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When you introduce a puppy to your home, there’s a lot of responsibility that comes with it. Along with the shots, care, and time it takes in order to make sure that your puppy grows up into a striking example of their breed you’ll also want to make sure that they have the best food for their health.

 

Puppies have different requirements than adult dogs, which means that you’ll need to know a little bit to make sure that you’ve got everything in place for the newest member of your family. We’ve stacked up the best foods for puppies, no matter their breed, but there’s a lot of information to take in first.

Let’s hop right in and make sure that your puppy grows up to be the best dog it can be.

 

Your Puppy’s Nutritional Needs

 

Your pup is going to need some special attention to the nutrient profile in their food for you to make sure that you’re able to help them grow to their full potential. As a general rule, most of the following applies to any young dog, although there are a couple of exceptions which we’ll note through the course of this guide.

 

Macronutrients

 

The bigger nutrients contained within your puppy’s food are going to make a huge difference in how well your dog does as they grow up.

 

Protein and fat ratios should be approximately 2:1 and their should also be at least 25% protein in any puppy food to help them grow. The only time you should break either of those rules is for the gigantic breeds like English Bull Mastiff or Great Danes who do better if they grow more slowly.

 

Your puppy is going to primarily get their youthful energy from the protein and fat in their foods, but you should keep an eye on carbohydrates as well. They should be under 30%, but that’s true for pretty much any dog since too many carbohydrates can lead to obesity in a hurry.

 

As a general rule, you also want something which is nutrient dense for your puppy. At least 300 calories per cup is desirable, but up to 450 is still in a good range for the average breed of dog.

 

For a growing dog you’ll want about two times the resting caloric use of a dog. Most breeds will use about 30 calories per kilogram plus seventy per day, while small breeds may need 40 calories per kilogram.

 

For the most part, a little bit of extra fat on a puppy isn’t going to do any harm but care should be taken to ensure that your dog doesn’t become obese for the best results.

 

Puppies should be kept on puppy chow for the first year of their life post-weaning. The exception to this is larger dogs, in this case any dog breed which weighs on average more than seventy pounds should be switched to adult food roughly six months after weaning and their caloric intake reduced in order to avoid issues with them growing too quickly.

 

Micronutrients

 

Micronutrients are hotly debated, but unless the breed of your puppy has some exceptional issues to take care of then you’re usually in good hands as long as you use a high-quality food rather than just going with whatever is on sale at Walmart.

 

Calcium and phosphorus are the main things to look out for. They should be present in roughly a 1.2:1 ratio. So if your food is 1.2% calcium and 1% phosphorus you’re on the right track.

 

For medium and large breeds, or any who are prone to musculoskeletal problems, it’s important to make sure that your dog food comes in at less than 1.5% calcium. Rapid growth of the skeleton early on, due to the increased calcium levels, will aggravate any issues with joints.

 

Most people know about hip dysplasia, but arthritis and other issues can also be caused if your pup is allowed to grow too rapidly.

 

Quality of Ingredients

 

Unlike the food which is meant for humans, the nutritional levels of dog food are measured in “crude” levels when it comes to micronutrients.

 

Ideally all protein should come from meat. This will help to ensure that the protein is complete, that is to say digestible. Unfortunately, many brands of food use grains in order to “fill out” the food.

 

This is unfortunate, as not only do many dogs have food allergies to grains but it means that while they might boast a considerable amount of protein in their formulation it may not all be usable to turn into muscle and other tissue.

 

This means a basic understanding of your animal’s nutritional needs is essential. The truth is, while we often think of canines as pure carnivores this isn’t quite the case. Indeed, in the wild anyone who’s ever noticed coyote or wolf scat will have noticed the presence of seeds, indicating that they eat fruit.

 

What they don’t eat is grain or processed meats. While we could argue that the latter is due to their lack of opposable thumbs and the resulting technology, we prefer to stick with foods where at least the first ingredient are whole foods.

 

When you’re looking at the nutrients label and notice something like “chicken meal” or whatever, this is essentially the ground up parts that humans don’t eat which are being fed to your animals. It’s hard to steer entirely clear of them,  but they shouldn’t make up the bulk of the protein which your pup is taking in during meal time.

 

Fruits and vegetables, however, are an important inclusion in foods and the primary reason we usually steer those who aren’t experts in dog health away from the “raw food” dietary fad which has gotten bigger over the last decade or so.

 

Feeding Frequency

 

The vast majority of pups are going to need to eat multiple times per day. When they’re first on solid foods most breeders recommend splitting their meals into four or five times per day. This can gradually be reduced as the dog gets older.

 

We still recommend a twice daily feeding schedule for older dogs and to avoid free feeding unless your dog’s breed takes to it well and won’t end up obese.

 

As a general rule, four times per day until six months is best, then three times a day until they’re a year old. As long as you follow that plan, it’s hard to go wrong.

 

The Weaning Process for Puppies

 

If you’re lucky enough to have a litter in your home, then you’ll also need to know how to wean dogs in order to preserve their health. At a tender, young age puppies still need their mother’s milk in order to make sure that they maintain optimal health.

 

This includes both nutrients and the antibodies which are passed from the mother to the pup in order to keep them from getting sick over time.

 

It’s important not to start too early, but somewhere around the age of four weeks or so is a good time to begin to teach them to eat from their bowl or a pan.

 

To begin the process, you’ll want to separate the puppies from their mother for a small amount of time. An hour or so is usually sufficient. Use the same kibble that you’re planning on feeding the dogs as they grow in order to ensure that they develop a taste for it early.

 

At this young stage it’s also a good idea to wet the kibble with canine milk substitute or even just warm water until it’s a gruel like consistency. Once the dogs have been entirely weaned you can gradually reduce the amount of liquid in order to introduce them to entirely dry food provided you ensure your dog has access to water all day.

 

For smaller dogs, you can also leave out a small dish of food for them to peck at but limit the consumption of larger dogs as too quick of growth can cause issues with their joints growing too quickly.

 

Over time you’ll want to gradually increase the amount of time and the amount of food which you feed the puppies, while the mother’s milk gradually dries up. All of this together ensures that you’ll be able to smoothly transition your new family members to a good food.

 

Switching From Breeder or Shelter Food

 

When you pick up a new puppy they should already be weaned entirely. This is both a good and a bad thing, the first thing you’ll need to do is make sure that your breeder or the shelter lets you know what food they’ve been feeding the dog.

 

Once you know that, you should acquire some of whatever the brand and flavor is, as well as the food which you’ve decided is the best for you and your dog’s needs.

 

For most dogs it will take a week or so, you’ll want to gradually mix in the new food.

 

We recommend letting your dog settle in for a few days before you begin switching food, especially if they’re skittish when you get them back.

 

Afterwards, you can proceed as following:

 

  1. Start with roughly 25% of the new food in their bowl, keeping the same amount. Counting calories can come later.
  2. After two to three days, move the percentage up to 50% and maintain this level for another few days. If your dog is picking out the old food, then wet and stir the mixture.
  3. Up the ante to 75% and keep it going. Watch that your dog is eating everything and you’ll be much better off.
  4. Finally, at the end of seven to ten days switch over the food entirely. Most dogs will readily accept a high-quality food at this point without any further issues.

 

The thing is, especially for puppies, the use of a new dog food is going to slowly change their gut flora and switching all at once can cause problems like diarrhea or other GI issues. All dogs should be slowly transitioned, but it’s especially important for puppies.

 

Remember to keep their food wet if you got a dog that was just weaned and to slowly reduce the amount of fluid added as well while their teeth develop.

 

Top Puppy Foods

 

We’ve got you covered with six excellent options to help push your dog’s health to the next level. Whether they’re going to be a tiny terrier or a massive mastiff, one of the following options is going to be just right to ensure that your dog grows up big, strong, and energetic. All of these are specially formulated for young puppies, but nearly all have an adult variation as well so you don’t need to switch up brands when you’re done.

 

Best Overall Puppy Food-Taste of the Wild Grain High Prairie Puppy Version

 

Taste of the Wild is good stuff, made with only the highest quality ingredients and with something available for pretty much any dog. We’re definitely in favor of their puppy foods as well, just be aware going in that all of those high-quality ingredients come with a pretty big price jump if you’re used to shooting down to Walmart to pick up your foods.

 

It comes in with 28% protein and 17% fat to keep it calorie dense. The kibble is the right size for puppy mouths and it’s grain free as well. It comes in as our favorite due to the balance of nutrients, high calorie per cup, and the fact that it’s grain free.

 

It’s also packed full of healthy probiotics in order to ensure that your pup has healthy gut flora for a good time into the future. This version is primarily made with bison and venison, with a healthy bit of lamb meal as well, there’s also a fish based version available if your dog happens to be one of the rare few who isn’t good with red meat.

 

For most puppies, Taste of the Wild has some of the best food around. Even better, you’ll have a variety of flavors to choose from in order to make sure that no food allergies crop up.

 

Things We Like

 

  • High protein and fat
  • Beneficial microfauna
  • High calorie for growth
  • Excellent Omega fatty acid profile

 

Things We Don’t Like

 

  • Expensive
  • Protein to fat ratio could be better

 

Runner Up for Best Overall Puppy Food-Adirondack Pet Food 30% Protein High-Fat Recipe

 

First things off: we do not recommend this brand of dog food for those who have large breed puppies. The calories are a bit too high and the protein to fat ratio is off and is likely to cause problems if the food isn’t fed quite sparingly.

 

On the other hand, this no wheat and corn recipe is great for small to medium sized canines. It comes in with 30% protein and 20% fat, meaning that it’s extremely calorie dense which will help your dog grow quickly. It also contains a great blend of Omega fatty acids which are essential for joint, heart, and even brain development.

 

There’s a hidden benefit to this food as well: it’s perfectly suitable for working dogs. If you’re planning on using your pup to hunt or training it for agility trials then you’re in luck since you may end up just having to reduce the amount of food after a year rather than switching brands entirely.

 

It’s not suitable for large breeds, but if you’ve got a small to medium sized dog then you’re in luck with this food. It’s best for those who are planning on raising their dogs for working purposes, but as a puppy chow it’s got some serious advantages.

 

Things We Like

 

  • High protein and fat
  • Works for working dogs as well as puppies
  • Wheat and corn free
  • No artificial colors or coloring

 

Things We Don’t Like

 

  • Very expensive
  • Not suited for larger dog breeds

 

Best Small Breed Puppy Food-Diamond Naturals Small Breed Puppy

 

When it comes down to it, small breeds need even more nutrients than their larger relatives. Blue Diamond delivers, with 32% protein and 22% fat it’s got enough calories to help your dog reach their real potential. It also contains an excellent mixture of different foods to help with nutrients and antioxidants, necessary ingredients to keep your dog healthy in the long run.

 

Add in the probiotic bacteria which are scattered liberally through the food and you’ve got a great way to make sure that the newest member of your family is healthy right from the start. It also has an ideal 1.2:1 ratio for the calcium and phosphorus. All of this balance adds up in the long run.

 

Unfortunately, it’s really not suited for larger dogs. It just doesn’t have the right balance and the nutrient contents are likely to cause them to grow too quickly. On the other hand, as a natural, high-nutrient food it’s a fantastic way to ensure your puppy stays healthy for their entire life.

 

When it comes to small breeds, Diamond Naturals delivers with this small breed puppy chow that’s simply incomparable in the world of puppy feed. Just be aware it’s not suitable for larger dogs.

 

Things We Like

 

  • High protein and fat content
  • Perfectly balanced calcium and phosphorus
  • All natural ingredients
  • Balanced Omega acids

 

Things We Don’t Like

 

  • Too high calorie for larger dogs
  • Rather expensive

 

Best Large Breed Puppy Food-Diamond Naturals Large Breed Puppy Real Meat Recipe

 

If you really liked the look of our last review but were saddened to learn it wasn’t suitable for your large breed puppy… well, you’re in luck. Diamond Naturals does some of the best size specific foods around and their Large Breed Puppy Recipe is utterly fantastic for those with a preference for mammoth mutts.

 

Unlike some of the other brands out there, who merely stick a different label on their food and call it good, the formulation is quite a bit different. Coming in at 27% protein and 15% fat it’s just the right density for larger dogs, without overloading their skeletal systems as they grow.

 

On top of that, it’s all natural and grain free. There’s not a whole lot more you can ask for. It’s well balanced and perfect for growing puppies of large breeds, keeping the nutrient levels just right to prevent the overly rapid growth which can cause issues.

 

This is one of the greatest large breed puppy foods we’ve ever seen. It’s actually formulated for large breeds and the benefits are numerous and sure to be an excellent addition to your canine’s life in their first six months to a year.

 

Things We Like

 

  • Excellent nutrient content for larger breeds
  • All natural ingredients
  • High-quality ingredients included
  • Contains probiotics

 

Things We Don’t Like

 

  • Rather expensive
  • Really only suitable for larger dogs

 

Best Organic Dog Food-Rachael Ray Nutrish Bright Puppy Natural Dry Dog Food

 

For those who are looking only for fresh and organic ingredients, this dog food fits the bill. It’s also a bit cheaper than most of the ones that we took a look at, so as long as your dog can tolerate the rice contained in the kibble they’ll be in good hands.

 

The primary ingredient here is chicken, and the protein content is boosted a bit artificially through the use of pea puree contained within it. It’s not our first choice for most puppies, but if you insist on organic food then you may want to give it a shot.

 

Apart from the macronutrients it also contains DHA, which is a vital supplement for ensuring that your puppy’s brain develops properly. Add in the lower price and the fact that it’s still head and shoulders above bix box store brands and you might have found a good option.

 

If you insist on organic food for your puppies, then you may want to take a closer look at this brand. It’s become popular in a relatively short amount of time and offers impressive bang for the buck, but it’s definitely not our favorite of those we reviewed.

 

Things We Like

 

  • Organic ingredients
  • Real chicken is the first ingredient
  • Relatively cheap
  • High protein

 

Things We Don’t Like

 

  • Not the best nutrient profile
  • Some incomplete proteins boosting the crude content

 

Best Budget Puppy Food-Purina ONE SmartBlend Healthy Puppy Formula Puppy Premium Dog Food

 

We know that not everyone who gets a puppy has a hidden fortune to feed their dog with. Purina ONE makes this excellent puppy food that will get the job done as long as you don’t terribly mind some grains and other filler.

 

It isn’t 100% optimal for all dogs, but the price is right for this excellent food. Coming in at 28% protein and 16% fat it’s got a good balance of nutrients while remaining within the right caloric range for most breeds of dog. Real chicken is the first ingredient as well, which we feel puts it above the usual commercial fair by a large margin.

 

It’s not perfect, unfortunately, but it’s budget priced and healthy enough for pups without any food allergies. The nutrients are blended well and the ingredients are as good as you’ll be able to find for the price, which makes it one of our favorites.

 

If you’ve been looking for a budget puppy food, without cutting your new canine short on nutrients, then you’re in the right place. This is an excellent way to get your dog started on the road to great health.

 

Things We Like

 

  • High protein and fat
  • Real chicken is the primary ingredient
  • Great price
  • Large breed version available

 

Things We Don’t Like

 

  • Contains grains
  • Could be better overall

 

Conclusion

 

When it comes to our beloved puppies, it can often be a hard choice to make sure that they get just the right balance of nutrients to bring them to their full potential. As with any living being, our dogs do much better when they’ve been supplied with the proper nutrients to help them grow.

 

Make sure your puppy is eating great from day one and they’ll soon be a specimen of perfect health. All it takes is the ability to ensure that you know what nutrients they need and the time to pick the perfect one to make for a healthy, happy dog who grows into adulthood and gets to enjoy their forever home.

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