How To Choose the Best Puppy Foods


Brown Labrador puppy eating food from its plate in the living room

Why Puppy Food Matters

  • Nutritional Needs of Growing Puppies: Growing puppies have unique nutritional requirements that differ from those of adult dogs. Their bodies are undergoing rapid development, and they need specific nutrients to support healthy growth, strong bones, and a robust immune system.
  • Proper Digestion: A puppy’s digestive system is still maturing, making it crucial to choose a puppy food that is easily digestible. Highly digestible puppy foods reduce the risk of gastrointestinal discomfort and promote optimal nutrient absorption.
  • Avoiding Overfeeding: Puppy food is formulated to provide the appropriate balance of nutrients for a growing pup. Feeding adult dog food to a puppy can lead to excessive calorie intake, which may result in rapid growth and skeletal abnormalities in large breeds. Puppy food helps regulate growth and prevents potential health issues in the future.

Key Considerations When Choosing Puppy Foods

1. Age and Size of Your Puppy

The age and size of your puppy play a big role in determining their nutritional needs. Large and giant breed puppies have specific requirements due to their potential for rapid growth. It is important to choose a puppy food that is specifically formulated for their breed size to avoid overfeeding and promote proper musculoskeletal development. On the other hand, smaller breed puppies may have different nutritional needs and require a diet tailored to their size.

2. Quality Ingredients

When selecting puppy food, it is essential to prioritize high-quality ingredients. Look for puppy foods that are made by reputable companies and contain premium protein sources, such as chicken, beef, or fish. Avoid foods that contain fillers like corn, wheat, or soy, as these ingredients offer limited nutritional value and may contribute to food sensitivities or allergies. Opt for puppy foods that use real ingredients and avoid artificial preservatives, colors, and flavors.

3. Complete and Balanced Nutrition

Choose puppy foods that are labeled as “complete and balanced” or “formulated for growth” to ensure that your puppy receives all the necessary nutrients in the right proportions. Puppy foods undergo rigorous testing to make sure they meet the nutritional standards set by organizations such as the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Check the guaranteed analysis on the packaging to ensure that the food contains adequate levels of protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.

4. Protein Content

Protein is a vital nutrient for puppies as it supports muscle development and overall growth, so look for foods that contain high-quality protein sources such as chicken, turkey, or fish. These proteins provide essential amino acids that are necessary for healthy development. Ensure that the protein content is appropriate for your puppy’s breed size and age.

5. Digestibility

Puppies have developing digestive systems that may be sensitive to certain ingredients. Choose puppy foods that are highly digestible to minimize the risk of gastrointestinal upset or discomfort. Look for foods that contain easily digestible carbohydrates and avoid those with excessive amounts of fillers or artificial additives. It’s also worth considering limited ingredient dog foods or grain-free options if your puppy has a sensitive stomach or food sensitivities.

6. Essential Nutrients

A well-balanced puppy food should contain essential nutrients that support your puppy’s overall health and development. Key nutrients to look for include:

  • Omega-6 Fatty Acids: These fatty acids promote healthy skin and a shiny coat, helping your puppy look and feel their best.
  • Calcium and Phosphorus: These minerals are crucial for the development of strong bones and teeth. The appropriate balance of calcium and phosphorus is especially important for large breed puppies to prevent skeletal abnormalities.
  • Vitamins and Minerals: Ensure that the puppy food provides a wide range of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin D, and essential minerals like zinc and iron. These nutrients support immune function, vision, and overall well-being.

7. Life Stage-Specific Formulas

Puppy foods are typically labeled for specific life stages, such as “puppy,” “all life stages,” or “large breed puppy.” Consider your puppy’s specific needs when choosing a formula. Wholesomes has a variety of recipes that meet the needs of different kinds of puppies. Wholesomes Sensitive recipes are great for all life stages, meaning that they can be fed from the time your dog is born until senior adult stage. There is a puppy specific recipe within Wholesomes as well that is great for many size puppies.  Puppies have different nutritional requirements than adult dogs, and selecting a food formulated for their life stage ensures that they receive the appropriate balance of nutrients.

8. Consult Your Veterinarian

Your veterinarian is an invaluable resource when choosing the best puppy food for your furry friend. They know your puppy’s individual needs, including any specific health concerns or dietary restrictions. Consult with your veterinarian to get personalized recommendations based on your puppy’s breed, size, age, and overall health.

9. Transitioning to Adult Dog Food

As your puppy grows, their nutritional needs will continue to change. Typically, small and medium-sized breed puppies can transition to adult dog food around 12 months of age, while large and giant breed puppies may require puppy food for up to 18-24 months. However, every dog is unique, and the transition should be based on your puppy’s individual development and the guidance of your veterinarian. It’s important to adjust the portion size and calorie intake accordingly to prevent overfeeding or nutrient deficiencies.

Wholesomes has many adult recipes to choose from including Beef Meal & Rice, Chicken Meal & Rice, and Whitefish Meal & Rice. Once you know which protein is right for your puppy, you can always stick with that through their adult food choice.

10. Monitoring Your Puppy’s Health

While choosing the right puppy food is crucial, it’s equally important to monitor your puppy’s health and well-being. Keep an eye on their energy levels, skin and coat condition, and growth. If you notice any signs of digestive upset, food allergies, or changes in behavior, it may be necessary to reassess their diet and consult with your veterinarian.

Choosing the best puppy food is a fundamental step in providing your furry friend with a healthy start in life. By considering your puppy’s age, size, nutritional needs, and ingredient quality, you can make an informed decision that supports their growth and overall well-being. Remember to consult with your veterinarian for personalized recommendations and monitor your puppy’s health as they transition to adult food. With the right puppy food and proper care, your furry friend will have the foundation for a long, happy, and healthy life.