One of the most important questions (if not the most important question) new puppy owners should ask themselves before bringing home a new puppy, so that they can make sure they have enough time to buy and prepare whatever they need, is the question of "what's the best dog food for puppies?".
After all, having a new puppy be added to the household as a family member is a situation that requires a high sense of responsibility, especially because you (as the puppy owner) have to give them all they need to make sure they are able to properly grow.
The first 12 months in a dog's life are probably the most important months in their entire life, and it all starts off with feeding your puppy the best puppy food you can get your hands on.
Our List Of The Best Puppy Food Of Today - (Updated List For 2023)
Best Puppy Food For Small Breed Dogs:
Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Small Breed Dog Food
Best Puppy Food For Medium Breed Dogs:
Taste of the Wild Grain-Free Pacific Stream Dry Dog Food for Puppy
Best Puppy Food For Large Breed Dogs:
Blue Buffalo Wilderness Puppy Large Breed Formula
*Note: The links in the table above, as well as several links in the remainder of the article below, will take you to over to Chewy.com where you can find out more information about the products, such as current prices and customer reviews.
Category #1 - Best Puppy Food For Small Breed Dogs
The first of the three categories we will be talking about in this list of the best dog food for puppies is the best puppy food for small breed dogs, i.e dogs that remain really small in size even when they grow and become fully mature dogs.
Small breed dogs are also often referred to as toy dogs.
Our #1 Top Pick - Wellness Complete Health Small Breed Puppy Natural Dry Dog Food
First off, this formula meets our most important requirement, which is that it be specifically produced for consumption by young small breed puppies.
The kibble size with this formula has been specifically decreased in order to make it easy for smaller sized puppies to properly chew and swallow so their digestive systems don't face a hard time processing them down.
Next up, one of the key requirements for us to deem a dog food product as good for puppies is for it to have a clearly stated, high-quality source of meat protein at the beginning of its ingredient list. How does this puppy food from Wellness stand up to the test? Let's have a look at the list of ingredients and see for ourselves, shall we?
When taking a look at the first 3 ingredients on the list, we see: Deboned Turkey, Chicken Meal, Salmon Meal - all of which are clearly stated sources of meat (not unidentifiable sources of meat) and are some of the highest quality protein sources you will ever find in dog food products (unlike meat byproducts), so this is another excellent sign.
Salmon meal is also known to be a very good source of Docosahexaenoic Acid, an Omega-3 essential fatty acid that does a world of good for young, growing puppies, most importantly of which is help aid in cognitive function and speed up brain development.
As for the carbohydrates that are included in this puppy food, you immediately see these carbohydrate sources right after the 3 protein sources we mentioned above: Oatmeal, Ground Barley and Ground Brown Rice - all of which are excellent sources of complex carbohydrates, which are exactly the type of carbohydrates that should be found in a puppy's food.
Category #2 - Best Puppy Food For Medium Breed Dogs
The second of the three categories we will be talking about in this list of the best dog food for puppies is the best puppy food for medium breed dogs, i.e puppies that reach a weight anywhere between 35 to 65 pounds when they grow and become fully mature dogs.
Our #1 Top Pick - Taste of the Wild Grain-Free Dry Dog Food for Puppies
One of the first things all customers realize right off the bat whenever they purchase a bag of this puppy formula is how significantly smaller the kibble size is when compared to their regular adult dog formula.
Other dog food manufacturers that produce formulas for adult dogs and puppies alike will tell you that they've decreased the kibble size with their puppy formulas, but when you compare the two yourself, you won't find much of a difference.
Not Taste Of The Wild though, as they do a very good job with their puppy formula as far as kibble size is concerned.
Another benefit that many puppy owners report after they switch towards feeding their puppies this Taste Of The Wild puppy formula is that their pups seem to have the same exact levels of energy they used to have when they used to consume other formulas - but with half the amount of food consumed throughout the day.
This means that these puppies are now getting all the nutrients they need throughout the day to properly grow, while their owners slashed their consumption of dog food by almost 50%.
If that doesn't define cost efficiency, then I don't know what does!
Category #3 - Best Puppy Food For Large Breed Dogs
The third and final category of the three categories we will be talking about in this list of the best dog food for puppies is the best puppy food for large breed dogs, i.e dogs that grow up to weigh at least 110 pounds, often much higher than that as 110 pounds is the minimum for a dog to be considered a large breed.
When it comes to the best puppy food for large breed dogs, a very important issue has to be taken into consideration, and that is the issue of growth spurts.
Because large breed puppies experience much more physical growth than small breed puppies and medium breed puppies, it's critical for this growth to happen in a gradual and continuous manner.
If a large breed puppy is fed dog food that doesn't cater to their exact needs, they are at a huge risk of going through irregular growth patterns that happen way too fast, only leading to major physical problems with time, most common of which is hip dysplasia.
To prevent these physical problems from happening later on in life to large breed puppies, they must be fed special puppy food that caters to their exact nutritious needs, one of the most important needs of which is relatively low levels of phosphorus and calcium in their diets
This puppy food formula from Blue Buffalo gets the #1 recommendation from us as far as a puppy food formula for large breed dogs is concerned, as the manufacturers have done everything required to meet the nutrition needs of large breed puppies during the most important first 12 months of their lives.
First off, any potential growth spurts happening with your large breed puppy when they're growing up are greatly minimized with this formula, because of the very carefully calculated amounts of calcium and phosphorus included in this formula in order to facilitate proper bone growth that is gradual and continuous.
As for the protein sources on the ingredient's list, they're grade A protein sources, something which you can see for yourself when you check the first 3 ingredients and find that they are: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal and Turkey Meal.
Importance Of Proper Growth
In this list of the best dog food for puppies, you're going to learn about the brands (and more importantly, the specific formulas these brands produce) of dog food that can offer your puppy all the nutrients they need in order to properly grow and thrive in this early stage of their life.
We're talking proper growth when it comes to your puppy's brain, skeletal muscles, teeth, bones, etc .. That kind of crucial growth.
Puppy Food Option Overload
If you were to try to search for the best puppy food online or offline (such as in a pet food store near you), you're likely to come across a whole lot of brands and formulas labeled as the best dog puppy food, but are they really?
You'll get overwhelmed with "option-overload" before you know it, especially considering the increasing number of dog food producers nowadays that aren't exactly narrowing down our choices as dog owners.
Besides the fact that you first have to decide between feeding your puppy dry dog food or wet/canned dog food, there are also a million and one ingredients you have to specifically look for and others you have to ensure you avoid - so how does one go about getting all this research done?
Well, unless you're willing to put in hours and hours of needless research and agonizing comparisons to see why one dog food formula is better for your puppy than another, why not check out this list of the best dog food for puppies that has all the information you ever need to know?
Importance Of Puppy-Specific Dog Food Formulas
As you will be noticing in these dog food options below, all of them have been specifically produced for consumption by puppies, as dog food that has been specifically designed for puppy consumption contains nearly double the nutrients that adult dog food contains per portion.
Generally speaking, you will almost always find that puppy food is more calorie dense than adult dog food when comparing the two, simply because puppies need these extra calories and nutrients more than adult dogs per portion to support proper grow.
Dog food that hasn't been specifically designed for consumption by puppies risks wasting your valuable money on something that won't give your puppy nearly the amount of nutrients they need for proper growth.
Three Important Subsections
This list of the best puppy food will be divided into three sections - one section for the best dog food for small breed puppies, one section for the best dog food for medium breed puppies and one section for the best dog food for large breed puppies.
While other people will try to tell you that a certain puppy food can best for all 3 breed sizes alike, we beg to differ, as all 3 breed sizes have slightly different nutritional needs that need to be catered to in specific formulas that were designed to meet these respective needs.
This way, no matter what breed size your puppy is, you'll know what the best puppy food to feed them is, and you'll know exactly why it was chosen as the best puppy food.
What Distinguishes The Best Dog Food For Puppies From The Rest?
So, you may be asking yourself, what exactly goes into determining which dog food brand and formula is worthy of being called the best dog food for puppies?
The Problem With "One Size Fits All Puppy Food"
As we all know, not all dog food is created (or produced) alike.
In this day and age, a "one size fits all answer" is becoming less and less of a "thing" across all industries alike, especially in the pet food industry. Specialization is becoming more and more a pattern that all pet food producers are adopting, and for good reason.
An example of a one size fits all answer in the dog food industry, which wouldn't be a good option if you're looking for the best dog food for puppies, is dog food produced and labeled as "all life stages dog food".
As we'll be expanding on a bit later in this article, a dog food designed for dogs in all stages of life won't nail down the exact nutritional requirements a puppy needs the same way a dog food that has been specifically designed for puppies would.
The two formulas were simply designed with different targets in mind. The first is trying to cater to the nutritional needs of dogs of all ages and strike a middle ground somewhere that can benefit them all, while the second is trying to cater to only the needs of growing puppies by designing a formula that has only them in mind. See the difference?
When you get to the smallest of details in dog food production, you'll be able to come up with formulas that appeal to very specific categories of dogs.
Some dog food formulas may be exceptional when it comes to feeding them to small breed dogs, others may be very good for feeding large dog breeds, and some dog food formulas are phenomenal when it comes to feeding them to puppies - which is something we've clearly demonstrated in the list of the best puppy food above.
Now, let's start by talking a little bit about protein content.
High quality protein in adequate levels is a critical factor in the proper growth of young puppies, hence for any dog food to be labeled as one of the best dog food for puppies, it has to have ample levels of high quality protein.
The best puppy food will usually have its first ingredient be a source of high quality protein that comes from whole animals, most popular of which are the likes of chicken, salmon, beef, lamb, and duck.
If you find that the protein in your puppy's food is coming from meat by-products or "unidentified meat", immediately put that specific product away and never get it anywhere near your puppy.
This type of meat is just what it sounds like, unidentified meat that could be anything, even possibly roadkill fits under this category. So, the only puppy food you should ever buy for your little one is puppy food that has specific sources of meat that are made very clear on the list of ingredients.
A good percentage to shoot for when you're shopping for puppy food is around 30% protein, most certainly not less than that. This amount of protein in the dog food is enough to help your puppy grow and develop the necessary strength they need when they grow up.
Besides adequate amounts of protein in your puppy's food, any dog food you buy for your puppy should also contain enough amounts of fat, as this is also a crucial part of their diet.
Fat helps your puppy maintain high energy levels they will need with all the physical activity they will be getting moving around and exploring the environment around them, and also helps with keeping your puppy's coat glowing, smooth and in excellent condition.
As for carbohydrate content, carbohydrates in puppy food shouldn't be as high as carbohydrates in adult dog food, due to the difference in nutritional needs between the two life stages.
This may seem a bit counterproductive, as you may be thinking that young puppies need a high level of carbohydrates in their puppy food in order to help them maintain high energy levels, but this isn't the case. Adult dogs require more carbohydrates than young puppies.
Any carbohydrate sources found on the ingredient's list of your puppy food should also be of the highest-quality carbohydrates, such as oats, brown rice, sweet potatoes, whole fruits and whole vegetables.
If you find that a significant portion of the carbohydrate content in your puppy's food comes from low quality ingredients such as corn, white rice and wheat, then this specific formula most certainly isn't the best puppy food you could give your little buddy.
Also, a very important word about natural ingredients must be said, because this is absolutely crucial when it comes to your puppy's health.
So many dog food brands out there produce specific formulas that come with a label claiming these are specifically produced for consumption by puppies, all competing for your money with various hooks - because let's face it, competition is fierce in this industry.
While many of these brands may do an excellent job of persuading you on paper, you absolutely must inspect the list of ingredients yourself first to make sure that these brands practice what they preach.
So, for example, one dog food brands may claim they have the best dog food for puppies, only for you to be surprised that their ingredients list is full of artificial coloring, chemical preservatives and harmful additives, all of which are absolutely detrimental to the health of a young puppy that still has a tiny body that can't sustain any such elements.
What ends up happening is you waste your money on a dog food for your puppy that only ends up developing serious illnesses in them that will show up when they're older, leaving you to wonder what the causes of these illnesses are.
Not only are all of these unnatural ingredients terrible for your puppy's health down the line, you have to know that puppies have much more sensitive stomachs when they're at this stage of their life compared to when they grow older, meaning that the tolerance threshold is extremely low.
So, do yourself and your young puppy a favor first by carefully checking the ingredients list of any dog food you want to buy for your puppy and making sure that it's free of any chemical preservatives, additives, artificial coloring and the like.
The Use Of Cheap & Useless Filler
If you're wondering why some dog food producers are able to offer you a bag of puppy food for a dirt-cheap price while other dog food producers charge you top dollar for their stuff, while both producers make very similar claims in regards to what their product can offer your puppy, know for a fact that the difference lies in the use of inexpensive and useless filler as part of the ingredients list.
When looking for the best dog food for puppies, you have to make absolute sure that any formula you go with doesn't contain these useless filler ingredients, as not only will you be wasting your money on a dog food bag that won't give your puppy nearly enough nutrients they need to properly grow, these useless filler ingredients will also give your young pup very difficult digestive problems to deal with.
You should also note that with all these cheap filler ingredients that some dog food companies like to include in their products so they're able to minimize their costs and hence offer you their dog food for cheap, comes a price.
Puppies that eat these filler-rich dog food formulas will tend to eat much larger volumes than they would eat from a high quality puppy food formula, because the cheaper puppy food will keep your little buddy hungry all the time and will keep them coming back for more and more until they get satiated.
The higher quality puppy food formulas will have your dog feel satiated a long time before that, much thanks to the high levels of some of the best quality meat protein out there and the perfect nutrient distribution that young puppies need.
So what would you prefer, paying cheap money for puppy food that you'll end up having to buy much more units of much more frequently to keep up with your puppy's demands, or paying a little bit more money for some of the best puppy food that you'll end up having to buy significantly less units of because your puppy gets all the nutrients they need from much smaller portions?
If you chose any of the dog food brands and formulas mentioned in the list of the best puppy food above, then you can rest assured that they contain the least filler ingredients you'll be able to find in any other puppy food formula on the market.
Dry Puppy Food VS Wet Puppy Food
Ah, the ever-green debate when it comes to dog food. Should I go with dry dog food for my puppy, or should I feed them wet dog food that's canned?
While each of the two options may have their pros and cons in different situations, the best dog food for puppies is almost always going to be dry dog food.
Dry dog food is outright much more nutritious for your puppy on many different levels when compared to wet (canned) dog food, with the most important difference being in protein content, where dry dog food is almost always superior.
Moreover, if you've searched for wet dog food before or have any previous experience with it, you've probably heard about the ongoing debate and controversy over the negative effect that wet dog food has on Fido's teeth, while dry dog food can actually improve the condition of dog's teeth.
Regardless of which side of the debate you're on, this risk of tooth damage is a much more dangerous one than any of us should ever take with our puppies, especially since they're still at a very delicate age where any tooth damage will prove to be a huge blow both now and in the future.
Small Breed Puppy Food, Medium Breed Puppy Food & Large Breed Puppy Food
As has been made very clear by now in this article, in order to determine what the best dog food for your puppy is, one of the variable factors is whether they are a small breed puppy, a medium breed puppy or a large breed puppy, as each of the 3 means different nutritional needs that have to be met with different puppy food formulas.
A Note About Overfeeding Puppies Dog Food
A very common mistake that dog owners make all the time, especially new dog owners that don't quite have necessary experience in raising young puppies and those who haven't done enough research about it that they should have done, is overfeeding their puppies - and we're talking big time overfeeding.
The rationale behind this is, and again this is what these new-er puppy owners tend to think, that the more amounts of high quality dog food a puppy can eat, the faster they will grow and the stronger they will become with time.
You'll find that this is especially the case with new-er puppy owners that will often tell you: "My dog needs all that calcium! The more, the merrier, just like we drink milk and benefit from all that extra calcium, they will too".
This, obviously, is an entirely false sentiment, for so many different reasons that we won't be getting into in this article.
Just know that if you overfeed your young puppy on a regular basis, then you're greatly increasing their risk of developing physical and health problems such as hip dysplasia, irregular growth, becoming overweight (possibly even obese) and a whole host of other issues and complications that you obviously don't want your puppy to go through.
Especially with all the excess levels of calcium your puppy will be getting, which turns from something very beneficial to growing puppies into something very harmful and counterproductive real fast if consumption is exaggerated.
So, avoid overfeeding your puppy with dog food you buy them, and always stick to the recommended portions that the dog food brand recommends with their specific formula, as they've done the necessary scientific research and testing in order to determine the exact amounts of this puppy food that your little one needs just so you won't have to waste your time and efforts on any of that.
Sticking with the recommended portions the puppy food producer has stated on the label is a very important thing to do, as you always have to keep in mind that puppy food is very high in calories (significantly higher in calories per portion than adult dog food). This means that if you allow your puppy the freedom to eat as much as their little heart desires, they'll eat a whole lot more than they need.
They may have gotten all the calories and nutrients they need for that day, but they'll keep on eating till they decide to stop, and obviously this isn't something any responsible dog owner will allow to happen. You give your puppy portions that they abide by, it's not the other way around.
When Do I Stop Feeding My Dog Puppy Food?
Of course, you should only be feeding your dog puppy food when they're still a young puppy. Once they get past that stage and are considered to be an adult dog (even if we're talking about the earliest stages of adulthood), they should stop consuming puppy food and start consuming adult dog food.
There are many ways by which you can easily tell when it's suitable for you to stop feeding your dog puppy food and start feeding them adult dog food, but the most common way dog owners go about this is by size measurements.
Run a quick search online and try to see what the breed standard adult dog size for your dog's specific breed is.
Assuming you measure your puppy on a frequent basis, you should stop feeding them puppy food as soon as they reach 80% of their breed's adult size standard, as that's when they aren't considered to be puppies anymore.
Of course, this method and other methods out there are only estimations at best, and they should not ideally be followed to the T.
Generally speaking, your dog will need to eat puppy food up until they're 1 year of age. After their 1st birthday, this is where most dogs are cleared to make the transition from eating puppy food into eating adult dog food.
Again, these are all general guidelines, so if you want to be as scientific about this as possible, you should be in constant contact with your veterinarian, who in turn should tell you when your puppy is ready to make the jump from consuming puppy food to adult dog food.