Puppies quickly become a part of your family when you bring them home. Like any other family member, you want to make sure that they stay happy and healthy. You spoil them with new toys, fluffy doggy beds, and cute collars, but ensuring that they are receiving the proper nutrition is also paramount to ensuring that they have a good life.
So, what is the best puppy food for your newest furry family member? That depends on a variety of factors, such as whether you prefer dry or wet food, what your budget is, and even the breed of dog.
With hundreds of different brands of puppy food on the market, it is hard to be sure that you are choosing the right one. There are so many questions to ask, including:
- Do you need to purchase the most expensive dog food brand?
- Are all of the cheaper products bad for your puppy?
- Should you look for certain nutrients in the food?
- What would you never see on the ingredient list of quality puppy food?
- Are certain products better for larger or smaller dogs?
With so many factors to take into account, you can easily become overwhelmed with options. Thankfully, there are a few specific criteria to follow when selecting quality puppy food.
What to Look For in a Quality Puppy Food
There are so many options when it comes to choosing puppy food, and each of them claims to be the best choice for your newest family member. When you are trying to select a high-quality puppy food there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure that you are making the right decision.
First, you need to check that the puppy food you are selecting has the right nutrients for your breed of dog. For example, larger dog breeds grow much quicker than smaller breeds. This means that they need a calcium to phosphorus ratio of around 1:1. Many puppy food brands will have different products for large and small breed dogs to account for the differences in their growth rates, and you should choose accordingly.
You also want to be sure that there are no anonymous meats or generic animal fats in the ingredients of the food that you choose. If there are generic listed ingredients, such as animal, meat, and by-product, it means that animal hair, hooves, and hide can be in the food if it is not coming from a reputable company.
Ensuring that there are no harmful chemical preservatives and artificial colors is also essential. You’ll want to be sure that there are no growth hormones or pesticides in the food. In addition, if a food contains Propylene Glycol, BHA, Ethoxyquin, BHT, or Hydrochloric Acid, it shouldn’t be placed in your puppy’s food dish.
You’ll also want to make sure that there are meat-based proteins, adequate carbohydrates, and a sufficient fat to protein ratio. These specific numbers are based on your breed of dog, so a bit of research will need to be done on end to ensure the food that you choose has the proper nutrients for your puppy.
Another thing to note is that puppies should never be fed adult dog food. Puppies grow quickly and need specific nutrients and fat to protein ratios to ensure that they do so at a healthy rate. If you have an adult dog as well, be sure they are fed separately so that each dog gets the proper nutrition they require.
Top 10 Best Puppy Foods in the market
While the criteria listed above are a good guide for helping choose the best food for your new puppy, there are still many options to consider. That is why we’ve taken the time to sort through hundreds of puppy foods to choose the top ten for you. These ten products have a strong reputation for quality and can help ensure that your furry little friends stay healthy as they grow and develop into loyal, fun-loving members of the family!
1. Wellness Core
Wellness Core carries seven dry dog foods, one of which is adequate for puppies. The Wellness Core Grain-Free Puppy Formula offers holistic nutrition for your puppy.
This premium puppy food is a bit pricier than other foods are, but you are getting what you pay for. The kibble contains whole foods and stays away from grains like corn, wheat, and soy, artificial colors, and other preservatives.
The food is also packed with animal protein. A named protein should always be the first ingredient listed on a dog food package, and the first three ingredients in the Wellness Core Grain-Free Puppy Formula are Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, and Turkey Meal. This protein-focused diet is great for growing puppies.
In addition to quality protein sources, this puppy food also contains probiotics for healthy digestion, salmon oil to support cognitive development, and antioxidants for a strong immune system. The formula also contains omega-3 fatty acids to ensure that your puppy has healthy skin and coat when they snuggle up with you on the couch – if they’re allowed up there!
This is especially tasty food and the small kibble size makes it great for even the littlest of puppies. Though it can be a bit hard on your pocketbook, with a 26-pound bag costing just over $50, you can be assured that your puppy is getting great nutrition with the Wellness Core Grain-Free Puppy Formula.
2. Orijen Dog Food
If you are looking for quality food for your puppy, Orijen is another solid option. They offer two products for puppies, Orijen Puppy and Orijen Puppy Large. Orijen recognizes that puppies of different size and breed have different nutritional requirements as they grow and develop, which is important.
At around $80 for a 28.6 pound bag, this food can be pretty costly to feed a growing puppy. The good news is that with the high price tag comes high quality. The first seven ingredients on the ingredient list are boneless chicken, chicken meal, chicken liver, whole herring, boneless turkey, turkey meal and turkey liver. This grain-free puppy food has a high protein to carbs ratio, and the carbohydrates it does contain are low glycemic to prevent over abundant fat storage.
The food also contains other proteins like eggs that are nutritious and easy for your little one to digest. It also has omega-3 fatty acids to keep your puppy’s skin and coat healthy, as well as probiotics to keep their digestive track functioning properly.
With a fat-to-protein ratio hovering near 46%, and below-average carbs, Orijen offers nutritious puppy formulas that will help your puppy grow and develop properly. There have also been no reported recalls on the product, which shows that Orijen has a history of delivering quality products.
3. Nulo Freestyle
When you bring your puppy home, you want to give them a happy life. Nulo Freestyle is a brand that offers puppy food to help you do just that. Nulo offers a balanced diet with two different formulas. Puppies can occasionally be picky with their food preference, so it helps that you can choose either the Nulo Freestyle Puppy Salmon and Peas or the Nulo Freestyle Puppy Turkey and Sweet Potato.
Mass-produced bargain dog foods aren’t great for providing a nutritious diet, but Nulo can provide a balanced diet when it comes to your puppy. Their foods are free of dyes, artificial preservatives, fillers and additives that can negatively impact your puppy’s health.
Like the other top quality puppy food products on this list, the first several ingredients are quality protein sources. In the Salmon and Pea formula, the first three ingredients are deboned salmon, turkey meal, and menhaden fish meal. Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and the turkey meal and menhaden fish meal are meat concentrates and a great source of protein.
For those looking for a plant-based puppy food that also includes named meat protein sources, Nulo is a good option. There have been no reported recalls since 2009, which is a great sign. A 24 pound bag will cost you around $60, but the Nulo Freestyle Puppy Turkey and Sweet Potato will cost a few dollars more than the Salmon formula.
4. Nature’s Variety Instinct
For around $70, you can nab a 25 pound bag of the high-quality Nature’s Variety Instinct Duck Meal & Turkey Meal Formula. This is one of five varieties that Nature’s Variety offers, but is a great option for growing puppies.
The first ingredients in the food are duck, turkey meal and salmon meal. These are all strong sources of protein, especially turkey and salmon meal, which are meat concentrates. The next ingredient on Nature’s Variety Instinct’s list is tapioca. This might seem like an odd ingredient, but it is a starchy carbohydrate extract that comes from the cassava plant to promote healthy bacteria that improves digestion.
This puppy food contains enough protein to help your puppy grow and develop, while also providing omega-3 fatty acids, prebiotics for healthy digestion, and minerals to help your little one absorb protein.
There have been a few recalls, but none of them have involved the Nature’s Variety Instinct Duck Meal & Turkey Meal Formula. Overall, Nature’s Variety has a strong reputation for providing high-quality dog and puppy foods across the globe. This is certainly a puppy food that you can feel confident about pouring in your puppy’s food bowl day in and day out.
5. Honest Kitchen Embark
Of the puppy foods included on this list, Honest Kitchen Embark is the only dehydrated puppy food. Dehydrated dog food contains freeze dried meats that have never been cooked, as well as dehydrated vegies and fruits. It provides a highly nutritious diet with less processing involved.
There are two drawbacks to dehydrated food. The first is that you pay more for it. A 10 pound box that equates to 40 pounds of food once hydrated will cost just under $100. Meal time also takes a bit more prep work because you will need to mix the food with water and wait 10 to 15 minutes until it hydrates before it can be served.
Though dehydrated puppy food will take a bit more work, isn’t that tail-wagging bundle of fur worth it? When you consider how nutritious these types of food are, you might not mind the extra cost and prep time.
The great thing about Honest Kitchen Embark is that is provides a gluten free option for pups needing a wholesome food. It is made with cage-free turkey and also contains spinach, apples and celery for added nutrition. If your puppy needs a low carb diet, and you don’t mind a bit of extra work, Honest Kitchen Embark might be the perfect choice.
6. Taste of the Wild
Taste of the Wild is another quality option when you are looking for a nutritious option for your furry friend. Taste of the Wild is centered on the notion that it provides the ingredients that wild dogs instinctively crave. For owners who want their dogs to stay in tune with their instincts, this might be a good choice.
There are two formulas the Taste of the Wild Grain-Free High Prairie Dry Dog Food for Medium size dogs and Taste of the Wild Grain-Free Pacific Stream Dry Dog Food for larger dogs. A 30 pound bag will cost you around $50, depending on which puppy formula you choose. This makes Taste of the Wild a more affordable option for those who still want to provide a quality food to their precious puppy.
Both formulas are grain-free puppy food and contain high levels of quality protein. The High Prairie formula has 28% protein and 17% fat, and contains bison, lamb and fish for protein. The Pacific Stream formula offers 27% protein and 15% fat and the main protein sources are various fish. There are also no artificial colors or flavors and the formulas incorporate eggs to give your dog a shiny, healthy coat.
The one drawback is that there was a recall in 2012 when salmonella was discovered in some of the factories. However, Taste of the Wild is made in the United States and the issue was quickly resolved. When it comes to your wallet and your puppy’s health, Taste of the Wild seems to be a good middle ground.
7. Earthborn Holistic Puppy Vantage
If you’re looking for the cream of the crop when it comes to puppy food, Earthborn Holistic Puppy Vantage might claim the top spot. The nice thing about Earthborn Holistic Puppy Vantage is that it is produced right in the United States with all ingredients, except one, coming from within the borders. The company has also never had a recall and focuses on being environmentally friendly from manufacturing to marketing.
Earthborn Holistic Puppy Vantage is a puppy food that has the proper nutrition to meet the needs of any breed. This dry kibble puppy food provides high quality protein sources, including turkey meal, chicken meal, chicken fat and whitefish meal. Many of these sources qualify as meat concentrates, meaning that they are protein-rich and highly nutritious.
With 28% protein and 20% fat, this quality food will give your little puppy the nutrition it needs during puppyhood. The formula also includes dried egg product to improve your puppy’s skin and coat, and potatoes, which are a gluten-free source of carbohydrates. In addition, you can find peas and blueberries in Earthborn Holistic Puppy Vantage, which are great sources of fiber and vitamins.
8. EVO Dog Food
EVO is another high-quality brand of dog food. For those wondering if cheaper brands can still provide a highly-nutritious diet for your puppy, the answer is yes. This is also one of the more affordable brands, with a 28.6 pound bag priced at less than $50. With EVO, you don’t need to worry that paying less will be detrimental to your furry friend’s health.
EVO comes in five different formulas, but the EVO Turkey and Chicken Meal Formula is the one we focus on here. This product contains 80% poultry and diary, and 19% vegetables and fruits. Impressively, the first six ingredients and protein sources – turkey, chicken, chicken meal, salmon meal, menhaden meal and chicken fat.
The grain-free product is packed with vitamins and minerals, high in protein and low in carbohydrates. With omega-6 fatty acids, natural fiber, prebiotics, chelated minerals and other nutrients, the EVO Turkey and Chicken Meal Formula is a high quality product.
It is important to note that there have been a few recalls for EVO due to salmonella, but there have been no incidents reported since 2013. Overall, you can rest assured that your wiggly little puppy will be getting the nutrients needed to live a long, happy and active life.
9. Natural Balance
Natural Balance was founded in 1989 and is one of the highest quality dog food brands on the market today. Puppy owners will also rejoice when they see that the price tag is a bit lower than some other premium puppy food products.
The Natural Balance Whole Body Health Dry Puppy Formula will cost you around $45 for a 28 pound bag, which is almost half the price of some other brands out there. While you are paying less, Natural Balance does not slack when it comes to providing a quality diet.
This food is designed with puppies in mind from start to finish. Even the shape of the food is specially created for smaller puppy mouths and every batch of food undergoes 9 safety tests to ensure that only the best reaches your puppy’s bowl. This was put into place to combat the two recalls Natural Balance experienced in 2010 and 2012, and the company has not had an issue since.
The first two ingredients on the list are chicken and chicken meal and it’s tasty enough that puppies gobble it right up. The next ingredient is brown rice. Although brown rice is of modest nutritional value to your puppy, it is easy for them to digest. The oats that come in this formula also provide B-vitamins and dietary fiber.
10. I and Love and You
Though this is a relatively new brand, I and Love and You produces a high quality food that cannot be overlooked for your puppy. Their product is balanced for all life stages and no matter what formula you choose, they are all grain free.
The I and Love and You Red Meat Medley is a solid choice, and a 23 pound bag will cost you just over $40. This makes it an affordable and nutritious option for your puppy.
With pork, lamb meal and herring meal as the main three ingredients, you can rest assured that little Fido is getting a protein packed diet to help him grow and develop into a happy, healthy dog. With their formulas packed with protein, enzymes, prebiotics, probiotics, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, there’s no room for fillers, by-products or preservatives. It simply contain wholesome ingredients to provide the energy and nutrients that your puppy needs to develop.
You want your dog to grow and develop into a happy, healthy member of your family and proper nutrition is essential to making that a reality. It can take some time to find the right balance between nutrition, budget and your dog’s preferences, but the search will be worth it in the end. In general, keep these criteria in mind:
What You Want: whole animal products, healthy grains like rice or buckwheat, natural fats and oils, essential vitamins and minerals
What You Don’t Want: vegetable and meat by-products, cheap grain fillers like wheat and corn, corn syrup, chemicals like BHA and Propylene Glycol
The ten products listed above are great options to consider when you are looking for the best puppy food for your furry little friend. However, it’s important to note that not every puppy food is a good choice for your pet. Even the highest quality, most expensive option might not be the right fit for your dog. Pay less attention to the price tag, and more attention to the ingredient list. Your puppy will thank you in the end with lots of love, slobbery puppy kisses, and endless snuggles.