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Best Dog Foods for Puppies: Top Wet & Dry Food For Your Fur Baby!

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Dog Food By Ben Team 34 min read May 24, 2021 10 Comments

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You aren’t the first person to bring home a brand-new puppy only to go cross-eyed while looking at the myriad food options available.

Lamb, salmon, chicken; dry, wet, semi-moist; hypoallergenic, all-natural, grain-free, grain-inclusive — the choices are endless!

But don’t despair – selecting a high-quality puppy food is not as hard as it initially seems. By considering a few simple criteria, you can pick a great food for your growing (and adorable) puppy.

In a hurry and just want a quick recommendation? Check out our quick picks!

Best Dog Food for Puppies: Quick Picks

  • #1 Nom Nom [Best Overall Dog Food for Puppies] — Designed specifically for your puppy and made with the same caliber of ingredients you’d enjoy in a fancy restaurant, this is the best food for spoiling your pooch rotten.
  • #2 Nutro ULTRA Puppy Food [Best Premium Kibble for Puppies]Made with a trio of healthy (and yummy!) proteins, brown rice, and an assortment of veggies, this is a great option for owners who want one of the very best kibbles available.
  • #3 Purina Pro Plan Shredded Blend [Most Affordable Puppy Food]Featuring all of the important things your dog needs and none of the cost-inflating things he doesn’t, this puppy food is an excellent choice for owners who need to save some cash while feeding their pooch.
  • #4 Nutro Large Breed Chicken & Brown Rice [Best Large-Breed Puppy Food]A tasty and nutritious, grain-inclusive puppy food that’ll meet the needs of your soon-to-be-big puppy.
  • #5 Hungry Bark Superfoods Chicken & Brown Rice [Best Eco-Friendly Puppy Food] Seeking a high-quality kibble that will help keep your pooch and the planet healthy? Look no further than Hungry Bark.
  • #6 Merrick Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Wet Puppy Food [Best Canned Puppy Food] — One of the few grain-inclusive canned foods on the market, this is an excellent choice for picky pups, and it’ll also work great as a topper.

Puppies and Dogs Have Different Nutritional Needs

Many new pet owners wonder if puppies truly require a different type of food, or if the entire idea is just a marketing ploy?

There are a lot of misleading claims and hype in the dog food world, but this one is actually true: Puppies do require a different type of food than adult dogs do.

In fact, they have specific nutritional needs, which differ markedly from those of adults.

Consider, for example, that dogs grow most rapidly while they are young.

In fact, most of a dog’s growth occurs during the first year of life (although many breeds continue to grow until reaching about 3 years of age).

This rapid growth requires a great deal of resources — more, in fact, than adult dogs need.

puppy nutrition

Accordingly, to ensure your puppy reaches her full growth potential and develops a strong bone structure, you must offer her a diet specifically formulated for young, growing dogs.

Don’t misunderstand: There’s nothing “dangerous” about adult food, and feeding your puppy a bowl of adult dog food in a pinch is unlikely to cause any serious health problems. But it is very important that you do not do so as a matter of practice – the long-term risks are simply too great.

Besides, adult foods may upset your pup’s tummy, which isn’t good for her nor the human trying to housebreak her.

Puppy Nutrition 101: What Kind of Food Does Your Pup Need?

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) recommends two different nutritional profiles for dog foods; one set of recommendations applies to adult dogs (called a “maintenance diet”), while the other applies to growing puppies and reproductively active females (which is called a “growth and reproduction” diet).

Among other differences, growing puppies require more protein and amino acids than the adults do, as well as more fat, calcium and phosphorus.

Specifically, at least 22% of a puppy food’s calories should come from protein, while protein only needs to provide about 18% of the calories in an adult dog’s food (though many adult foods exceed this level of protein). In practice, many puppy foods provide even more protein — 22% protein content represents the minimum daily requirements needed to keep a puppy healthy.

More (within reason) is even better for growing pups! Accordingly, most common puppy foods draw about 30% of their calories from protein.

Additionally, most high-quality puppy foods are fortified with additional vitamins and minerals. Some even include immune-system-boosting antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids to ensure your new puppy’s brain develops properly.

AAFCO nutritional guideline chart from PetMD.

Best Fresh Foods for Puppies

If you want one of the very best foods available for your cute-and-cuddly new canine, it’s hard to beat fresh foods. Most are made with super-premium ingredients, cooked up in US-based kitchens, and custom-formulated for your specific pet.

Fresh foods certainly aren’t cheap, but many owners are glad to cough up a little more cash to reap the rewards they provide!

1. Nom Nom

Best Overall Dog Food for Puppies

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Nom Nom

Fresh food designed specifically for your dog and delivered right to your home.

After filling out a questionnaire about your puppy’s basic info, Nom Nom will whip up a food designed to provide the nutrition your specific pupper needs.

About: Nom Nom’s fresh dog foods are ideal for owners who don’t mind spending a bit more to give their pooch the very best. Custom-crafted for your pooch’s specific needs and made in the USA with fresh, US-sourced, restaurant-quality ingredients, you will love the way your pooch enjoys chowing down on this super-premium puppy food!

Features:

  • Custom-crafted foods designed by a board-certified veterinary nutritionist.
  • Made from restaurant-quality ingredients to spoil your new puppy rotten.
  • Available in your choice of four different proteins (turkey, chicken, pork, or beef).
  • Built on a home-delivery, subscription-based model.
  • You can order variety packs without enrolling in the subscription service.
  • Nom Nom will leave out foods your pooch is allergic to.

Sample Ingredient List (Turkey Fare Recipe):

Ingredients List

Ground turkey, brown rice, eggs, carrots, spinach...,

dicalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, salt, potassium chloride, fish oil, natural flavor, vinegar, citric acid, taurine, choline bitartrate, zinc gluconate, ferrous sulfate, vitamin E supplement, copper gluconate, niacin (vitamin B3), manganese gluconate, vitamin A supplement, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), selenium yeast, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin B12 supplement, cholecalciferol (source of vitamin D3), potassium iodide.

Pros

  • Unmatched taste — most puppies will do cartwheels for this food at dinnertime.
  • Packed with nutritious ingredients, including premium proteins and whole grains.
  • Available in grain-free and grain-inclusive varieties.
  • Super-convenient home delivery alleviates the need to schlep to the pet store.
  • Pre-portioned packaging makes it easy to serve up dinner.
  • Some owners have noticed improvements in coat condition, elimination habits, and energy levels after feeding this food.

Cons

  • The only real downside to this food is the price — otherwise, we imagine every puppy owner would select this food.
  • Primarily designed as a subscription service (but you aren’t required to sign up for a subscription and you can cancel at any time).
Want to learn more about fresh dog foods?

We think Nom Nom is the best fresh food for most puppies, but there are other options available. Check out our complete guide to fresh foods for dogs to see some other manufacturers we like and learn more about fresh foods in general!

5 Best Dry Puppy Foods For Growing Canines

Fresh foods a little pricey for your tastes? No worries! There are a variety of high quality kibbles on the market that are tasty, nutritious, and pretty affordable.

And we’ll share five of our favorites below!

Just note that while most of these should work well for the average puppy, you need to select one that’s designed for your puppy’s eventual size. Also, as always, keep your vet in the loop and make sure he or she is onboard with your choice.

1. Nutro ULTRA Puppy Food

Best Premium Kibble for Puppies

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Nutro ULTRA Puppy Food

Nutro ULTRA Puppy Food

Premium, multi-protein, grain-inclusive kibble

High-quality puppy food featuring three different proteins, healthy grains, and an assortment of fruits and veggies.

About: Nutro ULTRA Puppy Food is a premium-quality puppy kibble that features a trio of proteins, including farm-raised chicken, pasture-fed lamb and salmon. It also includes whole brown rice and antioxidant-rich blueberries, spinach, pumpkin, kale, and other fruits and veggies.

This recipe is designed for small and medium-sized puppies, but Nutro also makes a large-breed version of ULTRA for big pups.

Features:

  • Fortified with calcium, which will help your pup’s body build strong bones.
  • Made with non-GMO ingredients, which may be appealing to some owners.
  • Formulated with omega-3 fatty acids to help prevent inflammation and promote proper growth and development.
  • Made with high-quality grains, including whole brown rice.

Ingredients List

Chicken, Chicken Meal, Whole Brown Rice, Brewers Rice, Rice Bran...,

Chicken Fat (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols), Whole Gain Oatmeal, Natural Flavor, Potato Protein, Lamb Meal, Salmon Meal, Pea Protein, Whole Flaxseed, Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Sunflower Oil (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Fish Oil (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols, Source of DHA), Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, DL-Methionine, Salt, Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid (a Preservative), Dried Coconut, Whole Chia Seed, Dried Egg Product, Tomato Pomace, Dried Kale, Dried Pumpkin, Dried Spinach, Dried Blueberries, Dried Apples, Dried Carrots, Zinc Sulfate, Niacin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Selenium Yeast, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Rosemary Extract.

Pros

  • Multi-protein recipe will help fuel your pup’s growth and development (and satisfy his palate!)
  • Made with healthy grains (whole brown rice)
  • Packed with antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies

Cons

  • Pricier than some other kibbles
  • Multi-protein recipe is not ideal for some pups with food allergies

2. Purina Pro Plan Puppy Food

Most Affordable Puppy Food

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Purina Pro Plan Shredded Blend Puppy Food

Purina Pro Plan Shredded Blend

Affordable yet nutritious puppy food

A chicken-and-rice puppy recipe that contains DHA and fish oils for healthy muscles, brain, and vision development.

About: Purina Pro Plan Shredded Blend Puppy Food is a high-quality puppy food, which will help keep your pup healthy and well-fed, while not destroying your bank account in the process. It isn’t quite as impressive as some of the premium kibbles on the market, but budget-limited owners can still feel good about this food.

This food is produced in several different formulations, called “platforms” by the manufacturer, such as “Savor,” “Sport” and “Focus.”

Features:

  • While quite nutritious, this is a no-frills dog food that skips a lot of unnecessary bells and whistles to remain affordable
  • Contains DHA and fish oils (which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids) to support vision and brain health
  • Fortified with vitamins and minerals to ensure complete nutrition
  • Contains a mixture of both shredded chicken and hard kibble, which means the food tastes great and may provide dental benefits
  • Made with probiotics to help promote proper gastrointestinal function.
  • Suitable for small-, medium-, and large-breed puppies.

Ingredients List

Chicken, Rice, Poultry By-Product Meal, Corn Gluten Meal, Beef Fat Preserved With Mixed-tocopherols...,

Soybean Meal, Whole Grain Wheat, Whole Grain Corn, Corn Germ Meal, Dried Egg Product, Natural Flavor, Dried Yeast, Glycerin, Fish Meal, Fish Oil, Calcium Carbonate, Soybean Oil, Mono And Dicalcium Phosphate, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Minerals [Zinc Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Ferrous Sulfate, Copper Proteinate, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite], Choline Chloride, Vitamins [Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin (Vitamin B-3), Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B-5), Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B-1), Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B-2), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B-6), Folic Acid (Vitamin B-9), Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Vitamin K), Biotin (Vitamin B-7)], Dried Bacillus Coagulans Fermentation Product, Garlic Oil.

Pros

  • An affordable, yet nutritious option for cost-conscious owners.
  • Most puppies appear to like the taste of this food.
  • Most puppies digest this food without issue, possibly due to the included probiotics.
  • Fortified with DHA and fish oils to reduce inflammation and ensure proper development.

Cons

  • Does not contain any antioxidant-rich fruits or veggies.
  • Contains poultry by-product meals, which are perfectly safe, but objectionable to some owners (your dog won’t mind, though).
  • Made with garlic oil, which some owners like to avoid (though the quantities involved are likely inconsequential).

3. Nutro Large Breed Chicken & Brown Rice Puppy Food

Best Large-Breed Puppy Food

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Nutro Large-Breed Puppy Food

Nutro Large Breed Chicken & Brown Rice

Nutritious, grain-inclusive, large-breed puppy food

Specifically designed to meet the unique nutritional requirements of large-breed puppies, this is a great choice for young puppies who’ll eventually exceed 70 pounds.

About: Nutro’s Large Breed Chicken & Brown Rice recipe is specifically designed to keep your large-breed pupper healthy, happy, and smackin’ his lips!

Drawing the bulk of its protein from deboned chicken and chicken meal, this food has a meaty taste most dogs love. It’s also formulated with several whole grains and an assortment of colorful, tasty, and antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies.

Features

  • Contains several omega-3 fatty acid sources that’ll keep your puppy’s brain healthy
  • Contains several antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables to encourage strong immune function
  • Made with chicken and chicken meal to provide plenty of protein and a meaty taste.
  • Made with antioxidant-rich ingredients, including kale, spinach, pumpkin.

Ingredients List

Chicken, Chicken Meal (source of Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate), Whole Grain Sorghum, Whole Grain Brown Rice, Whole Grain Barley...,

Potato Protein, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Brewers Rice, Natural Flavor, Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Fish Oil (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Salt, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Citric Acid (preservative), Mixed Tocopherols (preservative), Chia Seed, Dried Coconut, Dried Tomato Pomace, Dried Egg Product, Dried Pumpkin, Dried Kale, Dried Spinach, Vitamin E Supplement, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Sodium Selenite, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Niacin Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Manganous Oxide, Potassium Iodide, Folic Acid, Rosemary Extract.

Pros

  • Tasty recipe that most puppies appear to love.
  • Great option for large-breed puppies, who have different nutritional requirements than small- or medium-sized breeds.
  • Made with omega-3-rich ingredients to promote proper development and fight inflammation.

Cons

  • Includes vegetable juice for color, which isn’t necessarily “bad,” but it is unnecessary.
  • We’d prefer if they’d identify the “natural flavors” used in the recipe.
  • It’d be a more attractive option if it included probiotics.

4. Hungry Bark Chicken & Brown Rice

Best Eco-Friendly Option

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hungry bark chicken

Hungry Bark

Boutique-style, eco-friendly kibble for puppies and adult dogs

Meaty, grain-inclusive kibble shipped in sustainable packaging. Most recipes feature multiple proteins, antioxidant-rich veggies, tasty fruits, and probiotics.

About: Hungry Bark is a unique dog food company that strives to produce a healthier, heartier kibble. You can order recipes with any of several different proteins, and they offer grain-inclusive and grain-free recipes (for puppies with a specific intolerance or allergy to grains).

With 27% protein composition and plenty of omega fatty acids and probiotics, this food provides all of the things a growing pupperino needs! Additionally, because it’s formulated for all life stages, your pooch can continue to enjoy this food well past puppyhood.

Plus, Hungry Bark uses sustainable packaging to help out the planet, and they match customer donations to the ASPCA at checkout. But that’s not all! Ready for another neat perk? If you opt for Hungry Bark’s Subscribe & Save option (which can be canceled at any time) you can save 20%!

Ingredients List

Chicken, Turkey, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Brown Rice...,

Pearled Barley, Lentils, Oat Groats, Millet, Field Peas, Chicken Fat (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols), Dried Beet Pulp, Menhaden Fish Meal, Tapioca Starch, Natural Flavor, Flaxseed, Brewers Dried Yeast, Salt, L-Lysine, Menhaden Fish Oil (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols), Potassium Chloride, DL-Methionine, Lecithin, Apple Cider Vinegar, Dried Pumpkin, Ginger, Turmeric, Dried Spinach, Dried Carrots, Inulin, Dried Cranberry, Dried Blueberry, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin Supplement, Organic Dried Kelp, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin A Acetate, Citric Acid (Preservative), Folic Acid, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Manganese Sulfate, Manganese Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganous Oxide, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Iodate, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Bifidobacterium animalis Fermentation Product and Dried Lactobacillus reuteri Fermentation Product.

Pros

  • Heavy focus on chicken and turkey meats
  • Grain-inclusive recipes feature healthy, whole grains
  • Sustainable packaging
  • Discounted subscription plan available

Cons

  • Quality and things like high protein levels come at a price, and this is not a cheap kibble
  • They only offer one grain-inclusive recipe

5. Taste of the Wild Grain-Free Puppy Food

Best Novel Protein Puppy Foods

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Taste of the Wild Grain-Free Puppy Food

Taste of the Wild Grain-Free Puppy Food

Protein-rich, grain-free kibbles made with fairly novel proteins

Grain-free, puppy-specific formula that’s easy-to-digest as well as free of any grain, corn, wheat, artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives.

About: Taste of the Wild Grain-Free Puppy Food is a nutritionally balanced kibble, available in two flavors: High Prairie, which contains bison and venison, and Pacific Stream, which is made from a variety of fish species. These are relatively novel proteins for most puppies, which means that they’re great for young four-footers who’re allergic to chicken, beef, pork or other common meats.

Additionally, while most pups digest grains perfectly well, this is a good option for those that do have a bona fide grain allergy or intolerance.

Features:

  • Taste of the Wild is available in two different flavors, each of which contain novel proteins.
  • A grain-free recipe that’s great for puppies who can’t digest grains properly.
  • Includes real fruits and vegetables, which improve the food’s taste and provide antioxidants.
  • Formulated with probiotics and prebiotics to foster proper digestion.

Ingredients List

Buffalo, lamb meal, sweet potatoes, egg product, pea protein...,

Peas, potatoes, canola oil, tomato pomace, roasted bison, roasted venison, beef, flaxseed, potato fiber, natural flavor, ocean fish meal, salmon oil (a source of DHA), salt, DL-methionine, choline chloride, taurine, dried chicory root, yucca schidigera extract, tomatoes, blueberries, raspberries, dried Lactobacillus plantarum fermentation product, dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, dried Bifidobacterium animalis fermentation product, vitamin E supplement, iron proteinate, zinc proteinate, copper proteinate, ferrous sulfate, zinc sulfate, copper sulfate, potassium iodide, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), manganese proteinate, manganous oxide, ascorbic acid, vitamin A supplement, biotin, niacin, calcium pantothenate, manganese sulfate, sodium selenite, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), vitamin B12 supplement, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin D supplement, folic acid. Contains a source of live (viable), naturally occurring microorganisms.

Pros

  • Formulated with novel proteins, making it great for pups with some common food allergies. 
  • Included prebiotics and probiotics can help prevent tummy troubles.
  • Most dogs appear to love the taste of both recipes.

Cons

  • Grain-free recipes are only a good idea for dogs who have trouble with grains (a relatively rare problem).
  • Though most pups love the recipe, a not-insignificant number of puppies were not fond of the bison and venison recipe.

5 Best Wet Puppy Foods: Moist & Meaty!

The following five products are some of the best wet puppy foods around. Remember that wet food is difficult to store once opened, so try to avoid purchasing cans that are larger than your pup can finish in one sitting.

Note that, unfortunately, the majority of canned foods are grain-free. However, we’ve included a few that do feature grains below.

1. Merrick Whole Earth Farms Whole Grain Wet Puppy Food

Best Overall Wet Dog Food for Puppies

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Merrick Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Wet Puppy Food

Whole Earth Farms Canned Puppy Food

Puppy-friendly protein mix that’s made in the USA

Nutritious and tasty wet food featuring multiple proteins and whole grains.

About: Merrick Whole Earth Farms Whole Grain Wet Puppy Food is chicken, turkey and salmon-based food, fortified with vitamins and minerals to ensure complete nutrition.

Features:

  • Made with multiple protein sources.
  • Includes delicious and antioxidant-rich foods, such as blueberries.
  • Made in the United States of America.
  • Contains no lentils or peas, which may be associated with DCM.

Ingredients List

Chicken, Chicken Broth, Chicken Liver, Salmon, Brown Rice...,

Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Oatmeal, Apples, Natural Flavor, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Locust Bean Gum, Fish Oil, Guar Gum, Sodium Tripolyphosphate, Choline Chloride, Minerals (Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Potassium Iodide, Sodium Selenite), Calcium Carbonate, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Folic Acid, Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Biotin).

Pros

  • Unlike the majority of canned foods on the market, this is a grain-inclusive recipe.
  • Contains antioxidant-rich sweet potatoes, carrots, and apples.
  • Includes several proteins, including organ meats.

Cons

  • May not be ideal for all dogs to digest (there were some complaints of tummy troubles).
  • Like most canned foods, this recipe lacks probiotics.
  • Inclusion of multiple proteins makes this a poor choice for pups with food allergies.

2. Royal Canin Puppy Food

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Royal Canin Puppy Food

Royal Canin Puppy Food

Small-breed canned puppy food

Canned food specifically designed for small breed puppies with added appetite stimulation for pups that need to pack on the pounds!

About: Royal Canin Puppy Food comes fortified with a variety of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants to ensure your growing puppy gets all of the nutrition she needs.

Features:

  • Antioxidant-rich formula helps to promote a strong immune system.
  • Designed to support healthy intestinal flora, which will improve your puppy’s ability to digest food.
  • Made with several different protein sources, including chicken and pork.
  • Created specifically as a dog food for small breed puppies.

Ingredients List

Water sufficient for processing, chicken, pork by-products, pork liver, rice flour...,

Wheat gluten, dried plain beet pulp, powdered cellulose, fish oil, carrageenan, sodium silico aluminate, calcium carbonate, natural flavors, sodium tripolyphosphate, potassium phosphate, taurine, potassium chloride, vitamins [DL-alpha tocopherol acetate (source of vitamin E), L-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (source of vitamin C), biotin, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), niacin supplement, D-calcium pantothenate, riboflavin supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), vitamin B12 supplement, folic acid, vitamin D3 supplement], trace minerals (zinc oxide, ferrous sulfate, zinc proteinate, copper sulfate, manganous oxide, sodium selenite, calcium iodate), marigold extract (Tagetes erecta L.).

PROS

Royal Canin Puppy Development Food not only provides the nutrition your growing puppy needs, it also promotes a healthy, shiny coat.

CONS

Some puppies didn’t seem to find this food palatable, and it gave some dogs digestive issues.

3. Natural Balance Original Ultra Puppy Formula

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Natural Balance Original Ultra Whole Body Health Wet Food

Natural Balance Ultra Puppy

Gluten-free wet puppy food with meat and brown rice

Meaty puppy food with chicken, chicken liver, duck, and salmon. Includes DHA and EPA to help puppy development.

About: Natural Balance Original Ultra Whole Body Health Wet Food is a gluten-free food, designed to nourish your puppy into adulthood. 

Features:

  • Contains bovine colostrum to help ensure healthy immune function.
  • Formulated to provide the fuel your pup’s growing muscles need.
  • Gluten free, and contains added DHA and EPA.
  • Multiple fiber sources encourage optimal digestive system function.

Ingredients List

Chicken Broth, Chicken, Chicken Liver, Duck, Salmon...,

Brown Rice, Dried Peas, Carrots, Potatoes, Canola Oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), Dried Egg, Chicken Meal, Menhaden Oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), Oat Hulls, Pea Fiber, Dried Tomato Pomace, Vitamins (L-ASCORBYL-2-POLYPHOSPHATE (SOURCE OF VITAMIN C), VITAMIN E SUPPLEMENT, THIAMINE MONONITRATE, NIACIN, d-CALCIUM PANTOTHENATE, VITAMIN A SUPPLEMENT, RIBOFLAVIN SUPPLEMENT, VITAMIN D3 SUPPLEMENT, VITAMIN B12 SUPPLEMENT, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE, FOLIC ACID), Guar Gum, Minerals (Zinc Proteinate, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Sulfate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Sulfate, Manganese Proteinate, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), Natural Smoke Flavor, Potassium Chloride, Salt, DL-Methionine, Carrageenan, L-Tryptophan, Choline Chloride, Dried Spinach, Dried Kelp, Cranberries, Blueberries, L-Lysine Monohydrochloride, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Rosemary Extract

PROS

Most dog owners report that their dog loves the taste of the product. Many like to use this food as a supplement to their puppies dry food, which improves the palatability of most bland kibbles.

CONS

Like most wet foods, it is difficult to store once opened. However, Natural Balance Original Ultra Whole Body Wet Food is available in both 6- and 13-ounce sizes, so consider purchasing the smaller size for smaller puppies.

5. Canidae Limited Ingredient Diet Puppy

Best Canned Food for Puppies with Food Allergies

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Canidae Limited Ingredient Diet Puppy Chicken Formula

Canidae Puppy Limited Ingredient Diet

Grain-free, limited-ingredient wet puppy food

A limited-ingredient canned food that’s perfect for pups with food allergies or intolerances.

About: Canidae Limited Ingredient Diet Puppy Formula is designed to provide your puppy with all of the nutrition he needs, without relying on any unnecessary ingredients, which may cause digestive problems or trigger food allergies.

But despite featuring only a relative handful of ingredients, this food still has a taste that most puppies will love. And though it doesn’t feature a lot of extra bells and whistles, it is fortified with salmon oil, which provide your pooch with plenty of omega-3 fatty acids.

Features:

  • Chicken and chicken broth are the first two ingredients, which help to create a taste doggos love.
  • Contains salmon oil to provide omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Grain-free formula, that’s ideal for young puppers who can’t properly digest grains.

Ingredients List

Chicken, Chicken Broth, Dried Egg Product, Peas, Salmon Oil (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols)...,

Potassium Chloride, Salt, Sunflower Oil, Agar-agar, Choline Chloride, Sodium Tripolyphosphate, Vitamin E Supplement, Zinc Sulfate, Niacin Supplement, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Zinc Proteinate, Manganese Sulfate, Vitamin A Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate, Iron Proteinate, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Copper Sulfate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Manganese Proteinate, Potassium Iodide, Riboflavin Supplement, Copper Proteinate, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Cobalt Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Rosemary Extract

Pros

  • A tasty LID recipe that appeals to many pups more than some other foods made from a handful of ingredients.
  • Fortified with salmon oil for plenty of omega-3s.
  • Some owners found that it made a great topper or mixer for puppies who normally eat an LID kibble.  

Cons

  • Like most canned foods, this is more expensive than a comparable kibble.
  • Though the grain-free recipe is perfect for pups with grain allergies or intolerances, most pups digest grains easily.
  • Obviously won’t work if your dog is allergic to chicken or eggs.

5. Blue Wilderness Turkey & Chicken Grill Wet Puppy Food

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Blue Wilderness Turkey & Chicken Grill

Blue Wilderness Puppy

Multi-protein wet puppy food

High quality grain-free puppy food made with real turkey and chicken, plus omega-3 fatty acids for promoting brain development.

About: Blue Wilderness Turkey and Chicken Grill is a nutritious and meaty puppy food that is designed to mimic the diet of wild canids.

Features:

  • Made with multiple protein sources, including turkey, chicken, chicken liver and more
  • Rich in omega-3 fatty acids to promote proper brain development and prevent inflammation
  • Contains no corn, soy, wheat or artificial additives

Ingredients List

Turkey, Chicken Broth, Chicken, Chicken Liver, Potatoes...,

Pea Protein, Flaxseed (source of Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids), Fish Oil (source of DHA-Docosahexaenoic Acid), Dicalcium Phosphate, Carrageenan, Cassia Gum, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Guar Gum, Choline Chloride, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Vitamin E Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Sodium Selenite, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Cobalt Amino Acid Chelate, Niacin Supplement (Vitamin B3), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Biotin (Vitamin B7), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Potassium Iodide, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), preserved with Mixed Tocopherols.

PROS

Most dogs appear to love the taste of Blue Wilderness Turkey & Chicken Grill, while owners appreciated the food’s coat- and skin-supporting benefits. Many owners were also pleased with the food’s reasonable price point.

CONS

There aren’t many problems with this food, although a few dogs didn’t seem to digest it very well.

Puppy-Feeding FAQs: Your Puppy Food Questions Answered!

Best Food for Puppies

Still have questions about feeding your new puppy? It’s understandable! After all, there’s a lot to learn about feeding your new four-footer, so don’t feel bad.

We’ll try to help you further by answering some of the most common puppy-feeding questions new owners have below!

When Are Puppies Ready for Food?

Most breeders and shelters won’t release new puppies until they’re at least 8 weeks of age. 

By this time, the puppies should already be fully weaned and ready to eat regular puppy food.

But if you end up caring for puppies that are younger than this, you’ll need to help wean them from milk to puppy food in a gradual manner.

You can usually start the weaning process once your puppy reaches 3.5 to 4.5 weeks of age. But you can’t just plop a bowl of food in front of your hungry pup and expect him to start chowing down.

Instead, you’ll need to make a “gruel” comprised of a small amount of wet or dry food, which has been mixed with milk replacement formula.

Gently press your puppy’s nose into the bowl, so he’ll start lapping up the milk (as well as the small bits of the food that are mixed in).

Over the next few weeks, you’ll gradually begin using less milk replacement formula in the mixture.

By 6 weeks of age, most puppies should be eating food without any milk replacement formula added.

How Much Food Do Growing Puppies Need?

New owners are often unsure how much food to give their new puppy at mealtime.

Do you fill up her bowl? Just let her eat as much as she wants?

Some owners even make the mistake of leaving a bowl of food available at all times (called ad libitum or on-demand feeding).

In most cases, you should just follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the packaging.

These puppy feeding recommendations usually fall within the veterinary-recommended range, although they are occasionally so broad that they are useless.

For example, a given food may advise providing your dog with 2 to 4 ½ cups of food per day. As you can see, the high-end of this range provides more than double the calories of the low-end recommendation, so that’s really not a helpful range.

Discuss your pup’s caloric needs with your veterinarian, but you can figure out a ballpark figure by applying a slightly complex formula, if you like.

It is usually advisable to provide your puppy’s food in three relatively small meals, spread throughout the day.

This will keep your little pup’s tummy full, prevent her from over-indulging at dinner time and also help her avoid intestinal troubles.

Try to feed your puppy’s meals at about the same time each day, and make sure that you discard any uneaten food (particularly wet foods) within 20 to 30 minutes. This will help prevent your pet from eating spoiled food.

Once your dog has reached about 80% to 90% of her adult size, you can cut back to twice-daily feedings (although each meal will consist of relatively more food to ensure she still gets the calories she needs).

Additionally, you can transition her to a diet formulated for adults at this time. Just be sure to do so gradually, to avoid stressing her digestive system.

Things to Look For When Selecting a Puppy Food: What Should Puppies Eat?

A number of characteristics can help you distinguish the differences between foods of various qualities – no doubt you only want the best for your pup!

  • Pick a food that is formulated to meet the AAFCO’s guidelines for “growth and reproduction” or “all life stages”. We mentioned this earlier, but it bears repeating. Puppies have special nutritional requirements, so you’ll need to select a food that’s designed to meet these needs.
  • Select a food that’s suitable for large-breed puppies if your dog will likely exceed 70 pounds in weight. Large-breed puppies have additional nutritional requirements, so be sure to look for a large-breed puppy food for your new little mastiff, Saint Bernard, or German shepherd.
  • Select a food that addresses any specific health concerns your puppy has. For example, if your pooch is allergic to chicken, you’ll obviously want to avoid foods that have any chicken-based products. This includes not only deboned chicken, but chicken meal, chicken fat, chicken organ meats, or even — in some cases — eggs. Similarly, if your pooch suffers from something like kidney problems, you’ll want to select a renal support formula.
  • Make sure your vet approves of your choice. This is a critical step in the food-selecting process that many owners neglect. But your vet knows your puppy better than anyone but you, and he or she will be able to verify that you’ve picked a chow that will satisfy your dog’s needs and give her the best chance of growing into a healthy adult.

As long as you follow these guidelines, you’ll likely end up with a food that’s perfectly adequate for your little floof. But, there are a few other things you can consider if you would like to end up with the very best food possible. This includes things like:

  • Select a food with high-quality proteins at the top of the ingredient list. Generally speaking, you’ll want to see a whole protein listed first, and — in a perfect scenario — you’ll see properly labelled meat meals further down the ingredient list.
  • Look for a food with whole grains. Contrary to popular thought, most puppies digest cooked grains without issue. So, it’s generally best to look for a grain-inclusive recipe that’s made with whole (unprocessed) grains like wheat, rice, or oatmeal. Doing so may help your dog avoid health problems in the future (more on this below).
  • Pay attention to the where foods are manufactured. Select products that are manufactured in a country with high pet-food quality standards. Although it is difficult to make broad generalizations, dog foods made in Australia, New Zealand, Western Europe, Canada or the United States generally fit the bill, while most Asian-made products should be avoided.
  • In addition to being made in western countries, look for foods that only include ingredients sourced from western countries too. This is admittedly harder to find, as many supplements are difficult to source from the US or other western countries. Several fresh foods do fit this bill (with Nom Nom being a great example), but there are also a small number of traditional foods that use only US-sourced products too.
  • Look for foods with nutritional “extras.” The best puppy foods typically contain supplements that help improve the value of the recipe. Some of the most important supplements to look for include chondroitin, glucosamine, omega-3-rich ingredients, and probiotics. Chondroitin and glucosamine help to support joint health, omega-3 fatty acids help prevent inflammation, and probiotics help promote proper digestion.
  • When possible, select a food made by a brand that employs a full-time, credentialed nutritionist. This will help ensure that someone educated in the ins and outs of proper pooch nutrition is involved in the recipe-crafting process.

Dog Food Brands to Avoid: Steering Clear of the Worst Puppy Foods

Understanding the things you want to look for when picking a puppy food is important, but it is also important that you understand which dog food brands to avoid. We’ll try to help you do so below, as we explain some of the red flags you’ll want to watch out for.

  • Steer clear of mystery meats. You’ll want to steer clear of any foods with unidentified animal meals or fats derived from unidentified meats. For safety’s sake, it is best to avoid foods that don’t indicate the sources for their additives. Meat meals and rendered fats are not inherently problematic, but you need to know from which animal these by-products originated.
  • Avoid foods with artificial flavors or colors. Many of the worst puppy foods contain a variety of unnecessary additives in preservatives, so you’ll want to avoid these foods whenever possible. In most cases, the fewer the ingredients listed on the bag of food, the better.
  • Try to avoid puppy foods with processed or enriched grains. Grains are usually perfectly acceptable carbohydrates for puppies, but whole grains are much better for your pooch than refined or processed grains are. Refined grains typically lack the fiber content of unrefined grains, and they won’t keep your pet full for very long, either.

Do Puppies Need a Grain-Free Puppy Food?

There’s a lot of talk about grain-free dog foods, which causes many new owners to begin looking for the best grain-free puppy food.

But this begs the question: Do puppies need a grain-free puppy food?

Generally speaking, no — while grain-free diets are preferable in some specific circumstances (such as dogs who are allergic to a specific type of grain), they aren’t usually necessary.

In fact, the FDA has released some information that indicates a correlation between grain-free dog food and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).

For this reason, it’s not recommended to feed your dog a grain-free diet unless other factors are at play, such as allergies.

Some grains are certainly better for your pet than others (for example, whole grains are much healthier than enriched or processed grains), but there’s no reason to deliberately seek out a grain-free recipe for a typical, healthy puppy.

What About Foods Marketed for “All Life Stages?”

Some dog food manufacturers try to fish with a big net, and market foods designed to be suitable for puppies and adults.

To do so in accordance with the AAFCO’s labelling requirements, such foods need only demonstrate that they meet the nutritional requirements for puppies and adults.

But because the nutritional requirements of foods designed for growing dogs exceed those required for adults, these foods are essentially puppy food.

It is therefore perfectly acceptable to offer “all life stages” foods to young puppies.

best food for puppies

However, problems with such foods may manifest in adult dogs, who may not need the higher protein and fat content that characterizes puppy foods.

Some adult dogs – particularly those with high caloric needs – may be able to tolerate such rich food on a daily basis, but others will become overweight, and subject to joint problems and other ailments.

Consider Your Canine’s Size: The Best Puppy Food for Large Breeds

It’s important to note that large-breed puppies have slightly different nutritional needs than small- to medium-sized breeds do.

This means that the best puppy food for large breeds is one that is specifically formulated to meet the needs of soon-to-be-big dogs.

Fortunately, there are a number of foods on the market that are perfect for soon-to-be big pups.

Generally speaking, foods designed for large-breed puppies differ in the following ways:

  • They contain less calcium
  • They contain less phosphorus
  • They are leaner and have less fat
  • They often have fewer calories per cup

Additionally, many foods specifically designed for large-breed puppies also contain joint-supporting supplements, such as chondroitin and glucosamine.

The 50-pound mark is often recognized as the line that distinguishes large breeds from small- and medium-sized breeds, but this isn’t set in stone.

Just be sure to speak with your vet if you’re not sure whether a large-breed dog food is right for your dog.

Wet, Semi-Moist or Dry? Which Food Is Best for Your Pup?

Dog foods are available in three different preparations.

Wet food is typically (but not always) packaged in a can, semi-moist food is packaged in sealed plastic bags, and dry foods usually come in a wax-coated paper bag. Each type of food has its own pros and cons.

  • Dry Food. Dry food is the preferred choice for most dogs, as it typically has the highest protein content and is the easiest to store. Dry foods are usually the most economical option of the three styles, and the hard kibble bits tend to scrape food and plaque from your dog’s teeth, which provides dental benefits for your growing pup.
  • Wet Food. As the name suggests, wet dog food is full of water, which means that less of your money is going to protein and more of it is going to paying for something that comes out of your tap for free. Wet foods do not provide any dental benefits for dogs, which is unfortunate, as most dogs love the taste of canned foods.
  • Semi-Moist. Semi-moist dog foods have largely been replaced by wet foods in the marketplace, so you won’t see tons of semi-moist options at your local pet store. You aren’t missing out – only a few of these are designed for young dogs, so semi-moist foods aren’t usually a good choice for puppy owners.
Pro Tip

Mix Wet & Dry For A Tasty Combo! Some owners like to mix a little wet food into their dog’s kibble to enjoy the financial and dental benefits of dry food, while allowing their dog to enjoy the tasty mix!

Can You Use a Homemade Puppy Food for Your New Pet?

A lot of owners consider making a homemade puppy food for their new pet. It’s certainly possible to do so, but it’s generally not a good idea.

Creating a homemade food for adult dogs is tricky at best, and it requires a lot more research and expertise than the average owner is willing or able to invest.

And because a puppy’s nutritional needs are even more challenging to satisfy than those of adults, it’s wiser to simply rely on a commercially prepared diet that is specifically designed to meet the needs of growing puppies.

If you have your heart set on feeding your pet a homemade food, just wait until your little floof has reached adulthood (and then be sure that you work closely with your vet while designing the recipe).

Transition Foods Slowly to Avoid Digestive Difficulties

It is always a good idea to make any changes to your dog’s diet slowly, over the course of about five to seven days.

This will give your pup’s body a little more time to adjust to his new food, which will usually help eliminate or minimize any intestinal disturbances.

A typical transition should unfold as follows:

  • Day One – Fill your pup’s bowl 90% of the way with the old food and mix in 10% of his new food
  • Day Two – Fill your pup’s bowl 75% of the way with old food and mix in 25% of his new food
  • Day Three – Fill your pup’s bowl 50% of the way with old food and mix in 50% of his new food
  • Day Four – Fill your pup’s bowl 25% of the way with old food and mix in 75% of his new food
  • Day Five – Fill your pup’s bowl 10% of the way with old food and mix in 90% of his new food
  • Day Six – Discontinue feeding the old food entirely and fill your pup’s bowl with his new food only

This schedule isn’t written in stone, and you should feel free to tweak it slightly. Just be sure that you are giving your puppy’s body enough time to make the transition and you should be able to avoid most types of stomach upset.

When and how often should I feed my puppy?

It’s recommended that you feed your puppy three relatively small meals, spread throughout the day.

Morning, noon, and evening are common feeding times. This will keep your pup’s stomach satisfied while avoiding any intestinal troubles.

How much food should I feed my puppy?

Follow the puppy food manufacturer’s guidelines on how much to feed your puppy. Generally, this can be anywhere from 2-5 cups or more depending on your puppy’s current size and estimated adult size.

When should I switch my puppy to adult food?

You can switch your puppy to adult food once she has reached 80% – 90% of her adult size. Usually this happens around 9-12 months for small breeds and 12-24 months for larger breeds.

What breeds are at greatest risk for hip dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is more likely to affect larger breed dogs. For this reason, it’s important to feed these pups specialized large breed puppy food which is formulated to lower risks of hip dysplasia.

How do I know if my puppy is a large breed?

Puppy paws can sometimes be used as an indicator of full adult size. If your unknown origin puppy has unusually large paws, chances are he may be a large breed pup. However, dog DNA tests are the only surefire way to know your puppy’s breed.

***

Any of these listed foods should help your tiny little puppy grow into a healthy adult. Just be sure to select a product well suited for your puppy’s specific needs. Look over the ingredients and find the one that works best for you.

Want the best for your pup? Consider reading our guides on:

We’d love to hear your experiences with these puppy foods. Let us know how they’ve worked out for you in the comments below.

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Written by

Ben Team

Ben is the senior content editor for K9 of Mine and has spent most of his adult life working as a wildlife educator and animal-care professional. Ben’s had the chance to work with hundreds of different species, but his favorite animals have always been dogs. He currently lives in Atlanta, GA with his spoiled-rotten Rottweiler named J.B. Chances are, she’s currently giving him the eyes and begging to go to the park.

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Lene

Hello! The article advises to stay clear of grain-free produces unless there are specific dietary needs, but the #1 option on your list for kibble is grain-free. Merrick Grain-Free Puppy Kibble. So now I’m confused haha!? If we are to stay clear of grain-free then why is the number one option grain-free?

Reply
Ben Team

Hey there, Lene. Thanks for pointing out the error!
We update our articles regularly and as new information becomes available (this article was originally published long before the FDA’s announcement about the correlation between grain-free foods and DCM).

There were supposed to be a few grain-inclusive options added to this article, but I see now that our product changes didn’t save correctly for some reason.
I’m working to address that now!

Reply
Bill

All grain free food causes enlarged heart,heart disease and death,
Make up your own food,cooked meat different veg,rice ,sf-50 vitamins and cod liver oil

Reply
Ben Team

Hey there, Bill.
That actually has not been established yet. Check out our article on the subject to learn more.
It may turn out to be true, but more research is needed before we can definitively say grain-free diets cause DCM.

That said, there’s no reason to feed most dogs grain-free diets unless they have a specific intolerance to grains (which is rare).

Reply
Peggy

None of the dog foods mentioned are good for them. And if they are according to the package nutritional info, it’s definitely a lie or subject to change at any moment for a variety of reasons. Now I’d expect any competent person to know this, and I hope its not for money because…..

Reply
Lindsey Howard

I absolutely loved this article! So informative!

Reply
Vince Hollis

How come Fromm is not on the list?

Reply
Meg Marrs

We love Fromm and they are on most of our other top food lists, but we just couldn’t fit every one here!

Reply
Debbie Annarumma

You never mentioned Blue for puppies. I just tried the small bag of Blue for my chow puppy. He loves it. I alsdo have a 9 year old pitbull and she hates every dog food. I tried almoist every bag on market. She rather starve. Can you help?

Reply
Peggy

This is because the food that is sold at the store is poison. Not suitable or safe for human consumption, therefore my babies aren’t eating it. Dog foods we used to trust like Blue Buffalo are being recalled or are voluntarily recalling because the quality control is non existent. Kidney failure, bladder stones, itchy skin rashes and other allergy symptoms, stomach problems, etc. All because we couldn’t be bothered to prepare them real food? Not on my watch! Google is all the help you’ll need. Look up anything and get answers!

Reply

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