty of high quality protein to keep your puppy strong and healthy.
It even has a helpful puppy feeding guide on the back, so you can make sure you’re giving your pup the exact right amount.
EUKANUBA Puppy Growth Food
This Eukanuba recipe includes the brand’s proprietary fiber blend of prebiotics and beet pulp to support your puppy’s still-developing digestive system.
The recipe includes Omega-3 DHA from natural fish oil and plenty of vitamins and minerals.
Royal Canin Medium Puppy Dry Dog Food
Royal Canin puppy food has taken puppy food science to a new level with a variety of dry recipes for mini to maxi size puppies, adjusted in vitamins, minerals and nutrients for the unique nutritional needs of each dog breed.
It has a useful feeding guide table based on your puppy’s weight, and ingredients to promote healthy digestion.
Best Grain Free Puppy Food
While it is not always necessary to feed your puppy a grain-free diet, if your vet recommends it or your puppy seems to have a sensitive tummy, grain free puppy food can be a great option!
Wellness Complete Health Grain Free Puppy Food
Feeding your puppy a grain free puppy food like Wellness is a great way to ensure your pup gets the purest possible protein-rich diet.
This recipe uses high quality protein and all natural ingredients. It is designed to promote healthy skin, coat, and digestion, and boost energy.
Orijen Grain Free Puppy Formula
This Orijen puppy food is grain free option designed to offer a limited ingredient diet to support puppies’ still-developing digestive systems.
They use fresh, regional ingredients, and have a guide to transitioning from an old food.
Nulo Grain Free Puppy Food
The Nulo grain free puppy food is another great option if you’re looking for a high-protein diet for your puppy.
This recipe includes 80% animal-based protein, and supports healthy cognitive development.
It has two main protein flavors – turkey and salmon. So, you have a choice if your dog doesn’t like one!
Large Breed Puppy Food
It is a common misconception that large breed puppies need more of everything (and especially more protein) in order to grow up healthy. Large breed puppies don’t need more. They just need a large breed recipe that is specifically designed to meet their daily caloric and nutrient needs.
Hill’s Science Large Breed Dry Puppy Food
This premium puppy food is vet recommended for large breed dogs that are projected to reach at least 55 pounds when fully grown.
This Science Diet recupe is designed to meet the calcium, vitamin, mineral and caloric needs of large breed dogs.
But it also contains glucosamine and chondroitin to help develop strong muscles, ligaments and joints.
IAMS Proactive Health Dry Food for Large Puppies
This IAMS puppy food recipe is called “Smart Puppy” and is fortified with brain-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids to prove it.
This food is suitable for large breed puppies up to 24 months old, which reflects the slower growth rate of large breed dogs.
Purina Pro Plan Focus Large Breed Puppy Food
Pro Plan puppy food for large breed dogs is packed with nutrients, vitamins and minerals to help large breed puppies grow at an optimal rate for their adult size.
It has a helpful feeding guide based on your puppy’s weight. Plus, it comes in a large variety of flavors, so you can even please a fussy puppy!
Best Puppy Food for Small Breeds
Miniature and Toy breed puppy food is designed to meet their nutritional needs. But, it may also have other qualities, like small kibble size, to help your smaller puppy.
Let’s take a look.
Hill’s Science Dry Diet Dog Food for Small Breeds
Hill’s Science Diet puppy food is formulated precisely for the dietary needs of small and toy breed puppies.
It is offered in a 4.5-pound and a 15.5-pound bag.
The kibble is made smaller to make it easy to chew for small and toy breed puppy mouths. The recipe was created by veterinary nutritionists to meet the needs of puppies.
Bil Jac Small Breed Dry Puppy Food
The Bil Jac small breed dry recipe is another great option for smaller breeds. Its main ingredient is real protein, and it is designed to support a healthy immune system.
Plus, it includes no artificial fillers, gluten, or preservatives.
Purina Pro Plan Focus Small Breed Puppy Food
This Purina puppy food is chock-full of vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and nutrients to help your small breed puppy grow.
This food is designed for puppies who will weigh no more than 20 pounds when they are fully grown.
Sensitive Stomach Puppy Food
Natural and organic are two terms that are sometimes confused. Organic puppy food means that the recipe contains some or all organic ingredients.
But natural puppy food can mean different things. So be sure to read the manufacturer’s notes on the specific food to learn more.
Natural puppy food might help if your puppy has a sensitive stomach from certain ingredients. But be sure to check with your vet first.
Diamonds Naturals Real Chicken Puppy Food
This Diamond puppy food has plenty of antioxidants, Omega-3 DHA and vitamins and minerals to help your puppy grow.
This food is better for small breeds, thanks to its kibble size and nutritional buildup.
Purina Puppy Chow Natural Puppy Food
This Purina puppy food recipe focuses on providing your puppy with the natural ingredients, vitamins and minerals she needs to grow up healthy and strong.
This recipe uses real protein, and supports healthy digestion. So it can be a great option for a puppy with sensitive stomach issues.
Hill’s Ideal Balance Natural Dry Puppy Food
This Hill’s puppy food recipe includes eggs for natural fatty acids, brown rice for natural fiber and chicken for natural protein.
The rest is vitamins and minerals to give your puppy the best start in life. It is designed for healthy digestion, and a shiny coat!
Homemade Puppy Food
Many people choose to make their own puppy food – such as a raw diet.
Raw meat, organ meat and uncooked meat bones are all part of a raw puppy diet.
But here again, it is best to work with your vet to guard against possible food poisoning from spoiled meat, dental hazards from bone splinters and missing nutrients your pup needs.
Regardless of which type you decide to give your puppy, you should plan to take an initial weigh-in and then weigh your puppy weekly to make sure his weekly weight gain is on track for your puppy’s breed, age and vet recommendations.
Chronic overfeeding during the puppy months can result in an obese puppy or young adult dog.
It is vital to pick the best dog food for puppies that offers a balanced nutrient intake comprised of carbohydrates, fats and protein so your puppy will sidestep the risk of canine obesity in adulthood.
Adult size, coat thickness and length and temperament are all known influences in determining puppy growth rates.
A toy-size puppy may reach full adult size and weight as early as 9 months, while a giant puppy may take 15 months or longer to achieve the same.
It is always a good idea to work closely with your vet to be sure the puppy food you are offering results in balanced nutrients and a healthy growth rate.
To this end, your puppy should have regular checkups to be sure she is growing at a healthy rate (neither too slow nor too fast) and that her nutrient levels are meeting her daily growth needs.
Can Puppies Eat Adult Dog Food?
Puppies have special dietary needs that are quite different from what adult dogs require to stay healthy.
Because your pup is growing so quickly and using up so much energy each day, she won’t be able to get everything she needs from an adult dog food formula.
When in doubt, ask your vet for guidance.
Feeding a vet recommended puppy food can ease your mind about your puppy’s health as she grows.
Choosing Wet Vs Dry Food
Is the best dog food for puppies wet or dry?
This is such a common question that new puppy owners have!
And while it is easy to notice that you have a choice between wet vs dry food for puppies, it is far less easy to figure out which one you should choose. Or whether you should offer both types to your pup.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each type and find out!
Dry Kibble Pros
- In a typical weaning process, dry kibble will be what your puppy eats first. So it can serve as something familiar as your puppy adjusts to his new life with you.
- Kibble is great for training and interactive dog toy games, because it isn’t messy and you can transport and store it easily.
- Dry kibble is safe to leave out all day for free-feeding. But you should dispose of any uneaten kibble at least once daily.
- Kibble also tends to be the most economical choice when compared ounce for ounce with wet puppy food.
- A bag of kibble will definitely last longer once opened than a can or pouch of wet food.
- Kibble can help with keeping puppy teeth clean. Some puppy kibble is even designed to clean teeth while your puppy chews.
Dry Kibble Cons
- Kibble contains far less moisture (even if moistened) than wet varieties. So if your puppy isn’t drinking enough water, feeding dry options won’t help keep him hydrated.
- Crunching on kibble can be a bit painful during teething, which may cause your puppy to be less eager for meals.
- Kibble can spoil over time, even with the addition of preservatives. So it is important to pay attention to the expiration date on all dry puppy food.
- Finally, kibble often contains higher levels of carbohydrates, which act as a binder to hold all the ingredients together but aren’t as beneficial to your puppy’s nutritional needs.
Wet Food Pros
- So a major wet food benefit here is simply keeping your growing puppy hydrated. Wet food can almost seem like food and drink in one serving!
- Another major benefit to wet options is that it is extremely easy to eat, which can be a blessing when your puppy’s teeth and gums are sore from teething.
Wet Food Cons
- Wet food does nothing to help with teeth cleaning.
- Puppies will find it easy to wolf down a serving of wet dinner and look for more. Worried puppy owners can assume their puppy is still hungry and so they offer another serving, which leads to obesity.
- This option tends to be pricier than dry kibble, all else being equal.
- It also needs to be consumed more quickly to avoid spoilage. So stockpiling is a lot harder!
- Finally, wet food can contain a higher sugar content than dry kibble, because the sugar helps act as a binding agent with gelatin or other ingredients to hold the food together in a palatable form.
Sadly, there isn’t an easy answer. The best option for your little friend could be wet, dry or both!
Best Puppy Food
Finding the best puppy can be hard.
But we hope the information in this article has helped lessen your “new learning curve” and helped you find the best dog food for puppies.
Remember, by offering your new pup more than one brand of food, you can help her become comfortable with trying different foods throughout her life.
This will come in handy if she needs a special diet at any time, or if her “favorite” food suddenly becomes unavailable.
Here’s to happy puppyhood, and lots of tasty meals for your precious young pup to snarf up and enjoy!
And please let us know which the best choice is your home!
Feeding a Specific Breed?
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- Hawthorne, A., et al, “Body-weight changes during growth in puppies of different breeds.,” The Journal of Nutrition, 2004.
- Barrette, D., DVM, “Calcium and Phosphorus for Dogs and Cats,” Nutrition Alimentation/Canine Veterinary Journal, 1988.
- Beitz, D.C., et al, “Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats,” National Academy of Sciences, 2006.
- Larsen, J., DVM, PhD, DACVM, “Focus On Nutrition — Feeding Large-Breed Puppies,” American College of Veterinary Medicine/Life Stages Compendium, 2010.
- Elliott, D., BVSc (Hons), PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, Dipl. ACVN, “Nutritional considerations for optimal puppy growth- Part 1,” Vet Grad, 2012.