Best Puppy Food In 2021 (Review & Guide)

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This is a review of the best puppy food.

The best puppy food consists of a good balance of high-quality protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, and vitamins. All, in the right balance, is needed for your puppy to grow up healthy and strong.

This list will help you make the best decision for the health and happiness of your new best friend.

best puppy food - golden retriever puppy eating food out of a white ceramic dog bowl that says 'food' on it in brown lettering with brown paws on it

And in this article, we’ll go into great detail on the best, high-quality food for puppies on the market so that you can feel confident that you’ve made the best choice for your puppy.

Also note, that all of the puppy food brands that are listed can be purchased at an online retailer.

DISCLOSURE

It is always a good idea that you consult with your veterinarian or a veterinary nutritionist to be sure that you are providing the best nutrition for your puppy.

So, let’s get started! Here are the best dog food brands for your puppy.

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BEST PUPPY FOOD OVERALL

BLUE BUFFALO LIFE PROTECTION FORMULA PUPPY FOOD

RECOMMENDED


BEST PUPPY FOOD OVERALL


Is the first / main ingredient real meat?Yes
What is the protein content (average)?27%
What is the fat content (average)?16%
Is this a grain-free recipe?No
Are artificial colors and flavors used?No
Where is the manufacturer’s headquarters?USA
Are any ingredients sourced from China?No
What is the average price point?6 lb – $15.98
15 lb – $30.98
30 lb – $49.99
Are there canned food options?Yes
Have there ever been any recalls for Blue Buffalo?Yes
First five ingredients in this variety.Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Oatmeal and Barley
Calorie count.398 kcal / cup

BUYER REVIEW: My puppy loves this, she’s been on it since I’ve gotten her. She’s healthy and growing well according to the vets. I appreciate the feeding amount guideline on it!!

BEST PUPPY FOOD FOR LARGER BREEDS

WELLNESS COMPLETE HEALTH NATURAL DRY LARGE BREED PUPPY FOOD

RECOMMENDED


BEST PUPPY FOOD FOR LARGE BREEDS

Is the first / main ingredient real meat?Yes
What is the protein content (average)?29%
What is the fat content (average)?13%
Is this a grain-free recipe?No
Are artificial colors and flavors used?No
Where is the manufacturer’s headquarters?USA
Are any ingredients sourced from China?Less than 1%
What is the average price point?30 lb – $57.57
Are there canned food options?Yes
Have there ever been any recalls for Wellness?Yes
First five ingredients in this variety.Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Peas, Ground Brown Rice, Salmon Meal
Calorie count.367 kcal / cup

BUYER REVIEW: When we bought our German Shepherd puppy I searched all the large breed foods that were out there, comparing ingredients, value, protein, calories, crude fat and by far side by side wellness exceeded the competitors. Our German Shepherd (Gunner) is six months old now and 75 pounds he is in perfect health his coat and joints looks and feel great. I would highly recommend this food. His poops are solid no diarrhea or upset stomach. He has lots of energy and very alert which is what I look for in a great dog.

BEST PUPPY FOOD FOR SMALLER BREEDS

BLUE BUFFALO LIFE PROTECTION FORMULA WITH LIFE SOURCE BITS

RECOMMENDED



BEST PUPPY FOOD FOR SMALL BREEDS

Is the first / main ingredient real meat?Yes
What is the protein content (average)?29%
What is the fat content (average)?17%
Is this a grain-free recipe?No
Are artificial colors and flavors used?No
Where is the manufacturer’s headquarters?USA
Are any ingredients sourced from China?No
What is the average price point?6 lb – $16.49
15 lb – $30.98
Are there canned food options?No – not for this puppy brand
Have there ever been any recalls for Blue Buffalo?Yes
First five ingredients in this variety.Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Oatmeal, Barley, Menhaden Fish meal
Calorie count.415 kcal / cup

BUYER REVIEW: My teacup chihuahuas are picky about what they eat but immediately all took to this food. Its small kibble & perfect for even a 6 week old pup. I feel good knowing they are eating a quality food that’s good for them & affordable for me!

BEST PUPPY FOOD ON A BUDGET

WAG DRY DOG/PUPPY FOOD

RECOMMENDED



BEST PUPPY FOOD ON A BUDGET

Is the first / main ingredient real meat?Yes
What is the protein content (average)?35%
What is the fat content (average)?15%
Is this a grain-free recipe?Yes
Are artificial colors and flavors used?No
Where is the manufacturer’s headquarters?USA
Are any ingredients sourced from China?Yes
What is the average price point?4 lb – $10.95
5 lb – $10.95
15 lb – $22.75
24 lb – $38.77
30 lb – $38.77
Are there canned food options?No – not for this puppy brand
Have there ever been any recalls for Wag?No
First five ingredients in this variety.Beef, Beef Meal, Lentils, Pea Protein, Peas
Calorie count.346 kcal / cup

BUYER REVIEW: I let my two dogs try a few pieces each when I received this food and I’m lucky I still have ten fingers left! They loved it so I filled their treat balls with it (it was the perfect size for the openings) and they made quick work of emptying them. Made with healthy ingredients to promote good health made me happy to give them this food.

What Makes a Certain Dog Food “Good”?

As a pet parent, trying to choose the ‘right’ puppy food, can be confusing, so let’s dive right into the essential bits of information necessary for procuring the perfect pet food for your puppy.

The first thing you need to be looking for is food that is specifically made for puppies. A puppy formula will be geared more towards the nutritional needs of a puppy since their dietary requirements are significantly different than that of an adult dog.

A big part of the decision as to the right type of food to feed your puppy will depend on your puppy. Variables such as breed, size, age, and weight will all play a part in your analysis.

Ingredient Type and Quality

The most important things to consider are ingredient type and quality. In the case of canine cravings, there are a few, key ingredients you should seek out to ensure your pup is consuming the appropriate amount of nutrients it needs to grow up big and strong. 

The critical components are simple enough to remember; they are protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and water. The first two in this list are most important, and we’ll touch on why later. For now, suffice it to say that generous helpings of protein and fat help your dog grow healthily and correctly.

AAFCO Statement on the Bag

An easy way to determine dog food quality is by looking for the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) statement on the bag, can, or packaging. Much like a certification of quality from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, AAFCO statements can help you decipher the complicated language of dog food chemistry with a simple and clear acknowledgment that what you’re buying isn’t just expensive marketing. 

You should also look for the words ‘complete and balanced nutrition’ on the label to help guide you in making an informed decision about your puppy’s food.

What Should You Look for in Puppy Dog Food?

Now you know the basics of what constitutes a passable meal for your fur baby. Next, we’ll take a deeper dive into what separates good food from great. 

Essential Nutrients for Puppies

Like mentioned earlier, dogs of all ages need six core nutrients, which include protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and water. However, the quality of those nutrients and their abundance can vary wildly. 

To compare it to a human diet, we all know sweet rolls and sweet potatoes both have carbs. Though, only one of those options delivers carbs in a way that is healthy, useful for the body, and does so without jeopardizing other aspects of our health.  

Ensuring your puppy is getting the best food possible is just as much about finding the right combination of nutrients as it is assembling the foremost ensemble of healthy ingredients. 

Proteins

Fats

  • Linoleic acid
  • Omega-6
  • Omega-3

Carbohydrates

  • Sugars
  • Starches
  • Fiber

Vitamins and Minerals

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K
  • B-complex vitamins
  • Calcium
  • Phosphorus

Note: Vitamin C is not needed in their food as their bodies naturally produce it.

Water

Each puppy’s nutritional requirements are different based on its breed, size, and age.

Large-Breed Dog Food for Puppies

Since hip dysplasia is a huge concern with large breed dogs, such as German Shepherds. So you need to be sure that your puppy is being fed the right amount of food with the right nutrients.

Two things you need to keep in mind (a) large breed puppies grow faster than a small or medium-sized dog; and (b) they remain puppies much longer, which means you will want to continue them on the correct puppy food for longer (12 to 24 months).

Since larger breed puppies have such rapid growth, there is a bigger chance of their bones forming incorrectly and causing problems like hip dysplasia.

It is very important to be sure that you are not feeding your large-breed puppy too much and try to keep their calcium levels lower as overfeeding and too much calcium will increase their risk of developing any one of several orthopedic conditions.

However, if they consume too little calcium this can lead to health issues as well. Unfortunately, it is not completely clear what is considered the ‘right amount’ of calcium a large-breed puppy should consume.

Small-Breed Dog Food for Puppies

As with large-breed dogs, the best small breed puppy food is the one clearly labeled for them. If you own a chihuahua and the bag is made for canines with mastiff proportions, don’t do it! Smaller dogs actually require more per caloric ounce than their bigger brothers and sisters. That means they not only need food that caters to their rapid metabolism but also require more feedings throughout the day. 

Puppy Feeding Fundamentals

By now, you’re probably rethinking everything you’ve ever held true about dog foods. Truth is, there’s a whole lot of noise and very little clarity on which bags are gold mines and which are duds. And that’s by design – dog food manufacturers are businesses, like any other. If they made it easy…well, let’s just say very few brands would still be around.

First-Year Feeding for Puppies

Right off the bat, you should always follow your vet’s instructions, especially if your dog has any underlying medical issues. Furthermore, most brands will provide a helpful chart on how much to feed your puppy and when right on the packaging. 

For the first year, free-feeding is inadvisable. Puppies will typically chow down with abandon, and without any regard for the after-effects (read: poopy consequences). Instead, train your puppy to expect three-to-four feedings a day, for at least the first year or so. More or less might be necessary, depending on size and breed. 

Above all else, you want to make sure your puppy has the protein and fat it needs to grow and develop. Young dogs need the most protein and fat immediately after weaning off their mother’s milk, with decreasing amounts as the weeks go by. 

When to Feed Your Puppy

Feeding is as much a routine as is anything else when it comes to raising a dog. You must establish order and consistency right from the start. For younger puppies, feedings should serve as a precursor to potty breaks. Feed once in the morning, 15-30 minutes before going outside, once or twice around midday, and then again before their evening walk. This schedule will help you and your puppy develop a daily rhythm. 

How Much Food to Feed Your Puppy

There isn’t a right amount to feed all puppies. Instead, consult your vet or the food’s packaging to determine portion sizes. Some big breeds were raised throughout the generations to require very little, while some small breeds were raised to consume quite a lot. Do your homework on the breed, consult your veterinarian, and you should be just fine.

However, if you want a general feeding chart to fall back on, check out the feeding chart listed on Grange Co-op’s website. It’s segmented by weight and age, which makes it a great place to start for most pet parents. 

No matter how careful you are with the type and amount of food you are feeding your puppy, you must also keep an eye on your puppy visually. If he appears too thin or too fat you will have to adjust the amount you’re feeding them.

The puppy feeding chart is only a guideline and you and/or your veterinarian will need to make adjustments accordingly since each puppy is different.

When it’s Time to Move to Adult Dog Food

Experts agree that the 12-to-18-month window is about the time when you can start transitioning your puppy to adult food. Though again, this varies by breed. Some types of dogs will need a full two years before they can stomach adult dog food. 

Much of the reason it takes so long for puppies to transition is because of how they’re maturing. Adult dogs require different levels of nutrients than puppies. Adult dog food can contain an excess of nutrients – like calcium – which can harm your puppy during its development if given in high doses.

It’s generally better to keep your puppy eating the kiddie food a little longer than making the jump too soon. 

BREED TYPE

PROJECTED ADULT WEIGHT

WHEN TO CHANGE TO ADULT DOG FOOD

X-TRA LARGE BREED

OVER 100 POUNDS

18-24 MONTHS OLD

LARGE BREED

50-100 POUNDS

12-18 MONTHS OLD

MEDIUM BREED

20-50 POUNDS

12-14 MONTHS OLD

SMALL BREED

UNDER 20 POUNDS

9-12 MONTHS OLD

Myth-Busting Dog Food Mistruths

Now that you’re well-acquainted with the fundamentals of what makes the best puppy food and how to dole it out at mealtime, let’s have a chat about some common myths and misconceptions.

Puppy Food Should Only be High in Protein 

While a high protein content is important, so is a hardy amount of fat. And due to their high energy levels, most puppies also need a significant dose of carbohydrates. The key isn’t so much which nutrient to prioritize so much as it is ensuring that your puppy gets a balanced diet relative to its size at maturity, breed, and bill of health. 

Grain-Free Dog Food is Always the Better Option

Grain is usually a filler for less expensive dog foods. But don’t be deceived! Just because a food is “grain-free” does not make it the better choice. Some brands will replace grains with even less desirable filler that could do a number on your dog’s long-term health. Read the ingredients label carefully.

Wet Puppy Food is Consistently Superior to Dry Kibble

This one’s tricky. Some dogs can’t stomach wet food. Others need it for the extra moisture it provides. At the end of the day, a blend of both is ideal, so long as that blend contains the appropriate profile of vitamins, nutrients, and ingredients we’ve talked about thus far.  

FAQs

Can I switch my puppy food?

You can switch your puppy’s food at any time, gradually. Mixing a small amount of the new food into the bowl with each feeding will assist in preparing your puppy’s stomach to make the change. 

What about foods marketed for “All Life Stages”?

This depends. If the food checks the boxes on ingredients, nutrients, and portion sizes, then that specific brand is probably fine. But don’t assume. Always research the label and make sure it’s the best puppy food for your fur baby before making a purchase. 

Is it okay to feed my puppy people food?

In the beginning, it is best to avoid feeding your puppy human foods. Doing so can make them ill, train them to beg, or mess with their metabolism. Puppy chow is specially formulated for growing dogs. Keep them on a strict diet, at least until their fully matured. That being said, we at Doggo Talko are not an advocate of feeding our dogs people food. We prefer to feed our dogs nutritional and healthy food, based on their breed, size, and health issues.

If you want to read up on more puppy fundamentals, check out our collection of other posts here

Resources:

Grange Co-op

Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)

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