Table of Contents
As a new puppy parent, you want nothing more than to provide your new family member with the very best start in life. And one of the most important ways you can do that is by choosing healthy and nutritious dog food.
When it comes to finding the best puppy food, it’s important to choose a dog food suitable for your puppy’s size and age — large breed puppies have different dietary needs than small breed puppies, and young puppies have different nutritional requirements than adults.
With so many options on the market, it can take time to figure out where to start.
In this article, we’ll introduce you to some of the best puppy food options for your beloved companion. Whether you prefer raw, wet, or dry food — or a combination of the three — we’re sure to have a suggestion that will make your little buddy’s tail wag.
- Best Overall: JustFoodForDogs Chicken & White Rice
- Best Raw Food: We Feed Raw
- Best Large Breed Puppy Food: Purina ONE Healthy Puppy Formula
- Best for Small Breed Puppies: Hill’s Science Diet Puppy: Small Bites
- Best Canned Wet Food: Iams ProActive Health Classic Ground With Chicken & Rice
Many high-quality puppy food options are available on the market today, as every puppy has unique nutritional needs. Our top pick for the best overall puppy food is a great choice for many pups, but it’s important to consider their specific needs, especially if you are small or large breed puppies.
We’ve selected category winners to cater to different puppy sizes and needs. We encourage you to explore our options and find the best puppy food for your furry friend.
1. Best Overall: JustFoodForDogs Chicken & White Rice
Are you looking for a puppy food that looks and tastes like a freshly prepared meal? If so, we encourage you to try our Best Overall winner, JustFoodForDogs Chicken & White Rice meal. This fresh food was our top pick overall because of its whole food ingredients, exceptional taste, and complete nutrient profile.
JustFoodForDogs Chicken & White Rices’ recipe contains tasty chicken thigh meat, long-grain enriched rice, carrots, spinach, and apples. The company also adds some chicken gizzards and livers, as these are excellent sources of minerals.
This wet puppy food meets AAFCO standards for all life stages and is a great source of calcium and phosphorus, making it the perfect puppy and adult food.
Customers report that even the pickiest of pups love this natural, whole-ingredient dog food. They enjoy putting something fresh into their dogs’ bowls each day. We read positive reviews from owners of large, medium, and small breed puppies. The veggies and meats are chopped finely enough that even tiny pups can chew them safely.
About the Company:
JustFoodForDogs was created by one puppy owner who struggled to find natural, preservative-free food for her pup. The company’s mission is to spread healthy nutrition and improved quality of life to as many dogs as possible. Their dog food is formulated by a team of vets and animal nutritionists.
- Made with natural, whole ingredients
- Rich in calcium and phosphorus
- Appropriate for pups of all sizes
- Good source of omega-3 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat
- Must be kept in the fridge or freezer
- This versatile puppy food comes in 18-ounce packages.
- Customers may purchase boxes of 7 or 21 packages. Large boxes of seven 72-ounce packages are also available.
- JustFoodForDogs Chicken & White Rice contains 774 calories per 18-ounce package.
We are impressed by We Feed Raw’s innovative meal creation system. Tell the company about your puppy by answering a series of questions, and they’ll craft the perfect raw diet to meet their needs. Balancing a raw diet requires this high level of attention to ensure your pup’s nutritional bases are covered.
Raw food is particularly recommended as a building block for a pup’s healthy and balanced diet. While each dog’s meal plan is different, We Feed Raw shares lots of information about the ingredients they use most often. All of their meats are human-grade food and USDA certified.
They offer meals prepared with duck, venison, and lamb, which is excellent for pups with allergies to more common meats like chicken or beef. Each diet is formulated by a PhD-level animal nutritionist in accordance with AAFCO standards.
Customers love how much time they save using We Feed Raw instead of preparing their raw meals from scratch. We saw multiple reviews praising the freshness of the ingredients. This brand is popular among owners of pups with allergies and food sensitivities, as the custom-design system makes it easy to ensure your puppy’s meals don’t contain any foods they shouldn’t have.
About the Company:
We Feed Raw aims to make raw feeding easier for pet owners. They take pride in offering owners a convenient alternative to kibble. The company prioritizes safety, implementing high-pressure processing technology that kills common foodborne pathogens, including E. coli and Listeria.
- Each diet is customized to meet for your puppy’s unique needs
- Made with USDA, human-grade meats
- Meets AAFCO nutrition standards
- Delivered to your doorstep for convenience
- Prepared following strict food safety standards
- Ships frozen; must be thawed before feeding
- Each puppy food recipe contains just what your furry companion needs as it is customized by We Feed Raw.
- Every meal is cold-processed and individually packaged.
- Calorie content varies according to the puppy’s needs.
Large breed puppies sometimes need more out of their dog food. They have higher protein needs because of their rapidly increasing muscle mass, and they often need extra healthy fat. We chose Purina One Healthy Puppy Formula as our winner because of its high-protein formula and high omega-6 fatty acid content.
Purina One Healthy Puppy Formula is a tasty, veterinarian-recommended kibble enhanced with DHA, a nutrient known to support healthy brain development and vision. The first ingredient is real chicken. This recipe contains other nutrient-dense ingredients like fish oil, dried peas and oatmeal.
This high-quality dog food is perfect for large breed puppies and will meet their nutritional needs at all life stages. It contains 28% crude protein and 17% crude fat to support strong muscles and healthy development. It’s formulated to provide all the nutrition your puppy needs to thrive and can even be used as adult food in later years.
Reviewers say their puppies love the blend of crunchy kibble and tender shreds in this dog food. The food is a common choice for large breed puppies such as huskies, mastiffs, golden retrievers and Great Danes. Owners report that it gives their pups shiny coats and helps keep weight on, even through growth spurts.
About the Company:
Purina has been a leader not only in the pet food world but also in the animal nutrition world for decades. The company puts animal welfare first and aims to source their ingredients sustainably. They also partner with several nonprofit organizations to help feed pets after natural disasters.
- Perfect large breed puppy food with a high-protein, high-fat formula
- Real chicken is the first ingredient
- Recommended by veterinarians
- Tasty combination of crunchy and chewy pieces
- Recipe contains corn and soybeans, which is not ideal for allergy-prone pups
- Purina One Healthy Puppy Formula comes in 8-pound and 16.5-pound bags.
- This food contains 397 calories per cup.
- Feeding instructions are included on the bag and are based on the puppies’ weight and age.
Toy and small breeds need tiny kibble that they can chew without choking. Hill’s Science Diet Puppy: Small Bites was selected for its high-quality ingredients, tasty flavor and carefully balanced nutrition for small breed puppy food.
Hill’s ensures every ingredient in their pet foods exceeds industry standards for safety and nutrient content. This dry food is an excellent source of antioxidants and DHA, all wrapped up in tiny kibble that your tiny pup can safely enjoy.
Hill’s Science Diet Puppy: Small Bites’ recipe contains chicken meal as the first ingredient. Other notable ingredients include fish oil, apple, carrots, and broccoli. This small breed puppy food provides an ample 25% crude protein and 15% crude fat.
Customers love this dry food for their chihuahua, Havanese and Chinese crested puppies. They find it promotes healthy digestion and allows their puppies to maintain a healthy coat and teeth. We saw several reviews praising this food’s high DHA content, which supports brain health and may help puppies through their training.
About the Company:
Hill’s Science Diet makes specialty foods for pets at various life stages and with specific nutritional needs to grow your puppy into a healthy adult dog. They taste-test all of their formulas with real dogs before bringing them to market. The company also partners with shelters to help find homes for pets in need.
- Tiny kibble for the tiniest of mouths
- Formulated to exceed your puppy’s nutritional needs
- Great source of DHA and antioxidants
- Dry food made with real chicken meal, apples, carrots and broccoli
- Not appropriate for puppies with wheat or corn allergies
- Hill’s Science Diet Puppy: Small Bites comes in a 4.5-pound or 15.5-pound bag.
- This dog food contains 374 calories per cup. Feeding instructions are included on the package and are based on the puppies’ weight and age.
Some puppy owners like to feed wet food only. Others like to mix it with dry food to add moisture to their pups’ kibble. Whichever approach you take, we recommend trying Iams ProActive Health Classic Ground With Chicken & Rice. We were really impressed by this food’s simple, filler-free formula and high DHA content.
This dog food recipe contains real chicken, dried eggs, fish oil, and even some yams for color and flavor. A real chicken meal right out of the can! With plenty of DHA and omega-3 fatty acids, it promotes healthy cognitive development and a soft coat. The inclusion of whole grains in the formula also ensures your puppy has the energy they need for lots of healthy play and fun. The soft texture makes it suitable for puppies of all sizes, ages 1 to 12 months.
Most customers mix a portion of this wet food with their puppies’ kibble to make it more palatable and add a little extra nutrition. We saw several good reviews from owners who give this food to their pups when they’re teething and unable to chew crunchy kibble. Customers find their puppies are energetic and have good attention spans on this diet.
About the Company:
Iams has been creating science-backed pet foods for more than 60 years. They continue to innovate and improve their formulas as new research reveals more about pet nutrition. Veterinarians and other pet professionals frequently recommend Iams foods.
- Soft, easy-to-chew texture
- Does not contain any fillers
- Great source of DHA and omega-3 fatty acids
- Can be fed alone or in combination with kibble
- Can be messy, especially when fed to younger pups
- This wet food from Iams comes in 13-ounce cans. Buy cans individually or in cases of 12.
- Each can of this food supplies 486 calories. Feeding instructions can be found on the side of the can.
To choose the five best puppy food brands above, we relied on three sources of information: the pet food company, customer reviews and our own puppies.
We started by reading all the information pet food companies shared about their puppy foods. Before long, we realized something important: the best brands shared a lot of information. It was easy to dig into this information to find which companies were sourcing their ingredients most responsibly and how closely they were adhering to quality standards.
At a minimum, we searched for brands formulated to meet AAFCO standards. We also preferred brands that shared detailed nutritional information, calorie content and ingredient lists.
Next, we read reviews from other puppy owners who tried each dog food. As we read the reviews, we looked for answers to a few key questions. Did the puppies find the food tasty? Did they maintain healthy coats and skin while being fed the food? Did a vet recommend the food to the owner? We also paid attention to review trends. For example, some foods seemed to be most popular with the owners of a large breed puppy, while others were favored for toy breeds.
Finally, we put a short list of top contenders to the test with our own puppies. We recruited a few of our friends’ dogs to participate in the tests. This made it easy to pick the best puppy food in each category. The pups were clearly attracted to certain brands, and we took their opinions seriously.
Are the foods on this list the only suitable foods to feed your puppy? Of course not — but after extensive research, we do feel they are the very best options available.
It’s important to do your research before selecting a food for your pup. Here are the most important elements to focus on on the best puppy foods as you read product descriptions and reviews.
There are lots of foods, from meats to vegetables, which dogs can consume safely. The best foods contain a variety of ingredients to ensure all of your dog’s nutritional needs are met. Generally, the more whole-food ingredients you see, the better. Some common, protein-rich ingredients to look for include chicken meal, real beef, and eggs.
Most of the best foods also contain real vegetables, such as peas, carrots and sweet potatoes. These are great sources of key vitamins and minerals. While some puppies with allergies shouldn’t have foods containing grain, whole grains like wheat and sorghum are a good source of complex carbohydrates for most pups. You also want to see a good source of fatty acids, such as fish oil.
If puppy food contains some ingredients with names that sound like chemicals, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Take time to look up those ingredients and learn what they really are. For example, ascorbic acid may sound scary, but it’s just vitamin C. A better way to make sure your dog’s food only contains healthy ingredients is to check whether the label says “preservative-free” or “filler-free.”
If your pup doesn’t have any allergies, then you don’t need to be too concerned about this. However, if your pup has ever had an allergic reaction to their food, you’ll want to find a puppy food that is free from common allergens.
Dogs’ most common food allergens are chicken, chicken eggs, soy, wheat, dairy, and beef. Foods marketed specifically for allergy-prone puppies are usually free of these ingredients. Read carefully. If your pup is allergic to chicken, you also want to avoid all related ingredients, such as chicken meal and chicken liver.
Kibble is often seen as the default puppy food option. Most puppies do just fine on kibble. When they are young and first learning how to chew, you can moisten the food with a little water if needed. If you do feed kibble, it is important to choose an appropriately sized option for your pup. Smaller puppies, for example, need smaller kibble that they will not choke on. Some brands make kibble, especially for small and toy breeds.
Canned, wet foods are also available for puppies. These foods are a great choice for puppies who are teething and temporarily unwilling to chew crunchy kibble. However, most vets don’t recommend feeding a diet of 100% wet food. It’s good for puppies to also have chewier food since chewing crunchy food helps keep their teeth and gums healthy.
Some puppy owners find that their puppies have more energy, healthier digestion, and healthier coats when being fed fresh foods. Typically, these foods consist of a mixture of whole-food, fresh ingredients such as chicken, rice, and peas. They may come refrigerated or frozen. You thaw or gently warm each portion before feeding it to your puppy.
If you decide to go with fresh food, make sure a vet or veterinary nutritionist formulates it. With such limited ingredients, you want to ensure the ingredients have been carefully chosen and balanced to meet all of your puppy’s nutritional needs, especially as they transition to adult food.
Another option is a raw diet. Again, some puppy owners feel that their pets are healthier overall when being fed raw foods. However, there is a risk of foodborne illness with raw foods, so you’ll need to be very careful when handling them. You must also ensure you feed a wide variety of raw foods to meet your puppy’s needs.
Most kibble can be stored in the bag at room temperature. But if you’re considering raw or whole-ingredient dog food, consider the storage requirements before buying.
Most raw and fresh foods need to be stored in the fridge or freezer. Make sure you have adequate storage space before you buy these products. Ask yourself whether you can realistically commit to thawing each portion of puppy food before serving it.
Check how long the food lasts. If the food only lasts a week in the fridge, it will mean you need to stock up more often. This is when buying from a company that delivers to your door can come in handy.
Choosing a puppy food that meets the AAFCO standards is a good starting point to ensure your puppy is getting the necessary nutrients. However, it may be worthwhile to compare the nutrient content of different puppy foods to find the one that best fits your puppy’s needs. This can help you decide which food will provide the most benefits for your furry friend.
A food that is higher in omega-3 fatty acids may be better for your puppy’s skin and coat, especially if they are prone to dry skin. Omega-3 fatty acids are also thought to help improve cognitive function, which may enhance your puppy’s training. Another nutrient to look for is DHA, which is a specific omega-3 fatty acid. Studies have found that puppies who consume more DHA have better vision, motor skills, and memory.
Pay attention to the protein content when comparing foods. Experts recommend feeding puppies a diet of between 22 and 32% protein. Medium and large breed puppies tend to require more protein than small-breed puppies. If you have a large breed puppy, focus your search on foods made specifically for a large breed puppy, which tend to be higher in protein.
Finally, consider the history and reputation of the brand you’re buying from. If the company has a long history of conducting solid research on pet nutrition, that’s a good sign. If they work with vets to create nutrient-dense formulas, that’s another good sign.
Customers often like to buy from brands that share their values and morals. This is not hard to do when purchasing pet food. Many of the big brands are involved in their communities and work with local shelters and rescues, making donations when possible.
When should you start transitioning your puppy to adult dog foods? This depends on their breed and weight. Toy dogs can transition to mature dog food around the age of 9 months. Small and medium breeds can transition around 12 months and a giant or large breed puppy between 18 and 24 months. The larger a dog, the longer it will continue growing. And in general, you want to keep feeding puppy food until your dog has reached their mature size.
These time recommendations are just guidelines. Some puppies can transition sooner, and others need to wait a little longer. Consult with your vet if you’re not sure whether your puppy is ready for adult food.
When it comes time to switch your pup to dog food, make the transition slowly. Do not simply start giving them a different food one day. Such a swift transition can cause an upset stomach and put some puppies off their food.
Experts recommend taking at least 5 days to transition your pup from puppy food to dog food slowly. On day one, give them ¼ portion of new food and ¾ portion of old food. On day two, give them ⅓ portions of new food and ⅔ new food. Each day, slowly increase the proportion of new food and decrease the proportion of old food until you’re feeding all new food.
As you transition your pup to adult food, pay attention to their stool quality. If their stool becomes too loose or two hard, you may want to slow your transition down. Don’t add more of the new food to their diet until their stools return to a normal consistency.
If your dog does not adjust within a few days, consult your vet. They could have an allergy or a sensitivity to an ingredient in the new food. A vet can help you narrow down which ingredients are most likely to blame so you can find a food that’s free from those ingredients.
Not only is it okay to feed puppies the same thing every day, it’s recommended that you do so. Changing your puppy’s diet or feeding them too many different foods can lead to an upset stomach. As long as the puppy food you choose is formulated to satisfy all of your pet’s nutritional needs, it’s perfectly healthy for them to have that same food every day.
When should you start feeding puppies solid food?
Experts recommend that you begin offering your puppy solid food between 3 ½ and 4 ½ weeks of age. First, you can soften the food by soaking it in water or a milk replacer. Offer a small amount of soaked food 2–3 times per day.
Gradually moisten the food less and less. Most puppies can eat kibble with no moisture added when they reach 4–6 weeks old. If desired, you can mix some canned wet food in with your puppy’s dry food ration.
Why can’t puppies eat adult dog food?
Puppies have very different nutritional needs than adult dogs. Specifically, puppies need more protein and fat in their diets like omega-3 fatty acids for healthy brain and eye development. That’s why you may prefer a mix of wet and dry food to maintain a healthy diet for your growing companion. Dog foods for mature dogs do not supply enough nutrients to meet your puppy’s needs.
Adult dogs’ wet or dry food may also be too large for puppies to eat safely or comfortably. Puppy foods are made with smaller kibble and sometimes softer kibble so puppies can eat them comfortably.
As puppies grow and mature into adults, their nutritional needs change. Adult dogs have a slower metabolism and require fewer calories and protein than puppies. They also do not need the same nutrient levels as puppies. For this reason, it is important to switch your dog to an adult food formula once they reach the appropriate age. This is usually around 1 year old for small breeds and 18–24 months for large breeds.
Is it healthy to feed puppies a raw diet?
Some puppy owners report that feeding a raw diet leads to healthier coats and a stronger immune system. This type of diet can be really high in fat and low in fiber, which may have some digestive benefits. It’s important to note that a raw diet for puppies is not just meat. It should incorporate vegetables, fruits, and some dairy to ensure all of the puppy’s nutritional needs are met.
While there are some health benefits to consider, most veterinarians do not feel that a raw diet is necessary for puppies. Some directly advise against feeding a raw diet because they believe the risks outweigh the rewards. The biggest risk to consider is that of foodborne illness.
Raw meats may be contaminated with pathogenic bacteria, such as E. coli and Salmonella. This poses a risk not only to your puppy but also to you and others in your home. If you do decide to feed a raw diet, make sure you buy from a company that sources their ingredients carefully and systematically processes them to reduce the growth of bacteria and other pathogens.
What are some signs your puppy is allergic to their food?
The most common signs of food allergies in puppies include itchy skin and an upset stomach. Your puppy may scratch excessively behind their ears or along their belly. You may notice that their paws are red and irritated. They may vomit or have diarrhea after eating.
If a puppy is fed a food they are allergic to for a more extended period, they may develop more worrisome symptoms like weight loss or lack of energy. While puppies can technically be allergic to anything, there are some allergies that are more common than others. These include allergies to chicken, beef, chicken eggs, soy, and wheat gluten.
If you suspect your puppy may have food allergies, contact a vet. They can help you find a limited-ingredient puppy food that is free from common allergens and yet still meets your puppy’s nutritional needs.
Selecting the right puppy food can significantly impact your furry friend’s overall health and happiness. From kibble to fresh to raw options, the puppy foods on this list are top-notch choices for promoting growth and development in your beloved pet.
Take the time to compare these options and consider your puppy’s unique needs to select the best dog food for your little one. Before you know it, you’ll be transitioning your furry companion to adult dog food and cherishing these early days.