You’re either a new puppy owner or an existing puppy owner determined to find the best puppy food brands available on the market. You care about your puppy like another child in your home and you want to ensure he gets the best possible nutrition you can find. However, deciding which puppy food brand is best for your puppy can be tough.
There are literally tens and tens of choices out there in all flavors and sizes. Which brands provide the optimum level of nutrition your puppy needs to ensure he gets all the necessary vitamins and minerals he needs to grow strong and healthy?
We’ve put together the ultimate guide to the 10 best puppy food brands and compared them to one another, a non-stop-shop with everything you need to decide, which not only meets your puppy’s nutritional needs, but also fits your pocket…
The Best Dog Food For Puppies Guide
What Makes a Good Puppy Food Brand?
Ideally, when looking at a good puppy food brand, we tend to favor foods that are:
- Higher in meat-based protein
- Higher in natural fats and oils
- Lower in carbohydrates
- Formulated from a named (non-generic) animal source
- Free of animal or vegetable by-products
- Free of artificial flavoring, coloring or preservatives
- Complete in all essential vitamins and minerals
- Not excessive in calcium for large breed puppies
To ensure a puppy food is balanced and contains the essential vitamins and minerals a puppy needs for optimal growth, the Association of American Feed Control Officials has established a special nutrient profile optimized for growing dogs.
This AAFCO profile details no less than 37 nutrients that must be present in a puppy food including:
- 10 amino acids
- 12 minerals
- 11 vitamins
To ensure that your puppy food is compliant to the AAFCO’s general nutritional guidelines, look for a statement on the label like:
Product formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO dog food nutrient profiles for growth
Essential Ingredients of the Best Puppy Food Brands
Proteins – Protein assists in puppy growth, development and their immune systems, especially during the growing phases of their lives. Good puppy food brands should contain between 21- and 26-percent protein.
The quality of the food is determined by the amount and types of protein it contains. By reading the nutritional information on the product label, it can be determined what the source(s) of the proteins are: animal, meat or grains.
- Meat protein – This type of protein is the closest to human quality and is superior to all types of proteins. It is usually sourced from animal organs or muscles.
- Animal by-products – This type of protein is usually sourced from all other parts of animals that contain protein, like lips, eyelashes, hoofs and hair.
- Vegetable or grain proteins – Vegetable and grain proteins are typically soy- or corn-based and much larger quantities are needed to meet the daily protein requirements of your puppy.
Since meat proteins are the highest protein source, it is a good guide to pick puppy food brands that contain at least two sources of meat proteins mentioned on the label.
Carbohydrates – As with humans, puppies also get their energy and dietary fiber from carbohydrates. Sources of carbohydrates suitable for puppies vary. Cheaper and lower quality puppy food brands may get their sources of carbohydrates from corn and wheat while more expensive but higher quality puppy food brands get theirs from rice, barley and oats. Your chosen puppy food brand should contain around 42% carbohydrates.
Fats and preservatives – Fat keeps your puppy’s skin and coat healthy, mobilizes digestion, and stabilizes temperature. Look for foods that are 15- to 20-percent fats and preservatives. Fats in the diet also gives your puppy stable, even-tempered energy. Suitable fats for puppy food brands are sourced from chicken fats, sunflower or canola oil, fish oil, and lactose-free dairy products.
Vitamins – Vitamins are needed in any diet to help unlock the nutrients from the food and also help the body to use energy. Vitamins are essential for puppies to ensure healthy digestive systems.
Vitamins are divided into two types:
- Fat soluble – These vitamins, which include vitamins A, D, E, and K, are stored in fatty tissue and in the liver.
- Water soluble – These vitamins, which include vitamins B and C, are flushed through the body daily — either used up or excreted.
It is important to remember that only 1% of food contain vitamins. Most foods have endless lists of all the vitamins they contain, sometimes also used as a marketing tactic. In this case, the less vitamins it contains, the better quality the puppy food brand.
Minerals – Minerals assist in the daily functions of your puppy’s body. It is required by law that all puppy food brands contain a balanced supply of minerals. Keep in mind that it can be harmful to your puppy’s growth and overall health as well as dangerous to supplement your puppy’s mineral intake. Speak to your local veterinarian instead and only act upon his instructions to do so if needed.
After all, a good puppy food brand will not be worthy of this prestigious “rank” among its hundreds of other rivals if it didn’t contain the correct nutrition and amount of vitamins and minerals to ensure optimal puppy growth and health. A proper feeding schedule together with optimal nutrition for your puppy is the answer. For more information on puppy feeding, refer to this page.
Quick Reviews of the 5 Best Puppy Food Brands
1. Acana Dog Food
Before we dive in, just to clear something quickly before you wonder why I have “dog food” in the heading on a site supposed to highlight puppy food…
Most variants of Acana dog food is suitable for all dog breeds and all life stages, also clearly indicated on the packaging. Am I forgiven for my “mistake”? Thank you!
Without a doubt, Acana is our current favorite dog food brand and although a couple of other brands come quite close to this designation from our side, there just is not another brand that will easily carry the lamp as far as Acana does for us (in our modest and humble opinion anyway…)
Acana provides the whole package… A range of various flavors and interesting combinations of what they call Biologically Appropriate™ pet foods made from fresh regional ingredients. All ingredients are sourced from local producers and delivered fresh right to their award-winning kitchen doors in Alberta, Canada, almost on a daily basis.
Acana’s range kicks off with their ever-popular Acana Classics that feature 55-65% meats, including cage-free Cobb chicken, whole eggs and wild-caught flounder, plus sun-ripened fruits and vegetables from Canada’s Okanagan orchards.
Next up, expressing the diversity of fresh, authentic foods produced from western Canada’s vast ranchlands, rich prairies, fertile valleys and pristine waters, is the Acana Regionals, also rich in protein, low in carbohydrates and entirely grain-free.
Have a diet-sensitive little fellow and need to keep an eye on extreme ingredient diversity? Acana Singles has you covered with its limited ingredient, Biologically Appropriate™ range with their unmatched meat inclusions of Alberta pork, Canadian duck or New Zealand lamb.
What we especially fancy about the Acana range of foods is that they are all suited for all breed types, of all life stages. We just think that’s amazing innovation all by itself.
2. Orijen Puppy and Adult Dog Food
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Orijen dog food is right up there at the top of our recommended list of best puppy food brands we recommend to any pet owner looking to provide his canine companions with the best available nutrition on the market. After all, it’s made by the same company that produces Acana, Champion Petfoods based in Alberta, Canada.
Unlike many other pet food brands which are owned by marketing companies and merely distributed by themselves, Orijen prides in their award-winning kitchens that have been serving the worldwide pet food market for more than a quarter century.
Orijen currently produces 6 variants of dog foods, serving the needs of any breed or nutritional requirement. Each Orijen product is a Biologically Appropriate™ revolution, Orijen Whole Prey™ food that incorporates richly nourishing meats, organs and cartilage in ratios that truly mirror the natural diet, dramatically reducing the need for synthetic ingredients.
3. Holistic Select’s Grain Free Adult and Puppy Health Salmon & Anchovy/Sardine Meal Recipe
As the name of the brand implies, Holistic Select has offered healthy and natural pet food products for over a decade. Their philosophy is that total body health begins digestive health everyone, especially pets.
What does Holistic Select do to their recipe to achieve their goal? Holistic Select pet food recipes contain a Unique Digestive Health Support System (digestive enzymes and digestive botanicals as well as pre- and probiotics) in addition to vegetables, fruits, proteins, whole grains and omega fatty acids.
Holistic Select makes the bold statement that your puppy will love their recipe selection. Their guarantee is if you are unsatisfied with the product all you need to do is bring the unused portion, packaging and receipt back to the retailer for a full refund or exchange.
The main ingredients for Holistic Select’s Grain Free Adult & Puppy Health (salmon and anchovy & sardine meal recipe) include:
- anchovy & sardine meal,
- dried ground potatoes,
- canola oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols),
- menhaden fish meal,
- tomato pomace,
- pea fibre,
Amazon reviews as of writing this are all positive (five-stars!) for Holistic Select’s Grain Free Adult & Puppy Health dry food. Considering the impressive ingredient list the praise is well deserved. Robert Kurek says: ‘This food works wonders on my dog’s digestive system….totally changed things in 2 days (believe it or not) …’
4. Wellness Complete Health Puppy Food
You may have noticed that natural ingredients are quite important to us here at BestPuppyFoodBrands.com…
Due to one reason and one reason only…
We believe that living beings’ digestive systems are created with the natural food sources available, in mind. They were never meant to digest unnatural, human-made fillers, animal by-products and unhealthy supplements created to ‘enhance’ growth or supposedly assist basic nutrition.
Wellness seems to share our vision with an intense focus on natural food choices for pets.
The Wellness Complete Health Dry Puppy Food recipe contains de-boned chicken, chicken meal, ground barley, salmon meal, ground brown rice and chicken fat. Instead of any grain by-product or artificial filler there are also tomatoes, carrots and ground flaxseed in the mix. The ingredients mostly comprise a natural range, which is exactly what is being advertised.
5. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula
Blue Buffalo emphasizes that that their pet food does not contain chicken or poultry by-product meals, artificial preservatives, flavors and colors.
Blue Buffalo do not implement corn, wheat and soy in their pet food recipes because they are also aware of potential allergy issues like coeliac disease that can cause serious health problems for dogs.
Aside from using real chicken, lamb or fish in their recipes—as they understand the nutritional value of a strong protein source—Blue Buffalo pet food contains LifeSource Bits, which is a fancy blend of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants intended to fortify a pet’s immune system.
Blue Life Protection Formula (dry puppy food) comes in four different recipes: chicken & brown rice, Lamb & oatmeal, (large breed puppy) chicken & brown rice and (small breed puppy) chicken & oatmeal. The chicken & brown rice mix contains the following main ingredients:
- de-boned chicken,
- chicken meal,
- whole ground brown rice,
- whole ground barley,
- menhaden fish meal,
- chicken fat,
- flax seed,
- and a long list of fruits and vegetables
As deboned chicken implies, it is the meat minus the bones but still retains the moisture. Chicken meal, however, is the meat with the water content removed and is arguably more concentrated with protein. True to Blue Buffalo’s pet nutrition philosophy there are natural meat protein sources at the top of the ingredient list.