A guide to choosing the best dog food for puppies

Getting a new puppy is an exciting experience but soon reality sets in, and if you’ve never had a puppy before you may be wondering how to care for them properly. Nutrition is important for all dogs but doubly so for puppies. Your new furry friend will grow very quickly in the first few months of his or her life, and they will need some additional nutrients for this process. In this article, we’re going to help new puppy parents learn exactly how to buy the best dog food for puppies of any breed or size.
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Getting a new puppy is an exciting experience but soon reality sets in, and if you’ve never had a puppy before you may be wondering how to care for them properly. Nutrition is important for all dogs but doubly so for puppies. Your new furry friend will grow very quickly in the first few months of his or her life, and they will need some additional nutrients for this process. In this article, we’re going to help new puppy parents learn exactly how to buy the best dog food for puppies of any breed or size.

Large breed or small breed?

The first step in deciding what type of food is best for your puppy requires an analysis of their size. Is this a small breed or a large breed puppy? If you’ve adopted or purchased a large breed dog, then you can expect their growth to be much more dramatic when compared to a smaller breed animal. This obviously requires a greater quantity of food, and the formulas for these puppies will likely be different than what you would purchase for a small breed dog.

Likewise, if you purchase large breed food for your small breed puppy, then these products may not be suitable for them. The food may actually be too calorie dense for them, as it’s formulated for a dog with much greater calorie needs. They also may have trouble chewing it, because the kibble pieces will likely be much larger.

best dog food for large breed puppy dogs

Best dry dog food for large breed puppies

best food for large breed puppies

Large breed puppies are fast growers, and this food is specifically formulated for their needs. It has a generous allotment of proteins and healthy fats that come from whole foods like chicken, turkey and flounder. Orijen doesn’t use any rendered products or meat meals, and that means your dog will be able to better absorb the nutrients in this particular brand’s formula. This food is also grain free, instead choosing to add fiber and nutrition by utilizing healthier greens and veggies. That earns Orijen our top pick for large breed puppies!

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Best dry dog food for small breed puppies

best dog food for small breed puppies

Halo makes excellent products that are made only with whole foods. Most other puppy foods contain rendered meals, but this brand uses only restaurant quality whole meats for their recipes. Everything is humanely sourced, and they don’t use any GMO vegetables, and it’s made in the USA. This food is actually suitable for both puppies and adult dogs, and even picky dogs seem to love the flavor. Due to the way these foods are formulated, you can actually swap between flavors to give your dog variety without upsetting their stomach, and this food has superior digestibility, making it our top pick for your small breed pup.

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Interested in learning a little more about how we made these choice? Keep reading to find out exactly what you should look out for when shopping for a dog food. There’s some serious traps to avoid here, and it’s keeping yourself well informed is the best way to protect yourself.

What should you look for in a dog food?

There are tons of different dog foods out there, and some are better than others. Pet parents have become increasingly aware of this fact after recent recalls of low quality food which killed many dogs and cats. Since then, more and more people have become more discerning when it comes to choosing a diet for their fur babies. What should you be looking for this? Here’s a quick check list to help you decide whether your food is up to snuff.

Protein as a first ingredient

Manufacturers are required to list the most prominent ingredient first. That means a healthy protein like salmon, beef or turkey should be listed immediately.

Whole foods and healthy fats

It’s best to avoid rendered products whenever you can. Look for ingredients that are whole food items and not by products or heavily processed items.

Be wary of grains and corn

Many times corns and grains are used as fillers, and they typically have little nutritional content. Reject anything that has them within the first five ingredients.

When should you switch to adult food?

This likely depends on the size of your dog, and perhaps even on the individual. However, these are some rough guidelines to help you out a bit. Once your puppy reaches this age range you should consider transitioning to an adult formula food. You can check out our pet food reviews section to get started in selecting a suitable diet for your dog once they’re past the puppy stage!

  • Toy breed dogs – 9-10 months
  • Large or giant breed dogs 16-18 months

What if my puppy doesn’t eat his food?

Just like people, animals can have their own preferences. While some puppies may eat absolutely anything, whether it should be eaten or not, others may be a tad pickier. If your dog seems displeased with their food, then you should consider these possibilities.

  • You haven’t given them time to adjust

If you’re feeding your puppy a different food than what they were eating at the shelter or with whomever had them last, then they could need time to adjust. Changing foods does not always go smoothly, and you may need to give them a little time.

  • Has your dog food gone bad?

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if dog food is still good, but if there’s something off about it then your pup will not want to eat it. Make sure to check for an expiration date, make sure there’s no mold in the bag and see if the coloring of the food looks off. Even food you’ve just purchased from a store could have easily been compromised in some way.

  • Have you tried another flavor?

Not all animals will like every flavor of food. They have preferences just like humans, and you may need to try a couple recipes or even brands before you find the right food for your pet. If your dog is extra picky, then mixing dry food with wet food may make it more palatable and convince them to eat.

Best puppy foods for picky eaters

If your pup is a picky eater, then the most obvious solution is to use a wet food. These are almost always more palatable than kibble, and dogs usually run to eat them. Unfortunately, it can be a lot more expensive to feed this way. If you have a small breed puppy, then this cost will be negligible, but if you have a large breed then the costs add up quick.

If you’d like to feed your dog wet food but you don’t think you can afford it then consider mixing it with a matching dry food. This will not only make dinner time extra attractive to your puppy, but it’s actually easier to absorb nutrients from wet foods. By mixing you can add some health benefits as well. Here’s our picks for the extra picky puppies in your life.

Small Breed

Small breeds can be finicky, and if you’ve had no luck with dry food perhaps a canned option is in order. Halo is not only extra tasty, but also highly nutritious featuring whole meat salmon and no grains.

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best tasting puppy food

Large Breed

Feeding a large breed dog wet food can get expensive fast. If your big fur baby is both picky and eating you out of house and home, then try mixing this wet food with a dry kibble to make it more attractive.

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best wet food for large breed puppies

Can puppies have food allergies?

best puppy food for allergies

Yes, animals can have food allergies just like people. Certain foods may not agree with them, and they could experience vomiting, diarrhea, itchiness and other symptoms. If you suspect that your puppy is having a problem like this, then the only real solution is to do a little trial and error until you find a food that agrees with them. Here’s a few common culprits and solutions.

  • Try a limited ingredient recipe

Sometimes animals do poorly with foods that include too many different protein sources. Try choosing a food that focuses on just one high quality protein such as salmon or turkey if you think your dog may have food allergies.

  • Try going grain free

Sometimes animals can be sensitive to grains. Cutting out these fillers is usually a good call anyway, but it could be causing problems you don’t realize to a sensitive dog.

  • Look for sensitive stomach or easy to digest foods

There are many brands marketed specifically to be easier on your pet’s stomach. If your animal has issues with diarrhea or vomiting, look for a recipe like this.

  • Cut out foods containing chicken

Many dogs actually have a hard time digesting chicken believe it or not. It may be worthwhile for you to choose a chicken free food if you pup is having problems. Turkey or duck can be a good alternative here if you’d like to stick to poultry.

Is feeding fresh food better?

In many cases, feeding fresher food can solve almost all of the issues we’ve talked about above. It will be more palatable to your dog, it will be more nutritious, and since fresh foods are less processed it will be much less likely to cause an allergic reaction. It certainly costs more money than purchasing dry food, but it’s worth it if you want your dog to be as healthy as possible. Companies that specialize in fresh dog foods more often than not use human grade ingredients. This means you won’t ever get any of the left overs or unsavory low grade meats like cheaper foods use.

If you’re interested in feeding your dog the absolute best food you can, then you may want to check out NomNomNow. They specialize in custom fresh foods for pets. You can create a profile specifically for your dog, and then they will deliver fresh made, pre-portioned meals to your door every week. They also offer free consultations to help you create the perfect meal plan for your pooch. All of their foods are made in the United States, and they never use low grade ingredients.

fresh food for puppies

Their meals are formulated by a veterinarian, and they even take the time to tell you why they chose the ingredients in each of their meals. You can see a full nutritional breakdown, and you’ll never have to worry about whether there’s anything unsavory in your dog’s food. They also offer some pretty attractive perks for new pet parents, including free treats with your order and discounts on first time orders. If you’re looking for the absolute best puppy food money can buy, then this is the cream of the crop. To see more information about their meal plans you can visit them here.

fresh puppy food

No matter what route you choose to go, remember that diet is not a one size fits all fix. Your dog is an individual, and you’ll need to treat them like one. This means you may need to spend a little time experimenting before finding the right food for them. If you’re worried about wasting money on pricey dog foods, then remember that many brands including NomNomNow and Halo have money back guarantees. If your dog doesn’t agree with your choice many times these companies will send you a full refund or buy you a new food for your dog instead.

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Michelle Rei
Michelle Rei
Michelle is a pet parent turned amateur pet product researcher. After adopting a fur baby with digestive issues caused by bad pet food, she's poured hundreds of hours into research to find the best of the best to help him and other pets live happier and healthier lives.
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