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Ensuring your new puppy grows healthy means feeding them the correct dog food. They grow at an astonishing rate and the correct dog food for puppies ensures they digest the food easily and get all the required nutrients.
The best puppy food is dependent upon the size of your breed and whether they require specific requirements for a sensitive stomach or protein. Listed in this article is a solution for every type of puppy diet that is highly rated.
A puppy should not move to dry food for the first 6 to 8 weeks and should still be with their mother for nutrients. Until around the fourth week, a puppy may make the transition to dry food alongside their milk.
Table of Contents
Best Puppy Food
|Puppy Food||Specialty||Grain Free|
|Hill’s Science||Large Breed||No|
|IAMS ProActive||Medium Breed||No|
|Royal Canin||Small Breed||No|
|Blue Basics||Sensitive Stomach||Yes|
|BLUE Wilderness||High Protein Diet||Yes|
For the majority of dog breeds, you should feed your them puppy dog food until they reach the ages of 10 to 12 months. However, larger breeds can span into 12 to 16 months but you should check with your vet when they have their injections.
Dog food for puppies is tailored to their needs as a puppy and you should not be feeding them adult food until they are ready. Puppy dog food contains higher quantities of calcium, iron, phosphorous, magnesium, and zinc than adult dog food, which helps their development at such a young age.
You should always avoid switching a puppies diet and stick to one, which is why it’s important to get the correct food to begin with. Below is a list of the best dog food for puppies to help with their development into an adult dog.
Hill’s Science Diet Large Breed
Dog food for large breed puppies should contain higher levels of calcium compared with smaller breeds. Hill’s Science has done exactly this and this helps bone growth for the larger dog. The puppy dog food even includes high levels of glucosamine and chondroitin for strong muscles and joints.
For large breed puppies, you can feed them the Hill’s Science formula until the age of one, where they should be over the weight of 55 LBS. It is dry dog food, which is a mix of chicken or lamb meal and oats that puppies love to eat.
Benefits of using the Hill’s Science formula for your puppies dog food include:
- Clinically proven antioxidant benefits
- Excellent bone and joint growth for large breeds
- No artificial colors, flavors or preservatives
- Includes Vitamin E & Omega 6 to nourish the skin and coat
- Veterinarian recommended
- High-quality ingredients
Large puppy dogs’ bones grow very fast and the Hill’s Science formula is ideal with the large amounts of calcium, which no other competitor can match. It is a huge brand in the US but not so much in the UK with the IAMS brand below being more favorable.
Overall, Hill’s Science is the best large breed puppy food you can buy and your dog will not be disappointed. The chicken flavor is more popular than the lamb alternative but regardless of the flavor, they have the same good ingredients.
IAMS ProActive Health Smart Puppy
The IAMS dry dog food is a veterinarian recommended puppy food developed for medium breed puppies. IAMS takes pride that this food uses real chicken, wholesome grains, beet pulp and contains no wheat, soy, or artificial preservatives.
When a puppy transitions from their mother’s milk to dry dog food, many nutrients are lost. However, the IAMS formula includes 22 key nutrients found form in a mother’s milk and the first ingredient is real farm-raised chicken. It truly is a premium puppy dog food up to the age of 1 year old.
The benefits of feeding your puppy IAMS Proactive are:
- Healthy digestion from the high levels of fiber
- A stronger immune system from the antioxidants
- Increased strength in muscles and bones
- Healthy skin and coat
- High Omega-3 content for a healthier brain
Omega 3 is a unique selling point of the IAMS food and is the reason why it is called “Smart Puppy” dog food. It is hard to prove whether it actually makes puppies smarter but nevertheless, it is a healthy nutrient to have in the diet.
Overall, the IAMS Smart Puppy dog food is the best puppy food for medium breeds that they will love to eat. The great taste of the real chicken will ensure that your puppy will never turn it down and start crying for their mother’s milk.
Royal Canin Puppy Dry Dog Food
The Royal Canin small breed puppy food is highly recommended for dogs that are going to be 8 to 22 LBS (4 to 10 KG) as an adult. It is recommended to keep your puppy on this dog food until the age of 10 months before switching to the adult alternative.
Royal Canin state that the kibble has gone through various testing stages and is proven to reduce the formation of tartar. Therefore, if you are worried about your puppy’s dental health, this puppy dog food is ideal.
The advantages of feeding your small puppy the Royal Canin formula include:
- Intensified energy content ingredients
- High levels of digestible proteins
- Kibble designed for dental health and easy eating
- Less odor from stools
- Easier to digest than other brands
Royal Canin also offers breed-specific alternatives such as their top-rated dachshund dog food, which includes both adult and puppy food. This small breed puppy food is perfect but you can also search for your breed to see if the Royal Canin caters to it.
It is an excellent source of nutrients to boost your small puppies’ energy levels to the sky. Royal Canin is by far the best small breed puppy food to buy and the smaller kibble makes it easier for the small jaws of your dog to eat it too.
BLUE Basics Formula Puppy Dry Dog Food
Many puppies will suffer from a sensitive stomach and will require a change of diet in order to rectify the issues. Such symptoms of a puppy with a sensitive stomach include loose stools or diarrhea, vomiting, and excess gas.
Blue Basics have focused on this matter and have developed a simple diet for puppies with sensitivities. It is a grain-free, turkey and potato recipe with plenty of Omega 3 & 6 for skin and coat health.
Feeding your puppy the Blue Basics formula will see the following benefits:
- A healthier immune system from additional vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants
- Healthy bone growth from phosphorus and calcium
- Skin and coat improvements from Omega 3 & 6
- No artificial colors or flavors
- Single animal protein sauce (turkey) for gentle digestion
This puppy dog food is designed for all breeds (small, medium, and large) with special puppy-sized kibble that is shaped to reduce tartar buildup.
A limited ingredient diet that is developed to minimize food sensitives but retain all the nutritional values that puppies require is a hard task. However, Blue Basics have done exactly this and it is the best puppy food for sensitive stomachs.
BLUE Wilderness Grain Free Puppy Food
The Blue Wilderness adult dog food is one of the most popular products in the US but they also offer a puppy developed version. It is a high protein grain-free formula that contains deboned chicken, chicken meal, and fish meal for a protein-rich diet.
The puppy dog food includes essential vitamins and minerals sourced from wholesome fruit and vegetables. It also contains zero by-products such as corn, wheat, or soy that is known to cause issues for puppies with allergies.
Puppies that eat the Blue Wilderness dog food will benefit from:
- Brain and Eye development via DHA
- Enhanced muscle development from the high protein
- Strong bones and teeth
- Specific kibble design promotes dental hygiene
- Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat
- Vitamins, chelated minerals, and antioxidants for a good immune system
The main competitor to this puppy food is the Blue Basics but the unique selling point of the Blue Wilderness is the high protein source that many puppies will require.
If your puppy is very active and you require a grain-free formula for puppies with allergies, the Blue Wilderness formula is ideal. As the adult version of this food is so popular, many choose this as their puppy’s food so that the transition to adult food is much easier.
Puppy Food Buying Guide
Getting a puppy can be an exciting time for you and your family, but it’s vital to ensure the health and wellness of the new addition. They need to have the right diet to support their growth and keep them healthy towards adulthood. A puppy grows twenty times faster than an adult dog, which makes it absolutely necessary to have a healthy pattern developed when they are young to avoid any health problems, such as joint problems, obesity, and allergies.
There are countless food options available in the supermarket or pet stores for puppies, but how do you know what to look for. If this is your first puppy, then it can be even more daunting just staring at the endless options down the pet food aisle. Our product list is sure to provide you with the best dog food for puppies to get them at their healthiest. Our buying guide will help you start your journey by first figuring out everything that is best for your puppy and finding out the best puppy food for them.
When Should Your Puppy Eat Dry Food?
From the first six to eight weeks, your puppy should continue to be nursed by their mother. A mother’s milk provides them with the best possible nutrition and antibodies to protect them against diseases. If you get your puppy straight from a breeder, then they’ll already be at least six weeks old.
When you receive them any time before, it is poor breeding practice, which can cause your puppy to have some health issues. If that is the case, or in some cases, the mother might be unable to feed the puppy with milk, you can instead use milk replacers. This just enables you to give your puppy with the necessary minerals and vitamins that are vital for their growth.
After your puppy is four weeks old, they will generally start to get more interested in solid foods. At this point, you can slowly start incorporating solid foods into their diet along with their milk. Though you might need to add a little bit of water to the dry dog foods for it to become more of a thinner oatmeal sort of consistency to make it easier to eat.
As time passes and they get used to the thinner consistency dry food, you can keep decreasing the amount of water slowly as they get older. All of this just makes it a more gradual transition into dry foods as they stop receiving milk from their mother at somewhere around eight weeks old.
Why Can’t You Feed Your Puppy Adult Dog Food?
Puppies and adult dogs have different dietary requirements that are needed to keep them healthy. As a puppy is growing fast, they use up a lot of energy each day, which means that they won’t be able to get the necessary nutrients that they need from adult dog food formulas.
As puppy food is designed especially for puppies, they are tailored to fill all the nutrient needs of puppies, which are different from those of an adult dog. For example, dog foods that contain higher meat content are not suitable for puppies because they can damage your puppies’ kidneys.
The food that is meant for adult dogs is harder for puppies to eat and digest due to the larger pieces. Puppy food is generally higher in calories but does not contain any extra bulk to allow your puppies to have the energy that they need without the excess pressure on their stomachs. Ideal puppy food will contain higher levels of nutrients, including zinc, iron, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus to support their development.
Wet V Dry Puppy Food
This is a common question among new puppy owners as it can be harder to figure out which one is the best option for your puppy. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but ultimately the choice is up to you and what your puppy has a preference to.
Dry Puppy Food
In a usual weaning process, your puppy’s first food is likely to be dry kibble puppy food as it’s something familiar to get your puppy adjusted. Dry puppy food is also great for interactive toy games and training as it is not messy and is able to be transported and stored easily.
Dry puppy food is also safe to leave out all day to free feed your puppy, however, you should discard uneaten kibble daily. It is also the more economical food choice in an ounce to ounce comparison of wet puppy food and it’s likely to last longer once opened. Kibble is also great for keeping your puppy’s teeth clean as it is designed to clean their teeth as they chew.
However, dry puppy food contains less moisture in comparison to wet puppy food, so your puppy needs to drink enough water to stay hydrated as the dry food will not be great for hydration. During teething, it can be painful for your puppy to crunch on kibble, which might cause them to be less eager with meals.
Dry foods are prone to spoiling over time even with added preservatives to its important to keep checking the expiration dates. They also contain a higher level of carbohydrates, which might be great for holding the ingredients together, but is not greatly beneficial to the nutritional needs of your puppy.
Wet Puppy Food
The normal wet puppy food can contain as much as eighty percent of moisture. It’s great to keep your puppy hydrated, while it combines their food and drink in one serving. It is also very easy for your puppy to eat, as it’s likely that your puppy’s gum and teeth will already be sore from teething.
However, as it’s so easy for puppies to eat, they can easily scarf down a serving and look for more food. This can cause owners to assume that their puppy is still hungry and offer another serving. If this keeps going on, it can cause your puppy to be overweight.
In comparison to dry kibble, wet puppy food can also be pricier. It also does not last as long, so it needs to be consumed quickly to avoid it spoiling. It also contains a higher level of sugar than dry puppy food as the sugar acts as a binding agent to keep the food in a palatable form.
So, which one is the best option for you? That is something that you’ll have to decide. They both have advantages and disadvantages, which makes it harder to pick just one. It all depends on your lifestyle and the preferences of your puppy.
How Much Food To Feed Your Puppy?
The portion sizes depending on your puppy and their body condition. You should also take into account their body type, individual metabolism, and nutritional requirements according to the breed.
We provide a good feeding guide below. This gives you a rough idea of how much food your puppy requires during a twenty-four hour period. Since most dogs eat twice a day, you simply have to divide this by two to get the perfect portion size.
|Weight Of Your Puppy||Amount (per day)|
|5 lbs.||½ cup to 5/8 cups|
|10 lbs.||¾ cup to 1 cup|
|20 lbs.||1 ¼ cups to 1 ¾ cups|
|40 lbs.||2 ¼ cups to 3 cups|
|60 lbs.||3 cups to 4 cups|
|80 lbs.||3 2/3 cups to 5 cups|
|100 lbs.||4 ¼ cups to 6 cups|
What Should You Not Feed Your Puppy?
Your puppy should never be fed raw meat as it presents a higher risk of food poisoning. In general, it is just best to avoid foods that have high meat content until your puppy fully grows. You should also avoid feeding your puppy too many treats. A good rule of thumb is for treats to not account for more than ten percent of the puppy’s diet.
Some foods that should definitely be avoided are:
- Macadamia nuts
- Chocolate (aside from dog-friendly chocolate)
What Ingredients To Look Out For?
A puppy with a balanced nutritional diet plan will help them have a steady and healthy growth. The higher quality puppy foods will have a higher nutrient density to allow your puppy to get all the protein that they need. There are a few ingredients that you should look out for to ensure that your puppy is getting the highest quality food, as well as some that you should avoid.
There are products that are great for your puppy’s health and boost their nutritional levels, which include:
- Whole animal products – simple whole animal products, such as salmon, lamb, or chicken, should be the first ingredients on the ingredients list.
- Healthy grains – quality puppy food should have grains like oats, buckwheat, maize, and rice. Rather than cheaper carbs such as wheat and corn that are sometimes packed into the kibble.
- Natural oils and fats – food that has generous quantities of oils and fats from quality animal and plant sources will ensure that your puppy has strong muscles and shiny coat.
- Essentials minerals and vitamins – these include Omega 6, Omega 3, Phosphorus, Calcium, B-Complex, Vitamin E, Vitamin B, and Vitamin A.
There are also some ingredients that some puppy food might contain that is not good for your puppy. This includes:
- Vegetable and meat by-products – these products can include old products or meat that came from disabled or sick animals.
- Cheap grain fillers – you should avoid puppy food that has a large amount of wheat and corn.
- Corn syrup – these are much more harmful than grain fillers as it is often used as a sweetener. If your dog is continually eating this then it can cause them to get hyperactive, diabetic, and overweight.
- Chemicals – If you have difficulty pronouncing the ingredient, it’s likely that your puppy will have a harder time digesting it. It’s good to just avoid all growth hormones and pesticides, including synthetic Vitamin K, Hydrochloric Acid, Propylene Glycol, Ethoxyquin, BHT, BHA, artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. You should also avoid foods with sugar, cellulose, grain hulls, and bone meal.
Should You Continue With Puppy Milk?
Until the weaning starts, a mother’s milk is all that will be in your puppy’s diet as it contains all the nutrients that they need. Dog milk has a blend of minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates, fat, and protein that is different from those of other species.
The mother dog will typically start the weaning process when the puppy is roughly three years old as it is not an instant process. If you are looking at a puppy from a breeder, then they generally start the weaning process around five weeks or so. Generally, the puppies stop nursing completely when they get to seven weeks. After which puppies don’t really have a need for milk, instead their diet focuses on food and water.
What Should You Do If Your Puppy Won’t Eat The Food?
Most dog each everything and anything without hesitation, but there are a few that won’t show as much enthusiasm for food. The first thing you need to do is to make sure that your dog is in good health. If they have been good at eating, but suddenly stop, then you should be concerned.
If that has been cleared and your puppy does not have any serious health issues, then there might be something to do with the puppy’s food preferences. The puppy might have been fed too many extra treats that are more interesting and tastier than their actual food, which can cause a bad habit to start.
You should also ensure that the food is not spoiled and is consistent, nutritious, and safe. You should not keep changing the food because it might upset their digestive system, but they might be getting bored with their food. So, you can heat it up slightly to release more aroma or add a few extra pieces to the portions.
How Many Times A Day Should They Eat?
Puppies need to be fed three to four times a day, so if you give your puppy ¾ cups of food per twice a day, you should consider changing it to ½ cup three times a day. Smaller meals allow your puppy to digest it faster as well as containing their energy levels, so they don’t rise and fall too much with the frequent meals.
When your puppy reaches six months old, you can change their feeding timings to twice a day. However, if they are a larger breed, then it’s recommended that you stick with a three to four times per day feeding schedule to reduce the risk of gastric dilatation-volvulus.
How Does Dog Size Matter For Their Food?
Puppies need special food because they are growing so fast that normal adult food will not be suitable. Larger breeds generally need more nutrients to support their musculoskeletal growth. While smaller breeds are better with smaller kibbles.
Larger breeds have a higher probability to develop orthopedic diseases, such as hip dysplasia. So, they need to have diets that are carefully balanced with a phosphorus and calcium ratio, less energy-dense. On the other hand, smaller breed puppies have very high metabolic rates, therefore, they can burn off a meal in a few hours. This also means that they need to take a specific amount of calories per day, otherwise they might develop hypoglycemia which can lead to seizures, muscle tremors, lethargy, and weakness.
What To Do If Puppy Goes Overweight?
Sometimes even if you follow the right diet plan, your puppy can get overweight. Overweight dogs have a higher likelihood of having breathing troubles, heart troubles, diabetes, and arthritis. Sadly, over forty percent of dogs in the U.S. are overweight.
There are telltale signs of obesity, including trouble walking up the stairs, trouble getting up, eating too much, lethargy, lack of endurance, and heavy breathing.
The average weight for types of dogs include:
- Toys are between 3 lbs. to 12 lbs.,
- Small dogs at 12 lbs. to 30 lbs.,
- Medium dogs at 30 lbs. to 55 lbs.,
- Large dogs at 55 lbs. to 80 lbs.,
- Extra-large dogs at 80 lbs. to 110 lbs.
So, how can you help your puppy to lose the extra weight? There are various ways, including diet, exercise, checkups, considering the breed, and consistency of treats.
If you feel that the diet is the problem, then you might want to change the amount or type of food that the puppy is being fed. Food that has higher protein can cause weight gain.
It is also crucial for your dog to get their daily exercise. Walk your dogs at least twice a day for thirty minutes each. You might also want to consider added trips to dog parks to let them get out their excess energy and burn off the unnecessary calories. If you do not have a proper place to walk your dog nearby, then there are treadmills for dogs that can be purchased.
Just to be sure that there are no underlining health concerns, you should get your puppy checked up as there are some conditions that cause a rapid weight gain in dogs, including Cushing’s Syndrome and Hypothyroidism.
Consider The Breed
If you have a mix or purebred that tends to lean towards obesity, then you might want to talk to your vet and adjust their exercise and diet accordingly.
If treats are non-negotiable, then you might want to consider low calorie treats or replace them with vegetables, such as celery and carrots. However, you might want to use praise and petting to reward them more often.
What To Do If Puppy Is Has A Sensitive Stomach?
The first step with any sort of issue is to visit the vet and make sure that nothing is wrong with your dog. Ensure that they don’t have parasites and stool samples come back clean. Puppies are prone to have more sensitive stomachs than older dogs. However, there are some telltale signs that your dog has a food sensitivity, including vomiting, sensitive skin, itching, and other gastrointestinal issues. There are various proteins that can cause your puppy to have a sensitive stomach.
They may experience symptoms, such as:
- Decreased mobility
- Blood in stool
- Soft stool
- Excessive gas
- Lack of appetite
The lab work results and symptoms will determine the best treatment for your dog. Your vet will be able to best advise you on everything that could be done for a sensitive stomach, whether that be through medications or supplements.
When To Switch To Adult Dog Food?
There is no set age at which you should switch to adult dog food, as it can vary between the individual dogs and breeds. Smaller dog breeds are likely to mature sooner, therefore you can switch them to adult dog foods faster. A rough switching guideline shows that smaller dogs are likely to reach maturity after they are ten to twelve months, medium dogs are usually twelve to sixteen months, and larger dogs usually mature after two years.
The best way to make the switch is to gradually transition your dog from puppy food to adult food. Continue to monitor your dogs to ensure that there are no issues. It’s best to gradually transition them over a period of one to two weeks where you mix their puppy food with a little bit of adult food, while slowly increasing the amount of adult food.
All of the information above will provide you with the perfect foundation to start in the right direction towards the best puppy food for your new addition. There are lots of aspects to keep in mind while finding the best food to give your puppy a healthy diet. It’s not an easy task at all but the recommended products mentioned should provide you with the best opportunity.
Ian is an avid outdoorsman and dog lover. He lives in Central Florida with his wife Heather, and their 2 dogs – Panda (Purebread Rough Collie X English Golden Retriever) & Kuma (Blue Merl Purebread Rough Collie)