How to Choose the Best Food and Treats for Your Puppy, According to a Vet
Welcoming a new puppy into your family is an exciting experience. He's burning off his energy with zoomies, learning every day, and adapting to his new home. One day, he's a fluffy puppy, and the next thing you know, he's full grown! As a pet parent, you could probably relate to the motherly saying: "They grow up so fast." And that's all with the help of the nutritious food and treats you'll feed to help him reach optimum health.
"Puppies have specific needs that are different from an adult pet. A big part of this is the fact that they are growing and developing, so it is important that puppies have foods that have the nutritional requirements to allow for this growth to occur," says George Melillo, VMD, and co-founder and chief veterinary officer of Heart + Paw.
"Key differences in puppy foods as compared to adult dog foods include additional protein for muscle development, fats, and minerals for brain, teeth, and bone development," he says. "As important as the type of food is the feeding schedule. Puppies should be fed 3–5 times a day for the first several months depending on the breed or size of the dog. This is important to provide adequate fuel for energy and to avoid low blood sugar in a young pup."
How to Choose the Best Food for Your Puppy
With so many brands of puppy foods and treats out there, it's best to consult with your veterinarian on what to feed your puppy, Melillo says.
When it comes to choosing the best puppy food, Mellilo recommends:
- Looking for a complete and balanced pet food that you know will have all of the nutrients necessary.
- Checking for a nutritional claim or "Nutrition Adequacy Statement" by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) that verifies if a puppy food is complete and balanced.
- Considering breed-specific brands that formulate the food based on not only the nutritional content but also the size and shape of the food.
Your vet will be able to make recommendations on your puppy's individual needs. As with anything, please check with them to see if your puppy can have these brands.
Our Top Picks for Puppy Food and Treats
- Best Puppy Food: Purina ONE SmartBlend Healthy Puppy Formula Dry Dog Food
- Best Puppy Food for Small Breeds: Wellness Small Breed Complete Health Puppy Turkey, Oatmeal & Salmon Meal Recipe Dry Dog Food
- Best Puppy Food for Large Breeds: Nutro Natural Choice Large Breed Puppy Dry Dog Food - Natural, Chicken, Brown Rice & Sweet Potato
- Best Breed-Specific Puppy Food: Royal Canin Medium Puppy Dry Dog Food
- Best Canned Puppy Food: Hill's Science Diet Puppy Chicken & Barley Entree Canned Dog Food
- Most Affordable Puppy Food: Purina Puppy Chow Complete With Chicken & Rice Dry Dog Food
- Best Puppy Treats: Blue Buffalo Bits Natural Soft-Moist Training Puppy Treats
Best Puppy Food: Purina ONE SmartBlend Healthy Puppy Formula Dry Dog Food
Melillo says he's a "big fan" of this puppy food and the advances Purina's making in cognitive diets. And he's not the only one! This kibble is veterinarian-recommended because of its high-quality, natural ingredients including real chicken, rice, and oatmeal. Not only that, but it's packed with vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to make sure your pup grows big and strong. Puppy food that's easy on the tummy, high in protein, and has zero fillers? Yes, please!
Shop now: Purina ONE SmartBlend Healthy Puppy Formula Dry Dog Food, $24; chewy.com
Best Puppy Food for Small Breeds: Wellness Complete Health Small Breed Puppy Food
Have a small breed pup? This chow is among the best puppy food for small breeds' unique health. It's made of all natural, high-quality ingredients—like turkey, oatmeal, and salmon—for a 100-percent complete and balanced diet. Your puppy will benefit from this food containing three animal protein sources, omega-3 fatty acids, prebiotics, probiotics, Vitamin A, and Vitamin E.
Shop now: Wellness Complete Health Small Breed Puppy Food, $16; petsmart.com
Best Puppy Food for Large Breeds: Nutro Natural Choice Large Breed Puppy Dry Dog Food
This puppy food gives your large breed pup all the nutrients he needs for a strong, healthy puppyhood up to 18 months old. Made with premium, non-GMO ingredients like chicken, brown rice, and sweet potato sourced from trusted farmers and suppliers, this dry kibble is formulated to support brain and eye development, healthy joints, and healthy immunity.
Shop now: Nutro Natural Choice Large Breed Puppy Dry Dog Food, $49; walmart.com
Best Breed-Specific Puppy Food: Royal Canin Medium Puppy Dry Dog Food
When it comes to breed-specific puppy food, this is a brand Melillo prefers. This particular puppy food is specifically for pups up to 12 months old between 21–55 pounds. It is made with proteins and prebiotics to meet medium breed puppies' energy needs, promote digestive health, and support their natural defenses as well as healthy skeletal development. There are other specific options available to meet the nutritional needs of dogs of all sizes and various breeds.
Shop now: Royal Canin Medium Puppy Dry Dog Food, $52; chewy.com
Best Canned Puppy Food: Hill's Science Diet Puppy Chicken & Barley Entree Canned Dog Food
Another brand Melillo prefers, this canned puppy food is made with real chicken and wholesome grains so your puppy can enjoy a yummy, healthy meal. Its natural ingredients are easy on your puppy's stomach, will help him build muscle, make his bones and teeth nice and strong, and keep him healthy.
Shop now: Hill's Science Diet Puppy Chicken & Barley Entree Canned Dog Food, $30; petco.com
Most Affordable Puppy Food: Purina Puppy Chow Complete With Chicken & Rice Dry Dog Food
This puppy chow contains 100 percent of the essential ingredients your puppy needs to satisfy his nutritional needs. Made with American-raised chicken for 30 percent more protein than adult dog food, vitamin C, and vitamins and minerals found in mother's milk, this option is flavorful and nutritious—and at a great price.
Shop now: Purina Puppy Chow Complete With Chicken & Rice Dry Dog Food, $15; petsmart.com
Best Puppy Treats: Blue Buffalo Bits Natural Soft-Moist Training Puppy Treats
These soft, tasty treats will have your puppy's tail wagging as soon as he sees them. Made with natural ingredients, these puppy treats are the perfect combination of delicious and healthy. Reward your good boy during your positive reinforcement training sessions with these treats rich in high-quality protein and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.
Shop now: Blue Buffalo Bits Soft-Moist Training Puppy Treats, $3; chewy.com
Homemade Puppy Treat Recipe
If you prefer to bake homemade puppy food treats for your young canine companion, consider using simple, wholesome ingredients to easily fix up a batch of delicious treats. Whip up a batch of cranberry oatmeal dog cookies, fresh breath mint dog treats, or watermelon mint dog popsicles perfect for hot days. And don't forget the dog birthday cake for your puppy's first birthday!