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Last updated: 08 May 2020

The Best Puppy Food (Review) in 2020

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Puppy Food

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Puppy Food

Key features

Contains the patented Lifesource bits

Wheat and soy-free

The bag contains 30 lb worth of food

Specially formulated for puppies

Orijen High Protein Dry Puppy Food

Orijen High Protein Dry Puppy Food

Key features

Contains 15% vegetables and botanicals

6 different sources of meat

Specially meant for puppies

Holistic diet

Iams Proactive Health Chicken Dry Puppy Food

Iams Proactive Health Chicken Dry Puppy Food

Key features

Specifically meant for large breed puppies

Packed with whole ingredients

The first ingredient is farm-raised deboned chicken meal

The ingredients used are easily digestible

Show contents
Dr Tracy Douglas
Published 21:34 pm

With all the options out there in terms of canine food, it’s a miracle to find one that really resonates well with your furry little friend. The matter becomes a lot more sensitive when it involves puppies. Just like it is with human babies, a puppy’s system is not quite seasoned enough to handle everything, so you need to put in quite some thought when picking the right one. No doubt, as pet parents, wanting the best for your furbaby is a given and as such, we’ve decided to make the search a whole lot easier. Below are some of the best puppy food on the market – you simply cannot get it wrong with any of the options below.

The Best Dog Food for Puppies

1

What goes in your puppy’s mouth right from the beginning determines what kind of life they’ll ultimately lead. If the aim is to raise a happy and healthy furbaby, then the best route to take is the Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Puppy Dog Food. You’ll definitely like that this top rated puppy food is specially made just for growing pooches. Whether you want to use it as small breed puppy food or for their bigger counterparts is totally up to you – it works great either way. 

To further add, this puppy food specifically caters to developmental and health-related needs peculiar to puppies. For instance, it contains both Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Arachidonic acid (ARA) which are the core fatty acids present in their mother’s milk. This goes a long way to boost their all-around development, more specifically their cognitive function and vision. Even better, this best dog food for puppies comprises only natural ingredients that are sure to boost your pup’s immunity altogether. What’s more, there’s no grain, corn, wheat or soy present in this formula. So, food aversions and allergies won’t be part of the picture at all for both small and large breeds.

Real meat is the first ingredient

It contains DHA and ARA

Made using the finest natural ingredients

It does not contain poultry by-products

Specification:
  • Brand: Blue Buffalo
  • Model: 5
  • Weight: 30 pounds

2

If you own a pet, then you should be no stranger to this brand, especially if you are on the lookout for a biologically appropriate diet. The nutrients contained in the ORIJEN Puppy High-Protein Dry Dog Food are practically unmatchable; which makes the fact that it is specifically made for the nourishment of puppies even better. This can also be credited to the fact that there is a precise blend of nutrient-packed ingredients in the mix that is suitable for small and large breeds.

Also included are raw whole animal ingredients that could be anything from free-run chicken to wild-caught fish as well as cage-free eggs. There’s equally the addition of animal organs, bone, cartilage and so much more. And what makes this even better is the fact that there is no wheat or grain contained in this formula. So, not only are the ingredients fresh and nutrient-packed, but you can rest assured that your large or small pup will lead an allergy-free life.

Has an 85% animal product content

Contains raw ingredients

Grain free formula

It is biologically appropriate

Specification:
  • Brand: ORIJEN
  • Model: DOR4400-4.5
  • Weight: 4.4 pounds

3

Whether for a small or large breed dog, there’s nothing quite as effective as authentic ingredients. If you really want to see results in terms of your pup’s general well being, be on the lookout for rich and wholesome additions. The makers of the Wellness Complete Health Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food took it up a notch here. Not only is this dry food packed with authentic ingredients, it further gives nutritional support to the entire body. Rest assured there’s everything a growing puppy needs, and then some when it comes to this healthy option. 

Now let’s swiftly move on to what not to expect with this highly nutritious food option. For one, there’s no grain in its healthy food formula, there’s equally no wheat, soy, corn, meat by-product meal or even preservatives. So, your puppy can develop with minimal hitches along the way. Instead, this grain free puppy food is packed with healthy and delicious proteins that are sure to give your fur baby a much-needed boost. The combination of deboned chicken meal and Whitefish, as well as essential vitamins and minerals, is ample proof that this is one of the healthiest puppy food options out there for growing small and large breeds. 

Grain-free formula

Made from all-natural ingredients

It is void of wheat and corn

High protein content

Specification:
  • Brand: Wellness Natural Pet Food
  • Model: 89147
  • Weight: 4 pounds

4

Now, if you have more than one dog breed at home, you’re bound to love this one. Not only is it a highly nutritious option, as the name implies, but it also gives you an avenue to specifically show some love for your large breed puppies. All in all, the NUTRO WHOLESOME ESSENTIALS Puppy Dry Dog Food offers large breed pups a whole lot more than a generic option would and here’s how. First and foremost, the main ingredient here is pasture-fed lamb which is packed with nutrients such as glucosamine and chondroitin. 

That’s not all, there’s also the addition of calcium and  Omega 3 fatty acids such as DHA in this dry food. As a result of this, you can rest assured that your small or large breed puppy is developing healthy bones and equally has all they need to develop cognitively. Even more, there are essential antioxidants added to the mix with the likes of Vitamin E at the forefront of this dry puppy food. As a result, your pup’s immunity is bound to be fortified against all sorts of attacks. 

Lamb is the first ingredient

Specially formulated for large breed puppies

It contains DHA

Packed with essential antioxidants

Specification:
  • Brand: Nutro
  • Model: 10157655
  • Weight: 30 pounds

5

With salmon as the first ingredient here, this puppy food is an option that your pup is sure to love. But it’s not just the salmon you should be impressed by here, even better is the fact that only ingredients vital to the health and development of your puppy are used. A range of authentic ingredients such as high-quality protein, probiotics, prebiotics, and vitamins are part and parcel of this formula that works efficiently to meet the nutritional needs of your puppy. 

Even more, the formula from Taste of the Wild pet food used here provides benefits holistically, taking into account everything your large and small breed puppy needs during their vital foundation year. As if that’s not enough, this option is completely grain-free as well as soy, wheat, preservative, and artificial flavor-free. So, there’s really no getting it wrong here. This nutrient-rich dry dog food from Taste of the Wild is all your puppy needs and then some. 

Real salmon is the number one ingredient

Contains antioxidants and DHA

Packed with probiotics

Rich in protein

Specification:
  • Brand: Taste of The Wild
  • Model: 9573
  • Weight: 28 pounds

6

Finding the right puppy food for a large growing dog can be tough – the right formula should be higher in calories, packed with healthy fats for proper brain development, as well as quality protein for that much-needed muscle development. Thankfully, with options like Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Puppy Food you can rest assured your pup’s dietary needs are being adequately met. 

In a nutshell, this can be considered as the epitome of good puppy food. It’s infused with a tasty chicken meal flavor that is sure to have your pup coming back for more. Also, it contains the right amount of calcium to enhance bone growth specifically for large breed puppies. Where strong bones thrive, you’re sure to find strong teeth too and a healthy immune system this is all part and parcel the Hill’s Science promise. The natural ingredients along with vitamins and minerals are used here to ensure that your pet develops the way mother nature intended. 

It contains 3970 kcal per kilogram

Contains an ample amount of DHA

Highly recommended by veterinarians

Packed with quality protein

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

7

When it comes to food for your puppy, this is definitely one of the giants. As such, you can expect nothing short of excellence from the CANIDAE PURE Puppy Recipe Grain Free Premium Dry Dog Food. Seeing as this is a limited ingredient formula, it’s no surprise that this pet food contains a maximum of 10 ingredients in each bag. So, best believe there are no fillers here – each ingredient is something your puppy needs for their all-round development! 

You’d also be pleased to know that there’s an array of flavors available in this pet food for you to pick from. So, your pup does not have to settle for one over the other, variety is the spice of life. What’s more, the six different proteins used here are lamb, chicken meal, salmon, boar, duck, and bison, all of which cater to the nutritional needs of your  larger breeds as well as small breed pups. Taking this up a notch, there are some ingredients that just didn’t make the cut. You can already guess that grain is one of them; however, there’s also meat meals, by-products and soy excluded from the mix. To crown it all up, every bite here is infused with a mix of probiotics, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, as well as omega 6 & 3 fatty acids. 

Contains a maximum of 10 ingredients

Grain-free formula

Probiotics incorporated in the formula

Makes use of a whole-food recipe

Specification:
  • Brand: CANIDAE
  • Model: 1561
  • Weight: 12 pounds

8

If your dog is more into wet puppy food, then boy have we got the best option for you. Not only is this an incredibly healthy option, but it’s also one super high protein puppy food. The Blue Buffalo Wilderness Natural Puppy Wet Dog Food speaks to the innate nature of the entire canine population, be it small or large breeds. As such, it is packed with meat to really appeal to their wild side. Alongside chicken meal and turkey, there’s also a healthy mix of fruits, vegetables and additional vitamins and minerals. 

There’s so much in here, but you can rest assured that not all ingredients are welcome in this wet food. There are no gluten packed grains included here, there’s no wheat, soy or preservatives either. You’ll be pleased to know that there’s not just one way to eat this wet dog food, there’s a whopping three. Not only can it be given as a treat, but you can also either add it to your puppy’s dry food or have them eat it on its own. Either way, this meal is as delicious as it is effective especially for growing puppies. 

Contains an ample amount of turkey and chicken meal

Makes use of all-natural ingredients

Does not contain poultry by-products

Grain-free puppy formula

Specification:
  • Brand: Blue Buffalo
  • Model: BLU10123
  • Weight: 9.4 pounds

9

Here is another product made for both large breeds and small breeds. You can really get behind this one thanks to the fact that it comes highly recommended by vets. Altogether, the Iams Proactive Health Puppy Chicken Dry Dog Food is made using only natural ingredients and the first one used here is farm-raised chicken meal. Yes, there are grains included in the mix, but this is no reason to shy away from this option. There’s nothing but healthy, wholesome grains as well as vegetables added to the mix. 

Even better is the fact that all the ingredients here are quite easy to digest while also building the immune system of your puppy. Now, here’s something else you will appreciate if you’re looking to raise a smart and intuitive dog: an ample amount of Omega 3 DHA. This will ensure your puppy’s cognitive development will be nothing less than off the charts!

Highly recommended by veterinarians

Contains a total of 22 essential nutrients

Packed with healthy protein

It contains omega 3 DHA

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

10

Last but certainly not least is the Canidae Life Stages Canned Dog Food for Puppies and it is nothing short of the best when it comes to holistic development. What makes it such a convenient food for your puppy is the fact that it’s well suited for all life stages and breed puppies. So, if you operate a multiple pet household, this brand of puppy food is the ultimate choice. It is still a great choice for single dog households because it limits all that switching. There’s no need to switch to more age or breed appropriate options with this one!

The first ingredient used here is lamb, and to ensure it’s bioavailable and incredibly tasty, it is slow-cooked in broth. Based on this alone, both small breed and larger breeds will be all over this dog food and even looking forward to meal times on a regular basis. Altogether, this dog food offers up a healthy and balanced diet for your puppy, especially during those crucial developmental years.

Contains premium ingredients

Can be used at all life stages

Void of soy, wheat, and preservatives

For all breeds and sizes

Specification:
  • Brand: Canidae
  • Model: 1224
  • Weight: 9.75 pounds

Best Puppy Food Buying Guide & FAQ

By now it should be evident that whether you have a healthy dog down the line or liability depends to a large extent on what they eat as puppies. Truly, there are tons of food options to pick from in the market, but you have to be cautious not to get overwhelmed by these so you don't end up making the wrong choice. The article below will guide new pet parents on how to best navigate their growing babies through puppyhood, in terms of nutritional needs. It also answers some of the questions most puppy owners ask.

Little Puppies eating

What to Look for in a Puppy Food 

Puppies have distinct needs when it comes to food, and these needs differ even more based on factors like their breed, age, and more. While some things may vary, some things remain the same, like their general need for a well-balanced diet. Be sure to scour puppy food reviews to ensure that the below features are in place:

  • Quality Protein

Proteins are the OGs of the diet of your puppy and should make up at least 22% of their whole meal. As in humans, they require amino acids, which are the primary building blocks their organs and systems require to form properly. While their body can produce half of the amino acids they need, the remaining half should come from what they eat. Proteins derived from animal sources like chicken meal, fish, duck, etc. are the best because not only will your puppy find them yummy, they are also loaded with all the essential nutrients needed for proper development.

  • Healthy Fats

As proteins do the base work; building cells that develop into tissues, organs, hormones, immune systems, among other things, healthy fats provide the boost these structures need to be efficient. DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, is a must-have ingredient in puppy food as it plays a pivotal role in their brain and eye development. As such, healthy fats should make up at least 8% of your puppy’s balanced meals.

  • Carbohydrates

Puppies are generally very active, and so they use up a lot of energy. Proteins and fats supply an ample amount of calories, but carbs provide a more substantial amount that ultimately fuels their escapades. While proteins serve as energy reserves, carbs are a more immediate source because of how quickly they get converted and used up. However, it is advisable to go for safe options like rice and potatoes as opposed to corn, wheat, and soy, which some puppies may have issues with.

  • Vitamins, probiotics, and other micronutrients

Vitamins, probiotics, and micronutrients play such vital roles in your puppy’s body that they really should not be overlooked. Probiotics help make the transition from their mother’s milk to other food smoother while elements like calcium and phosphorus are responsible for healthy bone developments. Then, vitamins help boost their immune systems, among other functions.

What to Avoid in a Dog Food for Puppies 

  • Rendered fat

Fat itself is not a problem, but the quality of the fat should be a concern when it comes to your little furry friends. Rendered fat does more harm than good as it contains little or no nutrients, and can be a breeding ground for harmful microorganisms that can cause health problems like pancreatitis and liver damage.

  • Artificial preservatives

It is preferable to skip preservatives altogether, but if you must, go with natural alternatives like vitamins C and E. Artificial preservatives should be avoided at all costs because they are made of chemicals that are known to be extremely toxic to dogs. Some chemical preservatives to avoid are BHA, BHT, Propylene Glycol, and Ethoxyquin.

  • Overcooked ingredients 

Just as it is for humans, for a puppy fresh food is richer than processed food. This is because the latter is often cooked at such high temperatures that the protein content ends up denatured, and the number of beneficial nutrients in the food is significantly reduced.

Dog meal on a plate

Should You Feed Your Puppy Dry or Wet Dog Food?

Both dry and wet dog foods are great choices as long as necessary precautions are taken. On the one hand, wet food has higher water content, which is excellent for hydration, and your puppy will naturally be drawn to it because it’s fresher and smells better. On the other hand, dry food tends to be less expensive and easier to preserve but may contain fillers, artificial flavors, preservatives and can be hard for puppies to chew. Ultimately, the choice is yours. That said, it's a good idea to feed your growing puppy both dry and wet food.

Best Puppy Food Brands 

  • Merrick Grain-free recipes

This brand’s puppy foods feature real deboned chicken and meat as first ingredients as well as whole foods that are completely grain-free, to provide quality nutrients for all puppies with less risk of common allergies.

  • Wellness

With a team that includes veterinarians and experienced animal nutritionists, Wellness puppy food recipes guarantee natural nutrition. Rest assured that it contains only the good stuff, in sizes that are just right for your puppy’s little mouth.

  • Blue Buffalo

Your baby pet wants food it enjoys, but because you know better, you worry about the quality. Affordable yet rich, Blue Buffalo makes food that meets both the pet and the parent’s needs.

  • Purina Pro Plan

In accordance with the demands of vets and pet owners, this brand specially formulated puppy food to meet the nutritional requirements of all breed sizes. Even better, it is further applicable at different stages of their development and budget-friendly prices.

Best Puppy Food FAQ:

Q: When and how often should I feed my puppy?

A: Start by determining the amount of food your puppy needs daily, then divide the food equally into 3 or 4 servings. For those between 8 and 12 weeks old, it is generally recommended to feed them four times daily, while those between 3 – 6 months old can be fed about three times per day.

Q: How much should I feed my puppy?

A: Breed size and calorie content, among other things, should factor into how much food you give your puppy. Nevertheless, food packages usually come with a recommended feeding amount based on a dog’s weight. You can start with that and then adjust later to keep your dog from undereating or overeating.

Q: Can I feed my puppy regular dog food?

A: While once or twice may not be harmful to their growth, it is not advisable to steadily feed your puppy regular adult dog food. Puppy food is specially formulated to meet their nutritional needs at that stage, and feeding them regular dog food trumps that. Even worse, feeding adult dog food to a growing pup long-term may cause your furbaby certain health issues down the road.

Q: How long should a puppy eat puppy food?

A: This is entirely dependent on your puppy’s breed. While it is safe to transition smaller animals to adult food between 9 – 12 months, medium to large sizes should begin at 12 – 18 months. When in doubt, consult an animal nutritionist or vet, and keep in mind that it is safer to switch late rather than too soon.

Puppy eating dog food

Our Top Pick

Made with the best natural ingredients and enhanced with the brand’s exclusive LifeSource Bits formula, the Blue Buffalo Life Protection Puppy Dog Food is our top pick. This dry puppy food recipe balances vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants from fruits and garden-grown vegetables with real deboned chicken meal and non-allergenic meal whole grains as its primary ingredients. It also contains a combination of Omega-3 (DHA) and Omega-6 (ARA) fatty acids found in mama’s milk to support the cognitive skills of your puppy. It is the perfect small breed puppy food which is also suitable for large breed sizes. Importantly, it contains no artificial additives or poultry by-products, making it suitable for all growing puppies.

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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