Whether you have a tiny Chihuahua or a giant Great Dane, one things all puppies have in common is that they grow like weeds. Your Toy puppy will mature faster than a giant breed dog because big dogs have more growing to do, but all puppies grow rapidly. With this in mind, what can you do to help your puppy reach his optimum size and health when he becomes an adult dog? Choosing the best puppy food for your puppy goes a long way to helping your puppy have all of the nutrients he needs, in the proper ratios and amounts. Keep reading and we’ll tell you what you should be looking for in the best puppy food.
What do puppies need in their diet?
The Merck Veterinary Manual https://www.merckvetmanual.com/management-and-nutrition/nutrition-small-animals/nutritional-requirements-and-related-diseases-of-small-animals is a good source of information concerning the dietary requirements for dogs, cats, kittens, and puppies. It provides tables for the AAFCO and the NRC recommendations for pets.
According to the AAFCO table for dogs, listed under “growth and reproduction,” puppies need a minimum of 22 percent protein in their diet every day. They need a minimum of 8 percent fat, 1.0 percent calcium, 0.8 percent phosphorus, and a calcium to phosphorus ration of 1:1. And they need a host of other vitamins and minerals, most of which are similar to what an adult dog needs. All of these are dry matter figures (DMB) so when you are calculating the nutrients in your puppy’s food, you have to remember to remove the moisture content. (There are online calculators that make it easy to do these calculations.)
Your puppy’s special needs
Puppies do have some special needs that adult dogs don’t have. Since puppies are growing so fast during their first months, they need lots of calories – more calories than adult dogs. These calories should, ideally, come from protein and fat and not just carbohydrates. Your puppy is using these calories to build bone, muscle, and tissues throughout his body so good quality ingredients are a plus.
Puppies also need an omega fatty acid called DHA – Docosahexaenoic acid. DHA is an important nutrient for your puppy’s brain and vision development, as well as for his heart. DHA is naturally found in oily fish such as salmon and anchovies.
Vitamins and minerals such as vitamin E and selenium are helpful antioxidants that help your puppy develop a strong immune system.
Puppies also need a calcium to phosphorus ratio that is appropriate for proper bone growth. Too much calcium without a balance of phosphorus can be harmful to your puppy’s bone growth and lead to musculoskeletal problems so it’s important that calcium and phosphorus are always balanced. This is where some maintenance dog foods for adult dogs can be especially troublesome for puppies since they don’t necessarily have the correct calcium to phosphorus ratio required.
Good quality puppy foods usually have the calories and ingredients that your puppy needs to grow and be healthy as an adult dog.
Best Puppy Food
To choose the best puppy food for your puppy, we recommend that you consider the following:
- How large will your puppy be as an adult?
- How old is your puppy?
- Does your puppy have any special health needs?
If you have a puppy from a Toy breed or any puppy that is very small, we suggest that you feed a food that is specially formulated for Toy/small breed puppies. These puppies really burn calories and some of them can be hypoglycemic, especially when they are very young. You may need to feed your puppy 3-4 meals per day until he is several months old. Foods formulated for very small puppies should have the calories your puppy needs. They should also keep your puppy from experiencing drastic drops in blood sugar levels.
If you have a puppy from a very large or giant breed, we recommend that you feed your puppy a food that is formulated for large/giant breed puppies. These puppies should be encouraged to grow more slowly than other puppies to avoid bone and joint problems. Puppy foods for these big puppies are usually lower in calories and have less fat. The calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D levels are also precisely tailored to the needs of big puppies.
The age of your puppy can make a difference in which puppy food you buy, too, especially if you have a large or giant breed puppy. Toy breed puppies can reach maturity by the time they are 6-9 months old. However, with puppies from bigger breeds it sometimes takes up to 2-3 years (or longer!) for a puppy to fully mature. For this reason, some companies make puppy foods for young puppies and for older puppies. If you have a Saint Bernard, for example, you might buy a puppy food for your puppy that is suitable for him up until he’s about 8 months old; then buy another puppy food for him that is a better choice between the ages of 9 months and two years. After that you can finally start feeding him an adult dog food.
You should also consider if your puppy has any special health needs when choosing a puppy food. Most puppies probably won’t have any serious health problems at this young age but it’s always possible. For example, a puppy could have a food allergy. Food allergies are not as common as most people think. Plus, for dogs that have them, they don’t usually manifest in young puppies since a dog needs to be exposed to a trigger to become sensitive to it. But it is possible that a puppy could develop a food allergy. If so, that is something you would need to be aware of when choosing a puppy food.
Which puppy foods?
Considering the FDA’s recent update on dog foods and dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs, we would currently recommend that you stick to some of the more well-known companies and brands when choosing a puppy food for your puppy. These companies have veterinary nutritionists on staff that formulate the foods. They do research and testing of their foods. And they (mostly) use the same ingredients that have been used in dog foods for decades. You may not like some of the ingredients in the foods but it’s important to look at dog food ingredients as nutrients for your dog and not as what you want to eat for yourself.
With that in mind, here are some puppy foods that we recommend.
Royal Canin Medium Puppy
Royal Canin makes lots of different puppy foods for puppies of all sizes and many different breeds. They are a science-based company owned by Mars, Inc.
Hill’s® Ideal Balance™ Natural Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Puppy
Hill’s has several different product lines, though many people only associate them with Science Diet. They also have prescription diet foods, a new Bioactive Recipe, Ideal Balance, and a Healthy Advantage line.
Purina ProPlan Puppy
Purina ProPlan is the top of the line dog food from Purina. ProPlan comes in several formulas: Savor, Focus, Sport, Bright Mind, and Simply Fit. All of these formulas have multiple recipes. Many of these formulas are all life stage foods so they can be fed to puppies. ProPlan Focus offers both dry and canned puppy foods. There is also a dry ProPlan Savor puppy food.
Eukanuba makes several very good puppy foods. The company makes foods based on your dog’s size as well as lifestage. For adult dogs, the company has some foods that are especially good for sporting and performance dogs.
We hope this information about the best puppy food is helpful to you. There are some other good companies that make puppy foods but with the FDA’s current investigation into dilated cardiomyopathy, it’s not easy to recommend foods. We do suggest that people with puppies avoid feeding foods that contain peas, lentils, legumes, and sweet potatoes in large amounts, just to be safe.