Growing puppies need a higher concentration of protein and fat in their diets to fuel their growth and development. Protein provides essential amino acids to help your puppy grow healthy muscle tissue.
Fats provide a concentrated source of calories and help with nutrient transport and development of cell membranes. Omega-3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA are particularly important for puppies.
The best puppy food starts with a high-quality source of animal-based protein. The more protein the better, though it should always be balanced with healthy fats. Carbohydrate content shouldn’t overshadow protein content and the food should be free from low-value grains like corn, wheat, and so as well as artificial additives. Read on to see our top picks for the best dog food for puppies on the market today.
The Best Puppy Food Formulas in 2022
ORIJEN Puppy Grain-Free Dry Puppy Food
VICTOR Purpose Nutra Pro Dry Dog Food
Chicken Soup for the Soul Puppy Pate Chicken
Instinct Original Puppy Grain-Free Real Chicken Recipe Wet Canned Dog Food
CANIDAE PURE Puppy Grain-Free Limited Ingredient Chicken Recipe Canned Dog Food
Merrick Grain Free Wet Puppy Food Puppy Plate Beef Recipe
Nutro Natural Choice Puppy Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Puppy Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food
Wellness Complete Health Just for Puppy Canned Dog Food
Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream Puppy Recipe Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
Why Should You Trust Us
As dog parents ourselves, we understand how hard it is to choose the right puppy dog food with so many recipes available on the market in 2022. So how do you navigate past marketing claims to get real facts?
That’s where we come in. With over 5790 recipe reviews, Pet Food Sherpa is the largest database for dog food recipe reviews overseen by a vet nutrition specialist.
Our team has analyzed over puppy dog foods and selected the 10 best recipes, we then used our pet food algorithm to determine the scores for each recipe.
You should keep in mind that no single puppy dog food is right for all dogs. Instead, use our list as a research tool to help you make a better-informed decision on your pup’s diet.
The Best Puppy Food - What You Need to Know
1. How much should I feed a puppy?
Providing your puppy with a nutritious, calorie-dense diet is essential for optimal growth and development. When it comes to how much to feed your puppy, however, recommendations vary according to your puppy’s age and weight.
If your puppy is already fully weaned onto solid food (as he should be by 8 weeks of age), you should work on developing a daily feeding routine. Puppies generally require at least three meals a day, though small and toy breeds may need four. Very small puppies are prone to hypoglycemia because they burn through calories very quickly, so they may need to be fed more often than larger breeds.
Here is a chart to give you a general idea how much to feed your puppy:
|Weight at Maturity||Cups
(age 1.5 to 6 months)
(age 6 to 12 months)
|6 lbs.||1 ¼||¾|
|10 lbs.||1 ¾||1 ¼|
|15 lbs.||2 ½||1 2/3|
|30 lbs.||4||2 ¾|
|40 lbs.||5||3 1/3|
|60 lbs.||6 ¾||4 2/3|
|70 lbs.||7 2/3||5 ¼|
|80 lbs.||8 ½||5 2/3|
While the chart above is certainly helpful in giving you a general guideline for feeding puppies, there are numerous factors to consider. Calorie content varies from one recipe to another, so it’s really best to refer to the feeding recommendations on the label. Keep in mind as well that your puppy’s calorie needs may change as he matures, so be prepared to adjust his daily portion every month or two.
If you’re feeding your puppy wet food, the chart above won’t work for you. Again, it’s best to follow the feeding recommendations on the package. Whether you’re feeding dry puppy food or wet puppy food, be sure to choose a recipe formulated for your puppy’s breed size to make sure it has the right balance of calories, calcium, and phosphorus.
2. What is the difference between puppy food and dog food?
All dogs have the same basic nutritional requirements, but certain nutrients are required in higher concentrations for growing puppies.
The primary difference between puppy food and adult dog food has to do with protein. Protein is essential for healthy growth and development in puppies, so puppy food generally has higher protein levels than adult dog food. According to AAFCO nutrient profiles, puppies require a minimum of 22% protein in their diets and adult dogs a minimum of 18%.
In addition to higher levels of protein, puppy foods also tend to be more concentrated in calories. Puppies require a steady influx of energy to fuel their rapid growth and higher calorie content generally comes from a higher fat content.
Another difference between puppy food and adult dog food has to do with the ratio of calcium to phosphorus. Calcium is an essential mineral that supports bone growth, so it’s something puppies need in higher amounts than adult dogs. It’s important, however, to make sure the calcium and phosphorus levels are in balance because excessive phosphorus can actually leech away calcium.
Optimal calcium and phosphorus ratios are a good reason to feed your puppy a recipe that is formulated for specific breed sizes. Large and giant breeds need controlled levels of these essential nutrients to prevent overgrowth that might contribute to orthopedic problems in adulthood.
Simply put, puppy food is formulated to meet the nutritional needs of growing puppies while adult dog food is formulated to support maintenance.
3. Can puppies eat adult dog food?
There’s certainly nothing harmful about adult dog food for puppies, but it isn’t formulated to support optimal growth and development. Adult dog food is designed to help your dog maintain balanced nutrition and an ideal body weight while puppy food is designed to help your puppy grow.
Puppies require higher levels of protein and fat in their diet than adult dogs, so that is how puppy foods are formulated. Feeding your puppy an adult dog food recipe might keep him from getting the protein he needs for healthy muscle development and the fat he needs for energy. There are also some differences in calcium and phosphorus content between puppy and adult foods that might contribute to nutritional deficiencies or orthopedic issues in puppies being fed adult diets.
If your puppy sneaks bites from an adult dog’s bowl, you probably don’t have to worry about anything except minor digestive upset. That being said, it’s best to feed a puppy puppy food and an adult dog adult dog food.
4. When should I transition from puppy to dog food?
There’s no hard and fast rule for when to transition a puppy onto adult dog food because it varies according to your puppy’s breed size. Quite simply, small breeds reach maturity faster than adult breeds so they generally need to be transitioned onto adult dog food sooner.
Puppy food is formulated to support growth and development, so it only makes sense to transition your puppy onto an adult diet when he stops growing. In order to do so, you’ll need to pay attention to your puppy’s weight and have some idea of his expected adult size. Throughout his puppy life, you’ll need to adjust his daily portion according to his age and weight, but you’ll want to start making the transition when he reaches about 80% of his expected adult weight.
It can be tricky to know when to switch a mixed breed dog from puppy to adult food because you may not know how big he’s going to get. You might need to enlist your veterinarian’s help to track your puppy’s weight and when you notice a steady decline in growth start thinking about making the switch.
5. Is it okay to give a puppy regular dog food?
There’s nothing harmful about giving your puppy a few bites of adult dog food here and there, but it certainly shouldn’t be his staple diet. To put it plainly, puppy food is best for puppies and adult dog food is best for adult dogs.
While adult dog food won’t be harmful to your puppy, it won’t support his optimal growth and development. Puppy food is higher in protein and fat than adult dog food, so it provides the calories and amino acids needed to support muscle development and healthy rate of growth. Puppy foods are also optimized for other essential nutrients like calcium and phosphorus that your puppy may need in higher concentrations for bone growth.
The best thing to do is choose a nutritionally complete puppy food formulated for your puppy’s breed size and follow the feeding recommendations on the label.