Best Puppy Food to Buy in 2019 – Top 10

Best Puppy Food

During the growth stage of a puppy’s life the most important thing we can do is feed them a high quality diet.

However, most people are not going to spend hours sorting through the huge selection of puppy foods available.

This is why we have compiled a list for the Top 10 Best Puppy Food 2018.

Below, we have analyzed the best puppy foods along with ingredient breakdowns. We have also included a puppy food buyers guide.

Best Puppy Food 2018

Our criteria:

  • High meat-based protein content
  • Well-balanced fat content
  • High quality ingredients
  • Minimal or no fillers

Note: All puppies are different. A food that’s the best for one puppy won’t necessarily be the best for another.

1. Orijen Original – The Cadillac of Dog Foods

Orijen has been a leading premium brand in the dog food industry for years. They originate and produce dog food in Alberta, Canada and have recently began producing dog food in Kentucky.  

According to the Orijen website all of their ingredients are fresh and regionally sourced within the United States. They only use ingredients that are GMO-free and sustainably and ethically produced.

Orijen original is fit for “all life stages”. This means you can continue feeding it to your puppy into adulthood without worrying about transitioning dog foods.  

They base their dog food on the idea that it should be “biologically appropriate” and mirror the diet that canines have evolved to eat.

Looking at the ingredients, they speak for themselves.

For most dry dog foods you’re lucky to have animal proteins as the first two or three ingredients. Orijen has high quality animal proteins as the first fifteen ingredients.

It contains high quality low-glycemic carbohydrates such as lentils, whole green peas, chickpeas, whole pumpkin, and butternut squash.

You may also notice that the ingredient list isn’t full of supplements you have to be a chemist to understand. This is because there is only one added supplement – zinc.

The only downside with any dog food of this quality is that you are going to pay a premium price. However, some are willing to pay a higher price in order to feed their puppies a high quality diet during the growth stage of their life.

Protein Content: 38% Fat Content: 18%

Ingredient Analysis

Key: 
Beneficial Ingredient Low-quality Ingredient Neutral Ingredient

  1. Deboned chicken: A good protein source. However, chicken contains about 75% water and much of its weight is lost after cooking.
  2. Deboned turkey: A quality alternative protein source. Good for dogs that tend to have meat allergies. Has less protein than turkey meal due to its moisture content.
  3. Yellowtail flounder: A high quality protein source. An excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. A significant amount of its weight is from water which is lost after cooking.
  4. Whole eggs: Excellent source of protein as well as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
  5. Whole Atlantic mackerel: A high quality protein source. An excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. A significant amount of its weight is from water which is lost after cooking.
  6. Chicken liver: An excellent source of B-vitamins, particularly vitamin B12. Also a great source of vitamin A, selenium, iron, omega-6 fatty acids, and protein.
  7. Turkey liver: Similar to chicken liver but with higher fat and lower protein. An excellent source of B-vitamins, particularly vitamin B12. Also a great source of vitamin A, selenium, iron, omega-6 fatty acids, and protein.
  8. Chicken heart: A great source of protein, vitamin B12, iron, zinc, and omega-6 fatty acids.
  9. Turkey heart: Similar to chicken heart. A great source of protein, vitamin B12, iron, zinc, and omega-6 fatty acids.
  10. Whole Atlantic herring: A quality source of protein, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and omega-3 fatty acids.

The remaining ingredients are lower on the list and have less effect on quality since they make up less of the food.

Full Ingredient List
Deboned chicken, deboned turkey, yellowtail flounder, whole eggs, whole atlantic mackerel, chicken liver, turkey liver, chicken heart, turkey heart, whole atlantic herring, dehydrated chicken, dehydrated turkey, dehydrated mackerel, dehydrated chicken liver, dehydrated turkey liver, whole green peas, whole navy beans, red lentils, chicken necks, chicken kidney, pinto beans, chickpeas, green lentils, lentil fiber, chicken fat, natural chicken flavor, herring oil, ground chicken bone, chicken cartilage, turkey cartilage, dried kelp, freeze-dried chicken liver, freeze-dried turkey liver, whole pumpkin, whole butternut squash, kale, spinach, mustard greens, collard greens, turnip greens, whole carrots, apples, pears, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, zinc proteinate, mixed tocopherols (preservative), chicory root, turmeric, sarsaparilla root, althea root, rosehips, juniper berries, dried lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried bifidobacterium animalis fermentation product, dried lactobacillus casei fermentation product.

Summary: Overall, Orijen is the highest quality dry dog food you can feed your puppy. You won’t find a food containing more high quality animal proteins in one package. This quality comes at a higher price, but you may find it well worth it for the vital first year of your puppy’s life.

Pros

  • Best puppy food money can buy
  • Highest quality animal proteins available
  • Contains only high quality low-glycemic carbohydrates
  • Only one added supplement
  • Mimics a diet puppies would have in nature

Cons

  • Higher priced than less premium brands

2. Nulo Puppy – Highest Quality Mid-priced Puppy Food

There’s a good chance you haven’t heard of Nulo pet food before. This is because it’s a relatively new brand that has only been around for a few years.

They have recently come bursting onto the scene as a premium brand that offers dog foods made from fresh and healthy natural ingredients.

This puppy food formula features 85% animal-based protein with three high quality animal proteins as the first three ingredients: deboned turkey, turkey meal, and salmon meal.

These are complemented by three low-glycemic quality carbohydrate sources: chickpeas, sweet potato, and yellow peas.

The kibble is made with small pieces to better suit the smaller mouths of puppies.

We liked the addition of probiotics and the use of dried chicory root which contains the prebiotic inulin.

This puppy food has a shorter ingredient list than most other dog foods. This means less added supplements, which indicates higher ingredient quality.

One downside of this puppy food is the use of “natural flavor” in the first ten ingredients. Natural flavor is a vague ingredient that is generally considered low quality and can come from a wide range of sources.

Protein Content: 33% Fat Content: 18%

Ingredient Analysis

Key: 
Beneficial Ingredient Low-quality Ingredient Neutral Ingredient

  1. Deboned turkey: A quality alternative protein source. Good for dogs that tend to have meat allergies. Has less protein than turkey meal due to its moisture content.
  2. Turkey meal: Contains significantly more protein than fresh turkey. Considered a meat concentrate since water is removed.
  3. Salmon meal: A concentrated source of protein containing some fatty acids.
  4. Chickpeas: A nutrient powerhouse full of plant-based protein. A good source of  iron, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B-6, and dietary fiber, as long as it’s not cooked out.
  5. Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols & Citric Acid): High in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid. Mixed tocopherols are vitamin E compounds that act as a natural preservatives.
  6. Sweet potato: An easily digestible and low glycemic carbohydrate. They are a great source of vitamin A, dietary fiber, and potassium.
  7. Yellow peas: A healthy low glycemic source of carbohydrates. Also a good source of protein and fiber. Commonly used to replace grains.
  8. Deboned trout: A high quality protein source. An excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. A significant amount of its weight is from water which is lost after cooking.
  9. Pea fiber: A source of dietary fiber. No other nutritional value for dogs.
  10. Natural flavor: A vague ingredient that’s impossible to analyze. According to the FDA, natural flavors are extracts that come from animal or plant sources that have been roasted or heated.

The remaining ingredients are lower on the list and have less effect on quality since they make up less of the food.

Full Ingredient List
Deboned Turkey, Turkey Meal, Salmon Meal, Chickpeas, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols & Citric Acid), Sweet Potato, Yellow Peas, Deboned Trout, Pea Fiber, Natural Flavor, Yeast Culture, Dried Chicory Root, Dried Tomatoes, Dried Carrots, Dried Blueberries, Dried Apples, Salt, Calcium Carbonate, Choline Chloride, Potassium Chloride, Zinc Proteinate, Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), Iron Proteinate, Niacin, Copper Proteinate, Thiamine Mononitrate (source of Vitamin B1), Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Manganous Oxide, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (source of Vitamin B6), Selenium Yeast, Riboflavin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin, Dried Bacillus coagulans Fermentation Product, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Calcium Iodate, Folic Acid, Rosemary Extract.

Summary: Overall, Nulo puppy is a high quality puppy food that features 85% animal-based protein. It contains quality carbohydrate sources along with probiotics and prebiotics for healthy digestion.

Pros

  • First three ingredients are animal proteins
  • High quality low-glycemic carbohydrates
  • Probiotic & prebiotic formula to support healthy gut flora and aid digestion
  • Multiple flavors

Cons

  • Natural flavor (a vague ingredient) is in the first ten ingredients

3. Wellness Core Puppy – Most Popular Puppy Food

Wellness is one of the most well-known brands on the market today. Core is Wellness’ highest quality product line featuring high protein grain-free dog foods.

This puppy food has quality animal proteins as the first three ingredients and boasts a 36% protein content. It’s grain-free and primarily uses peas and potatoes as carbohydrate sources.

It contains fruits and vegetables including: bananas, spinach, broccoli, carrots, parsley, apples, blueberries, kale, and sweet potatoes. However, these are likely in small portions as they are farther down on the ingredient list.

The biggest downside to this puppy food is the use of three different potato ingredients in the first ten ingredients. This likely indicates that a significant portion of the food is made of potatoes.

While potatoes are generally an easily digestible carbohydrate for dogs, they are a higher glycemic food, meaning they cause more of a spike in blood sugar.

Protein Content: 36% Fat Content: 17.5%

Ingredient Analysis

Key: 
Beneficial Ingredient Low-quality Ingredient Neutral Ingredient

  1. Deboned Chicken: A good protein source. However, chicken contains about 75% water and much of its weight is lost after cooking.
  2. Chicken meal: Contains significantly more protein than fresh chicken. Considered a meat concentrate since water is removed.
  3. Turkey meal: Contains significantly more protein than fresh turkey. Considered a meat concentrate since water is removed.
  4. Potatoes: A carbohydrate that mostly supplies energy and has little nutritional value for puppies. Commonly used to replace grains.
  5. Peas: A healthy low glycemic source of carbohydrates. Also a good source of protein and fiber. Commonly used to replace grains.
  6. Potato protein: A source of plant-based protein. Lower quality and less beneficial than animal protein.
  7. Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols): High in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid. Mixed tocopherols are vitamin E compounds that act as a natural preservatives.
  8. Dried ground potatoes: A carbohydrate that mostly supplies energy and has little nutritional for puppies. Commonly used to replace grains. Difficult to determine quality. Presumably more of a by-product than fresh potatoes.
  9. Tomato pomace: The leftover tomato pulp, seeds, and skin after the juicing process. Contains soluble fiber. Due to processing, nutrient quality is up for debate.
  10. Natural chicken flavor: A vague description. Difficult to determine quality.

The remaining ingredients are lower on the list and have less effect on quality since they make up less of the food.

Full Ingredient List
Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Potatoes, Peas, Potato Protein, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Dried Ground Potatoes, Tomato Pomace, Natural Chicken Flavor, Salmon Oil, Ground Flaxseed, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Bananas, Spinach, Vitamin E Supplement, Broccoli, Carrots, Choline Chloride, Parsley, Apples, Blueberries, Kale, Sweet Potatoes, Taurine, Mixed Tocopherols added to preserve freshness, Zinc Proteinate, Zinc Sulfate, Calcium Carbonate, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Iron Proteinate, Beta-Carotene, Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Manganese Sulfate, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Sodium Selenite, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Chicory Root Extract, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin, Calcium Iodate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Dried Lactobacillus plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Rosemary Extract, Green Tea Extract, Spearmint Extract. This is a naturally preserved product.

Summary: Overall, Wellness Core Puppy is a tried and true puppy food that has been popular with dog owners. It has a high protein content with the first three ingredients being animal proteins. It has some sub-par ingredients but is still a great choice.

Pros

  • First three ingredients are animal proteins
  • Very high protein content
  • Grain free
  • One of the most popular puppy foods available

Cons

  • Multiple potato ingredients
  • Tomato pomace is in first ten ingredients

4. Holistic Select – Best Quality Fish Flavored Formula

As the name implies, Holistic Select takes a “holistic” approach to dog food. They have a strong emphasis on balanced nutrition and the use of probiotics and prebiotics for maintaining optimal digestive health.

At first glance anchovies and sardines may seem like low quality ingredients. However, they are actually some of the most nutrient dense fish sources available.

Both anchovies and sardines are some of the best sources of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, as well as vitamin B12 and vitamin D. All of which are extremely beneficial for growing puppies.

This puppy food contains chickpeas and lentils. These are both high quality nutrient dense carbohydrates sources.

A downside to this puppy food is that it’s only available in 4lb and 12lb sizes.

Another downside is that dried plain beet pulp is included in the first ten ingredients. This is often regarded as a lower quality ingredient. While it does supply fiber, some say it also contains sugar, which is bad for canines.

Protein Content: 32% Fat Content: 18%

Ingredient Analysis

Key: 
Beneficial Ingredient Low-quality Ingredient Neutral Ingredient

  1. Anchovy and Sardine Meal: Excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and protein. Low in mercury compared to bigger fish.
  2. Chicken Meal: Contains significantly more protein than fresh chicken. Considered a meat concentrate since water is removed.
  3. Chickpeas: A nutrient powerhouse full of plant-based protein. A good source of  iron, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B-6, and dietary fiber, as long as it’s not cooked out.
  4. Lentils: A quality carbohydrate. A great source of protein, fiber, and iron.
  5. Peas: A healthy low glycemic source of carbohydrates. Also a good source of protein and fiber. Commonly used to replace grains.
  6. Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols): High in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid. Mixed tocopherols are vitamin E compounds that act as a natural preservatives.
  7. Dried Plain Beet Pulp: A controversial ingredient that is full of fiber. Some say it’s beneficial for digestion while others say it’s a cheap filler.
  8. Pork Meal: A source of protein. Contains significantly more protein than fresh pork. Considered a meat concentrate since water is removed.
  9. Flaxseed: Great source of plant based omega-3 fatty acids, soluble fiber, and magnesium.
  10. Alfalfa Meal: An excellent source of chlorophyll, plant protein, and fiber.

The remaining ingredients are lower on the list and have less effect on quality since they make up less of the food.

Full Ingredient List
Anchovy and Sardine Meal, Chicken Meal, Chickpeas, Lentils, Peas, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Pork Meal, Flaxseed, Alfalfa Meal, Pumpkin, Salmon Oil, Cranberries, Apples, Brewers Dried Yeast, Salt, Papayas, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Blueberries, Pomegranates, Vitamin E Supplement, Inulin, Dried Kelp, Zinc Proteinate, Mixed Tocopherols added to preserve freshness, Zinc Sulfate, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Iron Proteinate, Vitamin A Supplement, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Ground Cinnamon, Ground Fennel, Ground Peppermint, Copper Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Manganese Sulfate, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Sodium Selenite, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin, Dried Lactobacillus bulgaricus Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus thermophilus Fermentation Product, Calcium Iodate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Dried Bacillus licheniformis Fermentation Product, Dried Bacillus subtilis Fermentation Product, Dried Aspergillus oryzae Fermentation Product, Dried Trichoderma reesei Fermentation Product, Dried Rhizopus oryzae Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Rosemary Extract, Green Tea Extract, Spearmint Extract

Summary: Holistic Select is a balanced puppy food featuring anchovy and sardine meal as a healthy alternative protein source. However, don’t expect to be purchasing it in large quantities as it only comes in smaller sizes.

Pros

  • Anchovy and sardine meal are a great source of fish-based protein and fat
  • High quality carbohydrate and fiber sources
  • Probiotics and prebiotics

Cons

  • Only available in 12lb and 4lb bags
  • Dried plain beet pulp is in first ten ingredients

5. Victor Active Dog and Puppy – 75% Meat Protein

Victor Active Dog and Puppy is a premium dog food that’s appropriate for all life stages.

One of the most appealing things about this puppy food is that it has a 75% meat content. The meat sources are beef meal, chicken meal, pork meal, and menhaden fish meal.

This food uses sweet potatoes and peas as healthy carbohydrate and fiber sources. It also contains dehydrated alfalfa meal which is an excellent source of chlorophyll and fiber. Chlorophyll is known for its potent antioxidant effects.

A downside of this puppy food is that beef protein is one of the more common allergens for dogs. If you know that your puppy is prone to food allergies than this food may not be appropriate for them.

A questionable ingredient is dried egg product. This is vague term which implies that it’s a low quality ingredient possibly used to add protein.

Protein Content: 33% Fat Content: 16%

Ingredient Analysis

Key: 
Beneficial Ingredient Low-quality Ingredient Neutral Ingredient

  1. Beef Meal: Good source of protein, vitamin B12, and iron. Beef is one of the more common allergens for dogs.
  2. Sweet Potato: An easily digestible and low glycemic carbohydrate. They are a great source of vitamin A, dietary fiber, and potassium.
  3. Chicken Meal: Contains significantly more protein than fresh chicken. Considered a meat concentrate since water is removed.
  4. Peas: A healthy low glycemic source of carbohydrates. Also a good source of protein and fiber. Commonly used to replace grains.
  5. Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed Tocopherols): High in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid. Mixed tocopherols are vitamin E compounds that act as a natural preservatives.
  6. Pork Meal: A source of protein. Contains significantly more protein than fresh pork. Considered a meat concentrate since water is removed.
  7. Menhaden Fish Meal: An excellent concentrated source of fish protein. Also contains fatty acids.
  8. Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal: An excellent source of chlorophyll, plant protein, and fiber.
  9. Dried Egg Product: Difficult to determine quality as it’s a vague term. Likely a low quality by-product used to add protein.
  10. Flaxseed: Great source of plant based omega-3 fatty acids, soluble fiber, and magnesium.

The remaining ingredients are lower on the list and have less effect on quality since they make up less of the food.

Full Ingredient List
Beef Meal, Sweet Potato, Chicken Meal, Peas, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed Tocopherols), Pork Meal, Menhaden Fish Meal (source of DHA-Docosahexaenoic Acid), Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Dried Egg Product, Flax Seed (source of Omega 3 Fatty Acid), Yeast Culture, Natural Chicken Flavor, Potassium Chloride, Dried Kelp, Salt, Montmorillonite, Tomato Pomace (source of Lycopene), Dried Carrot, Choline Chloride, Dried Chicory Root, Taurine, Zinc Amino Acid Complex, Hydrolyzed Yeast, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Amino Acid Complex, Manganese Amino Acid Complex, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Selenium Yeast, L-Carnitine, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin D Supplement, Copper Sulfate, Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Niacin Supplement, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Biotin, Magnesium Amino Acid Chelate, Riboflavin Supplement, Calcium Iodate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Lecithin, Fructooligosaccharide, Folic Acid, Yeast Extract, Dried Enterococcus Faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Aspergillus Niger Fermentation Product, Dried Bacillus Subtilis Fermentation Product, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Citric Acid, Rosemary Extract

Summary: Overall, Victor Active Dog and Puppy is a high quality puppy food that features 75% meat protein and easily digestible carbohydrates. It uses beef as a protein source which may make it inappropriate for puppies with protein allergies.

Pros

  • 75% meat protein
  • Contains four animal protein sources
  • Healthy sources of fiber: sweet potato, peas, and dehydrated alfalfa meal.

Cons

  • Beef protein is a common allergen
  • “Dried egg product” is a vague term

6. “I and Love and You” Naked Essentials Lamb & Bison – Best Value

I and Love and You is a Colorado based pet food company that has only been around for a few years.

Yes, it’s probably the strangest pet food name you’ll come across, but their dog food is high enough quality to make it on our list.

This lamb and bison formula is formulated for all life stages.

The first three ingredients of this food are quality animal proteins. They are followed by three high quality and low-glycemic carbohydrates: lentils, chickpeas, and sweet potatoes. These are all great sources of vitamins, fiber and plant-based protein.

There are also added probiotics and prebiotics to aid in healthy digestion and gut health. Chicory root is a high quality ingredient that contains the beneficial prebiotic, inulin.

Dried carrots, celery, beets, parsley, lettuce, watercress, and spinach make for healthy additions in this dog food.

The fact that bison is in the formula name is puzzling because it’s so far down on the ingredient list that it likely makes up only a small portion of the food.

There are a couple lower quality ingredients in this dog food: pea starch and dried beet pulp. Pea starch is commonly used as a binding agent to hold kibble in its shape and has little nutritional value for puppies.

Dried beet pulp is a byproduct of beet processing that’s mostly a source of fiber and protein. It’s a controversial ingredient that some say is beneficial for digestion while others argue that it’s a cheap filler.

Protein Content: 30% Fat Content: 15%

Ingredient Analysis

Key: 
Beneficial Ingredient Low-quality Ingredient Neutral Ingredient

  1. Lamb: Great alternative protein source.
  2. Chicken meal: Contains significantly more protein than fresh chicken. Considered a meat concentrate since water is removed.
  3. Turkey meal: Contains significantly more protein than fresh turkey. Considered a meat concentrate since water is removed.
  4. Lentils: A quality carbohydrate. A great source of protein, fiber, and iron.
  5. Chickpeas: A nutrient powerhouse full of plant-based protein. A good source of  iron, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B-6, and dietary fiber, as long as it’s not cooked out.
  6. Sweet potatoes: An easily digestible and low glycemic carbohydrate. They are a great source of vitamin A, dietary fiber, and potassium.
  7. Peas: A healthy low glycemic source of carbohydrates. Also a good source of protein and fiber. Commonly used to replace grains.
  8. Chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols): High in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid. Mixed tocopherols are vitamin E compounds that act as a natural preservatives.
  9. Pea starch: Of little nutritional value for dogs. Mostly used as a binding agent to allow kibble to hold its shape.
  10. Dried beet pulp (sugar removed): A controversial ingredient that is full of fiber. Some say it’s beneficial for digestion while others say it’s a cheap filler. Having the sugar removed may make it slightly more suitable for a canine diet.

The remaining ingredients are lower on the list and have less effect on quality since they make up less of the food.

Full Ingredient List
lamb, chicken meal, turkey meal, lentils, chickpeas, sweet potatoes, peas, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), pea starch, dried beet pulp (sugar removed), flaxseed, bison, potassium chloride, fish oil, chicory root, dried carrots, dried celery, dried beets, parsley, dried lettuce, dried watercress, dried spinach, minerals (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, cobalt proteinate, sodium selenite.) vitamins (choline chloride, Vitamin A supplement, Vitamin D3 supplement, Vitamin E supplement, niacin, d-calcium pantothenate, pyridoxine hydrochloride (source of Vitamin B6), thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin supplement, folic acid, Vitamin B12 supplement.) Lactobacillus casei fermentation product dehydrated , Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product dehydrated, Bifidobacterium thermophilum fermentation product dehydrated, entercoccus faecium fermentation product dehydrated.

Summary: I and Love and You Naked Essentials is a high quality dog food suitable for all life stages, including puppies. The first three ingredients are quality animal protein sources which are then followed by three nutrient filled carbohydrates.

Pros

  • First three ingredients are animal proteins
  • Lentils, chickpeas, and sweet potatoes are healthy carbohydrate sources
  • Added prebiotics and probiotics

Cons

  • Bison is low on the ingredient list and is likely a small portion of the food
  • Pea starch has little nutritional value for puppies
  • Dried beet pulp is a controversial ingredient

7. Wellness Complete Health Grain Free – Another Quality Wellness Puppy Food

Wellness Complete Health Grain Free is the middle tier puppy food behind Wellness Core. While this formula is not as high of quality as the Core puppy formula, it is a little more affordable.

It has a reasonably high protein content of 32%, with the first ingredient being deboned chicken and the second being chicken meal.

Chicken meal provides a majority of the meat content since deboned chicken has a high moisture content and thus extra weight before being cooked.

Since a majority of animal protein is coming from one ingredient, it likely means that this food has less meat content than some other higher quality puppy foods.

This food contains three quality carbohydrates: chickpeas, lentils, and sweet potatoes. However, sweet potatoes are lower on the list and likely make up a smaller portion of the food.

Ground flaxseed is also a beneficial ingredient which is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids.

A lower quality ingredient that is worth noting is tomato pomace. While it provides fiber, it is also a controversial ingredient that is often looked at as a filler.

Protein Content: 32% Fat Content: 18%

Ingredient Analysis

Key: 
Beneficial Ingredient Low-quality Ingredient Neutral Ingredient  

  1. Deboned Chicken: A good protein source. However, chicken contains about 75% water and much of its weight is lost after cooking.
  2. Chicken Meal: Contains significantly more protein than fresh chicken. Considered a meat concentrate since water is removed.
  3. Peas: A healthy low glycemic source of carbohydrates. Also a good source of protein and fiber. Commonly used to replace grains.
  4. Chickpeas: A nutrient powerhouse full of plant-based protein. A good source of  iron, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B-6, and dietary fiber, as long as it’s not cooked out.
  5. Lentils: A quality carbohydrate. A great source of protein, fiber, and iron.
  6. Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols): High in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid. Mixed tocopherols are vitamin E compounds that act as a natural preservatives.
  7. Salmon Meal: A concentrated source of protein containing some fatty acids.
  8. Potatoes: A carbohydrate that mostly supplies energy and has little nutritional for puppies. Commonly used to replace grains.
  9. Tomato Pomace: The leftover tomato pulp, seeds, and skin after the juicing process. Contains soluble fiber. Due to processing, nutrient quality is up for debate.
  10. Ground Flaxseed: Great source of plant based omega-3 fatty acids, soluble fiber, and magnesium.

The remaining ingredients are lower on the list and have less effect on quality since they make up less of the food.

Full Ingredient List
Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Peas, Chickpeas, Lentils, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Salmon Meal, Potatoes, Tomato Pomace, Ground Flaxseed, Salmon Oil, Tomatoes, Natural Chicken Flavor, Salt, Carrots, Choline Chloride, Spinach, Vitamin E Supplement, Chicory Root Extract, Taurine, Zinc Proteinate, Mixed Tocopherols added to preserve freshness, Zinc Sulfate, Calcium Carbonate, Sweet Potatoes, Apples, Blueberries, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Iron Proteinate, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Vitamin A Supplement, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Copper Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Manganese Sulfate, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Sodium Selenite, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Garlic Powder, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin, Calcium Iodate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Dried Lactobacillus plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Rosemary Extract, Green Tea Extract, Spearmint Extract. This is a naturally preserved product.

Summary: Wellness Complete Health Grain Free is the middle tier puppy food for Wellness. While it may not have as high of a meat content as some other higher quality brands, it’s still a quality grain free option.

Pros

  • First two ingredients are animal proteins
  • Chickpeas and lentils are high quality carbohydrate sources

Cons

  • Lower meat content than some higher quality brands
  • Tomato pomace is in the first ten ingredients

8. Fromm Puppy Gold – Five Sources of Animal Protein

Fromm is a family owned pet food company that has been around for decades. They produce all their products in Wisconsin.

Fromm Puppy Gold formula has five animal protein sources in its first ten ingredients. This is a sign of a higher quality meat-based dog food. The meat content is complemented by oatmeal as a highly nutritious source of carbohydrates and fiber.

Pearled barley, Brown rice, and potatoes are carbohydrate sources that are easily digestible. However, they mostly just provide energy and have little nutritional value for puppies.

A downside for this puppy food is that it’s higher priced than many some other premium brands.

Check out our in-depth Fromm Dog Food Reviews 

Protein Content: 27% Fat Content: 18%

Ingredient Analysis

Key: 
Beneficial Ingredient Low-quality Ingredient Neutral Ingredient

  1. Duck: A high quality alternative protein source. Good for puppies that tend to have meat allergies.
  2. Chicken Meal: Contains significantly more protein than fresh chicken. Considered a meat concentrate since water is removed.
  3. Chicken: Good source of protein. However, contains about 80% water and much of the weight is lost after cooking.
  4. Oatmeal: A healthy source of carbohydrates. Good source of protein and fiber and good for the colon.
  5. Pearled Barley: Mostly a source of carbohydrates and fiber.
  6. Menhaden Fish Meal: An excellent concentrated source of fish protein. Also contains fatty acids.
  7. Brown Rice: An easily digestible carbohydrate source that’s often used as a filler.
  8. Chicken Fat: High in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid.
  9. Lamb: Great alternative protein source.
  10. Potatoes: A carbohydrate that mostly supplies energy and has little nutritional value for puppies. Commonly used to replace grains.

The remaining ingredients are lower on the list and have less effect on quality since they make up less of the food.

Full Ingredient List
Duck, Chicken Meal, Chicken,Oatmeal, Pearled Barley,Menhaden Fish Meal, Brown Rice, Chicken Fat, Lamb,Potatoes, Dried Tomato Pomace, Dried Whole Egg,Salmon Oil, Cheese, Flaxseed,Brewers Dried Yeast, Alfalfa Meal, Carrots, Lettuce, Celery,Chicken Cartilage, Calcium Sulfate, Monocalcium Phosphate, Salt, Potassium Chloride, DL-Methionine, L-Tryptophan, Taurine, Chicory Root Extract, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Sodium Selenite,Sorbic Acid (Preservative),Vitamins, Minerals, Probiotics.

Summary: Overall, Fromm Puppy Gold is a quality food that contains digestible grains and five animal protein sources but comes at premium price.

Pros

  • Five sources of animal protein in first ten ingredients
  • Oatmeal is a quality source of carbohydrates and fiber

Cons

  • Higher priced than some other premium brands
  • Pearled barley and brown rice are less ideal carbohydrates

9. Blue Wilderness Puppy – Affordable Puppy Food

Blue Wilderness is one of the higher quality dry puppy foods offered by Blue Buffalo.

This puppy food has a high protein content of 36%. A majority of the protein comes from chicken meal and peas. The addition of menhaden fish meal adds a nice boost of protein as well.

This food also has what Blue Buffalo refers to as “LifeSource Bits”. These are pieces of kibble that contain a blend of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. They say that they limit the amount of heat these bits are exposed to in order to preserve nutrient quality.

The biggest downside to this puppy food is that it contains three different pea ingredients in the first ten ingredients. This implies that a significant portion of the food is made up of peas. While peas do provide protein and fiber, it’s not ideal for dogs to be eating a diet that gets a majority of its protein from peas.

The fruits and vegetables that are in this food such as sweet potatoes, carrots, blueberries, and cranberries are too far down on the ingredient list to make a realistic difference in nutrient quality.

Protein Content: 36% Fat Content: 16%

Ingredient Analysis

Key: 
Beneficial Ingredient Low-quality Ingredient Neutral Ingredient    

  1. Deboned Chicken: A good protein source. However, chicken contains about 75% water and much of its weight is lost after cooking.
  2. Chicken Meal: Contains significantly more protein than fresh chicken. Considered a meat concentrate since water is removed.
  3. Pea Protein: A good source of vegetable protein. However, it’s often used to inflate protein content.
  4. Peas: A healthy low glycemic source of carbohydrates. Also a good source of protein and fiber. Commonly used to replace grains.
  5. Tapioca Starch: Of little nutritional value for dogs. Mostly used as a binding agent to allow kibble to hold its shape.
  6. Pea Starch: Of little nutritional value for dogs. Mostly used as a binding agent to allow kibble to hold its shape.
  7. Menhaden Fish Meal: An excellent concentrated source of fish protein. Also contains fatty acids.
  8. Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols): High in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid. Mixed tocopherols are vitamin E compounds that act as a natural preservatives.
  9. Dried Egg: A great source of protein. Difficult to determine quality. Possibly egg by-product.
  10. Dried Tomato Pomace: The leftover tomato pulp, seeds, and skin after the juicing process. Contains soluble fiber. Due to processing, nutrient quality is up for debate.

The remaining ingredients are lower on the list and have less effect on quality since they make up less of the food.

Full Ingredient List
Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Pea Protein, Peas, Tapioca Starch, Pea Starch, Menhaden Fish Meal (source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids), Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Dried Egg, Dried Tomato Pomace, Flaxseed (source of Omega 6 Fatty Acids), Natural Flavor, Fish Oil (source of ARA-Arachidonic acid and DHA-Docosahexaenoic acid), Salt, Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Dicalcium Phosphate, DL-Methionine, Potassium Chloride, Dried Chicory Root, Choline Chloride, Potatoes, Pea Fiber, Calcium Carbonate, Caramel Color, preserved with Mixed Tocopherols, Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Blueberries, Cranberries, Barley Grass, Parsley, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Dried Kelp, Turmeric, Nicotinic Acid (Vitamin B3), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), L-Carnitine, L-Lysine, Copper Sulfate, Oil of Rosemary, Biotin (Vitamin B7), Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Sulfate, Taurine, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Calcium Iodate, Dried Yeast, Dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, Dried Aspergillus niger fermentation extract, Dried Trichoderma longibrachiatum fermentation extract, Dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation extract, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Sodium Selenite.

Summary: Overall, Blue Wilderness Puppy is a high protein puppy food at an affordable price. It gets some protein content from animal proteins but also contains a significant amount of pea ingredients.

Pros

  • High protein content
  • Three sources of animal protein

Cons

  • Tapioca starch has little nutritional value for puppies
  • Tomato pomace in first ten ingredients
  • Multiple pea ingredients
  • Natural flavor is a vague ingredient

10. Nutro Grain Free Puppy – Non-GMO Puppy Food

Nutro Grain Free Puppy is an affordable dry puppy food that features non-GMO ingredients.

It has a reasonable protein content of 28%. The biggest sources of protein are chicken meal, dried potatoes, lentils, split peas, pea protein, and lamb meal. However, it would be ideal if there were more animal-based sources of protein.

Lentils are a good addition since they are a low-glycemic carbohydrate that are packed with nutrients.

The downside of this dog food is that it contains multiple potato and pea ingredients. This likely means that it has a higher carbohydrate content than many other quality puppy foods.

Protein Content: 28% Fat Content: 17%

Ingredient Analysis

Key: 
Beneficial Ingredient Low-quality Ingredient Neutral Ingredient  

  1. Chicken: A good protein source. However, chicken contains about 75% water and much of its weight is lost after cooking.
  2. Chicken Meal: Contains significantly more protein than fresh chicken. Considered a meat concentrate since water is removed.
  3. Dried Potatoes: A carbohydrate that mostly supplies energy and has little nutritional for puppies. Commonly used to replace grains. Difficult to determine quality. Presumably more of a by-product than fresh potatoes.
  4. Lentils: A quality carbohydrate. A great source of protein, fiber, and iron.
  5. Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols): High in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid. Mixed tocopherols are vitamin E compounds that act as a natural preservatives.
  6. Split Peas: An excellent low glycemic carbohydrate. Great source of protein and dietary fiber.
  7. Pea Protein: A good source of vegetable protein. However, it’s often used to inflate protein content.
  8. Potato Starch: A powder extracted from potatoes. Other than carbohydrates, it’s of no nutritional value for dogs. Mostly used as a binding agent to allow kibble to hold its shape.
  9. Lamb Meal: Great alternative protein source. Contains significantly more protein than fresh lamb. Considered a meat concentrate since water is removed.
  10. Dried Sweet Potato: An easily digestible and low glycemic carbohydrate. They are a great source of vitamin A, dietary fiber, and potassium. Presumably of lower quality than fresh sweet potatoes.

The remaining ingredients are lower on the list and have less effect on quality since they make up less of the food.

Full Ingredient List
Chicken, Chicken Meal, Dried Potatoes, Lentils, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Split Peas, Pea Protein, Potato Starch, Lamb Meal, Dried Sweet Potato, Natural Flavor, Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Sunflower Oil (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Flaxseed, Fish Oil (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Choline Chloride, DL-Methionine, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Dried Apples, Dried Blueberries, Dried Carrots, Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid (preservatives), Zinc Sulfate, Niacin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Selenium Yeast, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Rosemary Extract

Summary: Overall, Nutro Grain Free Puppy is a dry puppy food that features non-GMO ingredients with the first two ingredients being animal-based proteins. It has a higher carbohydrate content than many of the higher quality puppy foods on this list.

Pros

  • First two ingredients are animal proteins
  • Made with non-GMO ingredients

Cons

  • Multiple potato and pea  ingredients
  • Natural flavor is a vague ingredient

Puppy Food Buyers Guide

Understanding Ingredient Lists

For dog food, the order in which ingredients are listed is based on the weight of each ingredient before being cooked. Ingredients listed first have the most weight and ingredients listed last have the least weight.

Nutrient Requirements

During roughly the first year of life puppies are growing quickly. They are developing organs and building bone and muscle.

Because of this rapid growth, they require more nutrients and calories than an adult dog.

The first five months are when they are growing the fastest and require about twice the amount of calories per pound when compared to an adult dog of the same breed.

Any food you feed your puppy should be labeled for puppies or “all life-stages”.

It should have one of the following statements:

  • “Meets the nutritional requirements for puppies established by the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).”
  • “Complete and balanced nutrition for growing dogs based on AAFCO feeding trials.”
  • Some foods cover both the adult and growing puppy by claiming they’re adequate for “all life-stages.”

ProteinFatCarbohydratesVitamins and Minerals

Proteins contain amino acids which are necessary for building tissues such as organs and muscles.

There are 20 different amino acids, 10 of which are made in the body. This means that your puppies food will have to supply the other 10 “essential amino acids”.

Not all proteins are created equal.

Animal proteins provide all the essential amino acids while plant proteins such as corn or soy only provide some of the essential amino acids.

A quality puppy food should have a minimum protein content of about 28%.

The first couple ingredients should be named meats such as turkey  or turkey meal. Ideally, most of the protein content would be from animal protein sources.

Meat Meals

Meat meals such as “chicken meal” have significantly more protein than fresh meats such as “deboned chicken”. They lack the moisture content found in fresh meats making them concentrated sources of protein.  

However, beware of by-product meals and meals that have vague descriptions.

Fats are your dog’s primary source of energy and contain more than twice the energy of proteins or carbohydrates.

Fats are necessary for cell structure, production of certain hormones, brain and nerve tissues, as well as absorption and use of particular vitamins. An essential fatty acid deficiency can cause skin problems and reduced growth.

The minimum fat content for a quality puppy food is about 17% and should be roughly half the protein content.

The omega-3 fatty acid, DHA, is important for growing puppies. Any puppy food should have this. Fish oil is one of the highest quality sources of this.

Carbohydrates come from plants which provide glucose as a source of energy.

There is no minimum requirement for carbohydrates, however there’s a minimum glucose requirement needed for proper brain and critical organ function.

Fibers are a type of carbohydrate that aid digestion and promote the health of bacteria throughout the digestive system.

Quality carbohydrate sources are foods such as sweet potatoes, lentils, and chickpeas.

Minerals and most vitamins cannot be created in the body and are essential for your puppies diet.

It’s not necessary to give your puppy vitamin or mineral supplements as long as they are being fed a food that meets the nutritional requirements of the AAFCO.

Puppy Food Labels

NaturalGrain-freeHolisticOrganicLimited Ingredient
This is a loose term which essentially means ingredients must be derived from plant, animal, or mined sources.

Ingredients can be subject to common manufacturing processes or contain trace amounts of chemically synthetic compounds and still be considered natural.

Labeling a dog food as natural is no indication of quality as most ingredients technically come from “natural” sources.

Most people choose a grain free dog food because they either believe that grains are unnatural for a dog’s diet or their dog has a food allergy.

While puppies should be eating a high protein meat-based diet, they can also tolerate small amounts of grains.

I tend to prefer grain free dog foods because they often have higher quality ingredients and lower carbohydrates.

As far as allergies go, dogs and puppies are actually more commonly allergic to beef and dairy than grains.

Dog food brands use the term “holistic” to imply that their food targets the whole body to provide balance.

This sounds great in theory.

However, there is no legal definition for holistic in the pet food industry and there are no regulations for using it on a label.

Therefore, it doesn’t indicate quality since any brand can use it as they wish to market their products.

According to the AAFCO, “Organic refers to the handling and processing of ingredients and products.” Pet foods are required to comply with the USDA’s strict requirements to be labeled as organic.

Organic foods must be free of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, genetic modification, added growth hormones, antibiotics, and by-products.

Dog foods may also be partially organic and will indicate what percent of the content is organic.

Organic dog food is rising in popularity and can be a healthy choice for your puppy. However, due to strict requirements there just aren’t many organic dog food options available.

Limited ingredient foods can be beneficial if your puppy has a food allergy or sensitivity. They usually only have one protein source.

Limited ingredient foods are not necessarily an indication of a higher quality as they often have a lower protein content.

Puppy Feeding Tips

Weaning Puppies

  • Weaning puppies should begin around 4 weeks of age.
  • Puppies should be completely eating dry food by about 7 or 8 weeks of age.
  • During the weaning process gradually introduce them to dry food increasing the amount over time.
  • It’s helpful to moisten dry food in the beginning to make it easier for puppies to eat.

Transitioning Foods

  • Dogs and particularly puppies are sensitive to changes in their diets.
  • When changing dry foods you should mix 75% of their old food with 25% of their new food for a couple days.
  • Every couple days increase the amount of new food by 25% until your puppy is only eating the new food.

How often to feed puppies?

  • 2 to 3 months old: 4 meals a day
  • 3 to 6 months old: 3 meals a day
  • 6 to 12 months old: 2 meals a day

How much to feed puppies?

  • The correct amount to feed your puppy depends on the food they are being fed.
  • You should use the feeding chart on the food label to get the correct amounts to feed your puppy based on their weight.

When to switch to adult food?

  • You can transition your puppy to adult food once they have reached about 90% of their adult weight.
  • This usually occurs between:
    • 6 and 9 months for small and medium breeds
    • 9 and 12 months for large breeds
    • 12 and 18 months for giant breeds
  • A weight chart can be used to determine the ideal adult weight for your specific breed.

Share the love

Leave a Comment