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How to Choose the Best Dry Puppy Food for Your Furry Friend (Guide)

If you have a new puppy, you will likely want to give it the best possible start. Puppy care is one of the most essential aspects of caring for your new furry friend.

What you feed your puppy can have a significant impact on their health, development, and growth. But with so many choices, how do you select the best dry puppy food for your furry companion?

Kibble, also known as dry dog food, is a popular option among many pet owners. It is practical, economical, and can help keep your furry friend's teeth clean.

However, not all dry dog foods are the same. Some may contain artificial additives and low-quality ingredients. Some may not be suitable for your furry companion's breed size or life stage.

This article will guide you on what to look for, what to avoid, and how to compare different dry puppy food brands and formulas.

By the end of this article on BestForPets, you will be able to make an informed decision and choose the best dry puppy food for your furry companion.

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Deborah R. Fletcher (DVM)


The information provided is current and up-to-date, in line with the latest research conducted in the field of veterinary medicine.

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1. What to Look for in Dry Puppy Food

There are several factors to consider when selecting dry puppy food. Here are a few of the most significant:

1.1 Nutritional content

Puppies require a well-balanced diet rich in protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients.

Protein is essential for building muscles and tissues, while fats provide energy and promote healthy skin and coat.

Carbohydrates provide the body with fiber and energy, whereas vitamins and minerals support a variety of physiological functions and the immune system.

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) recommends that dry puppy foods contain at least 22% protein and 8% fat for canines of all sizes and breeds.

Additionally, you can search for specific nutrients that benefit your dog’s health, such as omega-3 fatty acids for brain and vision development, glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health, and probiotics for digestive health.

1.2 Quality of ingredients

The digestibility, palatability, and nutritional value of dry puppy food can be affected by the quality of its ingredients.

Consider dry puppy diets that contain natural, organic, or human-grade ingredients sourced from reputable manufacturers.

Avoid dry puppy foods containing by-products, fillers, additives, synthetic colors, flavors, or preservatives, as some puppies may develop allergies, sensitivities, or health problems due to these.

Before eliminating grains from your dog’s diet, consult your veterinarian, as they may provide essential nutrients and fiber to some dogs.

You may also prefer grain-free or gluten-free dry puppy food if your dog has a grain intolerance or allergy.

1.3 Sizes of breeds

Different breeds of different sizes have distinct nutritional requirements and growth rates.

Small-breed puppies (weighing less than 20 pounds as adults) have faster metabolisms and require more calories per pound than large-breed puppies (weighing more than 50 pounds as adults).

Large-breed dogs need controlled quantities of calcium and phosphorus to prevent bone and joint problems later in life.

Look for dry puppy food that is specially formulated for the size of your puppy’s breed and feed accordingly.

1.4 Life stage

Puppies have different nutritional requirements than adults and senior dogs. Puppies require additional calories, protein, fats, and other nutrients to support their accelerated development and growth.

Adult dogs require a diet that provides sufficient energy and nutrients to keep them healthy and active. The diet of senior dogs must support their aging bodies and prevent obesity and chronic diseases.

Look for dry puppy food that is labeled “puppy”, “all life stages”, or “growth” for your furry companion. Avoid dry dog diets labeled “adult”, “senior”, or “weight management.”

1.5 Special needs

Some dogs may have specific dietary requirements due to allergies, sensitivities, health conditions, or preferences.

Some dogs may be allergic to specific proteins or grains, necessitating a hypoallergenic or limited-ingredient diet.

Some dogs may have digestive or skin issues and require a diet that is easy on their intestines or promotes healthy skin. Some dogs may be picky eaters and require a diet that is appealing and delicious.

Consult your veterinarian before making any adjustments to your puppy’s diet, and look for dry puppy food that meets your puppy’s specific dietary requirements.

2. What to Avoid in Dry Puppy Food

While there are many positive characteristics to seek out in dry puppy food, there are also some ingredients or characteristics you should avoid. Here are some to watch out for:

2.1 Artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives

These are synthetic ingredients added to dry puppy food to improve its appearance, flavor, and shelf life.

However, they are devoid of nutritional value and can cause adverse reactions in some puppies, such as allergies, sensitivities, and health problems.

Examples of artificial colors include Red 40, Yellow 5, and Blue 2. Synthetic flavors such as propylene glycol and ethoxyquin are examples of additives. Common artificial preservatives include BHA, BHT, and TBHQ.

2.2 By-products, fillers, or additives

These low-quality ingredients are added to dry puppy food to increase its volume or lower its price. However, they have little to no nutritional value and can diminish the digestibility and palatability of dry puppy food.

Additionally, they can induce allergies, sensitivities, and health problems in some puppies. Examples of by-products include flesh by-products, poultry by-products, and animal digest.

Corn gluten meal, soy meal, and wheat middlings are all additives. Other common additives include salt, sugar, and caramel color.

2.3 Excessive or inadequate calcium

Calcium is an essential mineral for the development of puppies’ bones and teeth. However, too much or too little calcium can be harmful to puppies, particularly those of large breeds.

Excessive calcium intake can cause bone and joint disorders such as hip dysplasia and osteochondrosis, while insufficient calcium can result in rickets or hypocalcemia.

Depending on their breed size and life stage, the optimal calcium level for puppies ranges from 1% to 1.8%.

2.4 Excessive or inadequate caloric intake

Calories are units of energy necessary for dogs’ development and activity. However, excessive or inadequate caloric intake can cause problems for puppies, such as obesity and malnutrition.

Obesity can result in a variety of health problems, including diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease, while malnutrition can result in stunted growth, compromised immunity, and organ failure.

The optimal caloric intake for dogs depends on their breed size, life stage, level of activity, and metabolic rate.

2.5 Ingredients that may cause allergies or irritation

These are ingredients that may trigger allergic reactions or irritation in some puppies, including hives, sneezing, vomiting, diarrhea, or inflammation.

Ingredients that commonly cause allergies or irritation in dry puppy food include proteins (including poultry, beef, lamb, etc.), grains (including wheat, maize, soy, etc.), dairy products (including cheese, milk, etc.), eggs (including egg whites), and fish (including salmon).

However, any ingredient has the potential to be an allergen or irritant for a particular dog. It is important to note that every puppy is unique, and some may have specific dietary needs or restrictions.

Consult with a veterinarian to determine the best dry puppy food for your individual puppy.

3. How to Compare Different Brands and Formulas of Dry Puppy Food

Two puppies are sitting next to each other outside in the grass facing the camera looking curious

Once you have determined what to look for and what to avoid in dry puppy food, you can begin comparing brands and formulations to find the best option for your dog. Here are some steps to take:

3.1 Read the labels

On the labels of dry puppy food, you can find a wealth of information about the product’s ingredients, nutritional value, and quality. Check the label for essential information:

  • Product name: This indicates the type of product, such as “puppy,” “all life stages,” or “large breed.”
  • Guaranteed analysis: This provides the minimum and maximum levels of protein, fat, fiber, moisture, and other nutrients present in the product.
  • Ingredient list: This section provides a list of the product’s ingredients in descending order by weight.
  • AAFCO statement: This indicates whether the product meets AAFCO standards for your dog’s life stage and breed size.
  • Feeding guidelines: This indicates how much and how often to feed your puppy based on their weight and age.
  • Manufacturer information: This section explains who makes the product, where it is manufactured, and how to contact the manufacturer if you have any questions or concerns.

3.2 Check the reviews

Reviews of dry puppy food can provide feedback from pet owners who have used the product. Consider the following when reading reviews:

  • Ratings: This indicates the level of consumer satisfaction with the product, typically on a scale from 1 to 5 stars.
  • Pros and cons: This indicates what customers liked and disliked about the product, including its flavor, smell, texture, digestibility, etc.
  • Comments: This indicates what the consumers observed or experienced while using the product, such as changes in their dog’s health, behavior, or appearance.

3.3 Conduct research

You can learn more about the brand, composition, and quality of the product by conducting research on dry puppy food. Consider the following aspects in your research:

  • Company history: This describes the company’s tenure in business, its mission and vision, and its standing in the industry.
  • Product development: This describes how the product is formulated, tested, and manufactured, as well as the quality control measures in place.
  • Product recalls: This indicates whether the product has ever been recalled due to safety or quality concerns and how the company handled the recall.

Here are a few of our preferred top-rated dry puppy diets for various breed sizes and life stages:

This is our top choice for the finest dry dog food for all breed sizes and phases of life.

The primary ingredient and source of protein is deboned chicken, while salmon meal and oil provide omega-3 fatty acids for brain and vision development.

Additionally, it contains tomatoes, which contribute vitamin C and antioxidants for immune support. It contains no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives and meets the AAFCO nutritional requirements for puppies.

This is the best dry dog food for large breeds, according to our research.

The primary constituent and source of protein is chicken meal, while whole cereals, vegetables, and fruits supply carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

In addition, it contains glucosamine and chondroitin to promote joint health, as well as calcium and phosphorus in controlled amounts to prevent bone and joint disorders.

It contains no artificial colors or ingredients and meets AAFCO standards for the nutrition of large breed puppies.

If you’re in search of the best dry puppy food for your furry friend, look no further than our guide on the Best Dry Puppy Foods. We’ve researched and tested numerous options to bring you our top picks for various breed sizes and life stages.

4. Conclusion

Puppy Carried by a Child

Choosing the best dry puppy food for your furry companion is a difficult but rewarding endeavor.

By following our guidelines and recommendations, you can locate a dry puppy food that meets your dog’s nutritional requirements, quality standards, breed size, life stage, and special needs.

Check out Wellness Complete , Hill's Science Diet ,etc. We also recommend specific dry puppy foods for various breed sizes and life stages.

Remember that your dog’s diet is one of the most essential aspects of their care and wellbeing. By selecting the finest dry puppy food, you can help them grow big and strong, be healthy and happy, and live a long and fruitful life with you.

BestForPets trusts that you found this article useful and informative. If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact us. We look forward to hearing from you.

If you are interested in reading more articles about puppy care and nutrition, please visit our website. There are numerous guides and suggestions available for you and your dog.

Thank you for reading, and enjoy your meal!

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Dr. Heidi Bigham

Dr. Heidi H. Bigham, DVM is an expert in small animal veterinary care, specializing in emergency medicine, geriatric pet health, and internal medicine. She has five years of expertise as a general practitioner of small animal medicine in facilities that provide preventative care, surgery, and 24-hour emergency treatment. 

Veterinarian (DVM) Dr. Heidi Bigham


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