So! The day has finally come and you’ve brought home an adorable little ball of fluff to call your own. Your very own Fido. Your little Lassie. Old Yeller has finally come home to you, only he’s younger, smaller, and eager to set out on many adventures with you.
But before ya’ll go running off on your many explorations of the world around you, you’re going to want to fuel up first. You don’t want your tiny pooch to run out on an empty tank and crash before making it around the block! Sure, you can cram down a hamburger or maybe microwave a burrito, but what’s best for the lil’ fluffer ball?
For a first time doggy parent, choosing the right puppy food for your little ball of love can be a daunting and bewildering task. What are the pros and cons of wet food versus dry food? How long should my puppy stay on puppy food before switching over to adult food?
Did you actually think any of these? I sure hope you did. As thinking of these things beforehand is a sign of a good doggy parent (don’t worry if you didn’t, I’m here to help you regardless!) Here are some couple factors to keep in mind when food shopping.
The very first step is to understand how to read an ingredients list. Rather than the chart format that we’re used to seeing on our foods, dog food nutritional information is presented in a list format, with the heaviest ingredient(by weight) listed first. With most foods, the very first ingredient will be the protein source.
The most common sources of protein found in dog food are:
Beef Chicken Turkey Egg Lamb
Now, if you closely read the ingredient list, you’ll notice that sometimes instead of just chicken, it says chicken meal or chicken byproduct. What is meal or byproduct you ask? Well sit back and let me serve you up a big ol’ meal of knowledge, don’t let this byproduct of poor puns confuse you!
Meat meal is pretty much a combination of the meat from the animal, as well as it’s cleaned skin, muscles, and bones. You’re pretty much taking all of the animals and grinding it up for consumption, with the exceptions being the intestines and other entrails.
Byproduct, on the other hand, while similar to meat meal, is more inclusive with the addition of head, feet, and cleaned entrails of the animal.
I get that neither meal nor byproduct sound appealing to us as people, but don’t forget that your little rascal hound is a descendant of the great apex predator the wolf, and will find delicious delight in consuming parts of the animals we would rather pass off.
Dog Food Selection Criteria
You’re here to get some recommendations on dog food! Right?? Sure I can just give you dry top 5 list and you can eagerly hit up amazon.com and try to buy some goodies for your pup yeah? But that’s too simple minded, and I respect ya’ll too much do to that. Let me tell you what it is that I look for in these dog foods, and why I look at them when I make my selections.
Before I select any dog food for my list, I make sure to look into the following criteria
- Nutritional Content
- Mineral Content
- Taste and Texture
A bit earlier, I gave you a quick lesson on what to look for in a dog food label, and how to read its ingredient list to check its quality. I wouldn’t ask of you to do something I wouldn’t do, but lucky for you, I’ll do it for you, and more in depth!
When reviewing a dog food’s nutritional content, I look for a healthy blend of macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Protein in dog food usually is an animal based meat source, carbohydrates can be provided by high-quality cereal grains, and fats come from either the fat content of the animal meat, fish oils, or fats simply added by the manufacturer.
Lets get into the role each of them play in the health of your pup.
- Protein provides your puppy with the essential and non-essential amino acids
- Amino acids are the building blocks of their body, as well as their immune system
- The amount and variety of amino acids varies between each protein source, for good and for bad
- Your puppy will require the highest amount of protein during his younger days and will require less when he reaches adulthood
- As we all learned in high school, carbohydrates are sugars the fuel the body, and it does just that for your puppy
- Dogs can eat and break down both simple and complex carbohydrates into glucose molecules, which can be stored in the body to be used as fuel for whatever shenanigans you two get up to.
- Given the unique structure of carbohydrates, they serve a dual purpose of providing the shape and texture of your pup’s kibble.
- Fats have a big role in 3 different aspects of your puppy’s health: they provide and store energy, they are essential for development and function of all body cells, and they help keep hormone at steady healthy levels
- Some of the fat can come from the meat source, such as beef fat or chicken fat
- Other sources of fat are fish oils, flaxseed oils, and even some vegetable oils.
Once we have the proteins, carbohydrates, and fats covered, the next detail to focus on are the minerals. Minerals are small trace elements that are found in your puppy’s food that play essential roles such as co-vitamins, co-enzymes, and co-factors. All of which are important in a healthy growing pup.
Minerals in your pup’s food are provided by fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and even the meat. You may also notice that your pup’s food label lists off numerous frightening chemically sounding ingredients. Do not be alarmed! Many of the minerals can’t be provided in its raw form, so many times a manufacturer will have to provide them in an alternate state/source, which will result in the scary big science words.
To go a little deeper into your understanding of minerals, it’s important to know that minerals can be broken down into 2 subgroups:
Macrominerals | Trace Minerals
Macrominerals are, as the name implies, larger than trace minerals, and are also required in larger amounts in your pup’s body. The most common macrominerals are:
Calcium | Sulfur | Chloride | Phosphorus | Sodium
Trace minerals are minerals that your pup also requires, but are smaller and needed in smaller amounts. The most common trace minerals are:
Zinc | Iron | Copper | Selenium | Fluorine
Taste and Texture
Now the fun part! How does little puppy’s food taste to him? Is it too crunchy? Maybe it’s too soft? Maybe he prefers something with a kick?
As dedicated as I am to providing you with the most insightful list of dog food, I cannot, for the sake of myself, bring myself to actually eat and taste it myself. We’ll just rely on the observations made by other dog owners and their little pups.
The first criteria your pup will probably determine with his food is its palatability. Palatability is used to describe the overall taste, texture, and smell of the food. Unlike us people, who can choke down a bland salad in the name of our health, our pups are much more likely to push aside a bland salad than eat it.
Palatability is used by the pup to see if he likes the food enough to eat it. Most importantly, the smell of the food is the first trait that will decide if the pup even approaches the food. Animal scientists who study and determine their food’s palatability uses 2 measurements:
- First Bite Preference
- 2 bowls of different food are placed in front of the dog doing the testing
- Whichever bowl he goes to eat from first gets noted by the researchers
- Total Volume Measurement
- The amount of food given out for the study is measured before the study
- Once the dog has made their choice and the study ends, the food is reweighed
- The change in the amount of food in the bowls yield the total volume measurement
Dry Food vs Wet Food
I know that now, you are currently over flowing with information and facts about puppy food. You just can’t wait to finally be able to share with Fido his first meal with you as your new best friend. But there still lies one final predicament: which do you choose, wet food or dry food?
Pros and Cons of Dry Food
- Better on dental health
- More economical to buy in bulk
- Can b e left out longer
- Less palatable
- Will have to provide more water
- Lower levels of animal meat protein
Pros and Cons of Wet Food
- Much more appealing
- Has less dry matter content
- Less preservatives
- Longer shelf life
- Higher sodium content
- Can lead to higher dental disease
It is worthy to note that the wet food versus dry food is not a winner takes all sort of competition. You don’t have to pick sides on this, rather you can alternate between them as your see fit. As you can see in the comparisons above, both of them have their merits and their drawbacks. Whether or not one is better than the other is really situational.
Let me tell you what I mean by that. Dry food, given it’s easy storage and bulk buying being more practical, can be given as the normal day to day food. It’s cheaper to buy, once you open the bag there’s no rush to finish it off before it goes bad, and it’s easy and convenient to scoop out into your pup’s bowl.
Wet food on the other hand, can be used as a special treat of as a more appealing option when your pup feels under the weather. Given that wet food is more palatable, you can offer it to your pup when he’s sick and doesn’t find his usual dry kibble appealing. Not only does this offer him a special treat to perk up his mood, it also provides the water and nutrients he needs to feel better!
Top 5 Dry Dog Foods
Without further ado, let’s get into it. Here are the top 5 recommended puppy food you can share with your new adventure buddy.
|Food Brand||Breed Specific||Age Specific||Price|
|Blue Buffalo Wilderness||No||Yes||$$$|
|Purina Pro Plan||No||Yes||$$|
|Taste of the Wild||No||Yes||$$$$|
Blue Buffalo Wilderness is a high quality dry puppy food that you can give your puppy regardless of breed, age, or size. You can pick from wide variety of foods that can meet whatever needs you and your little booplesnoodle may come across. Here’s the most common and popular of those varieties!
The most popular with the blue buffalo wilderness is the Life Protection Formula, which varies based on the size of the breed of your puppy. All varieties are made with high quality chicken meat, with little to no fillers. It also includes whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, which provides a nice blend of vitamins and nutrients. They also have no use of artificial flavors or coloring, corn, wheat, or soy fillers.
Blue Buffalo can be given to your puppy from the time they’re able to eat solid foods up until they are a year of age. The only thing to remember is the increase the amount you feed!
- Lean chicken meats with no chicken byproduct help promote healthy growth of lean and strong muscle tissue
Skin and Coat Care
- Has a healthy balance of essential fatty acids and omega fatty acids that help in maintaining a healthy and beautiful coat.
- Includes a properly balanced addition of calcium, phosphorus, and essential vitamins to help develop strong and athletic bones.
- Important fatty acids, vitamins, choline, DHA, and ARA similar to those found in their mother’s milk ensure proper mental and cognitive development.
Purina Pro Plan is another great brand of food that you can choose to give to your walking foot rest. Pro Plan tends to be a little cheaper than Blue Buffalo, but that doesn’t mean it lacks in quality! One of the benefits of the Pro Plan is that it comes in smaller sizes, so if you’ve got a picky eater on your hands, you don’t have to worry about wasting money on those giant bags of food with other brands.
Purina pro plan puppy focus is unique in that it’s first ingredient is high quality lamb meat, for those with beef or chicken allergies. Given that most puppy foods rely on beef or chicken as it’s primary protein source, the use of lamb meat makes Purina the Mary’s lamb of puppy foods (Mary’s lamb! Get it??).
It also includes healthy additions of rice and whole grains, does not use artificial flavors or coloring, and more importantly, is specifically formatted to suit your pup’s need based on size! It can keep your little pup well fed and energized until he’s a proud 8 months of age, when he’ll probably have to switch over to a different variety of food.
Brain and Vision Development
- Includes high amounts of DHA
- Omega rich fatty acids added via fish oil and and fish meal
Immune System Development
- Rich in antioxidants
- Supplemental vitamins are also included
Teeth and Bone Development
- Pro plan also has high amounts of calcium and phosphorous
- Other minerals include: magnesium, copper sulfate, and manganese sulfate
Healthy Coat Development
- Vitamins and omega fatty acids help in maintaining a sleek and healthy fur coat
- Also includes linoleic acid and both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids
Ah yes, Eukanuba! The food that’s just as fun to say as it is to eat! If your pup could talk. Or if you eat dog food. Whichever floats your boat, I ain’t here to judge. (But if your pup talks, boy are you in for one wild ride!) If neither Blue Buffalo or Purina appeals to your little guy, well then look no further than Eukanuba.
Eukanuba’s largest seller is their Large Breed Puppy Food. Eukanuba utilizes high quality animal proteins as its primary ingredient. They also offer a special fiber addition based on natural beet pulp, which is feature not found in all dog foods. While not too uncommon with other brands, Eukanuba adds beet pulp to their foods as a healthy source of fiber.
Eukanuba is also unique in that their food can be given to your waddling puppy up until they’re 2 years old! They can start off at an adorable 2 cups a day, and finish it off as they age at a whopping 6 cups a day!
Healthy Bone Growth
- Contains specifically calculated amounts of calcium and phosphorus
- Health amounts of protein and fat also included
- Glucosamine and chondroitin added
- Ensures that growing puppies don’t develop any chronic joint issues as they continue to grow!
Dried Beet Pulp
While it’s weird to think of beet in their food, it does have an important role!
- Great source of fiber for you puppy
- Helps avoid the fun of cleaning up watery poo(adds a bit of moisture and bulk to their poo so it’s more solid)
- Keeps their bum nice and healthy
Do you ever look down at your tiny adorable new friend and wonder “how on earth is this little guy even remotely related to the fearsome and daring wolf of the wild?” Well wonder no more. If you want to see the wild side of him come out, Taste of the Wild is the food for you! (Disclaimer: I’m not saying that feeding your puppy this will literally make him wild. That would be cray cray). But, do feel free to go wild on adventures with him after feeding him this! Fuel for days.
Taste of the Wild offer their Pacific Stream Puppy Formula which has a unique blend of dried chicory root and probiotics that ensure proper and healthy digestion and absorption. It is based on a grain free formula that provides energy for your puppy. Taste of the Wild is specifically formulated with an optimal amino acid profile which is free of grain, corn, and soy. Your daring little pup can enjoy this brand until he(or she) gets up to a year in age.
- A super food is any ingredient that is particularly nutrient dense and provides great benefit in health and overall wellbeing
- Some super foods included in this formula are salmon and sweet potatoes
- Excellent source of omega fatty acids and complex carbohydrates
- Weird sounding root, but highly beneficial for your puppy!
- Very high amounts of a starch like substance called inulin
- Usually found in bananas, asparagus, and leeks
- Serves as both a probiotic AND a soluble dietary fiber
I know that the saying is “dog is a man’s best friend” but lets be honest, we love them little dudes, and sometimes, we just want to treat them like Kings! Get it? Treat them like Kings? Royal Canin? Royalty, King? HA. Anyways, here’s final brand of food I recommended for your Loyal pet. (That one’s a pun! Loyal kind of sounds like Royal, no?) Royal Canin is unique in that it pushes breed specific foods, more so than the other brands listed on this article.
Royal Canin offers up their Labrador Retriever Puppy Dry Dog Food as their flagship food. Their food is formulated with a specifically shaped kibble that aids in digestion and proper nutrient absorption. I know that doesn’t sound too exciting, but hear me out. Given that this is specifically for Labradors, notorious for their overly eager super fast eating, the kibble is donut shaped to ensure it’s eaten at a slower and safer pace. Who would have thought that the shape of the food could make such a difference? Eh?
As with other foods mentioned in this list, Royal Canin Includes chicken, beet pulp, fish oil, as well as vegetable oil as its main ingredients which supports healthy growth and weight gain. Royal Canin can be given a little longer than the other foods, as it can feed puppies up to 14 months of age.
- While puppies to get a natural defense boost from their mother’s milk, the benefits of the colostrum is shortly lived
- Royal Canin provides a complete complex of a variety of antioxidants to keep your little King fully protected
- Includes vitamin E, vitamin C, luetin, as well as taurine, some of the essential amino acids.
- While that sounds mechanical and terrifying, chelated simply means healthy minerals that have been attached to other ingredients in the food, mostly protein
- This process makes it easier to be digested, therefore absorbed
- Very commonly found in high quality dog foods
Top 5 Wet Dog Foods
If you have decided that your pup deserves to have a nice moist delicious treat for his every meal, then this list of wet dog food is for you! Now, these may be slightly more costly than their dry counterparts, but they will be just as loved by your pup as any other.
|Food Brand||Breed Specific||Age Specific||Price|
Royal Canin’s canned puppy food is higher in energy content than their dry dog food counterpart! It may seen counter intuitive, but puppies actually require more energy dense foods than adults dogs. Can you guess why?? (I’ll give you a second) It’s because they’re growing! A growing and excitable pup needs all the energy he can get.
This wet food is carefully formulated to provided excellent energy levels that promote healthy growth and development in puppies. The main meat product used is chicken, but they also use pork by products as well, giving your pup a variety in meat options. Dried beet pulp is included in order to provide a healthy source of fiber. This helps keep your pups poo nice and healthy!
Royal Canin can be given to your pup until they reach around 10 months of age. Then you can switch over to their adult canned food.
Immune System Support
- Royal Canin has added vitamin C, and vitamin E
- Lutein and Tuarine are also added to help develop a healthy immune system
Digestive Tract Support
- As mentioned earlier, beet pulp is also included in the diet
- Fish oil and omega fatty acids
- Highly digestible proteins from both chicken and pork
- All work together to develop a well functioning GI system.
As an American who bleeds red, white, and blue, I am duty bound to mention the Eagle Pack Lamb Formula up for your consideration! I realize that the baldeagle is our nation’s animal, but it doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a sense of patriotic smugness from any mentioning of Eagle!
So. The Eagle Pack Lamb Formula is a potential wet food option for you pup. The best part is… it’s for all ages! That’s right! You can feed this to your pup and keep feeding it to him well into adulthood and beyond. Eagle pack uses a carefully formulated wholesome diet that is fortified with vitamins and minerals.
Their formula strives to ensure that your pup gets the proper amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fats for optimal performance. Their main ingredients are lamb and chicken broth, which makes this not only a healthy choice, but also a tasty one for your puppy to enjoy.
- Eagle Pack includes a measured amount of ground flaxseed
- Flaxseed is a plant based protein that helps provide a complete amino acid profile
- It helps promote a healthy coat growth
- Also works to prevent Cushings Disease in dogs!
- Inulin is a repeating chain of carbohydrates, a compound very similar to startch
- Provides a source of soluble fiber for healthy bowel movements
- Promotes the growth of healthy and necessary bacteria in the GI tract
Nutro Canned puppy food is a wholesome diet that you can give to your pup up until 1 year of age! Easy enough to remember yeah? On his first birthday, just present him with a can of adult nutro canned food! I’m sure he’ll be ecstatic.
Nutro puppy food provides optimal nutrients and energy for growing puppies. Their main ingredients are chicken, oatmeal, and rice. Oatmeal, is sort of the stand out ingredient here, as it is high in protein, soluble fiber, as well as minerals such as iron, zinc, and manganese. They also use no preservatives or any artificial colorings in their food for your pup!
Higher and Varied Protein Content
- Nutro includes chicken, chicken broth, chicken liver, beef liver, oatmeal, and rice protein
- Much higher variety in protein than other dog foods
Healthy Skin and Coat
- Includes healthy amounts of omega fatty acids
- The combination of linoleic acid and zinc promote healthy coat development as well as skin care
- Complex carbohydrate that you pup can use to fuel his adventures
- Despite it being a complex carb, can be easily digested and utilized as energy by your pup
Well imagine that, can you come up with a more perfectly named food for your puppy? I mean, how much more direct can you get?? A little on the nose perhaps, but getting just a little on the nose of your little puppy buddy will probably be more than needed to entice him to tuck into a bowl of this food!
Wellness Just for Puppy is wet food that is delightfully balanced with fruits, vegetables, animal meat, with added minerals and vitamins. They strive to include as much real food as possible, such as deboned chicken and salmon, sweet potatoes, and fruits such as apples and pears. This blend of vegetables and fruits in their formulation provide an excellent variety of antioxidants.
- Wellness only uses hormone free and steroid free meats
- Rather than depending heavily on byproducts, most of the animal protein is deboned fish or chicken
Human Grade Ingredients
- Wellness uses highest quality ingredients that rivals that of human consumption
- No GMOS
- No meat by products
- No artificial flavors
- No preservatives
The last of the wet puppy food I can recommend to you is naturally the best. It’s an all natural nature based naturally produced natural food! (Ask me to say “natural” one more time!) I kid. Just wanted to have some more word play fun, haha.
Natural Balance Puppy Food is formulated with high quality proteins and premium sources of carbohydrates. It provides a wholesome variety of meats, grains, and vegetables.
It gets its premium carbohydrates from healthy sources such as brown rice, potatoes, and even oat brans. Much like with Eagle Pack, Natural Balance can be given to your pup even when he’s a full grown dog!
- This is a truly stand out on my list, as it’s the only one on here that offers up food that is not meat based for its protein source
- It aligns with vegan restrictions, as this food is completely meat and dairy free
- Still provides premium energy sources and healthy fatty acids
Additional Tip – Grain Free Diets
One of the rising trends in our dog food diets is the recent start of grain free food, most likely due to the increase of people going gluten free in their own diets as well. Now the jury is currently out on whether or not dogs should be grain free, there are compelling arguments on both sides, and I’ll try and keep things simple for the sake of this list.
Dogs Should Not Eat Grains
So to get this ball rolling, let me present you with the arguments made against grains in our puppy’s foods
- Dogs are primarily carnivores, therefore grains are unnatural to their diet
- Grains causes allergic reactions in dogs
- Given that dogs are predators, carbohydrates(very dense in grains) is not part of their diet
- If dogs consume grains on a regular basis, they’ll be susceptible to excess weight gain
- This can lead to a increase risk of developing diabetes and other weight related diseases
Dogs Should Totally Eat Grains
You’ll find that there are a lot more arguments for this side of the debate, as it seems there are more reasons to include grains in your pups diet. BUT. Do not be swayed on that alone! Take the time to read both sides of the debate and decide for yourself(and after discussing with your veterinarian) what is best for your puppy. Be open minded, but approach scientifically.
- Grains don’t directly causes allergies, but some dogs do have allergies only to specific grains, and to them only.
- Given that dogs were domesticated about 15,000 years ago, their diet have evolved with them, therefore incorporates grains as well.
- The belief that grains causes weight gain in dogs is a myth that is carried over from people who follow the Atkins diet.
- The atkins diet is low carb diet that gained popularity in the early 2000s as a dietary change to lose weight.
I sincerely hope I haven’t made you more confused, rather more informed, but either way, here’s the list of the top 3 grain free diets you can select for your puppy!
Top 3 Grain Free Dog Foods
|Food Brand||Breed Specific||Age Specific||Price|
|Taste of the Wild||No||Yes||$$$|
Taste of the Wild uses a wide variety of animal meats for their protein sources, more varied than many of the other dog food formulas, and includes the following: beef, fish, lamb, boar, salmon, duck, venison, turkey, and even quail. So if you have a picky eater on your hands that would rather enjoy a delicious duck over a beefy hamburger, this is the grain free food for you!
Now although they are a grain free food, they do still have carbohydrates in their food. They accomplish this by including carb sources such as potatoes, peas, and sweet potatoes. As with other dog foods though, they also use more familiar ingredients such as chicory root and canola oil.
Ocean Fish Meal
- Unlike other dog foods that depend heavily on terrestrial animals for their meat(beef, chicken, etc), Taste of the Wild uses a blend of a variety of ocean fish instead
- The fish meal comprises of fish that were caught all over the world at different times, then blended together
- Great source of omega-3 fatty acids
Sensitive Stomach Friendly
- Use of salmon and sweet potatoes make it less likely to upset those pups with sensitive stomachs
- The ingredients are clean and of good quality
- Has a moderate protein and carbohydrate percentage
Nature’s Grain Free is probably one of the highest quality grain free foods out there available for you. It’s macronutrient profile is almost split equally in a 1/3 ratio between proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Nature’s Select Grain free is pretty much a mathematical perfection! (just kidding. I don’t do math. Math is for nerd)
Before you get alarmed, let me say that just because the first ingredient is chicken meal doesn’t mean that it’s a lower quality product! As I’ve said, this is one of the highest quality foods out there. But it does also use peas and sweet potatoes as its carb source, much like the Taste of the Wild food.
- A great source of protein and B-vitamins
- Assists in healthy digestion of food
- Also serves a dual purpose as a probiotic
Alfalfa Nutrient Content
- Derived from alfalfa, it is a mineral rich extract
- Also, contains high amounts of healthy vitamins
- A safe anti-cancer supplement
I ain’t one to fall for celebrity endorsements, and this is no exception! I’m sure you’ve heard of the angelic Rachel Ray and her talent for cooking up delicious and healthy food on shows that your mom probably watches. But did you know she also had her own line of pet food?
Rachel’s grain free dog food is heavily based on poultry and potatoes. When I say poultry, she uses both chicken and turkey, as well as poultry fat for its protein sources. She also sticks to the norm and uses potatoes for her carbohydrate source, and includes other healthy ingredients such a beet pulp and dried peas.
Turkey and Chicken Meal
- Has about 300% more healthy protein than chicken or turkey alone
- Extremely high in healthy linoleic acid
- Also provides nutritious amounts of omega-6 fatty acids
Can’t believe this article was over 5,000 words! This was one heck of an in depth comparison for different dog foods. I hope this really helped everyone select the best brand for the long term. If you enjoyed this article, please share it with your friends via social media and don’t forget to subscribe to our dogs owner only newsletter!