Pet food companies love to tout the health benefits of their products, but the reality is that the best Puppy food is the one that meets your dog’s needs.
That may sound simple, but the reality is that there are many factors to consider. Does your dog have a sensitive stomach? Are you looking for high-quality, nutritious food at a reasonable price, or would you rather pay more for organic food? Do you prefer to feed your dog wet or dry kibble? There are many options out there, but we are here to help you sift through the marketing jargon and find the best puppy food for your dog.
The best puppy food should be made with high-quality ingredients. It should match your dog’
Best Dog Food for Puppies
Choosing the best food for your puppy is one of the most important decisions you can make.
That’s because feeding the wrong food can greatly increase your puppy’s RISK of developing a crippling form of hip dysplasia… especially for certain breeds.
If you’ve ever brought a new puppy home, you know how much fun it can be. Everything about them is cute — from the way they waddle around the house and tip over to the look on their face when they’re about to fall asleep — plus their paws smell like tortilla chips. But owning a puppy also leads to a million questions. You’ll wonder what’s okay to let them eat.
(Grass? A little. Your roommate’s CBD gummies? Definitely not.) And just know that they’re gonna try to eat another animal’s poop. (It’s okay if you don’t catch them in time. They can handle it.) But one question you should know the answer to before bringing your dog home is what dog food you are going to feed them.
If you have other dogs at home, you might assume it’s okay to feed your adult dogs and your puppy the same food. But according to Dr. Jamie Richardson, chief of staff at Small Door Veterinary in NYC, “Puppies have different dietary requirements compared to adult dogs.” They need higher levels of protein and certain vitamins and minerals.
Because of this, Richardson recommends feeding them formulations specific to puppies until they are skeletally mature — around one year for small- and medium-breed dogs, or between 14 and 18 months in large- and giant-breed dogs.
Still, even among the foods specifically made for puppies, there are hundreds of brands to choose from. So we asked Richardson and six other veterinarians to help us find the best of the bunch for all kinds of puppies.
“What to feed your puppy is a question I get almost every single day,” says Dr. Karie Anne Johnson, a mobile veterinarian and co-founder of VIP Vet Visit. She and the other vets we spoke to all recommend choosing a puppy food that carries the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) seal of approval, which means it has been thoroughly researched and tested for nutritional adequacy.
Richardson also suggests confirming that whatever food you buy says that the diet “meets the nutritional profiles for growth or all life stages.”
Best Food For Large And Small-Breed Puppies
Large- and giant-breed puppies like malamutes, Great Danes, German shepherds, and Saint Bernards have different dietary needs than, say, a Yorkshire terrier or dachshund puppy. Veterinarian Leslie Brooks, an adviser at Betterpet, says large-breed puppies should eat food that is specifically labeled for “large-breed puppies.”
According to her, the mineral and calorie content in those foods is tailored to prevent large-breed puppies from growing too fast and developing bone or joint abnormalities as they grow.
Small-Breed-The main difference with this kind of food, Richardson says, is that it’s made in smaller chunks. Because little dogs have smaller mouths and teeth, you want to give them something that’s easy for them to bite and chew.
But that’s not the only reason to get food made specifically for small-breed puppies. According to Dr. Shelly Zacharias, veterinarian and vice-president of medical affairs for Gallant, small-breed puppy food also has nutrient differences that are important for small dogs.
Fresh Dog Food For Puppies
If you’re among the people who see their dog more as a member of their family than as a pet, you may want to give them minimally processed food that looks like your own dinner.
Richardson says that a growing number of the pet owners she sees are interested in human-grade or fresh pet foods. As this is a relatively new concept in the pet food world, definitions vary a bit by brand, but generally speaking, something labeled “fresh pet food” is minimally processed, does not use preservatives, and is gently cooked to retain nutrients and reduce the risk of harmful bacteria present in some raw diets.
According to Richardson, many of the fresh pet foods on the market currently don’t have food specifically formulated for puppies. She’s also cautious about fresh pet foods because they tend to contain a higher fat content than other dog foods.
Choosing The Best Healthy Food For Your Puppy
There are so many options for dog foods that it can be overwhelming. Where is a new puppy owner to begin?
In order to know what food is best for your puppy, you should become familiar with the various types of food on the market and what nutrition, if any, those foods offer:
Here are three main dry dog food categories
-Super premium foods are higher priced, but the tradeoff is that the food will be of superior quality, have an appropriate nutritional density, and be easily digestible for your pup’s little stomach. Puppies won’t need to eat as much of this food due to its nutritionally appropriate content. Orijen and Wellness brands are examples of super premium food.
-Premium name brand foods do not offer the same level of high-quality nutrition as super premium foods do, but the nutrition provided in this standard of food is still good.
-Premium name brand foods are often found in pet stores and supermarkets and are slightly less expensive than the super premium varieties.
Castor & Pollux, Pedigree, and Natural Balance brands are examples of premium name brand foods.
-Store brand generic foods may be a cheaper option. They often claim to have nutritional benefits equal to that of super premium foods but at a lower price.
In this way, a 16 lb. bag of store brand generic food may be $10.00 while a 4 lb. bag of super premium costs $12.00.
-But the truth is store brand generic foods contain cheap ingredients and fillers that make digestibility harder for your puppy.
The nutritional value is minuscule and not advisable for growing puppies. A good example of store brand generic foods are Alpo, Purina Natural, and Walmart’s Ol’ Roy foods.
Puppy Food - Ingredients to Look For
he food you give your puppy needs to have the right amount of vitamins and minerals to help your pup grow up right.
Here are the ingredients to look for in puppy food:
Natural preservatives or no preservatives at all. Puppy food that contains natural preservatives have added natural substances such as plant extracts, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E.
Those preservatives are acceptable, but so is food that doesn’t contain preservatives at all.
Whole meat (“human grade”). The phrase “human grade” refers to a finished pet food product that is edible and approved for human consumption.
Whole meat that is human grade has gone through a more thorough, rigorous inspection both regarding the food and the manufacturing plant, so you can rest assured that your puppy is eating food deemed good enough for people to eat.
Whole grains. Whole grains in your puppy’s food means an addition of easily digestible fiber, energy, and complex carbohydrates.
Aside from protein sources, whole grains are a vital component of your puppy’s diet.
Identifiable animal-based proteins. Your puppy’s food should feature an identifiable meat protein source as the first ingredient listed on the back of the bag.
Common animal-based protein sources are chicken, beef, lamb, and fish meal. Your puppy needs plenty of protein for proper growth and execution of critical body functions.
Fats from clearly labeled source (chicken fat, safflower oil). Like protein, fat is necessary to include in your puppy’s diet, but it needs to come from easily identifiable and natural sources.
Fats contain fatty acids, like Omega-3 and Omega-6, which are essential fats to help your puppy grow up strong and healthy.
Fruits and vegetables. Look for fruits and vegetables on the label of your puppy’s food. The right fruits and vegetables will provide your pup with vital vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can improve all aspects of physical function and may help your dog ward off illnesses and diseases like cancer.
Amino acids. Don’t make the mistake of looking for protein alone on the food label. Your pup needs food that contains the right amino acids, as they are the basic building blocks of protein.
Keep an eye out for any of the following: arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.
Chelates. Chelates are naturally occurring minerals from inorganic compounds that your pup needs to grow and maintain healthy structure and bones.
Some of the most important chelates that your puppy requires are magnesium, calcium, sulfur, and phosphorous.
Puppy Food - Ingredients to Avoid
Corn. This grain is one you want your puppy to avoid as corn is hard to digest and may also cause allergies.
Corn is used as a low-cost filler in dog foods and is a sure sign that the food is not high quality. Avoid foods with corn as it provides little to no nutritional value.
Wheat gluten. Gluten is the leftover residue from wheat grains that some dog food manufacturers use as a meat substitute.
Wheat gluten, like other forms of gluten, is less nutritionally complete than meat-based proteins, and manufacturers of low-grade foods often add them as a “protein” reported on a food label to make the food look better than it is in reality.
Meat meal. Meat meal is a catch-all term for ground up meat that has been cooked to remove its water content.
It consists of animal waste materials, such as bones, hooves, and heads. Meat meal is synonymous with the terms by-products, by-product meal, or meat bone-meal, so avoid any dog food package that lists these terms.
Rendered fat. Your puppy needs fat, but only the right kind. Rendered animal fat, also referred to as generic animal fat, means roadkill, dying or diseased livestock, and expired grocery meats.
Steer clear of dog food with “rendered fat” on the label.
Food dyes (Yellow 5 and 6, Blue 2, Red 40). Dyes are added to your pup’s food to make it look more appealing to you, even though your dog could care less about what his food looks like! The food dyes added to dog food are chemical additives --- some are even considered carcinogens --- that provide zero nutritional value and may cause serious health issues.
Corn syrup. What your puppy doesn’t need in his food is any sugar, and that’s what corn syrup is: a sugar used to sweeten your pup’s dinner.
Too much sugar will eventually help your puppy become an obese adult dog who may develop diabetes, hyperactivity, or behavioral changes.
Cellulose. This structural carbohydrate is used in the production of building materials, such as lumber.
Wood pulp and wood shavings have no place in your dog’s food, so avoid foods with cellulose listed as an ingredient.
BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole) and BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene). These two chemicals are highly dangerous for your puppy. BHA is a preservative linked to kidney damage.
BHT is used to prevent food spoilage and is also connected to the development of cancer in both people and dogs.
Ethoxyquin. A preservative commonly found in dog food, ethoxyquin was originally developed as a herbicide.
The development of liver damage, cancer, blindness, leukemia, kidney damage, and immune system disorders are associated with this preservative.
Propylene Glycol. This chemical is a common product used in antifreeze. Some pet food manufacturers use propylene glycol to prevent bacteria growth and reduce moisture in dog food.
Unfortunately, this product prevents the growth of good bacteria that your pup needs to absorb and digest food. It also may lead to cancerous lesions in your dog’s intestines or cause intestinal blockages to occur.
Synthetic Vitamin K3. Also known as menadione, synthetic Vitamin K3 is a substitute for natural Vitamin K often found in dog food.
There are serious health concerns associated with menadione as it is classified as a toxin and may cause irreversible damage to the liver and other vital organs.
Hydrochloric Acid. This acid is a corrosive agent used to modify gelatin and corn starch. It also serves as a pH adjuster and as an agent for the conversion of corn starch to syrup.
Hydrochloric acid is not a natural substance and does not belong in your puppy’s meals.
What is the best puppy food? That depends on a number of factors. First, you'll need a high-quality puppy food, because your puppy is growing and needs the right nutrients. But you shouldn't just pick a puppy food based on the pup's age. If your puppy is active and seems to be growing well, you may be able to feed him adult food instead of puppy food. A good guideline to follow is to feed your puppy a high-quality puppy food until he reaches about 90 percent of his adult weight. Even if he seems to be growing well, keep feeding him puppy food until he reaches that point.
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