Choosing the best puppy food for your new dog is one of the first decisions you’ll have to make as a pet owner.
Choosing the wrong food can halt your dog’s development or even increase their risk of specific health ailments later in life.
Table of Contents
Top 5 Picks for Best Dog Food for Puppies in 2021
|Dog Food Recipes||Our Rating|
|Best Overall Puppy Food (All sizes)||Wellness Complete Health Puppy Food
|Best Budget Puppy food||Blue Buffalo Life Protection Puppy
Best Dry Puppy Food
|Wellness Complete Health Puppy Food
|Best Wet Puppy Food||Natural Balance Original Ultra Puppy Formula
|Best Grain-Free Puppy food||Canidae Limited Ingredient Diet Puppy
18 Best Dog Food Brands for Puppies by Sizes
While some pet foods are suited for dogs of all sizes and thus work well in homes with multiple animals, others are explicitly designed with certain breeds in mind.
Small breed puppies and large breed puppies have very different nutritional needs, and some foods have been specifically crafted with this in mind.
Best Dry Foods for Puppies (All sizes)
No matter the breed size, you’ll want to feed your dog food that is formulated for his growing needs. Puppy dry dog foods typically have a higher calorie content and more protein to encourage growth.
1. Wellness Complete Health Puppy Food
First 3 Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Oatmeal
Grain-inclusive dry dog food that gets a protein punch from deboned chicken and chicken meal.
An exceptional formula that consists of 32% protein, 20% fat, and 40% carbohydrates. Specially made to supply puppies with whole-body nutritional support.
- Contains no GMOs, additional preservatives and additives, or fillers
- Supported by omega fatty acids and DHA for development
- Some dogs got a runny stool on this food
2. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Puppy
First 3 Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice
Dry puppy food that is suitable for all breeds, including large breed puppies.
A nutrient-balanced, affordable dry dog food with real chicken as its primary protein source. Packed with antioxidant-rich ingredients, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
- Calcium, phosphorus, and essential vitamins support healthy growth
- Includes DHA and ARA for healthy brain and eye development
- Some pups had a runny tummy on this food
3. Victor Purpose Nutra Pro Dog and Puppy
First 3 Ingredients: Chicken Meal, Blood Meal Conventionally Dried, Whole Grain Millet
An economical dry dog food that is suitable for both adults and puppies of all sizes, as well as lactating dogs.
The nutrient-dense formula is rich in protein and low in carbs for sustained energy. It is made with gluten-free grains for dogs with allergies.
- Composed of 92% meat protein
- Unique VPRO blend for easier digestibility
- Caused diarrhea and vomiting in some dogs
Best Dry Puppy Foods for Small and Medium-Sized Breed Puppies
Small dogs tend to reach maturation much quicker than their larger counterparts and only need to be on puppy food for the first year of their lives.
As an active, full-of-energy bunch with high metabolisms, small dogs also need plenty of calories to avoid diseases like hypoglycemia or hypothermia.
Here are the best puppy foods crafted for small and medium-sized breed puppies:
1. Purina Pro Plan Puppy Food
First 3 Ingredients: Chicken, Rice, Poultry By-product Meal
Dry puppy food that meets strict veterinary guidelines for growing dogs. Made up of 32% protein, 20% fat, and 40% carbohydrates with real chicken for building healthy muscles.
This food is also fortified with calcium and phosphorus for the creation of healthy teeth and bones.
- Packed with DHA fish oils for brain development
- It contains live probiotics and antioxidants to build a robust immune system
- Derives the bulk of its animal protein from poultry by-product meal
2. Nutro Wholesome Essentials Puppy Food
First 3 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Whole Grain Barley
Created for small and medium breed puppies, Nutro Wholesome Essentials is a dry dog food that centers around real chicken.
This is an affordable choice by a well-known and trusted brand. Packed full of ingredients to support the growing needs of puppies.
- Contains no GMO ingredients, meat by-product meal, corn, wheat, or soy
- Includes omega fatty acids like DHA for brain development
- Big pieces can be challenging for small puppies to eat
3. Iams ProActive Health Smart Puppy
First 3 Ingredients: Chicken, Ground Whole Grain Corn, Chicken By-Product Meal
Classic, grain-inclusive dry dog food for small and medium breed puppies. An affordable option is rich in fish oils and fresh farm-raised chicken.
Formulated with 22 ingredients puppies would naturally get from their mother’s milk.
- Includes Omega 3 DHA for brain development
- Some dog owners complained the kibble was too big for small dogs
- Some dogs simply refused to eat this food
Best Dry Puppy Foods for Large-Sized Puppies
Large breed puppy food will have been developed to allow your dog to grow at a slow pace. These foods have less energy density and lower levels of phosphorus and calcium to avoid overgrowth.
1. Eukanuba Puppy Large
First 3 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken By-Product Meal, Corn
Grain-inclusive dry dog food suitable for puppies of all sizes.
A nutrient-balanced food formulated by a team of experts, including veterinary nutritionists, to cater to growing puppies’ needs. Affordably priced food for the budget-conscious.
- Features high-quality animal protein as the main ingredient
- Contains optimal levels of calcium, phosphorous, DHA, natural fiber, and prebiotics
- Does contain poultry by-product meal and corn
2. Chicken Soup for the Soul Large Breed Puppy Dry Food
First 3 Ingredients: Chicken, Turkey, Chicken Meal
Dry dog food for large breed puppies focussed around fresh poultry. Full of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids as well as DHA from salmon oil for cognitive function.
Formulated specifically for puppies with calcium, phosphorus, glucosamine, and chondroitin included.
- Contains no wheat, corn, or soy
- Made in the USA by a trusted brand
- Some owners complained their dogs had stomach issues and more flatulence on this food
3. Blackwood Puppy Food Growth Diet
First 3 Ingredients: Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Millet
A flavorful, easy to digest dry food suitable for puppies of all sizes, including large breed dogs.
Made in small batches, this dog food has been crafted with care. It contains all-natural ingredients with no artificial colors or flavors.
- Supplemented with probiotics to aid digestion
- Some large breed owners said the kibble size was too small
- Some dogs seemed to have an allergic reaction to this diet
Best Wet Puppy Foods for Puppies (All Sizes)
Wet dog foods are more manageable for puppies to chew and swallow, although they typically have fewer calories.
Wet foods can be a good choice for fussy eaters or breeds that are prone to weight gain.
1. Merrick Grain-Free Puppy Plate
First 3 Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Broth, Deboned Turkey
High protein wet food diet with fresh chicken as the primary ingredient. It can be used on its own or added as a topper to dry kibble.
Wholesome grain-free recipe with real vegetables such as carrots, apples, and sweet potatoes.
- Full of vitamins and minerals for a balanced diet
- Some pet owners complained of black or purple meat in the food
- Some users complained the cans were dented or rusted
2. Canidae Limited Ingredient Diet Puppy
First 3 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Broth, Dried Egg
Limited ingredient grain-free wet food diet specially formulated for dogs with sensitive stomachs.
This food is packed full of nutrition for your dog while avoiding any filler or unnecessary ingredients. A simple recipe that will help your pup stay healthy while building muscles.
- It contains multiple protein sources, such as real chicken and egg
- It contains essential omega-three fatty acids from salmon oil
- Some pet owners complained of pudding-like stools when their dog was on this food
3. Wellness Complete Health Just for Puppy
First 3 Ingredients: Chicken Broth, Chicken, Chicken Liver
Natural, canned, wet dog food with real chicken and salmon. Packed with protein and vegetables to provide your dog with a nutrient-rich diet that promotes whole-body health.
Pate-style dog food with a robust and savory taste that even picky eaters will love.
- Formulated by nutritionists and veterinarians with all the ingredients needed to build a robust immune system and encourage a shiny skin and coat
- Some dogs simply refused to eat this food
- The food contains lots of tiny pieces of bone
Best Wet Puppy Foods for Small and Medium-Sized Puppies
Many pet owners prefer to start their small or medium-sized puppies on wet food as it is more comfortable for tiny mouths to eat.
Small dogs may struggle with chewing and swallowing dry kibble, and so wet food can be served on its own or added as a topper to kibble to make it more digestible.
1. Royal Canin Puppy Food
First 3 Ingredients: Water Sufficient for Processing, Chicken, Pork By-Products
Canned, wet dog food designed with small breed puppies in mind. Fortified with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants with a formula that helps small breeds put on healthy weight.
Promotes a healthy, shiny coat while providing the support that growing puppies need.
- Features several proteins, such as chicken and pork
- Gave some dogs digestive issues
- Water is the main ingredient, and meat by-product the third ingredient
2. Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Wet Puppy Food
First 3 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Broth, Turkey
Protein-packed wet dog food for puppies, made in the USA. A whole ingredient diet with real chicken, turkey, and salmon, free of any corn, wheat, or soy.
It is fortified with plenty of vitamins and minerals to provide your pup with complete and balanced nutrition.
- Full of antioxidant-rich ingredients such as blueberries
- Flavored with real sage, rosemary, and thyme
- Some dogs got an upset stomach on this diet
3. Blue Wilderness Turkey & Chicken Grill Wet Puppy Food (Small Breeds)
First 3 Ingredients: Turkey, Chicken Broth, Chicken
Grain-free high protein wet dog food suitable for small breeds. This diet has been modeled after what wild dogs or wolves eat in their natural environment.
Contains a variety of holistic ingredients such as real turkey and chicken, potatoes, and oatmeal.
- Full of omega three and six for building a healthy immune system
- A good choice for dogs with grain allergies or a sensitive stomach
- Some owners complained the food had a watery consistency
Best Wet Puppy Foods for Large-Sized Puppies
While feeding your large breed dog wet puppy food can be one of the more expensive choices.
It may be the best option for your dog, particularly if they need lots of protein and fat or have a particularly sensitive stomach.
1. Natural Balance Original Ultra Puppy Formula
First 3 Ingredients: Chicken Broth, Chicken, Chicken Liver
Gluten-free wet food diet made of high-quality ingredients such as chicken, duck, and brown rice.
Formulated by nutritionists to provide a healthy balance of protein and nutrients for growing puppies. Highly digestible ingredients with the addition of Yucca Schidigera extract for a healthy gut.
- Includes plenty of added Vitamins for building a sound immune system
- Includes colostrum for puppy’s healthy functioning
- Some puppies refused to eat this food
2. Solid Gold Love at First Bark Canned Puppy Food
First 3 Ingredients: Water Sufficient For Processing, Beef, Beef Liver
Highly digestible wet dog food made with real chunks of beef and beef liver as well as potatoes and apples. Made with a unique blend of superfoods, vitamins, and minerals to support a strong immune system.
- Loaded with DHA and EPA fatty acids for brain and eye health
- Made in the USA with no corn, wheat, soy, grain, or gluten
- Some puppies just didn’t seem to like this food
3. Instinct Original Grain-Free Wet Puppy Food
First 3 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Broth, Beef Liver
Protein-packed wet dog food loaded with flavor and completely grain-free.
Made in the USA using cage-free chicken, real beef liver, salmon, and whole vegetables like carrots and peas. A loaf-like texture that helps growing puppies feel fuller for longer.
- Contains no corn, wheat, soy, or artificial colors and preservatives
- Packed with fruits and veggies like carrots, peas, artichokes, cranberries, pumpkin, tomato, and blueberries
- Some dogs vomited this food back up
Complete Puppy Food Guide: How to choose the dog food that’s right for your pup
Always look for high-quality food made of natural ingredients from whole food sources packed with nutrients.
You also want to make sure that the food you are giving your dog has been specifically crafted for their age as dogs at different life stages have vastly different nutritional needs.
Puppy Nutrition 101: What kind of food does your pup need?
Regardless of your dog’s breed, protein is the crucial thing you need to look at when choosing the perfect food for your pup. Protein supports your dog’s development and growth.
A growing puppy needs a minimum of 22% protein and 8% fat in its diet. This is more than what is required by adult dogs as puppies have specific growing needs and developing bodies that require more calories.
In addition to quality protein, a puppy food’s fat content is essential to absorb vitamins and minerals. At the same time, carbohydrates can be a vital source of nutrients and fiber.
Puppy food should also be rich in omega-three fatty acids. These fatty acids are typically found in fish oil or fish meal and help with brain, eye, and heart development and function.
Things to look for when selecting a puppy food
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) standards dictate minimum requirements for dog food creation.
While the AAFCO label dictates that these standards are being adhered to, helping you weed out the awful foods, you still want to provide your dog with food that meets more than just the minimum.
Typically dog food is available in three categories, super-premium, premium, and store-brand generic.
Super-premium foods that come from brands like Orijen, Taste of the Wild, and Wellness, offer nutrient-dense ingredients that are easily digestible.
While more expensive, your dog shouldn’t need to eat as much of this food.
Premium foods offer a good standard for a more affordable price tag and are generally more readily available in supermarkets or pet stores.
Some premium foods may also seem to contain less-expensive ingredients.
They have formulas that have been carefully crafted by veterinarians, such as the Hill’s Science Diet or Royal Canin breed-specific varieties.
Finally, generic food options are the cheapest option but often contain cheap filler ingredients that provide minimal nutrition for your growing pup. These foods should be avoided.
You want to look for foods with real ingredients like whole meat suitable for human consumption.
Whole grains, animal-based proteins, fruits and vegetables, and fats from a labeled source like chicken fat or sunflower oil should all be included in your dog’s food.
Amino acids, like arginine, leucine, lysine, methionine, tryptophan, and valine, are useful building blocks for growing strong muscles.
Also, chelates like magnesium, calcium, sulfur, and phosphorus will help your pup build healthy bones.
Any meat by-products, artificial flavors, colorants, and preservatives, should be avoided. Corn and wheat gluten should also be avoided with particularly allergy-prone dogs.
Wet, Semi-Moist, or Dry? Which food Is best for your pup?
Dry food is more affordable, has a longer shelf life, and is less messy than wet dog food, making it a more convenient choice for many pet owners.
Dry food can also help maintain your pet’s dental health as the kibble helps clean teeth and prevent tartar build-up.
On the other hand, dry dog food often has a higher carbohydrate content than wet food, which can cause food allergies and provide less nutritional value.
Some dogs, such as small breed puppies, may find it easier to eat wet or canned dog food than dry kibble. Wet food is also often preferred by picky eaters.
Puppies do get their teeth reasonably early on, but wet or soft food can be easier to eat than dry kibble when they are very young.
Puppies can generally handle a dry food-only diet by around the age of three months.
Wet food also has a higher fat and protein content, which can be both a good and a bad thing, depending on your dog’s breed and tendencies toward certain health conditions.
Wet foods also have a lot of water, which can help with dehydration in dogs and prevent urinary tract infections.
To grain or not to grain: Do puppies need grain-free puppy food?
More and more pet owners prefer to feed their dogs a grain-free diet, saying that it is closer to what dogs would typically eat in the wild.
Grain-free diets also tend to be better for dogs with sensitive stomachs or digestive issues.
That said, the FDA has linked grain-free diets to potential heart disease, such as Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy.
Thus many vets suggest instead looking at food based around a single whole grain rather than a compound of different grains or going grain-free entirely.
Whole grains have some nutritional value and act as more than just a simple filler in your dog’s diet. Whole grains like brown rice or barley contain some calcium, iron and potassium, and vitamins.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Still, have some unanswered questions when it comes to choosing the perfect food for your pup? Take a look at some of our frequently asked questions and their answers below:
When is your puppy ready for food?
Puppies are ready for solid food from around eight weeks old. At this time, your breeder should have weaned the puppies off their mother’s milk and gradually introduced puppy food.
This weaning process typically starts when a puppy is between 3 and 5 weeks old.
Sometimes breeders will start the process by introducing a milk replacement formula or a gruel made of mixing dry and wet dog food.
The milk replacement formula is generally removed from around the age of six months.
It is always best to speak to your breeder to find out what they have been feeding your dog when you pick him up.
Sticking to the same food may make your life more comfortable initially, or you may also want to try a slow transition to the food you eventually use for your dog.
How much food should you feed your puppy?
Not all dog foods have the same ingredients, so it’s best to consult the recommended feeding guidelines on your specific bag of dog food to determine how much you need to feed your dog.
The amount that you provide your puppy will also depend on how old they are. Generally, you are looking at between 2 and 5 cups of food a day split between several meals.
When and how often should you feed your puppy?
As puppies are still growing, they need food at regular intervals throughout the day.
It is best to divide your dog’s daily calorie requirement between three to four servings, as this will give them sustained energy throughout the day.
You will quickly learn if your dog can be left to free feed. This is when free dog food is left in a bowl throughout the day, leaving your dog to eat as they please.
It is quite rare to get this method of feeding right with puppies that are still learning self-control. More than likely, they will need monitoring to avoid overeating.
Large breed puppies will require more food and, thus, more regular feedings throughout the day.
What breeds are at greatest risk for hip dysplasia?
Hip dysplasia is a common illness that can affect all dog sizes; however, it is most common in large breeds.
Choosing food containing a safe amount of added calcium will significantly help prevent hip dysplasia in your dog.
Too many calories, calcium, and vitamin D and large breeds can overgrow too quickly, hindering cartilage development and bone growth, leading to an increased risk of hip dysplasia.
Larger breeds at a greater risk of hip dysplasia should thus stick to foods where the calcium levels are very controlled.
Thus, owners of small and medium-sized puppies have more flexibility when choosing food for their dogs.
How do you know if your puppy is a large breed?
Large breed puppies typically grow into adult dogs of 70 pounds (32 kg) or more.
However, as it is difficult to predict your dog’s weight when they are still young, you are safe feeding a puppy large breed food if you think their adult weight will exceed around 50 pounds (23 kg).
When should you switch your puppy to adult dog food?
Be careful not to transition your puppy over to adult dog food when they are too little.
Adult dog foods contain more calcium than puppy foods and can, as a result, be unsafe for puppies. Transitioning your dog onto adult food too early could also lead to several digestive difficulties.
The size of your dog will make a difference in this regard. Small dogs under 20 pounds (9 kg) can be introduced to adult food between 9 and 12 months.
Medium breed dogs, between 20 and 50 pounds (9 and 23 kg), can be moved on to adult food between 12 and 14 months.
Large breed dogs between 50 and 100 pounds (23 and 45 kg) can move onto adult food between 12 and 18months.
Finally, giant breed dogs bigger than these should only be transitioned from puppy food to adult food between 18 and 24 months.
Around the same time that you transition your dog over to adult food, you can also work on cutting down meal times from 3 or 4 times daily to two or even one meal a day.
Can you use homemade puppy food for your new pet?
While it is possible to provide your puppy with homemade food, this can be tricky.
A lot more science and research goes into creating a puppy recipe than adult dog food, and to try and get this balance right at home can be virtually impossible.
Puppies have particular nutritional needs, and your homemade food is unlikely to meet all of these. If you prefer to make your dog’s meals, it’s best to wait until he has stopped growing.
Talk to your vet before choosing any new food for your dog
Raising a new puppy is a lot of work and finding the right dog food is just the first decision you’ll have to make in your dog’s life.
Before introducing new food to your dog’s diet, it is essential first to consult with your vet.
Your vet knows your dog’s health concerns, energy levels, size, and weight and will be able to provide expert knowledge on which food is right for your pup.
As with humans, healthy eating is a lifetime investment.
What food do you feed your puppy? Let us know in the comments below.
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