Best 4-Star Dry Puppy Foods


The following is a list of 4-star dog food brands… each containing not less than one dry puppy food.
Four Star Dry Puppy Food
To qualify, each puppy food must meet AAFCO nutritional profiles for either growth or all life stages.

Or it must be recommended for puppies by the manufacturer.

If you know of a puppy food you feel we should have included here, please share your own suggestions in our Comments section.

Or if you’re looking for some suggestions yourself, be sure to look through our readers’ Comments to find more good ideas.

More Quality Puppy Foods

For even more ideas, you may want to check out one of our other puppy food lists or articles we’ve created…

How to Find the Best 4-Star
Dry Puppy Foods

The following is a list of 4-star dry dog food brands that have been shown to contain at least one puppy food. Within each brand, look for products that include the word “puppy” in their names.

In addition, many other products are designed for all life stages… a category that also includes puppies.

Best 4-Star Dry Puppy Foods

  • Dog_Obsessed

    Thanks! Even though I don’t totally agree with you on everything, it is nice to see that there are different perspectives. I agree that quality control and testing are very important. That’s scary that a company asked you what a nutritional analysis was. What company was that?

  • aimee

    Hi Dog Obsessed,

    I outlined the things I look for in the forum section. If you have any comments or questions feel free to ask. One post I address the company and the other the ingredients

    Here is more formalized version similar to what I look for that has been published by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association.

  • Dog_Obsessed

    I’m interested to know what your specific ranking criteria is. I have heard you mention it before, but I don’t believe you ever said exactly how you rate food.

  • Debby Tompkins Walsh

    Thanks for all the info everyone! I’ve always used Iams Large Breed formula for my big guys and they seemed to do very well on it. Now we’re about to get a little guy and I was looking to see if there were new and better options as I’ve been feeding Iams for 20+ yrs now. My vet first recommended it all those years ago, but I never bought it from them. Walmart or Sam’s Club were generally the way I went.

  • aimee

    Hi Debbie,

    Sites that rank food all have their own specific criteria on which they are judging products. The system used by this site doesn’t rank Iams and Hills highly, though some Hills puppy foods are 4 star. Other sites that use different criteria rank Hills and Iams much higher than they are ranked here.

    The criteria that I use to evaluate foods are different than most that post here. Like veterinary nutritionists and PhD animal nutritionists I don’t rank a food based on an ingredient list and guaranteed analysis from the label, which is what most posters here use to rank a diet.

    Here is an example of how different ways to evaluate food come up with different rankings. Grandma Lucy’s diets are ranked 4.5-5 stars based on an analysis of the ingredient list and Guaranteed analysis. I looked at the company and using the criteria I use “red flags” went up.

    I was so concerned about this product not meeting a dog’s nutritional needs that I took it a step further and called my state feed control official. Recently got word back that an investigator for the state went to the store in my town where I found that food for sale and issued an immediate stop sale!! The food is not to be sold because it violates the state standard.

    It really is all about what criteria are important to you. Dr. Mike ranks first by ingredient list and second by other criteria ( Editors Choice section) He is very consistent in his evaluation method of using the food
    label to rank all the products in the same unbiased manner and I find the information valuable. The Editors
    Choice section further refines the list of highly ranked foods by
    taking other other criteria into consideration. I rank first by other criteria and second by ingredients because that is what is important to me.

    My dogs currently are eating products made by Purina, Royal Canin, Annamaet, and Hills.

  • Crazy4cats

    Hi Debby-

    I always thought they were too! However, I’ve learned a lot on this site to help me make better choices. The foods on this site are rated by ingredients, but also heavily on animal protein percentages. Here is a link to the equation:

    Just remember though, that a 3 or 4 star rated food might be a 5 for you dog if it does well on it and is within your budget.

  • Dog_Obsessed

    Science Diet is 2.5 star food, and Iams is a 3 star food. Both are sold (and waaay overpriced) by veterinarians, to make people believe they are high-quality foods. Here are the links to the full reviews of these foods:

    Science Diet:


  • Bobby dog

    Hi Lee Beardsmore:
    You want to feed your puppy a “growth” or “all life stages food.” Check out the 4 and 5 star puppy foods here:

  • Debby Tompkins Walsh

    I don’t see Iams or Hill’s Science Diet on either the 4 or 5 star list. How come? I thought these were good quality foods. I’ve always used Iams for my dogs. I’ve never heard of most of these brands.

  • Lee Beardsmore

    Hi please could you help?? I have a 4 month old tea cup Yorkshire Terrier. She won’t eat Iams dry puppy food but wants my other dogs food(+11yr old medium size Senior over 7yrs Iams food) Is this ok?? Or can you suggest an alternative??

  • Susan

    Hi Rachel, I’d be feeding a fish kibble there’s “Holistic Select” Salmon Anchovy & Sardine meal Grainfree Adult/Puppy Health that has 5 stars….. also make sure you get a good Shampoo, one that doesn’t strip their natural oils & make his skin dryer “Aloveen” made by Dermcare is excellent for dry skin, you can buy a starter pack the shampoo & conditioner… here’s the Holistic Select link

  • Rachel Evans

    I have a 4 month old Australian Sheppard with dry skin. Vet said a change in food to a higher quality brand might solve the issue. What puppy food could you recommend to help out my baby with his itchy skin?

  • Carrie

    You might want to try NutriSource Large Breed Puppy.

  • Bobby dog

    Hi Amy:
    Large and giant breed puppies have special nutritional needs. You can learn more about it on the forum side. Read the first three or four pages of this thread along with the article links that Hound Dog Mom posted on the first page:

    For recommended foods for large & giant breeds you can access a document on page 79 of this forum. Look for a post from theBCnut dated November 6, 2014 at 8:12 am:

    You can also join the DFA Editor’s Choice for more current puppy food recommendations. There are several budget friendly foods recommended on the large and giant breed dog food document. Good luck finding a food.

  • Amy Dinkleys Hinch

    Hiya I have a 5 and half month old lab. Very sensitive stomach. She was on beta puppy when first got her but then put her on pedigree (horrible smelly diarhea) went to pets at home and they suggested wainrights puppy food she liked it to begin with but now off it. She loves baker butdoing research that could cause harm she is scratching alot since on bakers. Im really worried. What do I do. Can anybody recommend anything. Doesnt matter about budget just want the best.. tia

  • Sean

    Authority Grain Free Puppy (4.5 stars) is available at PetSmart for $10.99. Those stores are pretty much everywhere and the grain free food should help with any food sensitivities.

  • Crazy4cats

    Hi Rhonda-
    Congrats on your new pup! Can you print off the best puppy food list and take it with you to the store? It’s hard to make suggestions when we don’t know what is available where you shop. Good luck!

  • Rhonda

    i have a 5 month old shichon, or shih tzu mix and I am almost out of the food from the breeder. She is on Nutrisource, but I don’t know which one. And that is really expensive and no one carries it around here. I’m having a hard time picking a new brand. She likes this kind, but I notice she has been scratching alot and I’m wondering if it is because of the food. Any suggestions for an inexpensive dog food? I need something that I can buy from a pet store or rural king. I just need to try a small bag of food for $10 before I invest in a $50 bag of food. Any feedback will help.

  • Raquel alvira

    I have a chi and a york i do not know what food to give them i live in Florida and i need to know what brand to buy please help

  • Dori

    Since he’s small you could also consider freeze dried, dehydrated, or commercial raw foods. Mio much better than feeding kibble. Any idea how much he’s suppse to weigh full grown?

  • theBCnut

    Since he is so small and doesn’t eat much, consider feeding him a canned food.

  • judy

    I have 5 moth old cha an can’t find a dog food he will eat

  • LabsRawesome

    Hi Brooklynsmom, you can give her Krill oil everyday. Just give her one softgel. You can also give sardines in spring water, once or twice a week.

  • Brooklynsmom

    I have a 10 month old pit bull pointer mix. She has the typical pit bull allergies and I finally found a food that she is not allergic to. Natural Balance limited ingredient diet dry food seems to keep her stomach happy. Unfortunately she still has dry skin and itching problems. I have been reading up on getting Omega’s into her diet but am so lost on how much to give her. Her food label says this “Omega-6 Fatty Acids* 1.7% minimum, Omega-3 Fatty Acids* 0.5% minimum”. She is a little over 50lbs and gets about 3.5 cups of food daily, split into two meals. I have seen krill oil mentioned a lot and would like to get her started asap to calm her skin down. Any advice on how much, how often? Or any other tips to improve her itchy skin?

  • Jenna Schmidt Wilson

    Thank you so much!

  • 4FootedFoodie

    Hi Jenna,

    Congrats on the new pup! I have a Golden also and hope you find yours as sweet, loving and gentle as I do mine.

    My first question would be, do you know what the shelter has been feeding her? If so, I’d pick up some of whatever that is. Adjusting to a new home and after having just been spayed, you’ll want to keep consistent whatever you can.

    An easy food to transition to is NutriSource, which is also budget friendly. In a pinch, you could use their Chicken & Rice, while you look for other foods you like. Good budget friendly foods are Earthborn Holistic, Dr. Tim’s, Victor and Horizon.

  • Jenna Schmidt Wilson

    We are adopting a 33-pound, estimated to be 9-month old Golden Retriever stray from Dallas Animal Services. She comes home tomorrow after spay surgery. Since our vet has been closed all weekend for the holiday, I thought I’d solicit some advice on what kind of food to start her out on. I want it to be good for her, obviously, but hopefully not “break the bank” either. Any advice on what to feed, where to get it, when/how much, etc.? Thanks!

  • Coreine Valledor

    Please help. What’s the best dog food for 2.5months old puppy chow? Thanks

  • LabsRawesome

    Hi Paige, my top 3 affordable brands are- Victor Grain Free, Earthborn, Rachael Ray Zero Grain.

  • Paige Escue

    I’ve been feeding my 13 week old Goldendoodle Nutro Natural Choice because the Petco clerk told me it was amazing and although my puppy hasn’t been sick by it at all and actually seems to really really like it, everyone’s concerns on the site has me terrified now. What should I be feeding him? What are the top 3 affordable brands I could go buy because I want him to stay healthy and he will only get to be about 30-40lbs.

  • theBCnut

    Feed him nothing until dinner time. Go get the food he is used to. Feed him 1/2 HIS normal amount at dinner. Tomorrow, feed him 1/2 his normal amount for breakfast, then 3/4 his normal amount for lunch and dinner. The day after, you can go back to feeding him normal meals of his normal food. After he has settled in for a couple weeks, then you can start to transition him to a new food by mixing 1/4 new food with 3/4 old food for 3 days, then 1/2 and 1/2 for 3 days, then 3/4 new and 1/4 old for 3 days.
    If you want suggestions for a good food, just ask.

  • Frances Santiago

    I just got a coon/lab mix yesterday. they said he is 8wks and he was on alpo soft food. when uh brought him home I had bought Purina puppy chow he was really hungry so I feed it to him he ate it and about 15 he started with diarrhea. he hasn’t slept the whole night he pooped all over his cage the 4x. what should I do? I feel so bad for him

  • Katie Wilson

    Thank you very much!
    I have to go through his paper work again. The animal control here is very poorly ran. His stool was normal the first day or so, then I guess his stomach is trying to adjust to the new food still.
    I think I’m gonna stick with it for a little just in case it is just that, cause both of my dogs love it so much

  • Crazy4cats

    Do they do a fecal test at animal control before being adopted? If not, I’d suggest that you get one before you assume it is the food. Poor pup, thank you for adopting! If everything is fine with his sample, I really like Victor grain free food. Good luck!

  • Katie Wilson

    I’m looking for a more affordable dog foor for my two pit mixes.
    I had my older one on blue buffalo, and after awhile, he wouldn’t eat it unless I mixed gravy or something into it.
    I’m currently using the Rachael Ray grain free dog food for both of my pups, but the younger one seems to have very runny stool. Not as runny as diarrhea, but not solid. We have had him for almost 2 weeks. We could not mix his old food because we pulled him from animal control and they did not tell us what they gave him nor do I think they really knew. So I’m not sure if that is part of the problem.
    My older pup had slight diarrhea but it quickly became regular since we were able to mix his. But he has lost 6 pounds. I don’t know if it is the food to blame, or just all the playing he does with his new little brother puppy.
    I also need to put a good amount of weight on my younger puppy, because he is on the skinny side from being in animal control, and god knows what he went through before being surrendered.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    To be honest I always thought it was odd that that food was ALS, the fat is way too low imo.

  • theBCnut

    I don’t know. I went to their website and they have the old formuas listed, but it says on them that they are maintenance foods, so I don’t know when the change happened. Sometimes I wish dog food companies would leave well enough alone.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Thanks Patty. So I’m not crazy, I knew it was ALS when I made the list. Must be the recent changes they made in the formulation made it not longer qualify as an ALS food.

  • theBCnut

    Here Wysong Epigen is still listed as ALS

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Hi Malta –

    My list isn’t based on the min calcium level, it is based on the actual calcium level in the food. I contacted each company directly to obtain the actual values and used these values in my calculations.

    Thanks for pointing out Epigen is a maintenance food only though – not sure how that one slipped by me. I know they recently had some changes to the formula, I wonder if that changed as well?

  • Malta

    Need to relook the Hound Dogs Mom list below.
    It only lists the MIN calcium content. Critical is the MAX calcium content for large breed puppies. AAFCO max 1.8% calcium, FEDIAF 1.6-1.8% depending on age.



    Also, the HDM document lists wysong epigen, which is labeled maintenance, not growth.

  • Emily

    Good to know, thanks for the info!

  • theBCnut

    Probably not. Most of us recommend finding a few different foods with different protein and starch sources. Rotating foods helps the pup to develop a strong gut which also provides a huge boost to the immune system. The only problem I have with TOTW is that is made by a company that has had numerous recalls in the past, so I just can’t recommend them. Earthborn, NutriSource, Nature’s Variety, and Victor’s, as well as many others, are good foods. All Life Stages foods are made to the AAFCO guideline for puppy foods, so yes they are fine for puppies, and in fact many of us here feed ALS foods for the life of our dogs.

  • Emily

    Thank you so much for your reply. He’s actually much more (toy) poodle than he is lab. He’ll only get to about 25 lbs (both of his parents are mini labradoodles). With that in mind, which food is recommended and should I still consider him a large breed puppy?

  • theBCnut

    Read here to learn more about the issue when feeding large breed puppies. And this is Hound Dog Mom’s newest list of foods that are OK for large breed puppies.

  • Emily

    I’ve heard that Taste of the Wild is an all life stages food and fine for puppies, but I’ve also heard that TOTW puppy formula is better because the regular formula doesn’t have the right amount of protein and calcium for a growing pup. I just got a 3 month old mini labradoodle (~9 lbs) and I’m not sure whether I should feed him the TOTW pacific catch that my older dog does so well on, or get the puppy formula (or another good brand of puppy food) instead. What is recommended?

  • Pattyvaughn

    Don’t stick with just one food. Feeding a rotational diet is much healthier.

  • sandy

    Nutrisource small/med breed puppy and Nature’s Select Hi-Pro/Puppy are tiny kibbles, then Amicus is very small too since it’s a toy breed kibble. Wellness also has a Toy/small breed line. Nature’s Logic is a very small kibble too.

  • LV

    I am getting a 10 week old bichon/maltese/shizu mix that is currently on Proplan small breed puppy dry and wet mix. What would you recommend I swith it too that is better for its health. I know I need to slowly change. Thanks LV

  • rere

    i’m getting puppy tomorrow he’s 8 weeks old a lab/boxer mix what would be best dry/wet food for him?

  • Pattyvaughn

    You have to register to use google docs, but other than that, it should work.

  • kelseey

    From everything that I’ve read and reread about NuVet Plus its a god sent. I encourage you to look it up and tell me if I’m wrong or not. I am open to any suggestion. I was looking at the raw diet and saw Instinct. They look to be a very promising food and would consider it if it will benefit her.

  • Betsy Greer

    Hmm, darn it, I really wish you could open that. I’m not sure why you can’t, it’s a Google document and I he link – it worked for me.

    Try visiting the second link and read through the thread. At least you’ll know other brands people are talking about.

    I definitely wouldn’t use Blue Buffalo and I would look for something grain free with whole food ingredients and as little synthetic stuff as possible. Would you consider a raw diet? Are the vitamins you’re planning to use synthetic? I would probably also add some quality probiotics for optimal gut health so he can get the benefit of the food you’re feeding.

  • kelsey

    Thank you both for the advise! I can’t open the first link about the list of dog foods though. My puppy is going back on NuVet Plus vitamins at the end of the week when I receive them. She was off them for a short amount of time and I feel like that had a big impact on her immune system. I will stop the Blue Buffalo and wait til her vitamins come and see how she does from there. I only want the best for her and I’ll do anything to make sure she’s happy and healthy! Quick question before I go, she was on Eukenuba Large Breed when I first got her and since I don’t have that in any of the stores where I live I ended up switching her to Nutro Natural Choice. Should I possibly try just ordering it online and having her go back to that?

  • Pattyvaughn

    Many people are reporting problems with Blue Buffalo right now, so this might not be a good time to try them. See if you can find Earthborn Holistic Meadow Feast or Coastal Catch. There is a thread over on the forum under Diet and Health Issues titled Large and Giant Breed Puppy Nutrition that you should read at least the first few pages of.

  • Betsy Greer

    Hi Kelsey,

    You should be choosing an appropriate food for a large breed puppy from this list that Hound Dog Mom compiled:

    Large breed puppies need controlled Calcium levels, to be kept Lean and to avoid being over-exercised.

    Visit this thread in the forum area of DFA for more information about large breed puppies:

  • kelsey

    My 4 month old Golden Retriever is my everything! I did tons of research before I got her a few months ago on foods and treats. About a month ago she started developing warts and took her into the vet. They said its from having a low immune system. I was currently feeding her Nutro Natural Choice Large Puppy thinking that I was doing her good. However, the vet said I need to switch her to something of a better quality. I just started switching her to Blue Buffalo Life Protection and on the first day she had immediate diarrhea. I didn’t even put a whole lot in! Am I making the correct choice? Should I try something less potent? Please help, I’m near tears thinking that I’m hurting her more than doing her any justice :(

  • InkedMarie

    No problem, I just asked.

  • Stephen Stamper

    Well..let’s see. I could have done 4 separate replies to each helpful poster, or just reply by posting one reply under the main post, whereas most people could have use their imaginations and figured it out…. Seems easier to me…

  • sandy

    Since he is a mix breed, you won’t know what his full size will be for another several months. But he could just be on the small side since he’s part yorkie. Check his “body condition score” and if he is good, then I wouldn’t worry about his weight. Feed him to maintain a good body condition. And there are many dog foods to choose from.

  • InkedMarie

    Is it a disquis glitch or are you replying to yourself?

  • Stephen Stamper

    Thanks for the suggestions… I made the switch to Diamonds Natural (not just regular Diamond) which is actually one of the 4-star rated dog foods. I also believe it is one of the cheapest 4-star dog foods on the list, and is no more expensive than pedigree or purina in the supermarket!! They sell it at Rural King, and Tractor Supply, etc.

  • tatiana

    i have a poodle and yorkie mix he is a medium size dog he just got nutter and all his vaccine he is six months what food do you recomend he is a healthy dog but i think he is underweight. he weighs 3 lbs what do you recomend. i feed him 3 times a day but he still the same i would like something with more nutrients im feeding him pedigree complete, what do you think?

  • Carol

    Hi again Chicken Soup for the Dog Lovers Soul is also a good food and a bit less expensive than Taste of the Wild.

  • Carol

    Hi I have a border collie also—2 1/2 years. I’ve been feeding him Taste of the wild–lamb formula. It’s really a very good dog food It’s around $50.00 for a 30# bag. Now that’s not cheap, but, there are many more that cost more.

  • Nadia

    I suggest you stick to premium dogfood, like Go Fit and Free, Dr. Tim’s Momentum is great for gaining weight, and Orijen puppy. Make sure to make a slow transition to avoid loose stool. 63 pounds at 5 months is quite big. I suggest Dr. Tim’s if he is that thin.

  • Nadia

    Dr. Tim’s All stages Kinesis, Go Fit and Free puppy or Acana puppy.

  • Nadia

    Go Fit and Free already contains Pre and Pro biotics. It simplifies everything. Adding other sources of probiotics won’t hurt, just a bit hassle on your part. If you use a premium dogfood, usually there is no need to add “ad ons”.