The 8 Best Puppy Foods

By Kevin Myers | 2021 Update

✓ Reviewed by Dr. Sara Redding Ochoa, DVM

This (updated) guide lists all of the Best Puppy Foods this year.

When your pup is still growing he needs special nutrition to form stronger joints, muscles, bones, and immune system, to name a few.

And, feeding your puppy with Adult dog food isn’t a good idea because pups do need extra calories. You see, puppies grow rapidly within the first 2 years and need twice the amount of nutrients than adult dogs.

But here’s where it gets tricky:

A diet with an improper level of calcium content can cause bone diseases like luxating patella, lameness, and hip dysplasia in puppies.

Feeding your puppies regular adult dog foods can leave drastic effects on them, especially if you have a large dog breed.

That’s why many top pet food brands are in the race to create the best dog foods for puppies.

After hours of research, ingredients analysis, reader and consumer reviews, I have curated a list of these absolute gems of puppy foods. (Here’s my 40-point inspection list)

Also check out these specific puppy food guides:

Let’s dive in…

The 8 Best Puppy Foods

Top PicksRatingTop Ingredients
1. American Journey Lamb & Sweet Potato Recipe Puppy Food
(Editor’s Pick)
4.9Deboned Lamb, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Peas, Chickpeas
2. Earthborn Holistic Puppy Vantage Grain-Free4.8Chicken Meal, Peas, Pea Starch, Chicken Fat, Whitefish Meal
3. Purina ONE SmartBlend Healthy Puppy Formula Dry Food4.8Chicken, Rice Flour, Corn Gluten Meal, Chicken By-Product Meal, Whole Grain Corn
4. Taste Of The Wild Pacific Puppy Food Formula (Grain-Free)4.7Salmon, Ocean Fish Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Peas, Potatoes
5. Purina Pro Plan Focus Puppy Large Breed Food4.7Chicken, Brewer’s Rice, Corn Gluten Meal, Whole Grain Corn, Poultry By-Product Meal
6. Farmina Natural & Delicious Chicken Grain-Free4.6Deboned Chicken, Dehydrated Chicken, Potato, Chicken Fat, Dehydrated Egg Product
7. IAMS Proactive Health Smart Puppy Large Breed Dry Dog Food4.5Chicken, Ground Whole Grain Corn, Ground Whole Grain Sorghum, Chicken By-Product Meal, Corn Grits
8. Dr. Tim’s Grain-Free Kinesis Formula Dry Dog Food4.5Chicken Meal, Dried White Potatoes, Dried Field Peas, Chicken Fat, Tapioca

How to Switch Dog Food Without Getting Your Pup Sick


Top Puppy Food Reviews

1. American Journey — Lamb & Sweet Potato Recipe Puppy Food

Protein (min.) 30%, Fat (min.) 12%, Fiber (max.) 5%, Moisture (max.) 10%

Top 5 Ingredients: 1. Deboned Lamb, 2. Chicken Meal, 3. Turkey Meal, 4. Peas, 5. Chickpeas

If you’re looking for high-protein puppy food, then this would make for a great option. American Journey has a number of products in its line.

But I rank this one above all due to its positive ingredients analysis and the quality of products used. If your pup is sensitive to grains, or if you generally avoid them, then it’s worth noting that this is one of the best grain free puppy foods in the market.


2. Earthborn Holistic — Puppy Vantage Grain-Free

Protein (min.) 28%, Fat (min.) 18%, Fiber (max.) 4.5%, Moisture (max.) 10%

Top 5 ingredients: 1. Chicken Meal, 2. Peas, 3. Pea Starch, 4. Chicken Fat, 5. Whitefish Meal

If there’s one thing I love to see puppy food brands discuss, it’s the mineral and phosphorous levels in their formula. Thankfully, Earthborn regulates the calcium levels to a minimum of 1.2% in its formula.

In addition, this food for puppies contains good levels of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids for healthy metabolism and coats.


3. Purina ONE — SmartBlend Healthy Puppy Formula Dry Food

Protein 28.0% min, Fat 17.0% min, Fiber 3% max, Moisture 12% max

Top 5 ingredients: 1. Chicken, 2. Rice Flour, 3. Corn Gluten Meal, 4. Chicken By-Product Meal (Source of Glucosamine), 5. Whole Grain Corn

If your puppy has a hard time digesting other high-protein formulas, then try Purina ONE Smartblend. With added rice and oatmeal, this food for puppies is easy on the stomach and high in healthy caloric intake.


4. Taste Of The Wild — Pacific Puppy Food Formula (Grain-Free)

Protein 27.0% min, Fat 15.0% min, Fiber 5% max, Moisture 10% max

Top 5 ingredients: 1. Salmon, 2. Ocean Fish Meal, 3. Sweet Potatoes, 4. Peas, 5. Potatoes

Looking for a top-of-the-line, made in USA, grain-free option? This might just be it. Taste of The Wild has specially added antioxidants and vitamins from fruit and vegetable sources so your pal can get the best of puppy nutrition.

Not only is this one of the best grain-free puppy foods, but it’s also completely manufactured in the USA.


5. Purina Pro Plan Focus — Puppy Large Breed Food

Protein 28.0% min, Fat 13.0% min, Fiber 6% max, Moisture 12% max

Top 5 ingredients: 1. Chicken, 2. Brewer’s Rice, 3. Corn Gluten Meal, 4. Whole Grain Corn, 5. Poultry By-Product Meal

Large breed puppies are the most prone to crippling bone diseases. But here’s the answer: Buy a puppy formula that’s specifically manufactured and tested for large breeds; just like Purina Pro Plan!

With lean, high-quality protein and Omega-6 fatty acids, this puppy food is bound to meet your large pup’s nutritional requirements.


6. Farmina Natural & Delicious Chicken Grain-Free

Protein 42.0% min, Fat 22.0% min, Fiber 2.3% max, Moisture 10% max

Top 5 ingredients: 1. Deboned Chicken, 2. Dehydrated Chicken, 3. Potato, 4. Chicken Fat, 5. Dehydrated Egg Product

Farmina Natural is a suitable option for those pup owners that don’t wish to compromise on their dog’s protein intake.

This puppy food formula has one of the highest protein ratios in the industry with a high caloric content as well.


7. IAMS Proactive Health Smart Puppy Large Breed Dry Dog Food

Protein 26.0% min, Fat 14.0% min, Fiber 4.0% max, Moisture 10% max

Top 5 ingredients: 1. Chicken, 2. Ground Whole Grain Corn, 3. Ground Whole Grain Sorghum, 4. Chicken By-Product Meal, 5. Corn Grits

IAMS has specifically formulated this large breed puppy food for breeds that have an adult weight of 51-90 pounds at maturity.

So, if your dog lies in that range, this dry puppy food would be a great option for you. It also contains DHA which helps maintain brain function and growth.


8. Dr. Tim’s Grain-Free Kinesis Formula Dry Dog Food

Protein 32.0% min, Fat 18.0% min, Fiber 4.5% max, Moisture 10% max

Top 5 ingredients: 1. Chicken Meal, 2. Dried White Potatoes, 3. Dried Field Peas, 4. Chicken Fat, 5. Tapioca

It’s no secret that puppies need food with high protein content. However, few dog food companies own up to their claims of having protein-rich formulas for puppies.

But not Dr. Tim’s!

With 87% animal protein, this food for puppies is packed with meaty goodness that would make for a nutritious diet for your pup. Not just that, Dr. Tim’s uses fish oil as a source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which helps in maintaining a lustrous coat for your furball.


9. Instinct By Nature’s Variety Raw Boost Puppy Food

Crude Protein 34.0% min, Crude Fat 21.5% min, Crude fiber 3.5% max, Moisture 9% max

Top 5 ingredients: 1. Chicken, 2. Chicken Meal, 3. Turkey Meal, 4. Peas, 5. Egg Product

Are you one of those dog owners who’s always looking for raw, natural diets for their dogs? If so, then this is the puppy food for you!

Instinct By Nature uses real, cage-free chicken in their new formula which contains a high-calorie content. The manufacturer uses no grains, wheat, soy, or corn in this product.


10. Hill’s Science Diet — Puppy Large Breed Chicken Meal and Oat Recipe Dry

Protein 26.0% min, Fat 16% min, Fiber 3% max, Moisture 10% max

Top 5 ingredients: 1. Chicken Meal, 2. Whole Grain Wheat, 3. Whole Grain Oats, 4. Whole Grain Sorghum, 5. Corn Gluten Meal

This formula makes for one of the best puppy food for large breeds. Hill’s specifically takes note of the amount of calcium in their formula to ensure that it is within safe limits for large breed puppies. What’s more, this formula contains chondroitin and Glucosamine for optimum growth and muscle strength. Not just that, the vitamin E and C in this food for puppies helps greatly in supporting the dog’s immune system.


11. Stella and Chewy’s Perfectly Puppy Beef & Salmon

Protein 46.0% min, Fat 34.5% min, Fiber 5% max, Moisture 5% max

Top 5 ingredients: 1. Beef, 2. Salmon With Ground Bone, 3. Beef Liver, 4. Beef Kidney, 5. Beef Tripe

High protein and calorie content; this is how we describe this formula by Stella and Chewy. Made with cage-free poultry, this puppy formula is one of the safest and healthiest ones out there. Even though these patties cost a bit higher than the average puppy food, they certainly are far more nutritious and safe. If you want a freeze-dried natural puppy food, then this is a good bang for your buck.


12. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Large Breed Puppy Dry Dog Food

Protein 26.0% min, Fat 15% min, Fiber 5% max, Moisture 10% max

Top 5 ingredients: 1. Deboned Chicken, 2. Chicken Meal, 3. Brown Rice, 4. Oatmeal, 5. Barley

Here’s a large-breed puppy food that’s easy on your pocket and your puppy’s stomach. With a regulated calorie content and L-carnitine, this formula helps puppies grow in an optimum manner. Also, this dog food uses no by-product meals, which is not as common as one would imagine. It contains Omega-3 & 6 fatty acids for a well-maintained coat.


13. Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets Puppy Formula

Protein 22.5% min, Fat 11% min, Fiber 4% max, Moisture 10% max

Top 5 ingredients: 1. Potatoes, 2. Duck Meal, 3. Duck, 4. Potato Protein, 5. Canola Oil

One of the biggest signs of quality for dog foods is if they use a single-source protein. Thankfully, this formula by Natural balance uses only Duck as its single protein source. With this grain-free formula, your pup would get fewer carbs and as much protein as possible. With added Omega-3, this puppy food helps dogs attain a shiny and smooth coat.


14. Diamond Naturals Large Breed Puppy Formula

Protein 27.0% min, Fat 15% min, Fiber 4.5% max, Moisture 10% max

Top 5 ingredients: 1. Lamb, 2. Lamb Meal, 3. Ground White Rice, 4. Peas, 5. Pea Flour

Diamond Naturals is a revered name in the dog food industry for good reason. In this formula, they provide a healthy balance of proteins and fat, with lamb as their primary meat source. With Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, their formula is perfect for maintaining coat health in pups.


15. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Puppy Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food

Protein 27.0% min, Fat 16% min, Fiber 5.0% max, Moisture 10% max

Top Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Oatmeal, Barley, Menhaden Fish Meal

Blue Buffalo makes it onto our list yet again with another of its puppy food products. This one, however, isn’t a large-breed formula and can easily be fed to all sizes of puppies.

With added DHA, ARA, and choline, this dog food helps puppies in developing cognitive functions. This formula contains L-carnitine which builds lean and healthy muscle for pooches.


16. Eukanuba Puppy Medium Breed Chicken Formula

Protein 29.0% min | Fat 18.0% min | Fiber 3.4% max | Moisture 10.0% max

Top Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken By-Product Meal, Corn, Chicken Fat, Wheat, Ground Grain Sorghum

This formula by Eukanuba might seem pretty normal to you at first. But it’s worth noting that this is one of the only puppy food formulas that is specifically made for medium breeds. Eukanuba believes in feeding puppies to be active and highly trainable, which is why they add DHA and natural fish oil for mental growth. What’s more, This formula contains beet pulp which helps puppies digest this food easily as you change their diet.


17. Merrick — Real Beef & Sweet Potato Recipe Grain-Free

Protein 28.0% min | Fat 15.0% min | Fiber 4.5% max | Moisture 11.0% max

Top Ingredients: Deboned Beef, Sweet Potatoes, Peas, Lamb Meal, Potatoes, Pea Protein

Merrick doesn’t disappoint with this great puppy food inclusion in its lineup. This formula uses real fruits and veggies along with added vitamins and minerals for a wholesome diet. All the ingredients in this puppy food are locally sourced from reputed farmers. It also contains DHA for healthier neural development.


18. Authority Chicken & Rice Formula — Large Breed Puppy

Protein 26.0% min | Fat 13.0% min | Fiber 3.0% max | Moisture 10.0% max

Top Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Corn, Oat Groats, Corn Gluten Meal

The best part about Large-Breed specific puppy foods is that they’re formed keeping bone crippling diseases in mind. For that purpose, Authority adds chondroitin and glucosamine in its formula for joint development in pups. It also contains DHA and EPA which help in vision and brain development.


19. Chicken Soup For The Soul — Large Breed Puppy Food

Protein 27.0% min | Fat 13.0% min | Fiber 5.0% max | Moisture 10.0% max

Top Ingredients: Chicken, Turkey, Chicken Meal (Natural Source Of Glucosamine And Chondroitin Sulfate), Turkey Meal, Cracked Pearled Barley, Whole Grain Brown Rice

As all large-breed puppy foods should do, this one contains chondroitin and glucosamine for the healthy development of joints in dogs. It also contains no soy, corn or wheat and is completely made in the USA. The calcium content also seems to be well-regulated in this formula.


20. Nutro — Ultra-Large Breed Puppy Dry Dog Food

Protein 26.0% min | Fat 13.0% min | Fiber 4.0% max | Moisture 10.0% max

Top Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal (source of Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate), Whole Brown Rice, Brewers Rice, Whole Grain Oatmeal, Rice Bran

Last, but certainly not the least, is Nutro’s Ultra-Large Breed formula. Even though this pet food is specifically made for puppies, it meets all the AAFCO’s requirements for adult dog foods as well. It contains whole grains for a high-performance diet along with glucosamine and chondroitin for joint development. It contains Linoleic Acid from Sunflower Oil which improves the quality of your pup’s coat. This formula for puppies contains taurine which has a massive positive impact on eyesight and hearing.


Buyer’s Guide

Each and every food option listed in this article addresses the special dietary needs of little puppies. The nutrition present in these foods ensures your pup gets everything he needs after weaning off from his mother’s milk. In addition to offering a higher level of protein, the best puppy foods should provide everything that works as a fundamental building block for your dog’s development and growth.

Here’s good news:

This guide contains all essential information you need to make the right choice.

The Difference Between Puppy Food and Adult Dog Food

Puppies grow up really fast, building muscles and bones, and developing organs. Adult dogs, on the other hand, are maintaining their health and bodies. To ensure you fuel your little pup’s growth with adequate nutrition, it is important to offer them the right food.

In simple words, a puppy’s nutritional requirements are way more expansive as compared to an adult dog. Puppies have a lot more energy and they require the additional calories to support their bones and growing bodies. As a puppy owner, it is your responsibility to ensure that every single calorie is packed with healthy nutrition.

The Association of American Feed Control Officials has set regulations and standards that clearly states what goes into puppy food and adult dog food. AAFCO has guidelines in place to make categorizing the food easier. This is usually based on the nutritional aspect and the main ingredients present in the food.

Here’s a list of the nutrients according to AAFCO and how they differ according to puppy food and adult dog food:

Protein: 22% or higher for puppies and 18% for adult dogs
Fat: 8% for puppies and 5% for adult dogs
Calcium: 1% for puppies and 0.6% for adult dogs
Phosphorus: 0.8% for puppies and 0.5% for adult dogs
Sodium: 0.3% for puppies and 0.06% for adult dogs

Please note that these general calculations for puppies and dogs. These numbers can significantly vary depending on the breed and/or size of your dog.

Buying the Right Puppy Food – Factors to Ponder Over

In order to buy the right puppy food, it is important to ensure it has the essential nutrition and other features that your little pup will thrive on. Here are some factors to help you decide:

Wet Food vs. Dry Food

Wet food may be essential when your little puppy is making the initial transition away from his mother’s milk. Wet food is softer and makes eating solid less of a struggle. Introduce wet food to your puppy when your puppy is under a few months old. Since the dietary needs will continue to change too, you can now introduce dry food too. Most food options for puppies are not particularly hard but you can further soften kibble by mixing it with wet food or by adding a little water. You can completely switch to dry food when you think your pup is ready after the 3-month mark.

Essential Omegas

Puppies need essential omegas, particularly omega-3 fatty acids for fur and otherwise. In addition to keeping the coat healthy, it also helps with vision development.

Grain-Free Options

If you have a puppy with a sensitive stomach, a grain-free food option is best. While whole grains do offer calcium and vitamins, it is primarily used in puppy food as fillers. Therefore, opting for a diet that’s based on vegetables, fruits, and meat will offer a higher percentage of healthier nutrients that your little puppy in his growing stage would need the most.

The Right Serving Size

It’s best to set up a schedule and divide the daily calorie and nutrition requirements into several small meals. Check out the serving size recommendations on the package of the food for better understanding.

Transition Period

Consider your puppy’s specific needs when looking for the right food. Depending on the breed, the transition period is anywhere between nine and thirteen months. Introduce adult food to your puppy once a day to make the transition easier.


FAQs

1. When can I give solid food to my puppy?

Puppies are ideally weaned off their mother’s milk between four and six weeks. This is when you introduce solid food to your pup as their nutritional and caloric requirement are not fulfilled by the milk alone.

2. How do I know if I am feeding the right food to my puppy?

Following the AAFCO guidelines can help you determine if you’re providing complete nutrition to your puppy. Also, make sure the food you choose states that it is formulated to match the AAFCO nutrient standards.

3. How much food should I feed my puppy?

Puppies require higher calories to fuel their rapid growth and development. The quantity of food, however, will vary depending on your puppy’s breed. According to Petfinder, an average 10-pound puppy would require 990 calories in a day.

4. Do I need to feed a special diet to my large breed pup?

Large breed puppies are more likely to develop joint and skeletal problems, which can worsen due to overfeeding. These dogs require controlled growth and thrive on food with higher levels of calcium, fiber, and phosphorous. A large breed puppy should only be feed controlled calories and a balanced diet.

5. Is organic puppy food better than the regular one?

Organic puppy food mainly indicates that the formulation included organic ingredients. But this doesn’t guarantee if it is better than regular food. The quality and completeness of puppy food can only be determined with the quality and amount of nutrients it offers your dog.  

6. What are the best treats for my puppy?

While you can treat your pup to show love or to train, it is best to limit them to keep their diet balanced and complete. There are many delicious treats available for your dog to choose from. However, it is best to aim for no more than 5% of calories from treats. Avoid table scraps completely!

7. Are there any dangerous foods for dogs that I should steer clear of?

While it is okay to offer certain human foods to your pup, some can be extremely harmful to them. Keep your pup away from chocolate, avocados, macadamia nuts, raisins, grapes, bread dough, onions, garlic, chives, and large amounts of dairy products, alcohol, caffeine, and other salty and fattening foods.  

8. Can I offer my adult dog’s food to my puppy?

It is not recommended to give food intended for adult dogs to your pups. Your puppy requires more nutrition for healthy development of bones and organs. Offering them adult food can deprive them of essential nutrients.

9. What human foods are great for feeding pups?

  • Cooked chicken
  • Peanut butter
  • Baby carrots
  • Salmon
  • Eggs
  • Pumpkin

10. What snacks can I give my puppy?

Some favorite snacks of pups include:

  • Apples
  • Blueberries
  • Carrots
  • Bananas
  • Cucumbers
  • Green beans
  • Celery
  • Cantaloupe
  • Raspberries

11. Can I offer raw food to my large breed pups?

Raw food works great for growing pups, especially large breed dogs. It is best to stick to high-quality raw food only that’s rich in protein and low in fat content.  

12. Should I offer wet food to my pup as well? How often?

Puppies between the ages of four and six months should be fed three to four times. After six months, reduce the frequency to two times a day. The key is to divide the food into meals and make sure you meet their daily caloric requirement according to their age.

13. How do I know if I am feeding the healthiest food to my pup?

The best and the healthiest food for a puppy mainly depend on their individual requirements, breed, and health condition. You can pick any high-quality food from the list shared in this article as a great food option for your pooch.  

14. Should I also offer water to my puppy during the day?

Experts suggest giving half a cup of water to your pup every two hours once they are weaned off. After transitioning to solid food completely, your pooch will require 0.5 to 1 ounce of water per every pound of their body weight.  

15. What are the common health problems in puppies that lack complete nutrition?

Proper nutrition is crucial for canine health despite of their age. Poor nutrition can lead to a number of health problems and disorders including obesity, organ development, heart health, brain function, and skeletal problems.  

Conclusion

Choosing a dog food for your puppy is not easy. And that’s why I’ve spent weeks on curating this list of the best puppy foods.

If you’re looking for a specific diet of puppy food like wet, dry, natural and grain-free, make sure you check out our specific pages for these products.


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