Buying food for your puppy is much more than just deciding what he or she would like to eat. Puppies require a balanced and comprehensive diet that supports healthy development. What you choose now will help dictate the health of your pup for its entire life. While this may sound stressful, not to worry! We’ve sifted through dozens of products and thousands of reviews to find the best dog food for puppies. Here’s our guide:
Our Picks for the Best Dog Foods for Puppies
1. Hill’s Science Small Breed Puppy Dry Dog Food
A top choice food for small and toy breed puppies, Hill’s Science dog food provides balanced nutrition with added fish oil for proper healthy brain and eye development. It’s first ingredient is chicken, and packs dozens of essential vitamins and amino acids into its formula.
- Made for small breed puppies up to 1 year old, who will be 25 pounds or less when full grown
- All natural, with no preservatives, colors, or flavorings
- Vitamins C, A, B12, D, E, as well as Calcium, Riboflavin, Folic Acid, Minerals, Taurine and others
- Chicken is the top ingredient
- Made in the USA
2. ORIJEN Puppy Dry Dog Food
Orijen Puppy Dry Dog Food is one of the highest rated products we reviewed. This wasn’t surprising given the top ingredients used in the product, including 85% meat and 15% fruits and vegetables, with optimal proportions for puppies to thrive. On top of this, all ingredients are responsibly sourced from Orijen’s central location in Kentucky, and typically delivered to Orijen within 48 hours of harvesting!
- 38% protein, 16% carbohydrates for active, healthy puppies
- Grain free, with 85% meat, and 15% fruits and vegetables
- Optimal nutritional mixture based on best canine diet
- Locally sourced ingredients, freshest on the market
- All natural; no preservatives, colorings, or chemicals
- Made in USA
3. Diamond Naturals Large Breed Puppy Dog Food (Lamb)
Diamond Naturals large breed puppy food features natural, pasture raised lamb and a myriad of other superfoods that humans thrive on: kale, spinach, blueberries, quinoa, to name a few. A 30% protein content is also a great choice particularly for active pups.
- Made for large breed puppies, with small kibble for easy chewing
- Holistic nutritional content, including natural pasture raised lamb
- Contains superfoods such as kale, chia seeds, blueberries, quinoa, coconut, spinach, pumpkin
- Protein, probiotic and minerals, as well as antioxidants and salmon oil with omega fatty acids
4. Taste of The Wild High Protein Dry Dog Food – Roasted Venison & Bison
If you’re looking to provide your pup with a more “wild” version of a canine diet, while still maintaining a modern nutritional profile, Taste of the Wild is your best bet. This dry dog food contains wild meats including bison and venison, paired with modern superfoods such as flaxseed, salmon oil, berries. It also contains a long list of essential vitamins and minerals that help your puppy grow up strong and active.
- Bison and Venison are main meat ingredients, and top two ingredients by volume
- Contains superfoods such as flaxseed, salmon oil, chicory root, blueberries, raspberries
- Dozens of essential vitamins and minerals
- Should note, Taste of the Wild is slightly pricier than other brands on this list
5. Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Puppy Dry Dog Food
The Blue Buffalo Wilderness puppy food contains a formula based on wild eating habits of wolves – grain free, high protein, and packed with tons of nutrients. Better yet, the kibble also contains Blue Wilderness’ “LifeSource Bits”, which have a proprietary mix of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins to help your puppy develop proper muscles and brain functioning.
- Protein rich and grain free puppy food
- Chicken is the top ingredient
- Well priced for the quality
- Blue Buffalo “LifeSource” bits contain antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins
- Omega 3s from fish oil
- All natural, with no preservatives, colors, no meat by products, wheat, or soy
6. Purina ONE SmartBlend Puppy Dry Food
Purina ONE SmartBlend is a solid choice for those looking for a more affordable, but still high quality puppy food. Coming in both regular and large breed options, this food has chicken as the top ingredient, as well as rice and oatmeal for digestion.
- Comes in both regular and large breed puppy varieties
- Chicken is the #1 ingredient
- Rice and oatmeal for easier digestion
- Contains DHA, which is found in mother’s milk, to help brain development
- Strong vitamin and antioxidant blend
- Well priced for the quality, though doesn’t have all of the high-end superfoods that others on this list have
7. Hill’s Science Puppy Wet Dog Food – Savory Stew with Chicken and Vegetables
Hill’s Science provides a solid choice for large breed puppy owners looking for wet food to mix up their dog’s diet. While not having all of the frills of some of the higher end options on this list, the product contains real chicken and liver, as well as DHA from fish oil that helps support proper functioning and growth.
- Wet food, can be served alone or mixed with kibble
- Made for large breed puppies less than 1 year old
- Contains DHA from fish oil to help support brain and vision development
- Has real chicken and liver
- Dozens of vitamins and minerals
- Doesn’t have the same high end food profile of other all natural foods
8. Purina Pro Plan Focus Dry Puppy Food
If you’re looking for a high protein lamb or chicken based dry food for your puppy, Purina Pro Plan Focus is a solid choice. Given the price point, Focus contains a number of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to help your puppy develop strong and smart.
- Comes in lamb & rice, chicken & rice, and chicken varieties
- High protein formula (28%), with lamb or chicken is the #1 ingredient
- Contains DHA from fish oil for property brain and vision development
- Antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals including phosphorous and calcium for strong bones.
- Medium priced for puppy dry foods
9. Blue Buffalo Freedom Natural Puppy Dry Food – Small Breed
For small breed puppy owners looking for a premium product, Blue Buffalo Freedom is solid option. This grain free food has chicken is the top ingredient, and also includes DHA and ARA, two fatty acids found in mother’s milk that help with brain and vision development.
- Made for small breed puppies
- Grain free, with chicken as the top ingredient
- Higher price point: a premium option amongst puppy foods
- DHA and ARA, both found in mother’s milk that aid proper cognitive development
- Contains Blue Buffalo “LifeSource Bits” – a proprietary blend of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidantsd
- All natural, with no artificial colors, flavorings, or meat by products
Dog Food for Puppies Buying Guide
Your new puppy is cute and cuddly; it would be fun just to play with them all day. But there are many things you need to learn as a puppy owner, including what food to give them.
At What Age Can I Feed My Puppy Dog Food?
At 6 weeks of age, your puppy should be fully weaned from its mother. You can begin feeding them the puppy food of your choice. However, puppies have unique nutritional needs that are different from adult dogs. Most brand name puppy foods meet the standard for these needs, meaning you should be sure to choose a brand name rather than generic puppy food to guarantee your pup gets everything it needs.
What To Look For When Buying Puppy Dog Foods?
Tried and tested
Be sure to choose a brand name puppy dog food that meets the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) feeding tests and trials. This means that the dog food’s formula has been tested so it’s safe for both dogs and puppies. Some dog food companies don’t use the AAFCO testing, so there’s a lack of accountability for their products. The more scientific tests conducted on your puppy’s dog food, the safer it will be.
Higher calorie content
Your puppy’s food should contain more calories than adult dog food. Your puppy burns a lot of calories as he grows. On average, a 10 pound puppy growing into an adult of 32 pounds will need 990 calories a day. If your puppy isn’t getting enough calories he or she won’t grow and develop properly.
Small breed puppies need a different amount of food compared to a larger breed puppy. We’ve included a chart below as a guide for how much food to give your puppy every day. There are also published guides for different breeds so you will also know exactly how much to feed your pup according to his breed.
Food size matters, too
Choose a dog food for your puppy that they can actually eat. If the pieces of dog food are too big, they might not eat enough food, or worse, not eat at all. The good news is that typical puppy food comes in small bite sized pieces that puppies can chew.
Read the label
Just like you always read the labels on your own food, read the label on your puppy’s dog food to be sure it contains good ingredients. The ingredients on the list should at a minimum include protein, carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins that make up at least 50% of the total. If you’re uncertain about what an ingredient is, research it or ask your vet.
How Much Should I Feed My Puppy?
Here’s a suggested food amount to feed your puppy every day. This amount should be divided up into the three daily meals. After your puppy is 6 months old, divide the amount up into two meals a day.
5 pound puppy = 1/2 cup to 5/8 cup of food
10 pound puppy = 3/4 cup to 1 cup of food
20 pound puppy = 1 1/4 cup to 1 3/4 cup of food
Different Types of Dog Food For Puppies
There are three major types of dog food.
- Canned (moist): Canned food is more expensive, but it tastes good to dogs. Be careful of the “all meat” labels because carbs are important and a gluten free diet isn’t totally healthy for your puppy. Carbs should make up 50% of the food’s nutrients.
- Semi-moist: This is usually a 1 serving packet kind of dog food. It often looks like chopped meat, but it has other ingredients in it.
- Kibble (dry): Kibble is the most economical kind of dog food. Name brands are the best buy to ensure a balanced diet for your puppy. You can also add water or mix in canned food with kibble.
Can My Puppy Eat Homemade Food?
Some dog owners swear by feeding their dogs homemade dog food. If you’re feeding your puppy homemade food, it can be challenging to get the right balance of nutrients. Your puppy’s dietary needs may not be met with a homemade diet, with even the smallest imbalance having the ability to harm your puppy’s growth. If you really want a homemade diet, talk with your vet to get their suggestions about how to put together something comprehensive.
Special Tips When Feeding Your Pup
- Try to avoid feeding your puppy table scraps. These foods are just extra calories and it could develop into a bad habit of your puppy begging for human food.
- Keep puppy treats to a minimum. Treats add extra calories and could make your puppy not want to eat his/her more nutritional food at meals. If you do have to give them treats, aim for a healthy dog treat.
- You get what you pay for, so don’t buy cheap puppy food! It’s been mentioned before to stay away from generic brands. Instead choose a well known brand name puppy food. You might pay more, but your puppy’s growth and development depend upon good, quality food.
What Ingredients Should Be In My Puppy’s Food?
Dog foods must include fat, protein, fatty acids, carbs, and should make up the bulk of the food and vitamins. Puppies also need a hefty amount of minerals in their diet. Here’s list by the National Academies of puppies daily recommended minerals and the function of the minerals.
Benefits and Functions
Bones, teeth, muscles, blood and muscles 1g.
DNA and RNA, energy, metabolism 0.75mg.
Muscles, nerve, hormone function,teeth and bone structure 150mg
Nerve impulses 200 mg.
Nerve impulses 1 gram
Cell membranes 300 mg.
Blood, energy, metabolism 7.5 mg.
Connective tissue, blood 1.5 mg.
Skin, wound healing 15 mg.
Thyroid function 200ug.
Immune system 90ug.
What Are The Best Times To Feed A Puppy?
It’s helpful for you and your puppy to have a regular feeding schedule. A rough rule of thumb for feeding a puppy is 3 times a day until your puppy is 4 to 6 months of age, then cut back to 2 times a day. Feed your puppy approximately every five hours, and don’t leave the food out long, only 10 to 20 minutes. Your puppy will learn that they need to eat or the food will go away, preventing them from becoming picky and dictating when they’re fed. Also be sure to always give your puppy fresh, clean water with their meal in another bowl. You can also schedule exercise after each meal.
Is My Puppy Gaining Enough Weight?
How much you feed your puppy depends upon his size, weight and breed. Do not overfeed your pup. Being overweight is detrimental to the growth and proper development of your puppy. Be sure to weigh them weekly and compare its weight to a published chart for breed and age.
An easy way to weigh your puppy:
- Weigh yourself holding your puppy
- Then set down the puppy and weigh yourself
- Subtract the second weight from the first and this is how much your puppy weighs.
What If My Puppy Overeats?
Puppies are hungry little things, but don’t cave in when their cute face and big eyes beg for more food. Puppies that overeat can often vomit up their food. This throws off their eating schedule and can be dangerous if they become dehydrated. Stick to your feeding schedule and the correct amount of food at each feeding. Sometimes puppies act hungry when they’re actually just thirsty, so be sure to give your puppy lots of fresh, clean water at each feeding.
Can I Give My Puppy Milk?
Puppies should not drink cow’s milk. It can cause diarrhea and other stomach issues. Puppies need a special diet; substituting milk or other kinds of milk can make them sick.
What Can I Do If My Puppy Seems Hungry All The Time?
It’s natural for puppies to be hungry especially since they’re constantly growing. Here are some ways to help your hungry pup:
- Check with the vet to be sure your puppy is healthy. Sometimes illness can make a young pup extra hungry or thirsty.
- Ignore their begging for food. Puppies look so sweet and sad when they want food. Don’t slip your puppy food off the dinner table; they’ll learn that begging gets extra food. Bad habits are hard to break.
- Check with your vet to see if you’re feeding your pup enough food. Puppies grow so quickly, it can hard to keep up with the food requirements. It could be that your puppy actually needs more food
- Add extra fiber to your puppy’s diet. Some vets suggest adding low fat vegetables to your pup’s diet. They won’t gain weight, but they’ll be more satisfied by the extra fiber. Vegetables like broccoli, sweet potatoes, green beans or carrots are all great fiber filled veggies you’re puppy will enjoy. Many of our options above have these ingredients.
- Use their hunger as an opportunity to train them. A hungry puppy will do what they’re told if they know that they’ll get a treat afterwards. Some owners even choose to give their puppy a non-treat when they obey. A scratch behind the pup’s ear or an enthusiastic, “Good Boy!” might be what your puppy really needs instead of food.
- Distract them. Of course, distracting is often the easiest route to dissuade a hungry puppy that needs food. Throw a ball, take your pup for a walk or just romp around to distract them from eating food.
What If My Puppy Accidentally Eats Chocolate?
Certain types of chocolate are dangerous to dogs and puppies. Theobromine is the toxic chemical in chocolate that makes dogs sick, and is found in dark chocolate, bittersweet and baker’s chocolate. How your dog will react to the chocolate will depend upon how much they ate and his size.
Milk chocolate is also deadly to dogs. It’s best to keep your chocolate in a hard to reach place so your puppy won’t get into it. If they do, call your vet immediately and tell him how much your puppy ate as well as their age and size.
Should I Give My Puppy Bones To Chew?
Use caution in giving your puppy a bone. Try to never give your puppy a chicken bone or pork bone because they fragment and splinter. These pieces can then get stuck in your puppy’s stomach and cause damage. Instead, try giving your pup a rawhide chew that’s small enough to fit in its mouth.
What Chewing Treats Can My Puppy Have?
There are many great substitutes you can give your puppy instead of a hard cow bone. These are especially made to not hurt a dog’s teeth.
- Bone shaped biscuits and hard-baked bones
- Chews made from rawhide are made from processed hide
- Charcoal variety biscuits are especially good for digestion
- Special formula dog chocolate is made for dogs and puppies. These are totally safe and healthy.
- Meat treats are made from meat and easily digested by puppies.
You’ve got this feeding thing down now, so enjoy your new puppy and all of their fun-loving energy. Before you know it, they’ll be a grown up dog.