Top 10 Best Puppy Foods

Best Puppy Foods

Choosing the best food for your puppy is one of the most important decisions you can make.

That’s because feeding the wrong food can greatly increase your puppy’s RISK of developing a crippling form of hip dysplasia… especially for certain breeds.1

On this page… we’ll share The Dog Food Advisor’s safest and most recommended puppy foods… and we’ll answer the 5 most frequently asked questions we get about feeding puppies.

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The Best Puppy Foods
April 2020

Here are The Advisor’s top 10 best puppy foods for April 2020.



Wellness Complete Health

Wellness Complete Health Puppy Food

Rating:

Complete Health Puppy is one of 14 dry recipes included in our review of the Wellness Complete Health product line.

  • First 5 ingredients: Deboned chicken, chicken meal, oatmeal, ground barley, peas
  • Type: Grain-inclusive (oatmeal, ground barley)
  • Design: Growth
  • Best for: All puppies including large breeds
  • Price: $$

Wellness Puppy gets the bulk of its animal protein from fresh chicken and chicken meal. Our dry matter label analysis reveals the recipe contains 32% protein, 20% fat and 40% estimated carbs… which produces a fat-to-protein ratio of about 62%.

An exceptional formula. Contains just the right amount of calcium to make it safe for all puppy breeds. Highly recommended.

Sample buyer review… “I was looking for a new puppy food for my newest french bulldog litter and after much consideration, decided to give this food a try. The pups love it and they have nice shiny coats, tons of energy and stools are solid and minimal. Very pleased with the results and will continue to use and recommend this food to my customers.”

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Blue Buffalo Life Protection Dog Food

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Puppy

Rating:

Life Protection Chicken and Brown Rice Puppy is one of 23 dry recipes… including 4 puppy formulas… detailed in our review of the Blue Buffalo Life Protection product line.

  • First 5 ingredients: Deboned chicken, chicken meal, brown rice, oatmeal, barley
  • Type: Grain-inclusive (brown rice, oatmeal, barley)
  • Design: Growth
  • Best for: All puppies including large breeds
  • Price: $

This Blue Buffalo puppy product derives the majority of its meat protein from fresh chicken and chicken meal. Our dry matter label analysis reveals the recipe contains 30% protein, 18% fat and 44% estimated carbs… creating a fat-to-protein ratio of about 59%.

Blue Life Protection offers 4 puppy recipes… all balanced formulas we find easy to recommend.

Sample buyer review… “When we adopted our puppy from the shelter, she was a stray and we didn’t even know where to begin when it came to dog food. There were so many options that it was a flurry to make a decision. After reading reviews and getting recommendations from friends, we landed on Blue Buffalo. Our pup has loved it since day 1 and never had any problems. 100% recommend for new dog owners!”

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Nutro Wholesome Essentials Chicken

Nutro Wholesome Essentials Puppy Food

Rating:

Wholesome Essentials Puppy is one of 23 dry recipes that can be found in our review of the Nutro Wholesome Essentials product line.

  • First 5 ingredients: Chicken, whole brown rice, chicken meal, split peas, chicken fat
  • Type: Grain-inclusive (brown rice, barley, brewers rice, rice bran)
  • Design: Growth
  • Best for: Small and medium breed puppies
  • Price: $$

This Nutro puppy kibble gets nearly all its animal protein from fresh chicken. Our dry matter label analysis reveals the recipe contains 30% protein, 18% fat and 44% estimated carbs… resulting in a fat-to-protein ratio of about 59%.

Nutro Wholesome Essentials offers 5 different puppy foods, each optimized for a specific breed size. A budget-friendly product from one of the most trusted brands in the industry. Highly recommended.

Sample buyer review… “Our new puppy, a Boston Terrier, loves this food. She has no digestive problems and her coat is shiny and eyes are bright. I love the fact that it is all natural and it saves me the time from making her food from scratch!”

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Victor Purpose Nutra Pro

Victor Purpose Nutra Pro Dog and Puppy

Rating:

Nutra Pro is one of 6 dry recipes included in our review of the Victor Purpose product line.

  • First 5 ingredients: Chicken meal, blood meal, whole grain millet, chicken fat, yeast culture
  • Type: Grain-inclusive (millet, sorghum)
  • Design: All life stages
  • Best for: All puppies including large breeds
  • Price: $

Victor Purpose Nutra Pro gets the largest portion of its animal protein from chicken meal. Our dry matter label analysis reveals the recipe contains 42% protein, 20% fat and 31% estimated carbs… which produces a fat-to-protein ratio of about 47%.

An economical grain-inclusive option… ideal for those feeding either (or both) puppies and adults in the same home. Highly recommended.

Sample buyer review… “We have been die hard Taste if the Wild purchasers, but when we got our new Rottweiler puppy the Breeder was feeding Victor. We did transition him to taste of the wild but Instantly saw a huge difference in his coat! So after looking with fingers crossed to see if chewy had it we ordered without hesitation!!!! It’s hands down the BEST dog food! And I have to say the price is AMAZING!!!! I will continue to purchase this dog food as long as I have dogs! Never going back to any other brand! You can really see the quality of the food! And one of our dogs is extremely picky and he LOVES this food! And I definitely see a decrease in dog poop! Hallelujah!!!!!!”

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Iams ProActive Health Smart Puppy Recipe

Iams ProActive Health Smart Puppy

Rating:

Iams Smart Puppy is one of 15 dry recipes included in our review of the Iams ProActive Health product line.

  • First 5 ingredients: Chicken, ground whole grain corn, chicken by-product meal, ground whole grain sorghum, dried beet pulp
  • Type: Grain-inclusive (whole grain corn, sorghum)
  • Design: Growth
  • Best for: Small and medium breed puppies
  • Price: $

Iams ProActive Health Smart Puppy takes the dominant share of its meat protein from chicken. Our dry matter label analysis reveals the recipe contains 32% protein, 19% fat and 40% estimated carbs… resulting in a fat-to-protein ratio of about 60%.

A classic, grain-inclusive puppy option containing fish oil to help create a healthy coat and build strong joints. It’s easy on the wallet, too. Highly recommended.

Sample buyer review… “My Basenji puppy, Whisper, has been eating Smart Puppy since she was weaned. She is doing great. Her coat has a good color and is in good weight. She is bright, alert, happy and runs with the big dogs. I started Whisper’s sire on Smart Puppy because he is a picky eater and only eats small amounts. He has put on weight and his coat is spectacular! I recommend it to all my puppy buyers.”

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Hills Science Diet Dog Food Chicken Recipe

Hill’s Science Diet Puppy Food

Rating:

Science Diet Chicken Meal and Barley is one of 5 dry puppy recipes detailed in our review of the Hill’s Science Diet Puppy product line.

  • First 5 ingredients: Chicken meal, whole grain wheat, cracked pearled barley, whole grain sorghum, whole grain corn
  • Type: Grain-inclusive (wheat, barley, sorghum, corn, corn meal)
  • Design: Growth
  • Best for: Small and medium breed puppies
  • Price: $

This Science Diet Puppy formula sources nearly all its animal protein from chicken meal. Our dry matter label analysis reveals the recipe contains 30% protein, 19% fat and 43% estimated carbs… which yields a fat-to-protein ratio of about 64%.

Hill’s Puppy is a classic growth formula recommended by both breeders and veterinary professionals alike… and its calcium content is safe for all puppy breeds. Highly recommended.

Sample buyer review… “We recently had an 8 week old Australian Shepherd join our family and she loves this food! Our 6 year old lab has been on science diet since a pup and we get so many compliments on how shiny his coat is and how healthy he looks! Would recommend this food to anyone!”

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Merrick Grain Free Puppy Plate

Merrick Grain-Free Puppy Plate

Rating:

Puppy Plate is one of 11 wet recipes included in our review of the Merrick Classic canned product line.

  • First 5 ingredients: Deboned chicken, chicken broth, duck, sweet potatoes, carrots
  • Type: Grain-free
  • Design: All life stages
  • Best for: All puppies including large breeds
  • Price: $$

This Merrick formula derives the bulk of its meat protein from fresh chicken. Our dry matter label analysis reveals the recipe contains 53% protein, 26% fat and 13% estimated carbs… creating a fat-to-protein ratio of about 50%.

This Merrick puppy recipe makes a great wet alternative to a dry diet… and it makes a flavorful “topper” to help enhance the taste of almost any kibble. Highly recommended.

Sample buyer review… “This puppy food is a hit in our home! It’s got good texture and is easily mixed in as a topper. It has a pleasant smell (for canned dog food) and you can see chunks of veggies throughout. The puppies are eager for meal times and clean their bowls. 5 stars!”

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Go Carnivore Dog Food

Go Carnivore Puppy Chicken, Turkey and Duck

Rating:

Go! Carnivore Puppy is one of 5 dry recipes included in our review of the Go! Carnivore product line.

  • First 5 ingredients: Chicken meal, turkey meal, salmon meal, de-boned chicken, de-boned turkey
  • Type: Grain-free
  • Design: Growth
  • Best for: Small and medium breed puppies
  • Price: $$$

Carnivore Puppy derives most all its animal protein from poultry meal, salmon meal and fresh, de-boned poultry. Our dry matter label analysis reveals the recipe contains 40% protein, 20% fat and 32% estimated carbs… producing a fat-to-protein ratio of about 50%.

An exceptional canine growth formula. And unlike other brands, Go! Carnivore contains no genetically modified cereal grains. Highly recommended.

Sample buyer review… “Before I buy a dogfood I make thorough research on the company, the ingredients that go inside the bag. If I don’t like what I read, I don’t buy it. I have probably among the pickiest eaters in the planet. I recently switched to this since I could not find Acana Sport and Agility where I live. They love this flavor. I bought as well Acana Pacifica and Orijen Six Fish. I guess my puppies don’t like the taste of fish as much as chicken and turkey. I noticed as well a vast improvement in the consistency of their stools, after only a few days. My Lab had a bad diarrhea with Acana Pacifica and I don’t know why. My other dogs tolerated it well. I mix this with a topping of wet food and they eat it with a lot of enthusiasm. I highly recommend this food if you are looking for shinier coat and less shedding. It contains a lot of Pre and pro biotics to help in digestion. That probably explains why the stools are more consistent.”

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Orijen Puppy

Orijen Puppy

Rating:

Orijen Puppy is one of 8 dry recipes included in our review of the Orijen product line.

  • First 5 ingredients: Deboned chicken, deboned turkey, Atlantic flounder, cage-free eggs, whole Atlantic mackerel
  • Type: Grain-free
  • Design: All life stages
  • Best for: All puppies including large breeds
  • Price: $$$

This Orijen formula takes the dominant part of its animal protein from fresh chicken, turkey and fish. Our dry matter label analysis reveals the recipe contains 43% protein, 23% fat and 26% estimated carbs… resulting in a fat-to-protein ratio of about 53%.

Orijen is a 5-star, all life stages recipe brimming with animal protein. A superior option for your growing puppy. Highly recommended.

Sample buyer review… “After weaning off “junk food” breeder was using until finally feeding them 100% this new food, puppies had no more loose stools. Pups liked the taste immediately, made it easy to wean. Very happy and I feel the ingredients are the best of all of the products compared. Pricey, but not that much higher than other lower quality kibble, totally worth it. I have bought 3 times now, gonna look for bigger bag!”

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Chicken Soup for the Soul Classic Dog Food

Chicken Soup for the Soul Puppy Food

Rating:

Chicken Soup Puppy is one of 7 dry recipes included in our review of the Chicken Soup for the Soul product line.

  • First 5 ingredients: Chicken, turkey, chicken meal, turkey meal, cracked pearled barley
  • Type: Grain-inclusive (barley, brown rice, oatmeal, millet)
  • Design: All life stages
  • Best for: Small and medium breed puppies
  • Price: $

Chicken Soup for the Soul Puppy gets the majority of its meat protein from fresh poultry and poultry meal. Our dry matter label analysis reveals the recipe contains 33% protein, 20% fat and 39% estimated carbs… resulting in a fat-to-protein ratio of about 60%.

This product makes an exceptional choice for both small and medium puppies. Highly recommended.

Sample buyer review… “My puppy was constantly having soft and loose stools no matter what food we tried. Switched her to chicken soup for the soul puppy food and it fixed her digestive issues within a few days. She’s now very regular with perfect consistency. She also loves the food and gobbles it down! I will continue with this brand for the long haul!”

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More Top Picks

To view more top puppy foods grouped by category… click the link below that best meets your feeding needs.



When and how often should I feed my puppy?

Once you’ve decided how much food your puppy needs each day…

Simply divide that amount into 3 to 4 equal servings. Then, feed those smaller meals to your puppy at regular intervals… throughout the day.

This short video explains how to create the best feeding schedule for your puppy.


How much food should I feed my puppy?

Deciding how much to feed your puppy is a processnot a one-time choice.

Since a larger breed puppy requires more food each day than a smaller breed…

And because every brand of dog food contains a different number of calories per cup…

Start with the recommended feeding amount printed on the food’s package. Then, adjust that amount… up or down… to keep your dog at her ideal weight.

Recommended Feeding Amount on Package


Which breeds are at greatest risk for hip dysplasia?

Even though hip dysplasia can sometimes afflict smaller dogs…

The condition is far more common in larger breeds.2

Which is why it’s SO important to choose a food that contains a safe amount of calcium… if you’re feeding a large breed puppy.


How do I know if my puppy is a large breed?

The pet food industry3 defines a large breed puppy as one whose adult weight is expected to be over 70 pounds.

However…

Since it’s impossible to know your puppy’s adult weight before she’s fully grown

It’s safer to use a more conservative 50 pound definition advocated by others.4 5 6 7 8

So…

If you expect your dog to weigh over 50 pounds when she’s fully grown… then she’s considered a large breed puppy.


When should I switch my puppy to adult food?

It’s critical not to switch your puppy to adult food too soon.

That’s because adult dog food can contain too much calcium… which can make it unsafe for a growing puppy.

Truth is…

The best time to switch your puppy to adult food depends on your puppy’s breed type. The following table can help you determine when it’s safe to switch your puppy to adult food.9 10

Breed TypeAdult WtSwitch
Small breedUnder 20 lbs9 – 12 months
Med breed20 – 50 lbs12 – 14 months
Large breed50 – 100 lbs12 – 18 months
Giant breedOver 100 lbs18 – 24 months

If you’re not sure…

It’s always safer to keep your dog on puppy food too long… than it is to switch to adult food too soon.


A Final Word

The Dog Food Advisor is privately owned and is not affiliated (in any way) with pet food manufacturers. We do not accept money, gifts, samples or other incentives in exchange for special consideration in preparing our reviews.

However, we do receive a referral fee from online retailers (like Chewy or Amazon) when readers click over to their website from ours. This policy helps support the operation of our blog and keeps access to all our content free to the public.

For more information, please visit our Disclaimer and Disclosure page.

Important FDA Alert

The FDA is investigating a potential link between diet and heart disease in dogs. Click here for details.

References

  1. Richardson DC, The Role of Nutrition in Canine Hip Dysplasia, Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract, 1992 May;22(3):529-40.
  2. Bartolome N et al, A Genetic Predictive Model for Canine Hip Dysplasia: Integration of Genome Wide Association Study (GWAS) and Candidate Gene Approaches, Journal of the Public Library of Science, PLOS One, April 2015, p.2
  3. Association of American Feed Control Officials
  4. Lauten SD, Nutritional Risks to Large Breed Dogs: From Weaning to the Geriatric Years, Vet Clin Small Anim 36 (2006) 1345.
  5. IAMS, “How to Transition Your Puppy to Adult Food
  6. Purina, “When to Switch from Puppy Food to Adult Dog Food
  7. Royal Canin, 56-pound definition for large breed adult dogs
  8. Yuill C, DVM, MSc, CVH, “Nutrition: General Feeding Guidelines for Dogs“, VCA Hospitals (November 2011)
  9. Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition (1999), Canine Life Stages and Lifestyles, The Waltham Course on Dog and Cat Nutrition, p. 4
  10. IAMS: Is Your Puppy Ready for Adult Dog Food?