A vet examining a happy dog in their clinic

What Types of Food Do Vets Recommend for Puppies?

Did you know that, even though puppies are much smaller than adult dogs, they require more calorie-dense meals? They also need specific nutrients to nourish their growing bodies and minds.

Choosing the right food for your new puppy can be tricky — there’s a ton of information out there, and it can be conflicting at times!

In this article, we aim to take some of the confusion out of the selection process. We’ll take a look at vet-recommended guidelines for fueling your furry friend’s journey from playful puppy to devoted companion.

What Nutrients Are Most Important for Puppies?

Let’s start by breaking down the key nutrients that should be the cornerstone of a puppy’s meals: protein, fat, DHA, vitamins, and minerals.

High-Quality Protein Sources

Puppies are bundles of energy, constantly exploring and growing. So protein is essential to support their rapid development.

Look for foods rich in high-quality protein sources like real chicken, beef, and fish. When reviewing dog food labels, prioritize products that list a whole protein source (not byproducts or meat meals, like chicken meal) as the first ingredient. This can help ensure your pup gets the building blocks they need for muscle growth.

Essential Fatty Acids

Just as glucosamine and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are important for humans, they also play a vital role in a puppy’s diet. These fatty acids are not only crucial for cognitive development but also contribute to healthy skin and lustrous coats.

In addition, they can support a dog’s immune system and aid in managing inflammation. Try to incorporate sources like fish oils and flaxseed into your pup’s meals to promote their overall well-being.

DHA for Brain Development

When it comes to brain development, we need to highlight one particular omega-3 fatty acid: docosahexaenoic acid or DHA. DHA is a powerhouse nutrient that fosters optimal brain and vision development in puppies.

Look for nutritious foods fortified with DHA, like puppy food from The Honest Kitchen, or consider supplementing it to give your furry friend an extra boost to their mental prowess.

Vitamins and Minerals

No puppy diet is complete without an array of vitamins and minerals. From calcium and phosphorus to support strong bones to vitamins A, E, and C for immune health, each nutrient plays a crucial role.

A puppy receiving an adequate amount of vitamins and minerals will look healthy. They’ll have a glossy coat, healthy skin, and normal development.

Be mindful, though, of maintaining balanced mineral content to prevent any growth abnormalities as your puppy matures. This is especially important when it comes to calcium, as some large breed puppies may grow too fast, increasing the risk of bone and joint issues. Consult with your veterinarian on the right amount of vitamins and minerals for your pup.

How To Choose the Right Types of Foods for Puppies

Now that you have an overview of the nutrients required to support your pup, let’s explore key considerations when choosing the right types of food for them.

Consider Dry vs. Wet Puppy Food

There is an ongoing debate about which is better: dry food or wet food.

Dry dog food can be beneficial for dental health, providing a crunchy texture that helps reduce plaque and tartar buildup on dogs’ teeth. On the other hand, wet dog food offers higher moisture content, aiding in hydration and often boosting palatability for picky eaters.

Keep in mind that the texture of puppy food can bring relief from teething. Generally, a puppy should get soft or wet food until they’re at least eight weeks old. You can introduce dry food around 9–10 weeks for medium and large-breed dogs and 12 weeks for small dogs.

Evaluate Puppy Food Labels

Deciphering puppy food labels can feel like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be! Look for nutritional adequacy statements indicating the food meets standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and that it’s “complete and balanced” for a growing life stage.

Scrutinize ingredient lists, prioritize foods specifically formulated for puppies, and avoid generic “all life stages” options if your pup is under three months of age. Certified puppy foods ensure your furry friend receives the tailored nutrition they require to grow.

Consider the Puppy’s Size and Breed

Breed size matters in the world of puppy nutrition. Small breeds may benefit from calorie-dense foods to fuel an energetic lifestyle, while larger breeds may require controlled growth formulas to prevent bone issues. You’ll also want to choose the right kibble size, as some foods might be too large for small and tiny breeds.

So consider your puppy’s expected adult size and breed characteristics, adjusting their diet accordingly to promote healthy development without over-supplementing calcium.

Also, remember that puppyhood lasts different lengths of time depending on breed. Giant-breed and large-breed puppies can experience puppyhood for up to 18 months, while small and medium breeds reach adult status around 12 months. If you're not sure which category your pup falls into, check with your vet.

Work With Your Veterinarian

Your dog’s veterinarian is your ally on their journey to optimal health and wellness. Consult your vet for personalized dietary recommendations and regular assessments of your puppy’s body condition and muscle development. If your pup is showing signs of intolerance to any food or dietary supplement, your vet can assist.

Additionally, you can have monthly check-ins during vaccination appointments to discuss any changes in feeding requirements, especially after spaying or neutering. Spay and neuter surgery can reduce metabolism, so your puppy may need fewer calories afterward.

Tips on How Often To Feed Puppies

While your puppy might be perfectly happy to chow down all day, it’s important to stick to a regular feeding schedule with appropriate portion sizes. Use these tips to determine how much and how often to feed your growing pup.

Feeding Schedules

As puppies transition from nursing to solid foods, establishing a consistent feeding schedule is crucial. In addition to ensuring they get all the nutrients they need for growth, a consistent schedule can also be essential for their adjustment to life in your home.

At around eight weeks old, when they’re ready to leave their mother, you can begin timed feedings four times per day. Place the food in front of them and allow 20 minutes of mealtime, putting away any leftovers. Avoid leaving food out all day, as it can lead to overeating and obesity.

By 12 weeks, your puppy should be losing their adorable pudgy potbelly, signaling a healthy transition. As they grow, decrease meal frequency to three times per day from 3–6 months, then down to twice a day from six months onward.

Dogs naturally regulate their intake based on activity level, so let them self-regulate and never force-feed. Throughout this entire process, focus on your puppy’s overall condition rather than whether they finish their food.

Portion Control and Growth Monitoring

To prevent obesity and ensure proper growth, you need to determine the correct portion size for your pup. Monitor their growth closely, adjusting food amounts accordingly.

And be cautious during treat-based training, as excessive treats can lead to a loss of appetite for balanced meals. As a rule of thumb, treats should never comprise more than 10% of a dog’s daily caloric intake.

Exercise portion control and monitor your puppy’s growth to prevent overfeeding. If you do choose treat-based training, consider using their dry food or a low-calorie, nutritious treat. Then you can simply reduce the amount of food at feeding time depending on how many treats they had during training time.

Signs of Proper Nutrition

A well-nourished puppy exhibits signs of vitality, including playful behavior and a shiny, healthy coat. It’s also a good sign if their bowel movements are solid and brown, which indicates your puppy is digesting most of the nutrients in their food. Watch for these indicators of good health, as they reflect a balanced diet and proper nutrition.

However, be vigilant for signs of nutritional deficiencies or excesses, like lethargy, a dull coat, sensitive skin, or stomach issues, which may warrant adjustments to their diet or a visit to the vet.

Dogs are known for sometimes hiding their ailments from their owners. So if you sense something is off, it’s best to go with your gut and have your furry friend checked out by a professional.

Vet-Recommended Puppy Selections From The Honest Kitchen

With all of the nutritional and feeding information covered above, you’re likely wondering where to begin your search for the best dog food that will meet all of your pup’s needs. We recommend starting with puppy-specific recipes from The Honest Kitchen.

The Honest Kitchen offers human grade whole grain and grain free dry dog food options created with the help of a board-certified veterinary nutritionist to support growing puppies. Learn more about our puppy food top picks from The Honest Kitchen below.

The Honest Kitchen’s Puppy Dog Food Clusters

If you’re searching for a convenient dry kibble food for your puppy that checks all the nutritional boxes and doesn’t have any artificial preservatives or fillers, check out The Honest Kitchen’s Clusters for Puppies.

If grain free is your style, The Honest Kitchen offers a yummy Grain Free Chicken Clusters recipe. It includes cage free chicken, peas, carrots, broccoli, pumpkin, flaxseed, eggs, chia seed, and all the vitamins and minerals your puppy needs to support their growth.

If your pup doesn’t have any grain sensitivities, The Honest Kitchen also offers a Whole Grain Chicken Clusters puppy formula that will have them begging for more. This recipe includes chicken, oats, barley, carrots, eggs, flaxseed, and fresh produce like broccoli, apples, and kale.

As with all pet food produced by The Honest Kitchen, you can feel confident your dog is receiving all the nutrients they need and more (like probiotics) to support them for years to come.

The Honest Kitchen’s Parmesan Pecks

As noted earlier, treats can be a helpful tool to use when training your pup (or when they deserve a little something special), but not all treats are created equal. The Honest Kitchen’s high standards apply to their treats as well.

For an elevated biscuit treat, we recommend Parmesan Pecks: Chicken & Cranberry. These nutrient-rich treats include whole grains (wheat-free), chicken, flaxseed, antioxidant-rich cranberries, coconut oil, parmesan cheese, and eggs. They’re bite-sized biscuits that are perfect for small pups and only seven calories a piece.

The Honest Kitchen’s Meaty Littles

If your puppy needs an added boost of protein, check out Beef & Salmon Meaty Littles from The Honest Kitchen. These tiny, chewy bites are kind of like the dog version of beef jerky. They’re made with beef, chickpeas, salmon (a natural source of DHA), coconut, apple cider vinegar, celery juice, and beef bone broth.

If you want to support your dog’s training while also giving them added human grade nutrients to support their developing muscles and brain health, these treats are a great choice.

Set the Foundation for Healthy Years to Come With The Honest Kitchen

A healthy, nutritious diet during puppyhood will set your dog up for better health and wellness throughout their adult and senior years. It may feel like an intimidating task, but by following these guidelines, you can find the right puppy food that meets all of your dog’s unique needs.

There are a lot of dog food brands out there to choose from, but if you’d like a human grade, high-quality food, The Honest Kitchen has a recipe for every pup. From wet food to dry food for puppies through senior dogs, The Honest Kitchen can support your dog’s nutritional needs, as well as their taste buds.

Check out The Honest Kitchen’s full puppy collection to give your pup a headstart on a healthy life.

*Health Disclaimer: This post is educational in nature and doesn’t constitute health advice. Please consult your pet's veterinarian or other healthcare professional for specific guidance on this topic.

Back to Blog