While you’re walking down the aisle of your nearest pet store, you start to feel what a lot of puppy parents feel. The cold sweats, clammy hands, and vertigo while staring down the endless array of food and pushy marketing telling you to buy this because it’s healthier, better, and fancier. But the best dry dog food for puppies often comes from the brands you least expect.
It’s important to buy the best dry dog food for puppies because they need specific nutrients in their diets to grow up big and strong. Still, choosing shouldn’t have to be hard. You just might need a little help!
Best Dry Dog Food for Puppies: What You Need to Know
Before we dive right into our picks for the best dry dog food for puppies, we should clear the air on a few things. Choosing food for your puppy is hard. Whether you’re a new dog owner or a seasoned veteran, you might have a hard time picking.
We live in an era where there's a lot of big marketing claims going around. Unfortunately, many lack scientific research to back them up.
We want to get rid of the fluff and get to the real stuff, so you can make sure you’re feeding your dog the best dry dog food for puppies.
Why do puppies need special food?
You want to approach this question the same way you would with a human baby. Babies need a special diet because their bodies require different vitamins and nutrients than us adults.
Puppies also require several smaller meals throughout the day.
It’s important to pay attention to your puppy and not their food bowl. Look at how they’re developing, especially during the first 8 to 12 weeks of their life. During this time is when you’ll likely transition to unmoistened dry food.
At around 6-to-12 months, many dogs will get spayed or neutered. This procedure can reduce the overall energy of your dog, so consider moving them off puppy food. The specialized puppy formulas have a higher concentration of nutrients, which can cause your adult dog to put on excess weight.
How do you choose the best dry dog food for puppies?
The best way to choose the right puppy food is by doing what you’re doing right now. When you read reviews and articles from pet parents and verified purchasers of products, you get honest feedback.
You can’t trust marketing or reviews on company websites.
For example, I am an advocate against blindly trusting major pet food manufacturers. You can head over to many of their websites, and you'll find a bundle of articles about how their food is the best.
While this is sometimes true, you can't believe every piece of marketing you read.
When you dive deeper and research more about their food, you’ll find out that it often contains by-products, chemicals, artificial dyes, and a whole list of things you never want to give to your pup.
Always trust unbiased resources first.
What happens if you feed puppies adult dog food?
Chances are, nothing significant will happen. But you’re stripping your puppy of necessary nutrients they need.
Some highly active pups may even lose weight or remain underweight without the right puppy food.
We recommend always feeding your puppy a special formula. Also, make sure to consult your vet if you notice any dramatic changes in weight when you switch your puppy's food.
No-go for your doggo
It’s sad to think that there are more harmful ingredients in dog food than helpful ones. But it’s sometimes true.
Here are some of the ingredients that may make you want to throw away your bag of dog food:
You should do everything in your power to avoid giving your dog corn syrup. The best dry dog food for puppies will never have this ingredient.
It’s commonly found in moist, canned foods. Getting your puppy hooked on sugar at an early age can spell disaster later on. You’ll have a hard time feeding them regular food because they’ll crave that sweet flavor.
What’s probably most frustrating about this is dogs don’t care about the color of their food. Foods like Kibbles n’ Bits will use green, red, and blue dyes in their food to make them more appealing to pet parents.
You can walk down the aisle and say, “Oh my gosh, look how cute this food is in the shape of little bones and chickens.”
In reality, though, you’re feeding your pup a big bowl of unnecessary additives that could trigger allergies or irritate their stomach. If the food contains dyes, you know the brand doesn’t have the right values, and you should avoid them.
BHA and BHT
These are synthetic antioxidants often used to preserve and extend shelf life. They’re banned in multiple countries for causing allergic reactions and possible organ failure concerns.
Some popular brands like Cesar and Showtime contain this ingredient. Consider staying away from them.
Should I feed my puppy grain-free dog food?
There are some important investigations happening around the connection between grain-free food and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). Currently, there is no definitive proof that a grain-free diet is the root cause of this disease.
Keep in mind: Some experts also believe that it's not the lack of grain causing DCM, but the addition of non-grain carbohydrates like legumes and sweet potatoes.
As we wait for more research to emerge on this subject, it's best to feed your puppy food that you feel confident in.
Either way, it’s important to understand that your puppy needs a well-rounded diet. As always, if you’re concerned, discuss this with a professional veterinarian for individualized feedback.
How We Reviewed
As we’ve said, we care a lot about our fellow pet parents. We understand how difficult it is to choose the best dry dog food. For this reason, we want to make sure you have the best and most unbiased information possible.
We sought out information from reliable sources like veterinary websites, professional breeders, and our own experience. We’re pet parents, too, and we care so much about what we feed our pups.
There is a lot of misinformation and marketing filled with false claims, but we want to help break the cycle and offer you the content you need to accomplish one goal: Keep your best friend healthy.
When you finish this list, you can confidently purchase the best dry dog food for puppies.
Best Dry Dog Food for Puppies: Only the Greatest Prevail
By this point, you should have a solid understanding of how to choose the best dry dog food for puppies. Now that you have all the basics covered, let’s look at some actual food.
All of these foods passed our inspection, and they contain only the highest quality ingredients from companies with a strong reputation in the industry.
Hill's Science Diet Puppy Small Paws
- This dry puppy food uses DHA from fish oil to support healthy brain and eye development
- Provides your small breed dog with high quality protein for building lean muscle
- Uses a balance of minerals to promote strong bones and healthy teeth
Our first puppy dog food comes from Hill’s Science Diet. This company uses scientific research from pet food scientists to formulate a healthy blend of ingredients ideal for puppies.
The food uses DHA from fish oil, which helps support your puppy's brain and eye development. You’ll also find plenty of lean protein sources here that will guide your pup's growth while keeping them at a healthy weight.
This is a formula specifically intended for small and toy breeds. The recipe contains a unique blend of antioxidants to help with immune health.
Looking at the ingredients, we see chicken meal, cracked pearled barley, and pork meal as the first three ingredients. Meal is a highly concentrated source of protein, and barley is a great carbohydrate component to find in the first couple of ingredients.
Nature's Recipe Grain-Free Puppy
- Contains 1 - 12 Pound Bag of Dry Dog Food
- Real chicken is the #1 ingredient
- Natural dog food, with added vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Calorie Content (Calculated)- Metabolizable Energy (ME) 3570 kcal/kg per 345 kcal/cup
Here we have a grain-free chicken recipe from Nature’s Recipe. This puppy food contains real chicken as the first ingredient, which is a great place to start.
The grain-free formula uses carbohydrate sources like sweet potato and pumpkin in place of corn and wheat. This food does not contain any corn, wheat, soy, or by-products that some pet owners wish to avoid.
As we take a look further down the ingredient list, we do find some other essential components like fruit and vegetables, which are great for flavor and a well-balanced diet.
One thing that concerns us, though, is the inclusion of poultry fat in this food. Sometimes, poultry fat becomes oxidized during the manufacturing process, which can cause stomach problems or allergies in some pups.
Overall, though, this food is a great choice for concerned pet parents looking for the best dry dog food for puppies.
BLUE Wilderness for Puppies
- PACKED WITH REAL CHICKEN: A recipe made to satisfy your puppy's natural love for meat, this high protein puppy dog food features real chicken to help encourage strong muscle growth.
- GRAIN FREE PUPPY FOOD: BLUE Wilderness grain free puppy food is made with the ingredients to help promote healthy development including DHA and ARA, important fatty acids found in mother's milk, to help support cognitive development and retinal health.
- WITH LIFESOURCE BITS: This formula contains BLUE's exclusive LifeSource Bits - a precise blend of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals carefully selected by holistic veterinarians and animal nutritionists to support immune system health, life stage requirements, and a healthy oxidative balance.Calorie Content: 3,662 Kcals/kg, 423 Kcals/cup
BLUE Wilderness is a well-known brand in the dog food industry. This company started because the founders were concerned about their own pup named “Blue.”
This food recipe is loaded with real chicken and other protein sources essential for your puppy's health. The grain-free recipe supplements with other carbohydrate sources like flaxseed and sweet potatoes.
We also found plenty of fruits and other vegetables included in this recipe, as well.
This dry food also contains pro- and pre-biotics, which help with your puppy's digestion and gut health as they grow.
Overall, we don’t see anything concerning in this ingredient list. Still, there is chicken fat and added salt, which we find unnecessary in dog food.
In the end, BLUE Wilderness leads the pack with its high-quality dog food containing some of the best ingredients available at a price that fits into everyone’s budget.
Castor & Pollux ORGANIX Grain-Free Organic Small Breed Recipe
- #1 Ingredient Is Organic, Free-Range Chicken
- Made With Probiotics And Prebiotic Fiber To Help Support Healthy Digestion
- Made With A Nutrient Packed Superfood Blend Featuring Organic Flaxseed, Organic Blueberries And Organic Coconut Oil
Rolling along, we have an organic, grain-free, small breed food option. This food is not a puppy food, but it is recommended by the dog food community for puppies due to its ingredients.
Castor & Pollux uses free-range chicken and plenty of probiotics to help your puppy digest and maintain a proper weight.
This recipe has some of the best ingredients we’ve ever seen in dog food. It uses things like organic chicken, sweet potatoes, sunflower seed meal, coconut oil, and chicken liver, and it includes plenty of vitamins and minerals.
All of the food from Castor & Pollux gets produced in organically certified U.S. kitchens. They also don’t use any chemical pesticides or synthetic fertilizers on their crops.
If you’re interested in starting your pup out on the right food and feeding them the best organic dog food on the market, you’ll want to give this one a closer look.
Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diet Dry Puppy Food
- Contains 1 - 4.5-Pound Bag Of Dog Food
- Grain Free Puppy Food With Kibble Specially Shaped For Smaller Jaws
- Helps Minimize The Number Of Ingredients Puppies Are Exposed To
I personally love the food from Natural Balance. I currently feed my dog their adult formula, but their food works great for pups with sensitivities. My Lhasa Apso has had stomach problems since day one and would regurgitate most food. We switched to Natural Balance, and it completely changed the game.
This food contains one source of protein, which is said to reduce the likelihood of allergies. Many foods contain chicken, pork, and fish, all in the same recipe. This increases the chance of an allergic reaction, and Natural Balance uses a limited ingredient diet to prevent that.
Natural Balance designs their kibble smaller for puppies, and they use DHA for healthy brain development. They do not use any artificial flavors or dyes and no preservatives.
If you’re concerned your puppy isn’t handling their food well, I recommend giving this one a try.
Nutro Wholesome Essentials Natural Puppy Dry Dog Food
- Contains one (1) 5-lb. bag of NUTRO WHOLESOME ESSENTIALS Natural Small Breed Puppy Farm-Raised Chicken, Brown Rice & Sweet Potato Recipe Dog Food; Natural Dog Food Plus Vitamins, Minerals and Other Nutrients
- Tailored Nutrition For Your Small Breed'S Unique Needs
- This Nutro Dog Food Is Formulated With Omega-3 Fatty Acids Like Dha To Promote Healthy Growth And Development
Next, we have dry puppy food from Nutro. This food is tailored to meet the needs and expectations of picky puppy parents.
It uses chicken, brown rice, and sweet potato as the main ingredients. This recipe is not grain-free, so it does include carbohydrates in the form of brown rice.
Looking through the ingredients, we find things like chicken, chicken meal, fish oil, apples, dried carrots, and plenty of vitamins. During our research, we found that puppies enjoy this food. However, there are some reported inconsistencies in the quality of the food.
Nutro Ultra Puppy Dry Dog Food
- Contains One (1) 30 Lb. Bag Of Nutro Ultra Puppy Dry Dog Food With A Trio Of Proteins From Chicken, Lamb And Salmon (New Look, Same Product - Packaging May Vary)
- Features Trio Of Protein From Chicken, Lamb, And Salmon-Chicken Is The #1 Ingredient-Specially Formulated For Puppies (Except For Growth Of Large Size Dogs 70Lbs Or More As An Adult)
- Our Premium Dog Food Kibble Is Made With High-Quality Ingredients And Provides Complete And Balanced Nutrition For Puppies In Every Bowl
Next, in our best dry dog food for puppies roundup, we’re taking a look at another food from Nutro that combines a wide variety of protein sources with chicken as the first ingredient. While that typically makes us a bit nervous, we can’t argue with the fact that puppies love this food.
Nutro's Ultra line includes ingredients like chicken, whole brown rice, whole grain oatmeal, fish oil, lamb meal, and salmon meal. This food is formulated to meet the unique needs of puppies. This recipe even includes 15 different superfoods like coconut, chia, and kale.
Wellness Complete Health Grain Free for Puppy
- Grain free complete health: Grain free, complete and balanced everyday nutrition for your dog
- Quality ingredients: Naturally grain free with delicious proteins including deboned chicken and whitefish combined with essential vitamins and minerals
- All natural: Contains only premium, all natural ingredients with no wheat, corn, soy, meat by products, artificial flavors, colors or preservatives
Finally, we have another puppy food line I love: Wellness Complete Health. Their naturally preserved food offers the maximum amount of balanced nutrition puppies need to grow big and strong.
Here you’ll find deboned chicken as the first ingredient, paired with essential vitamins and nutrients to support your pup's immune system, brain, eyes, coat, and bones.
They do not include any wheat, corn, soy, or by-products in any of their foods, and their Wellness Guarantee backs everything.
This recipe contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to support your pup's skin health. Wellness also incorporates a variety of different probiotics and chicory root to help support your dog's digestive system — yet another great option for careful pup parents.
Only the Best for Fido
You want the best for your puppy, and that’s why you only want to give them the best dry dog food for puppies. We’re 100 percent with you on that!
We’re dog parents ourselves, and we understand the struggles of choosing dog food through all the noise. Every bag of dog food we’ve recommended above meets the highest quality standards we could find.
If you choose from any of these options, you’ll know you’re giving your puppy a head start in the journey of their life. Enjoy the time you can spend together and cherish every moment.
Have you fed your puppy any of the foods mentioned above? What are your thoughts on the grain-free controversy? Let us know in the comments below!
Featured Image Source: Pixabay