The most important time in your dog’s life is puppyhood. This is a time of growth and learning when you can set the foundation of good health for their lifetime. This is why the right nutrition is so critical during this stage.
Dry kibble is the most popular type of food for a lot of reasons. It is convenient, has a long shelf life and tends to have the most well-rounded recipes. It also tends to be the most cost effective. Your puppy needs the right balance of protein, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins and minerals to feed both body and brain. Dry foods are the best option, at the best price, to give them this solid base.
There are a lot of things you need to consider to make sure that your puppy has the right food for his individual needs. Depending on their breed and size, you may want to seriously consider choosing a puppy food designated for either small or large breed pups. We’ll take a closer look at why a little later. First, let’s review the basics of the best dry puppy food. (For a review of dry dog foods for adults click here.)
How To Choose A Puppy Food
All puppy foods must meet the nutrient profiles set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Look for a food that clearly states that it meets the AAFCO guidelines for either ‘growth’ or ‘all life stages.’ This guarantees that it contains the minimal nutrient content required to meet the needs of a growing dog.
However, the AAFCO regulations and nutrient profiles are far from exhaustive. Dog food manufacturers can still get away with sneaking in a lot of ingredients that either have no nutritional value or can actually harm your puppy.
Avoid Any Food That Has These On The Label:
• Chemical preservatives
• Artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners
• Corn, wheat, soy
• Meat or meat meal
The best rule to follow when selecting a quality dry puppy food is to find the most natural options possible. Look for foods where you can identify everything on the label. If there are items there that you question, put it back and maybe look up those foreign terms later for reference.
A Quality Puppy Food Will Be Full Of Simple Goodness:
• Protein from an identifiable source
• Healthy carbohydrates
• Fats and oils
• Fruits and vegetables
• Vitamins and minerals
You should see protein from an animal as the first ingredient, labeled accordingly like chicken or beef, not just meat. Healthy carbohydrates like whole grains, brown rice, oats, barley, quinoa and similar should be fairly high on the list, too. There should be some fat, again from a known source like chicken fat.
What are even more important are healthy fats and oils from sources like fish, flaxseed, olive or sunflower. These are full of essential omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids your puppy needs for his developing brain function. Of course, fruits and vegetables add much needed fiber as well as vitamins and minerals. A quality food will also add supplements to ensure the food has everything your dog needs to meet his growing needs.
Choosing The Right Food For Your Pup’s Size
While there are a host of puppy foods that cater to ‘all breeds and sizes,’ you should definitely consider looking into a formula made especially for your dog’s size.
Small and large dogs grow very differently, making their nutritional needs unique. The larger the breed, the slower they mature. Moreover, you need to be sure that you control their growth so that their skeletal systems do not develop disproportionately fast. Recent research has shown that orthopedic problems including hip dysplasia can be a result of improper feeding during puppyhood. Too much calcium and calories at a young age can contribute to this condition later in life. For this reason, large breed puppy food has the appropriate proportions of both to lower this risk.
Moreover, the caloric needs of small breeds are also very particular. Smaller dogs have very fast metabolisms, but tiny bellies. They run the risk of low blood sugar even as early as puppies due to their need for consistent energy. They need a food that is dense in calories so that smaller portions will contain enough fuel for their growing bodies.
What is most critical is to ensure you never feed your puppy a food for adult dogs. Whether they are one of the tiny or towering breeds, all puppies need more calories, more protein and more nutrients overall. This is a busy time for their muscles, bones and mind. Even if you can’t always feed them based on their respective size, make sure you are at least feeding them based on their age. The best dry puppy food will have what they need to stay healthy during this time and set them up for success as they become adults.
Top Five Choices For Best Dry Dog Food For Puppies
Our list contains brands that we feel meet all of our standards for highly nutritious dry puppy food. All of the choices here also make formulas for small and large breeds, as well.
Solid Gold is one of the more natural foods you can buy. They have several formulas that are suitable for all sizes as well as options just for small and large breed puppies. Star Chaser is one recipe for all pups that contains chicken, chicken meal and egg for above-average levels of protein. Brown rice and barley give this food excellent carbohydrate content plus fiber.
Solid Gold includes their signature antioxidant blend of 20 superfoods like spinach, broccoli, pumpkin, cranberries and more in each of their well-rounded recipes. Salmon, almond and flaxseed oil also give it very substantial omega fatty acids, while probiotics offer digestive support. They go even further by adding l-carnitine and taurine for heart health. This is enthusiastically recommended as one of the most holistic puppy foods.
Nature’s Variety makes a great line of foods and their puppy formula definitely gets our approval. Packed with lean protein from chicken and salmon, this recipe contains freeze-dried bits of raw meat, bone, organ and cartilage that give your puppy all the natural compounds he needs like glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health.
Nature’s Variety also contains great levels of omega acids from eggs, flaxseed and salmon oil, as well as a super antioxidant blend of fruits and vegetables like kelp, blueberries and squash. One of the best things about adding those freeze-dried raw ingredients is that the rich vitamin and mineral content is better preserved, eliminating the need to add a lot of supplemental ingredients. Nature’s Variety also has formulas designed for small and large breed puppies.
Another excellent holistic choice, Orijen uses nothing but locally sourced ingredients in their dog food. Much like Nature’s Variety, Orijen’s puppy recipe includes what they call their ‘Wholeprey’ blend of meat, organs and cartilage to add all those essential compounds your canine would consume in nature. Chicken, turkey, flounder, eggs, mackerel and more give this formula very high protein levels with great sources of omega fatty acids.
Navy beans, lentils, chickpeas and alfalfa give it some healthy complex carbohydrates and plenty of fiber, while a fruit and veggies blend including kale, spinach, turnip greens, collard greens, carrots, pumpkin and apples provides vitamins and minerals. Orijen supplements with probiotics for digestive support, as well, and formulas for small and large breeds are also available.
Wellness hits all the right points to be a balanced, healthy choice for all puppies. Their formula for all sizes starts with plenty of protein through chicken and salmon, as well as fiber-rich carbs like oatmeal, barley and brown rice. Wellness provides all the vitamins and minerals a growing pup needs with spinach, sweet potatoes, apples, blueberries, carrots, and more.
This antioxidant-packed food also features supplements like green tea extract for extra immunity support. Wellness includes taurine and probiotics, as well. This is certainly another wholesome, holistic choice with additional formula options for small and large breeds, to boot.
Horizon has a complete line of puppy foods modeled on the ancestral diet trend and designed for pups from small to large. Horizon Legacy is suitable for all sizes and contains a solid base of chicken, turkey, eggs and salmon, giving it more than ample protein content plus lots of essential omega fatty acids.
Horizon adds even more with the addition of salmon and flaxseed oils. Their antioxidant blend is complete with broccoli, bok choy, carrots, apples, blueberries, cabbage, pineapple and more. Horizon includes probiotics in their recipes, as well, making their all-natural ingredients even easier for any puppy to digest.
The best puppy dry food has to be free from any harmful additives and full of the fuel your dog needs to grow. Puppyhood is a critical time for laying the right foundation of good health, so it is worth it to invest in a top quality puppy food. A good dry puppy food will be packed with protein, healthy carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and fiber. It will give your pup what his body and mind needs to develop into an adult with less risk of disease, injuries or overall poor health.
Don’t trust a lot of the major dog food manufacturers with the health of your best friend. It is unfortunate but true that many of the most popular, even some of the oldest names in the business are some of the worst offenders when it comes to low quality ingredients. Always stay informed about what your dog needs and be sure to look at the label before you buy. All dogs need a natural, wholesome diet throughout their lives, but it is even more important when they are young and growing.
While it is ideal to choose a food designed for your puppy’s size, it is even more crucial to be sure you are feeding him a food designed for puppies. As long as your puppy food meets the standards outlined above, you are making a healthy choice.
If you have any concerns or questions about your puppy’s nutritional needs, consult your veterinarian.
Product images sourced from Amazon.com.