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Buying Guide: Best Dog Food for Puppies of All Sizes

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The puppyhood is the ideal time of a dog’s life to set some good foundations and a healthy, well-balanced diet might be one of the most important ones. Dogs are omnivores and require diverse nutrition that will contain all of the important micro and macronutrients. They can and should eat different food groups, especially when they are still young and their bodies are developing. Of course, it’s worthy of mention that dogs have healthy appetites and low standards when it comes to taste. I mean, they will eat poop if given a chance, so it can be difficult to figure out what dog food for puppies is actually good for them and which is a canine version of junk food your pet seems to adore. 

There is no best dog food for puppies that will fit all furballs, as a lot of factors can influence your choice of pet food. From your dog’s size to their potential breed-related health risks, it’s important to pick something that will be tailored to your puppy’s unique needs and not just first generic puppy kibble you come across. Naturally, there are some universal do’s and don’ts of choosing puppy food, so before you get your wallet out, find out what ingredients puppy food should have, what to look for in dog food for puppies, and what puppy food brands are the best on the market. 

Your new puppy is weaned, and it’s time for them to eat on their own. Do you really have to buy special food for them, or can they eat regular dog food once their baby teeth come in? Contrary to popular belief, dog food for puppies needs to be specially made to cater to the needs of young dogs, as they are drastically different than those of adults. Puppies are delicate and a healthy diet will go a long way to helping them develop properly. 

For instance, dog food for puppies that are just two months old has circa twice as many calories than those of his mom or dad. Puppies are growing and need fuel to support their whole system, and that includes different nutritional requirements. Dog food for puppies should contain more protein, fat, calcium, and phosphorus in its ingredient list, as well as be enriched with fatty acids and other micronutrients important for growth. Feeding puppies kibble that’s not designed for their age (and size, but more about that later) can significantly impact their health. Not only that they’ll advance slower than their peers, but they can also develop health issues in the future owing to their poor nutrition during their forming years of puppyhood. 

There are dozens of kibble brands out there, so it is completely understandable that pet owners get stumped when it’s time to make a choice. It’s especially common for first-time puppy owners who get overwhelmed by specific requirements of dog nutrition for youngsters. A dog’s nutritional needs change and evolve over their lifetime, and what’s good for an adult pooch won’t cut it for a growing puppy.

First, there is the choice between wet food and dry food. It’s strongly encouraged to start with kibble as soon as possible, as puppies can prefer the soft and flavorful canned food, but it’s not always the best nutritional option for their needs. High-quality dry food for puppies is a much sounder choice- and will make it easier for you in the long run, as most experts recommend dry food making up for the majority of your dog’s diet, and wet food being an occasional treat.

As a good rule of thumb, high-quality dog food for puppies should be calorie-dense and enriched with essential amino acids and vitamins that are crucial for any puppy’s development. In comparison to adult dog food, food for puppies is loaded with more calories as a healthy, growing, active puppy needs more energy to thrive. Similarly, omega-3 fatty acids are a required ingredient for puppy food, as they are crucial in supporting the healthy development of brain and heart. In fact, DHA and EPA from fatty acids can boost your puppy’s brain and make them more easily trainable. Studies show that puppies that had a diet rich in essential amino acids outperformed their peers when it comes to learning and training. Who would’ve thought that choice of food can influence your potty training routine, am I right? 

But, while rich in calories and essential fatty acids, dog food for puppies shouldn’t be fattening. They need to stay lean and healthy and not set a foundation for obesity as they grow into a chunky pooch–you might think it adorable, but it can put an unnecessary strain on their health. We’ve determined that wholesome and immunity-boosting ingredients are a must, so let’s go over what specific ingredients your puppy needs in his kibble- based on his size and/or breed.

When it comes to choosing dog food for puppies, your pet’s size matters more than you think! And it’s not a simple matter of adjusting the amount of kibble according to your puppy’s breed. Sure, a Lab puppy will definitely need more food in his bowl than a petite Maltese, but it’s what is in the kibble that counts. To make sure your puppy is getting all the nutrients he needs from his food, it would be ideal to get them either a breed-specific type of kibble or dry food specially formulated for puppies of their size.

Large breed puppies need food that has a specific ratio of ingredients that slows down their growth spurt. If not fed properly, these cuties tend to grow too fast for their bones to catch up, resulting in joint issues and other skeletal problems later on in life. As a result, food for puppies that will grow into big dogs should have less calcium and less overall calories. It will still be rich in nutrients, just in a way that ensures uniform growth rate and not faster weight gain.

Small and toy breed puppies are not at risk of rapid growth, but there are other considerations when it comes to their diet. Toy breeds can be prone to hypoglycemia and it’s mostly due to their fast metabolisms. This is important to take into account when choosing their food, as they require a formula that will provide them a constant flow of slow-releasing energy, usually meaning a good ratio of meat-based protein and healthy complex carbs. Interestingly, small breed puppies will reach adulthood faster than large breed dogs do, meaning that they’ll make the switch to adult formula food earlier, usually around the six months mark.

Now that you know what type of dog food will work best for your puppy’s unique needs, all that remains is going over the best brands of dog food for puppies and making your pick. To make your job easier, we’ve rounded up some tried and true favorites that will keep puppies of all sizes full and healthy!

Many vets recommend Hill’s Science to new pet parents, and with good reason: this USA-made puppy food is designed to provide all the essential nutrients to a growing pooch. This dog food for puppies contains no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives and it’s made with high-quality natural ingredients. Hill’s Science puppy food is enriched with DHA from fish oil to ensure healthy vision and eye development, as well as boost your puppy’s brain and, as a result, training performance. The tiny disc-shaped kibble is small enough for most puppies, and the chicken flavor is delicious–according to furballs, that is.

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Best Dog Food for Puppies: Nutro Wholesome Essentials Natural

When a high-quality meat-based protein source is first on any dog food’s ingredient list, it’s a great start. The Nutro Wholesome puppy food’s primary ingredient is pasture-fed lamb (or farm-raised chicken, depending on your choice), sourced from trusted farmers and suppliers. In addition to essential vitamins and minerals, this puppy kibble is fortified with, it is also enriched by omega-3 fatty acids and calcium, both to promote healthy development of a young dog. Also, this dog food is made in the USA, from non-GMO ingredients, which is another thing to add to its list of potential benefits. This formula fits most puppies, except very small and large breeds that require specific nutrition.

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Best Dog Food for Puppies: Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula

For the cognitive and retinal development, Blue Buffalo puppy food is loaded with DHA and ARA fatty acids that work to improve eyesight and brain function. In addition to the high-quality meat protein in this formula, these essential amino acids are responsible for your puppy’s wellbeing and set a healthy foundation for years to come. You can choose between deboned chicken and deboned lamb as the primary protein source, paired either with brown rice or oatmeal for lower allergy risk. This dog food for puppies was designed by holistic veterinarians and contains the exclusive LifeSource Bits, a precise blend of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals working to ensure their wellbeing.

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Best Dog Food for Puppies: Purina Pro Plan FOCUS

Specially designed to meet the unique dietary requirements of small breeds in their developing puppy age, Purina Pro Plan FOCUS is bite-sized kibble made from high-quality ingredients. With chicken meat being the first ingredient and rice the source of complex carbs, this dog food for puppies contains everything a growing puppy needs to thrive. To boot, this dry food is enriched with DHA extracted from omega-rich fish oil for brain development and improved eyesight. The highly digestible formula also contains antioxidants which boost your dog’s immune system and make sure their coat is shiny and healthy.

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Best Dog Food for Puppies: Annamaet Ohana

If you have a puppy with allergies to chicken or beef (which are usually the primary protein source in pet food), sourcing kibble with an alternative protein source is a must. Even if your puppy is not sensitive to other meats, but you simply want them to try something healthier and new, Annamaet Ohana puppy food with Alaskan cod is a fantastic alternative. Not only that it contains wild, line-caught cod from sustainable sources, but this formula is also fortified with various ingredients selected specifically for healthier puppyhood. Ohana dog food for puppies is enriched with EPA & DHA from fish oil and algae for improved cognitive function and healthy retinal function, and a mix of inulin and prebiotics for a better GI function. It even has coconut oil in the ingredient list, boosting the omega 3 content in the kibble and working to promote a shiny, soft coat in your little furball.

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Best Dog Food for Puppies: Royal Canin Giant

Gentle giants have special requirements when it comes to their diet, and we’re not talking just about the size of their bowl. Most giant breed puppies are of an average adult dog’s size while they’re a few months old, so it’s natural that their nutrition will differ from that of regular-sized puppies. This Royal Canin formula is meant for puppies that will grow to weigh over 100 pounds, and it is designed to be used up until their 8th month of age. Designed to suit the unique needs of large puppies, this kibble has a proper level of calcium, and it is boosted with glucosamine, chondroitin and EPA/DHA for joint health, immune system support, and improved cognitive development.

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This grain-free dog food is the favorite choice of many seasoned pet owners, and it’s available in puppy formula for youngsters, as well. Made with roasted venison and roasted bison, this kibble relies on alternative exotic protein sources to meet the nutritional demands of a growing puppy, so it’s a good choice for those with nutritional sensitivities and allergies. Also, it doesn’t hurt that the formula contains no grain, corn, wheat, filler, artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. The proprietary K9 strain probiotic blend of this kibble is famed for its influence on good digestion and it’s no different when it comes to its effect on puppies, especially those that have a sensitive tummy. Taste of the Wild puppy food contains beneficial omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, with DHA sources from salmon oil to make your puppy’s training a breeze.  

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Best Dog Food for Puppies: Rachael Ray Nutrish Bright Puppy

Slow roasted, U.S.-raised chicken sounds like something that could be a fit choice for your own plate, meaning it has to be good for your pup, too! Nutrish Bright Puppy is affordable dog food for puppies that is made from high-quality ingredients and formulated to support your pet’s immune system with a selection of vitamins and chelated minerals. Made from real meat, fruits, and veggies, this is a highly-digestible formula with a natural source of vitamin C. The DHA from fish meal ensures proper brain function, healthy coat, and better vision.

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Best Dog Food for Puppies: Iams Proactive Health

Formulated so it fits the needs of most puppies, the Iams Proactive Health puppy food is a good choice for pet parents on a budget that still want their new pet to thrive in their care. Made with no artificial preservatives or flavors and 0% fillers, this puppy kibble has real farm-raised chicken meat as its first ingredient, and ground corn to fuel their growing little bodies with healthy carbs. The company says their proprietary formula contains 22 key nutrients that can be found in a mother’s milk, so it will provide a smooth nutritional transition to a puppy that’s just been weaned of the tit. And, of course, this kibble is infused with Omega-3 DHA to turn your puppy into a furry Einstein.

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Those cute little Yorkies and Chihuahuas might be tiny, but it doesn’t mean that they’re less work than a full-sized pooch. In fact, petite pooches are often more of a handful than a big, laid-back doggo! Their nutrition is one of the things that’s special about them. To make sure your small breed or toy breed puppy is developing properly. Hill’s Science dog food contains an antioxidant blend designed specifically to ensure lifelong immune support for dogs of their size. The combination of high-quality protein, DHA from fish oil, minerals and vitamins works together to promote healthy cognitive function, shiny fur, and strong, healthy bones. Also, the tiny size of individual kibble pieces is ideal for petite puppies who usually struggle with regular kibble that is too chunky for them.

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This dog food for puppies is free of any grain- including corn, wheat, and soy- and it’s great for pets who have a hard time digesting these foods. Instead, American Journe uses sweet potatoes and chickpeas as its source of complex, healthy carbs that ensure a slow energy release between the meals, keeping your puppy full for longer. The primary protein source is real, deboned lamb, combined with dried fruits, veggies, and algae for a powerful blend of fiber, phytonutrients, and antioxidants that support your puppy’s immune system. For better absorption, this dog food for puppies combines omega-3 and 6 fatty acids from two sources: salmon oil and flaxseed.

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