Choosing a food for your puppy can be a daunting task. There are so many factors that go into picking out the very best option for your growing puppy.
At A Glance: Our Top 5 Picks for Dog Food for Puppies:
- Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Puppy Dog Food – Our Top Pick
- Taste of the Wild Grain-Free Premium Puppy Food
- Castor & Pollux Organix Grain Free Organic Puppy Food
- Nutro Grain Free Wet Puppy Food
- Nature’s Recipe Grain Free Puppy Food
We know new pet parents are busy, so we’ve put together a comprehensive guide of the best dog food for puppies to make the process a little simpler for you.
Best Dog Food for Puppies
|Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Puppy Dog Food||• DHA & ARA for brain and eye development|
• Antioxidant-rich ingredients
|Taste of the Wild Grain-Free Premium Puppy Food||• Buffalo is the #1 ingredient|
• Formulated with probiotics and antioxidants
|Castor & Pollux Organix Grain Free Organic Puppy Food||• Made with organic, free-range chicken|
• Packed with superfoods like flaxseed and blueberries
|Nutro Grain Free Wet Puppy Food||• Chicken and sweet potato recipe|
• Made with non-GMO ingredients
|Nature’s Recipe Grain Free Puppy Food||• Chicken is the #1 ingredient|
• Grain-free for sensitive stomachs
|Diamond Naturals High Protein Puppy Food||• Made with cage-free chicken|
• Family owned and run business
|Merrick Dry Classic Grains Puppy Food||• Deboned chicken is the #1 ingredient|
• Potato-free recipe
|Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Puppy Food||• Complete and balanced nutrition|
• Deboned chicken, salmon, and oatmeal flavor
|Instinct Rawboost Grain Free Recipe Puppy Food||• Kibble containing freeze-dried raw mix-ins|
• No grain, soy, potato, corn or wheat
|Purina Pro Plan Dry Puppy Food||• Real chicken is the first ingredient|
• Rich with antioxidants
Best Overall Puppy Food
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Puppy Dog Food
- DHA & ARA for brain and eye development
- Meat is the #1 ingredient
- Antioxidant-rich ingredients
- Supports muscle growth
Blue Buffalo puppy food features meat as the first ingredient to provide a meal filled with quality nutrition. Chicken helps to build a puppy’s muscles, while wholesome grains and garden fruits and veggies offer benefits for overall wellness.
Life Protection Formula puppy food is formulated with DHA for brain development, as well as ARA for eye health. Blue Buffalo puppy food is made up of small kibble bites chock full of antioxidants, vitamins, and flavor.
Top ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Oatmeal, Barley, Menhaden Fish Meal (source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids), Peas, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Flaxseed (source of Omega 6 Fatty Acids)
Customer Review: “My 15-week old Cairn Terrier loves this puppy food from Blue Buffalo. It’s providing all the nutrients required for healthy growth. I recommend this choice for those with that new family member! Woof!”
Best Grain-Free Puppy Food
Taste of the Wild Grain-Free Premium Puppy Food
- Buffalo is the #1 ingredient
- Made in the USA
- Formulated with probiotics and antioxidants
- No grain, corn, wheat or fillers
Taste of the Wild is a premium dog food for growing puppies. Each bite-sized kibble piece is full of nutritional value and flavor. Made with pasture-raised bison and venison, your puppy is sure to devour their meal!
Taste of the Wild is made in the USA with ingredients from trusted, sustainable sources. This protein-rich food is formulated with quality probiotics, antioxidants, and vitamins to ensure your puppy grows to be healthy and strong.
Top ingredients: Buffalo, lamb meal, sweet potatoes, egg product, pea protein, peas, potatoes, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), tomato pomace, roasted bison, roasted venison, beef.
Customer Review: “We’ve been feeding our Rottweiler this product from day one. He’s 3 months old right now and his coat is so shiny, and he doesn’t get bloated. We have this order on auto-ship every month 1/2 and we can’t say enough good things.”
Best Organic Puppy Food
Castor & Pollux Organix Grain Free Organic Puppy Food
- Made with organic, free-range chicken
- Packed with superfoods like flaxseed and blueberries
- No chemicals, hormones or artificial preservatives
- Certified USDA organic
Castor & Pollux Organix closely followed the USDA National Organic Program regulations to bring pet parents a premium food for puppies. Free-range chicken is the first ingredient in this organic puppy food, and it doesn’t contain any pesticides, antibiotics, preservatives or added growth hormones.
Castor & Pollux Organix puppy food is made with fine organic ingredients. It’s formulated with superfoods as well as DHA for brain development. If you’re looking for a puppy food of uncompromised quality, this is truly a fantastic option. Dog parents will pay a little more for this food, but with that cost comes extraordinary nutrition and exceptional taste.
Top ingredients: Organic Chicken, Organic Chicken Meal, Organic Sweet Potatoes, Organic Chickpeas, Organic Peas, Organic Tapioca, Organic Pea Protein, Organic Sunflower Seed Meal, Organic Coconut Oil
Customer Review: “I love feeding my Lhasa Apso puppy this food he has so much energy that he plays almost all day then sleeps all night. His teeth are such a pretty shade of white.”
Best Wet Puppy Food
Nutro Grain Free Wet Puppy Food
- Chicken and sweet potato recipe
- Made with non-GMO ingredients
- No corn, wheat, soy or chicken by-product meal
- Real chicken is the #1 ingredient
Nutro wet puppy food is filled with tender bites of chicken, sweet potatoes, and peas. This chunky and delicious food is made with non-GMO ingredients, and it doesn’t contain any corn, wheat, soy, or chicken by-product meal. Nutro wet puppy food is made in the USA with quality ingredients for balanced nutrition.
Nutro is crafted to provide puppies with exceptional nutrition that will meet all of their growing needs. If you’re looking to spice up your puppy’s mealtime, try mixing some wet and dry food together.
Top ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Broth, Pork Broth, Sweet Potatoes, Chicken Liver, Peas, Pork Plasma, Pea Fiber
Customer review: “My pup loves these. The portion size and ingredients seem to work well and the vegetables and meat are visible.”
Nature’s Recipe Grain Free Puppy Food
- Chicken is the #1 ingredient
- Grain-free for sensitive stomachs
- Sweet potato and pumpkin recipe
Nature’s Recipe makes a budget-friendly, yet delectable food for puppies. The grain-free sweet potato and pumpkin recipe is packed with vitamins, minerals, and dense carbohydrates. Chicken is the first ingredient to provide maximum muscle support and development.
Nature’s Recipe grain-free puppy food is excellent for high energy and growing puppies. It’ll provide everything your puppy needs in a nutritious meal.
Top ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal, garbanzo beans, peas, pea starch, poultry fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), sweet potatoes, pumpkin
Customer Review: “We are fostering a puppy. And she’s very young. This puppy food is easy on her digestion.”
Diamond Naturals High Protein Puppy Food
- Available in small and large breed varieties
- Made with cage-free chicken
- Family owned and run business
- Probiotics support healthy digestion
Made with high quality, cage-free chicken, this puppy food from Diamond Naturals has everything your puppy needs for optimal growth. A blend of antioxidants, superfoods, and fatty acids work together to help your puppy with muscle, brain, and vision development. Fatty acids specifically keep your puppy’s skin and coat shiny.
Diamond Naturals comes in both small and large breed puppy varieties so you can make the best choice for your furry friend.
Top ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal, ground white rice, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), pea protein, egg product, cracked pearled barley
Customer Review: “My Chihuahua puppies love this, and it is small enough for their tiny mouths. I love this brand because the good ingredients make it much better than other choices out there.”
Merrick Dry Classic Grains Puppy Food
- Deboned chicken is the #1 ingredient
- Potato-free recipe
- Contains DHA for brain development
- Formulated with glucosamine
Merrick dry puppy food is a great option for your bouncy puppy. It’s a lower glycemic option, as the food is made without potatoes, peas or lentils. Merrick puppy food also contains DHA for healthy brain development.
This puppy food contains quinoa for healthy digestion and glucosamine for joint and muscle support. And don’t forget the Omega fatty acids to keep your puppy’s skin and coat looking healthy.
Top ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Barley, Oatmeal, Chicken Fat, Dried Egg Product, Salmon Meal, Turkey Meal, Quinoa
Customer Review: “My puppy was eating some generic puppy food from the breeder, and when she got the Merrick puppy food she ate like she had not tasted anything so good!”
Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Puppy Food
- Made in the USA
- Complete and balanced nutrition
- No wheat, corn or soy
- Deboned chicken, salmon, and oatmeal flavor
Wellness Complete Health Puppy food is chock full of premium natural ingredients to bring your pal a complete and balanced meal. It’s a reduced-calorie recipe to satisfy your puppy’s hunger while maintaining a proper weight.
Wellness Complete Health Puppy food is made in the USA with trusted ingredients. The food does not contain any corn, wheat, soy, or artificial preservatives. Your puppy will drool over the chicken, salmon, and oatmeal flavor and surely beg for more!
Top ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Oatmeal, Ground Barley, Salmon Meal (a source of DHA – Docosahexaenoic Acid), Ground Brown Rice, Canola Oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols, a natural source of Vitamin E), Tomato Pomace, Rice Bran, Tomatoes, Natural Chicken Flavor, Rye Flour, Carrots, Spinach, Sweet Potatoes, Apples, Blueberries
Customer Review: “I bought a different meal choice – salmon. My puppy enjoys it. I like the smell and size of the nuggets. They are small and easy for my puppy to break up in pieces to eat.”
Instinct Rawboost Grain Free Recipe Puppy Food
- Kibble containing freeze-dried raw mix-ins
- Cage-free chicken is the #1 ingredient
- No grain, soy, potato, corn or wheat
- Made in the USA
Instinct Rawboost grain-free puppy food combines kibble and raw to create a delicious food option for Fido. In each bag of Instinct, there are freeze-dried raw pieces that add nutrition and texture to each meal of the day.
Instinct is made in the USA from the finest ingredients. This formula does not contain any corn, wheat, soy, potatoes or by-product meal. You can trust that your puppy is eating quality food if you choose this unique food from Instinct.
Top ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Peas, Egg Product, Tapioca, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid), Chickpeas, Freeze Dried Chicken, Salmon Oil
Customer Review: “My Wheaten Terrier puppy is a very picky eater. We adopted her just about 3 months ago, and it has taken all those months to find food she would eat. She loves this food and it’s such a relief to have something I know she will reliably eat.”
Purina Pro Plan Dry Puppy Food
- Real chicken is the first ingredient
- DHA nourishes brain and vision development
- Rich with antioxidants
- Supports a puppy’s immune system
Happy puppies will love Purina Pro Plan puppy food. Crafted with high-quality chicken as the first ingredient, this yummy food is made with antioxidants and DHA to support your puppy’s overall physical and cognitive growth.
Purina Pro Plan puppy food is good for dogs up to one year old, as most puppy foods are. It’s a cost-effective option for pet parents looking to give their dogs a flavorful and nutritious meal. Purina Pro Plan has several flavors and size-specific food choices available.
Top ingredients: Chicken, brewers rice, poultry by-product meal, corn gluten meal, whole grain wheat, animal fat preserved with mixed tocopherols (a form of Vitamin E)
Customer Review: “My puppy really likes Pro Plan Puppy, and heartily eats each meal. His coat is shiny and he’s had no digestive issues.”
What to Look for in a Good Puppy Food?
There are several components to consider when choosing the best food for your beloved puppy.
- Kibble pieces: All puppies have small mouths and they will need bite-sized kibble in their early stages. When picking out a puppy food, make sure the morsels are the appropriate size for your canine pal.
- Breed size: Some puppy foods are available in large breed and small breed varieties. Pay close attention to this when purchasing puppy food.
- Protein: Chicken is a popular protein choice for puppy food. Other meat choices include beef, bison, lamb, and more. Typically the choice comes down to your dog’s preference, but it’s also important to make note of how well your puppy is digesting their food.
- Active ingredients: A quality puppy food with generally be crafted with additional vitamins, minerals, probiotics, and DHA for brain development. Be sure to read all food labels to get more specific information on active ingredients and their benefits.
Every puppy has different needs and wants when it comes to their food. Below we list the best dog food for puppies, and we’re confident your pup will love one of them!
When And How Often Should I Feed My Puppy?
While owning a cute little fur ball may seem to be one of the cutest things, feeding a puppy from time to time is crucial for its overall growth and development.
In this section, let’s see how often you should feed a puppy.
- 1.5 months to 3 months: It would be best to feed a puppy at this age at least four times a day. The puppy is growing at this stage, and you should get food that caters to its specific needs. Adult dog foods will be no use, primarily due to differences in nutritional values.
- 3 months to 6 months: During this time, puppies generally begin losing their pudginess and potbellies. So, it would be best to decrease the feeding frequency to three times a day. But remember, as long as the pup maintains the belly, keep the amount of food the same.
- 6 months to 12 months: At this age, feed your puppy twice. Additionally, it won’t require much energy if you are getting it neutered. So, after neutering it, switch to adult dog food. While small breeds can make this switch at 7 months, bigger ones will do the same at 12 months.
- 12 months onwards: Once a puppy turns 1 year old, it is recommended to feed half portions of dog food twice daily.
Should You Feed Your Puppy Grains Or Not?
No, it is not necessary to feed your puppy grains. While grain-free puppy foods are increasingly becoming popular, primarily due to the belief that grains can cause allergies, there are also rising concerns.
These foods derive their protein from meat, and excessive meat consumption is not recommended for puppies. Besides, even grain-free foods have lots of carbs. Last, grain-free foods are believed to cause certain illnesses in dogs.
So, your dog can obtain energy from any dog food. It can be grain-free. But yes, the food that you are feeding your dog should be carefully formulated, and the ingredients should be of premium quality. It should also not have any added dyes or preservatives.
What Makes the Best Dog Food?
Most pet owners feed wet food or kibble to dogs. At the same time, we may need more convincing of these products and feel that homemade food should work equally well. But these foods have all the required nutrients for a dog. Besides, these foods are quality tested by trained vets.
Let us now look at the ingredients of the best dog foods.
Dogs are not hardcore carnivores like cats. So, it is better to feed them fruits, grains, and vegetables apart from meat. These grains and veggies are not just fillers but are also a source of minerals, vitamins, and fiber.
So, the best dog food will have a balanced combination of meat, grains, fruits, and vegetables. At the same time, the best food will ensure that these ingredients are derived from excellent sources. Besides, it should be tested in labs by experts, ensuring that the product is safe for consumption.
The Difference Between Puppy Food and Adult Dog Food
There are lots of readymade dog food available in the market. You must have also noticed that they are sold according to the biological age of the dogs. While some are labeled as puppy food, others are branded as adult dog foods.
This raises the question about what is the difference between the two. Generally speaking, the difference between adult dog food and puppy food lies in their calorific values, percentage of fats, and vitamins and nutrients. So let’s have a look at these factors in detail.
Puppies need a lot of energy since they grow rapidly. Therefore, their food has a much higher calorific value. This is mainly due to the higher portion of fats and proteins in puppy foods. In addition, puppies like to explore the world around them, so they roam around a lot. In this process, they learn more about their surroundings.
So, at this stage, they need more energy to support their daily activities. Hence, puppy foods have more calories than adult dog foods.
Besides, puppies need more energy to keep themselves warm since they cannot regulate their body temperature like adults. So, on average, puppy foods may have up to 500 calories in a cup of food, while the same amount of adult dog food may have less than 400 calories.
These calories are mainly in the form of fat and protein, and this forms a major part of the whole food’s nutritional value. According to vets, while puppies need to get around 22.5% of calories from protein, adult dogs need only 18%. So, in most dog foods, puppy foods can have up to 40% protein, while adult dog foods can have around 25% protein.
Just like calories, puppy foods have more percentage of fat since they need more energy, which at times, can be as high as 20%. On the other hand, adult dog foods generally have less than 10% fat.
Hence, it is advised not to give puppy food to adult dogs, or they can become overweight quickly. Similarly, giving adult dog food to puppies won’t work either. They won’t get the required amount of fat and may become lethargic. But, again, this will affect their capacity to grow and thrive.
Vitamins and vital Nutrients
Puppy foods are just not about fat and energy content. Since they need to grow right from the beginning, they require a lot of nutrients, vitamins, and other essential amino acids. All these contribute to creating tissues and muscles.
Most of these amino acids are mainly found in meat-based proteins; hence, they play an important part in a pup’s daily diet. Some important amino acids available in puppy foods are histidine, leucine, phenylalanine-tyrosine, arginine, isoleucine, phenylalanine, and threonine.
Puppies require twice the amount of these amino acids than adult dogs. But, if adult dogs consume such a high amount of these amino acids, they can lead to heart issues and a high cholesterol level.
Besides, puppies should also consume a good amount of DHA. This is one of the fatty acids naturally found in the mother’s milk. In puppy foods, this is added with the help of fish oils. DHA is essential for developing eyesight in a puppy and its cognitive development.
Further, when puppies grow, their bones grow, which requires an extra dose of phosphorus and calcium. So if you are dealing with adult dogs, they will require 0.6 percent calcium and 0.5 percent of phosphorus.
On the other hand, puppies need at least 1 percent of calcium and 0.8 percent of phosphorus, which is more than adult dogs.
Some of the ingredients in puppy foods are based on fish and meat oils, which are more pricy. This difference in the daily requirements of puppies and adult dogs is why puppy food is more expensive than adult dog food.
How Do I Know My Puppy Is Getting The Right Nutrition?
In general, any puppy needs proteins that build their tissues, fats that maintain the health of their hair and skin, some carbs that provide energy, and essential minerals and vitamins that maintain health and improve immunity.
Besides that, a puppy also needs clean and fresh water to keep itself hydrated.
One of the easiest ways to gauge if your puppy is receiving the right nutrition is to ensure that the packet of your dog food mentions that its nutritional values fulfill the guidelines set by the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials).
Additionally, the dog food should also mention the stage that the food will be ideal for. This information is crucial for puppies, as they need well-balanced food prepared according to their requirements.
It is equally important to assess your pup’s health at times. Generally, they should be energetic and playful in their daily lives. Besides, with proper nutrition, their coats also become thick and shiny.
Last, notice the color of the feces, as it discloses your dog’s health. For example, if it is brown, it implies that your dog is digesting and absorbing most of the required nutrients.
Once your puppy turns three or four weeks old, you can start giving solid food to your puppy. To enable them to digest solid food easily, making a gruel by mixing solid food with water or milk is recommended.
If you are feeding your dog the right kind of food, it will stay healthy and grow at a good pace. Besides, you can check the AAFCO guidelines to determine if your dog food uses good quality ingredients.
Avoid foods that have preservatives, added flavors, and colors. Also, choose those food items that have meat-based ingredients. Avoiding foods with fillers like corn and wheat can also ensure the right amount of nutrition for your dog.
If your puppy is about 6 to 12 weeks old, and weighs up to 5 pounds, feed it 1 to 1.33 cups of dog food. As your pup grows older, it will require more food. So, consider giving them 3/4th to 1 cup of food to a pup weighing the same but is 3 to 4 months old.
Similarly, the quantity also depends on the weight of the dog. So, if your dog is around 6 to 12 weeks old but weighs between 5 to 10 pounds, you need to feed them at least 1.33 to 2.5 cups of dry dog food.
For puppies who are 5 to 7 months old, feed them 0.5 to 0.75 cups of dog food at a time. Only when they are about 8 to 12 months old can you start giving them 0.5 to 0.66 cups of food. This is because their calorific requirements actually lessen as they grow in months.
Yes, since large dogs’ nutritional requirements differ from other dogs, especially the small and medium-sized ones, they need a special diet. These large breeds need diets with at least 1/3rd of high-quality protein and around 1/10th of fat content.
Yes, organic puppy food is better than a regular one. In most cases, organic puppy food has no fillers or very little of them. Additionally, they also have certain ingredients which are rich in antioxidants.
This whole composition is beneficial for your dog’s health. Their skin and the condition of their fur improve as well. Besides, organic puppy foods are much more energetic.
Some of the best treats that puppies can have are green peas, green beans, cooked sweet potatoes, broccoli, apples, carrots, watermelon, and bananas.
Yes, certain foods can prove fatal to dogs. These are garlic, Macadamia nuts, chives, coffee-based products, onion, mustard, grapes, apricot and cherry pits, mushroom, chives, avocado, tea, candies, corn cobs, chocolate, xylitol (artificial sweetener), walnut, cooked bones, and alcoholic beverages.
No, you should not offer adult dog food to puppies. The nutritional requirements of puppies and dogs are different. Similarly, the nutritional values of adult dog food and puppy food are different as well.
Puppies need more calories, fats, vitamins, and nutrients than dogs, as they are in the growing stage of their lives and need more energy. Adult dogs, on the other hand, require food with fewer calories. So, adult dog foods may prove insufficient for growing puppies.
Some of the human foods that pups can have as well are blueberries, watermelon, apples, popcorn, turkey, white rice, banana, chicken, peanut butter, green beans, pork, fish, cucumber, and carrot.
Some of the snacks that you can give your puppy are broccoli, carrot, pea, pumpkin, cucumber, apple, blueberry, and canned beans (provided they don’t have added preservatives and salt).
You want your puppy to grow up to be healthy, strong, and active. Giving them a quality, delicious puppy food is the best way to get them started on a remarkable life journey.
Remember to consult your veterinarian if you have questions or concerns about your puppy’s diet, health, or wellness. If you aren’t sure about the nutritional requirements for your puppy, ask your vet for assistance.
Forrest is a lover of dogs, the wild outdoors, deep mysterious conversations… and coffee. He is the owner of several websites, including Canine Weekly. He resides in Austin, Texas.