Are you a proud new puppy parent? Around two million dogs are adopted in the U.S. each year, sending owners to the store for dog food, collars, toys, and other supplies to support these newest members of the family.
And if your new pup is under 1-2 years old, choosing the best puppy food is more important than ever. Good nutrition is the best way to help your puppy grow into a strong, healthy adult dog who will live a happy and active life with your family. Here’s what to look for in a good puppy food.
The Importance of Finding a High-Quality Diet for a Puppy
Most dogs are considered “adult,” or fully grown, between 1 and 2 years old. Any age before that is still a puppy — and puppies are in a crucial developmental stage where the right nutrients set the foundation for a lifetime of good health.
On the other hand, a subpar diet can lead to developmental issues and health complications. That’s why puppies of every breed size should start out their lives with a specially developed puppy diet that includes everything they need.
It’s a similar concept to how human children eat as they develop and grow. When humans are babies, we drink milk. Then, we move onto solids — baby food like pureed vegetables. As we grow into toddlers, our parents introduce other foods like cereal or soft finger foods. We keep trying new foods throughout childhood to support growth and development.
This gradual progression is important for puppies, too. Just like a human child, a puppy’s body is developing its essential tissues and organs in the early stages of development. To support proper growth, avoid feeding your puppy table food and minimize fat intake (low to moderate fat is appropriate). Keep in mind, too, that a high caloric intake can lead to unhealthy growth and potential obesity.
Requirements for a Puppy’s Diet
What exactly do puppies need to eat? A balanced diet for young dogs will look different than their adult counterparts. Take a look at what the best puppy diet should include.
Since puppies are growing so quickly, they need specific nutrients — and whether they’re small breeds or giant breeds, they need those nutrients in larger quantities than adult dogs. (Take a look at the next section for puppy portion sizes according to age.)
The right nutrition allows puppies to develop properly and on schedule, from their bones to their muscles to their brain and every other part of their body.
Puppies have a lot of energy! This means they need to eat often to replace the calories they’re expending as they romp, play, and grow. The best feeding schedule for puppies is to feed them three times a day, at the same time every day. Puppies over six months old can eat just twice a day.
How much your puppy should eat can vary based on factors like their breed, the dog’s size, activity level, whether they’ve been spayed or neutered, the specific food they’re eating (follow any guidelines on the package), and whether they have any medical issues. However, this example puppy feeding chart from our Whole Grain Whole Food Clusters for puppies can help give you a general idea:
Allergies or Sensitivities
Just like humans, dogs can be allergic or sensitive to certain foods, too. Common food allergens for dogs include:
Your puppy may have an allergy if you notice signs like itchy skin, ears, and paws or digestive issues such as diarrhea or vomiting.
It’s important to detect any dog food allergies or sensitivities as early as possible. Addressing these issues sooner rather than later helps prevent long-term health issues. Dogs with food allergies will need to eat a hypoallergenic diet to prevent symptoms or reactions.
If you suspect your dog may have allergies, reach out to your veterinarian.
Transitioning to Food
Most puppies start weaning from milk when they’re three to four weeks old. Transitioning puppies from milk to solid adult food should be a gradual process. Instead of just putting solid dog food in front of your puppy and expecting them to eat it, moisten it by mixing it with warm water to create more of a wet food. This helps smooth the transition from liquids to something entirely new!
What Types of Nutrients Does a Puppy Need?
Puppies need both macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbohydrates) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) to help them grow. Here are some of the most important nutrients for puppies.
Proteins are the building blocks for muscle and tissues. They’re absolutely vital for growth. For puppies, make sure you’re providing high-quality animal protein, choosing a high-protein puppy diet with a minimum of 22% protein on a dry-matter basis (dry matter = any part of the dog food that isn’t water).
Healthy fats give puppies energy, aid brain development, and make their coats sleek and shiny. But eating too much fat might make your dog overweight, which can lead to a slew of other health problems. Stick with a diet that’s 10-25% fat on a dry-matter basis.
Carbohydrates serve as a source of quick energy — crucial for a playful, active pup. Carbs also provide dietary fiber, which is important to help the digestive system function normally. Most dry dog foods contain 30-60% carbohydrates.
Essential Vitamins and Minerals
Your puppy needs vitamins and minerals, such as calcium and iron for bone and blood fortification and Omega-3 fatty acids like DHA for brain development. Dogs also need fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, and K) and water-soluble vitamins (such as thiamin, riboflavin, and others).
The Role of Quality Ingredients in a Puppy’s Diet
Are you shopping around for the best puppy food for your new family member? Make sure you’re closely reading the list of ingredients before making a purchase.
The quality of the dog food ingredients directly affects a puppy’s health, growth, and long-term wellness — so picking a food that has the best quality ingredients available is key.
Real Meat vs. Meat Meal
Many dog foods are made with meat meal, a concoction made from the parts of an animal not sold for human consumption (meat by-products). This could include bones, teeth, and connective tissues. To make meat meals, these parts are cooked at high temperatures and then crushed into a dry powder before being mixed into dry kibble or other dog food options.
Instead, look for human grade food made using whole muscle and organ meats — just like humans eat. These ingredients are minimally processed, retaining more nutritional value than lower-quality protein sources like meat meals.
Whole Food Ingredients
Dog food with whole food ingredients includes meats, fruits, and vegetables — the same kind of food you use to fill your own plate. This type of dog food has more nutritional value. It’s also easier on your dog’s stomach because it doesn’t contain harmful artificial preservatives, aids digestion, and supports their immune system.
Grains vs. Grain Free Foods
There’s a lot of debate about the benefits of grain free dog foods. If your puppy seems to have a grain allergy, staying away from grains may be a good idea, but be sure to consult with your veterinarian before making any dietary changes.
Often, low-quality grains are used as filler ingredients in dog food — rather than a high-quality ingredient that promotes growth and development. On the other hand, dog foods with high-quality whole grains have a number of benefits. For example, they can be good sources of complex carbohydrates and healthy fats.
Our Selection of Puppy Food Offerings From The Honest Kitchen
If you’re looking for the best puppy food (and treats!) that include high-quality ingredients to help your dog thrive, The Honest Kitchen is a great choice. Our human grade puppy food is developed specifically to support your puppy’s growth as they become a happy and healthy adult dog.
Here are a few popular recipes your puppy will love:
Whole Food Clusters for Puppies
Our Whole Grain Chicken Clusters for Puppies are made with cage free chicken (no meat meal here!), oats, veggies, salmon oil, and probiotics. As one of the best dry dog foods, this nutrient-dense puppy food has 467 kcal/cup, providing a protein-packed way for your puppy to develop and grow.
Grain-Free Clusters for Puppies
If your puppy has a grain sensitivity and you’re looking for grain free dog food, we recommend our Grain Free Chicken Clusters for Puppies. This puppy food contains similar high-quality ingredients to our Whole Grain Chicken Clusters, but doesn’t include any grains.
Parmesan Pecks Dog Treats
As a new dog owner, you may spend a lot of time training your new dog. Dog treats like our Parmesan Pecks are a great way to motivate and reward your pet! These treats are made with ranch raised beef, blueberries, and real cheese — what puppy wouldn’t love that? And if your pup prefers poultry, the Parmesan Pecks also come in chicken and duck flavors.
Just make sure not to overdo it with treats. Snapping the Parmesan Pecks in half is a great way to keep your puppy’s treat intake at no more than 10% of their total caloric intake each day.
Perfect Form Herbal Digestive Supplement
If your puppy is experiencing digestive issues, supplements can help provide more support. We offer a Perfect Form Herbal Digestive Supplement that helps support stool regularity and bowel health.s.
Begin With The Honest Kitchen’s Puppy Starter Kit Today
Choosing the right pet food for your puppy is a great way to set the stage for proper growth and development. If you’re looking for high-quality, human grade puppy food, try The Honest Kitchen!
Check out our complete line of recipes for growing puppies — all made with high-quality, delicious ingredients that your pup will love!*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.