A well-fed puppy has the energy to explore, chew a shoe or two, and play a game of tug-of-war. A puppy’s high energy and developmental needs mean they need dog food formulas made especially for them. However, all puppies are different. Your puppy may have allergies or other conditions you have to consider. A puppy food that works for one puppy may make another puppy sick, so you have to be careful about which food you choose.
We reviewed dozens of puppy foods in our search for the best of the best. We looked for varieties designed for large and small dogs, as well as grain and gluten-free options. We explored both wet and dry dog food, too. We paid special attention to kibble size to make sure it won’t pose a choking hazard or damage little jaws. Finally, we took a look at ingredient lists. Puppies need the right amount of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats to make sure their brains and bodies get all the nutrients they need. Keep reading to see which puppy foods made our list and take a look at our shopping guide to help you narrow down your choices.
CANDIDAE PURE’s grain-free formula features only nine ingredients. It skips common allergens like wheat and soy as well as the artificial colors that only make the food more appealing to you and not your puppy. Whether your puppy has allergies or not, he won’t be exposed to a long list of low-value fillers when he eats this dog food.
In This Article
The 5 Top-Rated Puppy Foods
|Best Puppy Food Overall||CANDIDAE PURE Puppy Recipe Premium Dry Dog Food||4.3|
|Best Wet Puppy Food||Nutro Cuts Feed Clean Wet Dog Food||4.5|
|Best Budget Puppy Food||Purina ONE SmartBlend Natural Puppy Dog Food||4.6|
|Best Large Breed Puppy Food||IAMS Proactive Health Puppy Dry Dog Food||4.5|
|Best Small Breed Puppy Food||Hill's Science Diet Dry Dog Food||4.8|
*Ratings are from Amazon at the time of publication and can change
Best Puppy Food Overall: CANDIDAE PURE Puppy Recipe Premium Dry Dog Food
CANDIDAE PURE Puppy Recipe Premium Dry Dog Food has everything you want and many ingredients you don’t. If you’ve ever read the ingredient list on your dog’s food bag, you’ve probably noticed an entire paragraph packed with ingredients you didn’t know your dog needed. In truth, proper nutrition doesn’t need to be complicated. This puppy food packs all the essential nutrients with only nine ingredients. It’s a great choice for puppies on a limited diet because it doesn’t contain common allergens like wheat, gluten, or soy.
CANDIDAE PURE also skips things like additives, fillers, and meat by-products. Instead, it contains probiotics for intestinal health and antioxidants to fully fuel your puppy’s immune system. However, the kibble size does limit the breeds for which it can be used. It’s appropriate for medium to large breeds.
CANDIDAE PURE Puppy Recipe Premium Dry Dog Food Key Features:
- Nine (9) ingredients
- No wheat, gluten, soy, additives, fillers, or meat by-products
- Contains added probiotics and antioxidants
- Best for medium to large breeds
Best Wet Puppy Food: Nutro Cuts Feed Clean Wet Dog Food
Wet food may be a special treat or your puppy’s main diet. Wet foods with the nutrition found in Nutro Cuts Feed Clean Wet Dog Food will make sure your puppy doesn’t miss out. This 100 percent grain-free formula has the right balance of protein and fats that your puppy needs for healthy brain development. However, it skips the ingredients that act as fillers like chicken by-product, wheat, corn, and soy.
It’s designed to go along with Nutro Cuts dry puppy food. Using the same brand for wet and dry food can reduce the chances of an upset tummy. We like that you can give your pup some variety with either the chicken or beef.
Nutro Cuts Feed Clean Wet Dog Food Key Features:
- No chicken by-products, wheat, corn, or soy
- Contains chunks in gravy
Best Budget Puppy Food: Purina ONE SmartBlend Natural Puppy Dog Food
Purina ONE SmartBlend Natural Puppy Dog Food targets the unique nutritional needs of puppies based on their breed. The ingredients include nutrients your pup needs like DHA for brain development and antioxidants to boost his immune system. The kibble size works for most small and medium breeds. It includes meaty morsels that bridge the gap between dry and wet food.
If you’ve got a large breed, it also comes in a large breed puppy formula that features larger kibble and the right balance of calcium and phosphorus for healthy bone growth. Without the large breed formula, your big pup may go through a bag of the normal puppy food pretty fast. Purina also makes a wet dog food that can be used alongside this dry formula.
Purina ONE SmartBlend Natural Puppy Dog Food Key Features:
- Manufacturer makes wet puppy food that works in tandem with dry formula
- Contains DHA to promote healthy brain development
- Antioxidant blend to boost the immune system
Best Large Breed Puppy Food: IAMS Proactive Health Puppy Dry Dog Food
Your pup may look small now, but on the inside, he’s got a big hunger. The IAMS Proactrive Health Puppy Dry Dog Food comes in a large breed formula with the high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants needed to fill their growing bodies. For the most part, large breeds need the same nutrients as small breeds. They just need them in higher quantities due to their larger size. However, they also need a precise balance of minerals, in particular, calcium and phosphorus, to make sure their bones and joints grow at the appropriate rate. IAMS hits the nail on the head for the growth need of large breeds.
The IAMS formula targets all of the right health areas from the immune system to the skin and coat. There’s plenty of fiber and probiotics to maintain digestive health, too. Yet, IAMS skips some of the fillers like wheat, soy, and artificial preservatives known to cause allergies or other issues for puppies. The kibble size is smaller than adult dog food but larger than that needed by small breeds to give him all his calories in a compact package.
IAMS Proactive Health Puppy Dry Dog Food Key Features:
- Balance of calcium and phosphorus
- Perfect kibble size for greater caloric intake with each bite
- No wheat, soy, or artificial preservatives
Best Small Breed Puppy Food: Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food
Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food hits the nutrients at just the right levels for small breeds and their unique nutritional needs. Small breeds don’t have the rapid growth of large breeds. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t need DHA for brain health and antioxidants to keep their immune systems strong. This formula is balanced for slower, shorter growth rates. Natural fish oils provide the DHA for healthy brain growth. It has a balance of minerals to strengthen their muscles and help their teeth grow strong.
Finally, we love the extra small kibble. For some breeds, even medium-sized kibble could prove to be a challenge or choking hazard. The small kibble is easy for pups to eat, and you can be sure he’s getting the nutrients he needs.
Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food Key Features:
- Extra-small kibble
- DHA from natural fish oils
- Balance of protein and fat specifically designed for small breeds
Who Should Buy Puppy Food
If you’ve got a puppy, he needs puppy food. Like humans, dogs have different nutritional needs based on their age and size. Puppies need DHA for proper brain development and a mix of minerals that support healthy bone growth. Their immune systems aren’t quite at the same level as their parents, so they also need some antioxidants to maintain their health.
However, you can’t just grab any puppy food off of the grocery store shelf. Your pup’s breed will determine how much of all of these nutrients he needs for optimum growth. Small breeds like a chihuahua still need DHA for healthy brain growth, but not in the same quantities a mastiff. Then, of course, there are those puppies with special dietary needs. Allergies or other health conditions may necessitate a special puppy food with limited ingredients or gluten or grain-free formula.
For a wild puppy who needs a bit of reigning in, you may want to consider The Best Dog And Puppy Playpens for his safety.
Important Features to Consider
Your puppy’s breed or size may have specific nutritional needs. There are a few factors you need to take into consideration when choosing a puppy food, including:
- Breed and size: We’ve already talked about how large and small breeds have different nutritional needs. It’s not that they necessarily need different nutrients in their food, but the quantities and balances at which they need them vary. For example, large breeds need a careful balance between calcium and phosphorus so that their bones grow at the correct rate. An imbalance can result in joint disease or arthritis later in life. Small dogs need smaller kibble. Large kibble may be to big or tough for tiny jaws to break apart. It can even damage their teeth if it’s too hard.
- Kibble size. This comes back to size as well. The large kibble that’s more practical for large breeds may be too big for small breeds. They could choke or may not be able to chew the kibble. Some kibbles are designed to help your pup chew them more completely, which can be helpful for breeds that inhale their food (we’re looking at you labradors).
- Ingredients. Puppies have higher caloric needs than adult dogs, but it matters where those calories come from. There’s a long list of ingredients that could potentially cause problems for your puppy’s digestive system. Soy, wheat, gluten, and corn can be problematic for some puppies. Luckily, there are formulas made without them. Not all puppies have problems with these ingredients, but if your pup has diarrhea, it could be from some of these common ingredients.
- DHA. DHA comes from Omega fatty acids like those found in fish oils. It’s essential for brain development and should be included in all puppy formulas.
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of food do puppies eat?
At times, you might sometimes wonder what foods your puppy doesn’t eat, but there are nutrients a puppy needs. Puppies grow rapidly, which means their bodies need more calories than adult dogs to maintain their energy needs and growth rate. Look for real proteins like chicken or beef rather than by-products or meat meal. Puppy food should also contain DHA for healthy brain development and a few antioxidants to boost the immune system doesn’t hurt. It’s also a good idea to consult with your veterinarian about the puppy foods he recommends. He’ll have more experience with various brands and know when it’s time to switch your pup to adult dog food.
How long should a puppy eat puppy food?
Switching a puppy to adult food too soon can lead to malnutrition. Your puppy’s size and breed will determine when it’s best to transition him to adult food. Puppies will grow for the first year or two of their life. Larger breeds tend to grow for a longer period of time than smaller breeds. It’s appropriate to feed your puppy a puppy food until he stops growing. For large breeds that’s anywhere from 12 to 24 months. Small breeds may grow for 10 to 12 months, though some may grow longer. However, you should consult your veterinarian to address your pup’s specific needs.
Is wet or dry food better for puppies?
Wet and dry dog food each have their own pros and cons. Wet food is less processed than dry and typically is more appealing to puppies. As the name suggests, it’s also wet, so it can help meet your pup’s hydration needs, too. If your puppy struggles with allergies or food sensitivities, wet food can sometimes be easier on his system. Reluctant eaters often find wet food more palatable. However, it’s more expensive, harder to store, and spoils easily.
Dry food tends to be popular because it’s more economical. It’s also easier to travel with and store. However, dry dog food can be tough for young puppies to eat. Their jaws may not be strong enough to break up the pieces, or it can damage their teeth, especially if the kibble is too large. However, as long as the food contains the right nutrients, it doesn’t matter whether it’s wet or dry.
What age can a puppy eat dry food?
Puppies should nurse their mothers for at least the first four weeks. At that point, they transition to solid foods. The puppy’s jaw and teeth need to be strong enough to chew the dry food. If they have trouble chewing, they may avoid eating.
Make sure to get kibble of the right size. All puppy kibble is smaller than adult dog food, but small breeds need tiny kibble so their jaws and teeth can break it down. If your puppy seems to be struggling, you might need to try wet food for a while. It’s softer and easier to eat than dry food. Make sure the wet food comes in chunks small enough for your puppy to eat. Once your puppy gets a little older, you can mix wet and dry food as a way to transition him to all dry food when he’s big enough.
Other Dog Foods We Reviewed
We looked at the 20 other puppy foods. These formulas didn’t make our 5 best puppy foods list, but they’re still some of the best formulas on the market. We’ve included the information you’ll need to compare brands.
Wet Puppy Food
Blue Buffalo Homestyle Recipe Puppy Food
A pate-style wet food will entice even picky eaters to take a bite.
- No corn, soy, wheat, or chicken by-products
- Contains nutrients for a complete meal
- Can be used for large or small dogs
CANDIDAE PURE Grain-Free Premium Wet Dog Food
This grain-free, limited ingredient formula has simple ingredients that are gentle on your pup’s tummy.
- Probiotics build a healthy digestive system
- Limited number of ingredients for a purer formula
- Contains antioxidants and Omega fatty acids
Cesar Gourmet Puppy Wet Dog Food
This grain-free puppy food comes in a loaf, so you can make the pieces as small or big as your puppy needs.
- Vitamin and mineral balance designed for small breeds
Hill’s Science Diet Wet Dog Food
The right blend of antioxidants, minerals, and proteins make this a great formula for growing puppies.
- Immune system boost from antioxidants
- Contains natural ingredients
- DHA for brain development
Purina ONE SmartBlend and Natural Puppy Dog Food
This pate-style wet food will be hard for your puppy to resist. It can be blended with dry food or used on its own as a meal.
- Omega fatty acids promote skin and coat health
- Strengthens the immune system with antioxidants
- Contains no meat by-products
Royal Canin Canine Health Nutrition Puppy Loaf
This wet food is designed for dogs with an adult weight of 22 pounds. It works well with Royal Canin dry foods as a treat or meal enticement.
- Can be used for puppies up to 10 to 15-months-old
- Vitamin, minerals, and antioxidants for optimal growth
- Includes fiber to boost digestive health
Large Breed Puppy Food
Diamond Naturals Large Breed Puppy Dog Food
Diamond Natural uses super foods and proprietary probiotic technology to give your pup a powerful formula.
- Balance of minerals for large bone growth needs
- Small kibble for young puppies
- Antioxidants from super foods
Energetic puppies will get the calories they need with this formula made for puppies whose adult size will be over 55 pounds.
- Designed for puppies up to 15-months-old
- DHA promotes brain development
- Balance of calcium and phosphorus to strengthen bones and joint development
Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food
Science Diet’s large breed formula meets the unique growth and development needs large breeds. It provides the right balance of DHA and high-quality protein for optimum puppy health.
- Balance of minerals for strong bones and long-term joint health
- DHA for brain development
- Appropriate kibble size for large breed pups
Nutro Max Large Breed Puppy Dry Dog Food
This all-natural formula will keep your large pup growing right on schedule.
- Contains no chicken by-product, corn, wheat, or soy
- Designed for large breeds up to 12-months-old
- Responsibly sourced and made
Purina Pro Plan Dry Puppy Food
Purina’s affordable formula balances calcium and phosphorus to promote long-term bone and joint health.
- Antioxidants strengthen immune system
- Small kibble intended for dogs under one-year-old
- Includes Vitamin A for healthy skin and coat
Royal Canin Health Nutrition Large Puppy Dry Dog Food
This large dog formula has the mineral balance needed to build a foundation for your pup’s bone and joint health.
- Designed for use up to 15-months-old
- Boosts immune system development
- Kibble size and shape designed to help puppies fully chew food
Small Breed Puppy Food
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Puppy Dog Food
This formula works for small and medium-sized breeds, providing a generous mix of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
- DHA and ARA for healthy brain and eye development
- No meat by-products, corn, wheat, or soy
- Made with Blue Buffalo’s LifeSource bits
IAMS Proactive Health Puppy Dry Dog Food
IAMS affordable dog food is the right size and mix of nutrients to keep your tiny pup full and happy.
- No wheat, soy, artificial preservatives
- DHA for healthy brain development
- Includes probiotics and fiber for digestive health
Natural Balance LID Limited Ingredient Diets
A limited ingredient list doesn’t limit the nutrients your pup gets with this dog food.
- Made of one protein source and a limited number of carb sources
- Includes fatty acids needed for coat and skin health
- No wheat or soy
Nutro Feed Clean Wholesome Essentials Puppy Dry Dog Food
Non-GMO ingredients in a balanced formula will fuel all of your puppy’s growth and developmental needs.
- Contains no meat by-products, corn, wheat, or soy
- Promotes digestive health with natural fiber
- Non-GMO ingredients
Rachael Ray Nutrish Bright Puppy Natural Premium Dry Dog Food
With ingredients like chicken and flaxseed, your puppy will get then nutrients to help him grow and develop into a healthy, happy dog.
- Antioxidants to promote immune system health
- DHA from natural fish oils
- Contains chicken and fish protein sources
Royal Canin Nutrition X-Small Puppy Dog Food
Tiny puppies have big nutritional needs. The kibble size and formula of Royal Canin will make sure your littlest family member stays well-fed.
- Designed for puppies younger than 10-months-old with an adult weight of 8 pounds or less
- Energy packed for active puppies
- Extra-small kibble
Grain-Free Puppy Food
Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain-Free Dry Puppy Food
Large breeds need the right mineral balance to support their bone growth and joint development, and Blue Buffalo nails it in this formula.
- DHA and ARA promotes healthy brain and eye development
- Contains Blue Buffalo’s LifeSource bits, which contain a blend of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals
- No meat by-products, corn, wheat, or soy
Wellness Complete Health Grain-Free Dry Puppy Food
A mix of antioxidants, Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, vitamins, and protein provides the essential nutrients to fuel your puppy’s growth. And, it’s all in a grain-free formula.
- Contains no wheat, corn, soy, meat by-products
- Meant for medium-sized breeds
- All-natural formula with no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives