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 a food that contains too much calcium… can significantly increase your puppy’s RISK of developing hip dysplasia.1

And other crippling bone diseases… especially for certain breeds.

On this page… we’ll share The Dog Food Advisor’s top 10 best puppy foods… and we’ll also answer the 6 most frequently asked questions we get about feeding puppies.

So, let’s get started…

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Top 10 Best Puppy Foods
November 2019

Here are The Dog Food Advisor’s top 10 best puppy foods for November 2019.



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 that contains an amount of calcium that’s safe for all puppy breeds. Highly recommended.

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Blue Buffalo Life Protection Dog Food

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Puppy Chicken and Brown Rice

Rating:

Life Protection 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 budget-friendly puppy recipes… all balanced formulas we find easy to recommend.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Hills Science Diet Dog Food Chicken Recipe

Hill’s Science Diet Chicken Meal and Barley Puppy Food

Rating:

Science Diet Puppy is one of 5 dry recipes included 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. Available in 5 different puppy recipes. Highly recommended.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


How often should I feed my puppy?

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

Simply divide that total daily amount into 3 to 4 smaller servings.

Then… feed those smaller portions to your puppy at regular intervals throughout the day.

Tip: Feed your puppy whenever YOU eat… at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

And don’t forget to feed your puppy early in the evening. That way, she’ll have plenty of time to digest her food before bedtime. And you’ll also cut down on nighttime accidents, too.


Which puppy types are at greatest risk for hip dysplasia?

The answer depends on YOUR puppy’s breed type.

That’s because…

Even though the disease can sometimes afflict smaller dogs… hip dysplasia is far more common in larger breeds.2


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… when she reaches maturity.

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 for large breed dogs 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.

Since smaller breed puppies reach maturity much sooner than larger breeds…

Use the following table to help you determine when it’s safe to switch your puppy to adult food.9 10

Breed TypeAdult WeightAdulthood
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.


What are the best large breed puppy foods?

Feeding a large breed puppy? Be sure to visit our Best Large Breed Puppy Foods page for our most recommended large breed puppy foods.


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?