While a puppy is still growing, they will need extra calories and special nutrition to help them form strong bones, joint and muscles. The best puppy food will have whole meat (not just by-products or meal), whole grains, fruits, vegetables and good fats (like those from Omegas). You’ll want to avoid products that include meat meal, synthetic vitamins, wheat gluten and harmful chemicals like propylene glycol, butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) or butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT).
Formula: Under the Sun Grain Free Puppy Food with Chicken
Price: Around $45 for 25lb bag
Best overall NomNomNow’s Customizable Food
NomNomNow is a meal delivery plan for your dog. The subscription-based service prepares fresh food made with real, whole food and restaurant grade ingredients and delivers them pre-portioned for your dog based on their ideal adult weight. A service like NomNomNow is ideal for pet owners who want to feed a home-cooked diet but don’t have the time to do it themselves. Choose from beef, chicken, turkey or pork.
Price: Based on dog’s weight. We were quoted $29.64/week for a 30lb dog.
* Note: Because fresh food is less dense than processed kibble, protein and fat ratios will not be comparable.
Best grain free puppy food Canidae Under the Sun Grain-Free Puppy Food
Grain-free dog food may or may not be right for your pup, but if you’re looking to go the grain-free route, Canidae offers a grain-free formula specifically designed for puppy development. The formula is corn-free, wheat-free, soy-free and potato-free and contains a single animal protein.
Price: $44.99 for a 25lb bag
Best wet puppy food FreshPet Select Puppy
FreshPet Select puppy food is a non-GMO dog food free of artificial flavors and chemical preservatives. Their puppy formula consists of 100% natural farm-raised chicken with vegetables and brown rice. FreshPet food is always free of meat meal and by-products.
Price: $4.79 per 1.5lb roll
* Note: Because wet food contains higher moisture levels than dry food, protein and fat ratios will not be comparable.
Best dry puppy food Taste of the Wild Puppy Recipe
Taste of the Wild food is designed to replicate an ancestral (“wild”) diet. Their line of puppy food includes guaranteed levels of DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid) and probiotics for a healthy digestive and immune system. The “High Prairie” puppy recipe is grain free and made with roasted bison and venison. All Taste of the Wild foods focus on novel proteins. Puppy food is made with a smaller kibble size to make it easier for puppies to chew.
Price: $30.99 for a 15lb bag
Best large breed puppy food Blue Buffalo’s Life Protection Formula
Blue Buffalo’s Life Protection formula for puppies contains essential fatty acids, calcium and antioxidants important to a puppy’s bone, muscle and immune system development. Real, deboned chicken is the first ingredient for a quality protein, and the food contains no corn, wheat, soy, animal by-products, artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. Also available in a formula for all breed sizes.
Price: $28.99 for a 15lb bag
Best small breed puppy food Canidae PURE Petite Small Breed
Canidae’s Pure Petite line is grain-free and raw coated. The formula uses a limited ingredient recipe to make it easy on your pup’s stomach and has a smaller kibble size to make it easier for small dogs to eat. We recommend the Salmon protein diet, rich in omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat.
Price: $39.99/12lb bag
Puppy nutritional needs by size
Small breed puppy food
Small breed puppies tend to have a higher metabolic rate than their large- and medium-sized counterparts and may actually need more calories. It’s important for small dogs to have calorie-dense meals four to six times a day to prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Small dogs also need smaller bites in order to chew and swallow safely.
Talk to your veterinarian before you buy dog food for your puppy to make sure you’re getting the one that has the nutrients they need based on their size and breed.
Large breed puppy food
Large breed puppies have different nutritional needs than small and medium-sized dogs. Because of their size and their fast growth rate, large breeds are prone to elbow and hip dysplasia, as well as bone disorders like osteochondrosis (OCD) and developmental orthopedic disease (DOD). In order to prevent these issues, it's important to select foods that are designed to support the growth of large dogs and avoid overfeeding.
Salmon protein diet rich in omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat
How much does puppy need to eat?
Puppy feeding guidelines
The amount of food your puppy needs every day depends on their size and breed. A smaller breed will eat small meals more frequently, while larger breeds will eat up to a cup per meal.
Size of dog
Cups per day
Puppy feeding schedule
Because puppies have small tummies, they should eat small portions more often than dogs. This is easier for puppies to digest and helps keep their energy levels stable. Most puppies’ food should be portioned out to three or four meals a day. For example, a small breed puppy who eats one cup per day should eat about a quarter cup at each meal time.
How long do you give a dog puppy food?
Puppy food is too high in calories for adult dogs to consume. Check with your veterinarian to assess whether your dog has finished growing. In general, smaller dogs mature faster than large dogs. Small breeds can take 10–14 months, larger breeds can take 12–16 months, and giant breeds can take up to two years to fully develop.
Can puppies eat dog food?
Puppies shouldn’t eat dog food intended for full-grown adults. Puppies need more nutrients than adult dogs so they can develop healthy muscles and bones as they reach their adult size. Feeding a puppy adult dog food will deprive it of essential nutrients.
Can puppies have treats?
Yes, a puppy can have dog treats, but you’ll want to look for softer chew treats. Young dogs, especially those in the first few months of their lives, that still have puppy teeth may not be able to handle large treats or hard treats.
Selecting a quality puppy food will help set your dog up for a lifetime of health and happiness. Remember, what’s not in the food is just as important as what’s in the food. Look for a balanced formula free of artificial and unnecessary additives.
As a member of the ConsumerAffairs research team, Jessica Render is dedicated to providing well-researched, valuable content designed to help consumers make informed purchase decisions they can feel confident making. She holds a degree in journalism from Oral Roberts University.