Last updated: 23 Sep 2019

The Best Puppy Food (Review) in 2020

Hill's Science Diet Dry Puppy Food

Hill's Science Diet Dry Puppy Food

Merrick Grain Free Puppy Dry Dog Food

Merrick Grain Free Puppy Dry Dog Food

Purina ONE SmartBlend Natural Puppy Food

Purina ONE SmartBlend Natural Puppy Food

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Dr Tracy Douglas
Published 21:34 pm

Puppies are adorable pets. Most of us simply don’t want them to grow up in pretty much the same way that we find human babies really cute and adorable that we don’t want them growing up. But to grow and develop is an essential aspect of life. Nutrition plays a very important role in growing up and in developing into one’s optimum health and fitness. Nutrition for puppies is crucial as it lays the foundation for a dog’s future. Knowing which puppy food to give is important in ensuring normal growth and development among these young pooches. Good thing we made an exhaustive research into the 10 best dog foods for puppies so you’ll be more certain about your pup growing up to become a healthier, happier mutt.

The Best Puppy Food


Dog experts and veterinarians highly recommend products coming from Hill’s Science Diet as it’s known primarily for formulating well-balanced, age- and condition-appropriate diets for canines. Its Large Breed Dry Dog Food for Puppies is no exception. This top-rated puppy food comes in 5 different formulations that include real meat proteins and healthy wholesome grains. However, do take note that this formulation is intended for large breeds of dogs only and should not be given to small breeds as well as toy breeds of mutts as their nutrient requirements significantly vary owing to their natural anatomic composition. It should only be given to pups that are at most 1 year old.

That said, the Hill’s Science Diet puppy kibble is enriched with amino acids necessary for building tissues as well as vitamins E and C for helping manage oxidative stress and preventing early aging. It also contains just the right amounts of calcium for more optimum bone growth and development while the addition of chondroitin and glucosamine can help ensure stronger muscles and more flexible joints. True to its philosophy, the Hill’s Science Diet for Puppies doesn’t contain artificial flavoring, coloring, or even preservatives for a safer, more nutritious young doggie meal.

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With a name such as Hill’s Science printed into its packaging, there’s no questioning the quality and safety of this good puppy food. Its balanced-formulation, affordable pricing, and unique natural flavor variations makes it our choice for best large breed puppy food.

Enriched with minerals, antioxidants, and vitamins for optimum health

Packed with amino acids that are easier to digest

Contains healthier versions of grains for added plant protein

No artificial ingredients

Affordable price

Vet recommended puppy food

  • Brand: Hill’s Science Diet
  • Model: 9377
  • Weight: 30 pounds


Ever wonder what’s the best puppy food? You might want to give the Taste of the Wild a try. For puppy owners who are quite wary of their pups being allergic to wheat, getting the Taste of the Wild Grain Free Dry Dog Food for Puppy is a must. This best rated puppy food comes with a truly exceptional formulation that includes meat proteins from non-conventional sources to help eliminate the possibility of allergies to your pup. It includes proteins from buffalo, lamb, bison, venison, and ocean fish. Because it doesn’t contain chicken, you’re limiting the risk of producing an allergic reaction in your pup. It does contain beef, however. Nevertheless, since this is just one of many other meat proteins in the TOTW natural puppy food, the risk for developing beef allergies is lesser compared to single ingredient doggie kibble preparation.

The TOTW doesn’t only contain novel proteins, it is also packed with healthy fruits and vegetables to complete the nutrient profile of the young doggie chow. This helps make sure that your pup gets all the right nutrients necessary for optimum development and growth while eliminating any possible allergenic materials. The addition of ocean fish helps provide the omega 3 fatty acids pups need for healthier coat and skin. It may be priced a bit higher than most brands, but with its unique formulation, it can still be considered a worthy buy.

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The use of novel proteins, mostly meats coming from the wild, is exceptional especially for pups that are known to be allergic to the more common types of proteins. It’s packed with nutrients, too.

Packed with novel proteins for less allergenic potential

Contains no wheat gluten and other potentially allergenic grains

Enriched with nutrients for optimum health, development, and growth

Priced just right for its unique and quality formulation 

Best grain-free puppy food

  • Brand: Taste of the Wild
  • Model: 2106_30_THP
  • Weight: 30 pounds


For those on the lookout for a healthy puppy food that contains DHA which is highly important for optimum brain development in pups, then the Natural Balance Limited Ingredient is a splendid choice. The DHA is sourced from salmon caught in the wild and not from farm-raised stock which can be filled harmful chemicals. This gives the Natural Balance puppy kibble an amazing safety profile. And if one is concerned about the chow being allergenic to pups, worry not as Natural Balance only contains a single-source protein and it doesn’t come from chicken, but rather duck.

At any rate, should your pup develop allergies, you can easily identify the culprit. This is unlike a product that may have protein from different sources. Zeroing in on what is triggering the allergy in such cases can be very challenging. Like all the best puppy chow, Natural Balance comes without any artificial ingredients further adding to its overall safety. It might be a bit more expensive, though. But if you can forgive the price tag and just focus on what it can bring to your pooch, Natural Balance is one of our best kibbles for puppies.

Single-ingredient protein formulation for easier allergy identification

Formulated with wild salmon-sourced DHA

No artificial ingredients

Smaller kibbles perfect for smaller jaws

  • Brand: Natural Balance
  • Model: 42947
  • Weight: 24 pounds


Marketed as a high protein puppy food that’s designed to make your young pooch smarter, highly trainable, the IAMS Proactive Health Puppy Dry Dog Food features a combination of farm-raised chicken, fresh fruits and veggies, and healthy non-allergenic grains. It boasts of having a unique DHA formulation that is important for enhancing brain development in the growing pup.

Its DHA is naturally derived from fish oils so you can bet that it helps provide your young pooch not only with brain-boosting effects but also with amazing antioxidant properties through the action of EPA. Additionally, since the IAMS Proactive only contains a single ingredient and comes with a very common allergen, you can easily determine if your young pooch is reactive to it or not. It doesn’t contain wheat either so you can easily zero-in on the allergen. At any rate, its antioxidant content should also help provide for a healthier pup. Moreover, its safer puppy formulation should make allergy determination easy. It’s affordable and is just right for growing puppies.

Single ingredient formulation for easier allergen identification

Rich in proteins, vitamins, antioxidants, DHA, and minerals

No preservatives, fillers, and artificial ingredients

Reasonably less expensive than other brands 

  • Brand: Iams
  • Model: 10171672
  • Weight: 30.6 pounds


Nature’s Recipe is one of the top puppy food brands that you can rely to provide your young mutt all the right nutrients it needs for optimum development and physical growth. It is reasonably priced, too, so you won’t be going bankrupt anytime soon. The Nature’s Recipe is available in 5 different flavor combinations with chicken and salmon providing most of the protein requirements. Additionally, it doesn’t contain allergenic ingredients like grains, especially wheat. It does, however, contain healthier veggies to provide for its carbohydrate needs.

Nature’s Recipe is a high protein puppy food that is beneficial in the building and continuing maturation of muscles and other organs of the body. If you need a healthier diet for your pup, you might want to stick with its salmon, pumpkin, and sweet potato recipe as this is less allergenic than chicken. Additionally, salmon has higher DHA and EPA content which are exemplary for their brain-boosting and antioxidant properties. You can always choose chicken, however, as the puppy formulation still includes natural fish oils. Nature’s Recipe Grain-Free Dry Dog Food for Puppy is economical, nutritious, and safe for your growing pooch.

Single-protein source ingredient for easier determination of allergic potential

High DHA and EPA content especially for the salmon variety

Added minerals, antioxidants, and vitamins

Healthier carbs for extra energy for the active pup

  • Brand: Nature’s Recipe
  • Model: 799123
  • Weight: 12 pounds


Eukanuba is one of the top puppy food brands in the market. Its puppy formulation is primarily geared for the promotion of more optimum and healthier growth and development for its high protein content. It is also strategically positioned as an excellent digestive as it contains prebiotic organisms that allow for a healthier gut. It also contains DHA, although we’re not really sure how 0.1% of this type of omega-3 fatty acid. The amount of omega-3 fatty acids as a whole is also only 0.36%. The good news is that these are the minimum guaranteed analyses and as such the actual figures may actually be higher. Additionally, knowing that the DHA actually comes from natural fish oils is one thing that should give you peace of mind.

That said, one can rely on the Eukanuba as a good puppy food since it contains no fillers and comes only with high quality chicken. For those with allergies to poultry, choosing its Lamb and Rice version might be a good option. Eukanuba’s pricing strategy and amazing formulation make it an exceptional choice for those who would like high quality, nutritious chow for their pups but at a price that is more affordable than most.

Contains single protein source for easier identification of allergies

Provides essential fatty acids particularly omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids

Priced lower than competition

Contains natural fibers and prebiotics for healthier digestion 

  • Brand: Eukanuba
  • Model: 10150746
  • Weight: 33 pounds


If you’re wary of gluten, soy, and corn, Purina ONE’s SmartBlend Healthy Puppy Formula is not for you since this puppy kibble contains these ingredients. But if you’re not really worried about such things and you would like to save more, then the SmartBlend is just for you. It’s filled with all the key nutrients that juvenile pooches will rely on to guarantee optimum growth and maturation. It also contains essential fatty acids for healthier coat and skin as well as minerals and vitamins for peak health. Its antioxidants can also help boost the functioning of the immune system, a very critical component in puppy health owing to its relatively immature natural defenses against infections. These infections are also very common in this stage of a dog’s life.

Contains correct amounts of essential nutrients

Has sufficient essential fatty acids for healthier coat and skin

With minerals and vitamins for added health benefits

  • Brand: Purina ONE
  • Model: 57011
  • Weight: 8 pounds


The Purina Pro Plan Savor is a high protein puppy food that contains a blend of shredded chicken and rice to give pups superior nutrition, including highly digestible carbohydrates. The Savor also contains DHA sourced from fish oil. We’re just wondering why EPA is not also included in the label since fish oils essentially contain both EPA and DHA, being important types of omega-3 fatty acids. Regardless, this should help provide for a healthier nervous system for your young pooch. The inclusion of antioxidants in its formulation also helps ensure a healthier immune system, especially for a pup that is still pretty much vulnerable to infections. It may be quite pricey, though. But if you will only focus on the benefits it brings to your pup, then it is a good buy.

Real chicken as its primary ingredients

Fortified with minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants

Filled with natural fish oils and brain-healthy essential fatty acids

Crunchy texture and delectable flavors for pups 

  • Brand: Purina Pro Plan
  • Model: 3810014288
  • Weight: 18.5 pounds


This natural puppy food comes with real chicken combined with sweet potatoes to provide young mutts with a great combination of proteins and fats as well as highly digestible carbs. It also doesn’t contain any of those fillers, artificial flavors and coloring, and other substances that might be detrimental to your pup’s health. It may be pricey yet a lot of folks actually find it appealing to give to their respective pets.

Grain-free formulation for lesser risk of allergies

Contains no harmful or toxic ingredients

Contains no soy, corn, or gluten

  • Brand: Merrick
  • Model: 38376
  • Weight: 25 pounds


If you’re not keen on giving your pet puppy kibble, then maybe a canned puppy food will, especially if it’s made by one of the top puppy food brands in the market. The Pedigree Choice Cuts in Gravy provides puppies with a tastier treat for them to feast on. The Choice Cuts also come in various flavors although only chicken is made available for puppies.

It’s rich in DHA, calcium, and other vitamins and minerals. It is particularly useful for pups that are not drinking a lot since the Choice Cuts contains 82% moisture. Unfortunately, this also means that the actual nutrient composition of the Pedigree puppy food is no more than 18% of the actual weight. Considering that each pouch of Choice Cuts should be consumed within a relatively short time, otherwise it will spoil, and costing about $20 for a pack of 16, it can really be an expensive proposition. It’s perfect for finicky eaters as well as pooches that don’t drink too much. However, mixing it with your pup’s dry kibbles should make it more practical.

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Contains 82% moisture for adequate canine hydration

Contains DHA and other nutrients for optimum nutrition

Has better tastes making more palatable to young canines

Can be mixed with puppy kibble

  • Brand: Pedigree
  • Model: 10153317
  • Weight: 3.92 pounds

Best Puppy Food Buying Guide

Choosing the puppy food is crucial to ensuring that it grows and matures into healthy dogs. We have prepared a comprehensive and detailed buying guide of the best puppy food brands to help you make the right decision as to purchasing the appropriate product for your pet. Additionally, we’re sharing some of the questions that most pet owners have in relation to puppy feeding.

  • What are the nutritional needs of puppies?

Puppies require lots of proteins for tissue and organ building processes. Depending on their activity levels, they will also need sufficient amounts of carbohydrates. Carbs are what provides pups with the energy they need to be active at play. Proteins are essential for the building and maturation of tissues as well as the production of hormones and other vital substances in the body, especially those related to the immune system. Fats are integral components of cell membranes particularly those found in the brain and the rest of the nervous system. However, healthier versions of fats should be ascribed to and not just any other type of fat.

In addition to these, young pooches will benefit from vitamins and minerals as well as other micronutrients necessary for development. Docosahexaenoic acid, for instance, is needed for optimum development of the eyes and the brain while calcium, phosphorus, and Vitamin D will be needed for stronger bones. Folate and iron are essential, too, for healthier red blood cells while zinc and selenium can help in the maturation of the immune system.

  • Until when should I keep feeding my dog healthy puppy food? 

There really is no golden rule when it comes to how long you should keep feeding your young pooch its puppy chow. Generally, experts recommend feeding your puppy with the appropriate food until it reaches about 80 percent of its expected or standard adult size. However, as we have already mentioned, this is just a general guideline. If your pet pooch is growing at an unusually fast rate, then you may have to stop feeding it with puppy food much sooner.

  • How frequent and how much should I feed my puppy? 

The frequency of feeding your pup depends on its age. Typically, less than 3-month old pups will need to feed 4 times a day. This gradually decreases until it reaches its ‘adult’ stage where it feeds on 2 half-servings each day. As for the amount of food that you have to give, manufacturers have their own recommendations so you’d better check these out. However, you will still need to consider the growth rate of your young pet. The faster it grows the more nutrients it will need.

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  • Should I give my pups dry kibbles or wet food? 

As we’ll explain later, it is a lot better to give pups dry kibbles for a variety of reasons. First, it’s more nutrient-rich than wet food since the latter is mostly water. It’s also beneficial for its budding teeth. This is not to say that wet dog food is not good either. It’s best reserved for sick pups as well as young mutts that don’t drink enough water.

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Little Puppies eating

Factors to Consider When Buying the Best Puppy Food

Buying the right food is crucial to see your puppy grow as healthily and optimally as possible. This can only happen if you know what you need to look for when buying good puppy food. We have listed some of the more important items for you to consider before making that all-important purchase to help you choose the optimum puppy food for your pet.

  • The activity level of your pet pooch 

You might think that all puppies are generally active. They love to play, jump, run, and explore their surroundings. They’re mostly described as little bundles of endless joy that the only time you will see them actually not playing is when they are asleep. The fact is that different pups also have different activity levels. While certain breeds are more ‘active’ or playful than others, you should not base your decision on breed temperament standards alone. It is thus, important to observe your own pooch and try to determine its own unique activity level.

Now, why is this important? Highly active mutts will require tremendous amounts of energy, otherwise, they will not be able to play as much and as often as they would like. If this happens, they may develop behavioral problems as they grow older because their inherent need for play has not been met.

As such, if you have a highly active young mutt, make sure to consider giving it carbohydrate-rich doggie food as this will be its principal source of energy. If your pet is not really that active, you can choose a puppy chow that has considerably less proportion of carbs.

  • The overall health condition of your pet 

We did mention above that certain medical conditions can affect the way your young mutt feeds. It might even affect the way it is able to digest, absorb, and metabolize the different nutrient molecules that are present in the chow that you give it. For example, intestinal parasitic infections, coccidiosis, heartworm disease, parvovirus infection, or even kennel cough are very common among puppies. If your mutt happens to be affected by these conditions, its feeding will also be affected.

Technically, if your young dog is sick, its appetite decreases, much like humans do. In such cases, giving it dry kibbles may not be appropriate because of the rather dry and distinct taste of kibbles making it quite unpalatable. A more appropriate solution will be to choose canned puppy foods as these contain lots of moisture to help facilitate the more efficient swallowing of the bolus. Additionally, the moist consistency of wet dog food allows it to pack more flavors which can help entice your pet to eat.

If your mutt is also not drinking properly, wet puppy food is a good choice. But, if your young pooch drinks well, then a dry kibble is an excellent option. This is also advisable if you want your pup to develop stronger teeth while also preventing tooth decay and gum disease. Additionally, wet dog food, even those formulated for puppies, contains too much fat which might not be healthy for the young mutt.

  • Food allergies and intolerances

Allergies and food intolerances are also quite common. So if you still have a puppy and you’re not sure if it is allergic to a specific type of chow, then you might want to get something that only has one primary ingredient. This way, you can be certain that, should your pet develop a reaction, it is allergic to such a substance.

Caution should be made with products that eliminate grains from their formulation yet include other protein sources that can be allergenic as well. In case you don’t know yet, wheat, corn, and soy are almost always considered as allergenic for dogs. However, beef, chicken, fish, dairy, and lamb are equally allergenic.

What we would like to emphasize here is that don’t believe so much in the label saying grain-free chow is best for your dog. If it still contains protein-rich ingredients like chicken or beef, then the risk of allergy is still present. It just so happen that dog food manufacturers are jumping into the human health bandwagon that wheat gluten is bad for one’s health.

Science has already shown that wholesome grains are beneficial for dogs, especially for puppies as these contain amino acids necessary for optimum development. These are also excellent sources of energy as well as other nutrients. If you really want to eliminate the allergenic potential of puppy food, then choose one that doesn’t have any of these ingredients.

  • Dietary requirements specific to your breed 

Different breeds require nutrients in varying amounts and types. Larger breeds of canines typically require more protein and minerals as their anatomy will need these nutrients to grow and develop to their optimum levels. Smaller canine breeds, on the other hand, will often have sufficiently smaller amounts of nutrients compared to their larger cousins.

Additionally, long- or thick- coated mutts will benefit more from a diet that is rich in vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids as these substances can help provide for a much healthier coat. Thin- or sparsely- coated pooches may not really need too much of these substances, although they will definitely need DHA for brain development.

Can I Feed My Puppy Adult Food?

Many pet owners are quite perplexed as to why there needs to be a classification of pet food according to the animal’s age. This is often raised by those households that may have multiple pets in various stages of development. For example, they may have several pups, a few adults, and one or two senior dogs. Should you feed your pup with food designed for adults?

The answer is simple. No! Just look at it this way. Do you give your less than 1-year-old baby the same food that grownups in your family eat? Likewise, do you give your baby slices of Thanksgiving turkey even though he or she is only 10 months old? If your answer is “no,” then put this line of thinking into your young pet.

Puppies are still growing. As such, they require a different set of nutrients in slightly different amounts compared to adults. The goal of nutrition in puppyhood is to build tissues and to ensure the successful maturation of these tissues and organs. In other words, the right nutrition in puppyhood is very important as it lays the foundation for the health and wellbeing of your dog once it grows up.

So, can you feed your pup adult food? Of course, you can. But should you? The answer is no.

Dog meal on a plate

How to Properly Feed Your Puppy

Knowing how to properly feed your puppy is as important as knowing what type of food is best suited for it. Regrettably, not everyone is well-versed on some of the essential guidelines when feeding pups, especially in the first few days that it is in your home. Here’s how.

  • Know the feeding recommendations that are appropriate for your puppy’s age

For pups between 6 weeks and 3 months old, you will need to feed it with an appropriate puppy chow. You also need to feed them about 4 times a day. By the time a large breed pup reaches 9 or 10 weeks, it should only be fed with unmoistened dry kibbles. For small breeds, they should start feeding unmoistened dry kibbles by around 12 or 13 weeks.

If you have a pup that is between 3 and 6 months of age, you can reduce the number of feedings to 3 per day. Once your young pooch reaches 6 months, you can further reduce the feeding frequency to just two. You can then start switching to adult dog food starting 7 months for small breeds and 12 months for larger breeds. Experts actually recommend extending the puppy food feeding to a few more months as the different nutrients they need will help them grow healthier.

  • Slowly switch your new puppy to its new food in its new home

If you happen to bring home a new puppy, make sure to feed it with exactly the same food that it has been fed with prior to its arrival in your home. Over a period of about 7 to 10 days, you will have to slowly introduce your kind of puppy food into its diet until it can be fully switched from its previous diet. For instance, you can make a mixture of 25% ‘new food’ and 75% ‘usual food’ in the first few days, say 3 days. On days 4 to 6, you can make it 50-50. On days 7 to 9, you can add 75% ‘new food’ to 25% of the ‘usual food’. By day 10, you should already be able to completely put your pup on the new food.

In the process of slowly integrating a recommended puppy chow to its usual diet, your new pup might vomit, appear constipated, or even has loose stools. If this happens, you might want to reduce the proportion of “new food” you’re introducing and go even slower. Additionally, you really have to supervise its feeding to watch out for any reaction.

  • Go for high-quality dry kibbles

Feed your pups high-quality dry kibbles formulated specifically for puppies. Most veterinarians rarely recommend wet or even semi-moist foods as these are essentially filled with moisture and have high-fat content. They are very expensive and you are only getting about 20 percent of the actual nutrients since 80% of it is water. Unless your pet has issues drinking from its bowl or water dispenser or may have problems biting and swallowing, you’re better off with a dry kibble.

Do remember to feed a puppy with only the highest possible quality of dry kibble. Don’t go for cheap ones as these often have questionable protein quality, not to mention poor digestibility. You may think you’ve saved a few dollars by feeding them low-quality food, but if they do get sick, you’d typically end up with a heftier vet bill.

  • Avoid giving table scraps; leave this for later

Remember that the goal of puppy nutrition is to provide them with the nutritional foundation necessary to build, grow, and develop a canine body that will last many years. While your Thanksgiving turkey or even that antioxidant-rich apple looks appetizing and truly nutritious, giving these to your pup now will only make them to want more of it. Soon, they will no longer be eating their puppy chow. If that happens, they will no longer be able to obtain all the right nutrients necessary for their development.

  • Give treats sparingly

Experts recommend giving treats to pups during obedience training or as a reward for good behavior. It can also be given to keep puppies entertained. However, it should not comprise more than 10 percent of the caloric intake of your puppy. Again, the purpose of puppy nutrition is to build and develop a healthier dog. This can only be obtained with the correct nutrients at the right amounts and this can be satisfied only by a high-quality puppy food.

Puppy eating dog food

  • Don’t forget to give them fresh drinking water

Nutrition is never complete without water. In fact, even if you put all the nutrients into your puppy, but if its cells and tissues are dehydrated, they will still not be able to utilize all these nutrients. As such, it is important to provide your pet pooch with safe, clean drinking water.

Feeding your pup with the correct nutrients in the right amounts is important in ensuring their optimum growth potential. By learning what to look for in a puppy food including how to properly feed them, you can help guarantee a brighter future for your young pets.

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  1. 6 Tips for Choosing Healthy Puppy Food - PetMD
  2. Puppy Food -- Types, Feeding Schedule, and Nutrition - WebMD
Dr Tracy Douglas
Dr Tracy Douglas
General Practice Veterinarian, currently working at the Glenwood Veterinary Clinic, Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Dr. Douglas began her veterinary career as a Veterinary Nurse in Highton Veterinary Clinic, Highton Victoria, and then as an Emergency Veterinarian in Uintah Pet Emergency, Colorado Springs, Colorado. Tracy is particularly interested in surgery, neurology and internal medicine, which gives her a well-rounded knowledge on animal health and well-being. She received her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Melbourne, while her undergraduate bachelor of science is from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.
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